Los Angeles Superior Court Petitioned To Confirm RCC Ruling Against San Fernando Valley’s Rabbi Samuel Ohana

The RCC already ruled on behalf of the widow against the rabbi of Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel (13312 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91401) in a dispute over four Torah scrolls.

Here’s a pdf of the latest petition in the case before the LA Superior Court. It contains the RCC‘s ruling by rabbis Gershon Bess, Avrohom Union and Nachum Sauer.

Rabbi Ohana is a member of the RCC.

Here are excerpts of the pleading:


5. Rabbi Norman Pauker was originally the rabbi of a synagogue in North Hollywood called Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel, before the synagogue was taken over by Rabbi Samuel Ohana.

6. Rabbi Pauker’s four (4) Sifrei Torah were originally donated decades ago by his sister to the Young Israel of the Bronx. When the Bronx synagogue closed, the four Sifrei Torah were given to Rabbi Pauker. They are worth between $100,000.00 and $200,000.00.

7. When Rabbi Pauker retired in 1994 and closed his synagogue, Rabbi Pauker transferred ownership of most of the assets to Rabbi Samuel Ohana of (the new) Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel, including the Aron Kodesh [the Torah Ark] Talleisim [the Prayer Shawls] and Seforim (Holy Books in Hebrew]. But according to a handwritten contract between Rabbi Pauker and Rabbi Ohana, signed by Rabbi Ohana, the four Sifrei Torah were to be loaned for only two years (ands Rabbi Ohana was to insure them for two years).

8. Since 1996, once the two year loan was up, numerous demands were made for the return of the four Sifrei Torah and the Ohanas repeatedly promised to return them, but found excuses after excuses for not doing so. Then, Rabbi Pauker’s illness preoccupied the Paukers’ focus, from reclaiming their Torahs.

9. Since Rabbi Pauker’s death in 2002, his widow, Mrs. Rita Pauker, has been repeatedly begging and imploring Rabbi Ohana for the return of the Sifrei Torah. To Mrs. Pauker, Rabbi & Mrs. Ohana repeatedly promised the return of the Torahs but came up with excuses after excuses for failing to do so.

10. Thereafter, Mrs. Pauker went to the North Hollywood police department to file criminal charges against Rabbi Ohana for the recovery of her husband’s four Sifrei Torah, but the police suggested that this was a civil matter to be pursued in court. Mrs. Pauker found the notion of a Rabbi’s wife suing a Rabbi in a non-Jewish secular court to be distasteful (akin to washing one’s dirty laundry in public). Mrs. Pauker was unsure how to proceed to get her husband’s Sifrei Torah back. Unfortunately, the media got wind of this story and it received publicity on various internet blogs (the “Media”).1 This story was reported at:

1. http://musclys.blogspot. com/2007/02/ownership-of-torah-scrolls-disputed.html (“Ownership of Torah Scrolls Disputed”)
2. http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2007/02/rabbi_steals_to.html (“Rabbi Steals Torah Scrolls from Widow”)
3. http://chaptzem.blogspot.com/2007/02/rabbis-widow-us-synagogue-dispute.html#comments (“Rabbi’s Widow U.S. Synagogue dispute ownership of Torah Scrolls”)
4. http://www.vosizneias.com/7424/2007/02/20/sherman-oaks-ca-ownership-of-torah/ (“Sherman Oaks, CA – Ownership of Torah Scrolls Disputed”)
5. http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/02/27/faith/18_56_022_22_07.txt (“Torah Scroll Claim Dispute”)

11. At first, Mrs. Pauker was reluctant to take her case to a Rabbinical court, because she was advised and she assumed, that since Rabbi Ohana was an orthodox rabbi, that the Rabbinical Council of California would automatically side with one of their own, rule against her, and not give her day in court.

12. Mrs. Pauker was referred to litigation attorney Baruch C. Cohen, whose litigation practice focuses primarily on business law, alternative dispute resolution, corporate and partnership disputes; fraud and unfair competition, anti-slapp law, bankruptcy law, creditors’ remedies, competitive business practices, Bais Din (“0*$ ;*"”) law, entertainment law, corporate law, personal injury, business torts, defamation, libel and slander. Mr. Cohen had successfully represented many parties in Bais Din: (1) before the Rabbinical Council of California; (2) before the Bais Din of the Agudath Israel of California; (3) before the Bais Din of the Rabbinical Council of America in New York; & (4) before the Bais Din of the Machon Horah in Monsey, NY, and was actually quoted as an authority on Bais Din litigation in the March 31, 2003 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal entitled: “Traditional Jewish Arbitration Panels Find New Converts” by reporter Amanda Bronstad. www.labusinessjournal.com., and actually authored an unpublished treatise on Jewish law entitled: The Halachic Obligation to Bring Disputes to Bais Din and lectured frequently in the Los Angeles area on the issue. In the LABJ article, Mr. Cohen’s successful client was quoted as saying about the Bais Din experience: “It’s a huge time difference and much more economical,” “but perhaps the most unique feature is that most of the time, litigants come out feeling they were dealt with fairly.” Having being sufficiently convinced that Bais Din was fair and equitable, Mrs. Pauker retained trial attorney Baruch Cohen to prosecute her case before the Bais Din of the Rabbinical Council of California against Rabbi Ohana.

13. On June 13, 2008, Mr. Cohen called Rabbi Ohana as a professional courtesy requesting that he voluntarily agree to submit the matter (concerning the return of the four Sifrei Torah) to the Bais Din of the Rabbinical Council of California for adjudication. Whenever dealing with a rabbi in the community, it is Mr. Cohen’s policy to extend any and all professional courtesies to preserve the honor and respect due to the Rabbi.

14. Unfortunately, Rabbi Ohana refused to voluntarily submit to Bais Din, claiming that he already obtained a ruling from Rabbi Nachum Sauer (outside of a Bais Din hearing) allowing him to keep the Sifrei Torah. Mr. Cohen subsequently questioned Rabbi Union of the RCC to verify if indeed Rabbi Sauer issued any such ruling to Rabbi Ohana on this dispute, and Rabbi Union denied it, having confirmed same with Rabbi Sauer.

15. Rabbi Ohana was also very upset over the negative and embarrassing coverage in the Media that he received. Plaintiff’s counsel assured Rabbi Ohana that if and when this case goes to Bais Din, there would be no media coverage of the case during that time to preserve the parties’ dignity. Nevertheless, Rabbi Ohana refused to voluntarily go to Bais Din.

16. On June 16, 2008, Plaintiff, through her counsel, requested a formal Summons be issued in writing to Rabbi Ohana and his synagogue to appear before the Bais Din of the Rabbinical Council of California.2

17. After a month of refusing, on July 27, 2008, Defendants finally agreed to take the dispute concerning the four Sifrei Torah for binding arbitration before the Rabbinical Council of California (“R.C.C.”) before the following three arbitrators: Rabbi Nachum Saur, Rabbi Gershon Bess, & Rabbi Avrohom Union. It is important to note, that Rabbi Ohana, by signing the Arbitration Agreement, specifically agreed to allow Rabbi Nachum Sauer to be on the arbitration panel (notwithstanding his claim that Rabbi Sauer issued a private ruling to him in the past) thereby waiving any possible conflicts.

18. The Arbitration Agreement provides: AGREEMENT TO SUBMIT TO BINDING ARBITRATION: We, the undersigned, hereby agree to submit to binding arbitration the following controversy: A comprehensive settlement of all claims and cross claims between Rita Pauker v. Rabbi Samuel Ohana and Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel pertaining to the ownership and disposition of four Torah Scrolls. The arbitration shall be conducted in the state of California under the auspicious of the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Council of California, 3780 Wilshire Blvd. #420, Los Angeles, California.

19. Plaintiff Rita Pauker was hereinafter referred to by the Bais Din as the Plaintiff and Defendants Rabbi Samuel Ohana and Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel was hereinafter referred to by the Bais Din as the Respondent.

20. July 16, 2008 an arbitration hearing was conducted before three neutral arbitrators, namely, Rabbi Gershon Bess, Rabbi Avrohom Union, and Rabbi Nachum Sauer (the “Bais Din”). Plaintiff appeared and was represented by her trial counsel Baruch C. Cohen. Defendants appeared and was represented by Rabbi Ohana.. The arbitration was held at the Rabbinical Council of California, 3780 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 420, Los Angeles, CA 90010 and evidence and law were presented by both sides.

21. At trial, Rabbi Ohana did not object to Rabbi Sauer’s participation on the Bais Din panel. At trial, Plaintiff presented a 4-page arbitration brief with approximately 6 exhibits, and Rabbi Ohana presented no arbitration brief at all. Among the many things said at trial, Rabbi Ohana testified before the Bais Din that "If Rabbi Pauker would have been alive, I would have returned the Torahs to him, because he was a mensch. But on principle, not to Mrs. Pauker."

22. Thereafter, on January 19, 2009, the Bais Din served a copy of its Arbitration Award upon Plaintiff and Defendant. The Arbitration Award provides: PSAK DIN/JUDGMENT: In the matter of the dispute between Mrs. Rita Pauker, (hereafter known as “plaintiff”) v. Rabbi Shmuel Ohanna and Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel, (hereafter, “Respondent”), concerning the ownership and disposition of four Torah scrolls; after a full hearing of the arguments and presentation of evidence, our arbitration court (hereafter, “Bais Din”) makes the following determinations: 1. The parties stipulated that in 1994, the late Rabbi Norman Pauker transferred four Sifrei Torah (Torah Scrolls) to Rabbi Shmuel Ohanna. Beyond that determination, all of the facts surrounding the origin and ownership of the Sifrei Torah are in dispute. 2. The plaintiff seeks the return of the Sifrei Torah to her for the purpose of distributing them to family members serving in the Orthodox Rabbinate. The Respondent maintained that he is not obligated to return the Sifrei Torah to her, and wishes to keep them in his synagogue. 3. Based on the evidence and the law, the Beis Din determines that the Sifrei Torah must rightfully be returned to plaintiff for said distribution. 4. The Respondent shall return, or arrange for the return, of the four Sifrei Torah to the Plaintiff within thirty days of this order. This order has been signed on 23 Teves, 5769 (January 19, 2009). Rabbi Nachum Sauer, Rabbi Gershon Bess, Rabbi Avrohom Union.4

23. On January 27, 2009, Mr. Cohen wrote Rabbi Ohana a letter to inquire whether he would be complying with the January 2, 2001 Arbitration Award.5

Failed Messiah reported:

Rabbi Ohana’s son Ephraim has been put in cherem (excommunicated) by the Baltimore Va’ad HaRabbonim because he has refused to give his wife a get (Jewish divorce).

Rabbi Ohana himself was involved in a shady scheme to allow the son of David Batzri, a leading Sefardic rabbi and kabbalist (the man who blamed Hurricane Katrina on America’s support for Disengagement), to remarry without giving his first wife a Jewish divorce:

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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