Synagogue seeks court sanctions against Jewish groups

Posted By on April 1, 2014

Although they said they were hoping for an amicable settlement of their legal dispute, relations between a West Boca synagogue and national Jewish groups appear to be deteriorating.

The synagogue, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh, is in the middle of a lawsuit involving Hadassah, ORT America and a North Carolina nursing home over $3 million left by a deceased wealthy benefactor. Shaarei Kodesh has asked a South Carolina court for sanctions against the groups for not complying with a judge's order by Feb. 28.

In a response to the judge, a lawyer for one of the charities says the congregation's motion consists of "false accusations that impugn the character and professionalism" of the organizations.

Shaarei Kodesh members think the congregation is the main beneficiary of the trust of Nathaniel Rosenfeld, a South Carolina philanthropist, whose bequest could be worth $3 million to the little storefront synagogue.

The charities say the money was left not to Shaarei Kodesh but to Temple Beth Tikvah, which merged with Shaarei Kodesh in 2007. The groups say the merger was not done properly.

"From the start, our commitment has been to execute Mr. Rosenfeld's estate in accordance with the law," said Billy Newsome, an attorney representing ORT America. "We are confident that the court will remain focused on the merits of this litigation."

The lawsuit puts congregants in the awkward position of donating to popular national organizations, such as Hadassah, which raises money for a hospital in Israel, and ORT, which offers job training, that are suing their synagogue.

Shaarei Kodesh attorney Steven Lessne, a synagogue member who filed the motion for sanctions, said: "You can sense what I'm feeling from what I wrote. It's not often I seek sanctions from other parties based on their litigation conduct."

The synagogue has petitioned for sanctions including attorneys' fees and a contempt of court citation.

Rosenfeld, who died in 1997, allowed his two sisters, who lived in Boca Raton and were among Beth Tikvah's founders, to decide who got a large share of his millions. The sisters, who died in 1999 and 2001, decided Beth Tikvah should get 89 percent of the trust, with 2 percent for the Blumenthal Home for the Aged, 1 percent for Americans For Peace Now, 1 percent for Hadassah and 7 percent for ORT.

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Synagogue seeks court sanctions against Jewish groups

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