Char­ity told to re­pay rabbi £322k

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

A NORTH LON­DON rabbi has won a High Court claim to be re­paid more than £322,000 by a strictly Ortho­dox char­ity which he says was in­tended as a loan, not a gift.

Rabbi Moshe Meisels, from Stam­ford Hill, had sued sup­port­ers of the anti-Zion­ist Sat­mar Cha­sidic sect who raised funds for a char­ity, the Yetev Lev Jerusalem Trust.

On Wed­nes­day, Mr Jus­tice Blake hoped “that the bit­ter con­tro­versy this claim has cre­ated within the syn­a­gogues of Stam­ford Hill will now abate”.

Rabbi Meisels, who him­self at­tends a Sat­mar syn­a­gogue in Stam­ford Hill and is a busi­ness­man with 50 UK prop­er­ties, is­sued his writ against Me­nachem Licht­man, cur­rently a trustee of Yetev Lev, and Ber­ish Berger and Solomon Weiss, who were fel­low trustees at the time of the trans­ac­tion.

The dis­pute came af­ter Rabbi Meisels trans­ferred £322,000 to Yetev Lev in two in­stal­ments in De­cem­ber 2004. The trans­ac­tion was recorded in what the judge called a “hastily writ­ten doc­u­ment” in He­brew drawn up be­tween Rabbi Meisels and Mr Licht­man. The ab­sence of the word for “gift”, matana, was “strik­ing”, the judge said.

A year later, Rabbi Meisels — de­scribed by the judge as “a re­served man who would avoid con­flict and so­cial tur­moil if he could”— ap­proached an Amer­i­can rab­binic court to re­cover his money, but Mr Licht­man ar­gued that the case should have been heard in a Bri­tish Beth Din.

Mr Licht­man claimed that the money had been an “out­right do­na­tion”, but he should have been aware that it was re­payable, the judge said.

BetweenSeptem­ber2004andMarch 2005, the char­ity’s books showed re­ceipt of £6 mil­lion in do­na­tions, but by June 2006 its fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties ap­peared to have wound down, leav­ing a num­ber of cred­i­tors.

Mr Jus­tice Blake said that the fact that the char­ity had trans­ferred the funds from Rabbi Meisels to Is­rael “does not make it un­just” that the de­fen­dants should have to re­pay them. “There is no rea­son, now that its le­gal obli­ga­tions have been made clear, that it can­not re­vive its fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to meet them,” he re­marked.

Al­though Mr Berger and Mr Weiss were not di­rectly party to the agree­ment, the judge said, they had re­lied on Mr Licht­man’s “ef­forts as fundraiser and di­rec­tor for the trust when it was ac­tive, and they must take its fail­ures along with the suc­cesses, the rough with the smooth. I imag­ine that there is an ap­po­site Yid­dish phrase.”

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