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Rabbi of West Side Synagogue Sued for Allegedly Fixing Election

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Rabbi Yechezekel Wolff of Congregation Emunath Israel in the Chelsea section of Manhattan is reportedly being sued for allegedly fixing an election last December so he could effectively take control of the historic sanctuary.

By Pat Savage

 

         Wolff was sued last year by his own congregants, according to an article in the New York Post, “for trying to freeze out elderly members in the winter.”

 

          Reports say that the synagogue’s former Vice-President Ira Glauber and three other members are claiming that Wolff used an unfair and illegal election Dec. 4, 2018 and tilted the scales of justice in order to get rid of board members. The Post story also claims Wolff was once allegedly caught in a recording saying his congregants “should go to hell.”

The people behind the lawsuit want its result disallowed.  “They wanted to take over this synagogue and their Rabbi Wolff has been trying to take over the building for the last four or five years,” Glauber told The Post. “They weakened the congregation and then held a rigged vote to take over the synagogue.”

         Bruce Kirschner, the congregation’s president and also a co-defendant in both of the lawsuits — reportedly said this to the Post: “The entire board and vast majority of community members support the present leadership of the Congregation and Rabbi Wolff, who work tirelessly on behalf of the Congregation.”         

An attorney for Wolff named Christopher Milito is quoted in the same Post article as saying, “This is just round two of Ira Glauber’s vendetta litigation. Is it motivated by sour grapes that Mr. Glauber was not elected to the board of trustees? Almost certainly. Is there any merit to his claim? Certainly not.”

         London’s Daily Mail provided additional depth to the story, reporting that the synagogue’s congregants were accusing Wolff because he “allegedly turned the house of worship into a disco…” It add, “The suit alleges that Rabbi Yechezekel Wolff reneged on an agreement whereby he would lease the building housing the synagogue on West 23rd Street in exchange for paying operating expenses and covering repairs. Instead, Wolff ripped out old pews from the 100-year-old building and turned off the heat in the winter time in order to ‘kill off the congregation,’ the lawsuit alleges.”

Congregation Emunath Israel, or “The Chelsea Shul,” was built in the 1850’s as the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church,” its web site relates. “The Emunath Israel Congregation, originally founded in 1865, took over the building in 1920. The Shul installed stained glass windows as a tribute to their Judaism, along with other Jewish symbolism. In its establishment, the Shul primarily serviced the working Jews in the garment industries. Rabbi Leifer, who served as the Rabbi for 42 years from 1958-2000, reminisced about its nickname as the “Yartzeit Synagogue”. Rabbi Leifer shares:” Close to 800 congregants would come to say Yizkor on Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Passover. The line would snake around to 8th avenue with police barricades controlling the crowds. The Shul serviced everyone, with up to 15 different Yizkor sessions per holiday.”

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