A Long Island synagogue is pushing for the eviction of a caterer who was accused earlier this year of violating the laws of kashrut, according to local news reports.
Scott Morell, the eponym of one of Long Island’s largest catering companies, operates in three synagogues: Temple Beth Torah of Melville, Temple Israel of Lawrence, and the Woodbury Jewish Center. According to CBS, the Woodbury Jewish Center has now opted to evict Morell from their facilities. The reason: though the caterer was earning large numbers in his business ventures, he failed to pay the synagogue occupancy fees.
“He was charging customers millions for events, but since January 2010 had not paid his occupancy costs,” said Scott Mollen of the Woodbury Jewish Center, according to Sophia Hall of WCBS 880. “This is money that this congregation needs to operate its religious schools, its social programs.”
A state court ruled that Woodbury could evict Morell, but the caterer’s lawyer firmly denied his client’s wrongdoing, or eligibility, from a legal perspective, to be dismissed from the Woodbury facilities.
“In a typical lease, there is a provision that says that if you do something, they can elect to terminate it sooner,” explained Attorney Ron Rosenberg. “There is no provision in this agreement.”
But the prosecution alleged there was no such formal contract for lease. Rather, a licensing agreement was the modus by which Morell operated in Woodbury—one that could be terminated at an earlier point.
According to Rosenberg, as the contract currently stands, Morell is entitled to continually work out of Woodbury until 2029. He also adds that his client does not owe the synagogue any cash.
Reports surfacing in early February emerged after Michael Savitsky, the former executive chef of Morell Caterers, and Tom Cataldo, the company’s former general manager, testified that Morell had, due to financial constraints, used the same kitchen to service his Jewish and non-Jewish clients. The two men claimed the guilt had pushed them to the brink, and that they had kept mum on the illicit activity for two years because they still had a share in Morell’s company.
Morell claimed the ex-workers were trying to get ahead in a separate, unrelated, lawsuit.
It was reported at that time that more than 200 Jewish occasions may have been tainted by Morell’s activities.
But, in February, several kosher supervision agencies stepped in to investigate the allegations and report their findings. Several found no indications of wrongdoing and vouched for Morell.
“It is indeed unfortunate, and yes, even tragic to a degree, that unfounded allegations of kashrut violations have been made against Morrell of Woodbury,” wrote Rav Mahachshir Rabbi Meir Goldberg of the Vaad Hakashrut of Flatbush when the allegations became known. “It has been our experience with Mr. Morrell that he conducts his business guided only by the highest moral and ethical standards… The Vaad Hakashrut of Flatbush has stood and will continue to stand behind Morrell of Woodbury and Mr. Scott Morell.”