From the Rabbi

Dear members of the Chicago Jewish community,

After years of trial and tribulation, I am hopeful the following decision will finally bring an end to the conflict that has caused such damage to our Synagogue. I pray that, with G‑d’s Help and the renewed support of the Chicagoland Jewish community, we may yet be able to preserve our 90 year old Synagogue as a Jewish House of Worship.

With my blessings for a G’mar Tov – May the Alm‑ghty grant you and your loved ones a Good, Sweet and Blessed New Year.

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz


Ecclesiastical Decision - Rabbinical Pesak Halacha

The Honorable Neil H.Cohen, Judge, of the Chancery Division, the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, responding to the motion of Steven Turk, Doron Levy and Michael Ray, through their attorney, has ruled that case no. 10-CH-558 is dismissed under Ecclesiastical Abstention. The matters in this case included:

BASIS FOR DECISION

By my religious authority as Rabbi of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation and by the authority vested in me by virtue of my contract with Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, which states in part:

  1. The congregation is a not-for-profit Corporation duly organized under the laws of the State of Illinois and which follows the principles and tenants of Orthodox Judaism and is eligible for membership in the Union of Orthodox Jewish congregations of America…
  2. …The Rabbi is a duly ordained Rabbi and is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America.
  3. The Rabbi shall ensure that Agudas Achim conforms to the tenets of Orthodox Judaism as provided in the Constitution and by-laws of the congregation.
  4. Any dispute arising out of or in connection with this agreement or the breach or claimed breach thereof shall be submitted to the Bet Din Zedek of the Chicago Rabbinical Council for arbitration pursuant to its then existing procedures. Any judgment rendered shall be conclusive and binding upon the congregation and the Rabbi for all purposes and may be enforced in the manner provided for the enforcement of arbitration awards in accordance with the laws of the State of Illinois,

I issue the following Pesak Halacha:

Background

The claimed members of the Board of Directors of Agudas Achim, Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Michael Ray and Justin Brown, stating they represented the congregants of Agudas Achim, submitted to a Din Torah before the Bet Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (October 30, 2008), confirming this submission in writing in the form of a shetar berurin, a legal binding arbitration agreement signed by claimed President Steven Turk. The Bet Din rendered its Pesak, decision in Din Torah #08-09.

Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray, claimed members of the Board of Directors of Agudas Achim, did not, as was their sacred religious and legal responsibility, see to it that the Synagogue abided by the Bet Din’s Pesak, decision, resulting in the Bet Din issuing a Siruv (April 6, 2009), a contempt of court citation, against Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation.

In defiance of the Pesak, decision and Siruv, contempt citation issued by the Bet Din, Steven Turk, Doron Levy and Michael Ray, claiming they represented the congregants of Agudas Achim, initiated legal action in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging the same charges they had brought forward in the Din Torah. Judge Joan E. Powell dismissed the case on the basis of collateral estoppel.

Steven Turk, Doron Levy and Michael Ray, claiming they represented the congregants of Agudas Achim appealed Judge Powell’s dismissal to the Appellate Court of the State of Illinois. The Appellate Court dismissed the case on the basis of ecclesiastical abstention.

Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray, as claimed Board members of an Orthodox Synagogue, had the moral obligation, by virtue of their Jewish Faith, to abide by Orthodox Jewish law and practice, as delineated in the constitution and by-laws of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, in managing the affairs of the Congregation.

The Constitution states:

The by-laws state:

Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray, claiming to be members of the Board of Directors of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, ignoring the by-laws of the congregation, “unanimously” fired a Synagogue employee for cause.

Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray ignored a petition signed by nearly 70 members of the congregation demanding, in part, a special meeting be called to hold annual elections for officers and board members of the congregation in as much as annual elections had not been held for two years.

Decision

The issuance of a Siruv against one who does not abide by the decision of a Bet Din is a very serious matter in Jewish Faith and law. Severe penalties can be levied upon one who not only does not abide by, but defies the Pesak, the decision, of a Bet Din.*

Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray, by virtue of their not insuring that Agudas Achim abide by the Pesak, decision, of the Bet Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council dated October 30, 2008, resulting in the issuance of a Siruv against the Synagogue by the Bet Din dated April 6, 2009,

Steven Turk, Doron Levy and Michael Ray by their defiance of that Pesak, decision demonstrated by their taking the very same claims they made at the Bet.Din to civil courts claiming to represent the Synagogue,

have clearly demonstrated their lack of “good moral character” by their refusal to adhere to the religious tenets of Orthodox Judaism and to fulfill their religious, moral and legal obligations to, as claimed members of the Board of Directors of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, abide by the Congregation’s Constitution and by-laws.

Therefore:

  1. Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray are enjoined from interfering with the access of the Congregation and the members of the Congregation to the Synagogue (Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation), from changing the locks to the building, refusing to provide keys, and otherwise breaching the peace.
  2. Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Borwn and Michael Ray must return the Torah scrolls and all other property removed from the Synagogue or belonging to Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation,
  3. The Congregation is the legal titleholder of all the property of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation and that Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray have no interest therein,
  4. Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray shall not be permitted to occupy any elective or appointed position, or position as employee, within the Synagogue organization or within any of its affiliates,
  5. Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray shall be excluded from membership in the Synagogue or in any of its affiliates,
  6. Steven Turk, Doron Levy, Justin Brown and Michael Ray shall not be called to the Torah nor be given any other liturgical honor on any occasion.

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

Signed this 19th day of September, 2012

Corresponding to the 3rd day of Tishrei, 5773

*See: June 1, 1993 –Rabbinical Council of America - RESOLUTION: MATTER OF PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS AND RECALCITRANT SPOUSES… III. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that every member of the Rabbinical Council of America will seek to have adopted in his Synagogue, either by Rabbinical Pesak Halacha, or through adoption by the appropriate lay board, the following Synagogue policy in regard to the enforcement of Sh'tarei Siruv.
   Resolved, that any person against whom there is an outstanding Shetar Siruv, issued by a Bet Din consisting of three Orthodox Rabbis, in regard to matters of issuance or receipt of a Get: 1. Shall not be permitted to occupy any elective or appointed position, or position as employee, within the Synagogue organization or within any of its affiliates, 2. Shall be excluded from membership in the Synagogue or in any of its affiliates, 3. Shall not be called to the Torah nor be given any other liturgical honor on any occasion.
   Further, that such person who reside within our community: 4. Shall have his or her name announced on a regular monthly basis at the conclusion of Sabbath services, 5. Shall have his or her name published in the Synagogue bulletin with a call to the membership to limit their social and economic relations to such persons.