Outrage in Boro Park Over Shul’s Unauthorized Destruction

After new shul members sold the historic Anshei Lubawitz shul building to a developer, they allowed them to bulldoze right through it before beis din and civil courts gave their verdicts. Now, everything is in jeopardy.

By Anash.org reporter

A shocking and disrespectful move this week resulted in the loss of Boro Park’s first and oldest shul in a premature and asinine demolition.

After an underhanded deal allowed developers to take over the shul land and build a new building, and in exchange, give the first floor and basement of the as a new shul, the developer now went ahead to demolish the shul before the deal was insured. Now, the location and identity of the shul and its members are left hanging.

The Chabad shul located at the corner of 12th Avenue and 41st Street was first built in 1906. In 1922, it was acquired by Lubavitcher chassidim who had arrived in the United States. Eight years prior, in 1914, they had established Anshei Lubavitch Nusach Ari in temporary locations, and in 1922, they acquired this building for the shul.

The shul was in use throughout the years and had regular minyanim. In 2017, a number of locals without any affiliation to Lubavitch who had started davening at the shul, made a move to sell the land to developers who planned to build condominiums on the site of the shul. Many were outraged; the shul was an integral and meaningful part of the landscape of the Boro Park Jewish community. Some of the members had wanted to turn the shul into a historic landmark, and now it was going to be brutally torn down.

To add insult to injury, the members of the shul had made a deal while the property was not on the market and were getting no monetary compensation for the priceless edifice they were trading in. All they had was a promise that the developers would turn the first floor and basement into a new space for the shul to be in, but even that agreement is in peril now due to recent developments.

“When we found out about the underhanded sale, we were enraged,” one shul member shared with Anash.org. “We immediately went to court and got an injunction – that is, a legal pause on any further actions with the property until proper ownership of the building would further be established. The court would need to establish what criteria make someone a member of the shul, and then all the members would be able to vote on the future of the shul in a proper setting. What happened next though, was absolutely infuriating.”

The court case continued to drag on, as legal battles tend to, and were further hindered by the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Sometime before the lockdown, the court established that a beis din would be better at establishing what makes someone a valid member of a shul, and therefore should get a say in the matter and have a vote in the future of the building. The matter was transferred to beis din, but only after the court established that the injunction (the freeze on the property) would remain in place for a full thirty days after beis din came out with their psak din.

“The most corrupt and horrifying thing then happened this past Sunday,” said another shul member who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter. “A shul member ordered a demolition bulldozer which knocked down our holy shul into a demeaning pile of rubble. The traitor who allowed the machinery in knew that he was going against the civil courts and against the beis din who hadn’t yet given their psak. This was intentional and insidious.

“They purposefully chose a Sunday morning when government offices and courts are all closed and hoped to get away with it. What they did was completely illegal, against Torah, and a huge betrayal to the Yiddishe community at large and especially to the members of his kehilla who stood beside him side by side for years and davened together. It is a knife in the back and a stab in the heart, and we are all mourning what we lost in this shocking destruction.”

When the psak was released finally, the beis din included a stipulation that the buyer would need to include a $5,000,000 performance bond in the sale, which means that in the case of the builder not completing the new shul and condominiums in the next 3.5 years, they need to give that amount of money to the shul members so they can go ahead and finish the job on their own. The fact that the shul was desecrated and destroyed before the psak came out and the stipulations were added to the sales, put the conditions in jeopardy. It isn’t known now what will be with the shul and if the developers will even build the promised two floors for them.

“The shul was left without a building, without money they would have gotten in a regular sale so that they can purchase and build a new shul, and without a guarantee that our shul will ever have a new location to call home,” commented one member mournfully.

With the sudden illegal demolition, everything remains up in the air. The court ordered injunction, the psak of the beis din, and the developers’ deal. The coming weeks will be telling in seeing what the beis din and court decide now with the new situation. In the meantime, the gaping hole where the old yet majestic shul resonates with the gaping holes in the hearts of all of those who pass by and all of those who made Anshei Lubavitch their home away from home.

Rabbi Chaim Dalfin explains the background of the story:

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  1. please note that this was done on a Sunday without any permits, now there is a stop order and there is no way this will be done for years…. now i don’t know what developers gained except that now there is 1 less Chabad shul in boro park…

    1. ….. and a few million $’s in limbo!!!

      Sunday everyone is off a National non work day. Monday their heads are flying (hopefully).

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