Wednesday, February 09, 2011

South Florida Hasidic Synagogue Files for Chapter 11 

Oy vey! Another Hasidic synagogue in South Florida has filed for Chapter 11 protection to stop a foreclosure.

The Chabad House Lubavitch of Palm Beach, which owes lender TD Bank $538,577, filed for bankruptcy protection to stop a foreclosure hearing that was set for Tuesday, according to the Palm Beach Post. The original loan was made by Fort Pierce-based Riverside National Bank, which first sought foreclosure in 2009. Riverside, whose assets were taken over by TD Bank after Riverside closed down, had said the synagogue didn’t repay nearly $700,000 on two loans backed by synagogue property.

Rabbi Shloime Ezagui told the Post in an interview Tuesday that the synagogue hasn’t been able to make loan payments and that the bankruptcy filing was only a temporary halt to the foreclosure suit. He noted that congregants started contributing less during the recession in 2008, and the contributions haven’t yet bounced back. And the wealthy have been making excuses not to contribute, he said.

“The Jewish people who have the money should feel a guilt trip,” Ezagui told the Post. “I see them in their Rolls Royces, I go to their million-dollar houses and they say, ‘I don’t have the money, Rabbi.’”

Chabad House Lubavitch bankruptcy attorney Robert Furr told the Post that Chabad synagogues are especially vulnerable because unlike other sects, Chabads don’t require regular member dues. “[The bankruptcy filing] gives them time to get the word out in the community that they need help,” Furr said.

According to documents filed Monday with the West Palm Beach bankruptcy court, Chabad House Lubavitch reported assets and debts each between $1 million and $10 million.

The Chabad House Lubavitch filing follows the bankruptcy filing last June of the Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton Beach, whose lender had also threatened to foreclose on the property. The Boynton Beach synagogue was able to say “shalom” to bankruptcy in December after settling a dispute with Stonegate Bank over a $3.8 million mortgage loan.


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