Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Woodbury Jewish Center to evict Morrell Caterers 

Woodbury Jewish Center has filed a petition to evict long-time kosher caterer Morrell Caterers from its premises in the wake of allegations by two former employees that they were directed to prepare non-kosher food in kosher kitchens – a practice forbidden among observant Jews.

The petition comes just days after Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Vito DeStefano ruled that Woodbury Jewish Center could revoke Morrell's license at will. Morrell Caterers had filed a temporary restraining order to prevent any eviction, but DeStefano vacated that order in an ruling last week. That allowed the synagogue to proceed with the eviction filing Monday.

An eviction hearing is scheduled for May 17 at Nassau County District Court in Hempstead.

"We expect to prevail as we have prevailed in all the proceedings so far," Morrell attorney Ron Rosenberg said. "We will celebrate there next year and for the years to come as the synagogue continues to fruitlessly pursue expensive litigation for years to come."

Woodbury Jewish Center said Morrell Caterers stopped making contributions toward the maintenance of the facility in January 2010, citing that as grounds to revoke the company's license. But Morrell Caterers, which brought legal action against Woodbury Jewish Center in July 2010, said it stopped paying due to the synagogue reneging on its promise to maintain the Temple's property and catering facility, thereby breaching the license. Whether the caterer still owes payment is still being litigated.

"This case is going to go on for years," Rosenberg said. "It would create a ridiculous precedent. My client spent millions of dollars building up the catering facilities. … To say that any catering entity would enter into a catering agreement that can be revoked at will is commercially ridiculous."

Relations between the Woodbury Jewish Center and Morrell Caterers became even more strained in February when allegations by former employees, including a chef and general manager, accused Morrell owner Scott Morrell of directing them to violate kosher laws.

Morrell has vehemently denied the allegations, repeatedly stating these claims by former employees are an attempt at extortion by his former attorney, Howard Fensterman, who Morrell has filed an unrelated civil lawsuit against.

Morrell Caterers has operated out of Woodbury Jewish Center since 1989. The Woodbury synagogue is one of three temple locations Morrell Caterers prepares its kosher food out of, along with Temple Beth Torah of Melville and Temple Israel of Lawrence.


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