Each side seeks to end the dispute with an early victory.

The Bais Chabad Ccenter of West Bloomfield (Photo by David Sachs)

The local Chabad dispute has each side asking Judge Rae Lee Chabot to immediately declare it the victor.

Such motions are often brought at the onset of a lawsuit, and they don’t necessarily mean that either side will prevail this early in the legal process.

On one side is the plaintiff, Chasidic Orthodox sect, Chabad-Lubavitch of Michigan, led by its Oak Park-based regional director Rabbi Berel Shemtov.

On April 17, Chabad of Michigan filed suit in Oakland County Circuit Court seeking a declaration that it has controlling authority over the Sara and Morris Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center of West Bloomfield (Torah Center).

The lawsuit alleged that several rabbinical tribunals have ruled that under the hierarchal system of the Chabad movement, title to the Torah Center’s real property should be held by its supervisory entity, Chabad of Michigan.

Rabbi Berel Shemtov

On the other side of the lawsuit are the defendants: the Torah Center, its Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg and its board of directors (in their official capacities only).

Instead of immediately answering these allegations, however, the defendants, by their attorney Todd R. Mendel of the Detroit law firm of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker PLLC, filed a Motion for Summary Disposition seeking to halt the lawsuit on several grounds.

In response, the Chabad of Michigan, through its attorney Norman C. Ankers of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP of Detroit, filed a similar motion, also asking that the judge immediately decide the case in its favor.

Defendants’ Motion
In their motion, the Torah Center defendants challenged the plaintiff’s position that the Chabad movement is “hierarchal” — meaning that the West Bloomfield synagogue is under the control of Chabad’s Crown Heights headquarters in Brooklyn and its Michigan unit. The congregation refuses to turn over title to its building to Chabad of Michigan.

Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg

“My clients feel that the Torah Center bought, built and maintained a piece of property,” said defense attorney Mendel. “They’ve always been completely financially independent from the plaintiff and they do not see any legal, halachic [Jewish law] or any other obligation to transfer their property to the plaintiff or anyone.”

In support of their motion, the Torah Center defendants included a 1984 letter written by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson that stated in part, “it is well known that the various Chabad institutions are financially completely independent of our central office. This is also an obvious necessity, in view of the fact that there are hundreds of such institutions the world over, and it would be impossible to direct them all from headquarters.”

Todd Mendel

But Chabad’s Motion for Summary Disposition reiterates that preservation of its hierarchal structure is essential to the movement.

“This case is not about land, nor is it about some sort of conflict between rabbis,” Chabad of Michigan said in a June 18 statement to the Jewish News.

“We want members of Bais Chabad to continue to worship there, as they have. This is about asking a state of Michigan court to uphold and enforce rulings of multiple rabbinical courts that decided over a span of years in favor of the Chabad system of hierarchy.”

Chabad’s Green Light
Both sides also disagree on whether Chabad of Michigan has rabbinical approval to take the matter to civil court.

Norman Ankers

Chabad of Michigan said it has the go-ahead from the Vaad HaRabonim of the United States and Canada, which wrote:

“Since it is permitted for you to resort to the civil courts [in your case] against Rabbi Elimelech Yosef Hakohen Silberberg, and the institution Bais Chabad Torah Center of West Bloomfield and the members of its board in their function at the institution, in order to get a rabbinical court ruling validated, there is clearly no place here for concern about [this causing] any desecration of the Divine Name, G-d forbid.”

The defendants counter with a letter from the Brooklyn-based Office of the Executive Committee of the Central Committee of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis in the United States and Canada that stated plainly that Chabad of Michigan has no authority to sue the members of the Torah Center board in civil court because they were not party to the rabbinical proceedings:

“If the rabbinical court will decide to permit Rabbi Shemtov to begin secular court proceedings, this permission is only granted concerning his demands and arguments against Rabbi Silberberg exclusively.”

The letter added, “In general, as in any case where one Jew as a dispute with another Jew whom he feels has grieved him, the two parties (the members of the Board and Rabbi Shemtov), can summon each other to a rabbinical court of their choice.”

Thus, said attorney Mendel, Chabad of Michigan is defying its own hierarchal superior in filing a civil suit against the Torah Center board.

“Their argument is that there is a hierarchy that has to be followed. Even if you assume there is a hierarchy, look at what the hierarchy said — and it specifically said you cannot sue the board or the Torah Center, and yet they did. That’s a big problem from a Jewish standpoint.”

Chabad attorney Ankers responded, “I think that that is a mischaracterization, and there are a number of bodies in the hierarchal authority which can convey a right to sue, and we have, in fact, received that.”

Tribunal Or Arbitration?
The Torah Center also denies that the rabbinic proceedings that Chabad of Michigan seeks to enforce were final judicial rulings, but rather an incomplete arbitration.

“They picked three arbitrators, they had an arbitration contract signed as part of the hierarchical process and the arbitration then proceeded and essentially never finished,” said Mendel. “And now, it can’t finish because one of the three arbitrators passed away and one withdrew. They never got done with the process.”

Ankers disagrees with the contention that Michigan law regarding arbitrations should apply to the rabbinical court. “This was an ecclesiastical tribunal that is established pursuant to certain rules and everyone is bound by those rules,” he said.

“The defendants call it an arbitration — I guess you can do it colloquially — but the case law that they cite that refers to arbitration is clearly referring to civil authorities constituting civil litigation disputes, and that’s not what this is.”

Role Of The Board
“One of the issues that you see from the exhibits of the complaint is that these arbitration panels realized that they only had Rabbi Silberberg there and they did not have the owner of the property,” said Mendel.

“So, the end result of these arbitrations that never actually ended is they said, ‘Rabbi Silberberg, you’ve got to make an effort to go to your board of the Torah Center and see if they are willing to transfer the property.’ Which he did and they were not.

“An invitation was made to the Chabad of Michigan to come and make a presentation to the board and they declined,” said Mendel. “So the board was willing to discuss it. They were willing to put an end to it to make certain changes in their bylaws — not the ones that the arbitrators wanted, not all the ones that the plaintiff wanted — but enough to assure people that the Torah Center would remain Chabad in the way of customs, liturgy, those sorts of things. It was not taken up by the plaintiff.

But Chabad of Michigan said in its statement: “We believe we have a responsibility to protect the Lubavitch movement by respecting its system. In order for Lubavitch to pursue its mission, this must continue to be a high priority.

“If the defendants would like this issue to move out of court, rather than distract the community with technical legal arguments, they should do what they know is right and comply with the decisions of the Rabbinical Courts.”

Both parties have until July 18 to respond to each other’s motions and another week to file a rebuttal. Oral argument is scheduled for Aug. 15 before Judge Chabot at the county courthouse in Pontiac.

By David Sachs, Senior Copyeditor

50 COMMENTS

  1. The old saying, “Who Died and Left You Boss” has an appropriate ring in the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan’s effort to steal Bais Chabad from its rightful owners, its members. After the Rebbe died, apparently, the leader of the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan decided that financially the Foundation owned anything and everyone that followed the Rebbe’s teaching within the borders of Michigan. Anyone that disagreed would be punished and steamrolled. Hence, the present “million dollar” lawsuit. The Foundation’s position is, at best, absurd and totally antithetical to the teachings of our Sages in general, and the Rebbe in particular. As an example, Chassidus tells the story of a Rabbi that was told by his wife that their house was just burglarized and he should do something. The Rabbi immediately chased after the thief shouting you forgot this item!
    It is an undeniable fact that the leader of the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan never received the Rebbe’s approval to take over the property owned by the members of Bais Chabad. The deed to Bais Chabad was drafted in the 1980s and the Rebbe past away in June of 1994. For the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan to now claim that they were not aware of the ownership issue in the 1980s is at best,, “difficult to swallow.” This grasp for material wealth, power, revenge and control is contrary to the Rebbe’s teachings. The lawsuit only serves to create animosity. It is a Shanda that must stop. I call on the Leader of the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan to ask himself the following question, Would the Rebbe, if he were alive today, sanction this lawsuit.” The objective answer is no, so do what is right, dismiss this lawsuit without delay.

  2. I am an “insider” who has watched Berel Shemtov systematically destroy the potential of what could–and should–have been a thriving Lubavitch community. Over the years he has mounted successive purges that have caused his best and brightest shluchim (emissaries) to move on to greener pastures. Most of the shluchim remaining are “yes” men who depend on him for their meager salaries and who have been dummied-down into passivity. Good men who mean to do well but are following orders.
    Berel is paradoxically the epitome of both a Communist and a ruthless capitalist: his “hierarchy” excludes individual initiative and independent thought and action; while his thirst for power and hegemony ranks of capitalism gone amok. Very strange for a man who lives a frugal life in modest circumstances. His control is absolute, his will is command. Who can fathom what drives such a person? One thing is for sure, he is a dangerous man who doesn’t tolerate any dissent.
    Although he sees himself and his ilk as carrying out the truest directives of the beloved Lubavitcher Rebbe and the teachings of Chabad Chassidus, his behavior is antithetical to the Chabad movement, which is founded on love of every fellow Jew. Berel’s inner circle is based on allegiance to their own gentrified pedigree, to a self-serving elitism that opens the hand for money from other Jews while at the same time looking down at them. Sadly, he could have been a true leader to this great community, but instead choose a deviated path and shunned progress. Although the Lubavitch movement is known for outreach to fellow Jews, to expose and bring them to greater love of Judaism and the mitzvos, Berel and his crew have recruited few adherents to Torah, mainly serving the narrow and insular interests of their own constituency.
    On the other hand, Rabbi Silberberg has established a true Torah Center and has built a community that warmly embraces all who enter. The influence he has had on the lives of countless individuals and families is hard to describe. From the already-observant to the uninitiated, he and his outstanding family have been there for others at every turn of the road. The Shemtov-ites are stricken with envy over the profound accomplishments of Rabbi Silberberg in this community, and they are determined to take over what he and his family have labored to achieve. This is a grave injustice. To Berel he is a threat to his absolute rule and as such, must be eliminated and sent “packing,” G-d forbid.
    I have “been here and done that” for many years in the local Chabad community. I am a lover of the Rebbe and continue to be nourished by the teachings of Chassidus. I have witnessed the systematic destruction of hopes and dreams for children in this community who were not of the Lubavitch elite. I truly believe that Rabbi Silberberg and his congregation will prevail, for G-d is just. I instinctively am aware that this time, Berel Shemtov has gone too far. This outrage will not be tolerated. I only hope and pray that other Jews will not be distanced by the tremendous “chillul Hashem,” desecration of G-d’s name, that is taking place now.

  3. With all the arguing of Chabad and their true intentions, secular legal language aside, the plaintiff should be outright shammed for taking public action that publicly desecrates the Rebbe’s name.

  4. May I express some thoughts:
    Chabad House consists of:
    1. People who are members of the shul, who have collected money, purchased the land, built the shul, and pay monthly bills.
    2. Land which belongs to those people who purchased it.
    3. Building which belongs to those who paid the construction bill.

    Misuse of American judicial system under umbrella of claim for “preservation of Chabad hierarchal structure” raises several questions:
    1. Since when taking away somebody’s property is called “real property should be held” instead of clear definition: Stealing, period?
    2. Since when stealing has become a G-dly matter?
    3. Since when a little dictators have a right to tell FREE people what to do? This is pure “stalinism under the black “kapota”.

    i’m a Russian Jew. I have an obligation to the rest of my life to act in such way, that nobody could regret that his or her income tax money were used to pay for my airline ticket to the US. I ask if the Chabad-Lubavitch of Michigan regional director Rabbi Berel Shemtov still remember himself asking for entrance to the US?

  5. The obvious fraud in this whole lawsuit is that the Chabad “hierarchy” that Rabbi Berel Shemtov of the Lubavitch Foundation of MI is referring to in his lawsuit as being the one in control of all of Chabad’s institution’s, is currently headed by Rabbi Berel Shemtov of MI brother from Philadelphia Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov. And many of the members of that “hierarchy” are Rabbi Berel Shemtov’s close relatives.

    And so Rabbi Berel Shemtov of the Lubavitch Foundation of MI obviously has great personal interest and gain by claiming that Chabad is run by the current central “hierarchy“ which is headed by his brother and run by his relatives and close friends.

    Is this what Chabad has become after the Rebbe’s passing? It’s a real Shanda!

    It is also my understanding that the majority of Chabad center in the USA aren’t owned by the regional Chabad representative’s organization, just as the regional Chabad representative’s organization’s properties aren’t owned by the Chabad “hierarchy” organization in Brooklyn NY. Why should Rabbi Silberberg’s Chabad center be any different then the majority of Chabad centers all over?

  6. I regret ever being a member at The Shul. It was better not to even start that Shul, if all what they wanted was donation’s. in order to stop this problem people should leave The Shul and stop giving donation’s. People should also get rid of their Donor’s, as i said before since when did it become THE SHUL!

  7. After checking the property records of various Chabads throughout Michigan via public records websites, virtually none of them are titled through “Chabad of Michigan”. Like the West Bloomfield center, they are all titled as their own independent organizations. The central question is why is the Plaintiff solely targeting this Chabad and what are their intentions should he win? Is it to uproot their leader and force the community to accept another? What has this Center done that is so wrong compared to all the other ones in Michigan? Are they upset with the fact that this Center has been very successful, has independently built a vibrant community over the last few dozen years and has engaged many individuals and families in Judaism? Why does anybody need to infringe on that? Why is this civil suit being filled over 30 years after the establishment of the center? Surely the rabbinical court cases pertaining to this matter don’t go back that far or this would have been in civil court dozens of years ago. I believe it is very clear that the organizers of this are promoting conflict within the Jewish community, shamming Chabad and the Rebbe in the process, which stands against everything the Lubavitcher Rebbe and virtually every rabbi promotes. The best outcome for the greater Michigan Jewish Community would be if everybody simply left each other alone and focused on building their own programs and practice humility rather than fight and use much needed charitable resources to instigate lawsuits to take over other’s.

  8. “Since it is permitted for you to resort to the civil courts [in your case] against Rabbi Elimelech Yosef Hakohen Silberberg, and the institution Bais Chabad Torah Center of West Bloomfield and the members of its board in their function at the institution, in order to get a rabbinical court ruling validated, there is clearly no place here for concern about [this causing] any desecration of the Divine Name, G-d forbid.” – (Statement from rabbinical ruling above in article)

    I would argue that rabbinical court was corrupted in Shemtov’s favor since OBVIOUSLY by taking this to public court, the rabbinic court and Shemtov knew press would follow and cause a significant part of Michigan’s Jewish community to gossip about an orthodox organization fighting another, which is a great desecration of the Divine Name.

  9. “Berel and his crew have recruited few adherents to Torah” – I’d be willing to bet the the rabbinical court saga began when his son opened “The Shul” down the street. Being unsuccessful compared to Torah Center, Shemtov probably thought “Hey, if I yield my corrupt influence to get West Bloomfield Chabad in our name, we’ll change things there and surely be successful”. I agree that this whole thing is just terrible and the sad thing is that Shemtov probably doesn’t care about all the negative publicity this brings to their family.

  10. Shemtov fan in NY

    Last night I sent my son to camp gan Israel in Kalkaska Michigan and today I read this.  I feel compelled to comment. 

    Rabbi Shemtov built a camp against which all Chabad summer camps are measured.  This is both for beauty and program. 

    Rabbi Shemtov built an education system against which all Lubavitch yeshivas are measured.   Now is beautiful reputation will be matched by a beautiful campus. ( my oldest son went to the high school and I plan on sending my other boys there as well)

    The amount of Chabad houses that were started in Detroit which I believe has 100,000 Jews is more than any city that size. 

    Rabbi Shemtov gave the world the idea of Friendship Circle. The greatest innovation in Chabad in years. 

    Rabbi Shemtov gave the world MJI which helps so many students. 

    Rabbi Shemtov taught other Chabad houses how to think big when building and inspired so many with his campus.  

    Rabbi Shemtov raised one of the most beautiful families in Lubavitch with 10 out 10 of his children working as Shluchim. 

    All this was done while counseling 10’s of Chabad leaders on a daily basis and being involved in national initiatives.  

    As a Shemtov fan who is not related I sometimes questioned his judgment on controversies that he was involved in.  However, as years went by I always saw his wisdom.  It is no wonder that so many in the leadership positions of Lubavitch respect him.  

    He and his people, I am sure, have better things to do than comment here.  I just wanted to set the record straight.

  11. this is not about measuring accomplishments of individuals, because if it was silberberg would have been sent home long ago, as after 30 years and only having 132 members is a very small accomplishment.

    we need to remember that Chabad of MI has been here way before silberberg came, and will be here way after, we should also not forget who it was that brought silberberg here.

    this is about a very clear issue, and that is that silberberg and his members are renegade, and behaving as such. lets not forget that it was rabbi shemtov who paid for the Bloomfield shul, and silberbergs salary for many years,

    what the siberberg board did was not only wrong but also the most unethical maneuver that a board can do, and that is to sneak ownership away by underhandedly changing original papers etc.

    any organization that allows its members to run rouge will be failing in their fiduciary duty and obligation to its founders.

    an opinion of a few siberberg relatives and friends can not decide the policy, philosophy or structure of an organization that is over 250 years old.

    this issue was decided by the most reputable Beth Din in the world, and subsequently confirmed by other Jewish courts, and all have found that the silberberg and his board has acted in illegal and bad faith.

    silberberg has approached every single beth din in the country and was not able to find even one to back him or support his acts of deceit.

    yes it would be much better if silberberg would have followed the direction of Chabad and rabbinical leadership and do the right thing, but he and his board decided to take action that i believe left shemtov no choice but to confirm the beth din decision in court.

  12. I see that a lot of supporters of Rabbi Silberberg are posting here, mainly negative comments about Rabbi Shemtov. What I don’t see is anyone addressing the issues that were already ruled upon by the Rabbinical Court.

    I believe that a Rabbinical court does not rule frivolously, and I am sure the court heard BOTH sides, the court knows about all the other Chabad Houses in Michigan, and around the world, and they still ruled, that the Bais Chabad of West Bloomfield should legally be owned by Chbad Lubavitch of Michigan.

    Rabbi Silberberg AGREED that this was the case. He had to because he himself signed that he would follow the ruling of the Rabbinical court, and as a Torah observant Jew, he has an obligation to follow the ruling and directives of the court. His ONLY argument was that he has no power to influence his Board to agree to return the property. He says he tried VERY HARD, as instructed, but to no avail. He REALLY wants to listen to the court, but his hands are tied.

    So the Rabbinical Court agrees that his hands are tied, and decides to help him untie them, by directing Lubavitch of Michigan to take the matter to court, and ask the court to rule that the Board should return the property. So now what can Rabbi Silberberg do? He came up with an idea… If the matter goes to court, it would be a desecration of G-d’s name! How will it be a desecration of G-d’s name? Rabbi Silberberg threatened that if the Rabbi allow Rabbi Shemtov to go to court, he will contact the Jewish News and every person in Michigan and let then know that Rabbi Shemtov is an evil person… and then it will look really bad for Chabad…

    The Jewish court ruled that this is not a concern, and the lawsuit should move along. So now Rabbi Silberberg is keeping his promise to create a desecration of Gd’s name!!! Nice play there… As you can see, the only people making a fuss about this are Rabbi Silberbergs followers. They all love him… So the minute he says enough of this public display of dirty laundry, this big desecration of G-ds name will be over in a minute.

    So why doesn’t he stop it? Because he knows he stands no chance in the court of law, so he decided to take it to the court of public opinion… And he might win in the PR war, well played. But he will have to look at himself in the mirror after all is said and done and decide who make the biggest damage here to the community? Who fed his congregants with lies and stories? Who refused to follow the Torah by listening to the Rabbinical Court? Who dragged this issue for 15 years, instead of settling the first time around? .

  13. By the way, it is not just Michigan, I personally know a few Chabad Rabbis in various states, just to name a few, NY, NJ, MD and CA, I asked them and they all told me that even though the system in Chabad is, that when a Shliach comes to a place to establish a Chabad house, they go ‘under’ the head Shliach, meaning, that there is someone in charged, to see where and when it is time to open a new branch… BUT THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OWNING PROPERTY.
    The Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted that each Chabad house should be independently financial responsible. Everyone I asked who runs a Chabad house told me that it is its own independent institution and NO CONNECTION TO THE HEAD SHLIACH.
    THIS IS BLACK AND WHITE – NO GREY AREA.
    Don’t believe me. Call ANY Chabad house (over 1000) in the USA and speak to the Shliach there and you will see for yourself.
    That is the way it is all over the world and that is the way it was in Michigan until Rabbi Shemtov decided differently. I’m not sure what is going through his, Kasriel and Levi’s mind.

  14. Interesting.

    If you read the case there is something very curious there

    Rabbi Silberberg was told by the Beth Din that he committed a great
    offense and was dishonest. His claim now is that he tried as hard as
    he can and could not convince one person to vote for his proposal.

    This leads to one of two conclusions. 1: he has obsoluttely no say
    in his shul. Or 2: he lied in his motion.

    i was surprised to see that Rabbi Silberberg claims that that he tried
    to convince

  15. Interesting. If Shemtov indeed paid for and built the shul, why on earth did he not deed it under his organization, per the hierarcy rules and regulations being stressed? The article states on behalf of Torah Center “My clients feel that the Torah Center bought, built and maintained a piece of property.” Surely the attorney would not have made this statement unless it was backed by factual evidence. Clearly the community that spent 30 years pumping millions of dollars into the center do not agree with Shemtov’s plans for the facility and the fact that Shemtov has no respect for the desires of these “132” members is sad. According to the article, he even declined to meet and present his plans to the Shul, yet he wants to take it over? He can’t face them, but wants to own them? I am very fearful of regimes like this!

  16. I’m curious where you are learning your ‘facts’ from as they are woefully inaccurate. I presume from Rabbi Shemtov (any one of them…) himself?

  17. Shemtov should focus on those 100,000 Jews and use his resources to build more programs to engage them and leave alone the 100+ Jews who make up the Torah Center.

  18. I wish it were the case that Rabbinical Courts do not rule frivolously, but unfortunately, Bais Dins have reputations for being corrupt. Besides, The Bais Din ruled per above: “If the rabbinical court will decide to permit Rabbi Shemtov to begin secular court proceedings, this permission is only granted concerning his demands and arguments against Rabbi Silberberg exclusively.”
    Yet, Shemtov is taking everyone to court, I believe. SO ARGUING THAT ONE PARTY DOES NOT ADHERE TO THE BAIS DIN IS AN INVALID ARGUMENT WHEN THE OTHER DOES NOT ADHERE TO THEIR RULINGS AS WELL!!!!

  19. I can understand the passionate positions from both sides, but keep one thing in mind: Shemtov supporters have absolutely nothing to gain or loose by the outcome of this while Torah Center supporters stand to loose the character and face of their community that they’ve chosen and known for dozens of years. Does Shemtov have any compassion for that? Likely not.

  20. I agree with “curious”. Most of this debate has been based on facts while “jeff” above is making up facts. Debate is welcome as well as opinions, but please don’t make stuff up.

  21. There would have been absolutely no desecration of g-d’s name had the Shemtov empire not pressed charges. The desecration began there. It was then that in internal communal matter went public and since these fillings are public, the press always picks up on them no matter what. I highly doubt the press got involved because solely because Rabbi Silberberg picked up his phone and called them like you claim. I also highly doubt that Rabbi Silberberg promised to desecrate g-d’s name, like you also claim.

  22. Agreed! If R. Shemtov considers himself the head shaliach of Michigan, he should act as the over-arching evid hashem of the Michigan community and work to make peace among his brothers immediately, put his faith in the ultimate higher power to sort things out and not reduce himself to the mercy of the lowly secular courts. There will be nothing but communal grief, agitation and permanent damage among Jews if he continues this path. Though I’m no Rabbi, I would consider this the most serious of all crimes here. He has to understand this! Though this has been going on for years, there was no communal grief anywhere near this level before the matter wound up in court.

    Yes, some will argue that R. Silberberg should adhere to B.D. rulings, but Rabbi Shemtov, again being the head Shaliach of the entire state is obligated to act as the most mature and g-d fearing of all parties.

  23. Rabbi Berel Shemtov is a brutal dictator and will work his hardestto run a dictatorial regime. He is always on guard for total power and total control.And as the saying goes, absolute power brings absolute corruption. Rabbi BerelShemtov is no exception to that rule; he is only proving its truth. After theRebbe’s passing he needs to be accountable to no one!

    Just look at the reality on the ground. How many of the otherChabad Rabbis have left MI over the years because Rabbi Shemtov didn’t getalong with them and he couldn’t have them living in his midst without having totalcontrol over them! How many of the Chabad Rabbis running Chabad congregations currentlyin MI don’t get along with him either!

    Rabbi Berel and Kasriel Shemtov have worked very hard tostop Rabbi Silberberg time and time again from bringing new young Chabad couplesto help him in his growing community work.

    It just comes to show, that the real reason underlying thiswhole lawsuit is the big word JEALOUSY! Rabbi Shemtov and his kids just can’texcept that there is a person who isn’t totally subservient to them and he isso successful in building such a beautiful community.

    This is the unfortunate real shameful story!

  24. I would like to respond to two particular posts:

    1. In response to the claim that Rabbi Silberberg could have influenced the Board of the Torah Center to hand over the building to Rabbi Shemtov, but he basically refused to do so:

    The Psak of the Bais Din came out in 2006, three years after the closure of two Chabad schools in 2003: the very popular and successful Bais Chaya Mushka High School for Girls, and Bais Menachem Academy, an elementary school that provided a secular as well as a religious education. Bais Chaya Mushka was closed by direct interference of Rabbi Shemtov (because it was not sufficiently under his control); Bais Menachem was financially choked to death by Rabbi Shemtov (who claimed he had no money to help it – apparently he only has money for lawsuits…). Friends and members of the Torah Center who had children in both institutions were infuriated at and disenchanted with Rabbi Shemtov after the closure of the schools. There is no way on earth that Rabbi Silberberg could have convinced the Board to put the Torah Center under Rabbi Shemtov’s control; for some strange reason they had no confidence in Shemtov’s good will, benevolence or integrity.

    2. In response to “A Regular Jew” who wrote that “I’d be willing to bet the the [sic] rabbinical court saga began when his son opened “The Shul” down the street:”

    Rabbi Shemtov and his son Kasriel Shemtov opened a multi-million dollar “orthodox/Lubavitch” shul in an area where there are few people who can walk to shul, as it is bounded on each side by the JCC and a church, across from the Henry Ford Hospital. Thus, The Shul was set up from its very inception to be a place of chilul Shabbos – where the Shabbat is routinely desecrated. That was the subject of the initial din torah which was actually initiated by Rabbi Silberberg. Instead of dealing with the issues on the table, however, Rabbi Berel Shemtov hijacked the din torah to focus on the ownership of the building, and the original issues were never addressed.

    Everyone knows that the issue is not the ownership of the building. Throughout the world, as well as in Michigan, the vast majority of Chabad buildings are not owned by the head Shliach. Rabbi Shemtov is a power- and control- freak, who cannot tolerate the fact that Rabbi Silberberg and the Torah Center – who are fully compliant with Lubavitch custom/tradition/principle/philosophy – are not completely under his domination.

    Frieda

  25. The only way Shemtov can come out of this clean with the image of the State level of Chabad that he’s supposed to represent in tow is for him to drop these shannanogens immediately. Admitting to error is one of the most difficult things a person can do, but Shemtov doing so in this case will bring peace and closure, the complete opposite of what will be brought if this court case continues.

    Let us pray that Shemtov (and family) obtain the Chochma, Bina and Daat to do, not what is in the best interest of himself, but what is best for the interest of the community as a whole.

  26. So, Why on Earth would anybody build a multi-million dollar Orthodox facility in an area that nobody could conveniently walk to?

  27. Sorry, let me rephrase:

    So, Why on Earth would anybody build a multi-million dollar Orthodox SHUL in an area that nobody could conveniently walk to?

  28. I am not involved in the entire case and I am not on any side here but I can tell you that Bais Menachem closed because Rabbi (no need to mention his name here because he is not involved in this case) with the full complacence of Rabbi Silberberg ran that school in the most irresponsible way. They either couldn’t make up their minds who their target audience were or, more ominously, tried to deceive different people that they were targeting different people. I was one of the people who were sent to Rabbi Shemtov to ask him for continued support and saw that he supported the school until he discovered GROSS mismanagement (to say the least). During that period I gained a lot of respect for him as a fair person. He told me then (and I hope his offer will still stand today) that he would invest a lot of money into a good dual curriculum school if he was able to have a reasonable assurance that (like other organizations that he started) it would be able to stand on its own feet.

    What I concluded then is that Rabbi Shemtov’s modesty as a person (we met at his house) caused that people in the community were unaware of how much he was behind a lot of the good that they were enjoying from Chabad organizations. The first time that I heard about him was when he was being named as the cause of all problems. I advise anyone here to ask for a meeting with him and meet him with an open mind and you will see who he really is.

  29. It is simply a lie like everything else she said. A simple view on Google maps will show you thousands of homes within walking distance

  30. Today is July 4, so let me make the case clear:
    I am one of the owners of the Bais Chabad Torah Center.
    I pay my dues for years and I am THE OWNER! – not the rabbi Silverberg or any other rabbi.
    The rabbi of the Shul is our employee, and our leader, chosen by us, by people who have a freedom of choice.
    There are over 100 families who are OWNERS of the land and the OWNERS of the building-same as you are the OWNER of your house or your car.

    Anybody who puts his hand in MY pocket and steals MY property is the thief, regardless of occupation, gender, nationality, race, regardless if he or she is a conductor of symphonic orchestra, police officer, president, or a leader of Chabad of Michigan.

    If you steal MY property you are the THIEF !!!!

    Few examples from history:

    1. Babylonians stole Israel. The punishment of Hashem: OK, loose your country! Most of Chaldeans ran away from Iraq to survive and live all around the world today.
    2. Germany did not like Jews. The punishment of Hashem: OK, enjoy turks. Germans are loosing their county very rapidly. The birth rate is the lowest ever.
    3. In 1887 in Belts (Moldova) approx. 10 thousand people lived-mostly Jews – 70%. The city had 72 synagogues. In 1989 the city had 0 synagogues. The punishment of Hashem for stealing of 72 synagogues from Jews: No family life in Moldova. The husbands live by dozens in single small rooms all around the world as migrant workers. They send money home, so their wifes and children would not starve to death. Conclusion: “You stole my Shul – loose your family”!

    I challenge an intellectual abilities of Shemtov:
    What kind of rabbi is he? Not to know such elementary things?

    I challenge a spiritual abilities of Shemtov:
    How can he preach: “You shall not steal-if he steals MY property?”

    The degradation of Shemtov’s values occurred before filing a law suit. It happened when he decided to steal MY and other people’s property. I think, it is too late for him to come out clean, regardless of the outcome of this litigation. My message to him: “Look on history-you may get away with people by manipulating the American courts system- just for a while, but you will NEVER, I repeat NEVER get away with Hashem. The punishment of G-d for stealing the synagogues from Jews will have terrible consequences to you and those who are associated with you. I warn you! I am backed up by the history!Over 100 Jewish families cry to Hashem for PROTECTION FROM YOU. Watch for Yom Kippur!

    If you could have an elementary survival instinct and fear of G-d, you would never do this.

    The message to Shemtov “supporters”- read over and over the parsha Korach!

  31. Actually, I did check Google Earth before posting and found that if I take a ½ mile radius of The Shul, which would be a 5 to 15 minute convenient walk to shul (given the sparse and winding streets), there are literally small handful streets in the area comprising of maybe a hundred to two hundred houses max. Compare this to Oak Park or even Torah Center, where a shul is maybe 90% surrounded by dense housing, which is a typical premise for any Orthodox community. Which, is why I’m confused a multi-million dollar Orthodox shul was ever established there.
    I must confess, I do not live in Michigan and have very little interest in either side, one thing does ring in my mind, which is a well-known teaching of Maimonides, which states to take the middle road in all personal character traits with the exception of anger and arrogance, which one is supposed to always veer to the completely opposite side. I believe that all evil in the world can be traced and rooted in arrogance. Now again, I know little here, but I’m willing to believe that given the that this is likely the only case in the US and perhaps the world where a chief Rabbi is trying to take over a 30 year old shul in a secular court of all places (and I completely agree that this action has led to the great desecration discussed) leads me to believe that the Chief Rabbi has some significant internal issues controlling his arrogance. We all have our internal challenges and struggles, but where the line gets crossed is when the well-being of hundreds of innocent people (congregants in this case) are involved. I have yet to read one posting from a member of Torah Center congregation backing the Plaintiff, here or in any of the other blogs related to this matter.
    You mentioned that “Frieda” stating total lies. I did some additional Google research to learn that these Lubavitch facilities she mentioned did exist and don’t exist anymore. I do not know any details, I acknowledge that. But I do take note that the Chief Rabbi here has thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for a, in retrospect, pointless lawsuit. Have any of these Lubavitch schools been rebuilt? And if so, are they so financially well off that these often coveted charitable resources are not needed? If so, please someone respond as I can list some similar institutions that could DESPERATELY use these funds as they have trouble paying their faculty on time because they stretched so thin in providing scholarships so all who wish can get Jewish educations.

  32. I am not interested in the whole issue. As far as I am concerned theses things should be settled either in a Beth din ( which apparently it was) or court. I see no problem to have a fair judge rule on the case. Why is one side do afraid of that?

    I was talking about the location of the shul specifically. In this area people topically walk more than a mile to shul. I believe that Rabbi Silberberg lives more than a mile from shul. Some of silberbergs members walk as much as 3 mIles. If you go the shul you will see plenty of people walking 1.5 to 2 miles. If you check how many homes are in that radius you will see that there are plenty.

  33. OK. I’m just speaking for myself on shul distance. I have small kids and would never live more than a 1/2 mile from shul. In my community, i’

  34. OK. I’m just speaking for myself on shul distance. I have small kids and would never live more than a 1/2 mile from shul. In my community and most others I know of, i’m willing to bet that that all my peers with small kids live that distance or less from shul. Maybe suburban Detroit is the exception. You said that everything “Freida” says was lies, though everything she said about the hundreds of acres of non-residential land immediately adjacent to the property is confirmed.

    I agree that B’D should settle this matter, though its clear from the article that both sides have their own agendas outside of B’D. As an Orthodox Jew, I find it embarrassing that its come to this. As one person already said, which I agree with from my objective analysis, the Plaintiff really has nothing to gain from this and his taking this court is an indication poor integrity.

  35. Everything Freida said is an absolute truth. Emes. My children attended both of the schools she mentioned. Beis Menachem was closed due to lack of funds and Shemtov’s unwillingness to help out the only Lubavitch K-8 school in town that had secular education and it was excellent.
    Beis Chaya Mushka was another tragedy a few years later that involved dozens of high school girls not only from Detroit but from all over the country. It was considered one of the best Lubavitch girl high schools anywhere and through Berel Shemtov’s direct interference it had to close. Its director Rabbi Dr. Kagan moved to Monsey, NY and openned it there on a friendlier territory. It is now thriving. You are welcome to look it up.
    If you want to know why, I wrote my thoughts in the comment to the previous article if you care to look it up.

  36. Interesting. Comments from a true Chabad insider:

    Silberberg: builds a successful Torah Center over 3 decades with 3 daily minyanim, operates a true Shomer Shabbos facility and has built his community to be primarily Torah observant, Shomer Shabbos Baalei Teshuva. Likely, he has done the vast majority of this completely independently like every Chabad Center aspires to do.

    Shemtov: Himself ignores Bais Din rulings that are shifted in his favor, sets aside millions of dollars for a lawsuit to take over a small building rather than funding schools and more shlichus and buildings, permits his son to build and operate a completely mechalel shabbos shul in the middle of nowhere and becomes the first Shaliach to try to run out another in a secular court, causing extreme grief, agitation and division among Jews and has proven he could care less about the community he is trying to take over.

    Speaking as a Chabad insider, Shemtov is the true Renegade. What Silberberg is doing by developing and maintaining a facility that has completely brought many individuals and families to be completely shomer shabbos, mitzvos and Chassidus IS the Chabad mission. There is nobody else in the entire Chabad movement that would even consider taking the actions that Shemtov has based on Silberbergs record in the community that spans 4 decades.

  37. Both parties settle?

    Bais Chabad has nothing to settle with “Rabbi” Shemtov……Shemtov’s lawsuit is nothing but a hostile takeover grab of an innocent synagogue…

    Shame on Shemtov…..

  38. Convenient of you to ignore …

    * The dismantling and destruction of Bais Chaya Mushkah.

    * Utter refusal to help Bais Menachem, a school for Chabad families (as opposed to one just for the kids of Shluchim).

    * The number of people who Berel Shemtov chased out of town.

    * The numerous Dinei Torah over the years against anyone who dares to think differently from Berel (or for that matter, just think).

    * There is no Chabad education system in Michigan, you’re buying the hype, not the reality. I love in Oak Park, and no, Cheder is not a school that rational balanced parents send their kids to.

    * MJI is a scam, it has not educated anyone in years, and is a vehicle to collect state and government funding to be used for other purposes.

    If you want the truth, alk to people who live here, and who have seen nothing substantive from Berel and crew in decades, and who are embarrassed to even be associated with Chabad of MI.

  39. This awful legal battle is a disgrace to the movement. I pray for both sides to come to terms and resolve this peacefully. When a a House of worship is used for religious services why disgrace it with legalities and court battles.

  40. To Jerald,

    The solution to your question is simple: Shemtov should simply drop his aggressive and univited assault upon our synagogue…

    Surely you dont dispute our synagogues’ right (indeed obligation) to defend ourselves?

  41. “lets not forget that it was rabbi shemtov who paid for the Bloomfield shul, and silberbergs salary for many years”

    Not true – it was paid by individuals who did not even want a chabad shul, just an orthodox one.

    They liked Rabbi Silberberg not because he is a Lubavitcher, but despite it.

    My father was one of those founders.

  42. Word is out that that this legal battle against the Congregation will continue although the court dismissed the case. Legal battles are costly. Are community resources and money being spent on fees while so many of our people need cloths and food to feed their children. Don’t Rabbis have a moral obligation to tend to their flock before fighting for properties and title to houses of worship? This is an abomination in the first order.

  43. Got this in an email:

    Statement by Chabad Lubavitch

    Although we understood from the beginning that this complex case could require a process involving multiple steps through the legal system, we are disappointed that the case was dismissed by the Circuit Court on a procedural matter and that its fundamental issue has not yet been judged on its merits. That is why we are asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to consider this case.

    It is important for the community to remember that Chabad Lubavich is an organization with a special mission to the Jewish community and has executed that mission successfully in Michigan for more than 50 years.

    Our movement has a specific form of governance based on Jewish law and Lubavich tradition. This is imperative to the success of the movement, its future and its ability to work together in a cohesive manner. Any tampering with that system would undermine the structure of the movement.  At its core, this case is about following Jewish law, rules and rabbinical court decisions.

    Throughout this case, the ownership and authority of Bais Chabad has been determined by numerous rabbinical bodies, based on Jewish law and Lubavitch tradition.  We sought action in the secular courts with full permission of the rabbinic courts and only because the rulings of the rabbinic courts were not followed.

    As an example, here is a quote from one of the rabbinic rulings:

    “ Concerning Congregation Bais Chabad Torah Center of West Bloomfield: According to the facts, it seems clear that the congregation was established by Chabad-Lubavitch of Michigan even before Rabbi Silberberg was appointed. Over the years, funds have been raised for the congregation using the name of Chabad-Lubavitch. If the institution had indeed been ‘independent,’ it is obvious that unless this had been concealed from Rabbi Shemtov, he would have stopped it immediately (just as he would stop any independent congregation in the city wanting to raise funds by using the name of Chabad-Lubavitch). Therefore there is no justification for transferring the aforementioned congregation from an institution within the framework of Chabad-Lubavitch to becoming “independent.” It makes no difference what was Rabbi Silberberg’s involvement in this, whether it was direct or indirect: Even if it was only in a manner of indirectly causing it to happen, one who is entrusted with taking care of anything or serving as a shaliach [emissary] to do anything is held liable even if he caused damage indirectly, as explained in Divrei Geonim, Klal 15, chapter 5, and Klal 95, chapter 30 – see there.            

    Since (as noted) Rabbi Shemtov is the one who established the congregation (even before he appointed Rabbi Silberberg to his job), and one of Rabbi Silberberg functions when he accepted his appointment from Rabbi Shemtov was to develop the congregation, this [change in the congregation’s status] was in conflict with his duty, and contrary to the mission he accepted (and certainly contrary to the sacred desire of the Rebbe). Clearly, the act of transferring ownership of an institution belonging to the Rebbe to private individuals (and concealing this from Rabbi Shemtov), severing it from Chabad-Lubavitch, and making it independent, constitutes a most grave offense.            

    (See Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Mechira Umatana V’shaliach Va’apotropos (paragraph 17), that it is a shaliach’s duty to inform the one who sent him if he is unable to accomplish his mission; if he makes a change for his own benefit, he is considered dishonest.)”

    We still hope that Bais Chabad and its Rabbi will change their direction and choose to abide by the rabbinical rulings. That would save additional money, heartache and division within the community.

    It is not an option of Chabad Lubavitch of Michigan to walk away from this case and somehow grant independence to Bais Chabad, as that is a right not granted to our organization. Under Jewish law and Lubavich tradition, the director of this organization is entrusted by the Rebbe, of blessed memory, and the Lubavich movement as a custodian to build, protect and secure the success and future of the movement, its property and the funds that rightfully belong to the organization. 

    Because some have charged, via The Jewish News, that we plan to somehow take away Bais Chabad and displace its members, we reiterate what we wrote in our letter to the congregation on the day that Circuit Court litigation was filed:

    “While this suit is going on, we encourage the members of Bais Chabad to continue to pray, attend services and study at Bais Chabad.  We do not wish this case to cause any disruptions in the operations of the Congregation.”

    “It is our hope that after this situation is resolved with the authority of Chabad Lubavitch of Michigan rightfully established, that Bais Chabad will continue to grow as a place of Torah and chasidus in the community.  Chabad Lubavitch of Michigan will not, G-d forbid, interfere and will indeed be willing to help in facilitating the growth of the congregation.”

  44. All are missing the central point! What Sin – Cheit did the BCTC commit that warrants such aggressive punishment as to take away its pride of having their name on the building??
    If you claim that BCTC calls itself “independent”. You are stretching the term independence too far. I think all they mean by “independent” is that the building was purchased & titled in the BCTC’s name. By the way, the building never was transferred out of BCTC’s name. That does not mean they changed the nusach or minhagim from Ari or Chabad. They continue to have farbrengens & celebrate Chabad festivals. The land & building is not going anywhere!
    As long as Chabad Central of Michigan cannot, via a din torah, prove that BCTC had violated a punishable act then this whole claim & appeal is a waste of time, money & a great Chillul Hashem (a hundred times over)!!!
    When Chabad – Mich states that the community should understand that it must continue this case….. We say, NO, we don’t understand!!! This has gone far enough!!!! Chabad – Mich is the one committing a grave sin of Chillul Hashem and no amount of flavoring or camouflage will change this! No amount of citing you bring of shulchan aruch etc, will change that you are only bringing support to to a your sided position and avoiding the issue completely.
    A solution to this major problem that needs to be overcome is “lack of trust” by either side.
    A compromise has been offered before and the solution is oh so close. But the stubbornness (am kshei oref / par-oh) is standing in the way.
    Let us pray that during this Chodesh Ellul Chabad – Mich comes to their “common” senses, cancels the appeal and make peace with the community!

  45. A number of years ago, a young single mother asked me for financial help to send her children to Camp Gan Israel. Not having the means myself, I wrote to the Rebbe. Unbelievably I wrote: :Dear Rebbe, A young mother asked me to help her children go to summer camp. I really dislike asking people for money. Would the Rebbe please give me a brocha to raise this money this time but never have to do it again.
    I received a plain envelpe containing a $20 bill with the Rebbe’s signature on it! I called Rabbi Bergstein who had involved me in this venture. “The Rebbe doesn’t seem to understand it’s going to take over a thousand dollars to send these children to camp. The Rebbe sent me $20 which the Rebbe signed!”
    “Wonderful!” exclaimed Rabbi Bergstein. “The Rebbe gave you the same signed $20 the Rebbe gives to every shliach sent to establish a Chabad House. Now you have to sell tickets and raffle off the $20 bill to raise the camp money!” I sold $50 tickets and the night of the raffle a little more than half the money was raised. I handed the bill to the winner while thinking to myself, “Now what am I going to do? How will I pay the total amount?” The winner took the bill from my hand and said, “I can’t accept a $20 bill signed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, for only $50!” She took out her check book and wrote the entire amount to send the children to camp. The Camp Fund became a yearly event with donors from the only raffle I ever held. I’ll never forget the call I received from a young mother who sent her children to camp for the first time. “I can’t thank you enough! For the first time since my divorce several years ago, I’m able to do eat, sleep, and relax without a child to care for 24/7”

  46. Dear Ruth,
    Yes, beautiful. That’s what shluchim are supposed to do. Not file lawsuits & appeals to harass a growing sincere Chabad congregation!

  47. uh…. it is not a lie.. as one who drives there for shabbos(25 miles).. the closest thing to the Shul is a retirement facility for elderly jews..and trust me.. they are not walking there… and I have never, ever seen anyone walking up Maple to get there..
    Don’t get me wrong, Kasriel holds a nice service, I am new to this and trying very hard not to Judge..

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