Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
Blogs
 

entries tagged with: Rabbi Ronald Price

 

Tree diverts community from UTJ bankruptcy case

The fate of a centuries-old tree on the property of the Union For Traditional Judaism has ignited the passions of the community and pushed UTJ out on a limb. UTJ declared bankruptcy in May and its Teaneck building is headed for a court-ordered auction next month.

The auction is scheduled for Aug. 4. UTJ, which also runs the Institute of Traditional Judaism, hopes to sell the property for at least $1.5 million, according to court records.

Once the building is sold, UTJ will look to rent another operating space, said the organization’s president, Rabbi Edward Gershfield of Manhattan.

“Our property is worth more than all our debts,” he said. “But in order to pay those debts we have decided to sell the property.”

image
Teaneck residents are up in arms over the fate of this centuries-old oak, slated to be removed by its bankrupt owner. Josh Lipowsky

UTJ could relocate anywhere in New Jersey or New York, according to Gershfield. Until it sells the property, however, the organization does not have the funds to make a move, he said.

“Until we sell the property we are strapped for cash, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t sell the property — except for interference by outside parties,” he said.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks now is an oak tree, estimated to be somewhere between 200 and 300 years old, on the corner of the property. UTJ’s leadership is concerned that the towering tree’s branches, which stretch over Cedar Lane, represent a danger to passersby. UTJ sought to remove the tree late last month.

“The fact of the matter is, from our perspective, the tree represents a significant hazard,” said Rabbi Ronald Price, executive vice president of UTJ. He cited a June 29 incident when one of the tree’s limbs dropped onto the sidewalk.
“That pretty much convinced us we had to move in terms of taking down the tree,” he said.

UTJ hired Tree Max Inc. of South Plainfield to remove the tree, but local activists spotted the work and called the police, who ordered it stopped.

In a July 7 report, Tree Max president Mark Diamante wrote, “I feel compelled to inform whomever [sic] it is that wants to preserve this tree that what it is they want to preserve is a very old and unsafe tree, and peril is imminent.”

Diamante included pictures that he said showed evidence of decay and rot that make the tree unsafe.

The Teaneck Township Council took up the tree’s fate at its meeting on Tuesday. An overflow crowd of about 100 gathered in and outside of the council chambers as the township’s arborist presented a report that deemed the tree salvageable.

According to the report by Almstead Tree & Shrub Co., the tree does represent a “moderate risk of failure at this particular moment in time,” because of decay on the west side of the tree and an old wound in the stem that has healed. Almstead recommended, however, that the tree be saved and managed with annual inspections, pruning, and the installation of support cables and rods.

A third inspector, Professional Tree Works, recommended in a July 10 report that the tree be removed because it represents “a potential hazzard [sic].”

At issue during the meeting was the possibility the council would step in to buy the property using money from the Municipal Open Space Trust fund. After two hours of impassioned testimony from Teaneck residents, members of the council one by one expressed sympathy with the tree’s would-be saviors, but none could justify the more than $1 million expenditure in light of recent budget cuts.

“This is an ethical dilemma. This is a horrible situation,” said Councilwoman Barbara Ley Toffler. “I defy anyone to stand up and say do the right thing because I don’t know what the right thing is.”

“I implore the owners to work it out,” said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin after the council decided not to make a bid on the property in the bankruptcy proceedings.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg spoke passionately at Tuesday’s meeting about the tree, which her late husband Irwin had fought to save almost four decades ago. Her children refer to it as “Dad’s tree” or “Irwin’s tree.” She pointed out that during the major storm in March that downed hundreds of trees across Teaneck, that tree didn’t lose one limb.

That storm uprooted hundreds of trees and left thousands without power for days. It also brought down a large oak on the north side of Teaneck that killed two men walking home from synagogue. UTJ’s leaders stressed this incident making their case for removing the tree.

“It’s clear this tree is a hazard,” Gershfield told the Standard, “and we want to get rid of it because we don’t want anybody to get hurt. I have an obligation not to allow this tree to kill someone or hurt someone.”

“Taking that tree down is being disingenuous at best,” Weinberg said after the meeting, indicating that UTJ had another motive for its removal. “Any tree or light pole can fall down. There’s no reason to believe this tree is going to fall down.”

Despite residents’ claims during Tuesday’s meeting that the tree was being removed mainly for financial reasons, safety remains the No. 1 motivator, according to Price and Gershfield.

Earlier on Tuesday, Weinberg asked the state Environmental Protection Agency and the state Division of Forestry if Teaneck can apply for an easement that would separate the tree from the rest of the property. As of this printing she had not received a response and did not know if one would come in time to save the tree.

The tree is still scheduled to come down on Monday, but UTJ does have to first get approval from the bankruptcy court, said Janice Grubin of the New York firm Todtman, Nachamie, Spizz & Johns, which is representing UTJ in the bankruptcy filing.

“The town has indicated it’s not going to be involved or participate in the case,” she said Wednesday morning. “From our standpoint, we’re not going to be fighting with the town. Whether some arrangement that can benefit everybody can be worked out remains to be seen.”

UTJ and ITJ are debtors in possession, she said. “They have a duty to creditors to maximize the value of their property.”

The old oak tree is not the only obstacle to UTJ’s liquidation plans. Netivot Shalom, the synagogue that has met in UTJ’s building for several years, is tied up in litigation with its landlord. According to Gershfield, Netivot’s lease expired in December 2008 and the congregation has been operating on a month-to-month interim agreement. Gershfield said Netivot claims to be operating under an verbal lease — a claim, he said, there is no evidence to support.

UTJ had filed an eviction notice and the two organizations were pursuing litigation regarding that, as well as Netivot’s claim to right-of-first-refusal in a sale of the property.

Judge Robert D. Drain, who is overseeing UTJ’s bankruptcy filing, ordered a stay on all other litigation. Netivot remains a party of interest in the bankruptcy filing, according to Jordan Kaye, an attorney with the New York firm Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel, which is representing Netivot in the proceedings.

“We have an interest in bidding at auction,” said the synagogue’s president, Pam Scheininger.

 
 

Parashat Re’eh: Dancing in the rain

_JStandard
Published: 06 August 2010

In a film called “The Recruit,” each young applicant for CIA special operations is asked to respond to a series of rapid-fire questions without taking time to think about them. In this case, the recruit is asked to answer quickly, “Which would you rather do: ride on a train, feel no pain, dance in the rain?” With a slight hesitation he answers, “Dance in the rain.” Then, as he is about to leave the room the recruit turns back to the examiner and says it wasn’t the truth. The real answer is “feel no pain.”

Parashat Re’eh begins with the words “Behold I put before you today blessing and curse. The blessing — that you will listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today. The curse — that you will not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God and you will stray from the path, which I command you today to follow, after other gods you have not known.”

But then God doesn’t tell us what the blessings and curses are, and He doesn’t tell us what to do. He doesn’t tell us which to choose, as he does later in the reading of Netzavim in which we are told to choose life over death. Here, God simply puts before us “blessing and curse” and goes on to other subjects.

Although none of us can know what was going on in Moses’ mind at the time and — even more — what God was thinking, I will offer the possibility that God was giving a description of the blessing and curse to us without our realizing it. Here is blessing if you follow the mitzvot, and here is curse if you don’t and choose to follow other gods. You can have a long life that is a curse and a short one that is a blessing. It will depend on what you choose to fill it with. We are the recruits, and God is saying here are two possibilities, now choose.

How would each of us respond? Feel no pain? Or dance in the rain?

Imagine spending one’s life trying to feel no pain. Sure, no one wants to hurt. No one wants to suffer loss, disappointment, or physical pain. But all too often, in trying to hide from those inevitabilities, we escape into emotional numbness. The person who succeeds in creating a mental and spiritual environment in which he or she feels no pain will never, ever want to dance in the rain.

God puts before us blessing and curse every day of our lives. So how do we know how to choose? How do we know if our choice is the right one? Isn’t it possible that choosing to worship the sun and moon would be more gratifying and tangible than worshipping an invisible deity? Can’t it be said that a life of material gratification is as meaningful as a life of sacrifice and restriction? How do I get to the point that I want to dance in the rain, rather than simply protecting myself from pain? How do I achieve the life of blessing that is supposed to come from following the mitzvot? All God has told me in this parashah is that there is blessing and curse to be had. Re’eh, see, He says, and tishmeun, listen.

And therein is the key. Seeing and hearing properly will let us choose properly. But that begs the question of how.

I’m going to suggest something that may be a little different from answers you may have heard before. The way you achieve proper perspective on blessing and curse is through teshuvah. Not teshuvah as we usually use the term during the month of Elul, in the sense of penitence, apology, and contriteness; I mean teshuvah in the sense of “answer” or response. Teshuvah doesn’t just reform the past, it reframes the past. It changes it into something valuable for the present and future. It’s not just being sorry for mistakes, it’s changing them into something that allows you to let go of the guilt, learn from the experience, and even be thankful for having had the experience, regardless of how painful it might have been.

The Mishnah in Pirke Avot says, “lefum tzara agra” — according to the suffering, the reward. All too often we understand that to mean the more you suffer, the greater your reward in the world to come. But I don’t think that is the only way — or even the best way — to understand that phrase.

“Lefi hatzaar hasechar” means according to the quality with which you invest the suffering that is the level of reward you will receive. If, God forbid, we’ve lost someone we love, suffered a professional setback, or endured physical suffering, and we become immersed in our suffering, then the only reward will be self-pity and depression. That’s not to say that when we’re suffering, we’re not entitled to pity and self-pity to some extent. But sooner or later, if we don’t try to examine our experience from a distance to see if there is something to be learned from it, then we will be destined to simply become bitter.

And even if we are entitled to that bitterness because the tragedy was so huge and unfair and terrible, if we succumb to it, we will not enjoy living anymore. Curse.

When we force ourselves to do as the Mishnah requires — “keshem shemevarkhim al hatovah,” just as we say a blessing, we thank God for the good, so must we do for the bad — that incredibly difficult level is true teshuvah. That is the level of response. That is the place where we are touched by the good as deeply as by the bad, and we find a way to incorporate the experiences to better whatever time God grants us on this earth. It is that level of constant teshuvah — constant sensitivity and response rather than emotional subjugation — that leads people to want to dance in the rain even after they’ve wished they could feel no pain. Blessing.

In living teshuvah, response to the vagaries of life, we may find forgiveness for our failings as well. Not necessarily from others, and maybe not even from God, but from ourselves. How hard it is to accept our failings, reframe them through teshuvah, and go on, having learned from that experience. It is easy to dwell on the failure long after it has been forgotten by others, even by God. Curse. Living a life of teshuvah includes forgiving ourselves so that we can move past the past. Blessing.

As the month of Elul begins and we start our preparation for the yamim noraim, may each of us be blessed to live in constant teshuvah to all life grants us, may we be spared pain, but may our lives and souls be open and full of feeling. May our pain or that of others be reframed in a way that lets us notice and take opportunities to dance with joy in life before God, be it in the rain or otherwise. Blessing.

Amen.

 
 

UTJ’s Teaneck site sold at auction

Tree’s fate in hands of new owner

image
The Union for Traditional Judaism has sold its building on the corner of Palisade Avenue and Cedar Lane in Teaneck and is looking to rent a smaller space in the township. Josh Lipowsky

The Union for Traditional Judaism sold its Teaneck headquarters at a bankruptcy auction last week, despite recent controversy surrounding a centuries-old tree on its property.

“We’re very excited about finally being able to focus on our real work and not be focused on real estate and government complaints,” Rabbi Ronald Price, UTJ’s executive vice president, told The Jewish Standard this week. “We’re hoping that this process will shortly be behind us.”

UTJ, which also runs the Institute for Traditional Judaism, is looking at two possible rentals in Teaneck. The union has six full-time employees, while 12 students are enrolled in the ITJ. That number is expected to increase in the fall with the launch of distance-learning programs. Because of its small number of regular employees, UTJ is looking at locations one-quarter the size of its current building, or about 1,500 square feet, Price said.

“Because the ITJ is doing so much more work online and giving a lot of emphasis to distance learning, the space requirement is substantially less,” he said.

Judge Robert Drain ruled on Aug. 4 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., that 333 Realty had won the auction with its initial bid of $1,450,000, since no other bidders stepped forward. The court has to hand down a written ruling, however, which as of Wednesday had not been issued. Once that is issued, 333 Realty and UTJ will have 30 days to close on the property.

According to Janice Grubin, the attorney assigned to UTJ by the bankruptcy court, 333 intends to develop the property commercially, but she offered no other details as to the fate of the property or the old oak tree.

“The debtors are delighted at the approval of the sale to 333 Realty and look forward to consummating the transaction and moving ahead in their reorganization,” she said.

UTJ declared bankruptcy in May and its leaders decided to sell its headquarters to cover its debts. Controversy erupted last month when the union began work to remove a large oak tree that towers over the property. Union leaders argued that safety concerns prompted them to seek the tree’s removal, while the tree’s supporters argued that the removal was a ploy to get more money for the property. The tree, estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old, is considered the oldest in Teaneck.

“It’s clear this tree is a hazard and we want to get rid of it because we don’t want anybody to get hurt,” UTJ’s president, Rabbi Edward Gershfield, told the Standard last month. “I have an obligation not to allow this tree to kill someone or hurt someone.”

Spurred by protests and petitions by eco-activists, the Teaneck township council took up the issue at its July meeting and considered making a bid on the property to save the tree. The council, however, decided that it could not justify the expenditure of $1.5 million for the property, given recent budget cuts, nor could it stall the bankruptcy court while it investigated other options to save the tree.

Though the township decided not to intervene, UTJ left the tree up through the auction. It will now fall on the new tenant to decide the tree’s fate.

Netivot Shalom, the modern Orthodox congregation that has met in the UTJ building for more than 10 years, had filled out paperwork to make a bid on the property but did not submit one. According to the congregation’s president, Pamela Scheininger, Netivot Shalom had intended to bid but “there were a variety of factors that had to come into place that ultimately did not come into place.”

She would not elaborate on what those factors were.

The congregation has not been in touch with either UTJ or 333 Realty about a deadline for vacating the premises, she said. “We’re still looking at all of our available options.”

 
 

Future of Union for Traditional Judaism sale uncertain

The Union for Traditional Judaism’s Teaneck headquarters sold at auction early last month, but a motion filed last week in U.S. bankruptcy court last week cast doubt on the transaction.

UTJ’s attorney, Janice Grubin, filed a motion on Aug. 27 requesting an extension for her client to file a Chapter 11 plan. Extending this period of exclusivity, during which the debtor can create a plan to pull itself out of bankruptcy without imposed outside solutions, is not atypical in bankruptcy cases, she said. The property went to auction on Aug. 4, which was won by 333 Realty for $1.45 million.

“In the normal course of Chapter 11 cases, debtors often move for extension of their exclusive period to file a plan and solicit acceptances thereto,” she said. “This is a very common motion filed by Chapter 11 debtors.”

Within the motion, however, is language that puts the sale into doubt. A section listing cause to extend the exclusive period references “a significant unresolved contingency still exists — namely, the Sale with an approved buyer, 333 Realty LLC, who, it now appears, may not close.”

Grubin based that concern on communication with 333 Realty.

According to the motion, UTJ intends to address the issue soon, which may include canceling the sale and going to a new auction in mid-October.

Jack Zakim, 333 Realty’s attorney, told The Jewish Standard on Monday that his client has no plans to break its contract with UTJ. Nor, he said, has a decision been made as to how his client plans to develop the property.

The real estate company is, however, engaged in discussions with a group of Teaneck conservationists who want to save the massive oak tree on the property.

“There’s a lot of moving parts here and it keeps changing every day,” he said.

The motion has raised hopes at Netivot Shalom, the modern Orthodox synagogue that has met in UTJ for more than 10 years, that 333 Realty would not purchase the building and the synagogue would have another chance to buy it.

“Our preference far and away would be to stay in the present location,” the shul’s president, Pamela Scheininger said. “We’d like to speak to UTJ again about acquiring the property. It’s always been our objective.”

Netivot Shalom began a capital campaign earlier this week to raise funds to buy the building. A goal has been set, but Scheininger would not comment on it since it had not yet been revealed to the membership.

“We are confident we will be able to raise the funds necessary to secure Netivot Shalom’s future,” she said.

Netivot Shalom filed paperwork to make a bid during last month’s bankruptcy auction, but did not bid in the Aug. 4 auction.

“We have looked at everything that has been suggested to us,” Scheininger said. “We have not ruled out anything at this point.”

UTJ declared bankruptcy in May and its leaders decided to sell its headquarters to cover its debts. Controversy erupted in July when the union began work to remove a large oak tree that towers over the property. Union leaders argued that safety concerns prompted them to seek the tree’s removal, while the tree’s supporters argued that the removal was a ploy to get more money for the property. The tree, estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old, is considered the oldest in Teaneck.

Spurred by protests and petitions by eco-activists, the Teaneck township council took up the issue at its July meeting and considered bidding on the property to save the tree. The council ultimately decided not to intervene, but UTJ left the tree up through the auction. UTJ has asked for written proposals from whoever is interested in preserving the tree but has not received any, Grubin said.

“We’re doing our best to maximize the debtors’ assets,” she said. “Whether that is with or without the tree is still an open issue.”

Until a closing date is decided upon, UTJ finds itself unable to make other housing arrangements.

“We’ve shopped for a number of different sites that look very appealing to us,” said Rabbi Ronald Price, UTJ’s executive vice president, “but until the building closes we really can’t take a chance on signing a lease with somebody else.”

When it entered bankruptcy, UTJ secured financing that will keep it “in reasonably healthy shape” for six to 12 months, Price said. A planning committee to examine a post-Chapter 11 future for the union gave its first report at a board meeting Monday night, but the board decided against making the report public.

“We see the current situation as something that will eventually pass, God willing,” Price said.

Judge Robert Drain is expected to hear UTJ’s motion in U.S. bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., on Sept. 13.

 
 

UTJ’s Teaneck building to go back on auction block

The Teaneck headquarters of the Union for Traditional Judaism and Institute of Traditional Judaism, which both declared bankruptcy earlier this year, is heading back to auction on Nov. 1.

Real estate development company 333 Realty won a previous auction this summer with a bid of $1.45 million for the property at 811 Palisade Ave. The buyer, however, decided not to move forward at that price, according to Janice Grubin, the bankruptcy attorney assigned to UTJ. A new price of $1.2 million was negotiated, but that has to receive court approval, and in order for that to happen, a new auction must take place.

“We have a responsibility to test the market,” Grubin told The Jewish Standard. “We have to make sure this is the highest and best price, and the only way to do that is to test the market.”

In the meantime, UTJ has submitted a controversial request to U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking approval to remove a tree on the property, if the new auction winner decides it does not want the tree. That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18, but regardless of the decision, no action would be taken on the tree without the request of the new auction winner.

“The real estate market is very difficult these days, and the presence of the tree and the congregation that is still on the premises together with the difficulty of the real estate market were among the factors leading to this,” Grubin said.

The congregation refers to Netivot Shalom, a modern Orthodox synagogue of about 80 families that has met in the UTJ building for 10 years.

With the building heading back to auction, Netivot Shalom’s leaders are hopeful that the synagogue can make a successful bid. The congregation’s board sent out letters to its membership last month to help raise at least $400,000, which would allow the synagogue to cover a down payment on a bid.

“Our choice would be to remain in the building,” said Pamela Scheininger, the synagogue’s president. “We’re optimistic that this presents us with an opportunity to do that in a very serious way.”

Netivot Shalom filled out paperwork for the August auction but did not make a bid.

UTJ declared bankruptcy in May and its leaders decided to sell its headquarters to cover its debts. Controversy erupted in July when the organization began work to remove a large oak tree that towers over the property. Union leaders argued that safety concerns prompted them to seek the tree’s removal, while the tree’s supporters argued that the removal was a ploy to get more money for the property. The tree, estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old, is considered the oldest in Teaneck.

Spurred by protests and petitions by eco-activists, the Teaneck Township council took up the issue at its July meeting and considered making a bid on the property to save the tree. The council ultimately decided not to intervene, but UTJ left the tree up through the auction.

The Puffin Foundation last month stepped into the picture with an offer of up to $200,000 to the successful bidder to maintain the tree.

Perry Rosenstein, the foundation’s president, said he is waiting for a document guaranteeing that the tree will be preserved.

The question remains one of liability, said Rabbi Ronald Price, UTJ’s executive vice president.

“People have expressed their feelings for the tree, and I certainly understand and share appreciation for its beauty, but the risk that comes along with it is significant,” he said.

 
 

UTJ tree makes the big time, but still may be uprooted

Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree on the corner on the Teaneck property of the Union for Traditional Judaism. According to the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, the tree is big. Really big. The fourth biggest red oak in New Jersey, actually.

Parks and Forestry added the tree to its “Big Tree” list last week after Sen. Loretta Weinberg approached the department about a month ago. The red oak is New Jersey’s state tree, but the Big Tree listing does not offer any special protection for the UTJ tree, which has been at the center of a months-long debate between the community and the bankrupt UTJ, which is trying to sell the property.

“It doesn’t convey upon the tree any particular legal aspect, but it does enhance what should be our community’s respect,” Weinberg told The Jewish Standard. “Whoever purchases the land is going to realize this is a very big community issue and will (hopefully) have respect for the community in which they’re planning to move.”

Tree facts

Circumference: 18.5 feet

Height: 80 feet

Estimated age: At least 250 years

UTJ and its sister organization, the Institute of Traditional Judaism, declared bankruptcy in May and the organization’s leaders decided to sell its headquarters to cover its debts. Controversy erupted in July when the union began work to remove a large oak tree that towers over the property. Union leaders argued that safety concerns prompted them to seek the tree’s removal, while the tree’s supporters argued that the removal was a ploy to get more money for the property.

The union decided not to remove the tree at that time and proceeded with an August auction. Real estate development company 333 Realty won that auction with a bid of $1.45 million. The buyer, however, decided not to move forward at that price, according to UTJ’s bankruptcy attorney. In order to receive court approval of a negotiated lower price of $1.2 million, a new auction must first take place. That auction is scheduled for Nov. 1.

The Puffin Foundation last month stepped into the picture with an offer to the successful bidder of up to $200,000 to pay for an easement to maintain the tree.

“I’m optimistic but we have to wait and see who is going to be the winning bidder in the next go-around, and what that bidder plans to do with the land,” Weinberg said.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court granted a motion earlier this week that allows UTJ to remove the tree if the winning bidder requested it. UTJ’s leader emphasized that there are no immediate plans to uproot the oak.

“We have no intention of touching the tree until after the auction, should it be necessary at that point,” said Rabbi Ronald Price, UTJ’s executive vice president.

Until a closing date is set, UTJ and its sister organization, the ITJ, are unable to move forward with preparations for a new headquarters. The organizations are concentrating in the meantime on distance-learning programs, Price said. “We are spending most of our time now focusing on … getting our real work of outreach done,” Price said. “The tree issue is a secondary issue to us now.”

 
 

Netivot Shalom wins bid for UTJ Teaneck property

Shul to leave centuries-old tree standing

Cong. Netivot Shalom won Monday’s bankruptcy auction for the Teaneck headquarters of the Union for Traditional Judaism and its sister organization, the Institute of Traditional Judaism, ending months of speculation about the fate of the building, the organizations, and the ginormous red oak tree outside.

“We’re happy to report that the court approved the highest and best bid today from Netivot Shalom,” said Janice Grubin, UTJ’s bankruptcy attorney, shortly after the auction.

The Modern Orthodox Netivot Shalom, which has met in the UTJ building on the corner of Palisade Avenue and Cedar Lane for several years, entered a bid of $1.24 million. Real estate developer 333 Realty, which had won an August auction for the property with a bid of $1.45 million, had decided not to move forward at that price, according to court documents. It entered the Nov. 1 auction with a bid of $1.2 million, but would not go higher.

UTJ declared bankruptcy in May and its leaders decided to sell its headquarters to cover its debts. Netivot Shalom and UTJ sparred earlier this year over rent and Netivot Shalom’s right of first refusal if UTJ sought to sell the building. As part of the sale, the parties have agreed to waive all previous claims against each other, Grubin said. A court order memorializing the sale was expected by the end of the week, after which the parties will have 30 days to close on the property.

Netivot Shalom raised $400,000 through a capital campaign to help defray the costs of the purchase. The details of the mortgage have yet to be worked out, said president Pamela Scheininger, but the synagogue will be able to close by the deadline.

“Our membership has been very supportive in all areas,” she said. “This has been a tough time for the shul and the membership has really stood by the shul and now they’re doing so financially.”

Adding to the synagogue’s new sense of permanency, it held an installation Sunday for its new rabbi, Nathaniel Helfgot, who joined the congregation in August. Monday’s auction ended months of wondering if the synagogue would have to find a new home. It will now be able to focus on expanding its programming, particularly with its youth groups, Scheininger said.

“Being able to have this certainty is a tremendous relief to us, and we’re optimistic about the future,” she said.
The sale also puts to rest questions about the fate of a centuries-old red oak tree on the property. Controversy erupted in July when UTJ began work to remove the tree, which towers over the property. Union leaders argued that safety concerns prompted them to seek the tree’s removal, while the tree’s supporters argued that the removal was a ploy to get more money for the property. The tree, estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old, is considered the oldest in Teaneck. The state Division of Parks and Forestry named the tree to its “Big Tree” list last month, recognizing it as the fourth largest red oak in the state.

“We have no plans for its removal,” Scheininger said. “The tree’s important to us and its preservation remains important to us.”

The Teaneck-based Puffin Foundation stepped into the picture in September with an offer to the successful bidder of up to $200,000 to pay for an easement to maintain the tree. Asked if Netivot Shalom would take advantage of the offer, Scheininger said, “We are presently looking into the various options with respect to preserving the tree and will be speaking to the interested parties within the next few days.”

Now that the winning bid has been settled, UTJ and ITJ are beginning to make plans for their future, said Rabbi Ronald Price, UTJ’s executive vice president, who was hopeful that the organizations would have a new home before the as-yet-undetermined closing date. The organizations are negotiating a rental agreement with a new location, he said, although he would not divulge it.

“The moment we knew that the auction was completed, we were meeting with a property owner we will probably be renting from, if all goes well, not too far from where we are now,” he said.

Now that the auction is over, Price is optimistic that UTJ and ITJ will emerge from Chapter 11 by the end of the year. “I believe that we will move on to better things in the future, and I hope the building will serve a valuable purpose (for the new owners),” he said.

 
 
 
Page 1 of 1 pages
 
 
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30