The following is a booklet that was given out in 1999, at the height of the Dinei Torah (that came together with illegitimate Macho’os, countless lies by Spritzer, friends, and the Rabbonim aimed at de-legitimizing the truth that was being told by the directors) that was distributed to clarify exactly what has happened in the previous few years between the directors, Spritzer, the Rabbonim, and the secular courts.
While obviously dated, it still came after the bulk of the disgrace that was the ‘Halachic‘ proceedings (as well as a good part of the initial legal proceedings too), so it contains a concise but complete picture of why and how the camp came about to where it is [back again] today, and why where it is today is just wrong – [il]legally stolen – from any point of view.
Table Of Context:
The Camps Board Of Directors
Suing Us In Federal Court
Who Set The Trap For The Rav?
Who Forced The Rav To Appear In Court?
The Torah Prohibition Of Going To Civil Court
Who Is Making A Chillul Hashem?
B”H, Adar 5759 – 1999
Many have asked us to explain the truth behind the unfortunate dispute over Machane Menachem summer camp.
This letter describes how the camp started and how individuals have sought to exploit it for their own benefit, resorting to a pattern of deception in a cunning conspiracy to push out the original directors [of Machane Menachem] [Note:currently known as Chayolei Hamelech] and take full control.
Unfortunately, those individuals have been at least partially successful. They got members of our Beth Din involved, and “raised their hand against Torahs Yisroel” (as the Rambam says) by suing the camp’s other directors in Federal Court with Accusations reminiscent of the blood libels of the Middle Ages.
They have continued this Chillul Hashem for two years, [it would be now in 5769, nine years of Chillul Hashem] causing us [Machne Menachem] huge financial loss and aggravation. Recently their deceptions have brought the situation to a head, making the Chillul Hashem even worse when the head of the Beth Din [Rabbi Marlow obm] recently testified in court.
The following, written by Rabbi Shmuel Heber, details in brief the unadorned facts of the case, with documentation and proof. This gives unbiased members of the public the chance to avoid being misled by hypocrites who “act like Zimri, then ask to be rewarded like Pinchas.” In future letters we hope to go into greater details.
Meanwhile, we can report good news, thank G-d: On the day before Purim, the judge [Leo Glasser] informed us that he is dismissing all claims against us in the name of Machane Menachem, and if Yaakov Spritzer wishes to continue any suit against us in court, he must do so in his own name, not in the name of the camp [Machne Menachem]. (see Exhibit #7)
Hoping that very soon everyone will realize the full truth,
The Original Directors of Machne Menachem
It is not normal practice to respond to lies spread by vicious individuals, manly because our Sages teach that “Falsehood does not last,” and even in this “World of falsehood” the truth eventually surfaces.
Nevertheless, I am responding this time not only at the only at the urging of friends but because a letter sent to every resident of the neighborhood by the Crown Heights Community Council demanded that I come out openly to express my position.
Please note: Although everything stated in this letter is fully documented, there is not enough space in one letter to list every detail and quote every document and proof. We have much, much more, and anyone interested in discovering the truth is welcome to ask me full documentation of everything written here.
Also, this letter is not meant to hurt anyone. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to bring the true facts of this unfortunate case to light and I beg forgiveness from anyone who may find it offensive. Even so, I hope he will still drew the appropriate conclusions and follow up with the necessary action.
This letter is not addressed to the malevolent troublemakers who thrive on dissension and miss no opportunity to stir up controversy. They have no interest in knowing the truth, so no letter can deter them from their goal of provoking strife and sitting back to enjoy the action…
This letter is addressed only to those genuinely interested in the truth, who are honestly concerned about respect for the Torah, and are upset by what they feel to be the Chillul Hashem of Rabbi Marlow being called to court.
I too am deeply disturbed by the Chillul Hashem – which is far greater then you imagine, as is apparent from judge’s response after the testimony (see Exhibit #1)
This letter will indicate who indeed was responsible for bringing Rabbi Marlow to court, and who is responsible for the Chillul Hashem it caused and which still continues.
As stated, this letter is based entirely upon verifiable, documented facts. Anyone wishing to express an opinion on this issue or write a letter to the public must first verify the facts of the case according to documentary evidence that I and others will gladly show him. Otherwise he is no more then quarrelsome hate monger and a deliberate troublemaker…
A BRIEF HISTORY:
In the spring of, 1995, I met with Yosef Goldman, Meir Hershkop and Mendle Hershop to discuss opening a summer camp for teenage boys. Our aim was to open a camp of high standards of both Torah learning and enjoyable activities, that would be affordable for all parents of our community. For this purpose we sought the best possible staff and offered affordable prices, with scholarships for those unable to pay full price.
To provide these scholarships would need additional funds. In order to provide strong financial backing, we invited Yaakov Spritzer to join us.
The new organization was legally registered under the name “Machne Menachem'” with the board of directors consisting of Mendle Hershkop, Shmuel Heber, Yosef Goldman and Yaakov Spritzer (see Exhibit #2)
In response to parents’ request, we soon opened a division of Machne Menachem for younger children called Gan Menachem.
It was agreed that Mendle Hershkop and Yaakov Spritzer would bear financial responsibility, Yosef Goldman responsibility for registration and management, and
Shmuel Heber educational responsibility, including hiring staff and supervising classes.
We agreed, at Spritzer’s request that he be in charge of the bookkeeping, specifying that he be responsible for paying the teachers and counselors. We stipulated, however, that every check must be signed by at least two of the directors, and that he must regularly keep us informed of the exact bank balance, so that after the summer we could give an accountant precise figures for all income and expenditure.
The camp’s success exceeded all expectations. Over 200 boys enrolled and the standard of learning was very high. All the educators who visited the camp were deeply impressed, as was Rabbi Marlow [obm] when he visited.
To cover the camp’s deficit, Meir and Mendle Hershkop spent their evenings raising funds, and succeeded in raising about $100,000, all of which they handed over to Spritzer as agreed.
During the summer, whenever we asked Spritzer about the bank balance, he always avoided giving exact figures, with a different excuse every time. Sometimes he said everything was covered, other times he said maybe we were a little short, but all our demands for exact accounting were unsuccessful.
After the summer, we held an emergency meeting at my house to force Spritzer to show us the books and explain why he had not paid the teachers and counselors. This time he had a new excuse: Claiming that the camp account was $30,000 short, he declared that since we had no intention of paying it anyways, he had no obligation to give us any accounting!
Meir and Mendle Hershkop immediately declared their readiness to cover any deficit from their own pocket or from funds they would raise, but on condition that Spritzer would first prove that such a deficit existed. According to their reckoning, there should have still been money left in the account Spritzer, however, stubbornly refused to give any accounting.
During Tishrei that year, Meir and Mendle Hershkop invested much time and effort to organize the sale of Kapporos, advertising that all profits would go for the benefit of the community. They gave all the profits to Spritzer for the camp.
When Spritzer still refused to give any accounting, I told Hershkop my opinion that under such circumstances it was impossible to allow Spritzer to continue, and he would have to resign from the board.
Nevertheless, they continued working with in the hope of reaching an agreement, and went on raising funds for the next year’s camp. Among those they approached to help out was Meir Schreiber.
Following the first year’s outstanding success (and since parents had no idea of the internal disagreements), 500 boys enrolled at the camp that summer, 1996.
The camp needed new grounds, Meir and Mendle Hershkop, assisted by Meir’s son-in-law Levi Hartman, spent much time and effort seeking a suitable location, eventually finding an excellent one – Machne Menachem’s present location [in Lackawaxen, PA].
They also conducted negotiations with the owners and got it at a very reasonable price.
As the camp approached, the Hershkops began to suspect – based on hard facts – that Spritzer was diverting the funds being raised for his own use. Once again they demanded a detailed accounting of all funds, a large proportion of which had been raised by them.
Spritzer decided to get them out of the way. He joined forces with Meir Schreiber, starting arguments with them and summoning Meir Hershkop and Levi Hartman to a Din Torah before the Beth Din of Crown Heights. Several sessions were held over the course of the summer and after.
After the first session, the Beth Din ruled (Erev Rosh Chosdesh Tammuz, 5756 – 1996) that all members of the camp administration are equally “within” and that “all decisions must be made by the whole committee (following the majority).” However, Spritzer and Schreiber disobeyed the Halachic ruling, never calling Hershkop or Hartman to any meeting, and deciding everything on their own.
At the beginning of the summer, Spritzer incited staff members, particularly Meir Kahanov, against Meir Hershkop, convincing them to tell the Rabbonim they do not want him. The Rabbonim asked Hershkop not to be involved that year, but stressed that they were neither removing him from the camp nor ruling on who owns it. Hershkop obeyed the Rabbonim and was not involved throughout that summer.
Because of the infighting, the camp had no efficient administration and was a colossal failure, leaving most campers and parents highly dissatisfied.
On 10 Kislev, 5757 (1996), the Beth Din issued a ruling emphasizing that this “only referred to management of the camp (not the financial aspect, for which there has to be a separate session).” Based on opinions expressed by several educators, they ruled that Spritzer should administer the camp rather then Meir Hershkop or Hartman.
At that Din Torah, none of the original members of the camp’s board of directors – Shmuel Heber, Mendle Hershkop or Yosef Goldman – participated except for Spritzer, and neither the Din Torah nor the ruling dealt with ownership of the camp.
THE CAMP’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS
As a nonprofit corporation, Camp Machne Menachem is under the authority of the Attorney General of New York State. By law, every member of a board of directors is responsible for all acts of the corporation’s withholding taxes.
Spritzer, we discovered, had not paid the withholding taxes nor submitted the required tax forms – for which we could be held personally liable. Another discovery was that Meir Schreiber was signing checks for the camp – which was against the law as he had never empowered to do so by the board of directors. Worse still, Spritzer and Schreiber has submitted documents to the bank to stop us from signing checks on the camp account – although, as continuing members of the board of directors, we were the camp’s true legal owners!
It is important to note that none of us has ever resigned from the board of directors nor given anyone power of attorney to remove us. Nor have we participated in any Din Torah or arbitration concerning the camp’s ownership.
Upon discovering this serious turn of events, we called an emergency meeting at a lawyer’s office of all members of the board of directors, including Spritzer. Instead of appearing personally, he called us by telephone from his own lawyer’s office. When our lawyer asked him by phone whether all tax records had been properly arranged and taxes paid, Spritzer admitted these had not been done.
As required by law, we called him twice more to a meeting. After he failed to appear all three times, we voted that Spritzer should no longer be permitted to sign checks, and that Schreiber, who anyway never had permission to sign, had no permission no, either. We sent this resolution to the bank, which immediately froze the account, as required by law.
After they were informed by the bank, Spritzer and Schreiber, at the end of winter, 1997, decided to sue us in Federal court under RICO for over $2,000,000! (see Exhibit #3). Concocting a bunch of libels and falsehoods, they accused us of terrorizing, mail fraud and embezzlement, that Meir Hershkop and taken money for himself and tried to gain control of the camp by hiring his son-in-law as its manager.
This was a diversionary tactic to enable them to seize full control of the camp. They succeeded at first in giving the judge a negative impression of us. They brought false witnesses including Joseph Spielman, Yaakov Herzog, and Yisroel Sandhaus, who all testified falsely against us in court! Spielman testified that his van had been burned and he believed it was Hershkop who did it. This testimony persuaded the judge to reopen the bank account for them and issue a restraining order against us, forbidding us to come in contact with plaintiffs or with the camp.
But Spritzer and Schreiber were not yet satisfied. Although the account was now open, they did not withdraw their RICO suit for $2000, 000 against us. We were forced to hire a lawyer, who succeeded in partially removing the restraining order.
During the winter of 1998, Spritzer got into an argument with his lawyer, Peretz Bronstein Esq., who left him because he was not paid. His new lawyer, Carl Bronstein Esq., succeeded in getting the restraining order reinstated by falsely claiming we were disturbing his peace of mind by calling him an “informer” and even that we had shot at his windows – another libel reminiscent of the Middle Ages!
By early summer, 1998, seeing how lawyers’ fees had already cost us $50,000, we had no choice but to start representing ourselves – against the advice of all experts. Now each of us would have to defend himself as he saw fit, without needing the agreement of the others. Nevertheless, we were very successful and the judge gradually came around to seeing that it was Spritzer’s side that was lying, and he removed the restraining order. On Erev Tisha B’Av, realizing how their whole case was based on lies, he started changing his whole approach towards us.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bronstein, their layer, was aggressively preparing for trail, sending us subpoenas. He almost made sure that each subpoena came to our homes on the day of Shabbos and Yom Tov, even forcing us to appear in court on Chol Hamoed. We were called in separately for cross-examination and to submit documentation.
In response, we submitted subpoenas to defend ourselves. Among others, we requested the Secretaries of the Beth Din for all documentation relating to the Din Torahs concerning Machne Menachem, including all correspondence from both sides’ and especially the tape recordings made at the sessions with the Beth Din. Since our adversaries based their case on these sessions, the tape recordings were especially vital for our defense.
However, instead of impartially filling this simple and reasonable written request to give us documents that could help us defend ourselves fairly in court, the secretaries of the Beth Din, for unknown reasons, resorted to all sorts of devious means to avoid giving us these documents and tapes at all cost.
Even more shocking was the testimony of Yossi Brook, in whose possession the Beth Din’s Tapes were kept for safekeeping (!), that he had given all the original tapes – not copies – to Peretz Bronstein, who had been Spritzer’s and Schreiber’s lawyer. The judge was appalled that all the documentation had been given to only one side in the case!
After a second warning from the judge, the secretaries of the Beth Din managed to come up with 78 pages of documentation. We informed the judge of exactly what was missing, including the most important documents, and demanding especially copies of all the tapes.
On Monday, 6 Adar (2/22), Levi Yitzchok Schapiro, secretary of the Beth Din testified in court that he had given us all the documentation he had, that Yossi Brook had the tapes and that he has nothing more in his possession
The judge, realizing that a cover-up job was being perpetrated about the whereabouts of the documentation and tapes, decided to continue the hearing later that week on Thursday, 9 Adar, asking for (Peretz Bronstein), Meir Schreiber and Yossin Brook to appear.’
WHO SET THE TRAP FOR THE RAV?
Much to our surprise and dismay, that Wednesday all defendants were served a subpoena in the name of the Beth Din to appear in court the next day to testify and bring along all documentation in our possession relating to the Beth Din. Although this seemed a strange request, it made us all appear the next morning in court. (see Exhibit #4).
As is well-known, especially to lawyers, a subpoena does not necessarily force one to appear in court, especially if received only the day before the hearing. Yossi Brook, for example, did not appear the first time he was subpoenaed. In fact, the judge himself told the lawyer: “The subpoena is issued and one of two things happens thereafter. Either a motion to quash the subpoena is made for appropriate reasons or the person subpoenaed appears and responds to whatever questions are going to be put to him.”
The subpoena served on the Rav could easily have been quashed. Why wasn’t it? Because those who thrive on controversy were just waiting for an opportunity to publicly denounce us and drag the entire community into the action! They were eager for the Rav to appear in court in order to foment a “holy war” against us on an issue – Kovod Horabbonim.
That is why someone paid the lawyer and gave him instructions to serve a subpoena on us in the name of the Beth Din, and that is why the Rav was urged to go to court right away and not seek any delay. This is not the first time, unfortunately, that individuals have tried to manipulate the Rabbonim and exploit them for personal motives or for power struggles of one group against another, even when this causes a serious Chillul Hashem…
Aren’t they ashamed of themselves to use the Bima where the Rebbe Davened and cried for the whole Jewish people and spread Ahavas Yisracl around the world, and yet these individuals have not hesitated to use it now to stir up controversy and spread strife and hatred against innocent Jewish families of their own community who have been victimized by cunning deceivers?
WHO FORCED THE RAV TO APPEAR IN COURT?
A few weeks ago, in 770, during Shabbos Davening, a protest was made denouncing those who had “forced” the Ray to testify in court.
As is well-known, especially to lawyers, a subpoena does not necessarily force
one to appear in court, especially if received only the day before the hearing. Yossi Brook, for example, did not appear the first time he was subpoenaed. In fact, the judge himself told the lawyer: “The subpoena is issued and one of two things happen thereafter. Either a motion to quash the subpoena is made for appropriate reasons or the person subpoenaed appears and responds to whatever questions are going to be put to him.”
The subpoena served on the Ray could easily have been quashed. Why wasn’t it? Because those who thrive on controversy were just waiting for an opportunity to publicly denounce us and drag the entire community into the action! They were eager for the Rav to appear in court in order to foment a “holy war” against us on an issue – Kovod Horabbonim.
That is why someone payed the lawyer and gave him instructions to serve a subpoena on us in the name of the Beth Din, and that is why the Rav was urged to go to court right away and not seek any delay. This is not the first time, unfortunately, that individuals have tried to manipulate the Rabbonim and exploit them for personal
motives or for power struggles of one group against another, even when this causcs a serious Chillul Hashem…
Aren’t they ashamed of themselves to use the Bima where the Rebbe davened and cried for the whole Jewish people and spread Ahavas Yisracl around the world, and yet these individuals have not hesitated to use it now to stir up controversy and spread strife and hatred against innocent Jewish families of their own community who have been victimized by cunning deceivers?
THE TORAH PROHIBITION OF GOING TO CIVIL COURT
Originally, when we heard that Spritzer was planning to sue us, Yosef Goldman and I sent a letter (see Exhibit #5) to the Beth Din warning about the potential Chillul Hashem and damage a civil court case could cause. We mentioned our past experiences with Spritzer, his stubborn refusal to show anyone the bank statements, and that we had never resigned from the board of directors. This letter – an important document – allegedly disappeared from the Beth Din archives, although I still have a copy.
After the court case began and the judge ordered the camp account reopened, I asked Rabbi Marlow whether Spritzer and Schreiber had permission to continue their civil case against us. Rabbi Marlow told me unequivocally that now that the account had been reopened, they had no permission whatsoever to continue the case, adding that he did not believe they would now continue.
Permission to resolve a dispute in civil court normally is granted by a Beth Din only after a defendant refuses to come to a Din Torah or refuses to obey the Beth Din’s ruling.
In this case, however, as Rabbi Marlow is aware, I have never been summoned to any Din Torah. On the contrary, I have repeatedly made it known that I am ready to go to a Din Torah and obey whatever the Rabbonim rule. Therefore, according to Halacha, taking me to court is utterly prohibited and has no justification whatsoever. As is well-known, this is a very serious prohibition.
After I was served court papers, I went to Rabbi Marlow accompanied by a friend and showed them to him. In our presence, Rabbi Marlow phoned Yaakov Spritzer and told him he had no permission to take us to court before having a Din Torah with us. We could hear both sides of the conversation as Rabbi Marlow had the speaker phone on to let us hear his response.
Spritzer had the gall to reply that “there are other Rabbonim in the neighborhood.”
Rabbi Marlow retorted: “That may be true but I, Kalman Marlow, forbid you to do anything in court but only at a Din Torah.”
Regardless of Rabbi Marlow’s explicit Halachic ruling to him, Spritzer refused to obey. He never summoned me to a Din Torah but continued his court case against me!
Nor is this an isolated example. Spritzer has never obeyed the Rabbonim’s ruling to pay over $10,000 to Meir Kahanov, nor their ruling to pay Sholom Horowitz $5000 or more for the brutal beating he and his sons gave him in Shul one Simchas Torah. He has a record of flouting Halacha and the authority of the Rabbonim!
So why is it that so many of those eager to defend the honor of the Rabbonim are rallying to support someone with such a record of flouting their authority?
Since then, seeing that they were still not dropping their case, I have sent several others to speak to Rabbi Marlow. Again he told them that our adversaries have no permission or justification whatsoever to continue this case in court. When members of my family spoke to Rabbi Nissan Mangel about it, he told them he had never given them permission to go to court and that he knew nothing about it.
WHO IS MAKING A CHILLUL HASHEM?
Right at the start of the court case, the judge, who is Jewish, asked both sides to resolve this at a Din Torah in order to avoid a Chillul Hashem. He has repeated this request again and again.
At a recent session, the judge asked: “How are you, as Lubavitcher Chassidim, not embarrassed to bring your dirty laundry out in the open for all to see, and to cause such Chillul Hashem?”
He turned to Spritzer: “Would you have brought them to court if the Rebbe were alive?”
Spritzer told him no.
“The Rebbe must be turning over in his grave because of you!” the judge berated him.
We told the judge we were ready for a Din Torah, and let him know this in writing, too. (see Exhibit # 6) But Spritzer and Schreiber have repeatedly refused.
Who then is creating the Chillul Hashem in this case?
After the judge asked us to resolve this at a Din Torah, I wrote to Sam Malamud, as an old friend and as chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, to let him know what was happening and my apprehension about the potential Chillul Hashem. My letter quoted the Rebbe’s handwritten words about a similar case:
“I have said clearly to all who have asked me about this case that everything has to be only and exclusively by means of Rabbonim (besides the main point that that is in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch), for if, g-d forbid, this reaches the civil courts, it is impossible to estimate the damage (above all to the side that starts the court proceedings) and the enormous Chillul Hashem…”
My letter begged him to do everything in his power to get the case out of court and to a Din Torah, explaining that otherwise we would be forced to defend ourselves (for we cannot afford to pay $2,000,000, and innocent victims have every right to defend themselves), and then no one can have any complaint about any lack of respect for the Rabbonim.
We have no idea whether he tried to stop them. Meanwhile, however, the case goes on and the Chillul Hashem becomes ever greater.
Instead of using his powerful influence to stop the Chillul Hashem before it gets even worse, Mr. Malamud has opted to take the easy way out. Instead of protesting vehemently against vicious individuals who have dragged five innocent families into civil courts – against the Torah – he has chosen to vilify and slander the victims in a public letter that deliberately ignored our side of the story.
Imagine: They have stolen the camp from us, embezzled the money we raised, dragged us into civil court and tried to have us jailed, wasted our time and hard-earned money – on lawyers and court motions. Yet when we try to defend ourselves, they cry “foul”!
Doesn’t this upside-down justice sound like Sodom and Amora? Remember the story of Avrohom’s servant Eliezer who was beaten up in Sodom. When he took his attacker to the local court, the judge told Eliezer to pay his attacker for the medical benefit of his bloodletting! (But Eliezer got the last word by making the judge bleed and telling him that the money he now owes him for bloodletting he should pay to the original attacker…).
Shame on you, Community Council members!
For the past two years you could have stopped Spritzer and Schreiber from going to court, thereby extinguishing the fires of hatred and preventing the terrible Chillul Hashem! But you did nothing. Yet now you come and complain about Kovod HaTorah?
Since when have you become experts on Kovod HaTorah and Kovod Lubavitch? Why don’t you leave the Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshivos, Mashpiyim and Torah scholars of Lubavitch to take care of these central issues?
Why don’t you do what you were elected to do, to improve conditions for all residents of the community?
Whatever happens to us is no random event, G-d forbid, as the Rambam says. Everything is from Heaven, signaling to us to examine our deeds and correct whatever is deficient, especially something similar to what has happened.
Thinking about this lawsuit and how much our accusers and others have worked to vilify us, I began to realize the gravity of the sin of which many of us have been guilty, or at least to which we have silently acquiesced – of publicly denouncing Chassidim, Roshei Yeshiva, Mashpiyim, Shluchim, honest and upright Jews.
We were allowed to do it for the sake of Kovod HaRabbonim – without realizing that we were being misled by quarrelsome troublemakers out to advance their own agenda!
If we five have had to suffer, let us at least serve as a public example of how far controversy and personal agendas can lead, so that we can all learn from now on to avoid hatred and dissension like fire, and to be careful in treating everyone – whether we agree with him or not – with respect and true Ahavas Yisrael.
May it be Hashem’s will that peace and unity be restored to our community, as befitting for Chassidim, and that the community of Crown Heights should regain its fine name, and be a worthy vessel for the Brochos of the Rebbe that “Kan Tziva Hashem Es Habracha”. As our sages teach us, “G-d found no better vessel for blessings than peace”, and may we merit the ultimate blessing of the immediate and true redemption, speedily and in our days.
Wishing everyone a kosher and joyous Pesach,
Rabbi Shmuel Heber