Aug 27, 2017
Destroy a Shul to Build Apartments?

A Halachic Analysis: Is a Boro Park developer allowed to knock down a 111-year-old Chabad Shul to build an apartment building?

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

It was a shul built in 1906, and now it lays in the heart of Boro Park. It is located on 12th Avenue and 41st street and is called Chevra Anshei Lubawitz. And while it is nusach Ari according to its bylaws it is not a Lubavitch shul.

In the middle of June, unbeknown to the membership, the shul was sold by two people on the board to developer Moses Karpen, a friend of one of the board members. Karpens plan was to demolish the shul and convert it to six stories of apartments but leaving at least part of the bottom floor to be used as a shul.

The building was sold for 3.1 million dollars on June 14th.

This week, however, a Brooklyn judge blocked the demolition at least temporarily, after some of the members argued that the sale was based on misrepresentations. Indeed, according to court papers some seventeen members are upset about it.

According to media reports, as part of the deal, the synagogue would pay $3 million for the first floor and basement of the new building. This is $100,000 less than they received for the property.

The Daily News reports that members of the synagogue claimed that the two board members behind the sale made no effort to seek other offers and that the building was never offered on the open market.

One of the many halachic issue involved in this bizarre arrangement is whether it is appropriate to knock down an existing shul for the purpose of building housing on top of it.

There is another issue in Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah Siman 252 that a shul is not to be knocked down unless it is dangerous people inside and could fall.

So far, not one Posaik has been identified as having permitted this sale, despite repeated requests to speak to one even with a promise of keeping his identify anonymous.

In response to an earlier version of this article, someone involved explained that the plans were for the shul to be built behind with nothing above the roof. This does not address the issue of knocking down a shul.

The Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim (151:12) writes as follows: One must be careful from using an aliyah (an attic or second floor) that is above a Bais HaKnesses regularly for a use which is legnai indecorous or unseemly.

The Shulchan Aruch cites sleeping or lying down as an example of an unseemly activity. This would therefore include six floors of apartments. Rav Karo further writes in the second part of this halacha that there is a question as to whether other types of activities are permitted in such a location.

The Ramah adds a qualification. He writes that this halacha only refers to a Shul which was initially established as a shul. However, in a building that was originally built as a regular building and only afterward established as a shul there one may indeed lay down.

The cornerstone of this shul shows conclusively that it was originally built as a shul.

The Ramahs leniency stems from a ruling of the Piskei Mahari. On this Ramah, however, the Mishna Brurah (OC 151:42), citing the Mogain Avrohom who cites the Kneseth HaGedolah, remarks that, nonetheless, one who is concerned for his soul should distance himself from this especially in the section above the haichal.

The Shulchan Aruchs question in the second part of the halacha about other types of activities is explained by the Mishna Brurah as being based upon the following question: Do we compare a shul to the Azarah in the Bais HaMikdash, in which case the upper sections do not retain a state of holiness? Or perhaps we compare a shul or Bais HaMidrash to the Haichal of the Bais HaMikdash itself, in which case the upper sections would retain a state of holiness?

The TaZ in Orech Chaim 151:4 writes that when he was younger he and his children lived in his Bais Midrash in the city of Cracow, above a shul. He writes that he was punished severely and lost his young son [in an apparent fire]. He placed the blame on the fact that he lived above a shul.

The language of the Kneseth HaGedolah writes, Whoever I have seen who has made a Bais HaMidrash in his house and he uses the floor that is above this Bais Midrash- did not succeed. Of them, some have lost their wealth, some have died, and some did not merit to be built.

Someone once told this author the following story after having moved to Kiryat Sefer the day it opened over 25 years ago.

For quite a few years all the shuls were in miklatim [bomb shelters] and there were some serious accidents, cholim etc. We went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky [the son of the Steipler Rav mentioned earlier] and asked him what type of tikkun [rectification] we can do. He asked us where the shuls are. Telling him that most of the shuls were located in the miklatim under apartments, he mentioned that his father was very makpid on this. Together with the builders of Kiryat Sefer and the gabboim, a date was set for all shuls to be moved into temporary caravans or permanent buildings.

I cannot tell you exactly how long ago this was but we are talking about at least 12 years ago. It gave us a push to get the shuls built. Also, until we did move out, Rav Chaim told us to cordon off the exact area where the bathroom was located on the floor directly above the shul and not to daven there. Rav Shteinman was also involved with this psak but I cannot tell you exactly what he said. [I] just know that he was also pushing for us to move out of the miklatim.

There are, of course, leniencies when the shul was only made after the building was built, and the Aruch haShulchan writes that it is a mussar matter rather than absolute halacha. However, in this case, it was originally built exclusively as a shul.

In recent months there have been a number of cases involving shuls and their sales or alleged sales, and one questions whether they were done under the guidance of a recognized Posaik.

The author can be reached at

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Opinions and Comments
It's not a chabad shul.
People are calling this a Chabad shul.
The Rov for many years was Harav Ushpol. It wasn't considered a Chabad shul.
Besides that, it is asur and a major chutzpa what these developers are trying to do.
(8/27/2017 7:30:47 PM)
Yechi Hamelochim
Explain how Young Israel at 935 Eastern Pkwy, was knocked down, to build an apartment building. They also put the Shul in the basement. Why does it work for one, and not for the other.
(8/27/2017 7:32:49 PM)
How low we are stooping for real estate . It starts with hipsters coming to rent center of Kingston from our own lubavitch landlords and now to other people selling a shul! How low did we fall for money??? Shame on us Jews
(8/27/2017 7:46:28 PM)
Can you knock down a shul to build a nicer shul?
That is the real question which most people would say yes. So now that you got that out of the way, does it make a major difference to you that the 7 floors over the shul are apartments? No, but there is a jealousy factor at play here.

Call a spade a spade.
(8/27/2017 7:59:26 PM)
to #4
if you build a new shul in the same place you still need to demolish and build, demolish and build and not knock down totally and then build. check it out
(8/27/2017 8:35:17 PM)
not them
935 was collapsing. it was a senior center prior to demolition. and yes it was a hazard in the neighborhood, that the city would have seized if it wasn't demolished. that said I still wonder if we could have done better?
(8/27/2017 8:59:49 PM)
BS"D Wow, the main gathering place of the Talucha to BP
(8/27/2017 9:02:20 PM)
I dont understand
Let the person make some money and give the shul a new place. Done all the time.
(8/27/2017 9:32:36 PM)
It actually is a Chabad Shul
Or at least it's supposed to be...
(8/27/2017 10:20:59 PM)
It's going to happen in CH
Mark my words.
(8/27/2017 10:33:19 PM)
To clarify #2
935 e.p. was not build for a shul, later it became a shul , Harav Ushpol's shul was built for a shul , matter of fact upstairs doors to shul did not have mezuzahs ,as a long time mispallel there, until I got married and moved to crown heights ,I my father and my zaide (, in which my zaide got , Harav Ushpol to be the rov of the shul ) with other lubavitcher chasidim davened there. The last year's of Harav Ushpol in all his deroshos on shabbos was almost screaming to the oilam that they should not move away from the neighborhood and abandon the shul , lots of people started to moving to Flatbush until his last day he tried to make sure that shul stays vibrant ,R. Ushpol would be turning in his grave seeing what's happening to the shul .
The comments I read hear is unbelievable nasty saying it's not chabad and never chabad chasidim plenty of Harav Ushpol's talmidim that learned in United lubavitcher yeshiva on Bedford and Dean or earlier than that walked far to daven in that shul.
M. Moskowitz
(8/27/2017 10:47:59 PM)
to #4
wake up. open your eyes. the shul is not winning here, and its not about jealousy. The shul will have to rent a space for at least 4 years , then pay 3 million dollars back to the developer. So the developer gets 5 floors or air rights for free. The shul will still have to pay to build a nice shul as they will probably get a shell. So the shul loses money, and I'm sure they will not get 2 floors. Right now they have 3 floors. The developer is probably give the trustee a kickback for the whole deal because no one in their right mind would approve such a deal. So the only one to benefit is the developer and trustee. in the meantime a place that people davened for over 100 years. A shul that the Rebbe was very involved in. The Rebbe gave so many answers to issues that Rabbi Ushpol and Reb. UShpol wrote in about the shul. As a grandson I am heartbroken and every yid has to be heartbroken, as this is the same thing the NAzis and many other Jew Haters did r"l . tear down and destroy shuls.
Don't convince yourself that they are doing this L'shem Shomayim. Its being done for money. If the trustee has no money to maintain the shul, let them give it to a congregation that is willing to invest a few dollars and keep it as a shul. The trustee's conned their way in as did the new rov. The ones taking this to court are old members who davened there for 30 years and put their hearts and souls into the place. These are facts that I am saying
M. Schmukler
(8/27/2017 10:52:44 PM)
to #4
like I said before, the ones that stole the shul the last few years and tried to kick out the old members, if they don't have money to maintain the building ( when they took it for free, no mortgage) then they are doing something wrong. let them not make like they are trying to do something good here. Let them give it to Rabbi Ginsberg or Heichal Menachem, I'm sure many people are willing to take it and will maintain it. Maybe it will become Lubavitch again. There was Lubavitch siddurim there always. They Allowed Lubavitch to come in on Talucha. I was kicked out a few years ago by these robbers, and couldn't find a Lubavitch siddur. They deserve to have the building taken away like they did.
M Schmukler
(8/27/2017 11:06:51 PM)
Follow the money trail...
Therein lies the truth
(8/28/2017 6:19:26 AM)
Shluchim all over attempt hostile takeovers and stealing Shula claiming they are there to maintain it and then they tear down and built new buildings with other facilities. No one on the chabad world says a word. Here it's a Williamsburg developer and he's a terrible person.

I don't know the insights of the deal. Not to I know the whole arrangement. It sounds a little odd that they are paying an equal amount to rebuild. But just maybe it will be a new better shul. Maybe the building is in need of repairs and they can't afford it.

My point is before everyone gets all sentimental and over reacts. Find out all the details before condemning everyone and giving all these analysis. This may be an excellent option for the shul to stay functioning for the next 100 years.

Disclaimer: I don't live in Ny and am in no way affiliated with this shul or devloper but I am sick and tired of the negative bashing comments. That are truly ignorant sounding.
(8/28/2017 9:04:43 AM)
Nothing has been done
Nothing can be done whilst it is with the Civil Court
Loads of time to obtain consensus of BP Rabbonim with a Heskem as to what in practicalities can be done will be done
Posts don't influence one iota Askonim erlicha Askonim do.
Askonim don't not need nor, suggests I, desire publicity
Let's wait and see how this saga plays out
(8/28/2017 9:05:37 AM)
Assur Gamur
The shulchan Aruch OC 152 clearly states and the later poskim all reiterate that it is FORBIDDEN to demolish a shul, even if one were planning to make it larger and grander. It is in fact an to do so!
(8/28/2017 9:13:29 AM)
Historic preservetion
Regardless of Halacha people should value historic preservation.

Goyim understand the importance of landmarks and statues.
(8/28/2017 10:46:31 AM)
money is its own religion
1. seemingly Thsi was an underhanded deal 2. One cannot simply knock down a shul Al Pi Halacha It would have had to have been a better one. (35 E.P. was falling apart physically The replacement might not have been a better one but it certainly was better than nothing in this case the sole reason is money *& greed the propsed sale is not even the real value of which is much higher The building is still in gerat shape a beautiful shul & a thriving Congregation the purpose of this was Gezailah!
(8/28/2017 11:23:08 AM)
To #15
The 1st part of your message directly contradicts the 2nd! You say that Chabad Shluchim make "hostile" takeovers and change the shul (You admit that they keep them as Shuls and make them nicer).
1) i find that nasty and would you say you searched up all the details? If so, please be specific. I can't join you in protesting a broad term, but I would for a specific case.
2) Shluchim are people that put everything aside and go to help communities. Shluchim are held to certain standards (keeping Halacha etc.) by a group of Rabbis and Rabbonim. Developers are/have neither!
3) Shulchan Aruch says not to do things that look suspicious.
Please tell me how this Shul is gaining instead of the developer. If a Shliach did this there would be public outcry.
4) why is a Shliach becoming a Rabbi of a Shul a "hostile" takeover?
Before you call everyone else "truly ignorant sounding", make sure you don't fit that description yourself.
(8/28/2017 11:34:09 AM)
#20 s'yog l'chochma shtika
I was personally involved where a Shliach attempted to do a hostile takeover. It was truly a situation where he was given a second chance and he was biting the hand that feeds him. Wasn't the first or the last.

Becoming a rabbi of a shul to then tear it down and rebuild is again the same situation which I am alluding to the fact that this article does not clearly state. I.e. Every detail of the rebuilding deal.

I would be asking what the square footage allocation is to the new shul?
Rent/ maintenance component annually to the property

I'm sure there are many others however, again the question is what the details of the deal is not just the 3.1 million. I don't know is what I'm saying and I don't k ow if anyone here truly knows 100 percent because hearsay or assumptions are just that... worthless.

As far as your holding Shluchim in high esteem. I have no problem agreeing with you however, every case of apples has some rotten ones. And to be able to aknowledeg that we have those is foolish. I for one am willing to acknowledge that we have mostly great ones but we have some not so great ones also. Shluchim, rabbis rebbes are all businesses equal to developers and businessmen.

But that's not my point or the point of the article.

The article was talking about galactic perspective and prejudging two board members. They should have their day in court or beis din to be able to explain their positions. There was a comment that said give it to a Shliach my point was that doesn't necessarily make the situation any better without knowing the facts and yes hostile takeovers sometimes are presented also in a way that it's holier than thou and in the name of hashem but in really it's completely the opposite and a business deal. In fact in many of those cases it was a land/ real estate grab as well to eventually close and sell. Not just chabad. Satmar, litvish are all guilty of the same.

I'm sorry if I was unclear or sounded slightly arrogant. My point again there are other facts and mitigating circumstances. And if there were not then I hope the fraud here gets exposed
(8/28/2017 2:46:59 PM)
Dear M. schmukler
It says the Shul is 111 years old. If that is so, the number is the same gematriyah as that of Pele - wonder. May you see open miracles concerning the Shul very soon!
(8/28/2017 3:36:16 PM)
It's the Condo Unit
I was told that Rabbi Unsdorfer is the supposed Rabbi that permitted all this activity. He is also due to become the future Rabbi of the new First Floor shul, in a few years from now when it becomes ready AND that he will be getting a rabbi's residence in one of the new condo units.

This all being the case, he should recuse himself from this issue - due to his extreme negi'us (conflict of interest) and a question should be asked to an an appropriate competent posaik that will provide a plausible halachic ruling, and most importantly - he will not also attempt to keep his identity secret.
(8/28/2017 6:50:54 PM)
to #15
How many millions of dollars was spent by shluchim to renovate shuls given to them by the goverment. In Russia etc. They renovated them and didn't tear them down.
(8/28/2017 9:40:29 PM)
Asher Gluck
Rabbi Unsdorfer announced that he will address the halachic aspects of this issue after davening this coming Shabbos. He will answer any questions you may have after the speech. You are all welcome to come listen and to debate the issue in an intelligent manner. The shul is on 36th Street and 12th Avenue.
(8/29/2017 4:40:30 AM)
To Asher Gluck & his chevra
How can rav Unsdorfer pasken a shailah that will provide him with a direct future benefit?? How is he NOT because of his ??

This is especially troubling, because there is a very clear Halacha in and the there, that it is an to demolish this even if you claim to build a larger shul instead. There are also many other relevant discussed in . The commands us: .

This building is not at risk of collapse. Even if there may be a few issues that can use some repair, that does not give anything resembling a license to demolish this entire (and benefit at least one rogue developer that we thus far know about). This is a very serious matter and there are severe prescribed to .

Rav moshe yosef unsdorfer (does he also have semicha in choshen mishpat?) should not wait several more days until shabbos during kiddush time to share his shtikel toirah to only the few gathered people.

Yidden all over the united states are in an uproar over this . This rav has a duty right now of to immediately clear the air and explain his unprecedented psak. I hope hes not one of those open orthodox rabbanim. Since he was able to give this psak already, then he should need no more time to prepare in order to explain it.

Klal Yisroel is keeping a close eye on our sacred mekoimos. It is unfathomable that the has still refused to issue the reasoning behind this seemingly un-halachic psak din. If he really has a or shtikel toirah that he believes in, he should not hesitate to release it to the . The have been tumulting about this and are thirsting to hear if this is indeed the .
(8/29/2017 8:43:55 AM)
Why are you comparing a kasha with a borscht. What in the world does getting buildings from the govt and renovating them have to do with this situation. Just because they were given the Shula in Russia is no raya to anything. That's doesn't make them any better or worse then anyone else nor does it make They any saintlier. There is a cemetery project that the US govt has spent millions on as well to preserve the old jewish cemeteries destroyed in Europe. There is also federation money helping preserve the old Shula and govt money. Then there is fundraising which also helps pay salaries. So it's good business. Again my point is just giving it to a shliach doesn't mean it's the greatest and best solution and just maybe think out of the box for a second and ask yourself is there maybe a 10% chance that you and many of the commentators here just do not know all the facts. I don't and I am willing to give myself 100% chance. I'm only asking that you give a 10% chance before being the judge and jury.
(8/29/2017 9:31:32 AM)

It starts with by being matir an eiruv and then extends to and eventually the of the rest of the .
(8/29/2017 10:44:54 AM)
why would they sell a shul without even notifying the board members, or taking a vote. The whole these stinks so much and you keep on giving them the benefit of the doubt. Yes yidden are b'cheskas kashrus but if you work a little and find out the details unfortunately they are going against the chazaka
(8/29/2017 3:57:46 PM)
This is not problem
Officious bystander has no rights and certainly no locus standi
The Congregation, its member and beneficiaries do have rights and it is to them, the sellers and the trustees have a fiduciary duty of care
seems a very opportune moment for the Rov to address the issue and extraordinarily he has opened the floor to all comers
It is at that point all these issues and questions should be raised in a respectful moderate manner
(8/29/2017 6:01:40 PM)
#29 Benefit of Doubt
27 asked if you know all the details 100 percent. Can you honestly say you do or is there a possibility that you are going on 10% hearsay? Also he did not give them the benefit of the doubt he said that maybe we do not know exactly all the facts! This just proves like many commentators that are just quick to write comments as if they are experts on all matters that have nothing to do with them. Unless maybe you are a board member and you know better.
(8/29/2017 7:17:57 PM)
Unbelievable that Jews are trying to destroy a shul for $$$
Clearly, the people defending this disgusting money grab and shul destruction have a hand in the money pie.
If this was happening, say in Poland, in Germany or even in the US by goyim, there would be screams of anti-Semitism, and rightly so.

But here, you have Jew$ who only care about money, money, money. The holiness of a shul means nothing to them, history means nothing to them, spirituality means nothing to them.

How many of the investors involved even believe in Hashem? We hear so many stories about people who proport to be Chasidim or frum, and don't believe a word of it. Yes, they like their kishke, their cholent, and their silk bekeshes, but they are empty and puste keilim, with not a trace of yiras shomayim. They buy off who they need, for what they need, so that they can continue to worship the golden calf of money. A person who can do this with a clear conscience - has no conscience.

Even if they succeed in doing their evil deeds, this will be a mark of shame on them forever, as we will all know that some greedy **** destroyed for a bit of ca$h.

Shameful people. You are a disgrace.

(8/29/2017 10:15:31 PM)
So correct
That is why society has Civil Court
Why erlicha yid den have Beis Din
But this is so not about Halacha of knocking down a Shul
It is about the right of beneficiaries. The responsibilities of trustees.
Once that is ascertained once the protection of communal assets has been achieved THEN one proceeds to whether one may or may not do the action desired
None of us are privileged with the knowledge of the true facts
Agendas enter the equation
The Congregation the beneficiaries deserve better
Let Rav Undsdorfer who IS charged with all the above be allowed to set out the stall on
Hold your fire. Remember Boro Park is not lacking in Rabbonim. Rav Unsdorfer and what he says will be evaluated by his peers. Bloggers really don't have the
(8/29/2017 11:44:23 PM)
Eastern parkway they did this
There was a (once beautiful ) huge shul on Eastern parkway. They knocked it down and built condos and put a shul on the bottom.
(8/30/2017 2:29:32 AM)
(8/30/2017 8:28:33 PM)
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