The problems with the Lubavitch

Boston, Ma.
May 2, 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Globe West
Christina Pazzanese, Globe Correspondent
591 Words
24 February 2005
The Boston Globe
Copyright (c) 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

The nearly yearlong dispute between the Chabad-Lubavitch Center of Needham and the town appears to be headed from the bargaining table to the courtroom.

Last week, attorneys Robert Meltzer and Richard Csaplar filed a complaint in US District Court in Boston stating that the town and Building Inspector Daniel Walsh “intentionally and with malice” tried to deny the chabad center its constitutional rights to free speech and to the free exercise of religion and assembly.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Rabbi Mendel Krinsky, who is seeking $10 million in damages. The chabad is located in Krinsky’s house on High Rock Street.

Csaplar said the lawsuit was prompted by a Jan. 20 letter from Walsh ordering Krinsky to cease using the house as a worship center until it receives the necessary permits and town board approvals. Walsh stated in the letter that neither he nor another qualified professional has been allowed to inspect the home to see if it meets state building and fire codes. Complying with Walsh’s demand would mean closing down the center, Csaplar said.

“We feel we have exhausted all efforts and areas to bring this to a better result,” Krinsky said. “I regret it didn’t work out that way. We would’ve been a lot happier to agree to something reasonable. I didn’t want to limit ourselves to something when it’s just a good-will gesture. We’re not doing anything against the law.”

Csaplar said the town unfairly tried to curtail the center’s activities over the last year by limiting the number of people who could gather there to 20 and where in the building they could worship. The lawsuit compares the center’s religious gatherings to lawful residential assemblies, such as poker games and watching football on Sunday.

“They came up with a document about what they could and could not do,” Csaplar said. “I eventually told [Town Administrator Kate Fitzpatrick] we’re not going to enter into any agreement.”

Fitzpatrick said she was instructed by legal counsel not to discuss the lawsuit.

“I sue cities and towns all the time,” said Meltzer, a Framingham- based trial lawyer. “In my 12 years in this business, I’ve never seen the kind of pigheadedness and stubbornness in [refusing] to listen.

“It’s a crusade against the rabbi; they are refusing to comply with the law. We are very, very confident what the law is and what we cannot do.”

“As a son of Holocaust survivors, it’s disheartening when anti- Semitism charges are thrown around loosely,” said Leonard H. Kesten, an attorney and partner with Brody, Hardoon, Perkins and Kesten LLP in Boston who will represent the town and Walsh in the lawsuit.

“We’re anxious to get this moving quickly,” Kesten said, adding that he expected that the two sides would appear before a judge within two months.

Krinsky and his attorneys say they are considering action against neighbors who have complained to town officials about parking and illegal remodeling.

“Everyone on this street is very upset,” said Wayne Anastasia, who lives next door to the center. Anastasia denied that neighbors are harassing worshipers. Anastasia said neighbors are primarily concerned that additional traffic and parking on their road is posing safety hazards, that remodeling work to the chabad is being done without the permits other homeowners would be required to obtain, and that Krinsky may be using a private home as a business.

Globe West
Lauren K. Meade, Globe Correspondent
1225 Words
05 June 2005
The Boston Globe
? 2005 New York Times Company. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.

It was a little after 7 p.m. on the eve of Lag B’Omer, and Rabbi Mendel Krinsky’s barbecue celebrating the Jewish holiday was in full swing.

Children bobbed on the inflatable Moon Bouncer trampoline, which was set up inside after a week of heavy downpours. Adults conversed ebulliently over kosher hot dogs and ginger ale. Three men broke through the chatter with a hymn commemorating Rabbi Shimon bar Mochas, the author of the book of Kabbala.

These festivities belied a $10 million lawsuit Krinsky filed in February against the town of Needham after more than a year of disputing with neighbors of the Chabad Jewish Center he runs out of his High Rock Street home. The case will go to mediation June 23 at US District Court in Boston, according to Leonard H. Kesten, the attorney representing the town. The mediation will not be open to the public, he said.

In the lawsuit, Krinsky accused the town and Building Inspector Daniel Walsh of trying to prevent the Chabad center from exercising its constitutional rights of free speech and religious assembly. One of his lawyers has said complying with the town’s requests would mean closing the center.

Kesten said he hopes this does not evolve from a zoning and neighbor relations dispute to a church vs. state case.

“That is the fundamental misunderstanding among neighbors,” he said. “But building a congregation is tricky in the burbs of Boston.”

Wayne Anastasia lives next to the center and kept a meticulous tally of the guests who attended the barbecue 26 by his count while his other family members noted the license plate numbers of the cars parked on the berm along the street. There was an Ohio plate they had never seen before.

Anastasia was livid at how the Chabad center has increased the volume of traffic on what he called an otherwise “peaceful street.” While he respects his neighbors’ right to pray, “I don’t want it to interfere with my life.”

The day after the barbecue, Krinsky said of the dispute, “I didn’t want it to become this big, but, hey, this is what happens. We are trying to be friendly neighbors. At the same time, we absolutely have the right to do what we’re doing.”

He said he views the media coverage and the pending civil litigation as a way of informing others about the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is a branch of Hasidic Judaism.

Krinsky, 33, was raised in Boston as a Lubavitcher; his father, Pinchus Krinsky, also served as a Lubavitcher rabbi. Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for wisdom, comprehension, and knowledge. Krinsky was educated at rabbinical schools in Montreal, New Jersey, and in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where the Lubavitch movement headquarters is on Eastern Parkway. He and his wife, Chanie, 29, have four children.

“I find the struggle that I have most is that people have in their minds who we are and what we do without first speaking with a rabbi,” Krinsky said. “They say, `The rabbi has a beard. He looks different. Forget it.’ I want them to give us the benefit of the doubt.”

Lubavitcher husband-wife teams like the Krinskys have set up Chabad centers in most of the 50 states and cities worldwide. In Boston, there are more than two dozen centers as posted on the website,

While conservative branches of Christianity often proselytize non- Christians, Lubavitchers only reach out to other Jews. Krinsky hopes to “avoid labels” and unify the Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative movements of Judaism.

“A Jew is a Jew is a Jew,” he said. “First you are Jewish, even though you may practice it differently.”

As part of his outreach effort, Krinsky cold-calls Jewish residents in the neighboring communities and schedules appointments to meet them at work. He also sends calendars and newsletters, likening his approach to advertising a business. This year’s calendar includes a list of adult education classes, counseling and hospital visitation services, and craft workshops. It also contains advertisements from Washworld car wash, Needham Collision, and Needham Garden Center.

Krinsky often approaches less observant Jews as he aims to expand the Chabad’s congregation. One such new worshiper is Yehuda Inbar, 46, a web designer who has lived in Needham for 10 years. He joined the Chabad more than a year ago because he wanted to practice his religion “closer to the values of traditional Judaism.” For the past two years, Inbar has visited the Chabad almost every Saturday morning at 10 for temple services and has attended Hebrew classes every couple of weeks. Inbar grew up in a nonreligious household in Haifa, Israel, and came to the United States in 1981 to attend the Boston Architectural Center.

“Before I did any religious activities, I was doing everything on a materialistic level,” he said. “I would go to work and think about all the meetings. Then I’d come home, watch TV, and go to sleep.”

Now many of his thoughts are about his religion. Instead of TV, he listens to Hebrew lectures on Israeli websites.

Centers such as the Krinskys’ have come under fire from municipal governments because they often are in residential zones, where parking can quickly become an issue. Last year, the city of Newton was embroiled in a dispute with a Chabad on Dedham Street. The case was settled, and the synagogue resumed hosting worship services.

Mitchell Fischman, an at-large alderman who is on the committee established as part of the Newton settlement, said tensions appear to have cooled. He hasn’t received complaints from neighbors about parking.

Krinsky filed the lawsuit against Needham in February after Walsh, the building inspector, sent a letter on Jan. 20 telling him to stop using his residence as a house of worship until he get town permits and board approvals for fire codes, disability requirements, and parking regulations. Walsh wrote that neither he nor other inspectors had been allowed in Krinsky’s home to see if it meets state building and fire codes.

One of Krinsky’s neighbors, Marc Jacobs, said his discomfort with the Chabad stems from not knowing what, if anything, Krinsky will do with his residence.

“We don’t know his plans,” Jacobs said, later adding, “I wonder what his thinking was when he bought the house in this area. Why didn’t he come to the town first and scout out the most appropriate property?”

Krinsky said he plans to move the congregation to another location once it “becomes uncomfortable” to hold services in the house, though he wasn’t able to give a precise number. At present, he said, “up to 25” attend the Saturday services.

In light of the mediation next month, Jacobs said he hopes the “happy medium doesn’t include a large congregation.”

Those who attend the Chabad have complained about being photographed and say they’re being harassed, but neighbors say they were told by the town to document their complaints.

“I just go crazy taking photos,” said Anastasia, taking out an inch-thick stack of photographs.

“People say, `Leave the guy alone. He’s not hurting anyone.’ But they don’t live next to him,” he said of Krinsky.


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