May 15, 2018
Oholei Torah Selling Off a Mikvah

Rabbis in East Flatbush are dismayed by Oholei Torah breaking a promise and selling off a Mikvah the Rebbe instructed to keep open.

By COLlive reporter

By the 1990s, East Flatbush seemed to be a forsaken neighborhood. Only a few dozen Jewish families remained; most of the community facilities, including the men’s mikvah, were rundown and dirty.

Yet, each year, before Yom Kippur, when the men in the congregation were allowed to use the women’s mikvah, they were astonished to find that it was spotless and perfectly maintained.

The mikvah at 340 E 52nd Street was maintained by Rabbi Chaim Meir Bukiet, the illustrious Talmudic scholar, famed Chabad rabbinic figure, and Rosh Yeshivah of the Central United Lubavitch Yeshiva.

There was nothing Rabbi Bukiet wouldn’t do for the Ritualarium of East Flatbush, as it is officially known. Donating a third of his monthly salary, organizing a yearly fundraising dinner, and ordering a taxi for the mikvah lady to travel from Crown Heights all fell within the respected rabbi’s purview.

"Women would come from Williamsburg, Remsen Village, Mill Basin, Crown Heights, and one woman from East Flatbush," says Shoshana Hammer, a long-time mikvah attendant. "Then there were the many conversions that were performed [there] by Rabbi JJ Hecht."

In 1957, the then-thriving community came together to fund the building of the mikvah. It would include four pools, three for the women and one for the men. The premises would have a large parking lot, separate entrances for men and women, and an apartment for the attendant.

Not long afterward, however, the community began to shrink, and the mikvah became a financial burden to the remaining Jews. By 1966, there was a move to close it down completely.

It was then that the Lubavitch rabbis in the area wrote to the Rebbe to ask what to do. The Rebbe’s unequivocal response can be found in the personal diary of his chief aide, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Isaac Hodakov: "The mother of Moshe was only one woman."

Since the passing of Rabbi Hecht in 1991, Rabbi Bukiet in 1998, and Rabbi Michoel Teitelbaum in 2005, the Oholei Torah institution assured community members and family members of Rabbis Teitelbaum, Hecht and Bukiet that they were taking care of the premises.

However, the Rabbinic Board of East Flatbush recently discovered a real estate sale listing on COLlive Classifieds titled "East Flatbush Price Reduction."

"Selling a 40ª 100 lot zoned R5 in East Flatbush Brooklyn," it reads. "Existing structure to be gutted. Only a 2-minute walk from the very busy retail hub of Utica and Church Avenues. Was 750, now price reduction for quick sale. Priced at 650k all cash. Build a 5000 sq ft mansion, or apartments up to 5000 sq ft. All serious non-contingent offers will be considered."

The notice shocked the Rabbinic Board of East Flatbush, which is still active, as well as current and former community members.

"Today, the East Flatbush community had once again grown to hundreds of families and the mikvah was in constant use, until recently when the organization allowed the property to deteriorate and blocked all efforts to keep it in shape," the rabbis said in an email to COLlive.com.

"The Ritualarium (Mikvah) does not belong to the above organization," they said about Oholei Torah which is based in Crown Heights. "We seek, in whichever way possible, to halt the sale and return the property to its legal and rightful owners."

The Rabbinical Board wants the Mikvah to once again be returned to its previous glory and used again for the Jewish community of East Flatbush," they said.
"(We) resolved to do whatever was necessary to keep the mikvah’s doors open."

Oholei Torah did not respond to a request for comment.


Most Read Most Comments


Opinions and Comments
1
Keep it open!
My kids, cramped in their Crown Heights apartment due to the huge bracha of children KA"H, are looking for a house in East Flatbush where they can afford to live. So many young couples are looking to move there, and that community will only grow until Moshiach comes, let it be now. Maybe there's a Jimmy Gurary who can bail out this mikvah?
(5/15/2018 4:14:59 PM)
2
Just wondering
Who is part of this rabbinical board?
(5/15/2018 4:15:15 PM)
3
thriving community?
then go and buy it.....
Why should it stay a burden on OT.
(5/15/2018 4:16:35 PM)
4
Missing
The article is not too clear and missing details. Who is the legal owner? Who is this rabbinical board? Etc.
(5/15/2018 4:17:31 PM)
5
ooof
I hope they can make this work.
(5/15/2018 4:20:41 PM)
6
What a disgrace
Shame on the board of directors of Oholei Torah

Where is Rabbi Rosenfeld Sh'y to stand up to this travesty?

I've personally used this Mikvah

Its a real shame that they would do this against the mesiras nefesh that Reb Michoel z'l fought to keep this community going.

Sad day in Oholei Torah history
(5/15/2018 4:24:31 PM)
7
Levy
Eagerly awaiting O.T’s response!
(5/15/2018 4:25:39 PM)
8
Solution
If there are so many people in East Flatboush why they don’t buy it at a good price and Shalom al Israel
(5/15/2018 4:45:20 PM)
9
how
so you know this is the house of the Mikva I don't see an address or picture.
(5/15/2018 4:50:05 PM)
10
To 8
Buy it from whom?
The east Flatbush Rabbis are not selling it.
It is being robbed by a group of people.
(5/15/2018 5:15:29 PM)
11
Wow
So all the years Reb Michel was fighting to keep the shul and other Jewish places in Jewish hands is out the window?

What's going on?
(5/15/2018 5:21:18 PM)
12
Selling a mikveh?
Why would the Board of Ohelei Torah sell a mikveh. Would love to hear their response. Isn't one of the board members in the habit of building mikvehs not selling them.
(5/15/2018 5:25:36 PM)
13
Market Valuation Was $1.5 Million
"Buyer Got the deal of a lifetime "
Did OT Have an advisory board?
Or did someone act alone??
(5/15/2018 5:36:02 PM)
14
There is a boss
Please post the address so we can find out how oholei Torah became the 'owner' of a mikva
(5/15/2018 5:36:45 PM)
15
It is not Oholei Torah's to sell
it would make sense if they owned the building for someone to purchase, but this is not their building to sell.
(5/15/2018 5:45:32 PM)
16
Buy the Mikvah from them
I am sure OT has been shelling out lots and lots of money for this property over the years !!!!
P.s. who are East Flatbush Rabbis ? Chabad?
(5/15/2018 5:55:31 PM)
17
Why the diversion questions?
This is fairly simple: Rabbi Bukiet A"H gave his heart and soul to raise the money to keep this mikvah open.
The neighborhood changed and Rabbi Bukiet passed away, so the Mikva fell into disrepair.
Now the area is on the rebound and there is a golden opportunity to raise money and rebuild this Mikvah.
Somehow, Oholei Torah gained ownership of the Mikvah and instead of allowing people in the area try to raise funds to restore it, they are quietly trying to sell it to developers.
And no, there is no reason that people in the area should pay Oholei Torah for the right to restore the Mikvah.
What would the Rebbe say?
(5/15/2018 5:56:01 PM)
18
Now you listen to the Rebbe
Oh all of a sudden people wake up to what the Rebbe said?!!I still don't see anyone talking about moshiach..the Rebbes legacy and last and longest project and yet it is swept under the carpet like moshiach is a dirty word!!he is probably up there crying in pain how his chasidim have let him down and how the 'heads'of Chabad treat it like a business..my heart breaks for the Rebbe.collive take courage and do something to turn the tide
(5/15/2018 5:57:06 PM)
19
It not ot property
Let it remain a Mikvah
(5/15/2018 6:20:29 PM)
20
Buy it?!!
How do you buy a bulding that belongs to you??
It NEVER belonged to Oholei Torah, reb Michael went on me soars nefesh to keep the mikvah open for the community, now to steal it from the community because of OT connection to r' michiel?! What a disgrace! Reb Michael is turning over in his grave.
(5/15/2018 6:22:55 PM)
21
Reb Moshe Teleshevsky
I remember as a Bochur in Oholei Torah, Reb Moshe would pick me up and a number of people in the community and drive us to the Shule in East Flatbush, so Reb Michoel would have a Minyan.
(5/15/2018 6:31:03 PM)
22
Agree with number 8
Let the community in East Flatbush (along with those advocating for the mikvah to remain open) to band togther to purchase the building from Oholei Torah. Simple solution.
(5/15/2018 6:47:39 PM)
23
Also just wondering
How did the Mikvah become the property of Oholei Torah? Did they buy it? If yes, when ? From whom? For how much? I think the answer to these questions will shed light on the solution to this issue.
(5/15/2018 6:54:10 PM)
24
to 3# and 8#
Why should they buy something that rightfully belongs to them? And why should OT be selling something that they don't have a right to sell?

At most OT can ask for the money ithat they may have put into the building to keep it running. But that would be no more then 50,000 dollars.

BTW you may be aware (though by such ignorant comments one never knows), but money does not grow on trees. These are young couples who have just eked out a down payment and a mortgage, they are not flowing with money.

and to the question "Why should it stay a burden on OT."?

Well the answer is simple, the community will take it over, and take care of the Upkeep.
(5/15/2018 7:10:55 PM)
25
meir ronnes a"h
meir ronnes would shlep there to use the mikvah almost every day just to keep it open
(5/15/2018 7:24:06 PM)
26
Missing
You are right. There is a lot missing to this story. The legal owner is oholei torah. The rabbinical board transferred it to Oholei Torah.. Most of the rabbinical board are no longer alive . So if someone feels strongly that this building should be a mikve, they are welcome to buy it from Oholei Torah. If the so called rabbinical board feel they need a mikve, where were they all these years when the building fell apart and dilapidated. Why did they wake up now when they heard it was for sale? Why did they sell the shul immediately upon the passing of Rabbi Bukiet? It seems that there is a lot missing to this story, that seems to have been submitted by only one side.
(5/15/2018 7:24:12 PM)
27
buy what??????????????
what do you mean buy it ??????????????????????
from whom o.t. dose not own it they just took it.............
o.t. just give it back and walk away let those who live there now take over
(5/15/2018 7:29:13 PM)
28
OT doesn't own it
If you know any laws a religious organization can't give away the property to another one. The Mikvah could never have been given away to Oholei Torah that makes it theirs to sell. There was some illegal shtick that was done to transfer ownership to OT's name.
(5/15/2018 8:16:54 PM)
29
So OT offers to maintain it?!
Now OT is selling it!

Can I offer to maintain OT's schools for a few years than sell all it's assets?!
(5/15/2018 8:41:34 PM)
30
Yes, OT owns the place
It was sold to them by this very same “Rabbinical Board of East Flatbush.” Documents to that effect are a matter of public record. So yes, legally OT has the right to sell it. If the RBoEF doesn’t like it, there’s nothing preventing them from making an offer.
(5/15/2018 8:44:36 PM)
31
To number 26
You are absolutely right. The shul should not have been sold either. It was the first Lubavitcher Yeshivah in America.
But that wrong doesnt make what Oholei Torah is trying to d right.
I personally know people who donated funds to that Mikvah. They did not donate the money to Oholei Torah.
And now there is a growing community there that needs it and wants it.
Face up to it. It is wrong and can still be stopped.

(5/15/2018 8:46:41 PM)
32
Ridiculous
Let o.t. sell it to new buyer and hopefully a group of 100 families refurbish it
(5/15/2018 8:47:32 PM)
33
WHERE ARE THE REBBES CHASSIDUM?!
It’s ironic how our rebbe sold 770 in order to finish building the crown heights Mikvah, and the board of Oholei Torah has the chutzpah to sell the mikvah that the Jews and community of East Flatbush need!

A concerned chassid
(5/15/2018 8:47:39 PM)
34
East Flatbush is growing, we must keep the mikva
See this link: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=10HRCOqJWn4iyX3jKKeCaZgjz-vc&ll=40.65140162031725%2C-73.92511212059645&z=16

Important note: This list is not complete! There are more families and it keeps growing.

Lets try and hold on to a mikva that WILL be needed in the future!
(5/15/2018 8:48:13 PM)
35
Transfer details
The property was transferred in 2005 by Mendel Lerman from the Rabbinical Board of East Flatbush to Oholei Tora
As you can see at this link:
https://a836-acris.nyc.gov/DS/DocumentSearch/DocumentImageView?doc_id=2005082400300001
(5/15/2018 8:53:43 PM)
36
to # 26
1, Can you prove that OT ownership is legal?
2,Again can you explain, why should the community pay for something that was built for them?
3. they were not there all the years, because the community was in decline, one can no longer say the same thing.
4. what does the shul have to do with the mikva?
(5/15/2018 9:13:31 PM)
37
To 14
The address is:
340 E. 52nd Street
Brooklyn NY 11203
(5/15/2018 9:18:08 PM)
38
Owner
According to https://streeteasy.com/building/340-east-52-street-brooklyn#tab_building_detail=2 the legal owner is "Educational institute" which is OT
(5/15/2018 9:23:46 PM)
39
to #35

So let assume for arguments sake that this is truly a legal sale (remember about the anshei lubavitch sale in borough park and how legal that one was).

what we have here is that OT bought a building that was built by rabbi bukiet for 47 dollars (to record the sale), and they now want to sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who want to use it for a mikva!!
(5/15/2018 9:54:07 PM)
40
You’re missing the point...
The issue is not that OT or any group is selling a Mikva. I’m sure one is allowed to do that. The issue is, how do you sell a Mikva that people risked their lives for, and offer it for sale to build a 5,000 s/f house?!?!
PS - Has OT offered to sell the property to any current resident in this new community BEFORE offering for sale to a residential investor/user?

Lots of questions.... very few answers. Look forward to a response from OT BOD
(5/15/2018 9:57:14 PM)
41
Must step in and help!
It shouldn't be sold. I have no money to help but i think it is important for those of the community who can buy it should. shame on those who would let this mikveh go. They should have mesiras nefesh to protect it. I think chazal say something about putting this even before learning with children or something like that.
(5/15/2018 9:59:36 PM)
42
mikva
Honestly, I think this decision needs to be analyzed. OT is aware that this area is coming alive, with many young yingerleit buying houses in this area, creating a beautiful community expanding Crown Heights. They don't have a mikva in that area.
Do you think the Rebbe will approve of closing a mikva. The Rebbe so much supported strengthening communities in Crown Heights and here we are closing a Mikva and not strengthening a community.
I realize the Mikva is in disrepair, but then we need to raise the money to rebuild, not tear it down.
Tuvia Tatik
(5/15/2018 10:12:00 PM)
43
Reb Michoel's House
To #21
Yes when my grandfather would go every day to pick up Reb Michoel on the way to his Shul (that he was the Shamash of - COL please post the original story of how R' Michoel fought against the rov of that shul not to sell it ch"v to an ch urch for his retirement, and won) as they were both owned by reb michoel which made it part of oholei torah property.

Please oholei Torah - make us proud of you having made the right choice- sell it to the people who want to keep it open as reb michoel fought to do (living in a very dangerous neighborhood, far away walk from the rebbe...just to keep it open...
(5/15/2018 10:18:27 PM)
44
Agree with 8
Legally ownership is from OT
Make urgent an online campaign to buy it and OT happy EF happy ,donors happy to contribute to a mikveh
(5/15/2018 10:21:23 PM)
45
36 check your facts
You question the legality if the transfer? Check the document, it was done by a professional lawyer who would not risk his reputation o a fraudulent transaction. Besides it was insured by a title company who would be at risk of a big financial loss if they covered this transaction and it turned out to be a fraud..
And to all those compaining about losing a mikve, this mikve has fallen apart years ago and is no longer a mikve. Since then, squatters have moved in and destroyed the mikve. It was Oholei torah who went through the expense of evicting them.
Where was the rabbinical board back then? If someone wants to have a mikve in that area, this property is just as good as any other property. The infrastructure has already been destroyed, so you can build a mikve anywhere you like, and preferably not near church ave, which is not an ideal area for a mikve from a safety perspective.
(5/15/2018 10:43:59 PM)
46
Destroyed from within
And we cant even blame litvish or satmars on this one as is always so comfortable for us to do.
(5/15/2018 11:37:41 PM)
47
East Flatbush
East Flatbush is now a thriving community. There is a Chabad Minyan every Shabbos in the Young Israel on E 89 Street , between Ralph and Ave A. Please try join so the minyan will remain. Thank you for those who walk every Friday Night and Shabbos day to keep the minyan alive.
Thank you to the Sorkin Family that have the Zchus to arrange it weekly.
(5/15/2018 11:40:32 PM)
48
$200
Oholei Torah should have the right to return it to the East Flatbush Community for $200, the cost they incurred for acquiring the mikvah.

They shouldn't have rights to the sale of the Mikvah, they didn't even buy it!
(5/16/2018 1:19:08 AM)
49
Din Torah
There are Many stories where the Rebbe went out of his way to help save Mikvahs they were underutilised.

I am sure that if the Yidden go to a Din Torah with OT they will have a favourable outcome.

All interested parties should agree to settle the matter in a Din Torah.
(5/16/2018 6:52:11 AM)
50
OT it's time you start "thinking Breit"
Just a couple of months ago we all remember OT's 2 million+ campaign to "think breit" you reached out and pleaded to every member of the community to help you "think breit" in purchasing another building.

Why don't you practice what you preach? Look into the future a little bit there are many families who live around this Mikva. Where are their wives supposed to go to Mikva on a Friday night??!!

After the community is there for you in your "think breit" campaign why do you have to turn around and snub them by selling this mikva?

Did you allow anyone to take charge and assume responsibility for maintaining and up keeping the Mikva? The answer is no!

The correct thing to do would be to offer a group of Yungelait who live in East Flatbush to undertake the responsibility of maintaining the Mikva so that it's can be used as was originally intended
(5/16/2018 7:32:08 AM)
51
a few points
#47 East Flatbush is now a thriving community. "AND JOIN THE MINYAN TO KEEP IT GOING " if the comm is thriving why dont you have a minyan

if the mikva is broken ,and out of service , where has everyone been going these past years ... all the campaigners can help upgrade the usable mikva that is current
mesiras nefesh of those "yiddin " they are in lichtigen gan eden and that is ultimately the schar .. physical structures are not eternal
mikva before chinuch is when there are no options
the mikva building is now choshech and will be turned into light when the sale is finalised and OT can put the money to be mechanech yiddishe kinder
finally every 60 + years yiddin move its part of golus
(5/16/2018 8:26:09 AM)
52
to 45
1. In regards to the legality of the transfer: I refer you to the ongoing litigation on the Anshei Lubavitch sale in borough park. Just because you have a professional lawyer of insurance company and even have the AG sign off on the transfer, it does not mean that it can't/won't be challenged down the line.

2. in regards to OT dealing with squatters and the like:

Yes it is pretty sensible to ask the community to pay for the money it cost for that, but thats it, not a penny more. The second OT ask for more, then they go from being custodians to being squatters themselves.

3. as already said before, that the rabbinical board was inactive at the time, because the community was in decline, unlike today.

4. It is really doubtful that actual infrastructure of the mikva was destroyed. In addition just a few years ago bochurim would go toivel there. If it was destroyed only recently, then it is nobodies fault besides for OT.
In any even the building belongs to the community and it is time to give it back.
(5/16/2018 8:51:54 AM)
53
To 52
Agree
This must be a sick joke.
East flatbush now has the beginning of a new thriving community and as such needs a Mikvah. Let OT make money someplace else.
(5/16/2018 11:03:55 AM)
54
Ironic - Oholei Torah cites US Law
Regardless of whether the transfer was officially legal or not -
I find it interesting that OT is citing civil Law to defend its actions. How much civil law is taught at OT? Or civil law prep? Or even English comprehension?
When there's a conversation over, uhm, anything (educational positions to an eiruv to women's rights, as examples), how much of our great US Constitutional, statuatory or common Law is advocated at Oholei Torah?
Little to none.
To me, this is hypocrisy at its roots.
I grew up Lubavitch, and am no longer frum at all. I only know of this incident because the link was posted on my family chat. This type of hypocrisy is what eroded my faith, my interest, my rationale for frumkeit 20 years ago.
(5/16/2018 8:55:44 PM)
55
Response to #54
In response to #54...Although it is is painful to witness, or be on the receiving end of the failings, weaknesses, hypocrisy etc. of individual people in the community and/or community institutions, what has this to do with your own personal commitment and responsibility to Hashem and Judaism? If your faith and commitment, your blueprint for how you will conduct yourself as a jew is based on the example of humans, you will always be disappointed and disillusioned. You know what Hashem requires of YOU, so do it and stop complaining about what Hashem's other children are not doing. It is no excuse for your own failure to be observant, Try thinking about it from Hashem's perspective. He gives his children everything and they wine and complain and blame others for their own bad behavior, just like babies. How sad. You don't like the way some Jews act, then be the best Jew you can, and are required to be. Don't sink to the level of those you seem to think are the enemy and then use them as an excuse for not giving Hashem what he deserves. It is a cop out and it will only lead you to despair.
(5/22/2018 9:15:57 AM)
56
Torah is Emes
Don’t use the weaknesses you c in others as reasons for your escape from Toras Emes-Toras Chaim. You want Emes? Just practice Torah and Mitzvos and don’t look over your shoulders. Be real, be Emes, be happy and be rich by practicing Torah and Mitzvos. Nothing could be more truthful than being devoted to Hashem, His Torah and His Mitzvos.
(5/22/2018 3:46:15 PM)
57
Responses to #55 and #56
You guys may be right, and nonetheless corruption/hypocrisy/bad midos in leadership will lead members astray. Just the way it is..
(5/22/2018 9:21:35 PM)
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