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Elmora Hebrew Center Inc. v. Fishman

Decided: March 13, 1987.

ELMORA HEBREW CENTER, INC., A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
YALE M. FISHMAN, CHARLES APTOWITZER, HOWARD POLLICK, MARK MASON AND BRUCE BUECHLER, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court, Chancery Division, Union County.

Petrella, Gaynor and Scalera. The opinion of the court was delivered by Petrella, P.J.A.D.

Petrella

This appeal raises an issue of potential interference by a civil court in matters of religious polity, notwithstanding the claim by plaintiff that the issues are solely contractual or civil in nature. Implicated in this appeal is the relationship between Elmora Hebrew Center (EHC), a Jewish synagogue, and its rabbi, and the nature of the action of the Board of Trustees of EHC in attempting to discharge that rabbi, defendant Yale M. Fishman.

EHC filed a complaint*fn1 in the Chancery Division against the rabbi, as well as against certain other members of the congregation (persons who claim to have been properly elected to supersede the former president of EHC and the Board of Trustees). The complaint against Rabbi Fishman alleged the following as grounds for his discharge:

a) he has not fulfilled his duties as a rabbi to the congregation;

b) he behaved deceptively with regard to his purported employment contract;

c) he lied to the Board of Trustees in the presence of the Holy Torahs in the Sanctuary of the EHC;

d) he subjected the congregation to embarrassment and diminution in the community by revealing himself as a person lacking in the dignity, self-control and judgment required of the spiritual leader of the EHC;

e) he diverted funds granted to the EHC by the Jewish Federation of Union County to a corporation controlled by him without the knowledge or authorization of either the Center or the Federation. In addition, he did not use these funds as agreed but misapplied them;

f) he has been uncooperative and evasive in accounting to the Board of Trustees despite legitimate inquiry into his actions and the corporation controlled by him;

g) he has by his acts and inaction contributed to bringing the EHC to the brink of ...


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