As is well known, there had unfortunately been an ongoing conflict in the Beis Din of Crown Heights for many years. About ten years ago, a Zabla Din Torah (acronym for Zeh–this one, Borer–chooses, Lo– for him, Echad–one; a procedure for convening a rabbinical court of law) took place with the intent of resolving the situation. Following the Psak, there were elections for a new Vaad Hakohol, Gaboim and an additional Rov. Unfortunately, disagreements arose once again despite the new determinations.
In addition, multiple cases have been taking place over the past ten years in the secular courts at the state, appellate and federal levels.
The trademark case on the federal level was concerning the CHK Kashrus of Crown Heights.
Now, Baruch Hashem, after years of disagreements and conflicts, true Achdus and Shalom has been achieved between all the members of the Crown Heights Beis Din; Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba, Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Schwei and Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun.
ChabadInfo.com wanted to learn more about the internal workings of these important cases and understand how Shalom was actually reached after so many years of discord. How did something that would have sounded like a miracle just a few weeks ago, actually become a reality?
We reached out to the attorney R’ Levi Huebner, the man behind the peace, for an exclusive interview.
R’ Levi began with an upbeat statement; “Baruch Hashem, there is true Shalom in the Rebbe’s Beis Din, the Beis Din of Crown Heights! This settles all the ongoing cases, on all the different levels associated with the Beis Din and the Kashrus.”
Have you been involved all these years, if not, when did you get involved with this?
About three months ago, I received a call from R’ Yossi Popack since the attorneys for Rabbi Osdoba, Rabbi Levertov and Rabbi Segal – David Abramson and Howard Wintner – had withdrawn from the Kashrus trademark case. R’ Popack wanted to know if I could take on the case.
After looking into the case, I agreed to become their attorney.
What were your initial steps, after becoming their attorney?
I began researching all the relevant documents and familiarizing myself with the history of the case. I quickly realized that the legal teams on both sides had made many errors and omissions.
R’ Levi added, “Sometimes attorneys enjoy the cases not settling and taking longer, which means more business for them.”
Can you give us a brief timeline of events? What happened and when?
As mentioned, I joined the case about three months ago. After a lot of back and forth between all parties, we were still headed for trial.
The case was originally in front of Judge Block. Trial was scheduled for June 12, 2019 and a pre-trial conference was held before Judge Block on June 4, 2019.
The prior attorneys firm had an explosion in their building so they weren’t able to access certain documents I needed for trial. Therefore, at the pre-trial conference I asked Judge Block to adjourn the case. At first, because of the actions of the prior attorneys he was not excited to do so. However, after I was able to show how I could actually present a strong case for my clients and was not merely seeking delay for no reason, Judge Block agreed to adjourn the case to July 22, 2019. Due to his busy schedule, however, it would proceed before Judge Roanne L. Mann, a Magistrate Judge.
Judge Mann, required an immense amount of pre-trial preparation, memos, reports and exhibit lists with objections. In addition, we had several pre-trial conferences before Judge Mann. Phenomenally, Judge Mann put a lot of effort into understanding the case, including the state cases and the prior Rosenberg Beis Din proceedings.
In addition to preparing for trial, the attorneys for both sides began discussing different options. Initially, there were only three viable options in front of us:
1) To settle the case with two separate CHK’s. Of course, it is not ideal for a community to have two competing Kashrus institutions.
2) To go to trial, and fight until the end, leaving possibly one winner, two losers, or other mixed outcomes. This was not ideal, besides the uncertainty, is also demanded dragging all the parties through a complicated trial.
3) To go back to the Zabla from about 10 years ago, headed by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenberg, and request that they listen once again to the relevant facts and decide on the case.
However, after learning all the details of the case, I started seeing that maybe there was another option that would be a win-win situation. A win for all the litigants, a win for the community, and most importantly a win for the Rebbe.
Was this difficult to present to the two sides, and for them to accept the new idea?
Once the situation became clear, everyone saw how this was really the best.
Once everyone understood that the previous attorneys had been misleading, the reality that Shalom and Achdus was possible was clear to everyone and the right approach was in front of us.
Then what happened?
One day, as we were working towards finalizing the peace agreement, with everyone being excited regarding the new developments, the prior attorneys David Abramson and Howard Wintner, had gotten wind of the pending settlement and they gave me a call to ask about their former clients’ case. I gave them the courtesy of taking their call, and having a conversation with them.
We had a lengthy conversation for about thirty minutes, at the end of the conversation, Mr. Abramson asked “If there is a settlement, with one unified Beis Din, what happens if they send a Hazmanah (Jewish judicial summons) regarding the ‘770 case’ (a completely separate legal battle, not connected with the Beis Din or Kashrus cases)?”
Mr. Abramson’s question raised an apparent conflict, where in turn R’ Levi asked “who are your clients in the ‘770 case’?”
He responded “We are representing Rabbi Krinsky and Rabbi Shemtov in that case”
R’ Levi said “sounds to me like you have a conflict because you are handling a case, that may be affected by this settlement.”
Could you tell us more about the settlement?
The settlement between all three Rabbonim was agreed to on Monday, Yud Beis Tammuz.
On Tuesday, Yud Gimmel Tammuz, Rabbi Osdoba and Rabbi Levertov (who was involved because of the Kashrus) signed.
On Thursday, Tes Vov Tammuz, Rabbi Schwei and Rabbi Braun signed.
Later that day, at 8:00pm on Thursday evening, after all the sides had already signed, Howard Wintner, the former attorney, filed a letter objecting to the settlement.
That Thursday, less than one hour later, Tes Vov Tammuz, the honorable Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann issued an order saying that the Judge is not entertaining an application by an attorney who has been terminated.
On Friday, Tes Zayin Tammuz, there was a conference in court among all parties to finalize the settlement in the court with the Judge. Guess who showed up in court? The two terminated lawyers, David Abramson and Howard Wintner. The Judge was very upset that attorneys not involved in the case showed up, overtly trying to ruin the settlement.
So, what happened in the court room on Friday?
Everything seemed good, all sides were excited about the day, the developments, and the final settlement.
I have to add that both sides had a number of parties involved and directors of companies who were indirectly involved. On Friday there was still one hold out who had yet to sign the agreement.
After some back and forth he too signed the agreement.
Were there any changes made to the agreement before he signed?
No, it was the same agreement already signed by all the Rabbonim.
What would be the case if he didn’t sign?
Being that it was a stand-alone, there wouldn’t be much of a case for him, even if he wanted to go to trial. Once again, this was because all the other parties agreed to the settlement.
What happened with the two former attorneys who showed up in court?
The Judge did not send them out of the court room, she let them state all their claims in order to help avoid any future appellate issues.
I’ll give you some of the word for word quotes from the transcripts of the hearing, so you can understand the way things were going:
The Judge: “The fact that others who are not parties to this lawsuit may not like this settlement, may feel that is against their interest in other matters, that is not the Courts concern”
R’ Levi: “There is going to be one CHK and one Beis Din and Rabbi Osdoba doesn’t want to go forward any more with litigation. He wants this case resolved. As far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t want to step into court again.”
Mr. Abramson: “I don’t know if Rabbi Osdoba said that. it’s totally false. That’s not what happened. And I’m the best one to say that to your honor.”
The Judge: “So you’re in here calling your client a liar?”
Notably, David Abramson had no coherent response.
After R’ Levi brought up the phone call conversation he had with the former attorneys, and about their conflict of interest, Mr. Abramson said: “I’m very upset that he would bring that up as a reason, it’s ridiculous your honor”
The Judge: “It’s not ridiculous. You can have your explanations but, never the less, it raises question about the motive of those who are seeking to obstruct the resolution of this case.”
As you can see from these snippets of the conference, the Judge was extremely knowledgeable and bright and was in full support of the settlement that was reached. B’chasdei Hashem, despite the interference of David Abrams and Howard Wintner, the case was settled along with the state cases and the appeals.
Does this have potential legal ramifications?
Absolutely. In fact, this settlement supersedes all/any prior settlements or agreements.
All the other cases and appeals connected to the Beis Din or the Kashrus were dismissed.
Are there any other Askunim who were involved in making this happen?
I would like to thank everyone that was involved behind the scenes. A specific note of appreciation goes to R’ Yossi Popack and his legal advisor Paul Hoffman, for bringing me into the case, and for R’ Yossi Popack supporting his Rov, Rabbi Osdoba, and the final decision of the Rabbonim to have one united Beis Din.
Is there something you would attribute to your success in this unique case?
The week before Gimmel Tammuz, every morning, I had a Shiur with R’ Yoske Levin, of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Ma’amer of Pasach Eliyahu which focused on making reality. That shiur was a great Chizuk in believing that it can happen, and that everything is from the Rebbe.
R’ Levi finished off with a nice Hashgacha Pratis story:
On Wednesday morning, while all of this was going on, Yud Gimmel Tammuz, I suddenly had a problem with my vision and I had to have an emergency procedure.
The retina specialist’s office was supposed to be closed because of a conference. By Hashgacha Pratis, the conference was pushed off and he was there, leaving the typically very busy office – very quiet.
In addition to a quite visit, this gave me an opportunity to share with Dr. Solly Elmann what was on my mind – the settlement. I told him that on Friday I was scheduled to be in Court to finalize the settlement. Dr. Elmann, of a prominent a Lebanese Jewish family, was very excited about unity between the Rabbonim.
I had an important follow up appointment on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon scheduled for 1:30, the last appointment of the day, which should have been plenty of time, being that the court conference was scheduled for 10:30am.
The “brief conference” ended taking over nearly five hours. However, Dr. Elmann stayed open hours later for me, being that he himself was so excited that the peace between the Rabbonim would be finalized.
Also, on Yud Gimmel Tammuz the first P’sak the united Beis Din issued was that I should have a Refuah Shleima. Baruch Hashem, this Friday, July 26 I had a follow-up with Dr. Elmann and he informed me that the procedure was successful and G-d willing I will not need surgery.
May we merit to true peace among all of Klal Yisroel, together with the coming of Moshiach now!