Cityfront: Dispute threatens functions at Great Synagogue

Heichal Shlomo warns it will not be responsible for events scheduled past May 20, after a fall-out with the hall operator.

At one of Jerusalem's most well-known spots for holding family celebrations, there's not a lot of simha in the air. Heichal Shlomo, which owns the events hall in the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, released a statement on March 29 warning that it is not responsible for any events scheduled past May 20, as the operator of the hall, Yisrael Erlinger, has been asked to leave and has been requested not to hold any events in the hall past that date. According to Gura Berger, press representative for Heichal Shlomo, Heichal Shlomo brought an arbitration suit against Erlinger at the rabbinic court in Kiryat Ono on February 19, claiming that Erlinger had violated the terms of his contract on three counts: by operating without a valid business license since 2005; by failing to make some of the rental payments to Heichal Shlomo; and by not presenting Heichal Shlomo with a bank guarantee for continued operation of the hall. As per the rabbinic court ruling, Erlinger was given 30 days to present payment and a valid bank guarantee, and six months to acquire a business license. If after the 30 days those conditions were not met, the rabbinic court ruled that Erlinger's business must vacate the hall in three months' time. On March 23, Erlinger presented payment to Heichal Shlomo; however, the payment was made after the 30-day period had passed and was short a quarter of a million dollars, and no bank guarantee was produced, according to Benzion Lipschitz, counsel for Heichal Shlomo. "After 30 days had elapsed, they didn't fix the issues, and what they did give Heichal Shlomo clearly wasn't sufficient," said Berger. Last week, Lipschitz went before the district court to impel enforcement of the rabbinic court ruling. "I am very confident about my client's case. It's simple to see the facts are on our side." In the meantime, the district court has granted Erlinger a restraining order against Heichal Shlomo to prevent its advertisement of Erlinger's pending eviction, as it would be damaging to his future business. Despite this, Lipschitz defended Heichal Shlomo's March 29 release, saying, "If we succeed in getting this enforced, couples who have weddings scheduled there will have nowhere to go, and they should be aware of the situation." Yisrael Mandel, Erlinger's counsel in the suit, paints an entirely different picture. "Everything according to the arbitration decision was served," said Mandel, "and I believe he [Erlinger] will be successful." After getting wind of the information Heichal Shlomo released despite the restraining order, Mandel claimed, "This sounds like they're trying to come from behind and sabotage Mr. Erlinger's business. This should be dealt with in its proper place in court, not in the press. The court has already recognized this should not be public." Mandel asserted that "My client invested over a million dollars in the hall, and now they want him out so they can have it themselves. But that doesn't mean he's going to leave." Mandel further noted that at the present time, there is no court order for Erlinger's eviction on May 20, and no eviction suit has yet been filed.