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CONGREGATION BETH YITZHOK v. BRISKMAN

June 6, 1983

CONGREGATION BETH YITZHOK and CONGREGATION BETH DAVID CHASIDEI SKOLE, INC., both New York religious corporations, Plaintiffs,
v.
PINKAS BRISKMAN, ELIEZER RABINOWITZ (a/k/a LEO H. RABINOWITZ), and MEIER RABINOWITZ, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCLAUGHLIN

ORDER

 McLAUGHLIN, District Judge

 INTRODUCTION

 By this civil action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 ("RICO"), 84 Stat. 941 et seq., 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, plaintiffs, two Chassidic corporations, seek an injunction, an accounting, damages, and attorney's fees. Federal jurisdiction is premised on §§ 1964(a) & (c) of Title 18, and on 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiffs also allege that this Court has pendent jurisdiction over two New York statutory causes of action.

 Defendants have moved to dismiss the action, pursuant to Rule 12(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., on a number of grounds: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) nonjusticiability; (3) lack of authorization for plaintiffs to commence this suit; and (4) lack of the requisite specificity and particularity in pleading.

 THE PARTIES

 Plaintiff Congregation Beth Yitzhok ("Beth Yitzhok") is a religious corporation, duly organized under New York State law. Members of the Congregation are adherents of the Chassidic sect of Judaism. Plaintiff Congregation Beth David Chasidei Skole ("Beth David") is another religious corporation properly organized under New York law. Beth David is a cemetery membership association, whose members need not belong to Beth Yitzhok.

 The three defendants are Eliezer and Meier Rabinowitz, who are brothers, and Pinkas Briskman, who is their brother-in-law.

 BACKGROUND

 The religious leader of this particular enclave of Chassidism, which was established in the mid-1700's in Southeastern Poland, is called the "Skolyer Rebbe." In 1920, Rabbi David Yitzhok Eizek Rabinowitz became the Skolyer Rebbe, and he and his followers emigrated to the United States in 1939. They founded Beth David in 1940 and Beth Yitzhok in 1944.

 The wellspring of this litigation was the death of Rabbi Rabinowitz on February 3, 1979. The Skolyer Rebbe had three sons: the two defendants, Eliezer and Meier Rabinowitz; and a third brother, Baruch Pinkas Rabinowitz, who is not a party. Plaintiffs claim that each son was offered, but declined, succession to the position of Skolyer Rebbe. Therefore, say the plaintiffs, the title passed to Rabbi Rabinowitz' eldest grandson, Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Rabinowitz, son of Baruch Pinkas Rabinowitz.

 INCIDENTS GIVING RISE TO THIS LITIGATION

 Plaintiffs assert that, upon the death of Eizek Rabinowitz, defendants began to engage in the unlawful conduct that constitutes the substance of this action. Defendants are charged with: remaining in possession of, and converting to their own use, the property of the Skolyer Rebbe; opening a "bogus" bank account in a name similar to that used by plaintiff Beth Yitzhok; embezzling money from plaintiffs' bank accounts, and redepositing that money in the "bogus" account; seizing plaintiffs' mailing lists and then soliciting donations, purportedly on behalf of the Skolyer Rebbe; seizing telephone lists of Beth Yitzhok for the purpose of soliciting contributions; and seizing control of Beth David. Also asserted, as pendent state claims, are violations of Section 5 of the New York Religious Corporation Law (prohibiting diversion of funds from religious corporations), and of Section 133 of the New York General Business Law (prohibiting the use of a name or address with intent to deceive).

 Defendants do not appear to dispute plaintiffs' assertion that the three sons of the Skolyer Rebbe declined to accept the mantle of leadership. Defendants, however, vigorously contest plaintiffs' assertion that the unwillingness of the Skolyer Rebbe's sons to ...


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