Members of a Florida Orthodox Jewish congregation said they feel a bank’s action to foreclose on a loan and seize Sifrei Torah as assets is unconscionable. Howard Dubosar, a lawyer for Congregation Chabad-Lubavitch near Boynton Beach, said the threat by the Stonegate Bank to seize Torahs is “a desecration. This bank is playing hardball,” the Palm Beach Post reported Thursday.
Dubosar said the bank’s foreclosure motion was “calculated to harm the psyche of this religious institution. This is the holiest time of the year. It’s like foreclosing on a church on Christmas Eve.”
David Seleski, the bank’s president, said it isn’t trying to attack the synagogue through its religion. “We just want to get paid.”
The Chabad filed Chapter 11 in July, which usually puts a halt to all litigation, but Seleski said the filing was made in bad faith to stall for time, the Post reported.
Chabad members say the bank could have instituted proceedings in July, but instead it waited until September to coincide with the holiest days of the Jewish year and cause consternation to the group of observant Jews.
The bank’s motion was filed Sept. 10, which is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and the date for hearing the bank’s motion is Sept. 24, which is the Jewish holy day of Sukkot.
“The Torah is the most sacred object in Judaism. I don’t think it should be treated like a commodity. It is the soul of a congregation, and you can’t repossess a soul,” said Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Congregation in Palm Beach.
“We will be sensitive to the issues surrounding any religious artifact. We’re not going to go in there and burn them,” Seleski said of the five Torah scrolls.
Many institutions are having a hard time in this economy and the bank should try to work out something with Chabad, Scheiner said.