Long Island rabbis accused of ‘Mafia-like’ methods in kosher turf battle

Call them La Kosher Nostra.

A clique of rabbis on Long Island are being accused of Mafia-like techniques to keep up what quantities to a monopoly over the native kosher certification course of — sparking a twisted turf battle that has outraged native residents and companies alike, The Post has discovered.

A lawsuit filed final month by Chimichurri Charcoal Chicken — positioned on the busy Rockaway Turnpike throughout from a McDonald’s — claims the rabbis behind the Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway ordered observant residents to cease consuming on the hen joint final 12 months after it began utilizing a competing certification service.

The Vaad — led by Rabbi Yosef Eisen, who can be named in the go well with filed in Nassau County — even killed Chimichurri’s profitable catering work in a retaliatory transfer, courtroom papers declare.

“The existing Vaad does not want competition, is afraid of the competition, and is trying to use its power to drive them — or attempt to drive them — out of business,” the lawsuit says.

The Vaad’s lawyer, Frank Snitow, advised The Post the lawsuit “is entirely without merit,” including that “Rabbis have an obligation and a right under the First Amendment to guide their communities with respect to religious issues and this does constitute a religious issue.”

Cedarhurst steakhouse FiveFifty Restaurant used a rabbinical courtroom in a failed try and resolve a criticism about kosher certification.
Dennis A. Clark

The criticism gives a uncommon glimpse into an influence battle inside an Orthodox Jewish group that, till now, has been dealt with privately and by the rabbinical courts, sources mentioned. But some residents are happy to see it lastly spilling into public view, claiming the Vaad has been abusing its authority to resolve which institutions can declare to comply with correct kosher dietary restrictions, together with whether or not they appropriately maintain separate utensils for meat and dairy.

“Kosher supervising is a big business and for the rabbis it’s about power,” mentioned one fed-up Five Towns resident. “This case is about injustice and bullying.”

Chimichurri claims its issues began final July after it dropped the Vaad — the dominant kosher certification operation in city — for a rival known as Mehadrin of the Five Towns. Unwilling to just accept the loss of enterprise, the Vaad issued a “defamatory” assertion blasting Chimichurri’s kosher meals requirements, the lawsuit claims.

The Vaad mentioned it “must categorically and absolutely recommend to all of the members of our community that they avoid eating at the restaurants under that [new service],” courtroom papers say. The Vaad particularly named Chimichurri in addition to Keneret FreshMarket in Hewlett, NY, and a kosher steakhouse in Cedarhurst known as FiveFifty Restaurant, in line with the go well with.

The Vaad’s actions carried weight in half as a result of it gained the assist of 53 rabbis from Five Towns to assist the transfer, sources mentioned.

Many enterprise homeowners refused to overtly remark for this story, citing worry of retaliation. One exception was Arthur Ashirov, proprietor of Keneret Fresh Market, who mentioned he’s seen revenues drop 10 % for the reason that Vaad’s letter denounced his small grocery in July.

“The Vaad doesn’t want to have competitors. That’s the bottom line,” mentioned Ashirov, who says he’s unlikely to sue as a result of it’s going to value an excessive amount of. He mentioned he’s sticking with the rival certification service as a result of he thinks they’re doing an excellent job and are cheaper.

“I have no issues with the Mehadrin,” Ashirov advised The Post. “They are very attentive and they charge a flat fee while the Vaad charges extra for everything they do.”

Asked concerning the Vaad’s charges, its lawyer, Snitow, mentioned, “I understand that people complain about the expense, but the Vaad would be hiring people with less qualifications” if it charged much less.

Eisen didn’t return requires remark. The Mehadrin additionally didn’t reply to requests for remark. The Vaad claimed in public statements final summer time that it had a official motive to ask observant Jews to cease patronizing sure companies based mostly on issues about potential conflicts of pursuits, the criticism mentioned.

Chimichurri, owned by businessman Zvi Ben-Yoseff, claims Vaad’s edict final summer time had a chilling impact on enterprise, with clients reaching out by way of textual content to say they had been being pressured to cease consuming there. Catering enterprise in Westchester and Plainview additionally went away, it mentioned.

In one occasion, a buyer who “previously organized an enormous volume of weekly deliveries” to Westchester “indicated via text message that he had to stop doing the deliveries due to pressure from his local rabbi,” the lawsuit claimed. A supply advised The Post the deliveries had been going to a Westchester college.

Chimichurri and FiveFifty Restaurant tried to settle the battle final spring in rabbinical courtroom, in line with rabbinical courtroom papers obtained by The Post. But the rabbis behind the Vaad, together with Eisen, by no means confirmed up for the listening to.

Nearly a 12 months later in April, the rabbinical courtroom blasted the Vaad rabbis for having “brazenly abused their rabbinic pedigree by insisting that their actions and intentions are beyond mortal scrutiny,” rabbinical courtroom papers present. Accordingly, the rabbinical courtroom took the uncommon step of granting permission for the companies to sue in secular courtroom.

Chimichurri and its proprietor didn’t return requests for remark. The proprietor of FiveFifty Restaurant additionally declined to remark.

Tomer Tao, proprietor of Jerusalem Mini Market, a small nook store in Cedarhurt that sells challah bread and Israeli model salads, says he, too, believes he was retaliated in opposition to final 12 months after he dropped the Vaad for a Brooklyn rabbi who was charging much less.

“I got in a fight with one of their supervisors and it got nasty — I felt extorted,” proprietor Tomer Tao, advised The Post. The Vaad supervisor, he mentioned, “would come in two or three times a day to check for bugs in the produce at $25 an hour. We couldn’t afford that.”

He claims the Vaad slandered him by telling folks in the native synagogues to not store at his retailer “because I’m ‘not kosher’,” he mentioned.

“I defended myself and warned them that I would sue them for damaging my business. They don’t have a right to tell people not to shop with me.”

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