Donor banned from synagogue, wants Torah and cash back

WSVN — He says he has donated $100,000 to a South Florida synagogue, and in return he is told, ‘If you come in here you will be arrested.’ Can he now get his donation back? It’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answer.

In the Jewish religion, every synagogue has a Torah.

Reuben Ezekiel, donor barred from synagogue: “It’s a scroll, it’s a lambskin, and it’s all written by hand.”

The Torah contains the word of God in Hebrew and is read at every service. It’s not easy to write.

Reuben Ezekiel: “Takes two years to make it. It was written in Israel.”

Because of the time it takes a rabbi to write the Torah, it’s expensive, and that’s why Reuben got a call from his rabbi at the Chabad of Plantation.

Reuben Ezekiel: “It’s a new shul. They were doing a ground breaking and they needed a Torah for the shul, so my Torah would be the first to donate to the shul. I did it to donate it to the shul.”

Reuben says this Torah costs him about $40,000, and this one was special to him.

Reuben Ezekiel: “It was dedicated to my mother that passed away.”

Then, as the chabad opened, Reuben says the rabbi asked him to loan them some money. Reuben says he wrote this check for $50,000.

Reuben Ezekiel: “Rabbi came to me, asked me for a loan, and I told him he could just keep the money. It was supposed to be a 30-day loan. No strings attached.”

Patrick Fraser: “You just gave it to them.”

Reuben Ezekiel: “I gave it to them.”

Patrick Fraser: “That’s pretty generous.”

Reuben Ezekiel: “Thank you.”

And how was his generosity repaid? Reuben again heard from the shul with this letter from the rabbi.

Reuben Ezekiel: “That I am not allowed in the shul. They will call the police, that I am trespassing. If I show up at any event or if I show up at any shul…”

Why toss a member out of the shul who donated so much money?

Reuben Ezekiel: “I have an idea. It has to do with my ex-in-laws who pretty much built the shul, and they don’t want me there.”

Reuben is being sued by his ex-mother-in-law and is suing his ex-father-in-law. Reuben says they donated a lot of money to build the shul, and he suspects they don’t want to see him at religious services anymore.

Reuben Ezekiel: “I didn’t think they would come after me in that way.”

The letter did say Reuben can have the Torah he dedicated to his mother. He also wants the $50,000 he donated to help the shul, so he can give it to another shul.

Reuben Ezekiel: “I would like to give it to somebody else. I don’t want the money back. I already donated that money.”

Well, Howard, Reuben says he donated nearly $100,000 in cash and a Torah. Can they then just throw him out?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes, they can. Legally, once you make a donation with no strings attached, you lose your rights to demand its return. Now, morally, it’s a different question, and it’s up to the recipient to decide what to do. And offering to return the Torah dedicated to Reuben’s mother is a nice gesture.”

I contacted the Chabad of Plantation’s Rabbi Mendy Posner. He called this a painful situation.

When I asked about getting the Torah back plus the $50,000 Reuben donated, he said that amount is not even close. He then added, “Tell him to have his lawyer send us a letter.”

When I asked why Reuben was barred from the shul, he said he knows. When I asked if it was because of his ex-in-laws, Rabbi Posner said it has nothing to do with them.

An attorney for the shul did tell me the Torah will definitely be returned to Reuben because this is a religious object. The attorney also said he couldn’t discuss any more details of the dispute.

Reuben Ezekiel: “I deserve an explanation.”

Reuben will continue to try to get his money back, and this won’t stop him from donating more money in the future.

Reuben Ezekiel: “I don’t regret anything because at the time, it was the right thing to do, so hopefully, they will return the money and I can donate the money again, and somebody will have use of the money that will appreciate that I gave them the money.”

Patrick Fraser: “If you donate money to any church or synagogue, and you want to make sure you can still go there no matter what happens, get strings attached. In other words, put it in writing. If they block you from attending services, they have to return your donation.

Religiously trying to solve a problem you have? Ready to donate it to us? Contact us. No strings attached with us, and with your blessing, hopefully we can throw you a life line. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.