Myths and Facts: Yesodei Hatorah vs Elwood Shule

[Apologies: Many of you submitted comments, but I couldn’t turn comments off for this post. I had never intended that this post would induce discussion as this would just end up as flame fodder]

In a previous post, I mentioned that the truth will come out. I will resist the temptation to be more expansive and limit myself to incontrovertible cold facts. Do not ask me to expand on these as I don’t wish to reignite. Rather, my intention is to go on the record so that rampant misinformation doesn’t permeate.

Below, ETTC stands for Elwood Talmud Torah Congregation (Elwood Shule). YHT stands for Yesodei Hatorah College, as led by Messrs Lipkies and Casen, on behalf of their board.

Myth:  ETTC never got along with YHT and tried to close down the School
Fact:  ETTC tried for a number of years to conclude an ordinary long term lease for YHT based on reasonable commercial rates.

Myth: ETTC did not support the school in tangible ways
Fact:  ETTC supported both the original establishment of the School and provided a most favourable rental fee for use of ETTC buildings. In fact, YHT paid no rent for many years, and when they later agreed to a nominal rental of $20,000 per annum in return for providing regular mispallelim for ETTC’s daily minyanim, YHT failed to honour this commitment. The bottom line: when compared to normal rental fees over the years, ETTC has supported YHT to the tune of more than 1.5 million dollars.

Myth: ETTC should have offered a better deal to YHT when discussions about a more permanent lease began and none of the litigation from YHT would have transpired.
Fact: ETTC made offers more generous than that ultimately accepted by YHT. All of these offers were rejected by YHT

Myth: ETTC initiated court action against YHT
Fact: YHT brought the legal proceedings against ETTC and ETTC was obliged to defend itself.

Myth: ETTC forced YHT to go to arbitration
Fact: ETTC had no choice but to go to arbitration and in doing so prevented YHT from effectively taking over the premises

Myth: The issue was simply over the existence of a lease
Fact: YHT sought damages of more than 1 million dollars against ETTC

Myth: YHT actually had a lease and ETTC were being difficult
Fact: After a thorough and lengthy arbitration hearing ex Federal Court Judge, the Honourable Alan Goldberg AO QC,  ruled decisively in ETTC’s favour and awarded ETTC the costs of arbitration

Myth: After Goldberg’s findings ETTC went after more money from YHT
Fact: YHT did not accept the umpire’s decision and appealed on a technicality to the Supreme Court (one assumes they had Halachic permission to do so?)

Myth: ETTC wasted money by defending itself in the Supreme Court
Fact: YHT hired arguably the most expensive and high-profiled QC in Victoria who eventually unearthed a technicality that questioned but one aspect of Goldberg’s findings. ETTC had no choice but to defend itself once more.

Myth: The appeal in the Supreme Court found in favour of YHT
Fact: The appeal was allowed (on a procedural issue) but made no substantive findings

Myth: ETTC will be in a worse financial situation because it vigorously defended itself against YHT’s claims
Fact: ETTC will recoup over $2m in rent as per the new lease which will more than cover its costs and provide a much needed injection of fresh income for new projects to reinvigorate the Shule.

Myth: ETTC and YHT are sworn enemies
Fact: ETTC hopes that relations with YHT will be harmonious and is very sad that YHT sought the action that they did and that they chose to reject a deal put on the table by the current ETTC board which would have seen YHT with a much better outcome than what transpired.

Disclaimer: I am a board member and long-term member of Elwood Shule. This post, however, was not approved of by the Board and is not to be seen as representing anything but my own summary.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

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