The Ohr Somayach yeshiva and conference center in Monsey is suing to block a contributor from reclaiming $6.5 million in donations.
Ohr Somayach is asking federal court in White Plains to issue a declaratory judgment against Farleigh International Ltd., a British Virgin Islands corporation associated with Russian-American billionaire Evgeny Shvidler, declaring that the donations are irrevocable.
Farleigh International contributed nearly $6.5 million to Ohr Somayach from 1989 to 2014, the lawsuit states, and most of the money was used to build the conference center.
Ohr Somayach, also known as the Joseph Tanenbaum Education Center, is a religious nonprofit organization founded in 1977 in Yonkers and later relocated to Monsey.
The men’s college offers Talmudic, ethical and philosophical studies, according to its website. The Beit Shvidler Conference Center, built from 2005 to 2008, holds family retreats that seek to build family cohesion and harmony.
On Nov. 12, Farleigh International demanded the return of $6.65 million in donations – nearly $200,000 more than Ohr Somayach says it received – purportedly for not using the money for “certain outreach purposes.”
Farleigh claimed that the conference center is vacant or rented out commercially, according to the complaint, needs maintenance and has been managed improperly. Farleigh demanded copies of the conference center’s books and records, including a list of all events held there for more than ten years.
“Farleigh’s position is based on misinformation received from a former member of Ohr Somayach’s senior administration,” the complaint states, “who is no longer affiliated with Ohr Somayach following an arbitral ruling as to certain disputes.”
The former administrator is not identified.
Ohr Somayach argues that Farleigh’s demands are unlawful. The donations may not be revoked, they may not limit how the religious organization operates and they do not give Farleigh the right to dictate how the conference center is used.
Even if the donations did restrict how the conference center is used, the complaint states, Ohr Somayach has fulfilled the intended educational and enrichment purposes.
Attempts to find a spokesperson for Farleigh International’s side of the story were unsuccessful.
Ohn Somayach is represented by Manhattan attorney Jonathan M. Proman.