In the paper the other day there was a story about Rita Pauker, the widow of Rabbi Norman Pauker. Rita has been desperately trying to get the Torahs back from the congregation they had been loaned to since her husband's death seven years ago. After Rabbi Pauker’s congregation closed in 1998, he entered into an agreement with Rabbi Ohana stating the conditions of the loan. Each Rabbi signed the agreement. Even though the Beit Din (Jewish court) ruled in favor of Rita, it wasn’t enough to get Rabbi Ohana, a former assistant to Rabbi Pauker, to hand them over. Not only does Rabbi Ohana not want to give the Torahs back, he claims that he never signed any such agreement suggesting the document is a fake. Rita was hoping to gift the Torahs to relatives in the Rabbinate and Rabbi Ohana is claiming that he is protecting the Torahs from being sold. He said that when a Torah is gifted it belongs not to one person but the entire congregation. I understand the logic but it seems kind of convenient. While Rabbi Ohana decided to appeal to a higher Jewish court in Jerusalem, Rita has gone the civil route and hired a lawyer.
Why is Rabbi Ohana, an unpaid leader of a tiny congregation in Los Angeles, fighting so hard to keep the Torahs? Without a Torah it would be just a bunch of people gathering. I get why he’s fighting so hard but perhaps he should consider giving back all but one (from the photo it looks like there are four). While I believe that a Torah is not a family heirloom, I hope there is some way Rita will find Shalom, whatever the outcome.