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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777
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My Machberes

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Fighting Home Foreclosures

Today’s weak economy affects almost everyone, including members of the observant community. Being unemployed, or just not earning enough, can cause uncomfortable predicaments, including that of not being able to pay one’s mortgage bills. Should enough months pass without one’s fiscal profile improving, the holder of the mortgage will move to foreclose on the underlying property.

This applies as well to homeowners who are current with their mortgages but in default on real estate property taxes. New York City auctions off default tax bills, many of which are purchased by banks with aggressive collection arms. Banks want to get paid. After a deluge of threatening notices, legal letters begin to appear. How one deals with those legal letters can determine eventual results.

In Brooklyn, many such situations end up in the courtroom of New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Schack. Judge Schack is widely quoted in the national media on his handling of mortgage foreclosures. The New York Times noted in 2009 that he “tossed out 46 of the last 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him.”

Judge Schack feels that as a judge, his “job is to do justice.” legal papers presented to him must conform to legal requirements. He requires that the papers introduced in his Court must (a) prove there is a mortgage, (b) prove who owns the mortgage, and (c) prove the mortgage is in default. At times the actual owner of the mortgage is difficult to determine, especially after subsequent assignments.

Presently there are approximately 12,000 mortgage foreclosures in various stages of process in Brooklyn. Twenty-five percent of those cases are assigned to Judge Schack’s courtroom. Each case is unique. Some are adjudicated by modification, some are dismissed, and others are foreclosed.

Many judges across the country have followed his lead and have intensified their scrutiny of the paperwork being presented. As a result, more cases are dismissed. According to Judge Schack, there is no backlash. Banks are free to appeal. Favoring neither the big guy nor the little guy, he says his mission is to achieve justice – something that cannot be accomplished with faulty paperwork.

Justice Schack’s Background

Justice Schack is a Brooklyn native, a product of Brooklyn’s public schools and Brooklyn College, earning his law degree from New York Law School. He has served as counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association and maintained a general law practice, primarily in the areas of tax and real estate law. Judge Schack is also active in community affairs. In addition to being closely affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, he has been a member of Community Board 10, serving in many capacities.

NYS Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Shack

In 1998 Judge Schack was elected to New York City’s Civil Court for a 10-year term. In 2003 he was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. (In both elections, his candidacy was endorsed by The Jewish Press.) Impressively, more than 250 of his decisions were published by New York State Official Reports and the New York Law Journal. More than 50 of those decisions deal with foreclosure issues. In addition, he has been a guest speaker on foreclosure issues for the New York Judiciary, the Vermont Judiciary, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and major national business and financial media.

Greatly respected, he has been appointed an officer of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an executive of the New York City Association of Supreme Court Justices.

Judge Schack gives straightforward counsel, advising anyone in a difficult predicament to respond to all legal challenges. The courts will advise legal counseling, arbitration, compromises, settlements, and modification. All these possibilities are unavailable if the delinquent homeowner hides. The chances of holding on to one’s home are infinitely greater if one responds. The process, according to Judge Schack, can only help, and, of course, the sooner the better.


History Is Repeated In Hungary

The present Jewish population of Hungary is approximately 100,000, with most residing in Budapest. The first Jews settled in Hungary in the 11th century. The first record of an officially appointed rabbi for Buda, one of the three cities that eventually combined to become Budapest, was Rabbi Akiva ben Rabbi Menachem Hakohen zt”l in the 1400s. The first sefer to be published in Hungary was Minhagim Shel Kol Hamedina, in 1421, by Rabbi Rabbi Isaac Tirna, zt”l. This was before the printing press. The sefer was hand copied and circulated.

Chasam Sofer, zt"l

There were 45,000 Jews living in Budapest in 1869; 102,000 in 1890; 204,000 in 1910; and 205,000 in 1930. The Emancipation Act of 1868 granted the Jews equality before the law, and they were no longer excluded from owning property and holding public office.

Throughout the 1800s, observant Jewry in Hungary faced formidable challenges. The introduction of Reform and its official government endorsement brought about legislation requiring every Jew to affiliate with a Jewish community. Each locale was to have only one “community.” This would have forced observant Jews to join the predominant community, which was generally Reform.

Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zt”l (1762-1839) Pressburg Rav and author of Chasam Sofer, vehemently battled the Reform movement. His towering Torah scholarship earned the respect and support of all observant Jewry. His yeshiva was the largest and became the most important and influential in all of central Europe. His son, Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, zt”l (1815-1871), successor Pressburger Rav and author of Ksav Sofer, continued the battle.

Ksav Sofer, zt"l

Many dynamics were involved in the battle against Reform. After having abandoned the infamous Jewish Congress in 1869, in effect separating themselves from the Reform, the Orthodox won the sympathy of the liberal press, mobilized Jewish opinion throughout Europe in their favor, and joined the liberal left wing in Hungary’s Parliament, voting en bloc for their candidates. In 1871, the Orthodox achieved permission to form a separate national organization of kehillas. Following the Hungarian lead, the Orthodox Jews of Germany achieved separation in 1876.


Budapest 1950

The decimated Jewish community of post-World War II Budapest endeavored mightily to rebuild. At that time, all Jewish affairs were being conducted by the umbrella of a unified representation, which included the Orthodox and Reform. This went against the adoption of separation of 1869, but because of the prevailing circumstances, permission was given by Rabbi Aaron Rokeach, zt”l (1880-1957), fourth Belzer Rebbe, and by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l (1886-1979), Satmar Rebbe (Igros Maharit 47), upon which fourteen leading rabbis in Hungary in 1950 signed a Kol Koreh authorization to continue working within the unified representation, effectively a reunification.

Erlauer Rav, shlita

Among the signatories of that Kol Koreh was Rabbi Yochanon Sofer, Erlauer Rebbe now in Jerusalem. He is the only signatory still alive.

Today’s Erlauer Rav is the son of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zt”l Hy”d, (d. 1944), Erlauer Rosh Beth Din and author of Yad Moshe; son of Rabbi Shimon Sofer, zt”l Hy”d (1850-1944), Erlauer Rav and author of Hisorreros Teshuva; son of Rabbi Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, zt”l (1815-1871), Pressburger Rav and author of Ksav Sofer; son of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zt”l  (1762-1839) revered Pressburger Rav and author of Chasam Sofer.


Budapest 2011

At a meeting of Orthodox activists in Budapest just two weeks ago, Rabbi Moshe Tovia Weissberger, Rav of Khal Yeraim in Budapest, de facto Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Budapest, supported the current motion to separate from Reform congregations in their dealing with the government. Rabbi Weissberger read aloud a letter from the Erlauer Rav supporting the separation.

In addition, Rabbi Weissberger read aloud a letter from Rabbi Shimon Lemberger, Makava Rav in Kiryat Atta, Israel. Rabbi Lemberger’s father, Rabbi Moshe Noson Nuta Lemberger, zt”l (1909-1983), Makava Rav and author of Ateres Moshe, was one of the signatories. Rabbi Shimon Lemberger praised the decision to return to the resolution of the Chasam Soferand his disciples.

Shevet Levy, shlita

At the meeting, a motion was formally presented to the Orthodox Kehilla delegates to separate from the Reform community structure. All delegates at the meeting voted in favor. Just days later, a letter arrived from Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, author of Shevet Levi and considered the most authoritative chassidishe posek, endorsing the resolution to separate. Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, Rav of Jerusalem’s Eidah Hacharedis, forwarded his written approval of the separation, together with his blessing for the future success of the Orthodox community’s independence.

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

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  1. michael pell says:

    Great article on a great judge.
    As to Hungary, I think that the Orthodox community is strong enough now to stand on its
    own, but should keep some contact with the Reform side in case things “go south”.

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