Holocaust memorial suit dropped against S.F. doctor

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A lawsuit accusing San Francisco allergist Dr. Vadim Kvitash of dipping into funds intended for a Holocaust memorial has been withdrawn.

In April, an organization calling itself the Odessa Compatriots Association filed a suit against Kvitash and San Francisco Rabbi Shimon Margolin, claiming they had diverted funds from a memorial for Odessa's Holocaust victims for which they had been soliciting donations since 1998.

The compatriots opted to drop the suit against the Ukranian-born Kvitash without prejudice on June 30, though the suit against Margolin still stands.

Kvitash's attorney, James Bruen, likened the lawsuit to "a drive-by shooting." He said the plaintiffs quickly dropped the suit when he asked attorney John Weinstein to remove "intentionally inflammatory" language from the suit and identify the "actual people" who make up the compatriot association.

Weinstein countered that the lawsuit was not written in an intentionally inflammatory manner, and said the suit was only dropped against Kvitash because he recently suffered a heart attack and is in poor health.

Bruen claimed the suit was akin to "throwing out a grenade and asking for money when you're not qualified to receive the money.

"Anonymous people made a lot of claims, and when asked to support it, they dropped it…All we did was ask questions and it was withdrawn. But the damage is done [to Kvitash] because of publicity."

Sam Targan, a compatriots association board member, said the suit was dropped because Kvitash "got a heart attack, and there were a lot of articles, dirty articles, against us" in the Russian-language press, as well as "threats."

Both Kvitash and Margolin claim Targan has held a vendetta against them for years, which spurred the lawsuit. Targan denies this.

When asked what legal steps, if any, he would take against the compatriots, Kvitash curtly cut off a phone interview, stating, "it is not your business what I am planning, what I am going to do."

Meanwhile, Michael Sweet, whose law firm has tentatively agreed to represent Margolin and his Techiah Foundation, pro bono, said he is hopeful the two parties can settle amicably.

"I think we should be able to find a way to resolve this thing. I think it will be in everyone's interest to get this monument built, and I'm hopeful we can do that," he said.

"If we can't reach a resolution, and we're able to finalize the terms of our engagement [with Margolin], then our firm will vigorously defend Rabbi Margolin against what we believe is a frivolous action."

Weinstein confirmed having several preliminary discussions with Sweet, and also expressed a desire for an out-of-court settlement.

"Quite frankly, if we can get some kind of commitment or agreement or plan to actually get this memorial built without doing litigation, that'd be [preferable]," he said. "And that might happen."

The compatriots association filed suit on April 22 after years of writing letters claiming Kvitash and Margolin diverted funds intended for the memorial.

Kvitash and Margolin denied this, claiming every last cent of some $18,000 collected over the past five years can be accounted for in a Wells Fargo bank account under the auspices of the Techiah Foundation.

The Ukranian-born Margolin referred all questions to his attorney, but reiterated earlier statements that the suit is baseless.

In a prior interview, he referred to the suit as an effort "to defame and destroy and ruin my reputation. I think the intention is to try to make a scandal out of it.

"I am very glad this lawsuit was filed," he told the Bulletin in May. "It is going to be determined, publicly, which allegations are true and which are false."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.