Synagogue evicted for non-payment of rent

After a yearlong legal process, Rabbi Bentzion Pil’s United Schneerson’s Synagogue was evicted from its Geary Boulevard home, with the rabbi and his effects being removed from the property by sheriff’s deputies.

The San Francisco synagogue owes more than $100,000 in rent payments, according to Martin Eisenberg, the lawyer for landlords Shing Kit and Julie Lee, who filed suit in February 2004 when Pil missed one too many of his monthly $20,000 rent payments.

Legal orders were issued to the County of San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in January, and the building on 3921 Geary was repossessed by Deputy Henry Scott and others on Feb. 23.

Members of Pil’s family hung up on a j. reporter who asked to speak to the rabbi. J. was unable to reach the Lees.

Eisenberg said the legal proceedings took “longer than what might be considered normal” due to the Lees being “very indulgent with the synagogue to find some means of solution to get them to bring rent current, and work on a program to avoid what ultimately took place.”

He acknowledged that, during his year and a half in the building, Pil did pay rent “sometimes,” including payments made after legal proceedings had been initiated “in order to postpone enforcement of the judgment.”

In 2001, a District Court judge ruled Pil had shortchanged former employee Ariel “Janos” Rosenbluth $43,000 over the course of two years, and awarded him more than $190,000, including fines, interest, legal fees and damages.

In 1999, Pil was convicted of illegally structuring $1.72 million in coin or currency deposits to evade federal reporting laws. He completed a nine-month sentence in a halfway house in January of 2002.

Pil is expected to continue the work in the synagogue from another location or his Richmond District home.

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.