Park Slope Rabbi Says Senior Home Closure 'Lacks Jewish Values of Decency'

By Leslie Albrecht on March 14, 2014 11:07am 

 Prospect Park Residence, an assisted living facility on Prospect Park West near Grand Army Plaza. Residents at the 130-unit facility were told in early March that the facility would be closing in 90 days.
Prospect Park Residence, an assisted living facility on Prospect Park West near Grand Army Plaza. Residents at the 130-unit facility were told in early March that the facility would be closing in 90 days.
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Facebook/Prospect Park Residence

PARK SLOPE — A prominent Park Slope rabbi says the abrupt closure of a local senior home "lacks basic Jewish values of decency," and his congregants are rallying to keep the facility open.

Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim has accused Prospect Park Residence owner Haysha Deitsch, an Orthodox Jew, of "plainly immoral" behavior by giving elderly residents of the assisted living facility just 90 days notice that it's closing.

"Surely, an observant Jew like Haysha Deitsch ought to know enough about Judaism to recognize that providing for the elderly is a far greater value than the profits he seeks in this insensitive business deal," Bachman wrote in a statement posted on Facebook and published on the neighborhood blog Effed in Park Slope.

Representatives for Deitsch declined to comment directly on Bachman's statement, but said Dietsch has contacted the rabbi and plans to speak with him about the closure.

Bachman doesn't know Deitsch personally but he told DNAinfo New York he felt compelled to speak out because his own family and several members of his 150-year-old congregation have had relatives live at Prospect Park Residence, a 130-unit building on Prospect Park West and Grand Army Plaza.

"It’s a morally egregious act to turn out elderly people to make a higher profit," Bachman said. "I feel like it’s important to have moral voices form the community voicing objection to that."

Congregation Beth Elohim members are now hoping to halt the closure, either by finding someone to buy the building and keep the senior home running, or by fighting Dietsch in court, Bachman said.

Rumors have floated that Dietsch wants to convert the nine-story building, which overlooks Prospect Park, into high-end condos. But a spokesman for Dietsch said Thursday there are no immediate plans for the building.

"The intent right now is to safely and seamlessly relocate the residents to other residences that will meet their needs — that's the priority right now," spokesman Paul Larrabee said.

He insisted that none of the 122 residents would be left without a place to go, and said representatives from other assisted living facilities and the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens have been visiting the residence to help the elderly find new homes.

Deitsch and his father-in-law, the prominent developer Shaya Boymelgreen, are both known in the Jewish community as "deeply committed" supporters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, Bachman said. "There's no sin in Judaism in making money, but the equal counterforce is to invest resources back into the community to make sure people are cared for," Bachman said.

Rabbi Bachman's condemnation isn't the first time Deitsch has run afoul of religious leaders. In 2012 a rabbinical court issued a "cherem," or excommunication, against Deitsch. The court did not respond to a request for comment about why the cherem was issued, and Deitsch declined through a spokesman to discuss it.

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