Rabbi who brought menorah lawsuit now on defensive

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Joseph Freeman

Published January 7, 2012


TAVARES The new year is a time to move beyond past grievances and make fresh starts. Not so in the Lake County retirement community Legacy of Leesburg, where 2012 'tis the season to be litigating.

Rabbi Arthur Grae, who brought a lawsuit against the Legacy of Leesburg homeowners association for the right to display a large menorah outside the social hall, is now being sued by the homeowners group for allegedly violating terms of a confidential settlement by discussing it with the media and in other venues.

The lawsuit, which the 74-year-old rabbi and former New York attorney calls a "fabrication," seeks punitive damages and asks the court to bar Grae from any further breaches.

The homeowners association claims that publicity related to the agreement in the Orlando Sentinel, the Daily Commercial in Leesburg, the rabbi's newsletter and the American Bar Association Journal "tarnishes the image of the Association and diminishes the value of the homes and properties" there.

Under the settlement, the plaintiffs donated a 6 1/2-foot menorah to be installed inside, not outside, the social hall. It stood about the same size as the indoor Christmas tree and replaced a smaller menorah set up on a table.

Homeowners association board members decided to take legal action because the confidentiality agreement was a key component in the decision to settle, their attorney John Di Masi said.

"And then all of a sudden, Rabbi Grae is talking to the media. And the whole community is in an uproar," the Orlando lawyer said.

The nine-page complaint asserts that Grae "discussed and opined" terms of the agreement. Copies of the articles and Grae's newsletter are attached as evidence.

But Grae contends he only referred to an announcement, released to residents on a community website, about the display of a mutually agreeable menorah inside the social hall.

"And that's what I commented on," Grae said.

Ironically, the confidentiality agreement is now in the public record, viewable by anyone who has the time for a trip to the judicial center in Tavares. One part of it stipulated that the donated menorah could not be greater in height or width than the association's holiday Christmas tree.

Menorah lawsuit resolved in time for Hanukkah, but bad feelings linger