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Rabbi Sues Caterer in Passover Tussle

BROOKLYN (CN) - An Orthodox rabbi sued a Kosher caterer in a fight over rights to hold Passover at an ideally suited hotel.

Rabbi Martin Katz sued Sharmel Passover LLC on Wednesday in Kings County Court. Katz claims that Sharmel agreed to arbitrate the dispute before a rabbinical court, which it lost, but that Sharmel has sued Katz and his group anyway.

Katz and two co-plaintiffs, Simchas Pesach LLC, and Congregation Jewish Education Program, claim that every year they "rent out a luxury hotel and provide all-inclusive food, entertainment, and lodging for guests of the program for the entire Passover holiday."

They rented the (nonparty) Doubletree by Hilton Somerset Hotel for this year's Passover and next year's, the rabbi says in the complaint.

The hotel in Somerset, N.J., is ideal for Passover, the rabbi says, because it's close to New York City, is only six stories high and uses keys, not electronic cards. Many Orthodox Jews do not use elevators or electronic key cards during the High Holidays. The hotel advertises itself as a convention center and has space for Passover services and holiday meals.

Rabbi Katz says that more than 1,000 people attended his groups' Passover at the hotel this year. Three days after Passover ended, he says, he and the hotel signed a contract for Passover 2015 (which will be April 3-11).

In October, however, Katz says he learned the Sharmel, a caterer from Oceanside, N.Y., planned to sign a contract with the hotel to hold its own Passover events in 2015.

Katz says that he and Mark Gross, of Sharmel, agreed in October to arbitrate the dispute before a Bais Din, or rabbinical court.

Notwithstanding Sharmel's assurance that it would arbitrate the dispute, on or about November 18, 2014 Sharmel filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against Rabbi Katz, claiming to have signed a contract with the Hotel for Passover of 2015 on October 7, 2014. Sharmel also sought an injunction," Katz says.

Katz claims that after a Nov. 25 Bais Din in Flushing, N.Y., the panel on Dec. 1 ruled for him and his group. "The Final Award is final and non-appealable to any other Court or tribunal," Katz says in the complaint.

He seeks judicial confirmation of the ruling, and costs.

He is represented by Jeffrey Fleischmann.

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