Despite a three-year legal battle in the Ukrainian courts, a local politician with overt ties to the Mafia is poised to destroy this economically viable historical and religious attraction, causing untold pain for Jews around the world and a terrible public image fiasco for the entire Ukrainian people. We continue to fight, but are seriously concerned that without direct US political/diplomatic intervention, justice will not prevail. How did this situation come about?
In 1997, Breslov World Center, Inc., a US registered 501c3 Charitable Organization (BWC) was the entity responsible for the logistics of accommodating the expected pilgrimage of approximately ten thousand people who were coming to Uman to pray on Rosh Hashanah . Breslov World Center (known in the Ukraine as "The International Charity Foundation in the Name of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, or just "The Fund") took upon themselves the daunting task of erecting a permanent multi-use building that would serve as a synagogue, dining hall and emergency medical center for the pilgrims and local population. The project proceeded slowly despite various governmental and zoning obstacles until 2002. In order to move the project along, it was decided to enlist the help of local sources in order to bring the project to completion.
In October of 2002, on the basis of his supposed familiarity with local authorities, regulations, builders and building codes, the services of one Igor Livshitz – a citizen of both the Ukraine and Israel – were retained. At the time that Livshitz entered the scene, the synagogue and mikveh (ritual baths) were already housed in a three-story "temporary" structure, serving over five thousand people. In order to obtain rapid approval of the architectural plans and required permits from the local government, Livshitz demanded that he be given a comprehensive power of attorney to act on The Fund's behalf in handling the many tasks involved. On April, 4, 2003 this power of attorney was signed and given to Livshitz and he ostensibly went to work for us.
In hindsight, giving a Power of Attorney to Livshitz was a tragic mistake, the consequences of which continue to plague us for close to three years.
Evidence of how Mr. Livshitz betrayed this mistakenly bestowed trust is apparent from the following criminal acts: At Igor Livshitz's insistence, on the same date as he received his power of attorney, The Fund was pressured to also give a power of attorney to Stanislav Petrovich Mazarak who is the general manager of the Chance Construction Company to speed the process of obtaining important local governmental permits. Unknown to us at the time, Chance Construction Company was really owned by Ukrainian Parliament member Peter Kuzmenko. Using the POA, these 2 individuals signed a construction contract with Chance [Kuzmenko] for all construction work pertaining to the building of the synagogue. This clear conflict of interest becomes more glaring when you consider the following: The Fund was not notified that any contracts had been signed until a full ten months after the fact.
In addition the absurdity of the contract itself is evidenced by four glaring points:
- 50% penalty for breach of contract (i.e. $2,500,000)
- No plans were drawn for the construction and none submitted to us for approval.
- Asking $5,000,000 for a job without drawn plans, and that according to experts, should cost no more than half that amount
- Levying extravagant fines for delay of payment, in the sum of 0.9% per day (i.e. $135,000 per month).
Despite having been promised by Chance [Kuzmenko] to receive completed architectural plans within 8 weeks, it was only after a further 8 months that The Fund received 50% of the plans. In June 2004, The Fund received notification from the City of Uman that the necessary building permits had been issued. Shortly afterwards The Fund received "a bill" for $500,000 from the Chance Construction Company, as a first payment towards our "contract". When we asked to see this 'contract', we were sent a copy of a document titled "Contract 7".
This contract was signed by Messrs. Livshitz and Mazarak, dated September 2003! Ten months after the contract was signed, we were first made aware of its existence! Clearly, Mr. Livshitz used the Power of Attorney against the interests of its grantor for the purpose of his own financial gains and to wrest control of the site from The Fund and put it in the hands of Mr. Kuzmenco who never intended to build it in the first place!!!
Not coincidentally, Kuzmenco has used his governmental standing as a member of Parliament to further his financial interests as the actual owner of Chance. Both he and Mr, Livshitz are acting like the local "Mafia" and are ceaselessly trying to "shake us down". Now, the Fund is being sued by Chance Construction Company [Kuzmenko] for the amount of $2,500,000 plus additional fines.
Despite several attempts to settle this absurd matter over a table and many appeals via Ukraine legal channels, we have been unable to resolve this issue. As a result, we've been forced to spend enormous sums of money litigating with Mr. Kuzmenko in various courts to forestall foreclosure and seizure of the property by Mr. Kuzmenko.
Through his broad political influence in the Cherkasse region Mr. Kuzmenko has actually appointed many of the judges, and they are beholden to him. We have depleted our funds on legal fees and there is no end in sight!!
Could you imagine any modern, civilized country using its legal apparatus to foreclose on and seize an internationally-recognized historical and holy site? This flagrant disregard for the sanctity of so revered and recognized a holy site is unheard of in today's enlightened age. We appeal to all rational and compassionate people not to let this gross injustice come to pass. We believe that strong US political pressure, in the form of letters and phone calls to the Ukrainian government from Senators, Congressman and other senior officials in the US administration would go a long way towards helping us. It would make the Ukrainian Government aware of this potentially horrific embarrassment to the Ukrainian people and to the abuse of power by one of its parliamentary members. We implore you to use whatever means you have at your disposal to help us right this terrible wrong.
Please contact Rabbi Nasan Maimon at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone +972-54-4862935.
This is your chance to do something for Rebbe Nachman; the Rebbe will certainly intercede upstairs in your behalf.
Our good friend Dixie Yid has important updates and info how to contact your representatives in Congress here .
Alice Jonsson composed a superb form letter - copy it and paste it on to an email to President Bush, to your senator, or to your congressman.
A special thanks and blessing to everyone that has come to the flag on this issue.