Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the de-facto head in Israel of the Lithuanian branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, who died last month, was considered by many as the greatest rabbinical scholar of his generation. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Israel and it now seems that many are prepared to pay huge amounts for the writings associated with his spiritual heritage, and this has sparked a dispute among his heirs.
US ultra-Orthodox businessman Eliezer (Louis) Scheiner, who owns (together with his partner Teddy Lichtenstein) a chain of dozens of nursing homes in Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida and lives in Monsey, New York has offered $7 million for the original writings of the commentaries published by Rabbi Kanievsky’s on the Jerusalem Talmud, according to sources close to the matter. In the past Scheiner was cited by the US media as an important donor to former US President Donald Trump. In Israel he is well known for his major donations to the annual event in Uman of the Breslov haredi community.
After the death of Rabbi Kanievsky, Scheiner approached his son Shaul and offered to buy the commentaries from the family. After negotiations with Shaul Kanievsky, they agreed a fee of $7 million. However, Shaul Kanievsky’s brothers had no knowledge of the matter and only found out by accident.
This discovery has resulted in an acrimonious inheritance dispute conducted discreetly over the past few weeks. On the one side is Shaul Kanievsky who lives in the family home of his late father and is considered the leading figure among the late Rabbi Kanievsky’s followers, while pitted against him are his two older brothers Avraham Yeshayahu, who was also close to their father and wrote several books with him and Shlomo, the head of the Kiryat Melekh Yeshiva who was less involved with his father’s followers.
Shaul Kanievsky has told his brothers that their father intended for him to be his sole heir. His two older brothers were astonished by this news and insist that their father always said that his inheritance would be bequeathed according to Torah law. Rabbi Kanievsky had eight children – three sons and five daughters and according to Torah law his inheritance should be divided between the three sons.
The lack of faith between the parties has led to an order halting any sale of the late rabbi’s commentaries and the sides have turned to New York based real estate tycoon and philanthropist Rubin Schron, a close confidante of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, to mediate. Schron together with Charles Bronfman were the former controlling shareholders in Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT).
The dispute has not only put the brothers at loggerheads but also two of the cousins who managed their grandfather’s home for many years. On the one side is Aryeh Kanievsky, the son of Avraham Yeshayahu, and on the other side Yanki Kanievsky, the son of Shaul, who featured prominently in the Israeli media over the past two years when he was filmed encouraging his gradfather to oppose Covid restrictions in Yeshivot.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky lived modestly but his extensive writings and their value combined with the family home in Bnei Brak mean that his estate is worth an estimated tens of millions of dollars.
The Kanievsky family declined to comment on the dispute.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on April 28, 2022.
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