Aleksander Shul

The Aleksander Shul at 4380 University Parkway in University Heights is facing both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit by the city of University Heights over illegal use of the premises as a synagogue.

The city of University Heights is suing the Aleksander Shul – along with its rabbi and the owner of the building – seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunction blocking 4380 University Heights Blvd. for use as a synagogue.

The civil lawsuit was filed June 7 in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

Separately, the owner, University Realty USA, LLC of Cleveland, has been the target of a criminal case launched by the city.

Following an April 9 administrative search warrant, “which revealed numerous building, fire and zoning code violations,” according to the civil complaint, University Realty pleaded no contest at a May 13 trial and is awaiting sentencing June 26.

The civil matter names a single individual, along with owner University Realty USA, LLC and Aleksander Shul. The individual named is “Rabbi Schneur Zalman Danziger, aka Schneur Zalman Dancyger aka Shnior Denciger” whose address is listed as the same as the University Heights synagogue.

“By information and belief, the defendants continue to conduct religious services and/or offer a place for religious assembly at the premises, which violates both UHCO Chapter 1274,” the civil complaint states. The use of the building as a place of religious assembly also violates Ohio building code, and the dwelling there also does not meet state code, the complaint states.

In addition, the complaint states, the defendants have performed work and construction without building permits or city inspection.

Use of the building as a synagogue has “disturbed the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood, (resulted) in increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic, created unwanted congestion and parking problems, and is not ... in conformance with the zoning laws of the City of University Heights,” the complaint states.

The city is seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting the building from being used as a “synagogue, shul, learning center or place of religious assembly” and to authorize the city to inspect the premises to ensure compliance with building and zoning code.

In addition, the city is seeking both preliminary and permanent injunctions to prohibit operation as a synagogue and to mandate the defendants to obtain permits for work that has been or will be performed, and prohibits the defendants from “inhibiting the city in its efforts” to inspect or reinspect the building.

The city is also seeking “such other and further relief as may be just and/or appropriate.”

The complaint was filed for University Heights by City Law Director Luke McConville and Michael E. Cicero, who both practice at Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper, LLC in Cleveland.

Kenneth J. Fisher of Kenneth J. Fisher LPA in Cleveland represented University Realty in the past.

The exhibits attached to the complaint include correspondence from Fisher regarding the property. In his correspondence, Fisher said University Realty had engaged with Bialosky Cleveland to retrofit window wells into emergency exits in the basement shul.

Brian J. Green of Shapero & Green LLC of Beachwood now represents both University Realty and the Aleksander Shul. He told the Cleveland Jewish News June 8 he had no comment on either the pending criminal or civil cases.

Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan has said a primary concern is over a lack of fire exits. Citing the fact they are pending, Brennan had no comment June 8 on either the civil or criminal cases.

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