JCA succeeds in court hearing


The Jewish Center for Aged scored a victory in court on Monday, as a judge granted a motion for a temporary restraining order, preventing the mortgage holder of the Cedars at the JCA from foreclosing on the facility.

PAMI Autumn, LLC, a subsidiary of Lehman Bros., purchased the $55-million mortgage of the Cedars, a 252-bed senior care facility in Town and Country, in a HUD auction in September, after the Cedars defaulted on its mortgage. PAMI purchased the mortgage note for $19.1 million.

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PAMI Autumn announced last month its intent to foreclose in legal notices published in The Countian, a newspaper covering the St. Louis County Courts. Under Missouri law, companies must publish notices of intent to foreclose for 20 consecutive days prior. The notices stated that the Cedars would be sold to the highest bidder on Dec. 10 unless it had paid its mortgage in full.

“We were successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order, which restrains PAMI from pursuing foreclosure without first respecting our rights under our lease, which is what we have said all along,” said Kenneth Rubin, president of the board of directors for the JCA. The JCA on Nov. 28 filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent the mortgage holder from foreclosing.

On Dec. 3, after meeting with Circuit Judge Melvyn Wiesman in chambers, the judge granted a temporary restraining order, pending a hearing on a preliminary injunction in late January.

According to court documents filed by attorneys for the JCA, the JCA argued the mortgage holder had not followed rules set out in the original lease of the ground on which the facility was built. One of the rules stipulates that if the Cedars were to go into default, the JCA must be given a “Purchase Notice,” allowing the JCA a first opportunity to purchase the mortgage note “at fair market value” before any attempts are made to foreclose. The JCA was not given such an opportunity, according to the court documents.

In addition, lawyers for the JCA argued in their motion that it would cause “serious and irreparable harm and injury” for the foreclosure to proceed before all terms of the original lease were followed.

“A foreclosure without affording Plaintiffs their rights is also against the public interest and contrary to public policy because it unnecessarily puts at risk the security and well-being of numerous elderly and infirm people who are served by JCA at the facility,” the court documents filed by the JCA’s attorneys stated.

Lawyers for PAMI declined to comment after the hearing on Monday. Gary Eisenberg, a lawyer with Herrick Feinstein in New Jersey who represents PAMI, called late Monday to say his client did not wish to comment.

With the temporary restraining order, the JCA has until January to continue negotiations and attempt to purchase the note from PAMI or to prepare legal arguments for the preliminary injunction hearing, Rubin said.

Since the Cedars’ mortgage was sold in September, negotiations have been ongoing between representatives of the JCA, Jewish Federation and PAMI, said Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of Jewish Federation.

“There have been ongoing efforts to reach an arrangement with PAMI that would enable the community to reacquire the note,” he said. “The community is very committed to trying to reacquire the note so we can maintain control of the facility in the hands of the Jewish community, and we are going to keep working toward that objective,” Rosenberg said.

Jay Sarver, chair of a joint JCA-Jewish Federation task force, said groups have been working on “two parallel processes.”

“One has been a committee to analyze the financial options in the current facility, and the second has been a group that has been evaluating options for care for those people in the Jewish community,” Sarver said.

He said that so far, the negotiations between the JCA and PAMI have essentially been fairly standard.

“There have been no curveballs thrown yet. So far, there hasn’t been anything in this whole saga that has been unexpected,” Sarver said.

Meanwhile, at the Cedars, Rubin said operations are running smoothly.

“We’re continuing to operate the facility as usual,” he said, noting that the number of patients has remained strong, with an average of 214.

Rabbinic leaders stressed the importance of maintaining a Jewish senior care facility.

“As Jews, we are mandated not only to respect and care for our parents and elders, but also to provide for the sick and the infirm, both of which are mitzvot, commandments of the Torah,” said Rabbi Yosef Landa, chairman of the Rabbinical Council. “Moreover, it is important to understand that in the eyes of Judaism, religious observances such as the celebration of Shabbat and holidays, prayer services, kosher food, etc., are no less significant when performed by octogenarians than when performed by younger people,” Landa said.

Rabbi Mark Fasman, president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, said, “The rabbis of SLRA are committed to preserving and strengthening the Jewish infrastructure of St. Louis. We were actively involved at the time that the Cedars was opened — working to ensure kosher food and other Jewish services for all of the Jewish residents of the Cedars. We further reaffirmed the Jewish community’s commitment to providing for the needs of all our Jewish elderly.”