The L.A. Times reports that the lengthening legal mystery of who owns Rabbi Pauker's Torahs took another inconclusive turn this week as a Superior Court judge overruled a rabbinical panel. For seven years Rita Pauker has claimed the four scrolls were loaned to Rabbi Samuel Ohana, then an assistant to her husband, the late Rabbi Norman Pauker -- and wants them returned. Rabbi Ohana says they were gifts to him when he opened his own Sherman Oaks temple in 1998, as Rabbi Pauker's synagogue had closed.
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In January an Orthodox religious court, known as the beit din, declared the Torahs belonged to Pauker's widow, Rita. Rabbi Ohana then appealed to a higher religious court in Israel, just as Rita Pauker submitted her claim to a decidedly slower and more secular process -- L.A.'s civil courts. This Monday, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Zaven V. Sinanian ruled that the beit din decision was invalid because one of its three rabbis had a conflict of interest. Ms. Pauker is now appealing Sinanian's order, although the disputed Torahs will be spending at least one more Passover in Rabbi Ohana's hands.