A Port Washington synagogue became entangled in an international story last week involving Ukraine, the president of the United States and embattled attorney Michael Cohen.
Chabad of Port Washington, located on Shore Road in Manorhaven, was named in a report by the BBC last week. The article said that a member of the Ukrainian parliament used personal contacts who attended the Chabad to get in touch with Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.
The member of parliament was reaching out to Cohen to establish a “back channel” to Trump at the behest of Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, according to the BBC. Poroshenko allegedly paid Cohen $400,000 to arrange a meeting with the president, as Ukraine’s lobbyists and embassy could secure little more than a photo op with Trump.
Poroshenko met with Trump in the White House last June, the BBC reported. Shortly after, Ukraine’s anticorruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Cohen denied the allegation, and the BBC reported there was no indication Trump knew about the payment.
Following the article’s publication, Chabad of Port Washington released a statement from Rabbi Shalom Paltiel saying that any involvement was incidental.
“The BBC’s claim that our organization played a role in any of this is false and unsubstantiated,” Paltiel said. “Neither I nor any of our staff know, or have been in contact with, any current or former members of the Ukrainian parliament, nor Michael Cohen.”
He said that nobody at the BBC reached out to Chabad to verify the claim or request comment.
The BBC updated its article to say that Chabad officials “were not involved.” While Paltiel praised the clarification, he said he was still unsure why the synagogue had to be mentioned in the first place.
“The question still remains as to why they are including us in a story in which we have no role,” he said in a statement.
The synagogue does have ties to Felix Sater, who was named in the BBC report as having connections to Cohen. Sater is a Port Washington resident who was named 2014 Man of the Year by the Chabad, and who worked on several Trump projects — such as Trump SoHo and an aborted Trump high-rise in Moscow — with real estate development company Bayrock Group.
Emails in which he bragged of his close connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin caught the eye of Justice Department officials, according to a New York Times report.
Sater has denied that he was involved in a deal between Ukraine and Cohen. He recently put his 3,600-square-foot mansion in Sands Point up for sale.
According to the BBC, Poroshenko has denied that he paid for the meeting.