He’s a rabbi to the stars in real estate. Israeli wheelers and dealers in New York City real estate consult Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto when it comes to business and personal matters.
Rabbi Pinto, who has no formal business education, only speaks Hebrew and won’t meet with women, is considered by Israeli real estate professionals as well as people in other professions and of different faiths to be a holy man. His supporters credit him with helping hundreds of thousands of people.
Some line up for hours to meet with the rabbi, who makes himself available to the public outside of synagogue services and the classes he runs, one day a week. He sees 5,000 people a day in Israel and 200 or 300 in New York, giving most people a quick blessing and others more time, claimed Ofer Biton, one of the rabbi’s two New York assistants and translators.
“I think I was very lucky to meet him at a very crucial part of my life: when I was 40 years old,” said Israeli native Ofer Yardeni, principal and co-founder of Stonehenge Partners. “I started making money and thought I was God’s gift [to
the world]. He gave me the wisdom to listen to people, not to think with ego, but to think with the heart and the mind. He balanced my life very, very much.”
Yardeni said Rabbi Pinto is “a huge part of my life,” despite Yardeni’s not being religious.
One time, the rabbi had the foresight that Yardeni should not sell a building despite the exceptionally good price he was being offered for it. Office tenants who were underpaying for their space in his building ended up going out of business, so Yardeni recaptured the space; now, the building is worth double what it would have been had he sold it, Yardeni said.
“The rabbi has a lot of power,” said Biton, the assistant. “I saw a lot of miracles with him.” Biton said that the rabbi was not available to talk to The Real Deal, and an e-mail sent through Rabbi Pinto’s Web site went unanswered.
Rabbi Pinto, 35, is head of two Israel-based organizations, one for men and one for women, that focus on the study of
Jewish teachings and outreach to the
poor. The rabbi established synagogues and schools and does charitable work all over
the world, in Los Angeles, Israel, Venezuela and Moscow.
Rabbi Pinto’s New York City synagogue, Shuva Israel, is at 328 East 61st Street, not far from his East Midtown home where he lives with his wife, Rivka, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Ben Hamo, the chief rabbi of Argentina, and 6-year-old son, Yoel. The spiritual guru has written more than 25 books and descends from a long line of prominent rabbis including his father, Haim Pinto.
But some people think that Rabbi Pinto is not entirely free from the influence of money and that not all of his followers are interested in spiritual development.
“He’s going to hook you up with a lot of people,” said an Israeli broker who asked that his name be withheld. Though the broker said the rabbi supports a lot of good causes, he thinks Pinto’s attention to his minions is about “how big a contributor” someone is to the charities.
The broker is religious but does not want to live his
life under the direction of one person. “It’s not my cup of tea,” he said.
Ilan Bracha, an executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman and co-founder of B+B Investment Group, considers him a spiritual advisor and guide.
“He’s like a father; he’s like a teacher; he’s like a friend,” said Bracha, who made Pinto his son’s godfather.
Bracha is working with B+B cofounder Haim Binstock to build a synagogue on 72nd Street between West End
Avenue and Riverside Boulevard, to provide a second
Manhattan space for the rabbi.
Rabbi Pinto first came to New York City from Israel more than seven years ago. Believers credit Rabbi Pinto with
providing relief from health troubles and teaching them how to conduct themselves in business and at home.
“He inspires a lot of people. His blessings help many, many people,” said Israeli Ben Suky, head of real estate investment firm Livorno Properties in New York.
Rabbi Pinto’s popularity appears to have created a domino effect. Suky said that may explain the large following among New York City Israeli-born real estate brokers, developers and investors in the last couple of years.
But not everyone can get the access to the rabbi that they want. “I met Rabbi Pinto and appreciate his teachings,
values and his extraordinary contribution to people in need, but I don’t base my business decisions on going and asking the rabbi because I don’t want to bother his busy schedule,” said Tamir Shemesh, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman.