When it comes to the Jewish family behind Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, the real circus is taking place outside the big top.
In a lawsuit that involves a rabbi, secret gay lovers and an alleged assault at a shiva, Ringling heiress Karen Feld is suing her brother, Kenneth, for $110 million, claiming she sustained brain damage after he ordered her forcibly removed from a shiva minyan for their aunt.
Karen Feld, 63, says she suffered severe injuries when Kenneth’s bodyguards threw her out of her aunt’s Washington, DC, penthouse, then beat her. (They also mistreated her pet poodle, the suit alleges.) Kenneth Feld may be involved in the “Jewish mafia,” the suit claims, and could also be linked to money laundering and murder.
Kenneth Feld denies the charges, and is countersuing his sister, claiming she trespassed when she attended the minyan, and that the rabbi had to stop the service when she started to make a scene. (Karen Feld says she merely felt the onset of a seizure and attempted to retreat to a back room, where her brother suggests she went looking for family documents and valuables.)
The siblings have had a rocky relationship for decades, at least since their father, who died in 1984, left most of his fortune to his son, largely snubbing his daughter.
Karen Feld claims her brother has sought to prevent her from releasing family secrets, including those about her father’s closeted love life.
The lawsuit goes to court on Monday.