Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rabbi James Kennard: Chabad's shameful response to injustice in Australia and Vienna

Guest post by Rabbi James Kennard, principal of one of Australia’s largest Jewish school
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In January 2014 I commented in the Australian Jewish News on the impending departure of the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney, and suggested that one Modern Orthodox rabbi should be replaced with another, rather than a Chabadnik

This reasonable notion outraged the Chabad leadership in Australia to such an extent that, although unable to pen a reply themselves, they recruited Rabbi Schochet from London to write a hatchet-job, vehemently attacking both me and the very idea that not every synagogue needs to be led by a Chabad rabbi.

My response was a column, published in the Australian Jewish News on 13 February 2014 in which, inter alia, I detailed a number of moral failures that Chabad had shown in Australia and elsewhere. I complained about the lack of any call for the leadership to take responsibility for the child abuse and the cover-up in Melbourne; I referred to the support that the Chabad director and the Chabad organization in Vienna had given to an abusive husband and a corrupt court system that were conspiring against a suffering mother and her two children.

The answer was denial, vilification and threats. The avoidance of any responsibility for numerous acts of abuse in Melbourne and Sydney continued, together with the blaming of victims. Now, the tide begins to turn, but tearful apologies at the Royal Commission are far too little and far too late. And we still await the resignations and the completely fresh start that will demonstrate that the organization has learnt and changed.

It is possible that what is left of the reputation of Chabad in Australia may one day be redeemed, but that would be far in the future. Meanwhile, there is still a chance for Chabad to correct its appalling complicity with the injustice in Vienna. There is still time for the Chabad leadership to demand that Rabbi Biderman, the organizations director in that city cease ignoring the plight of this mother and her children, cease claiming to be “too busy” or “not able to interfere”, cease treating the abusive father as a respected member of his congregation, and start to actively assist the oppressed. As a very small first step, he could facilitate the weekly visits of the children to their mother, which the father is currently illegally denying since “he cannot find any way of arranging it” (Rabbi Biderman’s response to date has been to ignore this most modest suggestion entirely)

There is still time for supporters of Chabad worldwide to cease claiming that Vienna is “too far away” or “Rabbi Biderman is respected” or “there are always two sides to the story”. There are indeed two sides to this story; good and evil.

We are watching the claims by Chabad Rabbis in Australia that they did not know what was happening here unravel before our eyes. When Chabad is held to account for its role in the tragedy in Vienna, they will not even be able to cling to that excuse. They know and they look away. If Chabad genuinely wants to learn from its mistakes, the time for action is now.

31 comments :

  1. No supporter of Chabad, but...February 12, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    May HaKadosh Baruch Hu grant Beth the zechus to be permanently reunited with her children and may the corrupt Austrian Judicial system finally do justice in respect of the husband, in respect of rabbi and in respect of the judge.

    I am not a Chabadnik. Far from it. And I don't think the organisation is perfect. Far from it. And I find child abuse to be one of the most heinous crimes and find any group's complicity in it (including in cover-ups) to be criminal and in breach of a large number of halachik principles.

    But I can't help feeling what is at the heart of your position is that you did not get appointed to be rabbi of the Great Synagogue. In that respect, you come across as Machiavellian in the extreme and it weakens the strength of your righteous indignation to that of the bitter candidate who didn't get the role.

    Beth and her advocates (who deserve every credit) should be minded that the phrase "my enemy's enemy is my friend" may mostly be true, but it comes at a price. With apologies for mixing metaphors, "if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas".

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  2. "It is possible that what is left of the reputation of Chabad in Australia may one day be redeemed, but that would be far in the future."

    Wrong!!! There won't be Chabad far in the future or even near in the future. The internet age is showing the Chabad cult for what it is. No legitimacy will ever be given to any organization/movement that is happy to have known criminals and pedophiles amongst its kiruv rabbis who regularly have contact with children. Last one out, don't forget to turn the lights off. No one will even want to buy the Chabad.org domain name after the names it has listed on there.

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  3. fedupwithcorruptrabbisFebruary 12, 2015 at 4:05 PM

    @Rabbi Kennard. Since you are upset at the mishandling of Chabad in Vienna, let me add also the injustice that Chabad Rabbis had done in Las Vegas to a man who halachacally has not violated any laws.They eject a man from shul after he remarries with a heter mea rabbonim after his recalcitrant wife refuses to comply with halocho and come to bais Din. I would like to see fairness in all cases and not just abuse of children and women, but there are men who are being bamboozled by the rabbinic feminists too!

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  4. אמר רבי יוחנן כל המיצר לישראל נעשה ראש. Not sure a Rosh from whom, but a Rosh nevertheless.

    To suggest that Chabad in Australia recruited Rabbi Schochet
    from England is laughable. Rabbi Schochet wrote about the same issue that he was dealing with in England, where people were being rejected only because they were "Chabad".

    Although they may be united in their devotion to (how they
    perceive the mission set out by) their Rebbe, anyone with any basic knowledge in how Chabad operates knows that there is little practical influence or power that anyone has over anyone else, especially in another community.

    Rabbi Biderman isn’t any less an orthodox rabbi than he is a
    Chabad rabbi. And his actions are no less reflective of Chabad, than any other recent scandals are of, say, YU, RCA, Modern Orthodoxy as a whole, etc.

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  5. Show me evidence of him being ejected from the Shul. Has the rabbi written an email to this effect? Is there a notice anywhere banning him from entering. Unless you can provide some tangible evidence for something so provable which is at the heart of every comment you make, I'm afraid your comments will be disregarded as irrelevant and baseless.

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  6. Please don't foolishly try to discredit the messenger just because you don't like the message! If you have any legitimate critique of the content presented you should comment accordingly not try to besmirch the author who has a long history of true moral fibre, standing up for what is right, not the coverup agenda like your friends do. Your accusations are repulsive and do nothing to clean up the problems in our communities.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you daven nussach ari!

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  7. Just to make clear; I'm sure that the Great Synagogue is a wonderful kehilla, but I did not apply for the position; I had absolutely no thought of applying for the position, or indeed any position other than my current role, which I thoroughly enjoy and am thankful for every day. So that theory ascribing a Machiavellian motivation to my involvement in this issue is a complete fantasy.

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  8. My comment about Rabbi Schochet being "recruited" was based on Rabbi Schochet's own words. He stated explicitly in his article that he had been asked to respond to me by "the Chabad leadership in Australia".

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  9. That courts have ruled again and again that he gets custody - does the whole world react with the same outcry when women decide they want a divorce and blow up a family and rip a father away from his children???

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  10. I think the mother is simply seeking more visitation not necessarily primary custody. I agree that a mother shouldn't be the default parent to get custody.

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  11. fedupwithcorruptrabbisFebruary 12, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    @outsider. I DONT SEE YOU ASKING ANYONE ELSE FOR ANY PROOF
    SO WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT A MAN DOESNT GO TO A CHABAD SHUL WHERE NO OTHER SHUL IN THE AREA? You must be the same ora troll as you have made similar cooments before!

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  12. Every marriage breakdown is a tragedy, especially when there are children. I am not campaigning in this case because the father has custody (though there are many serious questions about how that came about) but because the mother is cut off from any involvement in her children's development or education whatsoever; because the visits when the children can see their mother are regularly and arbitrarily cancelled; because she is persecuted by the courts in addition to the above and because the rabbis, including those whose mission is to "love every Jew" have turned their backs on her and are complicit in this persecution. That is why this case has generated an international outcry.

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  13. No supporter of Chabad, but...February 13, 2015 at 2:07 AM

    The Chabad rabbi in question sounds incredibly dodgy and no doubt deserves every criticism levied at him by the Help Beth community (of which I consider myself a proud member).

    But I believe your support is motivated not for the benefit of Beth and her children, but something else: vehement hatred of Chabad unbecoming of any rabbi of any denomination.

    Were it not for the fact that a Chabad rabbi is on the 'other side', would you care?

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  14. @no supporter - please cut out your ad hominem arguments. If he had criticized any other group than Chabad would you still persist in your strident criticism?

    You have no idea what Rabbi Kennard's motiation is- but you are a true believer.

    The answer to your question is yes Rabbi Kennard cares and is motivated to help Beth and her children.

    Any future repetition of your "belief" will simply be rejected - unless you have some evidene for what you are saying.

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  15. Full debate recorded here: http://daattorah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/schlesinger-twins-aspect-of-debate.html

    http://www.collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=28949

    http://www.collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=29128

    I don't believe Rabbi Schochet should be left in charge of a box of stamps, never mind a prominent London community.

    Here is Rabbi Schochet's latest impact in London: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/129733/interfaith-group-drops-rabbi-patron-after-only-two-weeks

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  16. ...and you must be Meir Kin as no one else is going to write anything positive about you. They should ban you from every other Shul in the world too.

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  17. That is your opinion. You're entitled to it. Why the venom, Monty?

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  18. "If Chabad genuinely wants to learn from its mistakes, the time for action is now."

    I think this speaks to the staff of the Meisles seminaries as well. They should all be able to be as brave as Rabbi gutnick and say how they looked the other, apologize, and try to move forward to a better future. They have done NONE of that. Shame shame.

    As for your stance on the Agunah situation, here is a link to a trailer video of a new film describing the Agunah problem. I do not favor dramatic acting, but I think this film will hopefully shed some light on any man (or woman) who thinks withholding a Get is beneficial in ANY WAY. (Bc it's not. Never. I'm not claiming that the men are always at fault. I'm saying that it is simply evil and serves zero benefit for both parties).

    Please see the trailer if interested: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2015/02/new-award-wining-film-on-agunah-crisis-opens-today-678.html

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  19. I wonder whether the person writing under the name "No supporter of Chabad, but..." has been in touch with the CEO of uk Chabad, rabbi Bentzi Sudak? ;-)

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  20. I think you will find that it was you who was shouting in upper case.

    Case and point, please?

    I am merely asking you to show us some evidence that you have in fact been refused entry to your Chabad Shul.

    My name isn't kin and I haven't been refused entry. (I wouldn't seek to enter either way.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spVI_BSDuJk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NESUTgBJUE

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  21. fedupwithcorruptrabbisFebruary 13, 2015 at 3:58 PM

    @monty and Outsider both the same man. You can accuse Meir Kin all you want but he has beat you ORA! He remarried and started his own shul! So there you have it. No feminist antitorah goon can stop him.

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  22. Have you contacted the husband to find out his side of the story or are you blindly listening to one side and maligning respected rabbis as well as an entire movement with nasty vitriol that is unbecoming of someone with the appellation Rabbi" in front of his name??!!!

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  23. the evidence is clear - he directs his nasty remarks at chabad as opposed to at the situation. There is no need to even bring it into the discussion - ergo, he clearly has an ulterior motive.

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  24. The only thing that is shameful is that James Kennard is called Rabbi. Denigrating an entire group of hundreds of thousands of ehrlich chasidishe yidden because he doesnt agree with something they have no contol over. shameful. Should they Beths kids out of their school? is that going to help the kids? will they be better off? can they force someone who wants to act a certain way to act differently? Direct your ire at the one who is deserving of it. And when you say that Chabad of Australia will likely not be around in 20 years, you show your true self hating jew colors. For shame, that a yid should fit into the category of shbchol yom vyom oimdim aleinu lchaloseinu!

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  25. So why are you so angry? Why do you feel the need to keep posting about your case on here? You have everything you want!

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  26. It's also shameful to accuse a yid of saying something that he didn't say. "Chabad of Australia will likely not be around in 20 years"? Where did I say that? By all means debate with me on what I wrote, and on the question of whether Chabad in Vienna can do more to help this mother and her children or not, but it's a little silly to attempt to prove your points on the basis of what you only imagined I wrote.

    To Ari and others who have written here; my concern is for the suffering of a former student and her children. Yes, I am angry with Chabad, but that anger comes from disgust at the actions of Chabad in Vienna (and Australia) and the inaction of Chabad worldwide, not from prejudiced hatred of one group.

    I think the shooting the messenger that's going on in some of the comments here reveals a lot about the message.

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  27. There is a prohibition of Lifnei Iver, which means that you should alert others if there is danger they are not aware of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifnei_iver

    If there are known paedophiles and criminals who are teaching in schools, or running a Chabad house encouraging families to come through their doors, then the rest of the Chabad community (and wider community for that matter) have a responsibility of Lifnei Iver to alert everyone about the dangers of having children go near these places.

    The people speaking out against the perpetrators of abuse and the coverups, are the Torah observant ones. I would imagine the only people interested in criticizing Rabbi Kennard are paedophiles themselves or have an unhealthy interest in covering up abuse. They are certainly not following Torah or Halachah.

    The fact that Chabad have taken their current stance suggest it would be in the interests of Klal Yisroel if they we dismantled or decreed to be outside of Judaism. Silence is not a position that can be tolerated. "Ehrlich chasidishe yidden" is probably the least representative term you can possibly think of.

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  28. Thank you for your reply, Rabbi Kennard.


    As you mentioned, anyone who would like to sincerely debate the issues, is more than welcome to do so. But the ad hominem attacks, based upon fallacies and things that were never and and things that never happened, reveal a whole lot more about the actual issue at hand. Obviously, they don't have any defense. For if they had a defense, they wouldn't resort to flimsy personal attacks.


    Please keep up your good work. Thank you for all you do!

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  29. Welcome back, Ms. MB. So, you have come back to this blog?


    Question: Why has the expanded Beis Din not accepted your claims that they ignored abuse? What is the purpose of your comment here? Is it to make yourself feel justified? Are you doing some soul-searching and are not satisfied with the results?


    Question: What is your definition of evil? Where does your definition of evil stem from?

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  30. Rabbi Kennard is calling the kettle black.
    For years he davenned at Katanga/ Caulfield Beis Midrash which is run by the May family and in particular Eli May who has for years refused his wife a get.

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  31. Kennard has also still not come clean on the abuse in Mount Scopus in the mid 70's and Scopus sending of their pedophile teacher to India.

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