My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think personabused.com.au is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

I’d hate to see Tzedek disappear

I have a lecture to prepare. I don’t really have the time to deal with scurrilous nonsense, so I will be brief.

Tzedek was set up with the best intentions. I am confident that the financial and non financial backers are good people whose final and laudable aim is to help our society deal with past ills and (perhaps even more importantly) create an awareness so that the horrible crime of abuse is seriously minimised etc

Organisations, though, need to be very careful with their words and claims. It is relatively easy to lose credibility very quickly. That’s not to say they shouldn’t speak out. That’s an entirely different matter.

I don’t allow ad hominem attacks on this blog. The purpose of this blog is multifarious as can be seen by the range of topics I choose to write about.

In trying to discredit me, however, I had to laugh with angst at claims and  descriptions put out by Tzedek.

  1. I’m ultra-orthodox. Well, let’s see. Where do I start. My Rabbi isn’t. He advises me on halachic matters. He is shunned by the ultra-orthodox and described as modern orthodox or centrist orthodox. He is a world-class Talmid Chacham but the Aguda don’t even let him speak or sit on a dias at Daf Hayomi Siyumim. He sits at the back on a normal table. It’s a bizayon Talmidei Chachomim. He can learn better than most of them on the dias, but because he is not considered ultra-orthodox, he has no place! I have a PhD, which means I spent many years of my life studying in a University. That’s a no no. Worse, I’m still there. I teach secular topics—Science. I even use the internet, constantly. I use social media. I have a blog. All these are forbidden by ultra orthodox. But wait, it gets even worse. I run a band which plays non-Jewish music and this is to crowds who are mixed dancing. Guests aren’t dressed modestly either, especially in the warmer months. Read my posts on Israel and related matters and see if I’m closer to Zionism than “non” or “anti” Zionism—hallmarks of ultra orthodox. Read my critique of the extreme groups. Yes, I have to unashamedly try to keep Torah and Mitzvos, but if that’s the definition of ultra-orthodox, then I guess many of us are damned by Tzedek. Tzedek’s CEO’s own father is “ultra-orthodox”. Does he describe him as “my ultra orthodox father”. Why do I say, “damned”? Because it is entirely irrelevant what shade of white, black or grey somebody is unless you believe in strange conspiracy theories that people who are lumped by Tzedek into some category (which they don’t define) are likely to be so dumb and stupid, that they will hide the truth or protect people from that same  “Tzedek category”. Sorry, this type of characterisation is Grade 1 level. Does the CEO preface his remarks about someone defending homosexuality as saying “Homosexual Joe Jones said …” that’s simply boorish. It has no credibility as far as debating logic is concerned, let alone, in my case any resemblance to fact. It is a transparent and poor attempt to deflect from the lack of research conducted by Tzedek on the matter of Rabbi Brander’s visit to our shores. Did Tzedek actually ring a roof body, all of whom reacted with probity after reading some of the toilet blog posts and their comments? At the risk of repeating myself, there is no such thing as a Gzera Shava for people, to the extent that if one  does belong to a group, that they are thereby tarnished ipso facto and have lost their independence of thought and action. There is no better proof of that than Tzedek’s CEO’s own father. Is he tarnished because he is Chabad? Why not? Answer: he has his own views and expresses them. A contradiction to the implied thesis in the CEO’s hyperbole. But …. maybe I am ultra orthodox in Galus Australis style, simply because I don’t eat at Lord of the Fries or similar establishments? The mind boggles.
  2. I’ve been criticised because I sit on a Shule board, one of whose ex-members is now facing proceedings. I understand that the CEO of Tzedek is alleged to be one of the victims of said ex-member. Well, hello there Tzedek. Your CEO and his father (and indeed readers of my blog) know very well that it was me who initiated the removal of said ex-member from the board. Do you not remember my father הכ’’מ asking me to take a post down because he thought I should not get involved! Let’s go further. I even had an attempted intervention order (later withdrawn) placed out on me by the aforementioned ex-board member now facing trial, because I was “in his face” so to speak. Tzedek, you have the wrong address. But it’s worse than simply having the wrong address. What’s really worrying, is that (a) you actually know you have the wrong address on such matters, and (b) had you even bothered to ring a single board member of my Shule, they would have told you this. Indeed, ring the accused’s father! Go on, do us all a favour and return with your findings.
  3. On the matter of the COSV and the accused’s membership, again, Tzedek is so far off the mark, it’s really sad that this fact demeans Tzedek terribly. I was present when the conundrum was raised, and frankly, Tzedek ought to have been proud, of the attitude of each member of that executive and individual Shule Presidents. But, let us not let the truth get in the way of Tzedek’s tirades, hyperbole, and one liners in the press.

A pattern is emerging with Tzedek, and it’s a very sad one. It is turning people off Tzedek; people who used to look up to them. Their raison detre is brave and important, but their execution (sic) due to poor research, questionable leadership and the emotive untruths expressed by its leader(ship) is damaging its credibility. That would be a great shame.

I don’t have a clue if any member of Tzedek’s board read my blog, so my words may be in vain. By all means, someone please pass on this blog post to each and everyone of Tzedek’s board members. I would be most happy to meet them in my house at a time of their choosing, and properly explain what is wrong and my thoughts on how it can be fixed.

Have a nice day, everyone. I hope to!

Misreading situations and Halacha

I don’t speak for the Yeshivah Shule. I was there on Shabbos and noticed that Zephania Waks got an Aliya. I innocently asked if he had a Simcha, and he replied that the Shule (one assumes the main shabbos minyan) doesn’t give him Aliyas for Simchos. He then proffered that he had Yohr Tzeit that evening. I asked for whom, and he responded for his father. I wished him long life and reminded him that my father’s matzeva was being consecrated tomorrow as per an email I had sent him. Zephania claimed he gets lots of email and probably missed it. Ironically, he liked my father very much and used to come up especially and say how much my father reminded him of his own father.

Zephania then grumbled that an Aliya wasn’t enough and that he should have received Maftir. Well, according to the Ramo I was also entitled to Maftir (each week) as an Avel, but I never seek it out. Furthermore I wouldn’t dream of imposing this on any Minyan. That’s not my brand of frumkeit.

Ironically, the Shule was rather barren. There were chiyuvim everywhere and I counted three separate layings apart from the kollel minyan, mesivta minyan, and Sefardi minyan.

Any Shule has to make difficult decisions in such circumstances, and are entitled to. In this instance, I fully understand why the person who got Maftir in the MAIN Shule did so.

  1. His father also had Yohr Tzeit and his father had a closer connection with the institution as one of their klei kodesh
  2. He was ALSO in the middle of shloshim after his mother, and
  3. It could be argued that this chiyuv and their  amily were more closely aligned with the Shule than Zephania.

Now, Zephania is clearly under some strain, but he COULD have attempted to get Maftir elsewhere. I would have lained it for him upon request (although I think breaking up minyanim like this is contraindicated). I even remember Rabbi Groner being unwilling to disturb a Simcha with his chiyuvim my organizing layning in a side room.

Maybe it’s time to take stock and stop throwing stones when there are perfectly acceptable approaches which will bring Nachas Ruach to the Niftar.

Certainly Zephania has managed to make enemies for himself. Sometimes it is unfair, other times its just poor judgement and akshonus which is his downfall.

I know of some critically good things that Zephania does; I just wish he’d choose his fights with more acumen. Sometimes he unnecessarily becomes his own worst enemy.