Debra Nussbaum Cohen, writing for NY Magazine, has a brief piece on the fight between the Hecht family and the Lubavitch Youth Organization over Brooklyn turf. Cohen manages to write this piece without noting that LYO is messianist and the Hechts are not. The Hechts are allies of Rabbis Yehuda Krinsky and Avraham Shemtov. LYO are their opponents. Cohen normally writes for the NY Jewish Week, whose coverage of Chabad has been marked by heavy doses of sugar coating.
Category Archives: Territorial Disputes
A town, founded as a resort, has a small Orthodox community. Years pass. Orthodox, mostly modern, from Brooklyn and Far Rockaway move to this former resort town. Soon they become the majority. They use their majority status to take over the town’s school board and to impose spending cuts and other measures on a school system they do not use. They do so because the cost of private day school tuition is very high, and the taxes on their properties used for the public schools is significant. Driving down the cost of public school education they do not use means more money in Orthodox pockets to pay for the private education they do.
Where is this happening? As the NY Times reports, versions of this story are happening throughout the wider NYC area. This particular story is set in Lawrence, Long Island:
“Other communities are watching Lawrence very closely, for fear they may be next,” said Prof. William B. Helmreich, the director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College. Orthodox adherents “are cohesive, they marshal forces and vote as a bloc,” he said. “It could happen anywhere.”…
“It’s ominous,” said Steven Sanders, a former New York City assemblyman who was chairman of the State Assembly’s Education Committee. “This is not going to be an isolated situation. This is a worrisome trend. The common thread is not religion. The common thread is people who don’t feel invested in educating other people’s children. What do you do when a community is significantly comprised of individuals who don’t have a stake in public schools when they’re already spending for private schools? It’s a fracturing of the social compact.”
Orthodox leaders like this member of the school board complain about the quality of the public schools:
“We’re paying elite salaries and getting a mediocre district,” Mr. [Uri] Kaufman said.
Yet, while test score are falling (in part, it seems, because better students have shifted to private schools and in part because of the increased number of poor and minority students in the district), the Lawrence Public Schools are far from mediocre:
Half the students are black or Hispanic, and 36 percent are eligible for a free or discounted lunch, a poverty indicator. “Yet we had seven Intel scholars this year, tied with Bronx High School of Science and fifth in the nation,” Dr. Fitzsimons said. “We’re no slouches.”
Should tax dollars be used to support private religious education? If the answer is yes, can those dollars support a madrassa or a Hare Krishna day school or a Jews for Jesus day school, for that matter?
Of course, if the answer is yes to the first question it must by definition be yes to the second as well.
So what is the solution to the day school tuition problem? Try this:
- Combine schools so each community has a community day school. This saves money by eliminating redundancy. It also increases accountability.
- Use the public school tax model to support day schools. That’s right, level a tax on all Jewish community members. This can be done by “assessing” each Federation for the amount of money it costs to educate each student in the Federation’s “district.”
- Have tuition be paid to the Federation, not the school. This removes the “fundraiser’s incentive” to open competing schools. It also means that a student cannot attend the day school unless his family has a relationship with the Federation. This should be a win win proposition for both the Federations and the schools. It also means the day schools can spend their time educating rather than fundraising.
- Is this extreme? Sure. But what we now have is not working and extreme measures are clearly necessary.
- Who will oppose these steps? Mostly haredim, who will refuse to educate their children with non-haredim and with children from competing haredi sects.
The Times also mentions Orthomom, a great JBlog well positioned to cover this issue, although she claims all the Orthodox want is their fair share of busing money and other funds allowed constitutionally, and not funding of day schools per se. I think she’s clearly wrong here. What the Lawrence Orthodox clearly want is their fair share of those monies along with a reduction in public school spending aimed at lowering their tax burden. In other words, they want to take more from the public school system while putting in less. They will get more buses; public school students will get fewer teachers and other resources.
Or, to put it another way, the issue for the Orthodox is financial – how much more can we take out and how much less can we put in. For almost everybody else, the issue is how can we best educate our children in public schools. That Orthodox Jews don’t notice this difference speaks to the heart of a much larger problem – the way Orthodoxy teaches about and deals with the Other.
[Hat tip: Sy.]
A friend in Europe writes:
For months the RCE [the upstart Chabad-controlled organization of European rabbis] has been trying to portray itself as the true voice of authentic Judaism in Europe in a battle with the long standing and much respected Conference of European Rabbis. In the course of this campaign, they attracted a disparate group of disaffected charedim into their organization. (For example, Dayan Lichtenstein, fresh from his bruising libel court-case with Brian Maccaba, in which leading CER figures gave evidence; Rabbi Schlesinger of Geneve who is suspect in relation to his ‘hechsherim’ and who was unceremoniously ejected from the CER some years ago; Rabbi Elchonon Halpern, the elderly rov of a hasidic shtibl in London who is a vehement opponent of leading CER figure Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu’s North West London eruv).
Charedi leaders in Europe have long suspected, though, that the RCE is simply a front for obtaining money from the EU and for consolidating Chabad’s power in Europe. They are also concerned that a number of the activities of organizations under the RCE umbrella are not in keeping with their standards, and certainly not in line with halocho. The charedi leadership in Europe have now finally banded together to disallow any chareidi participation with RCE and forced Rabbi Halpern to resign as ‘nossi’ of the RCE (note the wording on the announcement). His ‘resignation’ comes just six months after the resignation of his predecessor as ‘nossi’ of the RCE, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneebalg, the elderly head of the Manchester charedi Machzikei Hadas kehilla.
This battle seems to be heating up again, after Chabad’s recent attempt to use Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger to force the EU to recognize Chabad’s RCE.
A venerable organization of Europe’s Orthodox rabbis finds itself challenged by an upstart rabbinical group controlled by Chabad. The Chabad group tries to get itself invited to an important interfaith conference sponsored by the EU. The EU does not bite, because it already recognized the nearly 50-year-old non-Chabad group. Chabad donors and flunkies exert more pressure. The EU still doesn’t bring in Chabad. Israel’s scandal-plagued Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger enters into the fray on the side of and, it seems, the request of – Chabad – and in the process appears to have violated Israeli law. More on this story soon to come.
Attorney Motti Mintzer, representative of local religious council and a resident of Elkana, told Ynet: “There is mikveh in Elkana since it was established. We moved to the permanent community and decided to build a new mikveh, according to the instructions of the local rabbi, and he ruled according to rulings of outstanding rabbis throughout the generations.”
“The local hassidim from Chabad are from a messianic cult and want to force the community to build the mikveh according to their specifications,” he said.
In response to Chabad’s claims that the religious council does not consider them part of the Orthodox Judaism, Mintzer said: “We don’t claim, we never did and we never will. Obviously they are kosher Jews, until they begin acting in a compulsive way, all the while refuting the authority of the community rabbi.”
Rabbi Yehuda Stern of Elkana commented: “I have ruled according to our custom on the mikveh issue. We are not a Chabad community and my ruling followed the rulings of outstanding rabbis throughout the generations.”
Chabad seeks to dictate halakha so that its rejected minority view is forced on the majority. This scenario repeats itself often. Why? Because Chabad theology is clear: We are right, everyone else is wrong. Majority rule in halakha or anything else is overridden by what can only be termed Chabad arrogance.
But soon this won’t matter. Chabad is a rapidly growing amalgam of born-hasidim, ba’alei teshuva and hangers-on. Soon, counting the hangers-on, it will surpass mainstream Orthodoxy in numbers. And when it does, mikvaot will follow Chabad opinion, as will schechita, sofrut, and just about everything else. And when that happens, the idea of a second coming will be firmly rooted as part of Jewish tradition.
As I have written previously, the probability is great that your grandchildren’s children will await the coming of a messiah named Mendel Schneerson, and will do so believing this to be a normative belief with roots stretching back to Moses.
And when that happens, there is a list of graves you’ll want to spit on. Far better to spit on these individuals while they are still among us. If you do not know how to find them, pick up a copy of the Jewish Observer and spit at random.
Chabad’s warring factions have ended up in a secular court in Israel. Globes reports:
Chassidei Chabad Lubavitch Yeshiva Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wilshansky, Beit Chana Schools head Rabbi Shlomo Raskin, and members of Chabad Israel, which manages the movement’s activities in the country, have petitioned the courts to prevent Tzeirei Agudat Chabad (Chabad Youth Organization in Israel) chairman Rabbi Yosef Y. Aharonov and five members of Tzeirei Chabad from taking it over.
Wilshansky and Raskin asked the court to forbid the respondents from making material changes Tzeirei Chabad’s foundation documents, signatory rights, directors, and membership, or making any other fundamental changes. The petitioners claim that this is an attempt to illegally take over Tzeirei Chabad, and through it, Chabad Israel in general.
The petitioners claim that there are grounds for concern that the respondents, headed by Aharonov, will create a fait accompli, and even withdraw money from Tzeirei Chabad or sell its assets. The petitioners are therefore seeking temporary relief.
The court was not persuaded that there is a reason for issuing the requested ex parte injunctions, and asked the respondents to file statements of defense.
Chabad’s international activities are estimated at over $1 billion a year. There are no estimates about the extent of Chabad’s activities in Israel, but they presumably amount to tens of millions of dollars a year. These activities include running several yeshivas (houses of Jewish learning), kindergartens and schools, publishing weekly newsletters about events within the Hassidic movement and outside of it, the operation of so-called “mitzvah tanks”, and hosting holiday events.
The Chabad movement has been wracked by a power struggle between moderate and messianic factions since the death of Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson over a decade ago. The latter factions claim that Scheerson was the Messiah. Chabad’s main institutions are run by the moderate factions, although the messianic factions run a number of institutions in Israel.
There is no dispute between the factions over Chabad’s right-wing political character. Chabad was among the top opponents of the disengagement plan and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government. Chabad has not yet declared which candidate it will support in the upcoming elections, but it should be remembered that it backed Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister in 1996, under the slogan “Netanyahu is good for the Jews”.
Aharonov is the anti-public-messianism company man. Wilshansky, if memory serves me, is the opposite. Does anyone have any information to flesh this report out a bit?
Rival Chabad factions are fighting for control of the wealthy New York State town of Woodstock. Best quotes from a must-read article from the Woodstock Times:
"I have been very quiet about this," Yitzchok Hecht told this reporter
this week. "I am not here to get into this whole thing but you are
cornering me into a position. Am I not supposed to respond?"
But Hecht has made editors at Woodstock Times aware of the situation
several times over the past year and as recently as a week ago.
"Yitzchok [Hecht] is so upset he didn’t get Woodstock," said Borenstein
this week. "It is a wealthy place and he wanted to get real estate
there… The Hechts are looking for power. They think they own Ulster
County. They think they own Sullivan County. And, now, they think they
own Dutchess County… They told me they would bury me alive. I said,
if that’s the will of God, I will accept it with love."
From the way Rabbi Borenstein speaks in the article, it would seem he is a messianist. The Hechts, of course, are not. Dishonest? Thuggish? You be the judge.