Thursday, September 26, 2019

Open Letter to Chabad Chassidim Worldwide


Open Letter to all Chabad chassidim

29 Menachem Av, 5779

To all Anash of Crown Heights and elsewhere,

Peace and blessing.

1.      Still no protest from Rabbanei Anash

Since my letter this past month regarding the outrageous situation concerning Jewish children being unjustly banned from learning Torah[1] in your community and state, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended; yet we are not saved.” We have yet to hear publicly from even one single Rav of Anash on this painful topic that is affecting thousands of innocent children.

2.      CH Beis Din never permitted banning children from school

However, I wish to share the following important message that one of the esteemed rabbonim of the Crown Heights Beis Din responded to me in writing in response to my letter: “The Beis Din never ruled on this topic” (of banning children from school due to noncompliance of mandatory vaccine schedule).[2]

3.      Abusive administrators acted on their own accord

It follows that all the administrators who expelled children from school did so on their own accord, without any permission or instruction from Beis Din. Heaven forfend. Shomu shomayim.

“Since I called out and no one responded”[3], I must reiterate my most forceful protest against the nefarious deeds of these errant administrators who have cast off the yoke of Heaven and betrayed holy tinokos shel beis rabban, insolently preventing them from learning Torah, cruelly ousting them from the Beis Medrash, without ANY imprimatur from the established Beis Din of their city! Unmitigated and unprecedented audacity. I warn them once more: “Touch not My anointed!” Don’t mess with tinokos shel beis rabban. You’re playing with fire.

It is appalling that certain educational mosdos in Crown Heights have been barring students for the past ten years unless fully vaccinated… with no rabbinic permission. Unprecedented and unspeakable.

4.      Not only the administrators, but their accomplices too

Everyone involved in these egregious violations of Jewish law must be held accountable. Ein shliach l’dvar aveiro[4]. No one can claim that s/he was merely following orders or acting on behalf of someone else when it comes to transgressing the Torah by being mevatel tinokos shel beis rabban. This includes secretaries, board members, liaisons, and anyone who participated in the biggest chilul Hashem in the history of Chabad, Hashem yishmor. This also includes brazen community leaders and physicians[5] who emboldened administrators to take such reprehensible actions.

5.      Take responsibility

While we cannot change the past, we can demand that these errant and unrepentant administrators and their accomplices take full responsibility for their grave error and beg forgiveness from these poor children whom they cruelly betrayed and prevented from learning Torah with no halachically-just cause. 

6.      Make amends and pay

Surely they also must compensate the parents of these children who paid tuition for the year yet whose children were ousted midyear for no halachically-acceptable reason. In fact, some unscrupulous administrators allegedly continued to bill parents and government agencies for preschool and childcare services rendered, while the administrators forbade these very children from attending![6]

In addition, it seems only right that these schools offer monetary compensation for all the grief and humiliation that they caused these families unjustly. It is also appropriate for the administrators to assist these families long-term in their homeschooling efforts by offering support (i.e. curriculum, materials, supplies, books, etc.) and by welcoming these children to extracurricular activities outside of government scrutiny. 

7.      Let Jewish children into school

We may also demand that the administrators allow these unfairly-marginalized children to attend school at least for the first fourteen days of the present school year, since the state permits schools to allow such students for that time period. Yet lo and behold, the administrators are far stricter than NY State and will not tolerate the Jewish child who wasn’t vaccinated for Hep-B for even one SINGLE DAY. Woe to us that the non-Jewish legislators of NY State value two weeks of Torah learning for tinokos shel beis rabban MORE than our own mosdos’ administrators. Woe is to us.

8.      Don’t hide behind state law

They may not excuse themselves by hiding behind the recent draconian NY State law to deflect their own guilt. Even if they now argue that their “hands are tied” etc, last year there was no such DOH ban and exemptions were allowed the entire year, and yet some administrators refused to accept parent’s legally-recognized exemptions! They may not cite “measles outbreaks” either. The so-called outbreak only presented in Crown Heights toward the end of the school year and affected only one school.

Even now, it must be pointed out that an administrator who bars a Jewish child from his school in deference to state law should not delude himself into thinking that he is completely innocent and isn’t the one preventing tinokos shel beis rabban from learning, but instead is merely acting as an agent of NY State. No, this is patently untrue. As mentioned above, “There is no shliach for a Torah transgression” (one cannot claim to merely be a shliach for someone else while transgressing). Instead, the culpability of the transgression falls squarely on the one who committed the act, not on the one who bid him to do so. The administrator who bars children IS the transgressor here. HE is banning the child. HE is betraying tinokos shel beis rabban and NO ONE else. Every moment of bittul Torah of these children is HIS own responsibility and falls squarely on HIS shoulders, and not on the state. Would the chassidim in Soviet Russia have agreed to deprive Jewish children from learning Torah to do the communist regime’s bidding?[7]

9.       “Army of Hashem” gone AWOL!?

One of the mosdos most precious to our Rebbe is Tzivos Hashem. Yet this same mosad cruelly and insolently betrayed the chayolim of Hashem’s actual army, tinokos shel beis rabban, by banning children from their hard-earned Chidon weekend of learning, farbrengens and activities, for no halachically-valid reason and with hardly any advance notice. This feverish and frenzied fury to exclude Jewish children was NOT required by state law, and the DOH itself replied that such action would be rather extreme, excessive, and unnecessary.

Nevertheless, at the behest of a certain doctor who acted independently from state law, dozens of children (some of whom had come from as far away as Australia) were mercilessly excluded after an entire year of preparation. Numerous children were even publicly humiliated, verbally abused and debased, and ousted from shul in front of the entire tzibur. Unspeakably blasphemous. Such brazen individuals responsible for such unjust and vile breach of halacha must take responsibility in public and mend their wicked ways. If not, they are unfit to lead the Rebbe’s mosad that purports to stand at the helm of Hashem’s precious army, tinokos shel beis rabban. Likewise, any rabbi who sanctioned such horrific and bizarre conduct ought to have his tefillin checked.

10.  Administrators outside of NY State continue to ban children for no valid reason

On this painful topic, I hereby vociferously protest the debased actions of administrators of schools of other Anash communities outside NY who are still perpetuating this grave error and barring children who aren’t vaccinated. This includes Anash schools of the states of Florida, Illinois, and elsewhere, where the state allows parents to decline vaccination on religious grounds, but many misguided administrators insist on being more stringent than their states and mercilessly turn these children away. And no one speaks out against these dark deeds, not a single voice of dissent![8]

Where are their rabbis? Who is allowing such reprehensible and halachically-unacceptable injustices against Jewish children to be perpetrated in the Rebbe’s name? Did the Rebbe indeed teach us to exclude yiddishe kinder and deprive them from learning Torah? And instead to send them to Public School? Is that how the Rebbe taught us?

How dare they tarnish the name of our holy Rebbeim with such shameful conduct! An unprecedented Chilul HaShem and chilul sheim Lubavitch.

11.  Why the Rabbinic silence and inaction?

Regarding rabbinic silence, even if it’s true that the Crown Heights Beis Din never permitted expelling unvaccinated students, I am still confounded: why didn’t they raise a voice of protest when this was going on? And even more, why don’t we hear their voice of protest in the current shocking situation of hundreds of CH children and thousands of Jewish children in NYC out of school!? Likewise, we must demand an explanation as to why Chabad rabbonim from outside NY sit by idly and silently while Jewish children are barred from Chabad mosdos and sent to PUBLIC School rachmono litzlan. Does their silence mean they agree? Again, I demand a source or halachic basis or precedent to excuse banning a Jewish child from learning Torah on account of not having received Hep-B vaccine (or others).

And why have we still not heard from Agudas Chasidei Chabad or the Rebbe’s flagship mosad, Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch (Center for Matters of Education), especially as this dire situation concerns the lack of education of thousands of local Jewish children, Hashem yishmor. Or any other Chabad mosad? Do they believe that the Rebbe would have remained silent in such a shocking and urgent situation?

12.  Stop blaming the victims

Some argue that these parents are guilty for the fate of their own children since they hadn’t obeyed the psak of Beis Din regarding vaccines. This is utterly false and baseless. Firstly, the CH Beis Din’s letter was never worded like a psak din, but more as a gilui daas and encouragement.  Secondly, it only mentioned MMR vaccine and no others. There are plenty of children in Crown Heights who were vaccinated for MMR at the rabbonim’s behest, but still cannot attend school on account of other vaccines never addressed in any rabbinic letter. Furthermore, there are many children who naturally acquired immunity to measles, but this was deemed to be insufficient, and were still forced to get MMR because of mumps and rubella that haven’t even been reported in NY as a public health issue.

13.  Stop ostracizing fellow Yidden

Most importantly, even if it’s true that parents defied a psak din… where do we find that a community is enjoined to punish children for the sins of their parents? Do Chabad chassidim really believe that it is appropriate to excommunicate children and prevent them from learning Torah to punish their father who didn’t obey a psak din (לא צייתא לדינא)? The Torah states: “Children shall not be put to death on account of their fathers.”[9]

And especially in the neighborhood that was founded by the Rebbe Rayatz, who was once asked: “Why do you show love and affection to certain Jewish individuals who fall in the category of “One should throw them into a pit and not bring them up”? To which the Rebbe Rayatz responded that the questioner ought to learn the entire Shulchan Aruch first, and then finally reach these laws that are located at the end, etc., to demonstrate that it’s no simple thing to marginalize fellow Jews, how much more so young innocent Jewish children.

14.  Unbelievably shocking acts of mesirah

One more painful topic to address:

A most disturbing rumor is circulating. Apparently, a delegation from Crown Heights went to visit with NY State assemblywomen and/or senators and asked them to eliminate religious exemption from mandatory vaccination. The members of this delegation –  which is said to have included an ostensibly-religious Jewish doctor from the neighborhood AND a respected Rav from the community – petitioned the state to force all parents to submit to ALL vaccinations, including Hepatitis-B, without any exceptions (except medical exemptions, which are nearly impossible to obtain), and if the parents don’t comply, then to ban their children from school, to prohibit schools from allowing these children to attend, and to fine schools for non-compliance to the tune of thousands of dollars. According to some sources, this delegation initiated legislative action and was pushing the draconian bill from its inception!

This rumor is unfathomable. Surely each person is entitled to his own opinion, since there are 70 faces to the Torah, and no two minds are alike, etc. Whoever truly believes that one is obligated to give all the vaccines al pi din Torah, to each his own. But for someone to approach the government and express this view, asking for the government to enforce vaccination on all parents who think differently by threatening to cruelly deprive their children of a Torah education… such lowly behavior is called “mesirah”, informing non-Jews to malign a fellow Jew, as explained in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat siman 388. It is reminiscent of historic persecution of Jews when the Czar or Catholic Church enacted laws preventing teaching Torah to Jewish children. It’s reminiscent of the chappers[10] who delivered innocent and defenseless Jewish children into the hands of the Russian authorities for the sake of conscription, doomed to be hapless Cantonists!

Worst of all is the rav who allegedly participated in this shocking act of betrayal against the children of his own community and of all NY State. How dare he requisition a non-Jewish government to oust Jewish children from Talmud Torah just for lacking the Hepatitis-B vaccines (or others), one which everyone agrees is totally unnecessary[11] (hence questionable whether it’s even halachically permissible)?

This shocking rumor has been corroborated by witnesses who heard it from a non-Jewish assemblywoman, who had casually and innocently related to them (“כמשיחה לפי תומה”) that she was personally approached by this delegation.

If this horrific rumor is indeed true, I hereby protest in the strongest of terms against this deplorable act of mesirah. Regarding the mosrim themselves, “May the sins cease” – “the sins but not the sinners.” My fervent hope is that these errant individuals already regret their folly and are ashamed of their dastardly deeds.  At the very least, I demand that they beg public forgiveness from all the children and families affected by this unjust law that THEY asked for and warn others not to follow their example in other states. Likewise, they are surely obliged to do all within their ability to protest this terrible law and petition the government to repeal it. Most of all, they must feel a direct and personal responsibility for all the children abandoned and marginalized by this law and must not rest until every single child in their community is provided a qualified teacher and is succeeding in his/her studies.

As I mentioned above, these unscrupulous individuals ought to check their tefillin and mezuzos at once. It is inconceivable how any Chabad chassid could commit such grave errors without compunction. 

15.  Who will stand up for the tinokos shel beis rabbon?

Certain individuals criticized my letter last month and accused me of slighting the kovod of rabbonei anash and community leaders, school administrators or doctors. Please understand: it’s not my intent to challenge anyone’s authority or honor, but merely to stand up for Jewish children. If we are all frightened to speak up so as not to risk insulting anyone for their inaction or worse, who will stand up for tinokos shel beis rabbon!?[12]

16.  Prayer for these misguided individuals:

Permit me to conclude with a prayer on behalf of these administrators and members of the alleged delegation who “sinned and caused others to sin,” Hashem yishmreinu:

May it be Hashem’s Will that a spirit of mercy be poured upon them from upon high, and may they seek to rectify the terrible churban they caused in their communities, as soon as possible. May they resolve from now on to be faithful to their calling and do their holy work properly, without any deviation from the yetzer hora. That is, to realize their obligation to educate “all the children of the city”[13] without exception, and to follow in the path of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus, who used to kiss the school children going to learn Torah with the same devotion and affection as one kisses a holy Torah scroll. Especially now in the upcoming month of Elul which calls for increasing in Torah study with all, especially with tinokos shel beis rabban, as alluded to in the initials E.L.U.L. – אנה לידו ושמתי לך – “(Hashem) brought it to his hand, and I shall grant you (a place of refuge)”, which refers to Torah learning. And as Hashem earnestly asks each of us: “Open up for Me like the opening of a needle’s eye, and I shall open up for you like the expansive opening of the antechamber in the Beis Hamikdash. If these administrators will begin to worry about all the tinokos shel beis rabban of their city, then Hashem will surely grant them refuge (ושמתי לך מקום) and respite from the far-worse decree that looms over all the children in their community and threatens chinuch al taharas hakodesh of all children, not just the unvaccinated.[14]

In the merit of the above, we’ll surely merit to the complete revelation of Moshiach, who will learn Torah with all, including and most importantly, with all tinokos shel beis rabban without exception.

With blessings for all to be inscribed and sealed for a shana tova umesuka, for a good – “there is no good other than Torah” – and sweet – nothing is sweeter than the sweet sounds of the Torah study of tinokos shel beis rabban, “sweeter than honey and dripping honey combs” – year, may it be the year of our final Redemption. 

Respectfully, and stating all the above solely for the honor of the Torah
and for the sake of the precious tinokos shel beis rabban,
in the merit of whose breath the world exists,

Rabbi Michoel Green
Westborough, MA

[1] In which I urgently pointed out that Jerusalem was destroyed precisely because children were being prevented from learning Torah, עולל בחוץ, which is exactly what is being allowed to happen now, 1,950 years later, and no one is protesting! See Shabbos 119b.
[2] This is contested by numerous members of the community who claimed to have received explicit permission to oust children from that same Rav, but I choose to trust the Rav himself who recently conveyed this message to me in writing. As such, I must assume that the administrators fabricated the story of rabbinic directive.
[3] Yeshayau 66:4.
[4] Kidushin 42b.
[5] As the saying goes, “דעת בעלי בתים היפך דעת תורה – the opinion of laymen is contrary to daas Torah.”
[6] If rumors are correct, the legalities of the institutions' allegedly pocketing these ill-gotten funds – and their obligation to return them – is beyond the scope of this letter. It behooves these administrators to consult with rabbonim about this matter, just as they ought to have consulted before ousting Jewish children from school in the first place. Or perhaps in this latter case they should consult with more-qualified dayanim whose expertise includes Choshen Mishpat. The former shaalo is a lot simpler, and any rav musmach would do, since the clear prohibition of barring children shelo kadin from cheder appears in Yoreh Deah. In fact, it’s a basic tenet of Judaism that all schoolchildren know!
[7] I am not necessarily expecting every administrator to accept these children into school in way that endangers the fate of the entire school and risks its closure at the hand of state agents, as such degree of mesirus nefesh might not be שוה לכל נפש (although arguably expected from one who calls himself a Chabad chassid). Furthermore, I acknowledge that an administrator’s current guilt here is mitigated by the fact that he is now “אונס”, acting under duress, but nevertheless he should realize his obligation to worry for the welfare of these children and work to assist them however possible in their homeschooling, or perhaps by assisting them to open new chadorim that will educate them.
[8] These schools outside NY appear to be using the reprehensible model of Crown Heights schools and the abovementioned doctor as their golden standard, adopting a halachically-indefensible policy that was designed by this doctor several years back, well before it ever became state law. This furthers underscores the grave responsibility that lies on the Crown Heights community and its leadership, or rather, its lack thereof.
[9] Devorim 24:16.
[10] Kidnappers
[11] As I was once told by our eldest child’s pediatrician when we were patients in the practice of the same Crown Heights doctor who allegedly committed this unspeakable act of mesirah. It was confirmed by countless other doctors since then.
[12] Who will stand up to defend Hashem’s only abode in this world, the only place He calls His own? The Rebbe once wept at farbrengen while speaking about the importance of chinuch al taharas hakodesh for all children. “After the churban beis hamikdash,” the Rebbe wept, “the only place He feels at home in His world is in the four cubits of pure Torah learning of Jewish children… and even this you wish to deprive Him of!?” (Simchas Torah 5715)
[13] Alter Rebbe’s Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:3
[14] Recall the shocking story from Jewish history in medieval France when Jewish opponents of the Rambam’s philosophical works burned his works in public, and then only nine short years later, the Catholics burned 24 wagonloads of gemaras on that precise location. Similarly, in our times, the Jewish community and its administrators abandoned some Jewish children and deprived them of an education, and now Jewish education of ALL children is in serious jeopardy. It’s truly shocking that people cannot see the eerie correlation of these two painful developments and fail to connect the dots.

1 comment:

Irena said...

Thank you, Rabbi Green,
for telling the truth!!!
Shana Tovah, Rabbi Green!