Who holds the power?

February 9, 2016 by J-Wire
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Child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks has blogged that the proposed change in authority at the Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne, “has been vetoed by the organisation that apparently has always had ultimate power, authority and responsibility: Chabad Headquarters based in Brooklyn, New York.”


Yeshivah College

In the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse involving the Yeshivah College, the trustees of the Centre appointed a sub committee. This team was tasked with collating information and making recommendations to the interim Governance Review Panel, with the aim of “introducing a governance structure, ” to the Centre.   According to a spokesperson from the centre, the system has been transparent and equitable, as the information is opened up to the public, with closing dates and requests for final submissions being shown to the public online.

The problem then lies with the mixed messages that has received from Chabad headquarters in New York earlier this month.

In the letter to the trustees of the Yeshiva Centre Melbourne, the Yeshiva Centre NY not only stated that there can be no change in authority (something which the victims of abuse have been pushing for), they also appear to underplay the seriousness of the issues by stating that they will establish a “special subcommittee” and “will consider a visit to Melbourne in the near future, if they find it necessary.”

Since then another letter has been released by Chabad NY, clarifying their previous statement, that “The purpose of our letter was to offer Merkos guidance,” and “It was not our intent to interfere with the important restructuring process that you are engaged in.”

Waks believes that Chabad NY have “done a massive backflip. They now seem to claim that, contrary to what they initially claimed, they in fact don’t have any power or authority over the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne.” All of which leaves the system in chaos.

In light of the recent letters, Melbourne Chabad have been quick to distance themselves from NY Chabad, stating that they are unable talk on behalf of their overseas counterpart. Additionally they have released a statement that reiterates their commitment to “adopting a corporate structure for the Yeshivah Centre that reflects good governance and adheres to the principles of Chabad Lubavitch and the guidance of the Rebbe.”

Waks believes that “Some of the proposed ‘changes’ are concerning and appear to be no more an attempt by the existing trustees to entrench their power…” However, Chabad Centre Melbourne affirms their position that “the GRP is in the process of receiving community feedback on their proposed governance structure. The GRP are conducting an open, transparent and collaborative process and we encourage the community to make submissions to the GRP.”

A spokesperson for Chabad in New York told J-Wire: “The most important issue remains the protection of the children.”

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