Advertising for a rabbi…a reader’s letter

July 6, 2018 by  
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I note that Kehillat Kadimah, in advertising for a new Rabbi, are seeking someone with essentially the same skills and personality as the previous Rabbi of South Head Synagogue who, together with his Rebbetzen, devotedly served his community for 32 years.

I therefore address the following to any prospective rabbi and urge him to take heed of what happened to Rabbi Benzion Milecki, including, inter alia, the following:

  • Rabbi Milecki was given an ultimatum a few days before Pesach last year. The ultimatum, coming from the Synagogue’s lawyers, gave him three weeks to leave. In spite of the Rabbi’s decades of devoted service, the Board of Management chose to send a letter from their lawyers rather than sit down with the Rabbi to discuss his future.
  • At the conclusion of the three weeks, the Synagogue was placed into Administration by the Board of Management, and the Rabbi was immediately dismissed without notice or pay.
  • Armed guards were posted outside the Synagogue, given pictures of the Rabbi, and instructed that he be denied access to the Synagogue.  This meant that the Rabbi was barred from saying Kaddish at the Shule for his recently deceased father.
  • The Rabbi was then taken to Court to confirm his dismissal. Mr Justice Brereton in the Supreme Court of NSW denied the action saying that the dismissal was unlawful, that the matter should have been brought before a Beth Din, and that the reason that this didn’t occur was, in his opinion, because the plaintiffs knew that there were no grounds on which a Beth Din would dismiss the Rabbi.
  • When Rabbi Milecki was vindicated by Mr Justice Brereton, the Synagogue was voted into liquidation. I believe it was stated that the purpose behind replacing the Bank was to prevent the Bank putting the Shule into liquidation
  • When Rabbi Milecki attempted to defend himself by publishing what in his view were the facts of the case, he was sued in the Supreme Court for defamation by those members of the Board of Management, whose associated companies had paid out the Bank. Although he is vigorously defending the case, and is confident of winning, running his defence is taking a serious personal and financial toll on both him and his family. 

What was the Rabbi’s crime?

  • That he didn’t just go away on 3 weeks’ notice after 32 years’ service?
  • That he believed that he was a beloved part of the family that he had served for more than 30 years and that at 62 he was not a disposable old man to be discarded?
  • That he had faith in a contractual agreement, and a dispute resolution process, signed by numerous Presidents and Vice Presidents?
  • That he dared to imagine that among those that he had served and loved that there were at least some G-d fearing people who would scream out in protest and not allow his rights to be trampled upon.This gives rise to an imputation that the board is unethical or indecent. It may be defensible as honestly held opinion but there is a risk.

In refusing to allow himself to be discarded, Rabbi Milecki took the advice of a leading Australian ethicist, Dr Simon Longstaff AO, CEO of Sydney’s prestigious Ethics Centre, who told the Rabbi that Jews have left the world a legacy of standing up for themselves. He advised the Rabbi that he had a duty to stand up as an example to his community.

May I suggest to the prospective new Rabbi that he ask the community what they did to support Rabbi and Rebbetzen Milecki after 32 years of devoted service.

Silence, let alone an almost total lack of support, should not be an option.

Silence, the Talmud tells us, is acquiescence.

As John Stuart Mill, the famous British philosopher said, long ago in 1867, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”

Evil needs just evil deeds—not evil people. The members of Kehillat Kadimah may be good people, but they have stood idly by while the reputation and good name of the Rabbi and Rebbetzen has been trashed.

So while the prospective Rabbi may want to ask himself whether he wishes to serve this community, similarly the community may wish to ask themselves if their silence has been appropriate and proper.

Yours faithfully

A H Krochmalik



4 Responses to “Advertising for a rabbi…a reader’s letter”
  1. Harold Karp says:

    The Board of Directors and the 3 secured creditors will obviously challenge this biased view and are not such heartless and evil people as this jaundiced letter suggests.

    Reading all of the comments and newspaper articles on this unfortunate affair I would suggest that the rabbi has moved the goalposts on numerous occasions and apparently would never entertain any views that he disagreed with.

    He was offered a package as part of a renewal process for the shul which he rejected out of hand and would only accept a solution to the issue on his vainglorious terms.

    To suggest that the members of this kehilla are evil beggars belief .

    In fact this letter is nothing more than an immature and ill considered harangue
    against well meaning people.

    • Harvey Pollak says:

      This letter as well the comment written by Rabbi Milecki look remarkably the same.
      it seems someone coached someone on how to present these views.

  2. Steven Kurlansky says:

    John Stuart Mill also said:

    ” He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that ”

    Your quote from Mill is indeed very selective.

  3. Ted Cohen says:

    Any reason why two interesting comments were removed regarding this letter ??

    Those comments did not seem controvesial !!!

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