Rabbi Faces up to Facebook

June 13, 2012 by J-Wire
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Melbourne Yeshivah Rabbi Tzvi Telsner has spoken to J-Wire about his congregation’s decision not to give an Aliyah to a man who celebrated a birthday and the birth of a grandaughter…and whose son claims to be a victim of an alleged sexual abuse offender at the Yeshivah College.


Zephania Waks

Manny Waks posted the following on Facebook: “Following on from Rabbi Telsner’s recent Psak Din (Rabbinic edict) banning my father (Zephaniah Waks) from getting an Aliyah (getting called up to the Torah during the prayer service), today (Sabbath) my father was prevented from receiving this honour on the occasion of the week of his birthday (customary within the Yeshivah community). He was not given this honour during the morning prayer service, and subsequently, despite specifically requesting to undertake this annual ritual, was also denied this opportunity during the afternoon prayer service. Hence, due to Rabbi Telsner’s religious edict, for the first time ever my father has been prevented from carrying out a basic annual ritual. Apparently, at least one prominent member of the Yeshivah community attemped to intervene, but to no avail. Another member, too frightened to be named, asked Rabbi Telsner why my father could not receive an Aliyah, to which the Rabbi responded “he [my father] besmirched me and the Yeshivah”.

In around two months’ time is my paternal grandfather’s Yahrzeit (anniversary of a relative’s passing). This is another annual custom when people receive an Aliyah. My grandfather, Leib (Lion, in Yiddish), whose name I carry (middle name), remained in Berlin even after Hitler came to power, in the top engineering university. In fact his degree bears a swastika. Even though he understood what was coming, he would not be cowed and discussed with his professors why they raised their hands every year exponentially higher (Heil Hitler salute), mocking them.

My father is certain that his late father would not want me to stop what I am doing, or for him to move synagogues (my father has been a member of this synagogue for around 25 years), even at the expense of him not getting an Aliyah on his father’s Yahrzeit (or being prevented from leading the entire service as is customary on this occasion).

Anyone within the Yeshivah community who either supports Rabbi Telsner or is simply a bystander in this sordid affair can hold their heads in shame. It is time to speak up!”

Rabbi Telsner told J-Wire: “There is no obligation to grant someone an Aliyah. The decision is made in our congregation by the rabbi and the gabais. To give Mr Waks an Aliyah was not deemed appropriate.”

Zephania Waks, who has 17 children and 29 grandchildren, told J-Wire: “A number of people were honoured for their birthdays or the birth of a grandchild—I had both a birthday and a grandchild and was deliberately not given an honour, not during the morning service nor during the afternoon service. All of this after I was specifically told by Rabbi Telsner that he gave a Psak (religious edict) not to give me an Aliyah. He refused to give me a reason for this. There can be absolutely no doubt that I was deliberately targeted.”

Rabbi Telsner is the Dayan of the Yeshiva Centre.


13 Responses to “Rabbi Faces up to Facebook”
  1. Nathan Ben Moshe says:

    We are instructed “Zedek Tirdof”!

    There is nothing obvious to me that Mr Telsner’s policy or behaviour in 2012 or subsequently conformed to this maxim.

    The whole incident and related matters have brought shame on Jewry and discredited the persons responsible and the sect that they represent

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Jewish matters should never lack humanity or compassion in the way they are dealt with – this concept is inherent in all the Jewish ethics I’ve studied. It has been the case in all kinds of institutions, including Jewish, that leaders and their supporters have sometimes protected their own interests at the expense of the truth or justice. Often people must resort to public exposure or discussion of their situation or dilemma in the face of intransigence and what is, to them, unreasonable behaviour. Respect must be earned, whether it’s the respect for an individual or institution; the institution or its leader doesn’t command respect for what it/he/she is, but rather for how it behaves. Zephania Waks has a long history as a member of this synagogue and the Rabbi would not even discuss with him his reason for such an alienating decision. Perhaps, after all, despite this long association, he would be better off with another synagogue – hard at his age.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Again ,we see the assumption of parties other than the “plaintiff” being presented as less than just.
      Airing in public, and I mean the very general public Jewish issues that touch on rectitude of a Jewish institution and its leaders, is not the manner in which Jewish matters should be dealt wth. Universal priciples considered, there are specific areas and circumstances where variables apply. One must consider the anxiety of “certain” quarters to buy into Jewish matters, particularly where “reason”/opportunity for “criticism” may be detected.

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    To be critical of a Rabbi in the way that Ann Fink has does not equate with anti-Semitism. The power a Rabbi, and members of a synagogue or religious community, can wield is not always pretty, or fair. Being part of a religious community should not require turning a blind eye, and someone seeking the type of inclusion Manny Waks sought should not have it turned against him as ‘punishment’

    • Yet, it is expected that one would address matters of serious concern within our community in a dignified and tempered manner. Questionable character qualifications, serious accusations, particularly of the extensive kind, describing in accusatorial way larger segments of a certain institution well before matters reach the courts – someting the main protagonist in bringing to the public forum this saaga has been doing regularly- , implicating by assumption all manner of important persons within an institution, are neither dignified nor do they contribute to a judicious appreciation of the matter. Those bringing forward the charges have availed themselves of the public opinion forum to an extent that invites prejudice to take precedence to a necessary fair and decent forensic adjudication. It gives the immediate perception of an intent in lowering the respect for an entire insitution and its leaders. It may look far fetched, but the public manifestations of genuine anti Semitism use the same platform in degrading Jewish matters.

  4. Pretty tough and offensive comments toward a Rabbi and his kehilat from “Ann”. Since we don’t know his/her full identity, going by the terms used, it can be any dedicated anti Semite.

  5. John says:

    Why am I not surprised?

  6. Daniel says:

    It is not clear what “sin” Mr. Waks is accused of. In my shul, I’m one of the gabaim. Over the years a few people were refused aliyot. One man was put into herem because he refused the pesak of the bet din to give his wife a get. Some others did things against the shul. I was not even told what they did and why it was so bad. Since they left the shul, giving an aliyah was a non-issue.

  7. apple says:

    Zephania writes: “There can be absolutely no doubt that I was deliberately targeted.”

    Yes, you were deliberately targeted. And Rabbi Telsner made it quite obvious why. He never denied it.

    He said that since a birthday is not a obligation, he therefore sees no reason to honour you with it after what you have done to him and to the Yeshivah.

  8. apple says:

    Rabbi Telsner is the rabbi of the Yeshivah. It is within his rights to refuse giving an aliya to someone who has made a public mockery of the rabbi. Any normal Synagogue would have these same rules.

    Rabbi Telsner does not have to apologize for his actions. In fact, it is quite noble of Rabbi Telsner to state that for a Yortziet, he WILL allow Mr. Waks an aliya.

  9. Harry Joachim says:

    Even if Rabbi Telsner decided that Manny Waks was persona non grata, why is he punishing Manny’s father?

    The fact is, however, that Rabbi Telsner should be going out of his way to give the Waks family the kavod they deserve after all they have been through!

  10. Ann says:

    Total and utter disgrace! Manny Waks is a hero! His family is truly among the righteous in the nation. The Yeshiva Community and Rabbi Telsner should be shunned by all until they apologise profusely for the harm they have caused. They besmirch all of us and particularly their own “religious” affiliates. No one should accept such behavior. Shame upon them!

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