Rabbi Milecki has his say

July 6, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Last week the NSW Court of Appeal ruled that the administrator of the now defunct South Head Synagogue had legally had terminated the employment of Rabbi Benzion Milecki. The rabbi has now released a statement.

Rabbi Milecki writes:

Rabbi Benzion Milecki

“From the very first indication, in February 2017, that the Board of South Head wanted us to leave, we asked that the matter be heard by Beth Din in accordance with the explicit terms of the Rabbinic contract which had been signed by Presidents and Vice-Presidents Dr S Ende, Mr N Gardos, Dr S G Friedman, Mr Baron Revelman and Mr Malcolm Kofsky.

Instead, and without any Board member ever having a face to face discussion with me, the Board, through its lawyers, issued me with an ultimatum on April 7. According to the terms of the ultimatum I would either have to resign within three weeks or I would be dismissed. Less than three weeks later, on April 26, the Board appointed an Administrator who immediately dismissed me, hired armed guards outside the shule to bar my entry, and then sought orders from the Supreme Court confirming his decision. Never has a Rabbi been so publicly humiliated without cause.

Justice Paul Brereton ruled that in the absence of a ruling by the Beth Din to the contrary, my dismissal contravened Halacha and was unlawful.

Justice Paul Brereton further stated that, in his opinion, the reason that the Synagogue did not bring the matter to Beth Din was because there were no grounds for my dismissal.

Last week, the Court of Appeals decided that the Synagogue company, as opposed to the congregation, was not obligated to follow Halacha.

For over three decades the Rebbetzen and I served South Head Synagogue and its members with every fibre of our being. We treated our congregation like family, opening our hearts and home to them, and preferring their interests over our own. We both worked days and nights, often through the nights, for the benefit of our congregants. We did so because we believed that we were family. We also assumed that our relationship with the Orthodox South Head Synagogue was based on Halacha. Unfortunately it seems that we were wrong on both counts.

It is truly a sad day when an Orthodox Synagogue, after a decades-long relationship with its devoted Rabbi and Rebbetzen, chooses to prosecute its case in Court rather than in Beth Din according to Halacha.

It remains our position that any claims between us are a Halachik matter to be decided by Beth Din in accordance with the terms of the Rabbinic contract.”



8 Responses to “Rabbi Milecki has his say”
  1. Gary Davis says:

    Oh my gosh looks like rabbi Milecki wants to pursue more legal action.
    Someone should sit him down and try and make him see sense.What a tragedy this is for all concerned.

  2. Alan Hirson says:

    I would like to refer readers of this website to a letter written by the esteemed and well loved former president of South Head Mr Malcolm Kofsky dated 29 June 2017 entitled “South Head : former president writes”

    His erudite and logical letter seems to contradict what Rabbi Milecki is presenting

    The letter can be found under “Readers’ Letters”

  3. Jock Orkin says:

    Quo vadis Rabbi Milecki ?

    You have lost a synagogue ,congregation and job .It is indeed regrettable
    that your years of devoted service should have ended in this way.

    It is tilting at windmills to suggest that a Beth Din in Israel could overturn a ruling by an Australian court.

    Jock Orkin,

  4. Rabbi Benzion Milecki says:

    In response to the comments below:

    1. Until February 2017, no Board or President ever raised with me the question of my retirement other than to reassure me that I could remain as long as I wished. The first time I ever heard or saw it raised was on 2nd February 2017 in a quote by then President James Hochroth in the AustralIan Jewish News.

    2. On the contrary, on April 19 2016, there was a Board meeting. After the meeting, then President Malcolm Kofsky and Incoming President James Hochroth came to my home and informed me that the following resolution had been passed: “After detailed and extensive discussion, the board resolved to work with the rabbi to develop a clear, agreed plan for the sustainable future of the shul under his leadership.”

    3. It was never envisaged by me, nor do I believe by any of the signatories of my Rabbinic contract all of whom subscribe to Orthodox Judaism, that the Supreme Court would be the venue for a dispute between the congregation and Its Rabbi. Clause 9 clearly states: “Any irreconcilable disputes between Rabbi and congregation shall be decided according to Halacha. The Dayanim are to be decided by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel or by mutual agreement between the Rabbi and the Board of Management.”

    4. I was unfortunately forced to defend myself in the Supreme Court because that was where the matter was brought by the Administrator, under Corporations Law, naming me as the defendant. However, as all the signatories of my contract know, any dispute between the Orthodox South Head community and I must be resolved in Beth Din according to Halacha. A corporation may be liquidated according to Australian Law, but it is unheard of for a congregation to dissolve itself and then recreate itself under a different name in order to avoid its Halachik obligations.

  5. Julian Joffe says:

    Rabbi Milecki appears to be the Master of Spin.Shane Warne could not match him.

  6. Ruth Kramer says:

    Rabbi Milecki is rehashing his position as if the status quo is unchanged.

    Someone needs to council him urgently as he has lost his sense of reality, perspective and judgement.

    Any humiliation has been self inflicted .

  7. Rafi Plotkin says:

    From comments posted on this site the directors of the Shul have been negotiating with Rabbi Milecki for a number of years to no avail as he allegedly never negotiated in good faith.
    The shul was in a perilous financial position and the directors acted in a manner that is both acceptable and honourable in an attempt to save it.

    Rabbi Milecki’s “implied” hazakah was rejected by The Appeal Court and the erstwhile Rabbi should accept the learned Judges’ decision and move on.
    The Beth Din has no role to play in this now settled dispute.

  8. Rose Gold says:

    “Never has a Rabbi been so publicly humiliated without cause”, writes the Rabbi.

    I can think of heaps of times throughout history that rabbis have been publicly humiliated exponentially worse that this.

    Go reread your Jewish history.

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