Rabbi’s day in court

November 7, 2012 by J-Wire
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A controversial rabbi in Melbourne who has appealed his dismissal from Chabad will have his day in court in New York later this week.

Rabbi Chaim Herzog

JTA reports that Rabbi Chaim Herzog’s dismissal will be heard by a rabbinical court in Brooklyn, probably this weekend during the annual Chabad gathering of its 4,000 global emissaries.

Rabbi Herzog, who has been running Chabad of Melbourne CBD since 1998, received an official letter last month saying he no longer has the authority to operate in the name of Chabad, according to the report.

The dispute appears to centre around allegations that Herzog was waging a “turf war” against colleagues operating near his Chabad house in Melbourne’s city centre.

Herzog was quoted as saying: “Everything you print is a lie and I’m not going to comment any further.”

JTA cited an official inside Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn who confirmed that Herzog received “an official dismissal letter” and that his name does not appear on the official list of Chabad emissaries.

But until the appeal is heard, the official said Herzog is “innocent until proven guilty.”

David Werdiger, a grandson of one of the pioneers of Chabad in Melbourne, claims he has been one of Herzog’s targets because he hosts a weekly study session under an organization called Jews of the CBD.

He has applied for an apprehended violence order against Herzog, which raised in the Magistrates’ Court today and is set down to be heard early next month.

Werdiger also blasted Chabad’s senior rabbis for failing to act since he first approached them in 2008.

“I’m relieved that action has finally been taken,” he told JTA of Herzog’s dismissal. “It’s too late; let’s hope it’s not too little.”

Sydney’s Rabbi Eli Feldman, who studied at rabbinical school in Melbourne and Montreal with Herzog, said: “I would like the good work that Rabbi Herzog has done in his time running Chabad of Melbourne CBD to be recognised and respected.”


One Response to “Rabbi’s day in court”
  1. ben says:

    Dozens of Rabbis have reached out in support of Rabbi Chaim Herzog following a recent JTA article that inaccurately depicted an internal Chabad of Australia disagreement between a member of local leadership and Chabad emissary Rabbi Chaim Herzog.

    In a letter to Chabad leaders in New York, a senior West Coast Chabad Rabbi called the JTA article “a desecration of God’s Name”. The Rabbi also criticized members of the community who participated in the article’s publication.

    According to the November 4, 2012 article, a “rabbinical court in New York will determine the fate of a Chabad rabbi in Melbourne who was dismissed from his post amid allegations of improper conduct.” It quotes an unnamed Chabad spokesperson as saying, “Herzog received “an official dismissal letter.”

    A source familiar with the dispute told TheJfile.com that “Australian reporter Dan Goldberg has a relationship with David Werdiger, Herzog’s main adversary and is far from objective”. According to the source, an article penned by Goldberg for Haaretz in July that quotes Werdiger attests to the relationship between the two. TheJfile was unable to independently verify the allegations.

    In an email to TheJfile, the JTA strongly disputed that Goldberg would act dishonorably. “We’ve worked with Dan for years, and he has a long relationship with the Australia Jewish News and Haaretz. The notion that he would be involved in such shenanigans strikes me as preposterous.”

    Despite the JTA’s assurances, TheJfile found several inaccuracies in the the article.

    Rabbi Herzog was originally appointed by Chabad of Australia pioneer, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, in 1998.

    Following his passing in 2009, his son, Rabbi Chaim Groner, along with Rabbis Aharon Serebryanski and Yossel Gutnick, were appointed by Chabad headquarters to jointly direct the movement’s emissaries in Melbourne.

    At a 2011 meeting of the committee, all three agreed that Rabbi Chaim Herzog is the official Chabad of Melbourne Central Business District representative.

    As mentioned in the JTA article, Herzog received a dismissal letter from Rabbi Chaim Groner, apparently, in connection with a dispute between him and Werdiger’s organization. But the article omitted the fact that seemingly all official Chabad of Melbourne decisions must be made by all 3 members of the committee, that Groner acted unilaterally, and that according to people close to Herzog, Rabbis Serebryanski and Gutnick, who have strongly supported him in the past, still recognize Herzog as a Chabad representative.

    A rabbinic court case has been scheduled in connection with the incident. However, the article insinuates that the case is only scheduled determine Herzog’s status, when in fact Herzog is the plaintiff and Groner is the defendant.

    In response to Groner’s letter, Chabad’s central rabbinic court in NY issued a temporary injunction that effectively overturned, for the time being, the dismissal. In addition, a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued which forbid publication of the dismissal letter and communication with the media prior to the hearing. The quotes against Herzog to the JTA seemingly violated that TRO.

    At the hearing, which has not yet taken place despite the article’s claim that it was scheduled to take place the week of November 4, the court will in all likelihood first rule on the allegations that Rabbi Groner illegally issued a dismissal letter without first consulting the other Rabbinical committee members.

    The JTA article further claims that “[Herzog’s] name does not appear on the official list of Chabad emissaries,” but neglects to mention that – for an unrelated reason – it was not listed since approximately 2005.

    According to official policy, Chabad only lists married men on their official list of emissaries. Herzog’s organization, however, always was and still is listed. Moreover, at the there are several unmarried Rabbis listed by institution and not by name.

    Furthermore, Herzog regularly attends the yearly Shluchim convention in New York, which is only for official emissaries. His attendance this year demonstrates that he is still recognized as a Chabad emissary and there has been no change in status despite Rabbi Groner’s dismissal letter.

    The JTA article also brought allegations of improper conduct by Herzog and quotes David Werdiger who “claims he was one of Herzog’s targets because he hosts a weekly study session for an organization called Jews of the CBD.”

    Missing from the article was any mention of the allegations against Werdiger that he is “the subject of an criminal investigation by Victoria Police into a hacking attack on Herzog’s computer, and that earlier this year police questioned Werdiger’s…. son following an assault incident involving physical abuse directed at Rabbi Herzog ”.

    According to sources in Australia, safety and security are an issue for Herzog whose attorney revealed that he had received an email from someone claiming to be an “investigative journalist” for the Jewish Press named Jacob Edelist with questions about the case.

    Editors at the Jewish Press online confirmed that there is a Jacob Edelist who occasionally writes for them, but they insisted that Jacob “never sent out an email as an ‘investigative reporter’ and the email sent to Herzog’s attorney was sent by an impostor.

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