Will the true leaders stand up?…asks Avi Vorcheimer

February 25, 2015 by Avi Vorcheimer
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The recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  in Australia,  brought with it a tremendous amount of pain and embarrassment to Jews throughout the world.

Yeshivah-Centree-290This was due to the revelations of cover-ups and intimidation and bullying, to the poor conduct and character that was displayed by many of those who were questioned on the stand, and by the fact that some of those questioned were caught out in their testimonies (whilst everyone was watching the most popular live soap opera).

As a result of these events, some of these people resigned from their positions of authority in the community, but others remained in their positions.

Pondering these events, I think that a lot of the problem here is due to the fact that our community leaders are not always answerable to their communities. Yes, many organisations do exist that have boards which vote in their leaders. However, in this scenario the leaders and the board (that didn’t resign) were not voted in by the community and therefore had no real feeling of responsibility to the people that they supposedly represent.

In recent times, victims of child sexual abuse have mobilised in an effort to gain justice for the acts that they encountered (which had not previously been dealt with by the relevant authorities). They have endured lots of opposition, as organisations tried to conceal the fact that they had failed in their duties by not reporting the events to authorities. Slowly but surely, press releases are coming out in support of victims reporting their abuse to the authorities.

As I see it, part of the problem stems from the fact that certain things just weren’t talked about 20 or 30 years ago, and therefore many organisations were unwilling to accept that they had an issue that needed to be reported to the authorities (they felt that it would reflect badly on their organisation, and were not “man” enough to accept that reporting the events was the responsible thing to do).

In recent times, due to constant discussion in the public arena, there has become a general acceptance throughout the Jewish and non-Jewish world that such issues need to be reported to the relevant authorities. This has led to a new wave of past incidents being reported throughout the Jewish and non-Jewish world.

Unfortunately, this means that Jews throughout the world are very likely to continue to be embarrassed and ashamed during the coming years (as past and recent events are finally dealt with appropriately and more cover-ups come to light).

It seems to me, that in order to heal our wounds and to move forward, there needs to be a global push for a universally accepted organisation to be formed to oversee the professional conduct of practicing rabbis, teachers and communal leaders. Like any professional organisation, it would provide training and guidance, restrict its membership to only fit persons, provide disciplinary action, and give the community the opportunity to report unfit conduct of its members to a higher authority (for investigation, and possible responsive action). The forming of such an organisation will give comfort to worldwide Jewry that our rabbis, teachers, and communal leaders are indeed fit for the job.

Whilst the title of rabbi or Dayan can currently be earned by completing the required studies, those studies in themselves do not address the character traits of the individuals who do those studies. Communal leaders often possess very limited training, in any form.

Whilst the vast majority of rabbis, teachers, and communal leaders are of good character and do a tremendous job, the rotten apples keep cropping up to give all Jews a bad reputation and the feeling that they have no fitting leaders to turn to for any halachic or other matter.

My call for a global professional association for practicing rabbis, teachers, and communal leaders, is to address their conduct, in relation to all issues. Our leaders need to behave in a manner which makes us proud, rather than ashamed. Many other professions have established professional organisations for this purpose.

The establishment of such an organisation, is well overdue. If it had been established years ago, some of our current issues would have been dealt with better.

Now is the time for our leaders to put aside their differences and join together, to achieve something that will be truly meaningful to all of world Jewry for generations to come.

The forming of such an organisation (which is free from politics, accepted by all sections of worldwide Jewry, and has a well-balanced board that is voted in by its members), will make a huge positive impact on world Jewry. It will also address situations whereby troublesome individuals relocate elsewhere.

This is not just an Australian problem, it is a global problem that needs to be dealt with on a global scale.

At Mount Sinai when there was the incident of the golden calf, Moshe was told, “lech raid ki shichais amcha”, go descend for your people has acted corruptly. Rashi comments that “descend”, means to descend from greatness (as well as to return back to the people). Although Moshe had not been involved with the golden calf, he was told by Hashem that he had to personally get involved in fixing the situation. He didn’t issue a press release or make a nice speech, rather he did what needed to be done. In our current situation, we also need action from our leaders.

Avi Vorcheimer is a Melbourne-based accountant and contributing writer.


10 Responses to “Will the true leaders stand up?…asks Avi Vorcheimer”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    I’ve found the smallest most bland cookie, to complement a coffee, inordinately expensive in Adelaide, never mind poppy seed strudel. Melbourne is a mine of difference and goodies can be found that will not render one necessarily broke.
    Is the ’21’ at Double Bay a Jewish cafe?

    Adelaide is definitely not the place for me to live, for many reasons, so wish me well with sale of my house. I am impatient to move on.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      IS THE “21” A JEWISH CAFFEE !!!

      At the “21” even the toothpicks are Jewish, pick any !!!
      Password in Hungarian, however, will get you the best pickings on the menu.

      The owner lives in my building, I ‘ll ask him carefully so that the lift doesn’t get stuck on the 27th floor from trepidations.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Wow, Otto, we’ll make a revolutionary of you yet!! You should not put such passion, and humour, to waste.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Waste you said, me no thinks so. Some half a million Sydney Jews, ALL marching behind me, are about to get a free cappucinno at the “21” in Double Bay and a sultana free poppy seed strudell at Gelato Bar ( Henry’s sugar free !!!) and that counts for gurnischt !!! Is all that stuff cheaper for yourse in Adelaide or Melbourne !!!

  3. Schneur Naji says:

    Avi makes some excellent points.
    Judaism is not the Catholic Church with a central Pope like figure.
    There can be no single supervisory board over rabbis, teachers and the like.
    What we can demand that each group has guidelines of behavior which are open and transparent and member if found guilt of crimes or misdemeanors will be discipline and reported to the civil authorities when necessary.
    Our organisations must become totally democratic, both lay and cleric.
    No one should be able to hide and no one should be hidden.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      What about hiding matza at Seder, Pesach !!

      Right now I am somewhere in Europe, but I shall return (!!!) and, if anyone interested I intend to organise a massive, at least one hundred forty two thousand Sydney Jews, all with their membership paid to date, marching from Dover Haits, pass that Continental Deli on OSHead Rd cnr Warren Pde. demand 90% off their schnitzel sandwiches and FREE decaf capuccino,devastate Flood St, demand the resignation of all Rabbis and their families, baby sitters included and all be replaced by ben gershon, then wreck Westfiled shpng centre and demand FREE walnut AND poppy seed strudels WITHOUT those bloody sultanas mixed with EVERYTHING they make at Gelato Bar, sugar free for Henry Benjamin and more free capuccinos.
      We , then repair to 21 – or tventy van, if you please -, Double Bay and get George Schiffer to make a speech WITHOUT ANY JOKES, in which to reveal HIS recipe for his matzo ball soup.Needless to say, free George’s matzo balls to everyone.
      Any decent suggestions welcome….
      THIS is the kinda Jewish community I dream of and Vic knows it.

      • ben gershon says:

        dear Otto

        sounds like you are visiting home

        is it Chelem?

        safe trip


        • Otto Waldmann says:

          ..wherever it is it’s mein shtetel state of mind they call it Bucharest and I know what they mean, no mean fit…

  4. ben gershon says:

    Moshe did not leave a legacy where the people go and worship at his grave.while some of the cult of chabbad do worthwhile work with in the community .the nepotism and isolation of thought is what was on display in the past weeks .

    the time has come to purge this influence


  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    Excellent article, awash with ideas, strategies, tactics and minute, piercing tackle of issues, no tiny itzy bitzy pebble left unturned. Nothing repeated ad nauseum – a Latin expression most accountants I know never use -, not one single redundant phrase, a blue print for daily use in all shulles, Boards of Deps. and bingo clubs.

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