A moment of glory and pride turned to embarrassment and sadness on Sunday night. Over three and half thousand Schluchim and guests celebrated the banquet of the Kinus with pride and commitment to the Rebbe. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarksy recalled the first Kinus when Rabbi Sholom Posner asked each of us to introduce ourselves which became as time went on the famous roll call. For some like myself who has watched the evolution of the Kinus from a small group to the powerhouse it was a special moment of Chassideshe Nachas.
That moment of joy was shattered later that night by a group that has made violence and terror their symbol. When many of the Shluchim returned to 770 to farbreng. Some members of the Kvutza from Tzefas tried to interfere with the Farbrengen, the Shluchim continued ignoring them. Finally they attacked those who have spent decades as the Rebbe’s Shluchim. Throwing benches, sidurim and using fists. They broke the leg of a Baal Mesrias Nefesh who went recently to the remote country of Vietnam to spread Yiddiskiet.
Are any of us proud of 770 today. Or do we cringe with distaste when we walk in and see how craziness has become dominant. Do we invite our Mekurvim or do we fear that they will share bad feelings and it will cause them to loose respect for Lubavitch. A few months ago a doctor and his son from our community decided to stop by 770 during a visit to New York. There they where accosted by this group. When they returned they asked me “has Lubavitch gone crazy?”
Shabbos in Shul in 770 I had a conversation with some of the Anash from Crown Heights. They where quite disturbed with what has been going on there. When I challenged them “do something, you live here” there response was telling. “Listen, we work hard, we come home we want to have a few moments with our families and open a sefer”. We don’t like what’s going on, but what can we do?
The Germara says Shitka Keodaah Dami. Its not just Anash in Crown Heights, the sad truth is we are all guilty of this. Our silence and passivity has allowed this happen. We have permitted a distortion of Chassidus, a corruption of everything the Rebbe held dear. A week is growing that is destroying Lubavitch. All of us, Anash, Shluchim, Rabbonim sit by on the side as a small group of Bachurim use violence to impose their radical agenda on the rest of the community.
In Lubavitch there is an attitude of acceptance to every Jew. Maybe we should be “melamed Zechus,” our inaction is a product of this ideology of Ahavas Yisroel. But we have to ask ourselves a question, when does that acceptance undermine the very foundations or our community? Be it due to our tolerance, our apathy or our fear of their violence we have abdicated our responsibility as Chassidim. For years we have stood on the sidelines, afraid to confront this immorality in our midst.
Some say “what can we do” others say “its just a small group so what’s the big deal”. Others claim “don’t worry with time it will go away”. Let’s face the truth it’s not going away. The lesson of Sunday night is that this group feels that they are the Bala Batim in 770. They act brazenly without respect to anyone, be it rabbonim, older Shluchim or Anash. They are a law unto themselves.
Its time to act. We cannot be silent anymore. Let’s be honest, we all share in this tragedy because we have not acted till now.
In my opinion this is what needs to be done:
1. Its time to cut down the tree that produces this fruit. This group is a product of the Yeshiva in Tzefas. Its time for Anash to stop supporting this Yeshiva financially . Parents should not send their children there, we have many wonderful Yeshivas that do not produce violent Bochurim, let them attend those Yeshivas. This institution should not be part of the Lubavitch system.
2. The Gabaim in 770 must either control the situation or resign. They are responsible for the daily activity of the Shul. If they support this kind of activity they have no role as community leaders. If they can’t stop it they are failures as leaders.
3. Merkos and Aguch, who sat on the sidelines for years. Finally after the incident with the Even Hapinah they launched a legal case to take control of 770. A responsibility the Rebbe clearly entrusted to them. The first part of the case has been resolved declaring them owners of the property. The second part must continue aggressively. Those close to the case tell me that it is a clear cut case of property ownership and will be settled shortly. After the court judgment they need to act decisively to take control of the Shul. If the existing leadership continues to be a partner with these violent Bachurim they should be removed.
4. The Rabbanim of Crown Heights must speak out strongly and decisively against this violence. Its time for them to speak out with one voice against the violence and abuse of Beis Rabbinu Shebebavel.
5.The Anash of Crown Heights need to stop sitting in the sidelines. They live in the neighborhood. They daaven there its time for them to act. Let them create a committee of local Anash to stop the abuse of 770.
6. The Hanhalah of the Yeshiva in 770 needs to expel these students from the Yeshiva and terminate their visas. When they are expelled the Yeshiva should inform Homeland Security and the INS that these students involved in violence and are expelled, therefore their visas are no longer valid. The parents of these Bachurim need to contacted by the Hanahalah and informed that their sons are expelled and out of control.
7.The Shluchim around the world need to support all of the above. They need to start coming to 770 on a regular basis, having Farbrengen downstairs and stand up to these Bachurim. They need to support Anash in Crown Heights in Crown Heights the efforts of Aguch/Merkos and all that are willing to stand up to this immorality.
As Lubavitch we claim a mantle of leadership in the Jewish world. We teach Torah, we challenge other Jews and groups to live up to its ideals. However in truth we are failing our own home and community. How can we tell the whole world how to live if we tolerate such decadence in our midst. How can we stand at the Ohel with self respect when we now what we are allowing to go on in the Rebbe’s Shul. How can a small group of violent Bachurim, who never sat at a Farbrengen, never went into Yechidus, never spent years on Shlichus define the direction of Lubavitch. Its time for all of us to act and stop sitting on the sidelines.
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