Rabbi Schochet Issues Clarification on Telushkin Ban

Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet, Av Beis Din of Toronto, released today a second letter in response to a general misunderstanding of his first letter, in which he espoused a Halachic prohibition on promoting the book of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Rabbi Schochet told CrownHeights.info that the original letter was written by him to a dear friend of his, and was not intended to be disseminated to the general public, especially not outside the Chabad community (which was why it was written in Hebrew).

He expressed dismay that many in the secular media and other enemies of Chabad used his letter to portray the movement as closed-minded and against open discourse, accusations which could not be further from the truth.

“If I had know the letter was going to ‘go viral,’ I would have used different words,” he said, and would have addressed the subject much more delicately. “However, I stand by everything I wrote,” he reaffirmed.

Rabbi Schochet’s letter can be read below. Click on the image to enlarge the text:




  • Choice of words

    I find it odd that Rabbi Schochet refers to himself in the third person in this letter (“the undersigned,” “the author of the letter,” “he”). Why not say “I?” Is it a chassidishe thing? I do respect that he’s sticking to his opinion.

  • NY Times

    He says had he know the letter was going to viral he would have chosen his words more carefully. This is no excuse. We should always choose our words like they will be published on the front page of the NY Times.

    • observer

      I find your comment rather superficial.

      After seeing this post I looked for Rabbi Schochet’s original letter. It was a Private letter written to an individual. It is not about ‘going viral’, it is about private vs public. While scathing in its content, the original letter was written in a respectful way, with tremendous clarity and reason. Yet since we are living in a reality where so many people read things superficially, I can only speculate that Rabbi Schochet’s regrets not realizing that this letter might be publicized, in which case he might have used different phrases so that the masses don’t lose respect for the recipient of the letter.

      Both the original letter and the clarification can only leave me envious of a community that can call such a person their Rabbi.

    • Milhouse

      Why, exactly? Do *you* write private notes to your familiy or close friends as if they were going to be examined by a hostile prosecutor?!

    • what are you taking about??!!!!

      When you write a letter to your brother, are you careful on your wording… Obviously not really. You have no dream it will go public. And then what happens? Your brothers friend happens to see it and decides to share it… Till eventually it goes public.. I fully understand what happened here and I hope you will too!

  • Reuvain

    Sadly Rabbi Schochet has not corrected his false statement tha Joseph Teluhkin is a Conservative Rabbi. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University.

    • Anonymous

      He is the “rabbi” of a conservative congregation where the second rabbi is a woman and where a microphone is used on shabbos. Enough said?

  • Post his origina letter

    Since Rabbi Schochet stands by hos words and you are publicizing this letter, why don’t you repost the initial letter (without the letterhead and recipient name)?

  • public vs private

    Chabad does have stricter guidelines for itself, it is only for others that we accept them the way they are and give encouragement to always improve (something we should always be doing as well).

  • Annon

    Interesting how his first letter was on the letterhead of the vaad horabonim of toronto and it stated that he was av beis din and the clarification came on his own letterhead… he doesnt speak on behalf of any rabbonim of toronto and is not the av beis din either. He is part of the beis din for giyur only, has a small shul of 80+ year olds…

    He can have his own opinions but let him keep his public letters to himself.

  • ploni almoni

    Since he writes that the published letter is authentic, does that not he that the ban he issued on the “active involvement of individuals associated with the chabad movement in the promotion of a book” remains in full force even this clarification.??

    It would be nice if Rabbi Schocet would explain which poor choice of words and terms he sincerely regrets??

    Rabbi Schochet should be commended for not being afraid to voice HIS halachik opinion and not crumbling under pressure.

  • Menachem Shmoy

    Is the good rabbi suggesting that all those who bought the book should somehow get rid of it?
    This entire exposure by Rabbi Schochet was unnecessary.
    It didn’t do any good at all.

  • what?

    I’m not sure what the point of that letter is. Just makes it look like there is this inside agenda- which I think is actually mostly not there. At least for most regular people. I enjoyed the book, and don’t have any weird secret beliefs, lol.
    OUR history- as Jewish people, Chabad etc. should not make us “book banning people”, in my opinion.

    “Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”—Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education

    SO, there is something called disagreement, which honestly this book does not deserve, but you re entitled to. But this is not the way.

  • Sam

    Rabbonim are not politicians. Why do we expect them to be politicians, spin doctors and PR experts? They are not savvy about being politically correct, and they do not have polished PR skills. Hint: Open a chumash or any sefer – is it written “politically correct”?

  • Kudos to crownheights.info

    I’m so impressed with your site, that you published his clarification letter. I see it as great humility coming from a great site.

  • Page 168

    The Rebbe lifted his hands in a way that was clearly dismissive of the other rabbis message to Jacobson. “what do rabbis have to do with a newspaper? A rabbi should pasken that a jew should be learning Torah all day, and every second that’s free is bitul Torah. So how are rabbis going to issue a ruling regarding a newspaper when they should be telling a person not to read a newspaper but to study Torah? Newspapers are for people who don’t listen to rabbis or who don’t ask rabbis. And when you put into the paper a few words of Torah, you will be reaching such people”

  • crazy

    come on!
    its jus a story book, its not no an halachik work

    he is a good man, don’t accept him as ” rabbi” if he is conservative

    After all,he didn’t put any camera

  • interesting

    i appreciate his opinion- . although its disgusting when people publicize private info, its good to know a rav’s opinion on this controversial book.

  • Yehoshua Langman

    Thank you R. Telushkin for writing a amazing book on the Rebbe. I only wish I had read it when I first became frum.
    When the Rambam wrote Mishnah Torah, the Rabbis publicly burnt it. And a few years later, the Christians burnt the Talmud…
    Anything this good is bound to be controversial!!!
    G-d Bless everyone.

  • Kudos to CrownHeights.Info

    Kudos to this site for putting something wacky up in the first, then removing it and then putting up an even wackier “clarification.”

  • yosef

    Chk this out http://www.sftpa.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=825080950877156 and you’ll understand that Merkos who commissioned Telushkin behind the scenes has done far worse than anything else… this is bchiya l’doros….if Rabbi Chadakov would have been around Merkos wouldn’t get to first base and more so, they’d all be fired…There needs to be an outrage by any person caring for Lubavitch and the Rebbe’s honor…chaval d’avdin…

  • Uri

    the question that bothers me most: where are all the other Rabonim? Is Rav Elesha Schochet the only one that opposes the “cooperation” between Chabad and conservatives?