The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Op-Ed: The Key to Peace in the Crown Heights

A week has gone by since an “Installation Ceremony” crowned Rabbi Yosef Braun as the third member of the Crown Height’s Beis Din. The event, the culmination of months of backroom deals, private negotiations and heated public debate, should have brought an end to the discord and fighting that has plagued our community. Yet all was not as it seemed. Rabbi Osdoba, the senior member of the Beis Din, made a simple request - that Rabbi Braun show the two smichas mentioned in the psak. His request unfulfilled, Rabbi Osdoba was absent from the installation. 

What happened, and what does all of this mean to us? 

At the time I watched the proceedings, as they were streamed live over the Internet, from my home. I debated the proceedings online with my friends. Over a week has gone by since the installation, and my feelings and ill-ease with the situation have not subsided. If anything, the issues that trouble me have grown. Upon seeing the latest revelation, the misinformation fed to Rabbi Amram Klein - as revealed in a recent letter revealed to the public - I feel that we can remain silent no longer. 

Before continuing, by means of full disclosure, I’ll be upfront and say that I did not vote for Rabbi Braun. I was bothered by his lack of experience, unimpressed by his campaign that focused more on his prowess as a mashpia, as a youthful figure with the ability to reconnect with the estranged younger generations, than on his knowledge of psak. What is more, I found the campaign around him to be dirty and dishonest. I was bothered that he was being propelled forward by mudslinging, yet when asked about his campaign, he pleaded ignorance of any organized effort on his behalf. Kolel Yungeleit were tricked into signing what was supposed to be a private letter to the two existing rabbonim, that was then falsely circulated as an endorsement for Rabbi Braun. I was not impressed.

That all being said, I’m a firm believer in the democratic process.The transition of power to the winning party, even if not of one’s chosen candidate, is one of the most powerful aspects of the democracy. As such, as we entered the new year, I was ready to accept Rabbi Braun as the third Rov. 

Unfortunately, the lack of transparency - if not the utter turbidity - that plagued Rabbi Braun’s campaign came rearing to an ugly front. Rabbi Braun’s very qualifications as a rov were called into question. All that was needed was for Rabbi Braun to furnish the necessary documents, show the world that he did indeed posses the necessary smicha, and it would have ended there. Instead the issue lingered. When a psak was finally issued by the Zablo Beis Din, it did not posses the signatures of the five rabbis involved. Documents - including the very smicha that was claimed to be universally legitimate and acceptable to all - were not made public. Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the Rebbe’s chozer, and Reb Pinye Korf signed with others on an open letter to Rabbi Rosenberg asking that he provide the transparency that we, the residents of Crown Heights, deserve. 

As such, though the possibility to nominally install Rabbi Braun as rov in Crown Heights existed, clearly something was rotten in the state of Kan Tziva. 

Here is where everything breaks down for me:

Watching the ceremony that Sunday night, I was shocked by the cognitive dissonance of the events organizers. The speeches focused again and again on achdus, on the unity that was so long needed in Crown Heights finally coming. Yet looking at those seated at the head table and speaking from the dais, all I saw were the same tired faces that took part in the machlokes that initially tore our community apart. Were it not for the yeshivah bochurim schlepped in to inflate the crowd’s size and the Hungarian Rabbonim brought in as friends of the Braun family (some victims of the fore mentioned subterfuge), those gathered would have been incredibly monolithic. I mean no respect to those who gathered, but their cries of unity were cynical and hollow. 

If the night of 12 Shevat were truly one of unity, then where were so many of the rabbonim of our community? Where was Rabbi Heller? What about Rabbi Garelik? Where were Rabbis Yisroel Friedman or Gerlitzky? What about the mashpiim? Where was Reb Yoel Kahn? Reb Sholom Charitonow or Pinye Korf? Was Rabbi Yossi Jacobson there? Where were Rabbis Gronner or Simpson? What about Rabbi Shmuel Butman and other members of Tzach? 

Unity would be when two opposing forces are brought together, by a third higher power, negatinf the source, or at least the expression, of the conflict. What we witnessed that Sunday night was not unity, but rather a self-congratulatory and strictly partisan affair. It’s insulting to the intelligence of the inquisitive observer when the self-adulation and empty speeches that were preached to the choir were passed off as unity. 

Again and again friends have told me that it’s time to give Rabbi Braun a chance. That this was our last great chance at peace, and that my questions were only serving to continue the fight. 

Truth be told, this has nothing to do with Rabbi Braun the man - at least not to me. I’m sure he is a well-meaning and learned individual. My issue is with the lack of transparency and deceit that makes the very legitimacy and possibility of giving Rabbi Braun the chance he deserves! The simple act of full disclosure and honest conversation will bring an end to this debacle. Until that time, however, we remain hostage to the machinations of the rabble-rousers that wish to break the very foundations of the community they claim to aid. 

Ponder this: although Zaki showed a spirit of compromise - agreeing to continue with the installation, while delaying the actual signing of Rabbi Braun’s contract leaving time for the smichas to be produced. The other members of the Va’ad, however, went behind the collective backs of Rabbi Osdoba, Zaki and the entire community, signing the contract with Rabbi Braun. Why Rabbi Braun was unable to wait a few weeks, so that the signing of his contract be accepted by all parties involved, is beyond me. 

Information wants to be free. It is the basis of the modern era of free exchange and thoughts in which we live. It is the foundation of democracy and the bane of communism and fascism. What is more yemos hamoshiach are the very epitome of transparency and honesty - a time when knowledge will fill the entire world. 

Therefore we must ask Rabbi Braun: 

Please end partisan fighting and politics once and for all. Rabbi Braun - to help bring the peace and unity that I’m sure you also want - as a first step, please release the documents in connection with this case.

(reblogged from


Anonymous said...

In the 7th paragraph from the bottom (the one beginning with 'watching the ceremony') on the last line it says "i mean no respect". if im not mistaken it should be "no disrespect"

Great letter completely agree with it

in the vanguard said...

There's always someone in our community that just can't leave well enough alone.

Gary Tubnik said...

You profess to know the key, right? All you're doing is drudging up dirt to sweep aside. The key is to accept the good rabbi and get on with your life.

Mottel said...

Gary - nice to see you posting under two names saying the same thing.
SO you say that by not looking for the truth, that by accepting lie propagated by a pack of bandits things will be better?

No integrity - as we know.

Gary Tubnik said...

Pack of Bandits, huh?

Now you gave yourself away!

And this is why comments pro or con are worthless.

Mottel said...

what did I give away?
You come as "in the vanguard" and give me mafia like threats about "leaving well enough alone." Then you come as Gary Tubnik to continue the inanities. Must you always hide behind fake names and lies? Or is that always the modus operandi of the crowd?

Why not be transparent and upfront! Or is the truth too dangerous for you?

Anonymous said...

listen to this short story the Rebbe relates about how a loosing party to a Din Torah usually reacts...