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The War Within and The Culture of Smear

December 2, 2013 – 11:10 am26 Comments

By Anonymous:

smear2Editor’s note: This piece has been heavily edited to remove potentially defamatory content. Galus is publishing this piece because we believe the central contention regarding a culture of smear is relevant to the current debates surrounding the abuse scandals.

Recently The Age ran an article titled “After the Whistle has blown”. The article asserted that Manny Waks and his parents, Zephania and Chaya Waks, have become the victims of a vindictive and hateful campaign to marginalise and ostracise them from the Melbourne Chabad/Yeshivah Community as a direct result of Manny having gone public with his allegations of Child Sexual Abuse. The article asserted that the bullying and intimidation had culminated in Manny’s parents’ decision to relocate to Israel.

Conflict in the Yeshivah is nothing new. In fact, a recent scan of the media highlights the following conflicts that have made it to the press – the long running battle between David Werdiger and Chaim Herzog over the CBD; the termination of Mordi Engel’s employment; and the conduct of Rabbi Telsner and Rabbi Kaminesky in a Din Torah in Sydney.

Further, the Melbourne Chabad/Yeshivah Community has dedicated blogs, including Aussie Echo, The Fifth Chelek, and Underpupick, that allow Yeshivah community members to anonymously spew their venom, and attack the institution, the Rabbi; and the Executive.

These blogs are run from [name removed: a]’s office, together with emails circulated by [name removed: b].  [Names removed: a and b]  joined forces to attack and discredit their arch enemy [name removed: c], after Rabbis Groner and Telsner backed [name removed: c] as the Rabbi of [shule name removed] some years ago. Interestingly enough, [names removed: a and b] are also known for their open hate and attacks of Manny and Zephania Waks, and as part of this process have taken to “manning the phones”, including  to call/email numerous journalists around Australia in an attempt to discredit any of the assertions made by Waks.

So, why don’t the leaders act? and what are the motives of [names removed: a and b]?

In short, the leadership do not act because they are scared and intimidated, in particular of [name removed: b].

[Name removed: b] is known as a street fighter, who has no moral boundaries. Several years ago, in a dispute with another member of the Yeshivah Chabad community, [name removed: b] spread a rumour, that he had a “sex tape” of an individual involving a non-Jewish woman. The story is now part of Chabad folk lore, as is another claim that another Rabbi within the Melbourne Chabad community regularly sleeps with prostitutes. True or not, these assertions have stood the test of time, despite a lack of evidence. [Name removed: b] has succeeded in painting these individuals in a most unfortunate manner, which can never be changed, something these people and their families have to live with.

On the other hand, [name removed: a] is the son of a major donor to the Yeshivah Centre, and [further identifying information removed. It goes to evidence of a’s many powerful connections].

As we know, money talks, particularly at the Yeshivah, where Richard Pratt was the patron of honour for Rabbi Groner’s 80th birthday even after his affair and fathering of a child out of wedlock became public knowledge.

To further complicate matters, immensely powerful Rabbi [name removed: d], has taken to openly criticising Manny and Zephania Waks for utilising the media and smudging the orthodox community in the process. This action by [name removed: d] makes it difficult for any Rabbi to come out in support of exposing the scourge of Child Sexual Abuse in our religious institutions, hence the silence.

What are [names removed]’s motives for the hate of Waks? Simple.  Members of their families [may] have been accused of perpetrating child sexual abuse extending as far back as the 1950s/1960s. [The author of this article believes] that Waks has furnished this information to Police, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission.

So where to from here? Well sadly nothing will change. The Waks family will probably relocate to Israel. [Names removed] will then probably hold a farewell party for the Waks famil… after they are gone. At the festive celebration, they will probably plot their next target to humiliate and denigrate all in the name of Chabad and Yeshivah. After all, [names removed] have a track record of success [examples provided; however, these are potentially defamatory]. Who can blame them for engaging and celebrating such conduct, after all, it was our Rabbis that stood idly by and let such hate dominate, which was the cause of the destruction of the second temple and our exile in galus ever since.

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  • Mike says:

    Have Lubavitch families grown so large they’ve begun naming their children letters of the alphabet?

  • Steven says:

    Holy Shit. Are you insane? Why would you publish this? “because we believe the central contention regarding a culture of smear is relevant to the current debates surrounding the abuse scandals.”

    And how does this positively contribute to anything??? Publishing the activities of a few slightly unhinged people is not going to help anyone.

    PS Most people would know who a, b and c etc are, and eveyone would be better off not knowing about those websites, which are a big embarrassment and chillul Hashem.

  • AussieEcho says:

    I closed the AussieEcho blog in 2009 after almost 5 years. My blog had no connection, officially or otherwise, with any communal institution and was purely a way for me to communicate.

    Since AussieEcho was an anonymous blog I unfortunately left the authorship open to speculation and anyone with an agenda or axe to grind would accuse their ‘enemy’ of being the author. The fact that Mr Anonymous ascribes my blog and those others mentioned as mouthpieces of the community is just one proof that he really has no idea about goings on in the Yeshivah community.

    I am surprised that Galus would publish this unsubstantiated rubbish amongst other informative and erudite pieces.

  • Nachi says:

    The “rubbish” that you published today is not only defamatory to a whole community and very selective journalism, but goes against all of your attempts to control and censor comments to have an honest and fair discussion.

    Are you that desperate to start another long thread and get more readers & traffic that you would compromise all of your editorial and moral standards to print unsubstantiated rumour, innuendo and untruths.

    How many people have you allowed to be smeared in this piece of vindictive tripe?

    You have no grounds now not to allow the full zephania waks story to be printed and allow people to comment freely and say it all. Lets have all the questions on zephania out in the open. Lets have full disclosure on waks’ abuse of his wife and family, blackmailing the community while it supported him and his 17 large family and there is more, plenty more. Forcing Kramer out of Australia, which he admitted to in print. Stopping the reporting to police and there is more, plenty more.

    Bring it on. That will get your numbers up

  • MargB says:

    The amount of loshon hora spouted by so called religious Jews never fails to amaze me.

  • reality check says:

    Just let the law take its course and remember it’s all about the bringing to justice of the perpetrators and their protectors and the victims not thinking t’s OK to violate them.

  • underpupick says:

    Hits have gone through the roof today!! Thanks for the free publicity Galus! Haha!

  • Not Impressed says:

    GA.. You have stooped to a really low level for allowing such a piece of rubbish to be published on your blog.
    Is there nothing more important to write about than this load of hate-filled nonsense?
    Shame ! Shame! Shame!

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I really wish you hadn’t posted this. It’s nothing more than an unsubstantiated, anonymous rant.

  • Avigael says:

    How about the failure of the Kehillah to address the issues, so they just keep on going year in year out unaddressed? Eventually if the dirty laundry doesnt get washed, it spills onto the street. Blaming Galus for stating the obvious is just another tactic to avoid the problem. Lets face it the Australian Kehillah does not know or care to face up to its responsibilities. Its a total disgrace and I am disgusted and ashamed of it. The sooner it is shut down the better. The Waks issue is one one of thousands of unaddressed issues that a healthy community would have nipped in the bud years ago.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Not sure what value this piece adds, and why Galus would give publicity to anonymous blogs.

    Yes, there is a culture of smear and it’s truly nasty but the less oxygen these types get, the better…

    Whatever people’s issues with Manny, the bottom line is if he hadn’t gone to the press, other witnesses wouldn’t have come forward and prosecutions wouldn’t have progressed. All the rest is commentary.

    And I prefer to ignore the nasty, vituperative and anonymous commentary which is clearly coming from a position of defensiveness and guilt.

  • Brad says:

    What a useless stupid post, Galus.

    However as it was posted anonymously with all the redactions let’s have it all out in the open. Avigael is right, the kehilla (what ever she means by kehilla I wouldn’t have a clue)should have done something about the Waks issue years ago, like 25 years ago. Everyone was aware of the belligerency of the elder Waks, fights were going on along all front and remarkably he was involved in all of them. We didn’t know about the sex abuse but we knew about all the other abuse going on , yet we kept silent. We knew the boys were going off the path one by one but we did and said nothing. Not only the religious path but were heading into disaster zones. We should have reported the family to the DHS and to Centrelink for good measure. But we didn’t. And now our silence comes back to haunt us.

  • Not Impressed says:

    Avigael. Your post is nonsense
    Celebrate Chanukah and spread light and warmth.
    We have a wonderful community here, with wonderful people who do so much good.
    Yes, there are always going to be the bad apples as is the case all over the world, but we have the ability to overcome all obstacles!!
    And we will!!

  • Sunshine says:

    Interesting that people say there was abuse in a family and then they did nothing.

    Why get so upset, it’s just another day of Yeshivan cover ups and not helping victims

  • Avigael says:

    Channuka is about fighting the Hellenists and permanently removing them. I cant think of a more appropriate time than to have Rashim exposed and removed. By no coincidence the court cases continue during this time ….

  • The following is how I answered a critic oon my FB wall: “one of the functions of Galus Australis is to act as a clearing house for information, and to put in black and white what previously existed in the amorphous realm of rumour and innuendo. Horrible things are said and then denied. Galus is able to concretise this – often vicious – ephemera. There is an information war currently raging between certain elements in Yeshiva and the Tzedek/Waks camp and Galus is the only publication that’s following it closely – as opposed to reprinting press releases only.”

  • Not Impressed says:

    To Avigael.
    You have taken the secondary aspect of Chanukah and made it primary.
    The message of Chanukah is that a l little light dispels much darkness.
    You seem to want to be engaged in a constant war!

    GA, I am sure that you aren’t aware of all the things that go on, but if you can indicate instances where you have actually performed a constructive cleansing with regards to this matter, we would all be the wiser.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    one of the functions of Galus Australis is to act as a clearing house for information, and to put in black and white what previously existed in the amorphous realm of rumour and innuendo. Horrible things are said and then denied. Galus is able to concretise this – often vicious – ephemera.

    … really? In the past you deleted personal attacks, no doubt wisely. Now you’re putting them front and center, albeit with names redacted. I think your earlier position had much to commend it; if people want to see hysterical allegations they can go to one of your competitors.

  • Galus Australis says:

    Joe, Not impressed, and others:

    Under normal circumstances, I would agree with you completely. This is a highly problematic article in some respects, and the decision to publish was not taken lightly.

    I would not have published such a piece had I not received an inordinate number of phone calls, emails, and texts from people on all sides of the Yeshivah abuse scandal.

    The rumour, innuendo, and at times pressure brought to bear has been extraordinary.

    I know such discussion mirrors much of what’s said at shuls over a Shabbes – a time when nothing can be written or otherwise recorded.

    I wanted to make public the culture and nature of the discourse, because I think it’s important for the sectors of the community not privvy to the inner workings to get a sense of what’s going on. That’s what Galus is for.

    This article is intended to be read as a follow on from all other articles (such as David Werdiger’s on Sunday) and comments on the topic of abuse.

    For what it’s worth, I publish pieces, whether I agree with them in their entirety or not. That’s my job.

  • letters in the age says:


    Galus et al

    Don’t forget the feud between Arnold Bloch Liebler and co

    Really interesting article from an elite level and a good paper.

  • letters in the age says:

    With all due respect again there are tinges of ethnocentric attitudes on this thread

    Leave that silliness behind please.


  • insider says:

    You idiots have no idea what goes on at Yeshivah. Plenty of people – including at least 3 sons of different major donors – talk about the huge problems with the Executive and the Rabbi. Instead you think there’s a huge conspiracy like The Protocols of Elders of Yeshivah. Anyone inside totally understands how it works, and anyone outside doesn’t understand it all all and doesn’t care to.

  • Ben says:

    Rabbi Groner Seeks to Unite Melbourne
    Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner has reached out to members of Chabad’s younger generation in a bid to unite the community divided by theological differences. Some took the efforts of the rabbi very skeptical in that they still won’t have their say in previously raised arguments. More
    19 Cheshvan 5771 (27.10.2010)
    A senior Chabad rabbi and member of the Yeshivah Centre’s board has reached out to a select group of congregants in a bid to be seen as more inclusive.

    Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner, the son of the late Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, sent a letter to an informal group of approximately 200 Yeshivah members, known as the Yanash, last week.

    In it, he agreed that in order to “take the Yeshivah Centre from strength to strength”, he proposed to “provide the community with a greater level of involvement”.

    “The proposal is to establish a series of committees that will work independently within delegated powers to manage and advise on aspects of Yeshivah’s operations,” Rabbi Groner wrote, adding that information evenings would be held next week.

    He said a shul committee would be established by election and would “effectively take over the day-to-day running of the shul”.

    Don Wolf, chair of the Yeshivah Centre board, said Rabbi Groner had sent the letter to selected congregants “off his own bat” in the context of speaking with and involving younger men in the synagogue’s management.

    Wolf added that he endorsed the meetings and would likely attend.

    Menachem Vorchheimer, one of the recipients of Rabbi Groner’s letter and a long-time attendee at the Yeshivah Centre who has expressed disappointment in some of the facets of the centre’s management, was lukewarm towards the proposal.

    “The forming of committees is a positive step,” he told The AJN. “However, it fails to address the core issue of accountability and transparency – ensuring that parents and donors know where the millions of dollars they contribute annually goes, and removing the layers of nepotism and self-interest that rule the Yeshivah.”

    Other long-time Yeshivah congregants told The AJN on condition of anonymity that they were puzzled by the decision to send the letter only to the Yanash mailing list, rather than to all paid-up Yeshivah congregants.

    The Yeshivah Centre, the roof body for Yeshivah College, Beth Rivkah Ladies College and a number minyans and education centres, has come under fire for a lack of transparency.

    The board, or Va’ad Ruchni, is unelected and is substantially weighted towards family members of the late Rabbi Groner.

    A board survey last year found that many people were unhappy with services in the main shul and that improvement was needed to the centre’s administration and governance.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I don’t think anything came of that initiative, which is a pity. That letter represents an actual thing that actually happened; the weird rant above represents someone’s lurid imagination. I’m still astonished that the blog owner thought it was worth publishing.

  • Brad says:

    J.I.A. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. Beats me how the editor was suckered in to posting this anonymous drivel. Definitely a terrible judgement call which will go to the heart of what Galus Australia (GA) is all about. Essentially, it’s ruining GA which is a pity. There is no doubt if this type of journalism(?) continues, GA will sink into oblivion which is a shame. The serious posters have “flocked off” and good topics are simply not presented. Bad call Editor, no matter what you profess. Please, let’s get some good topics going rather than regurgitated nameless gunk! If the intent however is to keep going the way it is, at least give the guys here some typical raunchy Page 3 pictorials!

  • Johnny says:

    as a member of yeshivah community in every sense of the word, I do not see the sense in the article above. Of course Yeshivah suffers from political dramas within and Manny Waks has not given Yeshivah an easy ride.
    However, the ‘culture’ of war and smear referred to in this article is by no means a true depiction or reflection of life within the Yeshivah community.
    Every shule has politics and Yeshivah is not immune.
    Every community has nut-jobs and Yeshivah is not immune.
    Mizrachi has them. Adass have them. All communities in Melbourne have them.

    I wish there were more relevant, real and exciting things to include on GA. Unfortunately, this type of smear is all that you could come up with.

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