Rabbi Brander, Don’t Talk about Ethics in Australia; Address Abuse in America

Rabbi Kenneth Brander

Rabbi Kenneth Brander

On Tuesday, August 6, Yeshiva University’s VP, Rabbi Kenneth Brander is slated to speak in Melbourne, Australia about “Ethics in Philanthropy: Should synagogues and Jewish institutions accept tainted funds?”

Tzedek, Australia’s advocacy group for Jewish victims and survivors of child sexual abuse has expressed its “dismay” with the decision of local groups to sponsor his talk. Tzedek’s press release states,

The Australian Jewish community can only change the culture that has for too long tolerated and enabled sexual abuse by adopting new attitudes and proactive measures. Welcoming a Yeshiva University representative who has a questionable record on abuse is a step in the wrong direction.

Rabbi Brander is not fit to talk about ethics in Jewish philanthropy. He is qualified to talk about how Yeshiva University (YU) burnished the reputation of notorious molesters in order to raise funds. In the 1980’s YU fired Rabbi Macy Gordon for sodomizing a teenager but went on to establish a scholarship named for Rabbi Gordon. Around 1995, YU forced the resignation of Rabbi George Finkelstein because of many reports that he was “wrestling” boys, pinning them, and rubbing his erect penis against them. Yet YU went on to honor Rabbi Finkelstein at a fundraiser. These public honors immunized his reputation from rumors, enabling him to move to another job where he is alleged to have molested more children.

Richard (Rick,Ricky) Andron ~1980

Richard (Rick,Ricky) Andron ~1980

Brander is also proud of his 14 years as rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue where he remains Rabbi Emeritus and exerts enormous influence. Brander and his successor, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, had a member, Richard Andron, who has also been identified as someone who molested teenagers in YU’s dormitories. Brander and Goldberg knew about his past but concealed it from others in the community. They went one better and gave him volunteer roles organizing children’s participation in the singing of anim zmiros and havdalah. This policy was maintained by Brander and Goldberg for over twenty years. As I wrote on July 15, in an open note to Rabbi Brander:

Rabbi Brander, how in G-d’s name, knowing his [Andron’s] history as an abuser, could you give him access to youth by letting him regularly organize and work with children to lead the singing of Anim Zmiros and Havdalah? When individuals challenged you about this you would acknowledge his prior history but insist he was now cured. Did you also assign an alcoholic in remission to be the bartender at celebrations?

In July, Andron’s unsavory past was revealed in a lawsuit and reports in the Forward. Suddenly, on one day’s notice, the board of Boca Raton Synagogue announced Andron’s resignation and agreement not to set foot again at any event or facility of the synagogue. This was not a reflection of Brandon and Goldberg’s prompt response to abuse. It was a surrender to the reality that the cat was out of the bag and outraged members of the community demanded action.

I know some defenders of Brander and Goldberg will insist that they truly believed Andron had done teshuvah (repented) and deserved another chance to be trusted to work with children. If so, they should publicly advance that argument instead of abandoning Andron to ignomony and scorn. However, the truth is that Brander’s ethics are situational. When it works, he protects influential molesters, and when it doesn’t, he dumps them.

At this point, Rabbi Brander should stay at home and do his own teshuvah by publicly apologizing for giving Andron a safe harbor and by encouraging YU to finally repudiate the honors it accorded Finkelstein and Gordon.

See also next Frum Follies post on the push and pull in Australia since this post.

ACTION CALL – Contact the Sponsors to Protest this event!

If you are distressed and dismayed by Rabbi Brander’s misconduct, contact the sponsors of his talk to express your displeasure. If they persist in hosting him they should at least make it their business to do their homework and force him to answer for his misconduct.

The primary sponsor of the event is JBD (Jews of the Central (Melbourned) Business District). You can contact their officers, President David Werdiger and Treasurer/Secretary Amnon Trebish by sending them messages through their FaceBook page where you might also want to comment on the event.

The other sponsor is the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria which can be contacted by email (vicshule@cosv.org.au) or by messages to their FaceBook page.

Please remember that Melbourne is fourteen hours ahead of U.S. EST. So get your messages in quickly if you want to influence their thinking before the event is held on Tuesday at lunchtime.

Hopefully they will acknowledge and respond to your messages. But to be sure, please leave copies of your messages in the comments section of this posting.

UPDATE: See also next Frum Follies post on the push and pull in Australia since this post.


30 thoughts on “Rabbi Brander, Don’t Talk about Ethics in Australia; Address Abuse in America

  1. Are you sure that Andron is banned from stepping foot in the Boca Raton Synagogue? That is a big difference from just resigning his membership? If so, where is he davening now?

    • Technically, he resigned and agreed not to set foot on the BRS faciliites or events (even if held at other locations). In fact technically, they do not use his name.

      I hear he is attending the Young Israel and his new rabbi has forbade loshon horah about Andron.

      • I believe Rabbi Eliyahu Rabovsky of Young Israel Boca Raton is a Chofetz Chaim Queens talmid. This is the yeshiva that follows the path of its former mashgiach ruchni Rav CP Scheinberg in protecting his friends Margulies & Kolko and Camp Magen Avrohom molester Weiner who is Rav Scheinberg’s nephew.

        A similar thing happened at the OU shul in Norfolk / Tidewater, Virginia, where Rabbi Chaim Silver warned from the bima to say “lashon harah” regarding the Shereshevsky ponzi scheme in which Rabbi Silver helped Shereshevsky extract money from the very victims he warned to just suck it up. Another major figure in the Virginia shul is the brother of notorious molester advocate & Young Israel bully Steve Mostofsky.

        • The alleged Camp Mogen Avrohom molester was the grandson of the Pinchas Schinberg. His father, a son-in-law of R. Scheinberg was mashgiach at Chofetz Chaim. Another involved in protecting him was Ronnie Greenwald.

        • Rav Scheinberg himself was CC mashgiach until some time in the 1960s.

          Does Ronny Greenwald own the camp? He is an officer of Agudah I think. He was also accused of being a long running gadfly blogger who defended Leib Tropper on the comments to DaatTorah blog

        • I understand that Andron has been kicked out of Young Israel. In addition, his wife apparently has moved to Israel. I heard they are going to sell their house but not get divorced because she has no money and Rick has a trust fund which she needs some of to survive.

        • Is there any chance that YI’s national board would frown on Reb Rabovsky allowing this maniac Andron on his premises? Does YI National want to be sucked into this radical rabbi’s insane decision to allow Andron kovid to attend Young Israel of Boca Raton? Is this in the best interests of YI National? Are they even aware?

  2. From an Australian Jewish leader who has actual knowledge of the situation:

    Do you realize that quoting an open letter on your own blog is not an actual source proving any wrongdoing?

    Also who says they protected Andron? Who said they thought he did Teshuva. Literally this story is going on the claims of two unnamed sources who claim they left voicemails for him?

    Unlike apparently 90% of the commenters on your blog, I grew up in Boca during the years described, attended Boca Raton Synagogue, went to Youth Groups, sang Anim Zemirot as part of the youth there and remember when about 15 years ago (during Rabbi Brander’s tenure)- Rick Andron stopped being involved with any of that. In fact I remember that someone else (the Gabbai) took over the division and singing of Anim Zemirot abruptly one week!

    Is it possible that these changes coincide with when the Rabbis there may have learned of the rumors?

    Or is sensationalism more worthwhile then honest investigation?

    • Nice try. You reference a link where someone writes: “Rabbi Kenneth Brander is beyond reproach. He has done probably 1000 times more for victims of abuse and beyond than our own Captains of Morality, and is well-known to be absolutely rock solid on moral issues, such as abuse.”

      No Jew is beyond reproach, not when they err. I have spoken to a dozen people in Boca Raton. I don’t know what alternate universe you inhabit, but sorry, not only was Andron active in choir until recently, but other episodes are coming to light.

      I stand by the credibility of this and all my other posts as properly sourced and researched. Please do tell us of the wonderous deeds of Kenneth Brander. I have a soft spot for bubbe maises, or as they spell it down south, Bubba Meises.

      In the credibility category there is the matter of sock puppeting, posting once as Johny and once as John. You have another real name. If using pseudonyms is such a problem for you, why are you using one?

      BTW, As someone who says he has a Boca connection, if you are so concerned about setting the record straight, why did it only start concerning you when it affected an event to which you are committed in Australia. Can you give us your real name and establish when you lived in Boca? I suspect you are faking it. Several of my posts about Brander and Andron got a combined total of about 20,000 hits and about 400 comments. Yet all this did not concern you until now! Gotta wonder.

      • I am not as adept at using these blogs as you might be so when my initial post didn’t go through- i tried to repost it. The amount of hits or comments does not say anything about my willingness to post- I thought the incident was dead by the time I came across it and I didn’t want to revisit the matter that seemed blown over from the comments….Also I’m not sure what other episodes are coming to light? But I really was present when Andron stopped and David Wolgin took over the division of Anim Zemirot. This is my last comment on this blog. I am sure that you are an extremely well meaning person who just has some wrong information on this matter.

    • Honest investigation is always more worthwhile than sensationalism. So here’s what I’d like you to help us investigate: Why was Mr. Andron asked not to return to BRS the same day the YU lawsuit was filed? Why did these two rabbis wait ’til D-day? How long before that date did Messrs. Brander and Goldberg know that Andron had allegedly molested 19 or 190 or 1900 (only HaShem knows)? Why had they allowed him to continue to be around children at BRS, come and go as he pleased and say Havdalah for all of us?

      Can you help to investigate as to why rabbi Goldberg is continuing the cover up and withholding vital informantion, dates, etc?

      Looking forward to your investigative results.

  3. Wrong information on the matter? Who are you kidding “Johnny” ? Andron was still doing Havdalah in shul surrounded by little kids until he abruptly stopped a few months ago. Why did he show up at vishinantum (parent – child learning program on motzei Shabbat) when he has no young kids or grand kids attending? Stop trying to defend that narcissistic, ego maniacal, megalomaniac, Brander. He’s the one who instilled his arrogance in the shul and why they think they’re above reproach. He needs to be exposed for the fraud he really is. Kudos, Yerachmiel! Don’t give up the fight for the truth, a lot of us have your back and support you, no matter what cowards like “Johnny” say.

  4. Johnny says: 08/04/2013 at 12:52 pm “From an Australian Jewish leader who has actual knowledge of the situation”: are you serious? Leader? You obviously haven’t got a clue. He’s the guy who had the idea to bring Brander over, he can never admit he’s wrong, and will defend his decision to the bitter end, against the facts and all logic!

  5. The title of Brander’s talk — “Ethics in Philanthropy: Should synagogues and Jewish institutions accept tainted funds?” — is actually quite relevant to the YU abuse scandal:

    When institutions that receive philanthropic donations — like YU — engage in deception and cover-up of abuse in order to protect their reputation, then they are soliciting funds under false pretenses, and all the donations they receive become tainted, as a direct result.

    If Brander’s lecture goes ahead as planned, then I would suggest that as many people as possible attend, and try to raise this very point.

    • A lot of lecture organizers make sure to pre-screen the questions and of course do not allow any to be posed except for sycophantic fluff and other softballs.

      Whenever the OU has an event with Belsky, they also make sure to have bouncers on hand to eject anyone exposing their posek’s indiscretions.

      • @Tony Soprano: Good point. If the organizers are screening the questions, then by all means, submit a “fluff” question on some other subject. But once you’re live in front of the mike, there’s nothing to stop you from asking your real question.

  6. Change of Venue

    Lunch with
    Rabbi Kenneth Brander

    “Ethics in Philanthropy: Should synagogues
    and Jewish institutions accept tainted funds?”

    Tuesday 6th August 2013
    12.45pm – 1:30pm
    Mincha will follow the lecture at 1:30pm
    Due to circumstances beyond our control, the venue for the JBD event
    this Tuesday (August 6th) with Rabbi Brander has changed.

    We will not be advertising the new location for the event.

    All those who have already RSVP’d (via Facebook or e-mail)
    will be advised directly. Anyone else wishing to come should please
    contact admin@jbd.org.au to be advised of the location for this event.

    We apologize to members and friends for this disruption.

    Lunch and refreshments will be served
    Men and women welcome
    RSVP for catering purposes to events@jbd.org.au
    by COB Monday 5th August

    • The fact that the organizers felt compelled to change the venue of Brander’s lecture to a secret location represents a partial victory for the campaign against it.

      I hope that someone will manage to find out the secret location and publicize it online before the lecture.

  7. The post wrongly lumps Goldberg together with Brander. As pointed out previously on this blog, Goldberg was a kid when all this was going on, and there is no evidence that Goldberg knew anything about this.

      • If he was unaware of Andron’s past, there is no policy to defend or continue. To Goldberg, Andron was a regular balabus volunteering to help out with shul activities.

          • That’s very easy to say without providing details. So far, no one has stated that in this blog or in any other article on this subject.

            • A number of individuals in Boca Raton have told me that privately. That also appear several times in comments in postings about BRS. If Rabbi Goldberg is foolish enough to publicly deny knowing about Andron’s history, rest assured he will be publicly refuted by individuals using their names and reporting the encounters. For all of R. Goldberg’s mild manner, he has turned furious and started shouting and intimidating when members insisted on pressing the issue with him.

              As a Goldberg defender you are doing him a disservice. You are implying that he is so imcompetent that after 8 years as rabbi and a period before that as assistant rabbi, he is clueless.

  8. Efrem Goldberg has instituted a new policy where it is completely forbidden to criticize him, the shul board or any other community Rabbi such as Eliyahu Rabovsky. Any criticism whatsoever will result in your expulsion from the shul and most likely your childrens expulsion from school.

    The keep quiet and don’t complain is of course known as the civility statement.

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