Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s Tuesday, August 6 Melbourne, lunchtime talk on ethics was moved to an undisclosed location after it was criticized, first by Tzedek (Australia), and then on Frum Follies. At issue was YU’s failure to adequately respond to reports of child sexual abuse (CSA) by Richard Andron, and Rabbis Finkelstein and Gordon. Moreover, after firing the two rabbis for abuse, YU went on to honor them in ways that left others unaware that they were predators, thus endangering other children. Brander was also implicated in allowing, Andron, a member of his Boca Raton congregation to work with youth in spite of his knowledge of Andron’s history of CSA.
On Monday afternoon (Melbourne time), the event’s primary sponsor, Jews of the (Melbourne) Central Business District ( JBD) sent an email announcing:
Change in Venue Notification
Due to circumstances beyond our control, the venue for the JBD event this Tuesday 6th August with Rabbi Brander on the topic ‘Ethics in Philanthropy: Should synagogues and Jewish institutions accept tainted funds?’ has changed. We will not be advertising the new location for the event. All those who have already RSVPed (via Facebook or e-mail) will be advised directly. Anyone else wishing to come should please contact email@example.com to be advised of the location for this event.
We apologize to members and friends for this disruption. It’s complicated. (emphasis added by YL)
Actully, it’s not “complicated.” The event’s organizers are intent on screening attendees to avoid embarrassing questions.
I don’t think they were worried about demonstrations. No such plans were announced by any of us who objected to this event. Nor am I aware of any such plans by others.
Kenneth Brander is an apostle of the Joshua model of leadership, an argument for shifting to more community-wide involvement in decision making and social change. Apparently, he doesn’t apply that to himself when it is time for accountability.
BREAKING: COSA REJOINDER’S TZEDEK & PELCOVITZ ALLEGED TO WHITEWASH BRANDER- Just as I was ready to hit the publish button there were two more developments. The other sponsor of the event, the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia (COSA) issued a statement, reproduced in an editorial in the GalusAustralis website.
As one who is supportive of the mission and goals of Tzeddek, it was extremely disappointing that its founder, Mr. Manny Waks saw fit to criticise COSA for bringing Rabbi Brander to Australia. As an organisation dedicated to pursuing justice and rooting out abuse, one would expect it to uphold the highest standards of truth and integrity. Rather than allowing himself to accept uncritically spurious allegations and smears that were recently levelled at Rabbi Brander, had Mr. Waks conducted an honest inquiry into both the facts of the alleged accusations as well as Rabbi Brander’s strong track record in the area of social activism and child and family abuse cases in general, he would have discovered that not only were the allegations totally without foundation, but that Rabbi Brander has a reputation for being a pioneer and role model for how rabbi’s should conduct themselves in such cases. By his actions, Mr. Waks has sought to impugn the credibility of someone he should be lauding as an example for all Rabbis thereby damaging the cause of those seeking to eliminate both child sex abuse and the culture of covering up this crime. (Bolding was added by YL).
Meanwhile, Failed Messiah reported allegations that Brander’s supporters are relying on a report exonerating (and praising) Brander prepared by Dr. David Pelcovitz, a professor at Yeshiva University with a history of defending other errant Jewish institutions such as Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. If so, like Failed Messiah, I suspect a whitewash just as I have suspected Ohel in the past.
Stay tuned for what I expect will be Tzedek’s response. It arrived Thurs. am (US time). See here.