Rabbi Yisroel Belsky’s defense of disgraced former rabbi of Shaaray Tefila (Lawrence, NY) hurt Yeshiva Torah Vodaath when it angered rabbis and laity in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway and they pulled the plug on cooperating with a Torah Vodaath fund-raising weekend.
In explaining the decision, thirteen rabbis and yeshiva heads in the area issued a letter (3/28/14) stating:
Dear Fellow Members of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway Community,
… Unfortunately we are unable to host the Yeshiva [Torah Vodaath] at this time. This is due to a letter written by one of their Roshei Yeshiva [Yisroel Belsky], disseminated throughout our community, and critical of its Rabbonim, whose decision was made after much investigation and deliberation to protect the community from serious harm. It was clear from this letter that this Rosh Yeshiva was misled and misinformed.
The balance of the letter expresses a wish not to harm YTV and expresses the hope that the event can be rescheduled. While the letter urges people to honor their pledges, it does not encourage people who have not yet pledged to make donations before this matter is resolved.
The letter was signed by:
- Yechiel Perr (Yeshiva of Far Rockaway)
- Naftali Jaeger (Sh’or Yoshuv Institute)
- Moshe Brown (Agudath Israel of West Lawrence)
- Binyomin Forst (K’hal Nesiv Hatorah)
- Yehoshua Kalish (Bais Medrash of Harborview)
- Yaakov Reisman (Agudas Yisroel of Long Island)
- Elisha Horowits (formerly with Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid)
- Aaron Brafman (Yeshiva of Far Rockaway)
- Tzvi Flaum (Vaad HaRabbanim of Far Rockaway and Lawrence)
- Eytan Feiner (Kneseth Israel aka the White Shul)
- Mordechai Stern (Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid)
- Asher Stern (Ramam Mesvta High School)
- Yaakov Feitman (Kehillas Bais Yehudah Tzvi of Cedarhurst)
The letter insults Belsky as “misled and misinformed,” chastises him for criticizing local rabbis, and puts the ball in his court to apologize and concede he was wrong. Historically, Belsky does not back down. After all, being daas torah means never having to say you are sorry or wrong. So we have an interesting situation, either he will lose face by backing down or Torah Vodaath will lose mucho dollars. In fact, regardless of Belsky’s decision, Torah Vodaath will not recover all the money they lost and Belsky has been knocked down a peg whether or not he apologizes.
The rabbis of the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway have shown that they have more fortitude than the OU and the RCA which let Belsky twist them around his finger into issuing an absurd statement about the Yosef Kolko conviction which made believe that Belsky supported their position on sex abuse while he continued to defend a convicted child molester.
I have been told by informed sources that the decision to put out this letter was backed by Rabbis Matisyahu Solomon and Shmuel Kaminetzky. This finally makes public what has been known for a long time by insiders; Belsky is not respected by the ultra orthodox establishment. They may have sent the message through proxies but they definitely sent a message: “Belsky, shape up and stop your shenanigans.”
P.S. — Conspicuous by his absence from this list is Rabbi Yaakov Bender of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, a headliner at recent conventions of Agudath Israel of America. He was a holdout on the original denunciation of Weinberger, who only joined in reluctantly and at the last minute under pressure. There are many more rabbis of consequence in the 5 Towns, but the list is weighted heavily to the rabbis in the walking distance of the areas in Lawrence and Far Rockaway where the Torah Vodaath Shabbat events were planned. In addition, during the initial deliberations about denouncing Weinberger, leadership was accorded to the rabbis in the areas closest to Weinberger’s shul, Shaaray Tefila in Lawrence.