Something is brewing with the status of the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, 55-year-old Yaakov Dov Bleich. Just this past Friday (3-29-19) he was a prominent figure in the Council of European Rabbis (CER) listed on their website as a member of their 6 member Executive Council, 12 member Presidium, and their 47 member Standing Committee.
Not any more. He is off of those bodies with no announcements and no replacements as of Sunday, March 31, 2019. In fact his name is nowhere to be found on their website. All those 3 committees are now down one rabbi. Bleich is a man who happily accumulates titles so I can’t imagine he removed himself. Which means the CER probably removed or suspended him.
While some might say he was expelled there is no precedent for the CER to take such action. As a confederation they have till now always deferred to the decisions of the national communities to make such decisions. Only after a national group removes a rabbi do they then expel him as well from the CER. But on the other hand, how does one remove a chief rabbi who answers to nobody within his national community. I imagine that is a sticky issue for the CER and one that would require some significant process which we are likely in the middle of.
I believe it is related to allegations of sexual abuse of the sort I described in “When Kiruv Gets Too Close and Turns into Abuse” (2/27/19).I have heard that Bleich is insisting he is being targeted because he has a property dispute with the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic group. He came to the Ukraine in the late 80’s as a shliach (emissary/outreach worker) of Stolin. But in recent years, strains developed to the point where they expelled him and won’t even let him pray in their synagogues.
Stolin, a Hasidic group generally very averse to conflict nevertheless filed a formal complaint last summer (8-28-18) with the Conference of European Rabbis. They claim he stole their school buildings. But to the best of everyone’s knowledge the CER, as is usually its practice, took no sides and Stolin remains dissatisfied with the CER. The Stolin complaint was reported in the Haredi Hebrew language news blogs, Chadrei Charedim and Kikar Shabbat on September 7, 2018, complete with the complaint letter to the CER from the Stolin representative, Rabbi Yeshosua Brizel.
It seems we are dealing with a suspension rather than expulsion, and the CER will doubtlessly want to confirm and justify its extraordinary decision with proof that it is not intervening in a local dispute but is acting on the basis of confirmed allegations
ACTION: It is essential to provide the CER with as much testimony as possible from those affected by any alleged misconduct by Rabbi Bleich. If anyone wants help in bringing such information forward contact me in private and I will advise and assist them in bringing it forward.
As always, if you were the victim of a criminal assault, you do not need anyone’s permission to bring it to the police or the FBI. If it happened in the US, it is best to go the special victims unit (aka sex crimes unit) or the FBI. It falls in the jurisdiction of the FBI if it involved persons he brought from Ukraine to the US or the abuse involved interstate transportation such as between Monsey and NYC through New Jersey.
If you want support or advice feel free to contact me privately and I will keep all information in confidence and support your decision to either report it or not, based on your assessment of what is best for you.
I can be privately messaged on Facebook‘s Messenger. You can also contact me privately here on Frum Follies by leaving a comment. All my comments are moderated and no one else will see it if you ask me to keep it private.