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November 02, 2007

The Organized Jewish Community, Truth and the Academic Process

I spoke briefly with Mitchell Bard tonight. Bard, author of Will Israel Survive?, was the opening speaker at the local Jewish bookfair. Most of the conversation revolved around an earlier book Bard wrote on Ethiopian Jews and Operation Moses. But the conversation opened this way:

Me:How do you handle corrections on your website?
Bard: You mean the Jewish Virtual Library?
Me: Yes.
Bard: We correct anything that's wrong. Why? Did you see something that needs correcting?
Me: Yes. Does that email address work?
Bard: On the site? Yes, sure.
Me: Who reads it?
Bard: I do … I might assign it to someone to research …
Me: You see those emails?
Bard: Yes. Why? Did you email us?
Me: Yes.
Bard: What was the correction?
Me: The article about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, his academic record, the schools …
Bard: I remember that [email]. What was wrong with it again?
Me: The academic record, the schools, the …
Bard: Where did we get the article from?
Me: A Chabad website.
Bard: Okay.[Pause.]
Me: So why didn't you correct it?
Bard: We don't assume people lie about their rabbis, we trust [pause] what they say about their rabbis, what Lubavitch says about their own rebbe.

I had all I could do not to burst out laughing. Instead, I suggested Bard get in touch with Professor Menachem Friedman, the world's leading academic expert (sociology and history) on ultra-Orthodoxy in general and on Chabad specifically.

Bard, who bills himself in part as a historian, replied: "Who's that?"

I should add that Bard seems to be a perfectly nice man. I just hope the standards for his Israel work and his Holocaust work are higher than his standards for the JVL website.

Here's the JVL entry on the Rebbe in PDF for archival purposes:

Download rabbi_menachem_mendel_schneerson.pdf

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i dont see the big deal..

As misleading as the article is, it is written in such a way that one can't say it's not the truth. They are misleading, however. It appears that the rebbe audited classes in both places, so one can say he "studied" there. The implication that most people will make, that he was formally enrolled, took courses, and received some sort of academic credit or diploma, is false. However, the article does not say that. And it does omit the institution where he was formally enrolled and from which he received a degree; this would allow the reader to infer differently.

Reisman: Ahh, but what worth is truth when it is intended to deceive? A hospital janitor tells everyone, " I've been in countless operating theaters and, without my efforts, successful surgery wouldn't be possible".True, but so what.

CHABAD doesn't tell you either that EVERY talk or discourse EVER spoken by M.M.S. during his reign as ADMOR concluded with a hinted or overt confirmation that he was the Messiah.

Just who was the Rebbe? This seems to be more than a fair question. After all the Chabad movement aggrandizes him and places him so prominently in the public square.

HE is spoken of in such adulatory tones and with such studied respect that one feels as if any criticism of him would be met with a beating or a cherem (Shmarya knows something about this). Unlike any shuls I have ever been in, his portrait hangs in Chabad Centers (if not the Shul proper) just a tad too close to idol worship for my tastes, This appears to me to be antithetical to Judaism itself.

Some Chabad Rabbis say he actually is the Messiah and another who purports to be a Chabad Rabbi hails him as Rebbe King Mosiach almost tantamount to G-D.

In the book RABBIS by George Kalinski there is a page devoted to Rabbi Mordecai Shmuel Askenazi, Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad of Israel. The book reports that he says: "I believe that the Rebbe is Messiah and that through following his ideas we will improve the entire world." Now the earliest published date of that book is 2002, so it is reasonable to assume that this remark was made after the Rebbe's death. Chabad just needs to be upfront about this and make a statement. Was he or wasn't he the Messiah. "We don't know" is also an acceptable answer.

Any possible question one may have about any aracane interpretation of any aspect of the Tanach or the Talmud can be answered with precision by most Chabad Rabbis. But when it comes to whether or not the Rebbe was Messiah no answer is forthcoming.

By the way, the same book I alluded to says as follows: "Author of five books, Rabbi (Askenazi) of Kfar Chabad, the Israeli town that is haven and home to Israel's Lubavitch Chassdim contains an exact replica of the Rebbe's Brooklyn home." Sounds like they are perhaps awaiting the second coming to me. IF by chance he should arise in Kfar Chabad his home will be waiting.

I am very much against any form of mysticism. I have learnt that in order to weaken the appeal of mysticism to some Jewish people, I and other strict ascetics/ mitnagdim, etc., must propose alternate solutions to people's need for mysticism, instead of just complaining. That is what I am working on.

Why all the concern about Chabad? To Jews who aren't Orthodox, they are irrelevant. To the M.O.s they are irrelevant. To the Yeshiva world, they are irrelevant, and the Charedim also consider them irrelevant.

Except for a statistically small number of "fallen birds" who are affected by their propaganda (not all of which is bad), Chabad, despite the hype, is not an important factor at all in the U.S., or any other country with an established Orthodox base. Their importance is only when, by default, they are the ONLY Orthodox show in town.

No Orthodox Jew, (M.O., Charedi, Zionist, Chassidish, Litvish, Yeshivish, etc.), in their right mind, who lives in an Orthodox community, with any form of educational infrastructure, would bother sending their kids to Chabad schools. Many Chabad parents, who want a serious eduction for their kids (secular or religious) opt for main line Yeshivot and Day Schools.

Chabad is a never never land, for BTs who aren't mainstreamed, and for a few drop - outs from all three major denominations, who decided to join a sect and drink Kool - aid.

Their importance is only when, by default, they are the ONLY Orthodox show in town.

Unfortunately, Chief, that is pretty common. In Australia, they've all but taken over Orthodoxy & they are on the way to do so in the UK. In the FSU, and other small Euro communities they've installed rabbis. And outside major US cities they've taken MO pulpits. They also (to their credit, to be fair) service prisoners, college students, and servicemen.

The Wahabis were dismissed as a fringe element in Islam, but now they're dominant- due to patience, good organization, and money. While Chabad is not violent like Al Qaeda (l'havdil), they should not be dismissed.

I disagree with them, but they're the wave of the future. 100 yrs from now, there will be 3 denominations: Chabad, Chareidi, and Reform. I am glad I won't be alive to see it.

While Chabbad has sometimes bizarre theology and they use questionable methods they are far better than the Litvish evil. Most of the charedi excess Shmarya and the heilge UOJ like to report on is Litvish and Chasidish.

You should not worry about Chabbad taking over OJ you should worry about lom-lom elyashiv,Tropper and Kolko taking over OJ.


does anybody know the name of the owner of this site?

Yona: Click on the sidebar "Who Publishes Failed Messiah."

Chief Doofis(Kramer?) and Yochanan Lavie, you right,guys, who the hell cares?
Whole Sorbonne/Berlin University story was invented to kick in the ass and bash extremelly hated(why???) "Litvaks" and "peilishes"(who's leadership doesn't claim Oxford, LOL).
Monsey Tzaddik, your stock is highest with me for telling people about the beria Leibb Tropper, but despite his hatred of Chabad--and everyone else--he is coser to them then other "insuranse salesmen" of "kiruv".
UOJ(not a King of Israel, btw) spent so much time with Kolko because it went unpunished for years!!!
But he(UOJ) reiterated that this is only the beginning.
Who knows what will he unearth in some Chabad joints?
And, MT, about the last of your points, there is the question:why your compatriots from Munsey(Prof. Dershowitz spelling-love it)prefer to follow Rabbis over 80?

What can I say about your writing but “wow” – you really know your subject and put your points across well. I can’t wait for your next post. I’ve found a guy who is good to read too will pass the details on when I find them.

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