Guma Aguiar didn't like Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn's reporting about him on the Daas Torah blog, especially Aguiar's former connection to haredi conversion partisan Rabbi Leib Tropper, and his current connection to Chabad.
Rabbi Eidensohn caved in and pulled all the posts off his blog– including a brief interview done Erev Shabbat with Aguiar that Eidensohn titled Guma Aguiar – A Genuine Jew, and which was almost fawning in its praise for Aguiar.
Aguiar is a public figure. The rabbis he donates millions to publicize those donations, and there is no public record of Aguiar objectiong to this or threatening these rabbis with legal action.
That should mean coverage of those donations and related activities is completely protected, even in Israel.
While I strongly disagree with Rabbi Eidensohn and have done so publicly, I don't think Aguiar has any legal basis for his threatened lawsuit.
Eidensohn should have countersued Aguiar for harrassment. And he should have gone to the media with this story – a story of an insanely rich man trying to bully a critic into submission. Aguiar would like the outcome of that media coverage, and his threatened lawsuits would not intimidate Ha'aretz, Ynet and Ma'ariv, let alone Israeli TV.
This unofficial translation comes from ReligionAndStateInIsrael:
Guma Aguiar - Warning letter
Friday, May 8, 2009 10:54 AM
From: "Eitan Gabay, Adv."
Attn.: Without prejudice to rights
Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn
Re: Your articles in the DAAS TORAH blog on the Aguiar family
In the name of my client, Jamie and Guma Aguiar, I hereby respectively direct your attention to the following:
1. For some period of time now you have written articles in your blog whose subject concerns my client and their family.
2. An examination of the written material in the blog is evidence of a serious violation of the prohibition of “lashon harah” (libel) and harassment.
3. The content in the blog is harmful and relates to the personal life of my client and their family. My clients are represented as those whose conversions are in doubt without showing any clear proof and without any indication of any decisive or clear proof showing that the conversions were not performed according to Halacha (Jewish law).
4. The statements on the site border on defamation of my client where there is no conflict nor connection whatsoever between you and my clients.
5. In addition, publishing your opinion in public concerning how donations were made by my client and decisions to whom to donate border on infringement of privacy and a violation of their right of privacy.
6. My client is now considering filing a police complaint in respect to the content in the blog and even filing an appropriate lawsuit against you in this matter. In addition, my client is willing to refrain from taking further action against you if within 48 hours you would remove from your blog all material connected to my client and his family.
7. I remind you that your refusal to remove the content as stated above will compel my client to instruct me to act as mentioned above, and be aware that this will cause you much anguish and large and unnecessary costs incurred by you.
8. No further notice will be sent.
Eitan Gabay, Esq.
EITAN GABAY - LAW OFFICES
13 Ben Maimon Blvd.
UPDATE 10:50 AM CDT – I did a quick Google cache search for Daas Torah and found a number of relevant posts now taken down by Rabbi Eidensohn.
Here is a screenshot of the post discussing removal of all posts related to Aguiar followed by the text of that post:
Response to Guma Aguiar's threats & intimination
In my conversation with Guma I asked him whether he was threatening me for having information on my blog that he did not appreciated. He responded, "No, that if I were threatening you, You would know it." I know it.
It is unfortunate that Guma feels it necessary to threaten and intimidate any one who says something he doesn't approve. In fact the vast majority of posts have been very flattering of his deeds
The issue of contention is in fact a side issue. In the course of defending R' Tropper, commentator Roni used Guma as an example of praise for R' Tropper. Commentator RaP responded and these issues were mainly in the comments of these two - not in my posts. I had asked Guma about his wife's conversion and his responses didn't contradict what I had posted.
I consulted with Rav Sternbuch and he said the following, "Write to him and tell him that this is not the way a Jew handles a problem - there are Jewish courts that should be used." I responded that I don't think that is of interest to Guma but since Rav Sternbuch insists I will send a letter to him.
Bottom line - Guma has given me 48 hours to erase every reference to him on my blog. Obviously I will comply because I don't have a billion dollars to deal with frivolous laws suits from someone who objects to someone who doesn't have a picture perfect description of his life. Because it will take a lot of time to erase every mention of his name I will have to close the blog or alternative erase it and start over again. Hopefully it will be back in operation within a week.
The modification will in addition remove all mention of R' Tropper - Guma arch enemy - because the two names frequently together. It is interesting to note that R' Tropper who has been criticized here much more severely has not seen fit to take the same route as Guma nor has Guma's uncle Thomas Kaplan. Perhaps they have what to learn from Guma.
This is one of the reasons that most blogs are anonymous.
Please have patience.
APG sends in several now deleted posts he culled from his Google Reader.
Aguiar's attorney's letter in the original Hebrew:
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 5/9/09
Guma Aguiar - Warning letter
Friday, May 8, 2009 10:54 AM
"Eitan Gabay, Adv."
לכבוד, מבלי לפגוע בזכויות
הרב דניאל אידנסון,
הנדון: כתבותיך בבלוג DAAS TORAH על משפחת אגיאר
בשם מרשי, ג'יימי וגומה אגיאר, הריני מתכבד לפנות אליך כדלקמן:
1. מזה תקופת מה שהנך כותב מאמרים בבלוג שלך שבנדון אודות מרשי ומשפחתם.
2. עיון בתוכן הכתוב בבלוג מעיד על עבירה חמורה על איסור אמירת לשון הרע והטרדה.
3. התכנים בבלוג פוגעניים ועוסקים בחיים אישיים של מרשי ובני משפחותיהם. מרשיי מוצגים כמי שגיורם מוטל בספק מבלי שקיימות הוכחות חותכות לכך ומבלי שיצאה בת קול חדה וברורה המעידה כי הגיורים נעשו שלא כהלכה.
4. האמירות באתר הינן גובלות בהשמצות מרשי כאשר אין בינם לבינך כל יריבות ו/או קשר כזה או אחר.
5. בנוסף, פרסום דעותיך בציבור לגבי אופן מתן תרומות ע"י מרשי ועל החלטותיהם למי לתת הינה גובלת בחדירה לצנעת הפרט והפרת הזכות שלהם לפרטיות.
6. בימים אלה מרשי שוקלים להגיש תלונה במשטרה כנגד תכנים בבלוג ואף להגיש תביעה משפטית מתאימה נגדך בעניין. יחד עם זאת, מרשי יאותו שלא לנקוט בפעולות נוספות נגדך באם בתוך 48 שעות יוסרו מהבלוג שלך כל התכנים הקשורים במרשי ובני משפחתם.
7. אזכיר כי סירובך לבצע הסרה של התכנים כאמור לעיל ייאלץ את מרשי להורות לי לפעול כאמור לעיל, ודע לך כי הדבר יגרום לך לעגמת נפש רבה ולהוצאות רבות ומיותרות אשר תחולנה עליך.
8. התראה נוספת לא תשלח.
איתן גבאי, עו"ד
EITAN GABAY - LAW OFFICES
13 Ben Maimon Blvd.
Aguiar funds Chabad:
Guma Aguiar gives Chabad $500,000 for Pesach
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 3/31/09
[...] Funding for the seders comes from several philanthropists including Mr. George Rohr, a long time supporter of Chabad activities, and a gift of $500,000 from energy magnate, Guma Aguiar. This is the second consecutive year that Aguiar, 31, has been a major sponsor of Chabad’s global Passover campaign.
Aguiar became excited about this project last year and contributed towards what is now the world’s largest collective Pesach seder in the world. As a result, he said, "Chabad leaders and I have realized what a truly sacred honor it is to partner together with each other on this project." [...]
Aguiar and Rabbi Tropper:
Guma Aguiar & R' Tropper
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 4/23/09
It all started with a phone call. Last Erev Pesach the Kol Yaakov Torah Center received word that the Sefer Torah the yeshiva had been borrowing for a number of years had to be returned to its owners. Yehuda Dovid Kaplan, staying with the Rosh Yeshiva for Yom Tov, offered to donate a new Sefer Torah as a replacement. Yehuda Dovid and his uncle, Mr. Thomas Kaplan, generous supporters of Kol Yaakov and its outreach division, Horizons, decided to dedicate this sefer to the memory of their mother and grandmother, Mrs. Lillian Jean Kaplan, A”H.
Within a few weeks a new sefer was procured with the assistance of sofer Rabbi Melech Michaels, an alumnus of Kol Yaakov, and a Hachnosas Sefer Torah was quickly planned. Rabbi and Mrs. Yehoshua Krohn graciously offered their home on Meadow Lane for the K’sivas Ha’osios. Talmidim, Rebbeim, alumni and supporters of Kol Yaakov gathered to complete the sefer on the Sunday before Shavuos. The yeshiva was honored by the participation in the k’sivas ha’osios of Ha- Gaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh HaYeshiva of Tiferes Yerushalayim, Staten Island and HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Faivelson Rosh HaYeshiva of Bais Medrash L’Torah in Monsey, shlit”a. With Rabbi Yehuda Tropper, the Rosh Yeshiva’s father, completing the last of the osios, the Sefer Torah was exuberantly escorted to the Kol Yaakov Torah Center along Saddle River Road and on to West Maple Avenue. Though the noonday sun was out in force the participants escorted the sefer accompanied by unwavering dancing and singing to music provided from the back of a pick-up truck by Nochi and Yosef Krohn.
After the Sefer Torah was brought to its new home, the over 100 assembled guests, sat down to a seudas mitzvah and were inspired by the amazing story as told by Yehuda Dovid Kaplan. Also known as Guma Aguiar, Yehuda Dovid, though born a Jew, was raised as an Evangelical Christian. Through the dedicated teaching and inspiration of Rabbi Tropper and Kol Yaakov, Yehuda Dovid has since returned to the path of yiddishkeit and has made a stunning transformation in recent months. Part of his desire in dedicating a new Sefer Torah for the yeshiva was as a means of reaching out to his estranged family who were still practicing Christians. This endeavor surpassed his greatest expectations: In the span of the few shorts weeks between Pesach, when the Sefer Torah was purchased, and the week of Shavuos, when the sefer was completed (and paralleling the sefira period, when we mark the ascent of our forebears from the 49 Sha'arei Tum'ah of Mitzrayim to the spiritual heights of Har Sinai), Yehuda Dovid’s family had ceased practicing Christianity and had begun their return to their true heritage.
Friday's interview with Aguiar:
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 5/6/09
In the world the internet, one deals with links, reports rumors and anonymous commentators. It isn't often that you come in contact with someone you have been talking about for a year.
Recently, I received a called from Guma Aguiar - world famous billionaire philanthropist. He was concerned with what he perceived as the negative comments on my blog about him and his wife. [He noted that he had no objections to the conversation being recorded - which I didn't]. While I spoke to him for about half an hour, I got three strong impressions. 1) he is genuine and sincere in his Judaism and desire to help. 2) He has no clue as to the significance of halacha. 3) He is willing to learn
He did not hesitate to answer my questions about himself and his wife. Nor did he seem to mind my criticism of his influence over major issues and being taken advantage of by various rabbis.
He responded that he was aware of being taken advantage of and that he tried to get along with all Jews. "Have you heard of Rabbi Auerbach, Kanievsky? Did you ever hear of Rav Mordechai Eliayahu... They are all friends of mine."
At one point I asked him if he was threatening me for my coverage of his career. He responded honestly, "No, if I was threatening you it would be obvious."
Of interest is his response to one of my questions, "If a person put on tefillin for 25 years at great sacrifice - but then he discovered that there were not parchments in them - would he have fulfilled the mitzva?"
His response was yes. "There are mitigating circumstances. He was sincere. He really tried etc etc."
But as he was explaining how sincerity was the most important fact he stopped. He said he realized he made a mistake and he wanted to retract and say that the mitzva was not fulfilled.
My chavrusa came at 2 - as he always does - so I had to apologize for cutting the conversation short. I thanked him the efforts he and his wife are making to improve the world situation.
What determines the content of the Daas Torah blog?
What determines concerns of this Blog?
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 5/6/09
Please explain why it is permissable to expose Tropper's behavior to the world but not X and Y chillul hashems?
Answer: Good question. A similar question was asked by Roni of why focus on R' Tropper and not on R' Bomzer?
Actually this blog started out with the concern for Jewish identity - halacha and hashgofa. Then I got involved in kiruv and conversion when Rav Sternbuch found out about R' Tropper's activities.
The focus of this Blog was never chillul haShem. My concern was originally the halacha concerning geirus and kiurv and then how did R' Tropper justify what he was doing. I stated repeated that I felt R' Tropper was a sincere dedicated individual - but I didn't understand why he was stonewalling on the halacha. Similarly R' Vinas was discussed because of his halachic views and was likewise described as a sincere dedicated individual.
In short, to assert that an individual is or is doing a chillul hashem - requires 1) major research efforts 2) fairly consistent or egregious behavior 3) lack of sincerity and a track record of harmful behavior 4) the individual has to be influential so the information will warn people not to be influenced. 5) there are also the laws of libel which need to be attended to.
For example, I once knew someone who was a purported wife-beater and was about to married for the fourth time. I went to Rav Dovid Cohen and asked whether I should inform the kallah of this information. R' Cohen answered that any normal person who heard that a guy had been divorced 3 times would obviously check for this. Thus there was no need to tell anyone. [empashis Shmarya] I was also once discussing with R' Belsky the fact that wall poster's had gone up against him in Yerushalayim with R' Eliashiv's signature. He smiled and said he was aware of them but that I should know that Rav Eliashiv actually agreed with his view and that his opponent was an ignoramous in that halachic area.
Regarding the two individuals you cited, can you provide proof for your assertions and what is the benefit to expose them even if it is true? Furthermore assuming there is no halachic problem - but if it taints my reputation and thus my credibility on the issues I am dealing with then I'll leave the expose to those Blogs which are viewed as lowlifes because they delight in smearing anybody who is Orthodox.
Aguiar and Chabad:
Guma Aguiar & his Chabad rebbe's bas mitzva
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity by Daas Torah on 3/25/09
Chabad Lubavitch reports
How do parents of a severely challenged 12 year old girl celebrate their daughter’s bat mitzvah?
The question was poignantly relevant for Rabbi Moshe Meir and Pnina Lipszyc, Chabad representatives to Ft. Lauderdale, who have cultivated a lively Jewish community over nearly two decades while raising their special needs children under extraordinary circumstances. [...]
Guma Aguiar came from Israel with his wife and children to celebrate. “The first time I came to this Chabad center six years ago,” the founder of Leor Energy told the guests, “I had nothing. I knew nothing about Judaism, and didn’t understand a thing of what was going on during services.”
Aguiar, who went on to become a successful entrepreneur, was born to Jewish parents but raised as an evangelical Christian. “I came here because I wanted to try something authentic,” he said, recalling how he walked into the Chabad center one Friday night in search of something missing in his life. He found it in Rabbi Lipszyc’s unconditional acceptance. Aguiar has since returned to his Jewish roots, living in Jerusalem much of the year.
Like Aguiar, many at the Torah dedication/ bat-mitzvah were there having discovered the joy of belonging through Rabbi Lipszyc. Aguiar says that observing the rabbi’s unfaltering devotion to his daughter has been a tremendous inspiration. “Goldi’s come a very long way since we got to know her six years ago. Moshe Meir has nurtured her with incredible love and patience.”
From the way Rabbi Lipszyc greets an endless stream of visitors to the Chabad center and the Kabbalah Café in Ft. Lauderdale, one would never guess that the 45 year old father of five has twice battled cancer and continues to struggle with his own health while working creatively to build and grow Jewish life in the area.[...]
[Hat Tips: Joel Katz, APG.]