"… From the beginning, when I entered into the arbitration regarding the dispute between Aish HaTorah and Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, my intention was just one thing – to strengthen, restore and stabilize the organization and to make a compromise between the parties so that Yeshivas Aish HaTorah could continue with its work like it had over the years. It had never crossed my mind at all to fire and remove the Rosh Yeshiva [Head of the Yeshiva]from his institution so that the leadership would remain vacant, and that the institution's management would be left as a free for all, G-d forbid. But my intention was clear and since I had been consulted on the matter, I saw fitting to give comprehensive advice including the appointment of a new Rosh Yeshiva so that the Yeshiva would be able run as it ought to and also to ensure that Rabbi Hillel should have an appropriate alternative position – other than that of Rosh Yeshiva – as befits the son of Rav Noach zt"l [may the memory of the righteous be a blessing], founder of Aish HaTorah.…"
Date: Sunday, February 15, 2015
Subject: Fwd: From Rav Shmuel Kamentsky shlit''a
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky has sent a message regarding Aish HaTorah. Rav Kamenetsky concludes with the following words:
''May G-d grant knowledge and insight to those who understand what needs to be done.''
Text below, in English and the original Hebrew.
My father shlit"a has asked me to send this clarification.
From the Desk of Rabbi S. Kamenetsky
2018 Upland Way
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Since I have been asked by many Mevakshei Hashem [lit. seekers of G-d] what my intention was in my last letter regarding the dispute between Aish HaTorah and HaGaon Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, my intention here is to clarify my opinion and what was previously written in brief in my last letter.
From the beginning, when I entered into the arbitration regarding the dispute between Aish HaTorah and Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, my intention was just one thing – to strengthen, restore and stabilize the organization and to make a compromise between the parties so that Yeshivas Aish HaTorah could continue with its work like it had over the years. It had never crossed my mind at all to fire and remove the Rosh Yeshiva [Head of the Yeshiva]from his institution so that the leadership would remain vacant, and that the institution's management would be left as a free for all, G-d forbid. But my intention was clear and since I had been consulted on the matter, I saw fitting to give comprehensive advice including the appointment of a new Rosh Yeshiva so that the Yeshiva would be able run as it ought to and also to ensure that Rabbi Hillel should have an appropriate alternative position – other than that of Rosh Yeshiva – as befits the son of Rav Noach zt"l [may the memory of the righteous be a blessing], founder of Aish HaTorah.
After having seen that the fire of machlokes [argument] is burning in place of Aish HaTorah [lit. the fire of Torah], my purpose was clear – to save the Aish HaTorah institution in Jerusalem. As someone who has been well acquainted with the world of Kiruv Rechokim [outreach] for many decades – and through seeing what is going on in this world – I have come to know the honorable Rabbi, HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits shlita,and I have become aware of his great stature in Torah and yiras shomayim [Fear of Heaven], and how he has great experience in wise counselling and guiding many institutions of Torah and kiruv across the world. He is a unique individual, one who would be eminently capable of overseeing and taking ultimate responsibility for Yeshivas Aish HaTorah and Aish HaTorah International. Although I did not include his name in the arbitration, it was clear to all parties that this was my intention. I wanted to restore the institution to its rightful place, and my opinion was clear, that either Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits or someone like him is needed – a great man of giant stature who has a deep understanding of all these matters and is also an exceptional Talmid Chochom [Torah scholar], from whom all seek the word of G-d in any matter connected to kiruv and related issues. In addition to this, he himself was very close to Rabbi Noach Weinberg, the founder and visionary of Aish HaTorah, to the point where Rav Noach himself would consult with him, and Rav Noach also thought it fitting that Rabbi Yitzchak should be the arbitrator in any difference of opinion that would arise among those running Aish HaTorah.
After I accepted the arbitration, some details became public regarding the process of what I had thought I needed to decide but when I suggested a number of solutions as legal verdicts, they were certainly only part of the arbitration process. In fact, all of these were dependent and contingent on all the matters being totally clarified and the matter concluded to the satisfaction of all parties.
There were discussions in Jerusalem and there were even a few suggestions here in America, and the committee (i.e. the members of the NGO and the Advisory Board) began carrying out the verdicts they had in their hands. Inter alia, a discussion about appointing a new Rosh Yeshiva in place of HaGaon Rabbi Hillel as well as making the best possible arrangement for HaGaon Rabbi Hillel, and as everyone understands, there were discussions with Rabbi Yitzchak shlita about bringing him in to the institution.
I was in touch with HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak shlita to understand his position regarding his return to Aish HaTorah Jerusalem. After discussions and an exchange of letters, HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak shlita agreed to consider a possible return to the institution in order to save the Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He spoke with me personally a number of times, in which he carefully examined the issues and saw there were a number of difficulties which were not evident or known until he had personally investigated the situation. Certainly, for him to be able to function and succeed in this new role, everything needs to be in line with his views, merit his agreement and be managed under his supervision. I suggested to him how to approach the discussions regarding his position, what to emphasize and what not to make an issue of, where to draw red lines and where to let things go. I am sure he achieved his objective and did not err in his discussions with the Aish HaTorah team.
However, it would appear that all these debates and discussions between HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak shlita and the committee did not bear fruit and were eventually abandoned. It is very possible that this was because the initial and only approach was made through representatives of the NGO and Advisory Board, the majority of whom are lay leaders who are not accustomed to these matters and do not know how to appropriately present the issues to an odom choshuv [lit. important man] like him, and for some reason they even took a legal advisor and conducted the negotiations in a manner inappropriate to the honor of the Torah.
I reaffirm that even though the parties had not signed on arbitration regarding the appointment of Rabbi Yitzchak to head the institution, it was very clear to me, that only he – or someone of his stature, wisdom and relevant experience – could restore the Yeshiva to its former glory. Since then, while I was still in the throes of discussion, and they were continuing the debate here in America – to add the arbitration about Rabbi Hillel Weinberg shlita's status, including his rights in the institution – the Aish HaTorah team had already drawn their conclusions regarding the negotiations, in which it was clear from the outset that nothing had been agreed upon or concluded.
So I have heard throughout the days and months since then, time and again, their saying we removed Rabbi Hillel shlita from his position, and the matter was given over to the committee to act as they saw fit. I reiterate that although it is true we had not included the matter of who should be the Rosh Yeshiva into the arbitration, my intent was known to all, and that I saw no way of saving the organization unless they brought in Rabbi Berkovits or someone like him into the organization. It was certainly not my intention to remove and abandon Rabbi Hillel shlita and leave the decision about the Rosh Yeshiva to the committee. Even Rabbi Hillel shlita and his rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, understood the matter, since we spent numerous hours discussing and analyzing if Rabbi Yitzchak shlita was indeed 'fitting' to be the Rabbi and leader of the organization until we decided yes, he is the man through whom the organization will return to its former glory and he is eminently qualified to do so.
When I saw that the Aish HaTorah team had also decided this matter had been concluded – and they had decided what they wanted, to remove Rabbi Hillel shlita from his post and from the Yeshiva in general, and they also changed and did what they wanted regarding the NGO and began to decide who to bring in and who to remove from the place – I saw that all I had determined in the beginning was not as I had originally thought (i.e., to reinforce the institution and restore it to its former status), and I also saw that no one had accepted anyone's arbitration. Instead of that there was just competition and divisiveness, and so I decided that I did not want to get involved in arguments and discussions like this, and I chose to declare that I was totally removing myself from my arbitration role – because I saw there had been no acceptance of the arbitration from either party and that everyone was doing as he pleased. I would still suggest that the parties do come to a compromise to arrange the matter, but I personally have no desire to adjudicate these things, and it is better they should approach a Beis Din [Court of Jewish Law] in Jerusalem or the like.
Once again I say the only reason I got involved in the arbitration was to save Aish HaTorah from the fire of divisiveness which was going to completely destroy it. But I am not in the 'business' of removing Roshei Yeshiva [Yeshiva Heads] from their positions. In my opinion – as it was in the beginning – the only person at the moment who can re-establish the yeshiva and put it back on its feet is HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits shlita. I have still not found anyone equal to him in these matters. This isn’t just a wild assumption but I am convinced after what I have seen and heard from those in the field. Neither a committee of lay leaders, nor other rabbis, even if they are Talmidei Chochamim [wise Torah scholars], can head this type of institution, not in terms of their stature nor in terms of their experience in the complex world of Jewish outreach. One should not belittle the committee of lay leaders or their commitment to the institution and their desirable intentions. But an institution like this needs to be led by Da'as Torah [Torah-based Truth] and be under the supervision of a great man superior in Torah stature and Fear of Heaven. Even now, major Jewish questions are sent to Rabbi Yitzchak from all over the world. He answers them and accepts responsibility for everything he is involved in with institutions around the globe.
Furthermore, Rabbi Eric Coopersmith, even though he has dedicated his heart and soul to the institution and has run it all these years – and in many ways has been the life force of the institution – at the end of the day there have been many problems with his policies and his relationship with many of the committee members. Therefore I think they need to switch him to a position where these problems will not arise at all. At this time he should not be the CEO or Deputy Rosh Yeshiva. My hope was that under the guidance of HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak shlita they would appoint new people in these positions and create a new role for Rabbi Eric Coopersmith.
Obviously, all the above is referring to Aish HaTorah Jerusalem and the NGO committee connected to the World Center. It is a great shame for the myriad Aish HaTorah employees and branches of the organization working around the clock, carrying the Aish HaTorah flag and doing their devoted work. This is not about them and their institutions at all.
These matters are self-evident. As long as these matters have not been resolved, anyone who comes to ask me my opinion on involvement with this institution, I cannot give them improper advice that would lead them to join in activity with this institution as it is presently constituted.
As of now, there is no competent Torah authority that guides them in the path of Torah. The proper respect is not given to judges, and each man does what is right in his own eyes. Presently, there is no way to bolster or strengthen such an institution.
May G-d grant knowledge and insight to those who understand what needs to be done.
My prayers are that things should return to their former glory, and we will all merit to get pleasure from Aish HaTorah. Of course I pray that the yeshiva return to what it was before, and I only wish to support the aims of the Yeshiva. And if there is an opportunity to arrange things in a proper manner, I would encourage and assist it as best I can.
And through this, may matters be understood for what they are, and so should what I wrote in my last letter, and this should suffice.
With appropriate respect,
Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky
Please click to enlarge:
From: rosh hayeshiva <[redacted]>
Date: Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 8:26 AM
Subject: To all members of AISH HATORAH, in all locations, sheyichyu!
To all members of AISH HATORAH, in all locations, sheyichyu
Shalom and Blessings,
As all of us already know, the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, shlita, recently sent two letters in which he expressly states that he is abandoning any and all adjudication in regard to Aish Hatorah. Within this letter he emphasized his instruction that the arrangement existing before the initiation of arbitration should remain in effect up until the time that the entire matter will be settled.
After receiving Rabbi Kamenetzky, shlita’s first letter which instructed that the situation revert to its previous status until the issue is clarified, I came to Yeshiva. On arrival, I was informed that although Rabbi Kamenetzky, shlita, had said that the former situation should be restored, and in light of that statement, I should rightfully return to my former position as Rosh Yeshiva, in practice, the Amuta has fired me, and therefore it isn’t possible for me to return to serve as Rosh Yeshiva. That is why they even denied me the right to enter into the Yeshiva building (a right entitled to any kind of Jew, as anyone coming to the Aish Hatorah Yeshiva building knows…. )
After that, Rabbi Kamenetzky, shlita, issued an additional letter stating once again that those who had fired me from my post, were not entitled to do so, and that they also were not permitted to institute any changes to the Amuta, and that all the interim decisions issued in the past had been temporary, and all is cancelled and nullified.
Consequently, and in your capacity as G-d-fearing, complete persons, active in many undertakings to save the Jewish general public, I was sure that you would heed the Rav’s instructions, and not introduce any changes regarding the Yeshiva, until the matter is clarified.
However, I was shocked to hear from various sources that a meeting had been scheduled to determine the future leadership and position of Rosh Yeshiva of Aish Hatorah. All this, of course, completely contradicts the contents of Rabbi Kamenetzky, shlita’s letters with specific instructions to restore the former status, and refrain from making any changes whatsoever, not in the Amuta, and not to the Rosh Yeshiva post, until all these privileges are clarified.
After I went to many of the Gedolei Hador to ask their opinion on this matter, they instructed me that I do not have any other choice, but must issue a restraining order from a Beis Din that forbids, according to Din Torah, the introduction of any changes in the Yeshiva, up until the matter is resolved by Din Torah.
I wish to stress here that this restraining order is not intended for, and not required for the majority of the members of Aish Hatorah, who are known to be G-d fearing, complete Jews, and certainly wouldn’t introduce any changes until the matter is clarified. The restraining order has been issued just in case any particular Aish Hatorah member thinks, that despite all that has been said herein above, he can still retain the right to change the present situation. That is why the restraining order is necessary, to notify any such person that any change is forbidden by law, until the matter is clarified by a Din Torah.
I wish to stress here that I had never wanted to be forced to take such a step as the issue of a restraining order and was convinced that immediately after receiving Rabbi Kamenetzky’s letters, we would go together to a Din Torah to arbitrate this matter, but consequent to the procedure of events mentioned herein above, I was left with no choice but to follow this course of action and issue a restraining order. It is imperative that I clarify here that there is only one interpretation for the restraining order: according to Din Torah, one is obligated to comply with the ruling of the Beis Din and not execute any change in all that pertains to the Yeshiva, until the issue is clarified at a Din Torah. This does not involve or consist of ‘ANY MATTER OF CHEREM’ and the likes of such, as some people formerly tried to explain the meaning of the restraining order.
Because I know that you are Torah observant Jews, and students of my father and teacher, zatzal, I am certain that we can walk together ‘in paths of peace’, to attend a hearing at a Beis Din Chashuv in Eretz Yisrael, and finish this matter as quickly as we possibly can. This will most certainly abide by the wishes of the Rosh Yeshiva, zatzal, to know that all this was done in accordance with the Torah, and in paths of peace - bedarkei shalom, whereby, until the issue of a ruling by a Beis Din, we will comply with Din Torah and refrain from making any changes to the Yeshiva.
If we conduct ourselves in this manner, it will most certainly grant us Siyata Dishmaya (Divine Assistance) towards the success of the important endeavor of Aish Hatorah, to obtain the objectives set for it by its founder, my father and teacher zatzal, to help all of our distanced brethren return to their Father in Heaven, by upholding and keeping Torah and Mitzvos.
May we all merit the age of Techiyas Hamesim and together with the Rosh Yeshiva zatzal, merit to greet Mashiach Tzidkenu, speedily in our times, AMEN
Rabbi Hillel Weinberg
Please click to enlarge: