Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Sad Situation

I have refrained from mentioning this extremely uncomfortable subject for a number of weeks but now believe that it is time that we extracted our heads from the sand and recognised this sad situation. What I am talking about is the current fiasco in Adelaide where Rabbi Yossi Engel has refused to leave his pulpit despite his contract not being renewed. To add to this is the accusation that he received money from the government under false pretenses for a school which didn't exist. And to make matters worse the Sydney and Melbourne Batei Din seem powerless to resolve this and the London Beth Din, who have been called in as a last resort, appear not to want to become embroiled in this bun fight.

There is another aspect of this situation which is also worrying. Rabbi Engel and the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation have taken this case to the secular courts. The courts have ruled on two occasions that this is a civil matter to do with his contract and not one that can or should be decided by Jewish law.

What we have been seeing in the Jewish and secular press appears to put Rabbi Engel in a bad light. I am more than happy to present his side of the story as I do not believe that he has had a fair go in the press - this could be because, so far, he has refused to give his side.

But whatever his side may be the facts are that this dispute, and the revelations about his school, have caused much hurt and damage to the Adelaide Jewish community. This is an extremely small community which is not growing as the youth tend to leave for Sydney or Melbourne when they reach university age. This community needs all the support from larger Jewish communities as we can give them.

Despite the fact that the courts have ruled that this is purely a contractual dispute, I strongly believe that the Sydney and Melbourne Batei Din should be working overtime to ensure that there is a resolution to this matter which is acceptable to both parties. Even if it was proven that Yossi Engel was unfairly dismissed there has been too much damage done for him to stay on as Rabbi. The Adelaide community needs a new Rabbi so that they can begin the healing process and get back on a stable footing.