Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mr G Responds

Mr Shmuel Gurewicz has written a comprehensive response to the discussions around the world with regard to the closing of Michlelet Morasha. I am pleasantly surprised at his candor and his promise to refund all deposits made by parents of the girls that were enrolled this year.

Thanks to Berl for pointing out the letter which just appeared on

Dear Parents and Students,

Unfortunately, over the past few days, the internet has become the source of much false information including frightening lashan harah regarding the closure of Michlelet Morasha. In order to be והיית נקי מה' ומישראל I would like to clarify the facts.

Before I go into details, I want to reiterate our commitment to reimburse every parent who paid a deposit for the next academic year. The process has begun already. Some people were reimbursed already. It will take about 2 to 3 weeks. But again, every cent will be returned.

The set up Michlelet Morasha was my initiative. I saw that there was a need for it. There was a shortage of places in the existing Seminaries. Lubavitch high schools around the world turned out approximately 400 graduates every year and most of them wanted to study at a seminary in Israel which in total could cater for around 250 students.

I received very positive encouragement for that project. Some generous people here in Melbourne helped me financially to make this a reality. I found Chani and Yisroel Sudry as the ideal couple to run this project. They took a very modest salary and worked very, very hard to run that seminary. Chani gave birth to a baby and 2 days later was already at the seminary working.

The first year, 2006/7 we managed to break even. But still with the initial debt from setting it up. The second year 2007/8, we improved in our operation, hiring better teachers, installing fire sprinklers etc. According to our projected budget we would again break even and maybe be able to begin reducing the old debt.

However, the Ribono Shel Olam had different plans. Various problems arose, some of which could not have been predicted.

1. The U$ fell from 4.50 Shekel to 3.25 Shekel and we began to go backwards. We tried to raise some funds but because of the down turn in the American economy, it became impossible. (Except for a few donations from some benefactors).

2. The manner in which MASA paid their scholarships became particularly relevant during these difficult times. They pay the first 25% only 45 days after the start of the program. The next 35% they pay 45 days after the middle of the program and the last 40% they pay only after the end of the program.

3. There were also parents who defaulted and did not pay their fees. Unlike other seminaries we were not prepared to expel any students regardless of their financial situation.

4. Without going into personal details there were very serious health problems on the part of senior staff which also impacted on the program,

5. The landlord raised the rent to a totally unsustainable level.

6. We had some last minute cancellations which considering the precarious financial situation we faced, had a significant effect on our budget.

We tried to hang on. We tried to raise funds. We tried to find a sponsor for the whole seminary. But we were not successful. Up until the last moment we intended to continue.

I want to point out that we are not the only ones to close our doors. Machon Gold, a Mizrachi Seminary which was established approximately 50 years ago, closed its doors because of the fall of the American dollar. Kfar Chabad had a program for chutz laaretz girls which closed. The Lod seminary closed recently.

At no time did I personally have any benefit from the seminary. It costed me many tens of thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights.

Once again I reiterate our commitment to return the deposits of every parent. Where necessary, this money will come out of my personal pocket. And besides these monies, there are still many debts which will have to be paid in Israel. Everything is also being done now to try and find places for the girls in other seminaries.

Finally, I would like to personally apologize for the frustration and inconvenience the closure of Michlelet Morasha has caused to many families and in particular, the students. If at any time, you wish to discuss this, please feel free to contact me. I remain committed to doing everything I possibly can to assist you during this difficult time.

Shmuel Gurewicz