A sefer Torah paid for and completed by a convicted child sex abuse offender, Menachem Mendy Levy, has been rejected by the Chabad community of Golders Green.
Last week there were celebrations in Golders Green after the completion of the sefer Torah. According to a press release, “well over 1,000 men, women and children” joined in with “joyous dancing and celebration which was heard several streets away. The new Torah made its way slowly to the local Lubavitch shul, Hechal Menachem, where it was greeted by the other existing Torah scrolls.”
After the ceremony there was further celebration at Menachem Levy’s home, where, again according to the press release, “Rabbi Yossi Simon presented Mr Levy with a thank you from Chabad of Golders Green”.
But on Sunday an anguished Rabbi Simon issued a statement in which he said that “an individual” — Mendy Levy — had “chosen to turn the completion of the sefer Torah into a public event, organising all the details, down to the production of the flyers and post-event publicity”.
Rabbi Simon said that Levy had approached Golders Green Chabad to offer a sefer Torah which he was completing to be housed, on loan, when Chabad moved into premises in the area.
However, he said: “In light of the public nature of this celebration, and how it has come to be perceived as a celebration of this individual, we have decided not to house this sefer Torah when we move into our premises. We have also asked news outlets that publicised the donor’s article to remove it from their sites.
“We can only imagine the further anguish this matter has caused the victim, and our hearts go out to her and her family.”
Mendy Levy was jailed for three years in June 2014 for sexual assault against Yehudis Goldsobel, who waived her right to anonymity after his conviction, in order to encourage others to speak out against sexual abuse. On her Facebook page this week, she wrote: “A sefer Torah dedication is a lovely thing, but how can a community of people ignore the fact that the person donating it is a convicted sex offender? Does this not somehow tarnish this mitzvah? I would think so”. She said she had not even known about the dedication until she was approached by a reporter, and noted that she continued to be shunned by members of the Chabad community in which she had grown up.
Rabbi Simon said: “It’s worth noting that the people who came out to celebrate at the event were there to celebrate the Torah (as is the Halachic requirement), not an individual, including the person who gave the Torah. That being said, we are reviewing what happened, seeing what we need to do differently in the future to always ensure that our community is safe and set the highest standards possible for ourselves”.
Statement from Jewish Community Watch
Although Rabbi Simon’s statement leaves a number of open questions, we appreciate that after the outcry by activists and survivors, he apologizing wholeheartedly and without reservation to Yehudis Goldsobel, a courageous survivor of abuse perpetrated by Mr. Levy.
Hearing about this event was infuriating and disheartening for many of us; what were child sexual abuse survivors to think as they watched their community honoring someone convicted of sexual abuse of a minor?? We thought we were past this shameful stage!! Have we learned nothing?
In speaking with some members of the community, the response was even further disheartening. They claimed that the sexual abuse was a consenting affair which began when the victim was over 16. That Levy was a young man then and has since become a devout, frum Jew. They further questioned why Levy cannot donate a Torah – perhaps even as Teshuvah for his past misdeeds.
The fact is that these sorry excuses are just a hollow repetition of Levy’s defense, which the jury found to be false. Levy was 13-years older than his victim, then a 14 year old minor when the abuse started. Those who scream “innocent until proven guilty” demonstrated that they refuse to accept the guilt of the abuser even after he is proven guilty.
If Levy wished to do Teshuvah, he could have donated a Torah in private, after admitting what he’s done and apologizing to the victim. But it would seem that Levy donated the Torah to curry favor and legitimize himself within the community. As the judge said during sentencing, he is “arrogant and manipulative”; clearly the community and much of its leadership bought it hook, line and sinker.
Instead of empathizing and standing with a victim of abuse, many rabbis and members of the Chabad community decided to empathize with and support an abuser.
The Rabbis who are known to have been in attendance are:
Rabbi Y.M. Hertz, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch London, Mara Deasra for Ana’sh in NW London
Rabbi Mendel Gordon: Mashpiah, Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch London
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Raskin, Dayan Lubavitch London
Rabbi G Lieberman, Rov of Heichal Menachem
Rabbi Chaim Rappaport
Rabbi Dovid Katz, Chabad Lubavitch of West Hampstead
We hope that after reconsidering their actions, these rabbis will do right by Yehudis and by all of our children and join Rabbi Simon in apologizing.