to the 12 May 2023 Statement of the usurper of the Presidency of the Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community of Hungary (MAOIH)
Readers of the following lines know that Chabad/EMIH is now trying to save Hungarian Orthodox Jewry, after having already saved the Hungarian press, Holocaust remembrance, theatre, chicken processing and many other things. In parallel with Hungarian Orthodoxy, higher education, the aluminium industry and now religious tourism are being considered. Obviously, they will have more ideas. It is a miracle that in the midst of their efforts they even took the time to address, even if in a polemical tone, our humble congregation, the ‘real’ MAOIH, the legitimate membership of the MAOIH. This entity is of course not recognized by Chabad/EMIH, this group they cannot “address” – this is one of the reasons why the statement, signed by the new “president” Gábor Keszler (hereafter: Statement), which was published on the MAOIH website (maoih.hu) on May 12, 2023, occupied and immediately censored by the illegitimate new MAOIH leadership, targets the legitimate president of MAOIH, Robert Deutsch. The real addressees are of course us, the legitimate membership of MAOIH, who oppose the Chabad/EMIH conspiracy.
The Lubavitch Hasidic movement, known as Chabad, is one of dozens of major groups and religious movements in Orthodox Judaism – not even the largest and probably not the most significant of the Hasidic movements, but certainly the most extroverted and the most expansionist. All other Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish movements and organisations stand now in the way of their aggressive expansion. Thus, in more and more countries and cities of the world, outreach is becoming inreach, and Jewish ‘home mission’ (keruv) is becoming more and more a religious infight. Grabbing the real estate assets and the still usable brand name of the hard-pressed, modest Orthodox Jewish community in Hungary has also come within reach. All Jewish groups in Hungary have something to learn from Chabad, even from the odd hybrid Chabad/EMIH – though not exactly their expansionist policies, and certainly not their dealings in Eastern Europe. We, the “real MAOIH”, will go to any lengths to protect ourselves from their missionary arrogance.
In our home, in our institutions, there is a smile-offensive of Chabad/EMIH employees and straw men for the time being, although this is mixed with more and more tooth-gnashing. The Statement is also of two voices, a mixture of empty accusations and empty promises. The following is a list of the Statement’s points (following the chapter headings, except for point 1), the length reflecting the importance.
1. Religious court decisions or official proceedings concerning the presidency of Róbert Deutsch
The Statement accuses Róbert Deutsch, the legitimate President of the MAOIH, of inconsistency in two contexts: in the decisions of the rabbinical court and in the two official proceedings concerning the decisions of the General Assembly challenging his presidency. Indeed: after the first religious court decisions and between the two unlawfully held congregational assemblies (27 October 2022, 22 February 2023), Róbert Deutsch’s views changed radically. In the first half of February 2023, he was confronted with the then already open occupying intentions of the EMIH – that is, that his attitude towards the EMIH and his decisions concerning them were based on false assumptions. In the wake of this realisation, he joined the legitimate membership in its position on membership, which had been expressed months earlier and was in line with the relevant rabbinical decisions. It should be noted that as soon as the legal situation is restored, the Rabbinical Court of the MAOIH, headed by Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern shlit”a, will of course have to deal again with leadership complexities of the congregation.
2. Religious courts
The Statement denies the validity of the decisions of the said rabbinical court in the present conflict: on the one hand, on the grounds of the alleged conflict of interest of that court (“the ‘decision’ was largely made by rabbis who were either ’employed’ by Róbert Deutsch or by his opposition”), and on the other hand, on the grounds of the procedural rules: contrary to rabbinical religious rules, “no summons was sent to the opposing party, who was not even heard”.
These are absurd allegations. The composition of the said rabbinical court was not or is not bothered by any conflict of interest. In the resolution of internal disputes in the Orthodox community, it is the rabbi or rabbis of the community – usually paid – who are competent to decide, or the religious authorities or rabbinical courts whose guidance is followed by the rabbis of the community. Unfortunately, the MAOIH has not had an appointed local chief rabbi since the beginning of the Corona-pandemic; rabbinic duties are performed by rabbis of Hungarian descent currently living in Israel or elsewhere – the highest authority among them is Rav Stern – who have served the MAOIH for the past twenty years. (Mr Menashe Bernat, of the leadership of the coup, made a manipulative and disingenuous statement about Rav Stern during the General Assembly of October 27th 2022, but in the meantime even he addressed him as ‘mara de-atra’, the sovereign rabbinic authority of the ‘locality’ – Budapest/Hungary.) The close relationship of these rabbis with the MAOIH, far from constituting a conflict of interest, is a prerequisite for the continuity of the community’s operation and for the successful exercise of its religious and judicial functions. Their authority, commitment and competence in the affairs of the Congregation are unquestioned; they have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the confidence of the legitimate membership. Our Congregation would not and could not be an Orthodox Congregation if their voice were not decisive in all religious and organizational matters.
There was no accused, no plaintiff and no defendant in the case in question. Nor was Rav Stern’s rabbinical court acting as some sort of arbitration between MAOIH members and EMIH straw men. This court had to rule on an internal organizational matter of the congregation, at the request of the Board of the congregation: whether or not the mass membership recruitment that took place after January 31, 2021 (mainly in the first months of 2022) could be considered valid. (The largest proportion of these “new members” were foreign employees of the Chabad/EMIH slaughterhouse in Csengele, who had never had anything to do with the life and institutions of the MAOIH.) The Statutes of the MAOIH left the recruitment of members to the authority of the Board and the Rabbinate of the congregation. Since neither of these community institutions existed at the time in question, the rabbinical court could only conclude, on the basis of the Statutes alone, that the recruitments in question had taken place under disorderly circumstances and in breach of the Statutes. No ‘hearing’ of any ‘interested parties’ was necessary to reach this clear conclusion. In its ruling of 15 September 2022, the Rabbinical Court stated that the membership of the “new members” should be considered frozen until the completion of the full revision of the recruitment procedures, i.e. those “new members” should not be allowed to participate in General Assemblies and should not be allowed to vote. The President, a small part of the legitimate membership and the “new members” concerned, however, defied this order – as well as a number of similar rabbinical decisions that were later repeated. Instead of trying to prove the legality of the membership additions before the rabbinical court, an illegally convened and conducted General Assembly was held on October 27, 2022, which set up the personal and ‘legal’ stage for the Chabad/EMIH coup through the election of a new leadership and amendments to the Statutes – all these with the votes of the crypto-Chabad/EMIH phantom membership.
Anyone who defies the unambiguous decision of the rabbis of his own congregation, excludes himself from Orthodox Judaism, or at least from his own congregation.
We must draw attention to some other important facts about our religious court:
- A judgment of the Rabbinical Court of the Conference of European Orthodox Rabbis (CER) of 23 November 2022 ruled that the Rabbinical Court headed by Rav Stern is the only one with jurisdiction and direct competence in MAOIH matters.
- In response to a request from Rav Stern’s court, the most authoritative religious court in Orthodox Judaism, the Rabbinical Court of the Eda HaCharedit (BaDaTz) in Jerusalem, in its decision of 20 and 26 February 2023, prohibited the participation of “new members” (including three named Board members), almost all of them Israeli Orthodox Jews, in the „General Assembly” of 22 February 2023 organized by the Chabad/EMIH coup plotters; and, after the General Assembly had been held, it flatly declared that the decisions of that Assembly are null and void.
- The Keszler Communication of course also denies, implicitly and generally, the jurisdiction of the religious courts of Rav Stern and BaDaTz over the named cases of MAOIH. In their reply letter to BaDaTz, the three Board members elected by the coup leaders at the same time as Keszler (22 February 2023) explicitly did so, claiming that the rabbinical court headed by R. Baruch Oberlander, and not they, had jurisdiction over MAOIH matters. Since R. Oberlander is only the leading religious authority of Chabad/EMIH and not of MAOIH, the said letter provides clear evidence of the coupists’ religious loyalty and identity incompatible with MAOIH, and arrogant congregation-occupying motives. The MAOIH repels from within its walls both Chabad-style Lubavitch Hasidism and EMIH-style so-called ‘status-quo’ Judaism.
- We must also point out the historical origins of the aforementioned Chabad/EMIH arrogance and deceit. In 2008, R. Baruch Oberlander appointed himself “head of the court of the Haredi communities of Budapest”. In addition to ridiculing himself with this self-created title (which the MAOIH, of course, has never recognized), he has been misleading world Jewry and Hungarian politicians with it ever since. Even if R. Oberlander had rabbinical competence in various Hungarian matters, his voice was not heard in the incriminated conflict. His silence cannot be interpreted as anything other than tacit support for his Chabad/EMIH-loyal protégées.
3. Phantom membership
According to the Statement, “the admission of members was carried out in accordance with the Statutes”. This is a lie, see previous point. And if the unscrupulous lawyers of the Chabad/EMIH company had not themselves been aware of the untenability of their legal argumentation for membership and the serious inadequacy of the membership documentation, they would not have pushed through the absurdity of voting to legalise their own phantom membership and to insert it into the Statutes(!) at their General Assembly on 27 October 2022 as “further confirmation” of their phantom membership. On the derisive remarks in the Statement about Róbert Deutsch, see point 1.
4. Has the government interfered in the internal affairs of the Congregation?
Yes. The Secretariat of State for Religious Affairs conducted two formally correct procedures under the relevant Ecclesiastical Law in relation to the present series of conflicts, between November 2022 and January 2023 and between February and April 2023. On both occasions, the authorities ignored the manifest illegality and ill faith of the membership admission, as well as the decisions of the religious courts, which play a decisive role in the life of our denomination (and in the life of Orthodox Jewry everywhere), above all the MAOIH’s own religious court. In both cases, the authorities’ justifications for the latter element were based on a lack of knowledge or misinterpretation of our denominational relations. The government, by ignoring the obvious violations of the law in relation to the admission of members and the rulings of the religious courts, has, in our view, deeply interfered in the internal affairs of our denomination on two fundamental issues.
5. Locking up the synagogue
The Statement justifies the occupation of the MAOIH building complex by stating that “the officially registered new president and his staff are obliged to carry out the daily duties of representing the community”, that “prayer had to be resumed” and that “the synagogue had to be freed from the padlock imposed by Róbert Deutsch”. One or two other details are worth mentioning here to complete the picture: the occupation of the complex took place around midnight, a few hours after the lawyers of the old and new presidents had agreed in writing that the new president would not take over the site until the court decision to suspend the execution (19 May 2023). Presumably, President Keszler was not called to arms on his nightly visit “by the daily duties of representing the congregation”. One cannot help but think that he had to open the synagogue at that time in order to be able to recite the midnight tikkun hatzot prayer, which mourns the destruction of the Sanctuary, in the most appropriate place. If this was indeed the case, then of course there is nothing wrong with that. Be that as it may, as soon as the legal situation is restored, we will of course immediately place a plaque of gratitude to the liberators on the synagogue wall.
6. “Róbert Deutsch learned from the rabbis of the EMIH, now he insults them”
We are not fully informed about the biographical details covered by this passage in the Statement, but we are aware of Rabbi Oberlander’s honorable Hungarian Orthodox roots. These roots do not alter the fact that the religious outlook represented by him and the confused Chabad/EMIH hybrid organization he serves and guides is far removed from the traditions of Hungarian Orthodoxy, and especially Budapest Orthodoxy. Is Róbert Deutsch ungrateful, considering that he owes much to certain Chabad/EMIH rabbis? Let’s look at the inverse relationship: what is the perception of a student who tutors a child for free, but then suddenly smashes his marbles or unexpectedly submits a bill to his parents? We do not understand what kind of contradiction is perceived, for what kind of “moral wrongdoing” the Statement condemns a person who, on the one hand, is sympathetic to Chabad on some issues and personally indebted to some Chabad rabbis (as he has publicly expressed), and on the other hand, finds the attempted coup by Chabad/EMIH, which they actively or passively support, intolerable.
7. „The traditions of orthodoxy remain untouched”
– promises the Statement. Thank you in advance. But on the one hand, we do not want to depend on the generous promises of Chabad/EMIH to maintain our own religious identity and traditions, and on the other hand, we do not want to continue our religious life under the auspices of a movement representing a religious concept and values that are alien to us.
The Statement attempts to conflate Róbert Deutsch and the legitimate, Chabad/EMIH-free, MAOIH membership with the non-orthodox Jewish umbrella organization Mazsihisz. What stands out from this sweaty rhetorical exercise is that the perception of Chabad/EMIH’s operation among Hungarian Jewry has long since ceased to follow denominational boundaries. Despite their many quality religious services to Hungarian Jewry and their successes in some other areas, this is what Chabad/EMIH has most succeeded in “uniting” the bulk of Hungarian Jewry: in the last twenty years, despite all their propaganda of success, they have antagonized the vast majority of Hungarian religious and non-religious Jewry. This in itself is a serious failure in terms of their basic objective, religious outreach.
9. „Fiscal chaos”
A new broom sweeps well; every new leader who takes office begins his or her blessed tenure with a ‘due diligence’, and likes to blame his or her predecessors for problems that have been – or are being – unearthed. In the short time that has elapsed, Mr Keszler’s apparatus has been able to make very few solid findings in this area, but the Statement nevertheless tries to create a climate of suspicion with a number of allusions and innuendos. One of these is the nonfinancial, but at least false, claim that there were ‘scattered rolls of Torah’ in the archives. A thorough review of the accounts and finances should, of course, be carried out by professionals under any congregational leadership, and not as a subordinate to the aims of propaganda campaigns.
In order to ensure transparency in accounting and finance, an integrated system was introduced on 1 January 2022, including bookkeeping, payroll and all other records. Accounting errors made by the management before 31 January 2021 (e.g. real estate was not included in the records, tender money was shown as revenue) have been corrected and therefore three-column accounts had to be prepared. When reading the allegations in the Statement (‘MAOIH’s bank accounts are running on empty’), it should of course be borne in mind that MAOIH is a non-profit organisation; it is primarily supported by donations, the perpetuity given by the state and other grant funds, if any.
10. The parallel
The Statement criticises the fact that Róbert Deutsch in an interview linked the coup attempt led by Chabad/EMIH with the Nazi genocide. His unfortunate and ill-considered reference was probably one he himself has regretted since – here we can only distance ourselves from this obviously indefensible and offensive comparison.
11. „The future: cleaning up, electing a rabbi, building religious life”
The Statement concludes with a small programme declaration. The problems it mentions – at the level of generalities – are real problems of the MAOIH. We will tackle them ourselves once the rule of law is restored. In the meantime, we wish Chabad/EMIH a successful sweep in their own backyard.
27 Iyyar 5783 / 18 May 2023
Shomrei Hadas – Guardians of Faith Association
An organisation of legitimate members of the MAOIH