ועד הרבנות של אוסטרליה וניו זילנד
1 April 2020 / 7th Nissan 5780
I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Inc. (RCANZ).
The purpose of our organisation is to represent the Rabbis of Australia and New Zealand with good governance, transparency and accountability. We feel it is particularly important at this time of crisis that the community has a legitimate, representative body that upholds these values.
As you may be aware, we once had a body called the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia but then we had a Royal Commission and that organisation had to shut down because so many of its members, including its President, had disgraced themselves and other Rabbis had refused to hold them to account.
The Rabbis then got together and created a new peak body called the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand. In 2016, Rabbi Yaakov Glasman was appointed inaugural President of that organisation and announced that ’the RCANZ aims to start afresh with new leaders and a determination to make sure rabbis are professional and accountable’. He also said that he wanted to ‘focus on professionalism and training, which will include effective governance and fiduciary responsibility‘.
However, that body then elected Rabbi Moshe Gutnick as President in 2017 and when the NSW Supreme Court found him guilty of contempt of court and his appeals against his conviction were thrown out last year, the Rabbis allowed him to keep his position, despite being in breach of the organisation’s own code of conduct and public calls for him to resign. But not all of the Rabbis were prepared to tolerate this. One by one, several self-respecting Rabbis resigned, leaving behind only those Rabbis for whom it was more important to be part of a Rabbinical Council than to uphold its values.
Then, in December 2019, Rabbi Glasman announced that he had been appointed President of the RCANZ and has been very busy meeting with politicians and giving media interviews since. Indeed, the whole ‘RCANZ’ executive committee have been busy issuing statements, applying for grants and advising synagogues to close down due to COVID-19.
In fact, they have been so busy, that it seems they forgot to inform the community that only last October they told the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that they were ‘not carrying on business’ and applied to be de-registered. In the application to ASIC, Rabbi Glasman declared that 'all members of the company agree to the deregistration’ (which some Rabbis who considered themselves members of the organisation have denied).
So, when we found out that a group of Rabbis were still calling themselves the ‘Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand’ and taking the community for a bit of a ride, we stepped in and formally registered the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand in our name. We put in place a constitution with a disciplinary process for members (which we will use), a grievance procedure, criteria for membership and a process for the election of committee members. After all, we know how much trouble Rabbinical Councils can get themselves in to when they don’t have any accountability.
Earlier this week, I was appointed President of the RCANZ by its membership. As soon as possible, I hope to be able to expand membership to Rabbis who are genuine about promoting the purpose of our organisation and who will not be a source of embarrassment to our community.
We ask those Rabbis holding themselves out as representatives of the RCANZ to cease doing so immediately. They do not represent the RCANZ and we do not wish for our good name to be tarnished by association. We are also making sure that the media and other communal organisations understand that those who have been issuing statements and holding themselves out as representatives of the RCANZ, do not speak on behalf of those they would have people believe they represent.
Together with the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, we look forward to working with other communal organisations to advance the interests of our members and our community. We must all remember that the RCANZ was the Orthodox Rabbinate's response to the Royal Commission. We cannot allow them to get away with falling back into their old habits, which we know will ultimately, once again, lead to shame for the entire Jewish community.
Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand