ועד הרבנות של אוסטרליה וניו זילנד
6 April 2020 / 13th Nissan 5780
As the community may now be aware, a group of Rabbis appear to have been holding themselves out as representatives of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Ltd (RCANZ), despite the entity having been shut down.
On 28 March 2020, we registered the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand as an incorporated association and announced this in a public statement. Below are some questions and answers to better explain what has been going on.
Frequently Asked Questions
We are well aware of the current stresses on the community and have no intention to add to that. We had an opportunity which presented now due to the disbanding of the RCANZ, which required us to act. While several Rabbis have expressed interest in joining our association, we recognise that now is not the ideal time to be distracting Rabbis from their important roles in serving the community.
Who is the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand now?
The Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Inc. was validly registered as an incorporated association on 28 March 2020 in accordance with the Associations Incorporation Reform Act (VIC) 2012. It is currently led by Manny Waks, a prominent international anti-child abuse campaigner who heads Kol v’Oz in Israel and Phillip Weinberg, a Melbourne businessman who sits alongside Manny on the Board of Kol v’Oz.
We aim to hand over the association as quickly as possible to experienced community leaders and Rabbis to establish an Orthodox Rabbinic body of which the community can be proud. These discussions are well advanced and will resume after Pesach (Passover).
Manny and Phillip have been advocates for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families for many years. They were heavily involved with the Australian Government's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which found that the Australian Orthodox Rabbinate was directly involved in cover-ups of child sexual abuse and in the intimidation of victims and their families. Based on the past, we strongly believe that there must be full accountability, transparency and proper governance of the Rabbinate. We will not await another Royal Commission-type tragedy to advocate for change. We believe the time to act is before that happens.
What are our goals for the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand?
We would like to see the establishment of a professional, accountable, Orthodox Rabbinic body that is truly representative of the Rabbinate and the Orthodox community. We have proposed the following building blocks in no particular order:
- the Board will be comprised of a minimum number of members, including the President, who have completed or are completing suitable corporate governance training;
- a lawyer (whether a Rabbi or not) will always sit on the Board and will have suitable oversight of its activities;
- to be eligible for the Board, members must serve synagogues with properly constituted boards and a minimum number of members;
- the Board will be comprised of representatives of various streams of Orthodoxy, including members who identify as Chabad, Modern Orthodox, etc.;
- female representation and voice within the association; and,
- any person found guilty of a serious criminal offence will be ineligible for membership. For avoidance of doubt, this would preclude Rabbis found guilty of contempt of court from being members.
Which Rabbis had been issuing statements on behalf of the RCANZ?
President: Rabbi Yaakov Glasman (St. Kilda Shule, VIC)
Vice President: Rabbi Nochum Shapiro (Chabad North Shore, NSW)
Immediate Past President: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick (N/A, NSW)
Secretary: Rabbi Netaniel Friedler (Auckland Hebrew Congregation, NZ)
Treaurer: Rabbi Nir Gurevitch (Gold Coast Hebrew Congregation, QLD)
Executive Member: Rabbi Noam Sendor (Blake Street Hebrew Congregation, VIC)
Executive Member: Rabbi Hillel Nagel (St. Kilda Shule, VIC)
Why didn’t we speak to those Rabbis first?
Several Rabbis who thought they were members of the RCANZ had tried to raise governance issues over many years. Rabbis Benjamin Elton, James Kennard, Daniel Mirvis and Alon Meltzer had all resigned their membership. Other Rabbis stayed on and tried to effect change from within but were ignored. Several Rabbis told us it was a lost cause and that the RCANZ had disregarded its constitution years ago.
Have you spoken to those Rabbis since registering the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand?
Yes, we have spent many hours engaging in positive, good faith, confidential discussions with the Rabbis. We proposed to immediately hand the association over to them if they implemented particular governance measures but were unable to reach agreement.
Who were the actual members of the RCANZ at the time they applied for deregistration in October 2019?
According to ASIC records, the Directors were Rabbis Shmuel Feldman, Yaakov Glasman, Nir Gurevitch, Paul Lewin and Nochum Shapiro. Rabbis Benjamin Elton, James Kennard, Daniel Mirvis and Alon Meltzer were also listed with ASIC despite having resigned. The Rabbis have advised us that due to an administrative oversight there were never any other members of the RCANZ.
Was this a breach of the RCANZ constitution?
Yes. Paragraph 13.1(a) of the RCANZ Constitution stated: 'the number of members of the Board will not be less than 7'. The RCANZ had been in breach of their own constitution since the resignations of Rabbis Elton, Kennard, Mirvis and Meltzer.
In October 2019, Rabbi Glasman applied to ASIC to deregister the RCANZ. He declared that ‘all members of the company agree to the deregistration’. Was this accurate?
According to the Rabbis, the only members were Rabbis Shmuel Feldman, Yaakov Glasman, Nir Gurevitch, Paul Lewin and Nochum Shapiro and all of them agreed to the deregistration.
What about the other 80 Rabbis who the RCANZ had claimed to represent?
According to the Rabbis, they have recently learned that due to an administrative oversight, no other Rabbis were ever members of the RCANZ.
When did the 80 Rabbis who believed they were members of the RCANZ find out that it had been deregistered?
The other Rabbis were informed that the RCANZ had been deregistered in December 2019, after it had already occurred.
How did Rabbi Moshe Gutnick become President of a body of which he was not a member?
According to the Rabbis, they erroneously believed at the time that Rabbi Moshe Gutnick was a member of RCANZ.
Even if Rabbi Moshe Gutnick had been a member of the former RCANZ, would he have still been eligible for membership under its constitution after being found guilty of contempt of court? What about Rabbis Yehoram Ulman, Michael Chriqui and Eli Schlanger who were also found guilty?
Paragraph 2.2(c)(ii) of the RCANZ Constitution stated: Any applicant for membership must 'at all times conduct himself in accordance with halacha and the laws of the land'. The above Rabbis would clearly have been ineligible for membership.
How had the ‘RCANZ’ been operating since it was deregistered?
The Rabbis who had been issuing statements on behalf of the ‘RCANZ’ contend they were acting as an unincorporated association. They claim to have been elected as executive members on 10 December 2019 at a meeting of approximately 10 Rabbis (including themselves) who had formed a new unincorporated association. They have been operating without a constitution or code of conduct.
On 19 December 2019, Rabbi Glasman posted on Facebook: ‘Extremely excited to have been appointed President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, a position I first held in 2016’. Yet Rabbi Glasman had applied to deregister that body 3 weeks earlier. How can we explain this?
According to Rabbi Glasman, he was referring to his appointment as President of a new unincorporated association called the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand and not the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. His reference to having held the same position in 2016 referred to his election to the unincorporated association which preceded the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Ltd.