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Rabbi Chaim Coffman
Rabbi Coffman has helped people from all across the spectrum to prepare themselves properly for Orthodox Conversion to Judaism. His students admire his vast knowledge and appreciate his warm, personal attention and endearing sense of humor.
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Welcome to Rabbi Chaim Coffman's Blog!

I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, Beyond Orthodox Conversion to Judaism.

The conversion process can be a lengthy and daunting one to say the least and I want you to know that I am here to help you through it.

I have been teaching newcomers to Judaism for over a decade and over the last few years I have seen that conversion candidates really lack the support and knowledge they need to navigate the conversion process and successfully integrate into the Orthodox Jewish community.

I created my mentorship program in order to help make this whole experience as smooth and as painless as possible! (Can't do much about the growing pains, though ;)

Feel free to get to know me a little through the posts on my blog and visit the mentorship and syllabus page if you are interested in possible joining us.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your search for truth and spiritual growth.

Looking forward to meeting you,
Chaim Coffman

My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch

In case you were wondering why I have all of these articles written by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, he is my Rebbe, and one of the gedolei hador (greatest Rabbis of our generation).

Rav Sternbuch fully endorses me and supports my mentorship program.

He is the address for all of my halachic or hashkafic (practical and philosophical) questions that I or my students may have.

The articles are based on his weekly talks on the Torah portion that the Rav gives in Jerusalem in his kollel. As a member of the kollel I get first dibbs on the photocopies and I type them up for my blog so you can all benefit from the Rav's erudition and insight.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Scandal in the Jewish Community

Scandal in the Jewish Community

What happens when there is a scandal by a rabbinical figure in our community? How should we react? Did we really change our lives, sometimes alienate our families and not feel welcomed in the frum community to see a religious spiritual leader not acting in line with the Torah’s ideals?

At an Oorah Shabbaton a few years ago, I was part of a panel discussion that was posed with exactly this question. There were three other rabbis as part of that panel discussion and one always runs into the potential problem that if you speak third or fourth, you can just about be assured that someone will speak exactly about what you wanted to talk about. We call that Murphy-Stein’s law. This is exactly what happened to me.

Speaking third and having my best ideas “stolen” right underneath me, I had to think fast. As I got up to give my presentation, I mentioned that just because we see something written in the newspapers or over the internet, doesn’t mean I have to believe it is true! Just the opposite! We should always look at the individual as innocent until proven guilty, right?

There is an old saying in the newspaper business: Man bites dog, are not newsworthy; dog bites man is front page headlines! Baruch Hashem, the Orthodox community has in many ways a good reputation but that can all change when a scandal hits the papers!

There is a mitzvah to judge someone favorably even if the circumstances may appear to be incredibly incriminating. What are we supposed to do, though when a rabbinic figure is involved in something that he/she should not be involved and it becomes very hard to judge them favorably?

We have to remember that even Rabbis are human and can make mistakes. It is very important that we judge the action and not the person. As we know, we cannot judge someone unless we have been in their exact situation.

If some of our own leaders are caught doing something against the law, what does it say about the community? Nothing! This means that although we all have our shortcomings, nonetheless, we have an obligation to try and reach the highest spiritual levels that the Torah has set down for us. If we fail and do things that are not indicative of an Orthodox Torah lifestyle, then we will have to answer that for ourselves.

Someone once saw an Orthodox Jew in a place that they should not have been and asked me about it. They said, “If this person is frum, what were they doing there?” My answer was very simple: “Go ask him, not me. I will have a hard enough time answering for my own actions; I have no intention in answering for someone else!”

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, famed mashgiach of the Mir and Ponezveh Yeshivot wrote many times not to get too concerned with ‘frumkeit’. This means that just because we see a person dressed in a certain way or has a certain title, doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Just because one can walk the walk and talk and the talk in frumkeit, doesn’t mean that the person is necessarily frum. It just means that they know the lingo. We have to be careful not to mix-up Jews and Judaism.

Our leaders have an obligation and should live up to the highest spiritual standards that they can. After all, if they act in a way that contradicts Torah and people learn from their crooked ways, then that is a chillul Hashem at the highest level!

Unfortunately, the Orthodox world has not been exempt from scandals and recently there was a great rabbi who came out and spoke at length at the great tragedy that occurred with his institution. He never said it was an oversight or tried to brush it under the carpet but admitted that it was a mistake and warned people that they themselves shouldn’t make the same one!

This was true gadlus! This great sage admitted to the masses that there was a mistake made and a price to pay. Although we sometimes see these things even in the Torah world, the most important thing is not to judge the whole community for the act of an individual.

There are those acts that one cannot condone under any circumstances and it does not matter who was the one to perpetrate that feat. Baalei teshuvah and converts who have changed their lives so dramatically to be part of the Jewish community, should not be dismayed when a scandal hits the Orthodox community. They joined these great communities because of the idealism and love for the Torah and its ideals.


Anonymous said...

This is a graceful and useful response to such a discouraging event...important that it is talked about and not brushed under rug, no doubt - but it still hurts in some way. JH

Anonymous said...

I think they should be removed from their positions.......