New York – The Conference of European Rabbis is the primary Orthodox Rabbinic organization in Europe. It was founded in 1956 on the initiative of British Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brodie, and its current executive director is Rabbi Aba Dunner. All the chief Rabbis across Europe joined the organization, and attended its first conference in Amsterdam.
It is now run by a standing committee of 25 members which meets twice a year, and just met in Moscow. The Five Towns Jewish Times and VINNEWS spoke with Rabbi Dunner in an exclusive interview concerning the recent statement by the Conference of European Rabbis about the EJF (the Eternal Jewish Family).
Interviewer: Firstly, can you tell me about the Conference of European Rabbis?
RD: We are an umbrella organization of all the Chief Rabbis in Europe ranging from Dublin to Kazikstan. They turn to us for guidance. It was designed to prevent the non-authentic forms of Judaism from entering Europe.
Since then, the Conference of European Rabbis has been active in four main areas. The office in Brussels deals with combating anti-Semitism, and attempts to stop Shechita. There is also a “Lo Tishkach” department identifying the 20,000 Jewish cemeteries and mass graves in Europe and to protect them. The fourth area is to establish a Bais Din in areas where they do not have them in order to stop what we call, “Cowboy Geirus and Gittin.”
INT: What else does it do?
RD: We also have a department that builds Mikvaos. A Rav without a Mikvah is like someone with one hand tied behind his back. How can a Rav discuss Taharas HaMishpacha without access to a Mikvah? This is something else that we do.
INT: One would think that there would be worldwide condemnation against Leib Tropper, the former leader of the EJF, and its organization – yet there is virtually nothing. Why is that?
RD: We are amazed why it is. We unmasked this organization and the chap who ran it, I would not call him Rabbi – before this scandal.. We found him to be a control freak and a megalo-maniac, we found him to be so disrespectful of Rabbanim that there was a unanimous vote of the standing committee to make sure that he and his organization do not enter Europe.
Having a seminar of mixed intermarried couples to convert is so bizarre – this was all done in order to gain favor with their sponsor.. We decided, en masse that we wanted nothing to do with EJF .. We are amazed that the Gedolim have not come out against this. We do not understand this at all.
I will press and will continue to press very hard to continue to ensure that this organization ceases from its nefarious activities.
INT: Are you aware of any improprieties by this organization in terms of pushing onto the batei Dinim questionable Geirus?
RD: I have heard stories from America in this regard, but do not know firsthand. I have found the tape to be so terribly shocking, however, that anything can be.
INT: Have you experienced this organization undoing a proper Geirus?
RD: I have only heard that they do such things but do not know of anything for certain. I like to know names and facts before I take a stand on something as serious as this.
I have no idea what their criterion [for geirus] is, if a geirus came in we would make inquiries. We do know of certain unscrupulous batei dinim – there are questionable rabbonim. We look at the geirus that comes up on the table.
This EJF was a random organization, a private organization by a miniscule Rosh Yeshiva in Monsey. What are we talking about here? He has no experience. It is a private organization that got numerous people involved in it for reasons that we all know.. He tried to assume authority and dictated to people what they can and cannot do.. I don’t know why Mr. Tom Kaplan would do this..
INT: Are you convinced that these tapes are legitimate?
RD: Yes, absolutely. I heard the tapes, I know his voice. They are absolutely, totally, and completely genuine.. The whole thing is sick. Never in my entire klal life did I ever experience anything like this. It is quite sick I am 72 years old and, unfortunately, I was exposed to these tapes. I had to hear things that never in my life I would thought to hear. To think of the person and what he did. So unbelievable and so terrible!
IINT: But what about the possible good work that he may have done here? Should we throw out the entire organization because of what he did?
RD: Yes, absolutely. Mendelson translated the Tanach into German. He was an apikores. I once asked my father (Rav Dunner‘s father was the head of Keddassiah)- He said, “Abba, it is Assur, this is apikorsus any work that he has done has apikorsus in it..
The same goes to an organization that has been founded by this depraved individual.. He has no right whatsoever to have a Yeshiva.. He is a man that should stay home and be happy that nobody stones him. The same goes for his organization..
Let Mr. Kaplan put his money into Jewish education. Schools are dying because of this economic situation. That is the future of Klal Yisroel.. He could do so much more with his money. The amount of money that has gone down through this black hole is sinful.. Don’t pollute our Jewish world with this type of organization..
INT: What would you recommend American Rabbonim do in the meantime?
RD: They should organize themselves and come up with an alternative method of evaluating geirus.. There are very capable and fine Rabbonim in America. They are quite capable of doing it themselves and working it out themselves. I am sure they can do that to put their house in order.. They should not take money from such an organization..
INT: What in your opinion should Rabbis do who have accepted money personally when they attended these EJF Conferences?
RD: If someone got personal money they should give it to tzedaka, as being part of the backers of EJF – they should immediately give it away. Not back to the EJF. But chas veshalom they should put it in their pockets..
They should also write a letter to EJF and say, “We want nothing to do with the organization and the funds we received we are forwarding to the following tzedaka organization.. The mosdos of chinuch.” If there is all that money, it should be given to a useful purpose..
INT: Are there any other statements you would like to say regarding this situation?
RD: I call upon every single Rav in America to look at themselves in the mirror and say to themselves:
“Did I do the right thing [in taking EJF money]? For the sake of Chillul Hashem we should show that when the truth comes out, we should say we made a mistake. We know the truth – a genuine mistake. We were wrong. We therefore say, “EJF goodbye! Close down. We don’t need you.” and say to Tom Kaplan, “Please use your money for education.” – That is my call to them..
INT: Thank you Rabbi Dunner, this has been most enlightening.
RD: Thank you.