Lakewood, NJ – Four days after delivering a scathing speech at a dinner celebrating three decades of chinuch in Lakewood that resulted in unprecedented waves of support and anger within the Jewish community, Los Angeles philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz issued a written letter today saying that he is removing himself from the discussion regarding yeshivos and their acceptance policies because of his deep emotional involvement in the highly charged subject.
As previously reported on VIN News, Rechnitz praised the Lakewood community for its dedication to Torah and chesed in his 51 minute speech on educational issues within the Lakewood yeshiva system, but blasted those who pressure schools not to accept certain children as students and threaten them with consequences, leaving an untold number of children left out in the cold.
The speech, which was posted to YouTube by The Lakewood Scoop, garnered over 72,000 hits in just three days.
Watch below Rechnitz entire speech from this past Sunday. Courtesy of TheLakewoodscoop.com
Both Rechnitz’s Sunday speech and this morning’s letter of clarification were passionate and emotional.
Rechnitz began his address Sunday night talking about the desperate medical condition of his father in law, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, who he described as being in constant, immense pain and noted several times in his oratory that he was speaking at a time that was personally difficult for him. Today’s 1090 word missive began with an admission that it may contain typographical errors given that it was written during a trying time and from Maimonides Hospital, where Rabbi Belsky was transferred several days ago after a stay at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
An emailed Tehillim request sent out yesterday by Rabbi Yitzchok Gottdiener, executive director of Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, where Rabbi Belsky serves as menahel, bore the subject line “Urgent! Urgent!” and described Rabbi Belsky’s condition as “very serious!”
Rechnitz’s letter, which was sent directly to VIN News, included a pledge to continue supporting the mosdos in Lakewood, which he described as a “beautiful Makom Torah.” He also expressed optimism that he would be able to increase his financial support, quoting rabbinic sources who say that those who support individuals who learn Torah are, in fact, being themselves carried by the Torah study that they finance.
Rechnitz clearly stated his intention to refrain from any further commentary on the matter saying, “As I have clearly gotten too emotionally involved, I don’t think I’m the person to deal with the schooling issue. I have therefore decided to remove myself from this Parsha.”
Rechnitz asked forgiveness for not having anticipated that his words could be taken out of context, particularly by those who were looking to further their own agendas, and publicly asked mechila from any roshei yeshiva or rabbonim who were offended by his remarks, offering to visit personally to express his contrition if needed. He also stated his regrets for not praising Lakewood more in his speech for its many accomplishments and contributions to the Torah world.
“I mentioned that Lakewood is everything right, that there is nothing more beautiful than Lakewood, but they are deficient in just one area,” wrote Rechnitz. “Due to the fact that I wanted to get a point across in the time allotted to me, I clearly did not spend enough time describing my genuine Ahava for Lakewood.”
Rechnitz noted that the importance of speaking up against those who create attitudes and situations that are intolerable and expressed his gratitude to the many askanim who work tirelessly to ensure school placements for those who are rejected by yeshivos. He repeated his Sunday night statement that it is not the heads of the schools who are at fault for the problem and that he has personally seen their commitment to helping as many children possible but refused to back down on his claim that an elitist society exists within the Lakewood community.
“An Elitist is someone who calls a Mosad, and holds them hostage forcing their will and desires, while clearly harming other children,” wrote Rechnitz. “They are generally of the belief that they are superior or frummer than everyone else. They put themselves on a pedestal and insist on their way or the highway. Instead of viewing other kids as the Aibeshter’s children, they view every child as a potential threat to their child’s reputation.”
Saying that he understood that there are those parents who don’t want their children to be in a class where students come from homes with televisions, internet or other negative influences, Rechnitz said that many have gone too far in their judgment of others.
“If you don’t want your child in a class that has children who’s [sic] fathers work to provide Parnasah for their family, then you are an elitist! The working father can be ehrlich, Kovea Ittim, have all the right Hashkofos, but that’s not good enough for you, because you consider yourself on a much higher Madreigah.”
Rechnitz noted that those who feel their superiority entitles them to make demands on schools are just a small minority, lauding the general populace for their values.
“They are humble B’nei Torah who’s [sic] Zechusim we rely on to exist. But as in every religion and every culture, the extremists and the most vocal carry the show. While the elitists are the Mi’uta D’miuta, they’ll cause 90% of the problem. In my opinion, it’s incumbent on all of us, as the silent majority to speak up and not tolerate these attitudes that are the impetus and perpetuation of the problem.”
See below for the full text of the clarification letter.
As there is a lot of confusion regarding my speech, I would like to clarify some of my points and my intentions. I apologize for any typos etc….but I am writing at a very inconvenient time from a very inconvenient place (Maimonides). I nevertheless feel it’s important to write now, to avoid anymore potential Lashon Harah.
1. I apologize and ask Mechila for not for seeing the possibility of people using my comments out of context. The point of my speech was to deliver one message, and one message only, and that is to make sure that there is a place in school for all our children in Lakewood. It was not meant in any way to “bash” Lakewood or its leaders. Anyone using my comments to support their own ulterior agendas are twisting my words. I am not Anti-Lakewood or Anti-Kollel, and if that happens to be your position, I would reccomend you take a tour of the city and its Mikomos Hakdoshim and I assure you, that you will be impressed. Anyone who is somewhat familiar with the substantial financial resources that I’ve invested and will continue to invest in Lakewood, would quickly come to the conclusion that I adore Lakewood, realize how important it is for Torah, Kavod Hatorah, Harbatzos Hatorah and for Kiyum Ha’olam, and how much I need to be a part of it. I consider its inhabitants as my Family, and am proud and thankful that I can be a part of this extraordinary Makom Torah. Besides supporting the Mosdos, I think I’ve proven that I try to do everything in my power to help any Yungerman or their children in a time of need, and IY’H hope to continue to do so, in addition to the rest of Klal Yisroel.
1. I never Chas V’shalom meant to be Mevazeh any of the Roshei Yeshiva or Rabbonim. To the contrary, I spoke of the Roshei Yeshiva’s attempts and involvement in helping children get into Mosdos, only to be turned down. I have heard directly from many Roshei Yeshiva, both from Lakewood and other cities, that they consistently have problems getting children into Lakewood schools. If any of the Roshei Yeshiva or Rabbonim were offended, I hereby ask them publicly for Mechila. If any Rov or Rosh Hayeshiva would like me to come to them personally, I’m prepared to do so. I have, and always had tremendous Kavod for the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva. Im sure if asked, they will all tell you that I fulfill any and all requests they ask of me without asking any questions. As an Askan, I have never acted without the directive of the Gedolim. In all my Tzedakos, I believe that I’m known to never ever give with strings attached. I don’t discriminate against any person or Mosad even if they’ve done me wrong.
2. If I had to do it again, I would’ve spent the first hour telling people about the greatness of Lakewood. Lakewood has grown by leaps and bounds in population and Ruchniyus. Under the tutelage of the Rosh Hayeshiva, Hagaon Hatzadik, Reb Malkiel Kotler Shlit’a, Lakewood has been more successful than anyone’s wildest imaginations. It’s Talmidei Chachamim have sprouted all over the world, spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit. The city off route 9 that we call Lakewood is merely the “corporate office” for the world over. I mentioned that Lakewood is everything right, that there is nothing more beautiful than Lakewood, but they are deficient in just one area. Due to the fact that I wanted to get a point across in the time allotted to me, I clearly did not spend enough time describing my genuine Ahava for Lakewood.
3. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when I specifically said that I don’t place the blame on the Roshei Mosdos, as they’re doing what we’d all do, to protect their Mosdos and not compromise the Chinuch they provide for following years. I also did not want to place blame on them, as every single one of them have bent over backwards to try and help alleviate the problem. I’ve been in communication with most of them, and they’re always trying to place “just one more child”.
4. Let me be clear. I put most of the blame on the Elitists. An Elitist is someone who calls a Mosad, and holds them hostage forcing their will and desires, while clearly harming other children. They are generally of the belief that they are superior or frummer than everyone else. They put themselves on a pedestal and insist on their way or the highway. Instead of viewing other kids as the Aibeshters children, they view every child as a potential threat to their child’s reputation. This happens every year at nearly every Mosad. I can understand a parent wanting a school where all the children come from homes without Internet, televisions or other negative influences, but if you don’t want your child in a class that has children who’s fathers work to provide Parnasah for their family, then you are an elitist! The working father can be ehrlich, Kovea Ittim, have all the right Hashkofos, but that’s not good enough for you, because you consider yourself on a much higher Madreigah.
5. The one point where I should’ve been clearer is that the vast majority of Lakewood are not elitists. They are humble B’nei Torah who’s Zechusim we rely on to exist. But as in every religion and every culture, the extremists and the most vocal carry the show. While the elitists are the Mi’uta D’miuta, they’ll cause 90% of the problem. In my opinion, it’s incumbent on all of us, as the silent majority to speak up and not tolerate these attitudes that are the impetus and perpetuation of the problem.
6. I should have taken out the time to thank all the Askanim who work day and night, trying to get children placed. They Aibeshter should bench them with Shefa and Bracha. Unfortunately, they don’t have the power alone to fix the system.
7. As I have clearly gotten too emotionally involved, I don’t think I’m the person to deal with the schooling issue. I have therefore decided to remove myself from this Parsha. In terms of financial support, I will continue to support this beautiful Makom Torah, and hopefully with Hashem’s help, and your Tefillos, I’ll be able to increase my support.
As the Seforim Hakdoshim write: We’ll never know who is supporting who.
Ha’Aron Nosei Es Noisov. (Yalkut Shimoni)