Yeshiva apologizes for mocking Chabad


BALTIMORE — The Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville began its Purim celebration by erecting several satirical displays with images, slogans and customs synonymous with the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

News of the mocking displays prompted concern and outrage in the larger Chabad world, and they were reportedly taken down.

According to COL Live, a Chabad community news site, students also went to the house of Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, director of the Chabad Center and Lubavitch of Maryland, and delivered a letter of apology.

“As bochurim [students] of Ner Yisroel, we want to express our desire for the achdus of klal yisroel [unity of the Jewish people],” read a copy of the letter, obtained by COL Live. “Like all matters of holiness, there’s always the danger of stumbling into the [opposite realm]. We were so sorry to see the [power of happiness] mischanneled … into disgusting [depravity].” We and others in yeshiva were not happy about the ‘Purim shtick’ that was done.”

Both Kaplan and Rabbi Motti Seligson of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., declined to comment. Several Baltimore-area Chabad rabbis referred questions to Kaplan.

While the Purim holiday is known for antics such as masquerades and parodic displays, some feel the shpiel at Ner Israel crossed a line.

Ner Israel is a non-chasidic haredi-Orthodox academy. Chabad is a chasidic movement.

The displays included photographs of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, commonly referred to as “The Rebbe.” Schneerson is widely recognized as one of the most influential leaders in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and along with his image were mock-ups of his burial ground and the “Chair of his Kingship,” which has been preserved at the Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn.

There was also a large prison cell with a banner that read “Thank You Prez Trump,” as a reference to the president’s recent pardon of Shalom Ruabashkin, the former CEO of Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Rubashkin, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was sentenced to 27 years in prison after being convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud and money laundering.

When asked to comment on the displays, Ner Israel Yeshiva president Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger would only say, before hanging up, that the displays were taken down after a couple hours.

Still, concern about the mockery lingers. Members of the Chabad community have expressed disappointment in Ner Israel, citing the elaborate details in the displays, which suggest the shpiels were organized, intentional and perhaps supervised by administrators.

The comments section of a March 1 report by COL Live features nearly 100 remarks from community members. While many express dissapproval, there are others who have accepted the apology of the students and are calling for unity and positivity.

Connor Graham is a reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times.

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