Police called over rabbi row

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2012

Police were called on Monday night to the home of a Golders Green rabbi in the latest twist to the controversy that has engulfed the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in recent weeks.

Earlier that day the Union had appeared to have taken action to expel the synagogue whose rabbi, Chaim Halpern, has been accused of inappropriate conduct with women.

In the evening, the Stamford-Hill based head of the Union’s rabbinate, Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, went to Golders Green to explain his position to Rabbi Elchonon Halpern, the elderly president of the union and father of Rabbi Chaim Halpern.

But police were summoned after observers in the street reported heated exchanges inside involving supporters of Rabbi Chaim Halpern.

Metropolitan Police confirmed that officers went to Golders Green Road after “reports of an altercation” on the night of Christmas eve but said that “no criminal incident was recorded”.

The latest events indicate how high feelings are running within the heartlands of London’s strictly Orthodox community.

The Union had previously announced a plan to convene a special Beth Din consisting of independent dayanim to examine complaints about marriage counselling sessions run by Rabbi Chaim Halpern, the spiritual head of the Divrei Chaim Synagogue in Golders Green.

But a short letter signed by the Union’s general secretary Rabbi Chayim Schneck emerged on Monday to say that Divrei Chaim was “no longer affiliated” with the Union.

It offered no explanation for the move but Union sources said that the decision to cut links with the congregation had been taken by Rabbi Padwa himself.

However, the picture became more clouded after Rabbi Padwa’s visit to Golders Green on Monday night.

A Charedi blog posted a letter said to have been written by Rabbi Padwa, stating that the release of the earlier letter from Rabbi Schneck had been a “misunderstanding” and that Divrei Chaim remained affiliated to the Union.

But then the blog posted a second letter said to have been endorsed by Rabbi Padwa the next day, which confirmed that Rabbi Schneck’s letter had been written “under instruction” from Rabbi Padwa.

No one was available in the Union offices to comment.

Rabbi Halpern resigned last month from his position as a dayan with the Union but has maintained his innocence, saying that his marriage counselling sessions were conducted according to Jewish law.

But a number of north- west London rabbis, led by former London Beth Din head Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, who have considered some of the evidence presented against him, have declared that Rabbi Halpern was “not fit and proper to act in any rabbinic capacity”.

Last updated: 3:41pm, December 27 2012