A Lubavitch rabbi said he will refuse to take a Sefer Torah donated by a man convicted of sexual abuse of a schoolgirl.
A public celebration of the Sefer Torah, which was commissioned by Mendy Levy, a builder from Golders Green, took place nearly a fortnight ago.
But today Rabbi Yossi Simon of Golders Green Chabad House said he would not accept the offer of housing the scroll in the premises it plans to open.
Mr Levy was jailed for three years in 2013 for sexual assault on a girl under the age of 16.
Last month flyers which mentioned the name of Chabad Lubavitch Golders Green advertised a procession to a local synagogue to welcome a new scroll donated by “Mendy and Yael Levy and family” in honour of relatives.
In a statement, Rabbi Simon explained that "an individual" had approached his Chabad House "about a Sefer Torah he was completing and asked us if we would house it, as loan, for our use when we move into our premises. He then chose to turn the completion of the Sefer Torah into a public event, organising all the details, down to the production of the flyers and post-event publicity.”
He added, “In light of the public nature of this celebration, and how it has come to be perceived as a celebration of this individual, we have decided not to house this Sefer Torah. We have also asked news outlets that publicised the donor's article to remove it from their. sites.”
Those who had attended the celebration, he observed, had come “to celebrate the Torah - as is the halachic requirement- not an individual, including the person who gave the Torah. That being said, we are reviewing what happened, seeing what we need to do differently in the future to always ensure that our community is safe and set the highest standards possible for ourselves.”
Rabbi Simon said, “We can only imagine the further anguish this matter has caused the victim and our hearts go out to her and her family.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said it was “extremely disturbing” that Mr Levy had tried to seek public acclaim by donating the scroll, and that such a move would never find support in the community.
Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, welcomed the decision to reject the scroll.
She said: “Sexual offences are extremely serious and, while we should give people the opportunity to express remorse and change their behaviour, care should be taken not to honour people who have committed these sorts of terrible crimes. I am therefore reassured to note that Chabad has decided not to accept the scroll. No one in the Jewish community must ever give the impression that sexual abuse perpetrators are to be accepted until it is clear they have genuinely repented.”
A spokesperson for the Jewish Leadership Council said: “We can only imagine the further pain that this event has caused Ms Goldsobel and her family and were encouraged to read of the strong action Rabbi Simon has taken. We continue to encourage our member organisations to have robust policies in place regarding safeguarding and work to ensure that victims of abuse are protected and respected.”
Three years ago the organisers of the annual Chanukah celebration in Trafalgar Square removed Mr Levy’s name from a menorah he had designed for the event before his conviction.