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United Synagogue criticises Jewish freesheet over sex offender’s advert

Manny Waks, a leading campaigner against child abuse, said the response from mainstream Jewish communal organisations to the sex offender donating a Sefer Torah had been “pitiful”

    The event in December celebrating the completion of Menachem Mendel Levy's Torah scroll
    The event in December celebrating the completion of Menachem Mendel Levy's Torah scroll

    The United Synagogue has attacked a newspaper that publicised a Sefer Torah dedication organised by a convicted sex offender.

    But the Orthodox group said despite its criticism of the Jewish Weekly, it would continue to distribute the free publication in its shuls every week.

    Menachem Mendel Levy, from Golders Green, was jailed for three years in 2013 for sexual assault on a girl under the age of 16.

    Hundreds of people attended a celebration of the completion of a Sefer Torah scroll commissioned by Levy on December 25.

    He was pictured at the event dancing with rabbis and the scroll with children in the background.

    The Jewish Weekly – which describes itself as “the family newspaper” – ran a full-page advert inviting people to attend the celebration in its edition on December 21.

    The advert made clear the scroll had been “donated by Mendy and Yael Levy and family”, and is believed to have been paid for by Levy. It also provided his mobile phone number, which the JC has removed from the below image.

    The advertisement includes details of when and where the celebration would take place and the logo of Chabad-Lubavitch Golders Green.

    In a statement issued to the JC, a United Synagogue spokesman said: “The United Synagogue has never, and does not, own or contribute to the running of the Jewish Weekly, however we are disappointed that the paper ran this advert.

    “The US would urge the Jewish Weekly to urgently review its advertising policy and to properly research those who contribute adverts before they are published.”

    A spokesman for Chabad Lubavitch UK said: “Chabad Lubavitch UK has made no secret of its wide and loud condemnation of the celebrant and the event.”

    The revelation also raises new questions about when Rabbi Yossi Simon of Golders Green Chabad knew of Levy’s involvement.

    Rabbi Simon said last week that he had been approached by an individual asking about housing a Torah scroll, but suggested he had not been aware there would be a “public event” or celebration.

    He has not made clear where the scroll is currently being kept, after deciding it would not be kept at new premises being opened by the group.

    The JC has repeatedly asked Rabbi Simon about the celebration, but he has not expanded on a statement issued last week in which he did not refer to Levy or his crime.

    The advert published in the Jewish Weekly on December 21
    The advert published in the Jewish Weekly on December 21

    Levy, who describes himself as a “professional architecture consultant”, is believed to have made money through stockbroking and his work in the building industry. He lives close to the shul, which is in Western Avenue, Golders Green.

    The Jewish Weekly did not respond to requests for a comment.

    Manny Waks, a leading campaigner against child abuse, writing for the Times of Israel, said the Sefer Torah episode “would have to go down as one of the most horrific events in the [Chabad] global movement’s shameful history of child sexual abuse, cover-ups and shunning of victims”.

    Mr Waks said the response from mainstream Jewish communal organisations had been “pitiful” and criticised the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.

    In 2015, organisers of the Chanukah in the Square event in Trafalgar Square removed Levy’s name from one of the community's largest public menorahs.

    The father-of-six had designed the chanukiah before his conviction. The JLC apologised unreservedly for any offence caused by the delay in removing the plaque bearing his name.

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