Debate Over Removal of ‘Yechi’ Sign Continues


melbourne-australia-yeshivaFrom a report by Naomi Levin in The Australian Jewish News: Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies.

When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner told The AJN he knew “nothing about it”.

However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.

Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.

The sign, according to an article by Yeshivah Gedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.

Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.

A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.

Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.

“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.

Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.

On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”

Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote. (end report)

David Werdiger has responded to the report in the AJN by stating that he was quoted without permission. His letter, he said, was a private one and not one to be quoted from in a newspaper without being contacted first. The following is David’s response to the AJN:

In your article (15/4) about recent happenings at the Yeshivah Centre, you quoted from a letter I wrote. This letter was sent to the rabbi and CC’d to a small number of stakeholders, and was subsequently forwarded to you without my knowledge or consent. The newspaper did not seek to verify the quote with its author, nor was I advised prior to publication that the letter would be made public. Unlike the others quoted in your article who wrote in the newsletter itself, my thoughts on this issue are personal and were clearly expressed in this way to a small group of people.

If I wanted to write an open letter, I would have – there are plenty of channels of public communication available to me for this purpose.

This is shoddy, disappointing and sensationalist journalism on the part of your newspaper.

{AJN/Noam Newscenter}


  1. it is improtant, because it shows what happens when the principals of Beyofen Hamismakbel are ignored – there is deep dvision and a shule can implode…take bote