A question posed by LostMessiah in this post asks:

“Can we judge Chabad-Lubavitch by the incessant rantings of [Australian Chabad rabbi] Josef Feldman Chabad-collageand are we asking Feldman the right questions?”

Judge Chabad by Yosef Feldman alone?  No, not exactly.
Yosef Feldman is a composite and caricature of many Chabad shluchim (Chabad emissaries / missionaries / rabbis).  His most outstanding character difference is his openness, which you call rantings.  But I see it somewhat differently.  I find it exceptionally refreshing compared to my experience that shluchim are too often misleading, covert, unprincipled, secretive, and simply dishonest on matters such as “tzedakah,” use of tax dollars, beliefs about their Rebbe, or sex abuse within the Chabad movementArticles, news stories, discussions, and video all over the Internet will back this up.  I don’t have to rely on my experience alone.

We can’t hold Yosef Feldman up and say ‘see, Chabad is exactly like this.’  However, we can find unacceptable qualities of Yosef Feldman that are recognizably widespread in the Chabad movement.  One has to seriously question a religious system that puts someone like Yosef Feldman in charge of TEACHING its teachers.  On matters like this, yes, we can judge Chabad.  And we must hold Chabad leadership responsible.  As I wrote here:

Yosef Feldman ran and administered the institution responsible for educating, training, and ordaining Chabad rabbis in the state for 15 years.  Yes, 15 years of training and ordaining people who we are supposed to dignify with the title “rabbi.”At least one of the sexual abuses exposed through these investigations was committed by a Chabad rabbinical student related to the Feldman family by marriage.

It’s hard to believe that someone like Yosef Feldman could obtain or retain smicha.  It’s unimaginable that he’d be involved in training other rabbis.  How does such an unqualified individual find himself in a position of great authority and power?  The answer is likely a charge of which Chabad is commonly accused: nepotism.  For an example of how prevalent nepotism is in Chabad, we don’t even have to leave Yosef Feldman’s Australia.  Though one only has to look no further than their local Chabad to find examples of it.  One rabbi I know already has a city staked out for his post-bar mitzvah son (and privately admitted it’s not because Jews there need him but because it’s loaded with money).

It’s only when unflattering exposure which is simply bad for business comes to light that Chabad takes any action.  In the case of Feldman he was “stripped” of his title as a shliach.  The ignorant may applaud Chabad leadership for this, but it was merely a symbolic act designed to appease outcry in a crisis.  Feldman still refers to himself as a “shliach.”

Yosef Feldman on July 27, 2016

Yes the Chabad Headquartes management certainly do not behave as the Rebbe would have and that’s why there’s a whole Chabad movement against the establishment. I won’t elaborate here… But this corruption hasn’t deterred me from being a Chabadnick and Shliach, as the Rebbe sent me and these glory and money hungry individuals can’t change my real status as they haven’t with so many other Shluchim etc

I’ll take Yosef Feldman’s word for it over that from Chabad Headquarters.

COLLive Aug 4, 2016: Sydney Community Joins for Siyum

A siyum made by whom?  Right.  Yosef Feldman.Feldman Siyum 8-2016

The Rebbe strongly encouraged that during the 9 days and up until 15 Menachem Av, especially in a year of Hakhel, there should be Siyumim every night so that all of the negative aspects of this period should be transformed to joy.

The first Siyum in the world was held in Sydney on Thursday night, Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av at the Yeshiva Centre – Chabad NSW HQ. Australia.

The Siyum was made by Rabbi Yosef Feldman

As much as Feldman may be somewhat of a caricature of Chabad rabbis, he is equally, if not more, a microcosm representing many of the problems that plague the Chabad-Lubavitch organization.  You won’t readily see all of those problems by examining Yosef Feldman, and you won’t see all of Feldman’s attributes in all Chabad rabbis, obviously.  However, Feldman offers an insight to Chabad that we have a responsibility to examine closely.

Are we asking the right questions?  Perhaps we should consider if we’re asking enough questions.  As I continue to learn about Chabad, I realize that possibly the biggest crime I ever witnessed there was my own.  That crime was that I took Chabad at face value and didn’t do my research about the organization until my family and I felt the consequences.  I was a loyal follower trapped in a cult mentality believing the people, to whom I was giving money, were there to help me and cared about my family’s well-being and spiritual pursuits.  I learned far too late that Chabad was just a business, a 501(c)(3) “non-profit charity” that was very much for profit and anything but charitable.

I’ve experienced a lot of hurt with Chabad; emotional, financial, and even physical personal injury.  And I recognize qualities in Yosef Feldman that I saw in my local shluchim.  So I am not willing to write Yosef Feldman off as some rabbinical clown who doesn’t represent Chabad.  I much prefer to hold him up as an example of qualities that unsuspecting outreach targets should look for in Chabad so they can examine their own situations and hopefully avoid much of the misfortune I’ve experienced.

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