Velvel Butman, the son of prominent Chabad rabbi and messianist Shmuel Butman, refuses to give his wife a Get (Jewish divorce) and is a ‘deadbeat dad’ according to a story in the New York Post.  He has kept his wife trapped in their marriage for approximately 5 years and has neglected to pay almost $80,000 in child support.

The son of the head of the city’s powerful Chabad Jewish organization is an unemployed deadbeat dad who refuses to give his wife a divorce or pay child support, court papers reveal.

Velvel Butman — whose father, Shmuel Butman, lights the giant menorah in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, Times Square each year during Hanukkah — has been battling the court, and his own community, since he first refused to give his long-suffering wife a divorce five years ago, documents and sources say.

Velvel, a 49-year-old dad of eight, once worked for his father as an emissary of the Hasidic movement in Westchester County.

But Velvel was booted as a rabbi after a rabbinic court of Chabad Lubavitch ordered him to give his wife a Jewish divorce, called a get, and he refused.

The Post quotes an unnamed source as saying:

“He strongly believes that a rabbi’s not supposed to get divorced. Yet he’s no longer technically a rabbi because he’s been defrocked,” said a rabbi who feared reprisal if his name were published.

He should consult suspected child abuser Nisson Friedman on that matter.  Rabbis do get divorced.  And I wonder what Velvel Butman feels about “technically” not being a “rabbi.”  Disgraced Chabad rabbi Yosef Feldman was supposedly removed from his position in Australia, yet is on record as continuing to consider himself a shliach and continued to take on rabinical roles.

Velvel Butman was held in contempt of court by a Brooklyn judge for failing to pay his child support obligation since 2013.  His wife, Rachel Butman, currently lives with six of their eight children in Crown Heights.  She provides for them by commuting to a job as a daycare worker in Westchester.  Of four years of monthly payments of $2,000 each, Velvel has paid only two months worth.

(Note how he treats his own family.  As Chabad calls them, our fellow Jews)

He has, however, reportedly gone on trips to Israel and Uzbekistan during that time.

I found parts of the article alluding to aspects of Chabad I have written about before: Yichus (pedigree) and elitist behavior (often a product of yichus).  According to the Post article, Butman told the court:

“I would have needed to get permission from a rabbinic panel if someone of my stature should be seen [working] in a Starbucks.’’

The New York Post’s unnamed source also stated:

““[Shmuel] is supporting his son financially, while his son claims that, given his father’s status, it is below his dignity to work here or there,”

One may find similar (even if subtle) expressions of elitism from their local shluchim who take countless donations from the ‘lowly working class’ Jew.  It clearly sounds like Butman thinks he is too exceptional to work.  As in, six days shall you work.

The judge said Velvel Butman will be thrown in jail if he does not come up with the child support payment of $78,400 within 60 days.  According to court papers Butman’s wife offered to forgive the monetary debt in exchange for a get (Jewish divorce), but Velvel reportedly said he would rather sit in jail.

In Chabad, yichus (pedigree) is very important. Shmuel-Butman So, let’s take a look at Velvel’s father, Shmuel Butman.  He is the director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization.  He is also of the outspoken variety of Chabad messianists.  NY Times reported that in 1993 he organized an event billed as ‘the Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch’s coronation as the King Messiah.’  Though it ended with no “corronation,” it did not deter Butman’s belief in the Rebbe as the messiah.


Before Schneerson’s death Butman was active in the movement to crown him as “King Messiah”. He was seen as a leader of that movement, organizing rallies to bring about this proclamation.[11] He invoked the recitation of the Yechi slogan in Schneerson’s presence without him complaining as evidence that he was indeed the Messiah.[11] He organized the rally on January 30, 1993 that was billed as Schneerson’s coronation ceremony.[1] Before the rally he informed the press that “This will be the coronation of the rebbe as Melech haMashiach (King Messiah).”[12][13] Butman was forced to backtrack during the event, announcing that Schneerson appearance did not represent his acceptance of the role of Messiah. He told the 8,000 assembled followers (plus many more around the world watching via satellite) that the event “is not to be interpreted as a coronation.”[14]

Butman penned a book outlining the religious and philosophical justification for believing that Schneerson was the messiah despite his death in 1995. He made the book freely available online.[15]

When the Rabbinical Council of America denounced messianism within Chabad in 1996, Butman went on the offensive telling the press: “Rabbi Shmuel Butman, chairman of the International Campaign to Bring Moshiach, responded to the RCA by saying: “Questions of belief in Judaism are a matter of halachah [Jewish law] and should be referred to recognized Torah giants of the generation for a decision” adding that the resolution was “like voting against the rebbe”.[16]

He was widely viewed as a spokesman of the messianist strand within Chabad.[17] He told the press in December 1994, after Schneerson’s death:

“it is not some of the people in the community, but all of the people in the community as well as Lubavitch throughout the world, who believe…that the Rebbe will take us out of exile, and that the Rebbe will lead us to the great final redemption.”[18]

From FailedMessiah blog 2009:

Rabbi Menashe Klein Condemns Chabad Messianism

“This sect of crazies, which falsify the Torah and our sages’ words…”

I’ll have to see this teshuva in writing to be sure, but Rabbi Klein’s words actually condemn all of Chabad because “to say the Moshiach is dead but is really alive” encompasses almost every Chabadnik I know, messianist or so-called anti-messianist.

This is because the real fight in Chabad isn’t over whether or not the Rebbe is the messiah. The fight is over whether that “truth” should be publicized or not.

In this regard, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky is as much an apikoris as, for example, Rabbi Shmuel Butman.

The Butman family is also mentioned in this post and reader comments (2012).  One comment in the thread suggests there may have been a presence of spousal abuse by Velvel Butman.

When It Comes To Haredi Rabbis And Haredi Heresies, Money, Politics – And Revenge –Talks