U.K. Jewish Group Cuts Ties to European Jewish Congress Over Claims Against Top Rabbi
The Board of Deputies of British Jews is calling on the EJC to investigate allegations against Ukrainian Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, which he strongly denies, but the European body has declined to launch a probe
Sam Sokol June 14, 2022
Britain’s largest Jewish organization has suspended its ties with the European Jewish Congress over the latter’s refusal to investigate allegations of misconduct against a Ukrainian-American rabbi, according to documents obtained by Haaretz.
The allegations against Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, who serves as treasurer of the European Jewish Congress and self-identifies as the chief rabbi of Ukraine, have not been independently confirmed by Haaretz. However, they were enough to cause a serious crisis between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the EJC.
For several years now, unconfirmed allegations of misconduct involving Bleich have been circulating in Jewish organizations. Bleich has called these allegations “1,000 percent untrue.”
Muzicant, who recently replaced sanctioned Russian businessman Moshe Kantor as EJC president, decided not to launch a formal investigation, informing van der Zyl that “going public is irresponsible.” He added that “the vast majority [of the EJC executive] does not want to get involved. … The investigation we were able to do so far shows there are no victims or firsthand witnesses which went to the police or to court."
This May, the allegations against Bleich created a dispute between the Board of Deputies – an umbrella organization of the British Jewish community – and the EJC, which connects Jewish communities across Europe.
Emails obtained by Haaretz show that Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl wrote to EJC President Ariel Muzicant, telling him that unless he agreed to “carry out an internal investigation” into the allegations against Bleich, she would publicly announce that the board was suspending its partnership with EJC.