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Fighting the Rebbe's Noachide Campaign

Case Study: Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin,
Chabad of the West Coast (California and Nevada)

November 2001

A clear halacha (religious rule) stated in the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam (Jewish sage Maimonides) explicitly forbids gentiles, like Jews, from celebrating any religious holidays not found in Torah or rabbinical tradition. The rule further requires all Jews to be involved in teaching gentiles this rule, which applies to such Christian holidays as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe has publicly taught this and related halachic rules, and has made it clear that, since there are no opinions in Torah to contradict them, such rules apply to us today. The Rebbe has further instructed Jews that whenever we see a project or campaign that must be done, or any action that is needed, we must not ask permission from any authority — be it a Chabad representative, a beis din (Jewish court), a Rav (rabbinical judge), or whomever — but rather we must take immediate action on our own initiative (see, for example, the Rebbe's Yiddish-language speech published in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 2, Parshas Pinchas, pp. 342-344; also sichos of motzoei Shabbos Chayei Sarah, 24 MarCheshvan 5738, and 10 Shvat, 5738).

In accordance with these guidelines, members of JAHG-USA wrote a flier promoting our campaign to abolish Christmas celebration; it was aimed at recruiting Jewish support and featured key quotations from Maimonides, the Rebbe, and other sources. In November 2001, two volunteers posted this flier in a major Chabad synagogue in Los Angeles; when some members of the congregation repeatedly tore down the fliers with the holy Torah quotations, the volunteers instead distributed the fliers throughout the neighborhood to Jewish homes.

It was astonishing enough that, while gentiles had little or no objection to our materials on this campaign, a firestorm of opposition came from "Hasidic" Jews — especially Lubavitchers, the very ones who normally claim to follow the Rebbe! But more amazing was the furious objection of the head Chabad representative of California, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin.

The audio file below (MP-3 format, running time 1:29) is a voice mail left by Cunin on November 18th, 2001. He can be heard angrily trying to stop the JAHG-USA volunteers from distributing the Rebbe's information and desperately trying to squelch the campaign 'behind closed doors,' where no one would ever know what happened. In this message, Cunin uses a variety of intimidation tactics:

(1) Even though our independent campaign was not done through the Lubavitch organization, he tries to exert control over it;

(2) Over and over again, he demands we "cease and subsist!" (presumably he meant to say "cease and desist") from the campaign — indeed, from "any activities" at all ("to do nothing!", he insists);

(3) Near the end of the message, he can be heard raising his voice to near-hysteria as he screams that we must pay him attention and do exactly whatever he demands.

<<Cunin's Message of 11/18/01>>

Our response was to post a press release on this site mentioning the surprising opposition to the Rebbe's campaign, and especially that this hostility was expressed in the name of the Rebbe, by his own representatives. In it we mentioned Cunin's panicky attempt to suppress the project.

Five days after the first message, on November 23, Cunin responded with a second voice mail message, linked below as an audio file (MP-3, running time 0:55). This time he is even angrier, though struggling to maintain an exterior calm. In the message, he can be heard using the following ugly tactics:

(1) Over and over again, he uses loshon hara (slanderous speech, forbidden by Jewish Law) to try to insult the Hasidic Jewish volunteers in the JAHG-USA project. He calls us "crazy," "uncouth" coupled with a double insult ("…You guys are… uncouth — which you don't know what that word means…"), and "pieces of dirt" in Yiddish (referring to himself in the third person, he says "Rabbi Cunin doesn't panic, for you drekele [pieces of dirt] or anybody else.")

(2) He makes it perfectly clear that he does, in fact, oppose this Noachide campaign, objecting only to the fact that we accurately described his first message as "panicky."

(3) In a display of sheer brazenness, he tries to hide his rebellion against Torah and mitzvos, and against the Lubavitcher Rebbe, by insisting that he has been somehow delegated to power to suppress such mitzvah campaigns. In his words, he claims that this alleged "authority" was granted to him by the Lubavitcher Rebbe — and thus portraying us as the "renegades" against Judaism and the Rebbe for doing a mitzvah campaign, even though it is the Rebbe's own directive to initiate such campaigns without approval from any "authorities"! In other words, Cunin literally turns reality upside down, rather than backing down and doing teshuvah (repentance) for his earlier attempt to interfere.

<<Cunin's 1st Message of 11/23/01>>

Right after delivering this message and hanging up, more invective entered Cunin's mind. So he called back one minute later to leave a third (and final) message — filled with yet more hate.

In this message (running time 0:31), Cunin can be heard literally boasting that he is trying to throw Hasidic Jews "out of town" for volunteering in the JAHG-USA campaign (apparently Cunin isn't aware he doesn't own or run the city of Los Angeles). "If you say Rabbi Cunin threw you out of town, that's not a problem," he brazenly declares.

Then he rips away any last illusions that he welcomes all Jews into Chabad synagogues and activities, demanding that the JAHG-USA volunteers stop attending any synagogues — even for the Shabbos! To this day, Cunin raises large sums of money from contributors who innocently believe his advertising slogans that 'every Jew is welcome in Chabad,' etc.

And it is quite striking how much Cunin refers to himself, with the utmost seriousness, in the third person in all three messages. He seems to consider himself immensely important — the very opposite of Hasidic humility expected of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's "top" representatives. In any case, here's the third message (the second for that day):

<<Cunin's 2nd Message of 11/23/01>>


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