Rabbi Dovber Pinson Apologizes for Pope Meeting; Protests Summary Dismissal

Following the uproar over a meeting between a group of Jewish activists including a Chabad Rabbi and the pope, Rabbi Dovber Pinson has issued a ‘Letter of Explanation and Apology’ to the community.

In response to his dismissal from Shlichus, Vaad Rabonei Lubavitch issued a letter calling the meeting ‘contrary to the instructions of the Rebbe,’ and referred his request for a Din Torah to his former employers – Merkos and Tzach.

In a letter dated Yud Gimmel Iyar, Vaad Rabonei Lubavitch issued a letter in response to a request for a Din Torah from Rabbi Pinson, who says that he was summarily removed from the list of Shluchim without any research into the matter.

Pinson was listed as an official Shliach on Chabad.org’s list of Shluchim up until a few hours after a short video surfaced on social media showing a meeting of a group of Jewish activists – himself included – with the pope in his office in the Vatican.

VRL’s letter reiterates the Rebbe’s strong words, calling it a meeting with the ’father of fathers of impurity,’ and that it is clearly against the instructions of the Rebbe, that it is the accessories of idol worship and that it caused a Chilul Hashem.

In reference to his request for a DIn Torah, VRL referred the matter back to the administrations of Merkos Linyonei Chinuch and Tzeirei Agudas Chabad – effectively rejecting his request.

A Letter of Explanation and Apology

Dear friends and students, I feel the need to clarify the context left out from the video which is now having viral reception, unfortunately clouding the important mission I was there to accomplish.

In my very private audience with the pope, conducted in his private office (not in the church), we discussed the ideas of pure monotheism, hoping to increase the awareness of Oneness of G-d among all humankind as a true and only Source of all life, thus ensuring that there is no need to proselytize chas v’sholom to Jews.

The conversation was fruitful and a tremendous kiddush Hashem. I had stipulated that there were to be no cameras and no press at all, and until the meeting ended, this was kept.

Leaving the private audience I came into the larger room and saw the group waiting there. Some of them were part of our official group, but a few of them were not supposed to be there, and had managed to “get in.”

The singing and music commenced spontaneously without my foreknowledge or consent.

I found myself trapped between a duty to not make a chilul Hashem in the moment, and the spontaneous outburst of the group. Not wanting to offend created the wrongful impression that I was condoning this behavior. (You will notice in the video that I was able to stop the singing and music as soon as it was possible).

It is my deep regret that this video was released at all, (which was accidental) and that the visit was portrayed in such a way.

In truth, the actual meeting was a true kiddush shem shamayim, and will be a benefit for all Jews around the world with Hashem’s help, as it was intended to be.

With apologies for the misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

With blessings,

Rav Dovber Pinson

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    A feel-good video of the pope dancing with a group of rabbis at the Vatican didn’t feel so good to some Jews, whose criticisms drew an apology from one of the rabbis who took part.

    Rabbi Dovber Pinson, a Chabad rabbi and the dean of the Iyyun Yeshiva in Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote a letter of apology to students and friends saying the the viral video is “unfortunately clouding the important mission I was there to accomplish.”

    Following the wide dissemination of the video from Monday’s meeting, contributors to the haredi Yeshiva World News website debated whether the group of rabbis should have met with Pope Francis at all. One concern was the large cross worn by the pope during the audience, placing the rabbis in the presence of idolatry.

    Critics also questioned whether rabbis should have engaged in music and singing during the days of semi-mourning leading up to Lag b’Omer, a minor festival to be marked on Sunday. Pinson wrote that the singing and dancing began “spontaneously without my foreknowledge or consent,” and that he did not want to embarrass the singers or the pope by cutting it off too quickly. The pope was seen in the video swaying to the music.

    Pinson stressed that the meeting was held in the pope’s private office and dealt in part with ideas of “pure monotheism, hoping to increase the awareness of Oneness of G-d among all humankind as a true and only Source of all life.” He called the meeting a “kiddush Hashem,” or a sanctification of G-d’s name.

    “It is my deep regret that this video was released at all, (which was accidental) and that the visit was portrayed in such a way,” he wrote.

    Other critics at Yeshiva World News questioned the appropriateness of the psalm that was sung. Psalm 91, whose verse “With long life I will satisfy him and I will show him my salvation” is directed at King David and the Messiah, could be interpreted as extolling the virtues of the pope, a critic wrote.

    The pontiff held a 45-minute audience with the group, which was led by Rabbi Edgar Gluck, 80, who divides his time between Brooklyn and Poland, where he holds the title of chief rabbi of Galicia.

    Yeshiva World News quoted Gluck’s son Zvi, who was part of the delegation, as saying the pontiff pledged to work toward enacting “stronger rules against destroying Jewish cemeteries to build roads or homes.” The group also discussed with the pope the problem of child abuse.

    Last year, Gluck and the pope discussed the plight of Jewish cemeteries when Francis visited Krakow for Catholic World Youth Day and, according to Yeshiva World News, the pope invited Gluck to continue the discussion at the Vatican.

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