The Central Committee of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis has declared that the movement’s activities in Washington, D.C., fall entirely under the authority of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, settling a longstanding feud between the District of Columbia rabbi and Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, who oversees Chabad programs in Maryland.
In its decision, the three-person beit din, or rabbinical court, ruled completely against the Baltimore-based Kaplan, who initiated the suit to seek authority for himself or his subordinates to operate on Washington’s college campuses, with Jewish young professionals and in downtown Washington.
Shemtov “is considered the regional director of the city, and every activity that is done in Washington must be with his agreement and confirmed consent,” the ruling said in Hebrew. Both Shemtov and Kaplan signed the ruling, which was issued by Rabbis Gedalia Oberlander, Chaim Yehuda Rabinovitch and Binyamin Kuperman.
Shemtov has operated in Washington for close to 25 years and runs the Washington office of the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). Neither Shemtov nor Kaplan responded to requests for comment.
While Shemtov has long been regarded as the movement’s liaison to the U.S. government and Jewish officials in the District — among other things, Shemtov has regularly koshered the kitchen of the White House for the president’s annual Chanukah party — Shemtov and Kaplan have repeatedly butted heads over who has the authority to operate in Washington in the area of community concerns.
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