By COLlive reporter
The Kedem Auction House, founded in 2008 in Jerusalem as a seller for Judaica and Israeliana, released a public statement about the collection of items of the dynasty of Chabad Rebbes that are being sold through them.
As COLlive.com reported, these artifacts are being offered by Shaul Shimon Deutsch, a Boro Park resident who titled himself the Liozna Rebbe and was embroiled in legal woes over theft. Doubts cast about his integrity and the authenticity of his items have led the Genazym Auction House to cease doing business with him.
Kedem responded to COLlive.com with the following defense: [Statement below]
“Recently, several articles were publicized on official Chabad websites, regarding the collection of items of the dynasty of Chabad Rebbes which had recently been sold at Kedem Auction House.
“These articles were written with the clear intention of besmirching the reputation of Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, the owner of the collection and discrediting his trustworthiness. Apparently, they also aim to harm the reputation and credibility of Kedem Auction House.
“These articles open with claims related to Rabbi Deutsch’s character or to various affairs connected to his name. These statements and claims are not relevant to the items and objects which originated from the dynasty of the Chabad Rebbes and therefore, it is not our concern to relate to them.
“Generally speaking, these articles do not contain even one solid or substantial proof, which diminishes the trustworthiness of the items belonging to the Chabad collection which we offer. On the contrary, these articles intentionally disregard the range of proofs which clearly attest that these items originated in the home of the Gurary family, the daughter of the Rayatz – Rebbetzin Chana Gurary (wife of Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary) and her son Rabbi Shalom Duber (Barry) and his wife Mina Gurary.
“As you have certainly observed, following Kedem’s application to these sites, demanding correction of misstatements and omission of false claims, the articles were thoroughly changed. Among other revisions, complete passages were deleted, such as completely erroneous reference to items of Chabad Rebbes sold by Kedem in the past which did not originate in the collection of Rabbi Deutsch (although the authenticity of these items also have impeccable validation).
“We must stress that as of now, we have not received even one application from any entity related to these websites, with a request for our response as would be expected from any media and which is accepted practice for any serious research. We sincerely think that this clearly attests to complete lack of any attempt to seek the true facts.
“Kedem Auction House chooses to relate solely to facts: The circumstances at the time Rebbetzin Chana Gurary gave the items which she inherited from the dynasty of the Rebbes to Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch –
“In the mid-80s, after the famed Chabad library controversy, Rebbetzin Chana Gurary and her son Barry moved out of 770 to New Jersey. During this move, Rebbetzin Chana removed most of her possessions from 770 which included various items which were bequeathed to her by her father the Rayatz and by her mother Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, and others which she received as a gift from her grandfather Rebbe Avraham Schneerson of Kishinev and from her grandmothers, Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, the wife of the Rashab and Rebbetzin Rivka, the wife of the Maharash.
“We have numerous unbiased testimonies of the close connection which developed between Rabbi Deutsch and Rebbetzin Chana Gurary and her son and daughter-in-law, Barry and Mina Gurary during this period. At this time, Rabbi Deutsch was one of the only Chabad Chassidim who remained in contact with the Rebbetzin and her son.
“All the items from the dynasty of the Chabad Rebbes which Rabbi Deutsch received from Rebbetzin Chana were given to him in 1989, after the Chabad library controversy and near the time of the death of her husband, Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary, the Rashag, on February 11, 1989. Presumably, Rebbetzin Chana gave the items to Rabbi Deutsch as part of her efforts to organize her possessions after she was evicted from 770 and after the loss in court of the case of Chabad library, due to her fear that Chassidim may attempt to get their hands on
the rare and valuable items she owned.
“At that time, Rabbi Deutsch was busy writing and editing many articles pertaining to the history of Chabad Rebbes, which were publicized in various periodicals, such as Kfar Chabad and Di Yiddishe Heim and more. He also published the Sefer HaZichronot Part III and a two-volume biography on the Lubavitcher Rebbe named Larger Than Life. Apparently, his close connection with the “ostracized” Gurary family members and their willingness to give him the many items from the dynasty of the Chabad Rebbes are connected to his work as a historian of Chabad Chassidism and its Rebbes.
“All the items given by Rebbetzin Chana to Rabbi Deutsch were accompanied by written letters of authenticity with details of the circumstances of each item and its evolvement – how and when it was given to Rebbetzin Chana Gurary by her father and grandfathers from the Chabad Rebbe dynasty.
“The letters of authenticity are handwritten (in English) and signed in Hebrew by Rebbetzin Chana Gurary. The signatures appear in large separate letters: Beyond her advanced age (in 1989, the Rebbetzin was about 90 years old), and her determination that no one will be able to undermine the authenticity and credibility of the authorizations, she was seriously injured three years earlier, in Tamuz 1986 (by a Chassid who entered her home and beat her mercilessly with a metal rod, injuring her arm and her skull, leaving her blind in one eye). Apparently, this is the reason for her somewhat “primitive” and simple signature.
“On the other hand, the signatures of Rebbetzin Chana and her son Barry which were presented in the articles from photocopies, and which were defined as “authentic”, had no reference or basis of proof: not when the documents were signed, nor the place of signature, context, what kind of document. Therefore, one cannot relate to these signatures as serious proof.
“Numerous objects and documents from the dynasty of Chabad Rebbes originating from the collection of Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch are now in our auction house and have been sold in the past by Kedem Auction House as well as by other auction houses and no reservations exist regarding their origin as possessed by the Gurary family. Among these items:
* Several letters handwritten by the Rebbe Rayatz himself to his grandson R. Barry Gurary. These letters have never been publicized and are in the possession of Rabbi Deutsch (attached is the first photocopy of these letters).
* The complete original prosecution case of the Chabad library controversy which was in the possession of the defendant Barry Gurary and consigned by Rabbi Deutsch to Kestenbaum Auction House in 2015 (here).
* Ledger of the Rebbe Rayatz – dozens of pages handwritten by the Rebbe Rayatz himself recording incoming funds and expenses from the time of his arrival in the US in Adar 1940, given by Barry Gurary to Rabbi Deutsch and sold at Kestenbaum Auction House in 2015 (here).
* Several issues of The Jewish Week weekly publication from 1989, with the original subscription label of Mina Gurary and bearing her residential New Jersey address, which Rebbetzin Mina gave to Rabbi Deutsch as an additional testimony of the origin of the collection of the Gurary family.
* An original unknown photograph of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka in her youth, given by Rebbetzin Chana to Rabbi Deutsch and sold at Appel Auction House in 2021 (here).
“Dozens of additional items constitute faithful testimony to the credibility of Rabbi Deutsch and to their origin in the homes of Chabad Rebbes throughout the generations.
“As an aside:
“Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch was accustomed to carry out studies of various historical topics at the behest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In the Kovetz 28th Sivan – Jubilee, which the Rebbe proofread and distributed to the public with his own hands on 28th Sivan 1991, a chapter written by Rabbi Deutsch at the behest of the Rebbe is included – “A short review of the rescue of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin from the European ‘vale of tears’ and their transportation to the USA.” Written at the foot of the first page of this chapter: “This historical record was arranged according to the books of Chabad history which describe the story of the rescue and after study of the official documents of the attorneys of the Association of Chabad Chassidim (the photocopies were provided by the courtesy of Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch)”. The name of Rabbi Deutsch is the only name which appears in this anthology – how many Chabad Chassidim can pride themselves that the Rebbe distributed a booklet with their name clearly written inside?
“Kedem Auction House hopes that the above mentioned proofs will finally put an end to the rumors and publications on this topic (some which border on malpresentation and slander), and as proven above, have not a trace of truth.”
FACT-CHECKING KEDEM’S CLAIMS
This past week, COLlive conducted an in-depth investigation into the claims and counterclaims of Kedem. Our reporters spoke with several experts, scholars and historians and concluded that Kedem’s statement reveals a troubling web of false narratives and misrepresentations.
This investigation uncovered serious questions as to whether the auction house, located in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem, is familiar with Lubavitch history in the second half of the twentieth century or, alternatively, whether they have been engaged in intentionally dishonest business practices selling, at great profit, items with numerous red flags.
When did Mrs. Gurary leave 770
Mrs. Chana Gurary lived on the third floor of 770 Eastern Parkway. Her possessions remained there until 1990 * Photo: JEM
In their statement, Kedem describes the circumstances under which Deutsch purportedly received the items, referring to the warm relationship between Deutsch and Mrs. Chana Gurary and her son Barry, adversaries of the Lubavitch movement at the time of the friendship: “In the mid-80s, after (sic) the famed Chabad library controversy, Chana Gurary and her son Barry moved out of 770 to New Jersey. During this move, [she] removed most of her possessions from 770.”
Two individuals who served as attendants to Mrs. Gurary and assisted in the day-to-day management of her household spoke to COLlive in separate conversations. Both said it is highly improbable that Mrs. Gurary could have removed items from 770, as they were aware of no such visit to 770 during the time Deutsch claims they were transported.
Mrs. Gurary’s departure from 770 took place on Shabbos afternoon, July 15, 1985, when Hatzalah of Crown Heights drove her to the hospital. After Mrs. Gurary left 770, she moved in with her son and daughter-in-law in Montclair, New Jersey. Both individuals interviewed said Mrs. Gurary never again returned to 770.
What is more, access to the apartments in the upper floors of 770 was strictly curtailed following Mrs. Gurary’s departure and Barry’s mass theft from the Chabad library.
Is Kedem suggesting that on Shabbos, while treating an 86-year-old Mrs. Gurary, members of Hatzalah also volunteered to pack all the recently-auctioned artifacts, toys, photos, luggage, apparel, kitchenware, office supplies and furniture in the ambulance as they brought her to Cornell Medical Center’s emergency room?
In fact, according to individuals familiar with the matter, Mrs. Gurary’s possessions and even her clothing remained in 770 until 1990, when, on the conclusion of all litigation in the court case on the Chabad library, they were shipped to New Jersey. Those who actually packed her belongings are certain that no such objects were shipped to her at the time.
Kedem also portrayed Mrs. Gurary and her son Barry moving out of 770 at the same time.
According to people familiar with the matter, Barry had ceased to frequent 770 earlier after he was caught stealing from the Chabad library.
770 was quite tightly observed after the thefts, and it was “virtually impossible” that he’d be able to sneak in unbeknownst to others, and certainly not to make off with truckloads of possessions, they said.
One of them did add that Barry did return to 770 one final time. It was on December 26, 1985, during the lead-up to his trial and he was accompanied by attorneys for both sides. Assuredly, the property was well-protected during that visit, and he did not have the opportunity to remove anything.
Another incident where Kedem should have verified Deutsch’s narrative — ancillary to the issue at hand, but due to its libelous nature, begging to be fact-checked — pertains to the circumstances of Mrs. Gurary’s departure from 770. Kedem states that it occurred after she was attacked “by a Chassid who entered her home and beat her mercilessly with a metal rod.”
According to numerous sources with first-hand knowledge of the event, a mentally unstable Yeshiva student burst into Mrs. Gurary’s apartment. Mrs. Gurary, who was standing at the door as it was opened with great force, sustained significant injury. A truly terrible incident — subsequently decried by the Rebbe — by a rogue individual, but a far cry from a beating with a metal rod as Kedem wrote.
8 months, but worlds apart
Above: Mrs. Gurary’s authentic signature as presented by COLlive. On bottom: The signature Deutsch/Kedem produced
COLlive’s expose on the fraudulent articles showed a side-by-side comparison between Mrs. Gurary’s actual signature and the penciled letters of her name that appear on the letters of authentication for the items on auction, supplied to Kedem by Deutsch. Both Mrs. Gurary and Barry’s actual signatures are vastly different.
Kedem attributes the drastic changes in handwriting to Mrs. Gurary’s advanced age and the fact that she was injured some three years prior. According to Kedem, she signed the letters “with great difficulty,” determined that no one will be able to undermine the authenticity and credibility of the authorizations.”
The signatures presented by COLlive, Kedem writes, “had no reference or basis of proof: not when the documents were signed, nor the place of signature, context, what kind of document. Therefore, one cannot relate to these signatures as serious proof.”
COLlive is therefore stating that the letters from Mrs. Gurary and Barry, presented in the expose, were both penned only a short time prior to the letters produced by Deutsch.
The one by Mrs. Gurary, addressed to a well-known Jewish philanthropist, was signed on March 2, 1988, in the thick of the library trial, less than a year prior to the first of the letters Deutsch attributes to her.
The authentic signature by Barry, also examined by COLlive, appears on an April 26, 1988 communication sent to a Beis Din regarding his library theft (explaining why he was planning to ignore their summons). This is less than 8 months before the first of the publicized letters that Deutsch has attributed to him, featuring an entirely different signature.
This once again puts the veracity of the “authentication documents” presented by Deutsch under serious question.
Shaul Shimon Deutsch. Bookkeeper turned Liozner Rebbe and antiques dealer
The pillar of Kedem’s statement is Deutsch’s credentials as “a historian of Chabad Chassidism and its Rebbes,” mentioning the two-volume “Larger than life: The life and times of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson” which was published on January 1, 1995.
Our conversations with Lubavitch scholars and historians about his books led us to a book review written by Yori Yanover, a journalist who wrote for Israel Shelanu, Yediot Achronot and numerous other Jewish and general publications. Yanover also authored a book on the years leading up to Gimmel Tammuz titled, Rokdim Ubochim.
Yanover titled his in-depth review “Shimon Deutsch’s attempted character-assassination of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe,” and writes:
“Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, a bookkeeper for a Manhattan electronics marketing company, attracted some publicity in early 1997 when he made his debut as the new, self-proclaimed “Liozner Rebbe.” In media interviews he argued that his flock, a handful of religious Jews residing in the neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, were yearning for a Rebbe who would provide them with spiritual nourishment, and that he, Deutsch, was only too happy to oblige…
“Deutsch’s writing is replete with serious deficiencies. …[and his] reliability as a researcher is highly questionable… His book is heavily laden with unsubstantiated conjecture, mangled quotes, mistranslations and gross exaggerations. Most disturbing, in more than a handful of places I found evidence suggesting a pattern of deliberate distortion and deception on Deutsch’s part….
“It is my contention that the problems are so pervasive throughout Deutsch’s work as to invalidate it as a credible source of research and analysis. I hope that Deutsch’s forthcoming volumes will be examined with deliberate scrutiny, to avoid further distortions of the historical record,” Yanover wrote.
The review goes through Deutsch’s book, raising many highly troubling questions, including the book’s entire premise, its sources and the author’s ability to understand basic Hebrew. Numerous examples of plagiarism and falsification pepper the book.
Who really worked on the kovetz
The Rebbe hands out Kovetz Chof Ches Sivan to chassidim in 770
Kedem writes that Deutsch “was accustomed to carry out studies of various historical topics at the behest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” It adds that Deutsch wrote a chapter in “Kovetz Chof Ches Sivan – Yovel Shanim,” a 104-page paperback booklet published in 5751 (1991), and that he has done so “at the behest of the Rebbe.” Kedem goes on to ask, “The name of Rabbi Deutsch is the only name which appears in this anthology – how many Chabad Chassidim can pride themselves that the Rebbe distributed a booklet with their name clearly written inside?”
The booklet under discussion – which the Rebbe indeed handed out to the crowd at 770 on 28 Sivan, 5751 – contains a compilation of the Rebbe’s deep discourses about the significance of newly spreading Torah in America. Included is an eight-page overview of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson’s rescue from war-torn Europe to the USA in 1941.
The booklet came together as a project initiated by several young chassidim, and was certainly not “at the behest of the Rebbe” as Kedem claims.
In his review of Deutsch’s books, Yanover writes about this booklet: “The bulk of it, the maamarim and sichot it contains, were compiled from various sources by Rabbi Simon Jacobson and others who worked closely with him.”
He added: “The historical review, which appears at the beginning of the publication, was written and line-edited by Rabbis Shmuel Kraus, Zalman Shmotkin and Eliezer Zaklikowsky. It appears that Deutsch did not write the booklet at all, and was certainly not its “producer” [as Deutsch claimed in his books].”
VIDEO: Rabbi Simon Jacobson speaks about his work on the booklet
Last week, COLlive.com spoke with Rabbi Jacobson. He served on the team of choizrim (reviewers and transcribers) of the Rebbe and directs Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim and the Meaningful Life Center in New York.
“For the occasion of 50 years of the Rebbe’s arrival to the US, I suggested to the Rebbe the idea that we put together a special Kuntres to mark the occasion. After the Rebbe approved, I recruited a few people to help with research and writing, including R’ Dovid Olidort, R’ Shmuel Kraus, R’ Zalman Shmotkin, R’ Eliezer Zaklikovsky, and others.”
He elaborated on the lead-up to the mention of Deutsch in the footnote, explaining that Deutsch approached the editors, offering to provide a document that he had in his possession.
“He insisted that his name be mentioned in the Kovetz… it was the only way he’d allow us to include the document,” Rabbi Jacobson said. “Crediting people by name just wasn’t something that was done on a project of this sort.
“That is why no one else’s name is mentioned, even those that put in many hours of work, including myself as the chief editor of the Kovetz. But since he insisted, we decided to credit him with providing us with the image of the letter,” Rabbi Jacobson said. “That was the extent of Deutsch’s involvement. So I’m quite surprised by his current claims.”
Kedem’s claims “the Rebbe proofread” the booklet
In reality, the Rebbe repeatedly made clear that he would not be proofreading the work due to his own lack of time. The Rebbe wrote a series of notes to Rabbi Jacobson instructing – several times – that the work be carefully reviewed by others. (The booklet’s accuracy was carefully reviewed by two separate processes of expert review.)
Furthermore, as recently as last week, in a conversation with a few individuals, Deutsch pointed to what he claimed was an important discovery about the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s Visas to America in defense of his “research credentials.”
The only problem is – his information is wrong.
In a conversation with COLlive, Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin, director of JEM and co-author of Early Years, explained that Deutsch’s story that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin arrived in the US on special “non-quota” visas is incorrect, and that this information has been publicly available since 2008.
“The Rebbe and Rebbetzin did not arrive on such a visa, but in fact, they arrived on a ‘regular quota visa,’ based on information which is publicly available,” Rabbi Shmotkin says. “There are actually letters from HIAS (the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) to the Rebbe about this very matter – the type of US visas he and the Rebbetzin would be granted.”
Rabbi Aharon Chitrik speaking at a family simcha
Besides the 1991 Kovetz, Kedem brings one more proof to substantiate the claim that Deutsch “was accustomed to carry out studies of various historical topics” on behalf of the Rebbe. They wrote that he “published” volume 3 of “Sefer Hazichronos – Memoirs of Rabbi Joseph Schneersohn” on 14 Kislev 5754.
The publisher of all 3 volumes (and in various languages) was Kehot Publication Society, the official publishing house of Chabad-Lubavitch.
In the foreword to the book, the Otzar Hachassidim division of Kehot names those involved in the project: Rabbi Haishke Dubrowsky, Rabbi Aaron Chitrik, Rabbi Yosef Keller, Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman and Rabbi Sholom Yaakov Chazan. Deutsch is listed as one of several individuals “who helped prepare this book for publication.” According to one of the listed people involved, Deutsch once again greatly exaggerated his role in this project, and his work consisted of “photocopying and indexing which was later scrapped” they said.
COLlive also discovered that Deutsch took his involvement in an entirely new direction, toward his new industry of antiques seller.
Appearing on the website of the Appel Auction House’s Judaica auction of April 2021 was the following lot: “The manuscript for sefer hazichronois volume III with the corrections written by Rabbi Aharon Chitrick” (sic).
Besides violating publishing norms by selling an editor’s manuscript, Deutsch once again didn’t stick to the truth. The notes were not those of Rabbi Chitrik, but of Rabbi Friedman, director of Kehot. After being contacted, the Appel Auction House was forced to pull the item.
Whether Deutsch tried to mislead potential buyers by selling something from a deceased publisher (Rabbi Chitrik passed in 2011), or whether he honestly mistook Rabbi Chitrik’s handwriting for Rabbi Friedman’s is unknown. The action, however, speaks for itself.
Rebbetzin Parpal? The coat supposedly belonging to the Rebbetzin
This week, Deutsch will be mounting another auction facilitated by Kedem. Most of the items are, once again, replete with more questions than answers, and seem not to pass a cursory fact-check.
One item on auction, a dress claimed to have been ostensibly worn by Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, seems to show yet more sloppy work on the part of the auctioneers. The inside label, as displayed on the auction site, names the woman for whom the outfit was custom-tailored: One “Mrs. Parpal.”
Another item, one of 2 microphones in the auction, is claimed to have been used by the Frierdiker Rebbe at a Tomchei Temimim Dinner in the 1940s. Aside from the fact that neither of these two microphones are seen in any of the pictures available of these events, the wire seen on one of them was only invented in 1950, after the dinners the Frierdiker Rebbe attended took place.
A microphone claiming to be used by the Frierdiker Rebbe
As Jews, we are taught to grant the benefit of the doubt. It is, however, difficult to determine whether the Kedem Auction House truly fits the caricature of the fast-talking fraudster-auctioneer to a tee, or whether they are truly being taken in by Deutsch.
Kedem’s promotional materials describe its principals, Meron Eren and Avishai Galer, as “experienced professionals in the fields of Judaica and Israeliana.” The former specializes “in items related to Jewish and Israeli history and culture;” the latter “in Jewish religious books and rabbinical manuscripts.”
One final example in which they conflate basic facts and personalities: In their statement, Kedem describes Mrs. Gurary — mother and codefendant of Barry Gurary and sister of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka — as “Rebbetzin Chana Gurary.” This was a title she never held, and which was always reserved for the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, of righteous memory.
Perhaps they would consider hiring a true expert in Lubavitch history to verify artifacts or at least statements.