By COLlive reporter
Is this a classic case of the revolving-door?
Crown Heights rabbis and activists, who battled the growing influence of the Call of the Shofar, are up in arms over over a meeting of the Landmark Forum in the neighborhood.
The Crown Heights Beis Din’s member Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba and dayan Rabbi Shlomo Segal came out against the “Landmark Special Event” scheduled for this Sunday, March 2.
An event page on Facebook lists its host as Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta who reportedly attended The Landmark Forum, as well as other courses in Landmark’s curriculum.
Rabbis Osdoba and Segal called Landmark a “cult that has long been forbidden by Gedolei Yisroel, and lehavdil by the nations of the world, and in a few countries it is prohibited by law.”
In their letter written in Hebrew, they said that “the activity and Landmark method is sourced in Christianity, Buddhism, Scientology and other mystical cults of idolaters.”
They based their ruling, and cite so in the letter, on the findings and statements in 2008 by Yad L’Achim, an Israeli based counter-missionary organization.
“We are therefore notifying and warning that it is forbidden for anyone (men and women) to go to this event, as it is an obligation to keep away from any such thing that has even a hint of a cult and operations similar to them,” the two rabbis wrote.
COLlive has discovered that this is not the first time the Landmark Forum is trying to make inroads in the Jewish community of Crown Heights. Recruitment meetings are held in small settings, one dating back to 2 years ago.
The event on Sunday, posted on Facebook by local resident Levi Backman, was said to be planned to be held at 935 Eastern Parkway but the event page does not specify a location. As of now, 8 people said they are attending with another 15 answering “maybe” joining.
An activist involved in the fight to delegitimize the Call of the Shofar (COTS) therapy group, now banned by rabbis after an estimated 1,800 Lubavitchers attended, said it’s the same people behind this new effort.
But there was no evidence to prove this fact. A former Shofar staffer from Crown Heights, speaking to COLlive while out of town with his family, said there was no connection between the two.
Simcha Frischling, founder of COTS who had his rabbinical certification recently revoked, told the Jewish Week last week: “I’m going to regroup and see where I want to go with it, but right now I don’t know.”
Frischling lists both ManKind and Landmark among his influences on a biography on his blog.
UPDATE 3:35 PM ET:
Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Atlanta has notified that he is cancelling his participation in the Crown Heights event due to the opposition of local rabbis.
In a phone conversation with Rabbi Shlomo Segal, after the rabbis’ letter was published on COLlive, Rabbi Feldman said he will not be coming, to avoid contention in the community.
“He said he heard that rabbonim are not happy about it and he will not come to avoid machlokes, even though he holds that it’s a good thing,” Rabbi Segal told COLlive.
The Landmark Worldwide company makes no claims to being a religion, but some academic observers have nonetheless noted relationships between the training programs and religion.
Some 15 years ago, scholar and author Rabbi Nissan Mangel of Crown Heights wrote a letter against Landmark. 17 rabbis in Montreal, including Chabad’s Rabbi Yitzchok Hendel OBM and David Raphael Banon, warned against participation in Landmark workshops.
Rabbi Segal said that he finds it “astounding” that groups such as the Call of the Shofar and Landmark would find a footing in Crown Heights. “We will stand strong against such things,” he said.
The other two members of the Crown Heights Beis Din, Rabbi Yaacov Schwei and Rabbi Yosef Braun already released a letter on Thursday, saying that their ruling against the Call of the Shofar applies also to Landmark workshops.