By COLlive reporters
9:02: The main shul of 770 Eastern Parkway is packed for the hachtara inauguration ceremony for Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun, the elected third member of the Crown Heights Bais Din (Badatz). A large sign in both Hebrew and English is hanging above the year-round Yechi sign.
9:11 PM: Oholei Torah Zal was dismissed to go to the event. Rabbi Shmarya Roitblat told bochurim that “the Rebbe wanted it to be b’rov an hadras melech.” Bochurim were seen walking with him to 770.
9:20 PM: A video of the Rebbe is being shown where the role of rabbonim was highlighted.
9:31 PM: Rabbi Sholomke Schapiro is the MC and announced ‘Yechi Adoneinu’ with a mild reaction.
Rabbi Avrohom Rosenberg, the Monsey Dayan who presided over the Din Torah to streamline communal matters, stood up from the head table and headed to walk off.
He was stopped by some people there, exchanged a few words, and made an exit. The MC thanked him for coming and showing his support.
Elie Poltorak, a former member of the Vaad Hakohol, told COLlive that Rabbi Rosenberg did not leave because of or as a result of the recitation of Yechi. “He had a personal simcha – a sheva brachos I think – and said in advance that he would only come for a very short while to show support.”
Rabbi Rosenberg was the subject of strong criticism about how he handled the case and okayed the election of Rabbi Braun without a prior background check (claims are he does not have proper smicha or shimush).
9:40 PM: Rabbi Yaacov Schwei, a member of Badatz who backed Rabbi Braun in the election, blessed the crowd and welcomed his new colleague describing him as “a Chassidishe rov, one that knows very much how to learn Nigleh and Chassidus.”
He said he hoped the new rov will be able to correct issues in the community “like tznius and make order in kashrus.”
“According to the pain now, will be the measure of joy,” he added, and reminded the all male crowd that “the first time when rabbonim were elected there was also much ‘darkness’.” He ended with Yechi and received a short applause.
The other member of the Badatz Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba is boycotting the event and has called on residents not to attend “since the psak (of Rabbi Rosenberg) has no halachic standing,” as he told COLlive.
9:47 PM: Rabbi Mordechai Gurary, rov of Chevra Shas shul, walks in and joins Rabbi Nachmen Schapiro of Oholei Torah, Rabbi Baryl Lipsker (Rabbi Braun’s father in law) and others.
On stage are Vaad Hakohol members Zaki Tamir, Fishel Brownstein and Yossi Hackner. Also former members Abba Paltiel, Michoel Chazan, Yanky Herzog, Chanina Sperlin and Leibish Nash.
Roaming around the stage, as part of the organization or not, are Yaankel Chazan (editor of Bais Moshiach Magazine), Mendel Hendel, Yitzchok Holtzman and Eli Slavin.
9:51 PM: Rabbi Nissan Mangel, who was slated as Rabbi Schwei’s candidate before declining, told Rabbi Braun in his speech: “Don’t worry. Once you will be the rov even the enemies will concede.”
He went on to say, amid chatter in the crowd, that “we live in a time when one person says one thing and the other especially says the opposite” (a direct reference to the rivalry of Rabbis Osdoba and Schwei).
10:25 PM: The new rov’s father, Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Braun, Rov of the Shaari Tzion community in Flatbush, is speaking in a Poilisher Yiddish accent. He said “everyone used to say about my son that he is filled with Torah and Mitzvos.”
“My son has constantly learned with my father (a known rov) who really wanted to give him smicha but was too weak to hold the pen,” he said.
10:31 PM: A letter laid out on the tables from Vaad Hakohol asks residents to pay the Mas Hakohol community tax ($180 per year) which, they pointed out, the Rebbe himself participated in with a check from his personal bank account.
“With the restoration of the complete Beis Din, we need everyone to ensure that our Beis Din is properly supported and can serve the entire community,” they wrote on a two sided paper with a “commitment form.”
10:35 PM: Rabbi Baryl Lipsker gently interrupted his mechutan the senior Rabbi Braun, telling him that it’s getting late. The speaker answered, “I can let you finish my speech.” Following the comment, he quickly indeed ends to loud applause.
10:40 PM: The MC invites members of the Vaad Hakohol and election committee to hand the Ksav Hachtara to Rabbi Braun, “one of the choizrim from the Rebbe’s sichos.”
The whole crowd immediately stood on its feet with much respect. The MC read the text committing the Crown Heights community to honor, obey and respect the authority of the new rov. The crown listens silently.
Rabbi Braun receives the framed document and smiles, perhaps for the first time during the evening. A long and strong applause is heard and bochurim begin singing a niggun from the Rebbe’s father. All the members on stage come over to Rabbi Braun and wish him a Mazal Tov.
10:48 PM: The new rov, Rabbi Braun, now the former rov of the Tzemach Tzedek community in Sydney, Australia, opens with the greeting “my hosts – the gabboim of 770, the Vaad Hakohol, election committee, the community and the real mara d’asra – the Rebbe.”
He continues to speak in English: “My friends asked “what do you need this tzarah (headache),” and until now I’m not sure myself. What am I doing at this podium?!” The crowd chuckles.
He stated that he will be “dedicated to those who voted for me, those who didn’t vote for me and those who asked others not to vote for me. The past is past. Let bygones be bygone. I forgive everyone.”
“I’m not one to shy from radical things,” he noted after quoting a joke about misnagdim. Rabbi Braun is about 40 years of age.
11:01 PM: Rabbi Braun still speaking with much innuendo, mixing Yiddish and English.
He went on to say a story from the Chasam Sofer who told a secular Jew to close his store on Shabbos, and “strangely he didn’t listen to the rov. It was something common in those days,” he said with much irony.
“He’s rocking the house,” one bochur told COLlive. “Like the Head Shliach of Crown Heights.”
Rabbi Braun mentions his brother “a dayan in Monsey” and how rabbonim are not meant to be well-liked, but just enough for people to be comfortable with.
“This neighborhood should be a place that not money should lead, but achdus should lead,” he said to a loud applause.
11:07 PM: Before he ends his speech, Rabbi Braun noted that “here they don’t talk about the positive. Outside people see the good Crown Heights has to offer. I come to give but to receive even more.”
Plates of food placed on the tables at the beginning of the event are mostly empty. Some people leave and the back of 770 is cleared. The shul remains full.
11:09 PM: The Ptchiner Rebbe of Boro Park speaks. After him Rabbi Amram Klein of Ungvar (son of the known Rabbi Menashe Hakatan) speaks and notes that “a job of a rov is to eat nails but not complain.”
11:24 PM: Following Rabbi Gurary, Vaad Hakohol Chairman Zaki Tamir is invited to speak. “It’s my honor to be a part of and witness a historic moment in Crown Heights and Lubavitch,” Tamir, a defense attorney, begins.
“I’m speaking last because I’m the clean-up crew to make sure this continues after the night is over. Now that we have a third rov the Bais Din is complete,” he said.
“There is a driver to this community. It’s not me or any other individuals. It’s the Rebbe who runs this neighborhood and Hashem who runs the world,” Tamir said.
He called on residents to pay the community tax. “If we can borrow money to eat, we can borrow money to support our rabbonim,” he said, ending with telling the crowd “I love you.”
11:34 PM: Rabbi Abba Paltiel, a supporter of Rabbi Schwei and former member of the Vaad Hakohol, tells Rabbi Braun in his speech, “You will have to restore health, trust and respect to this community.”
11:43 PM: Rabbi Baryl Lipsker, Rabbi Braun’s father in law, closed the event with announcing “Yechi” 3 times.
The event officially ended with participants noting the large crowd, one even estimating over 3,000 people. As per an understanding with Rabbi Osdoba, a contract with Rabbi Braun was not signed until further notice. But participants didn’t seem to care. “I felt in awe when everyone just stood up and gave him honor,” a young bochur said.