Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meshumad dies

Melbourne rabbi who became Christian dies

HAROLD Vallins, a Melbourne rabbi who converted to Christianity after forming a breakaway congregation in the 1990s, died suddenly earlier this month.

Vallins declared himself a Christian some years after founding a small Jewish congregation in Gardenvale, following an acrimonious split with Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue (BPS) in 1991.

British-born Vallins, an atheist in his youth, said he took up rabbinical studies at the Leo Baeck Theological College of Judaic Studies in London after a rabbi showed him the potential of Judaism. He became a rabbi himself in 1970.

Vallins arrived in Australia in 1981 with his wife Naomi to take up the pulpit at BPS, but tensions between him and the synagogue board led to a parting of the ways 10 years later, triggering a workplace dispute.

His departure from BPS aroused fierce criticism within the synagogue and shortly afterwards, a breakaway congregation, Beit Hatikvah, was founded, with Vallins as its rabbi. But some time later, Vallins, who was involved in interfaith work, stunned congregants by announcing he had converted to Christianity. He left Beit Hatikvah and the congregation was later dissolved.

Vallins attributed his conversion to a number of influences, including a close friendship with a local Church of Christ minister and a prayer session at a Christian conference he attended in Washington DC.

Not too long ago - a Jew who converted out of his faith was considered to be on the lowest rung of his people. He was a Meshumad, despised, cursed and loathed by all. As for a 'rabbi' 'shmadding' himself, that was something virtually unheard of. (Though we all have heard the infamous accursed Shabsi Zvi.)

But typically for the AJN, the death of such a traitor and defector from our faith - is worthy of a sympathetic report. Shame.

OTOH, there are those that claim that from the POV of Judaism, Vallins the Meshumad was no worse than Vallins the Reform clergyman (or actually even than the AJN). And they may well be 100% right. Think about it.


  1. I was shocked at the AJN style of reporting thinking to myself the difference in the way they treat a chabad rabbi who has not been found guilty of anything yet compared to thegentle story about this shmadnik. I wonder what his liberal/reform colleagues had to say. Did they eulogise him?

  2. Why wouldn't they eulogise him? In their eyes he was probably 'frummer' than they are. So he believed in Jesus. So what?
    Half the families in their temples are christians - practising or non-practising. It's no big deal. I remmeber reading a report some years ago in the Australian about their rabbi-ette Jacki Ninio who confirmed that she is a 100% shikse. She has a christian mum who married her Jewish dad. Jacki didn't bother to 'convert' - even in the Liberal style. And she is one of their prominent Ozzie clergypersons.

  3. Unfortunately in our history it has been far from unheard of for a rabbi to become a meshumad. Over the years many rabbis have done so. Perhaps the most famous recent case was the chief rabbi of Rome, whose name used to be Israel Zoller. Another famous rabbi who (probably) became a meshumad is Yaacov ibn Adoniyahu. Eliyahu Levita (aka the Bachur) was suspected of also having converted, but the evidence is weak; there is no doubt, however, that his grandson of the same name, who seems also to have been a rabbi, did shmad.


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