Thursday, February 17, 2011

AJN: Still the same old nasty

We were actually hoping the AJN would've learned its lesson following its infamous and malicious front cover seeking to destroy the reputation of a hard-working and devoted rabbi - who was later absolved from all claims and accusations.
This was especially so after the previous editor was given the heave-ho and we dared to hope that his replacement would raise the AJN’s journalistic standards and move away from yellow journalism. (See also here.)

Sadly, the front page of last week's Sydney edition put paid to such dreams. The same mean approach and the same disregard shown by the newspaper in the Rabbi Engel episode is repeated.

Not the slightest concern about how their front page - which is displayed in dozens of newsagencies - will affect the thinking of the ‘friends’ of our community. And as we see from the J-Wire report, the AJN incorrectly claimed that “…Yeshiva College has refused a request by the Education Department to return $400,000 in Government funds.”

This case again shows that we cannot rely on the so-called voice of our community to show seriousness and responsibility towards its constituency. It’s about time that the JCCV and the NSW BoD took them to task and demand that they act in the interests of Australian Jewry and not to its detriment.

Government investigating Yeshiva funds

AJN February 11, 2011

YESHIVA College has refused a request by the Education Department to return $400,000 in Government funds.
The Bondi Orthodox school was awarded $925,000 by the Federal Government under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program. That money came with a caveat that it must be used within a specified time frame.

The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AIS) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) are now investigating whether the $400,000 already given to the school has been spent, and if so, on what.

While DEEWR has not confirmed it has asked for a refund, college principal Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman said she was not able to give the money back, even though Yeshiva has not built what it had planned to. An electricity company’s plans to build a facility close to the campus left the school¹s building intentions up in the air.

“EnergyAustralia is building a substation within 200 metres of the school, which is considered dangerous, so we can’t build what we were going to because it would be dangerous for the kids,” Rebbetzin Feldman said.

“I went to AIS and asked if we could use the money for something else, but they said no because they said the money was a stimulus for builders, not schools, so there is no point spending the money elsewhere in 2011. They said we had to give the money back or use it on that building, but I don’t want to give the money back because I have already spent a lot of it and if we have to move because of the substation, we need money to relocate.”

AIS executive director Geoff Newcombe said the investigation into Yeshiva is ongoing. “The matter is in the process of being handed over to DEEWR for further investigation, and we will continue working with the department to assist them in their inquiries,” he told The AJN.

AIS administers the grants on behalf of the Education Department to private schools in the state. Newcomb could not comment further on the specific investigation, but he did explain the circumstances under which a case could be handed over to DEEWR.

“If we conclude that the school is not satisfactorily carrying out all requirements of the agreement, we have the option of terminating the agreement we have with the school and notifying DEEWR, so that they can investigate further as they are the owner of the funds.”

A DEEWR spokesperson confirmed the investigation is currently underway. “The department is currently investigating the use of BER funding by the school, and is working closely with the Association of Independent Schools NSW to ensure it has been appropriately spent,” the spokesperson said.

And here's the J-Wire report on the same matter:

Sydney’s Yeshiva College and the Government’s $400,000

February 11, 2011 by J-Wire Staff

Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman has told J-Wire that if all negotiation attempts to use funds allocated to Sydney’s Yeshiva College under the Building the Education Revolution [BER] fail, the College will return the money to the Government.

The College had received $400,000 being the first instalment of a $925,000 grant made by the Federal Government and administered by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW. The money had been earmarked by the Government not primarily for schools…but to stimulate business for the building industry. It came with a caveat stipulating that it had be used within a specific time frame. That time has passed and the Government wants its money back.
In a prepared statement, the College’s Shalom Feldman said: “The building project was delayed due to the threat of a sub-station being built by Ernergy Australia next door which may preclude small children from being safely schooled at the site.”

College principal Rebbitzin Pnina Feldman told J-Wire that within the last few weeks Energy Australia had confirmed that the sub-station was going ahead.

The College is now attempting to negotiate with the authorities to use the funds for the seniors boys’ school. Rebbetzin Feldman said that she was pursuing every available avenue to be permitted use the funds for other building purposes. She added that she believed there were around 80 other schools being audited as to the use of the funds, saying that if all else fails the money will be returned.

A spokesman for the Department of Education, EMployment and Workplace Relations said: “As an investigation in to the use of the funds is underway, the Department can make no comment.”


  1. why would you guys reproduce such an embarassing headline. photo shop it to read charges dropped or something. having the image on your site on re inforces the ajn rubbish

  2. OK, so the AJN story was far more sensationalised than the JWire story, but the incident is definitely a shainde - the good folks at Sydney's Yeshivah College appear to have failed in their obligations to the Government, at the very least in not keeping them updated about the issues they were having with the building... Frankly, I think the AJN got it right in this instance. The question then is whether the paper should be airing the community's dirty linen in public, which is an entirely different issue...

  3. It's pretty obvious the difference is actually Pnina's comments. While i don't think it was worth a front page story I think ur blaming the wrong people this time.

  4. I cannot understand the substation angle. There has been an electricity substation in Anglesea St for 50 years. Why has it not affected the school before now?

    I am aware that Energy Australia are enlarging the substation, and have bought the houses nextdoor.... but I still fail to understand why the school was allowed to exist in the first instance, if indeed it is true that primary schools cannot be within 200 metres of an electricity substation.

  5. Where's the shandeh? The AJN story is just plain wrong. The government has not asked for its money back, and the school has not refused. Nor is there any indication that the school failed in any of its responsibilities. They applied for the money intending to put up this building, and then they became aware of the substation; so what would you have them do? Build it anyway?! Suppose they'd done that and then had to move; you would then complain that all that money had been wasted on a building they knew was likely to be unusable! It was far more responsible to hold off on spending the money until they could be sure what their situation would be. If they can't use it on the intended building, then naturally they'd rather find another use for it than give it back; who wouldn't?

  6. Millhouse: that makes sense, but unfortunately Rebtzn Feldman's statement to the AJN that "I've already spent the money" is the truth. The money has gone. Where? Who knows.

    Meanwhile, I would like to suggest that if the Feldmans and Kesser Torah quit their court fighting and associated legal costs, they could just pay the tax dept between them. Instead of fighting about it, pay it !

    We're all sick and tired of the Feldmans being in court, every five minutes it seems they are fighting with someone different. Enough already.


  7. It looks to me like a typical AJN storm in a teacup. The money was allocated and partially spent. The school wants to change its plans and is negotiating with the government. Since they're negotiating each side takes a stronger position than they really intend - the government says "You're changing your plans? Under no circumstances! Give the money back instantly!" while the school says "We have a right and duty to change the plans! Not only can we not return the money (which has been partially spent in any case) but we demand the rest of the allocated funds!" At the end of the day they'll reach some agreement.

  8. I agree with the view of Ajnwatch - that the Jewish News will go out of its way to besmirch religious Jews and their organisations.

    I too was under the misapprehension that the arrival of a new editor would change matters.
    Obviously we were all wrong.

    I happen to know that there are some very juicy 'scandals' going on in non-religious schools and we'll never see a word about them in the AJN.

  9. To the Anonymous who wrote the word "Chashmal" at the end of their post: What exactly do you mean? Chashmal in modern Hebrew means electricity - is this some reference to the power sub-station mentioned in the story?!

  10. This week's Melb AJN has a letter from Rabbi Feldman where he mentions that the AJN (obviously the Sydney edition, as there was nothing in the local paper) apologised for that disgusting headline.

    It seems that someone at the Jewish News has been reading this blog and felt ashamed at the way they reported this story.

    So thanks AJNWATCH.

    But could someone from Sydney scan or send the article to AJNWATCH so we Melbournians can also see what was written.

  11. Glad you reproduced that Engel cover from a couple of years ago.
    Those were the days when the AJN was a real newspaper and not the mindless PR rag for our community that you lot think it should be and which it has now become.

    Great cover. I believe the editor at the time, Brown, was congratulated on it by a few Chabad leaders who wants to see the back of Engle, as well as by a couple of metro paper editors who thought it was what a newspaper fromt page should look like.

    Cheers and Shabbat Shalom,


  12. Maybe if us frum yidden were more honest when it came to matters of money none of these stories would be necessary.

  13. The AJN has never in its history been a real newspaper. And that cover in particular was a disgrace; you can believe that the moon is made of ice cream, but that doesn't make it so.

    "just wondering", since there was nothing to the story, how was it necessary? How are libels ever necessary?

  14. "Charges being dismissed" does not indicate innocence or guilt at all, especially in this case. Go ask a solicitor what it means.


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