The chairman rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue have issued a profound apology to the congregation and the victims of convicted fraudster Freddy David.
The apology came after it emerged in David’s court case on Monday that Borehamwood’s own Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz had given character testimony on behalf of David, who swindled 55 victims out of £14.5 million.
In addition, on the Shabbat before his appearance at Southwark Crown Court, Freddy David, who was given a six-year jail term, was called up at one of Borehamwood’s “boutique” services, its Limmud minyan.
In two long and heartfelt letters, Simon Mitchell, the BES chair, and Rabbi Kanterovitz, apologised for their actions. Mr Mitchell said he had “rightly” fielded numerous calls and emails from congregants.
He said he was “appalled and aghast reading the victim statements in the press, some of whom I know are our members. I want to offer them our community’s full support and if anyone would like to be in touch with us in the strictest of confidence to discuss how we can help, please know that I am available”.
He made it clear that Mr David should not have been called up at the Limmud minyan last Shabbat, and indicated that Rabbi Kanterovitz’s statement of support had been made “in a personal capacity, without knowledge or consultation of the honorary officers, who would have guided against it”.
Mr Mitchell added that “as a community we feel somewhat tarnished by the actions of our members”. He expressed sympathy with Mr David’s family and said the synagogue would try to learn from its mistakes.
Rabbi Kanterovitz’s letter reflected deep personal distress. He said he had read the accounts of the victims “with shock — to hear how their lives have been shattered and the way they were deceived is heartbreaking”.
He said that “like so many of us, I too did not know all the facts. I truly and sincerely hope that I have not added additional hurt to any of the victims, and if I did I seek their forgiveness”. He signed his letter “with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes”.
Steven Wilson, United Synagogue chief executive, said: “Our hearts go out to the many victims of this despicable crime. Not only is the Torah crystal clear that theft is wrong, what makes this even worse is that the perpetrator was known to the victims and trusted by them. The damage caused by his actions will last for decades. We are working with the Rabbis and the Honorary Officers of our Borehamwood and Elstree community in their efforts to support local victims. In addition, as many of the victims were members of United Synagogue shuls, anyone affected is welcome to call our US Chesed department in confidence and will find a listening ear.”