The Chabad religious movement has fired Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj at Chabad of UC San Diego and has asked for the resignation of Rabbi Mendel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway in the aftermath of a fraud scheme that sent Goldstein’s father to prison.
Chabad of San Diego’s regional director, Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, said he has appointed Rabbi Dr. Yehudah Trestman to temporarily lead and represent Chabad in the North County Inland area.
Neither Hadjadj nor Goldstein could immediately be reached for comment.
Chabad, a conservative Hasidic Jewish group is known for its outreach activities, has grown into a large, worldwide movement with increasing visibility on college campuses.
Hadjadj was convicted and given probation earlier this year in U.S. District Court for fraudulently raising money in a scheme that similarly saw Goldstein’s father, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, sentenced to a 14-month term in federal prison.
In the Hadjadj case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, an unidentified donor contributed $4,900 to the Chabad-run Friendship Circle of San Diego, an organization to benefit people with disabilities. Hadjadj returned $4,400 to the unnamed donor, who nevertheless requested that Qualcomm match his $4,900 contribution to the Friendship Circle.
Once Yisroel Goldstein received the $4,900 from Qualcomm, he sent two-thirds to Hadjadj and kept one-third for himself. Enlisting other “donors” in the scheme, Hadjadj raised $40,000 for Chabad at UC San Diego, according to U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman and Suzanne Turner, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in San Diego
In the case of Goldstein at Chabad of Poway, Fradkin said in a written statement: “For nearly two years we have endeavored to work with the previous administration of Chabad of Poway and to install appropriate oversight in the troubled organization. The crimes previously committed (by Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein) happened in an environment where one person had complete control. He then passed sole control to his son.”
“While this may technically be legal, in our view this is inappropriate, especially when the son continues to run the organization as the sole legally empowered head. After repeatedly trying to get his cooperation and being rebuffed we asked for his resignation last month,” Fradkin said.
He added that, “For the last two years the community has asked us to remedy the situation. We have heard the community.”
Fradkin expressed confidence that Trestman, as Chabad’s official emissary to the North County Inland community, “will experience success in reuniting the community and growing it, all while doing so with transparency, oversight from headquarters, and robust communal involvement.”
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected].