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U.S. rabbi in Australia answers fraud charges

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — An American-born rabbi and his wife say they intend to fight fraud charges in a South Australia court.

Lawyers acting for Rabbi Yosef and Chana Engel told the Supreme Court of South Australia Tuesday that their clients were “frustrated” at the length of time that had expired since allegations against them first surfaced several years ago. The court heard that the charges have prevented the Engels from “getting on with their lives,” the Adelaide Advertiser reported.

The Engels, who were sent as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from New York, are accused of inventing the Spirit of David Hebrew School in order to receive federal and state grants of $50,000.

Police recommended 39 charges against the Engels last year for dealing dishonestly with documents, allegedly signing fake report cards to justify applications for funding for phantom Hebrew classes.

Rabbi Engel was appointed to the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation in 1998, but his tenure was terminated in 2006, sparking an acrimonious legal battle that wound up in the Supreme Court of South Australia. The court ruled in favor of the city’s only Orthodox synagogue, and Engel now runs his own small Orthodox congregation in the city.

The case was adjourned for a pre-trial conference in March.
 

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