Thursday, April 03, 2008

Do You Know Where Your Charity Dollars Are Going?

It’s articles like this one in the Jewish Week that make me understand the rage expressed by the blogger known as UOJ. Not that I approve of his rhetoric or his sometimes careless approach in making accusations. I don’t. But I am beginning to understand his frustration and anger - at least where it concerns this Yeshiva, and its head.

Apparently Rabbi Lipa Margulies has kept Rabbi Yehuda Kolko on the Yeshiva payroll ever since his ‘administrative leave’ in 2006. Rabbi Kolko has been paid $70,000 dollars of the Yeshiva’s money since then. Or money received from a Gemach. A Gemach is a free loan society where people can borrow money without paying any interest for indefinite periods of time.

I cannot understand this man. He is (or perhaps by now I can say ‘was’) a respected Rosh HaYeshiva. A former popular Rebbe at one of the premier Yeshivas in the world, Mesivta Torah Vodaath, he took that popularity and started his own Yeshiva - Torah Temimah. And it became very successful. Why would a man like this retain a man like Yehuda Kolko? …a man that has been accused by his former students who were victims of his sexual molestation for a period of over 20 years?

One can and should be angry and upset at Rabbi Kolko. But he is a sick man with uncontrollable urges upon which he acted. While his illness doesn’t excuse his behavior, at least we can understand the powerful forces of nature at work here. And he will pay a price for his crimes.

I truly feel badly for his family. They are paying a price too …one that they should not have to pay. They must be going through some unbelievable grief over this. And the stigma will stay with them forever… affecting their lives and the lives of their children. It will be a lot harder for them to make Shiduchim in the future because of what their grandfather did. My heart goes out to them.

Rabbi Kolko, if convicted and sentenced to prison will not have an easy time of it either. The prison population does not take kindly to child molesters. They have standards too, you know. And their own code of justice. I do not envy him if he ends up doing hard time.

But Rabbi Margulies is another story. He is not sick. He has no uncontrollable urges. He will not do any hard time.

He is a normal human being, with ethics and values… supposedly of the Torah. Yet he kept this man in the classroom for decades. And he is still paying him a salary!

I have heard the various explanations he has supposedly given. None of them are sufficient …or even believable in the slightest. In some cases they are even contradictory! A source close to this case has provided me with a list. Among them:

* He has claimed that he knew nothing until the lawsuits were filed;

* He knew back in the 80's but the accusations weren't credible,

* He knew back in the 80's but had to follow Rabbi Scheinberg's psak that Kolko can't be fired even though he wished he could have fired him;

* Even if it was true in the 80's who says that he's still molesting kids and what right does he have to throw a chusheva Mechanech to the dogs for something that may have happened 25 years ago, etc.

* Firing him in the 80's would have destroyed his family. That he didn’t enabled Rabbi Kolko to marry all his children to prominent families.

Rabbi Margulies is on the record as having said all of the above.

And yet, at least until very recently, he is still given credulity in the Torah world. He was even asked sign a Kol Korei. His rabbinic colleagues and prominent Baalei Batim must feel that his name still lends respectability and prestige to their proclamations! That victims of Rabbi Kolko are now coming out in droves doesn’t seem to affect him or his prestige. Nor does the fact that he uses the hard earned money of his Yeshiva’s parent body that pays tuitions and raises money for the Yeshiva. Or that he may have used a Gemach to pay a mentally ill former Rebbe who sexually abused his students for over 20 years!

That kind of behavior by a supposed rabbinic leader is inexcusable and enough to create a 1000 UOJs!

I realize of course that a man is innocent until proven guilty. And there are certain prominent and well respected rabbinic figures who would give Rabbi Kolko the benefit of the doubt. Some even dismiss the accusations as unfounded. I find such thinking incredible considering the numbers of victims now coming out of the woodwork each testifying to a similar pattern of sexual abuse over a period of decades.

Rabbi Lipa Margulies’s explanations are simply not credible to me - including his claim that he was tied to the Psak of Rav Sheinberg. Is there any sane Rosh Yeshiva with even the slightest sense of compassion and justice who wouldn’t have fired this ‘Chashuva Mechanech’ on the spot? He needed to ask a Shaila about it?! If he had enough complaints generate a Shaila from a Gadol, it means he believed the accusations!

To be clear, I do not fault Rabbi Scheinberg here. He was asked a Halachic Shaila and Paskined. He may not have even known the exact circumstances but was just asked in a general way about Halachic culpability in such issues. But Rabbi Margulies not only knew about the accusations, he believed them. Based on the published descriptions by the victims, there is no way on earth this Mechanech should have been retained another moment in his position, let alone for over 20 years! And now he’s paying this man?!