My hat is off to Zev Eleff. Thanks to some marvelous reporting by him in Yeshiva University’s student newspaper The Commentator we now have more details and better insight into the truth. He has provided the public with heart warming account of the ordeal of Isaac Hersh. It sheds much light on an event that occurred just a few weeks ago …one that involved a battle between father and son; Gedolim and Gedolim. And nothing less than Isaac Hersh’s mental and physical well being was at stake, in both body and spirit.
It was like watching a fictional drama. All the elements were there. By the time I read the final sentence of this story, my eyes were tearing.
For those who didn’t get a chance to read my posts on this subject - or somehow missed it in the news - 16 year old Isaac Hersh was kidnapped at the behest of his father and sent to Tranquility Bay, a facility that literally tortures its inmates in order to change their behavior. Apparently this was done with the full approval of the father’s Rebbe, a prominent Rosh HaYeshiva who is a member of the Agudah Moetzes.
According to original reports other Gedolim who also serve on the Agudah Moetzes were contacted and told of Isaac’s ordeal. They urged that Rosh HaYeshiva to get him out. He responded by telling them to basically mind their own business.
That post generated a lot of comment both condemning that Rosh HaYeshiva and defending him as hero who apparently knew more about it that anyone else and felt that Isaac belonged there.
But now we know more of the facts. This boy was not incorrigible as was speculated by some. He was in fact quite well adjusted and doing well - living with a family in Houston. Who were they? They were the family of Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe, director of the Torah Outreach Center of Houston.
From the article:
Isaac attended Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox day school affiliated with Yeshiva University. Although nobody contended that Isaac did not struggle academically in Houston, contrary to his father's allegations, all agreed that his behavior was stellar at Beren Academy.
"Isaac was a fine and upstanding citizen of the school community," wrote Head of School Rabbi Ari Sigel in a letter. "He was warm and friendly to everyone he encountered and we did not, at any time, have discipline issues with him."
This should put to rest any thought that Isaac was some kind of reprobate deserving of behavior modification techniques of a near Nazi-like concentration camp.
The rest of the story is about an Askan. This term - used frequently here in the negative - is not in an of itself a negative term. It means community activist. Not all community activists are the kinds of character assassins and liars that surround some of our elderly Gedolim.
In most cases an Askan is someone dedicated to the community who will work very hard to do doing the right thing. Such a a person is Brooklyn investment banker Tzvi Gluck. He took it upon himself to do something about it.
With the financial aid of his employer a private flight was arranged for a group of individuals to fly to Jamaica where Tranquility Bay was located. The group included, Gluck, Rabbi Wolbe and his father, the Rabbi Avrohom Wolbe of Monsey, and internationally renowned psychologist and trauma expert, Dr. David Pelcovitz. After at first being impeded Dr. Pelcovitz managed to meet with Isaac and evaluate his situation. As stated in the article:
In one of the easier diagnoses of his career, Dr. Pelcovitz confirmed that Isaac had been physically and mentally abused at the camp.
After another series of impediments, young Isaac Hersh was safely brought home to an undisclosed location.
This harrowing story is told in greater and riveting detail in the article. It is the stuff of successful novels and movies ...hard to believe it actually happened! Thank God for heroes like Tzvi Gluck, dedicated Rabbanim like the Wolbes, professionals like Dr. Pelcovitz, and those Gedolim who interceded on Isaac’s behalf. It truly warms the heart.
It also makes me very seriously question the activities of another member of the Agudah Moetzes. How could he have allowed it? How in good conscience could he have told others to stay out of it? Was he oblivious to the facts? Did he just believe the father? That does not speak well of his wisdom. Because that ‘wisdom’ prolonged this young boy’s suffering!
I will end with the final lines of the article which made my eyes well up:
And with a cell phone attached to his ear, sixteen year-old Isaac Hersh spoke to his grandparents, themselves survivors of a Holocaust over 60 years ago, for the first time in almost a year.
"Zayde, now we're all survivors." Isaac cried.
And some of us are superheroes.