Monday, May 04, 2009

Bashing a Hero

There has been a lot of buzz about a somewhat surprising development. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, a champion of victims of abuse has come out against the Markey Bill – as has Agudah. The Markey Bill is a New York State legislative bill that would extend the statute of limitations on the ability of victims to bring older lawsuits against abusers and institutions that enabled them - for a limited period of time.

I have supported that bill and I still do. I also fully understand the reservations of those who oppose it. Rabbi Horowitz has taken the position of Agudah. I tend to side with those like Rabbi Yosef Blau and Elliot Pasik. They too are also heroes and champions abuse victims.

The big complaint against the Markey Bill is that it would expose Yeshivos to expensive and frivolous lawsuits with no merit to them. Even if ultimately dismissed the costs of litigating them would be devastating to the any Yeshiva or day school that relies on community funds for support. And in the current economy there is now precious little of that. Additionally they arguer that it would not really help prevent this crime as it deals only with much older crimes.

Rabbi Blau and other responsible champions of abuse victims have countered that a California law similar to the Markey Bill has not produced frivolous lawsuits and the result was that because of that law - more abusers were taken off the streets. That is why I support it.

Of course there are no guarantees. It is possible that there may end up being some negative fallout along the lines Agudah and Rabbi Horowitz fear. Their fear is certainly justifiable. But once again, I side with the victims here who all have in common the desire for justice against their abusers – as a necessary part of their healing process.

Agudah and Rabbi Horowitz seem to feel that there is little potential gain and serious potential loss of an almost existential nature. If Yeshivos and elementary schools end up closing down the future of Orthodoxy is at stake. I therefore respect their view but disagree with it.

But not everyone feels the way I do. There is at least one popular blogger that has referred to Rabbi Horowitz as ‘a sellout’. And that is disgusting.

I have nothing but contempt for this attitude. This blogger may sound like he is on the side of the victims – he may even believe that he is. But clearly his rush to judgement here smacks of an agenda that seeks to blame Orthodoxy and its leaders for every ill that exists in Judaism - no matter what evidence there is to the contrary.

To say that Rabbi Yakov Horowitz sold out is a disgusting lie of unbelievable proportion.

What Chutzpah! Here is a man who works tirelessly within the system and has gotten things done. He has put himself out on a limb (that could theoretically cost him his career) more times than I can count.

He heads an organization that deals with kids at risk - many of whom got that way because they were molested. And he has made himself available to any victim or parents of victims giving generously if his time for consultation for as long as they need him. And he has written some hard hitting articles about it - in Charedi publications, no less.

What has he done besides write about it?

Now - I’m of course not saying that writing about it is not effective. It is. That’s what I do. It gets the word out and can influence public opinion. But Rabbi Horowitz has done more than just write about abuse. And yet this blogger has made it his mission to besmirch the entire Torah world with his venomous hatred. Rabbi Horowitz is but his latest target.

I know this blogger had some truly bad experiences in the Torah world. That’s why I usually cut him slack. Lot’s of it. Even when he bashes me. But this time he has gone too far. He has unbelievable Chutzpah talking about Rabbi Horowitz that way - a man who has been nothing if not heroic in this effort.

I am certain that Rabbi Horowitz will not respond to this blogger. Knowing the character and generous nature of the man – he will be Dan L’Kaf Zechus. But I’m sorry. I cannot be that generous.