Monday, January 25, 2010

The Charedi View of the Tropper Affair

There is an interview in the 5 Towns Jewish News of Rabbi Dovid Ribiat who heads a Kollel in Monsey NY, and is the author of a popular four-volume work on the 39 Melochos of Shabbos. I am not sure of his background or Hashkafos, but based on this interview and the credentials listed therein - it seems that he is squarely in the Charedi camp. The reason this is significant is because we have not yet heard any of the Charedi leadership in America weigh in on the Tropper affair.

This Charedi Rav and Posek did. Sort of. If the allegations are true – a position to which he does not necessarily subscribe - he said the following:

We have discovered a venomous snake in our midst, an immoral individual who abused his rabbinical position and caused immeasurable Chillul Hashem [desecration to the Name], and shame to our community. We in the Torah community must collectively take swift measures to eradicate this abomination from our midst, and to do all in our power to search and root out any other potential charlatans before they can cause their great harm.

This is of course a very positive statement. But I am not surprised by it. I would expect the Charedi rabbinic establishment to say exactly this kind of thing when something like this happens.

However, I am troubled by the over-all tone of Rabbi Ribiat’s response. I do not buy his explanation of reticence on the part of his rabbinic establishment for not vigorously pursuing justice here. Nor do I buy his explanation of the double standard used in explaining the differences between the swift condemnation of Rabbi Slifkin’s books and the near catatonic response with respect to Tropper.

His explanation for the lack of any statement so far about Tropper is that his guilt has yet to be determined. The quick condemnation of Rabbi Slifkin’s books – on the other hand - was based on the printed word. It was there for everyone to see. The guilt was on the page. There was no question about what was being condemned. If Tropper’s guilt becomes established - action will be taken just as swiftly.

Rabbi Ribiat points outs that with a religious Jew one must be Dan L’Kaf Zechus. Tropper must therefore be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Tropper currently denies everything and says that recordings of him discussing illicit sexual acts with one of his potential converts - are a fraud.

Rabbi Ribiat added that members of the rabbinic establishment are not forensic experts. They therefore have no way of knowing whether the recordings are legitimate or not.

The problem with this attitude is that the weight of the evidence against him Tropper pretty huge. It seems that everyone who knows Tropper well and heard those recordings say unequivocally that it is him and that there is no room for doubt. A lengthy phone conversation with a man whose voice and speech patterns that are so very distinctive would be nearly impossible to reproduce with any degree of believability.

Besides - voice recognition technology is pretty sophisticated these days. It should not be that difficult to find a experts with the right equipment to examine those recordings and see if they are a fraud. Why hasn’t this been done yet? This story broke in mid December. It has been over a month. Why the procrastination?

What about the testimony of the Shanon Orand – the Giyores he victimized and threatened to withhold her conversion if she didn’t comply with his perversions? She recorded those conversations? Is she not believed at all?

And the fact that Tropper resigned from EJF immediately after he story broke.

What about the parting praise Tropper received from Rabbinic leaders involved with EJF upon his resignation? Can they have been so naïve about why he resigned? Even if they wanted to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus and not condemn him - why all that praise?

What about the fact that Rav Moshe Sternbuch minced no words in construing his guilt?

What about Rav Aba Dunner’s condemnations? Does this not at least give some pause to Rabbi Ribiat about his overly protective attitude?

And yet Rabbi Ribiat says, “If the allegations are proven to be false, those who perpetrated the slander owe a profound apology, not only to Rabbi Tropper, but also to the entire Orthodox community.” Does he really believe that there is any real chance of that?

Then there is the matter of the response to the Slifkin affair versus the Tropper affair. Rabbi Ribiat claims that the lack of due process is why there has been no comment from them.

But where was the due process with Rabbi Slifkin? Yes his views were published but he was prepared to defend all of his views with sources and approbations including that of his mentor Rav Aryeh Carmel the chief disciple of Rav Eliyahu Dessler.

And yet virtually the entire Agudah Moetzes and every other Charedi Rav jumped immediately on the band wagon and viscuously attacked Rabbis Slifkin’s views as Heresy!

Instead of giving Rabbi Slifkin due process they quickly condemned him based on the opinion of one man – whom they considered to be the Gadol HaDor. A man who cannot read English and therefore could not do any personal investigation. He just relied on what others told him.

But it didn’t matter. There was swift movement. No one dared to contradict the Gadol HaDor and keep his Charedi credentials. No further investigation was necessary. No need to read his books. And certainly there was no way anyone connected to Rav Elayshiv were going to let this ‘impudent little heretic’ try and explain his views to him.

Due process???! The Gadol HaDor had spoken. End of conversation!

I think part of Rav Ribiat’s problem is his veneration for ‘Daas Torah’. He doesn’t use those words but he might as well have:

You have to realize that these are truly great people, completely dedicated to the public.

Translation: Don’t question the Gedolim. They are Daas Torah. That is what is really going on here if you ask me.

The snail’s pace at which the Charedi rabbinic establishment is moving makes it questionable if they will ever really do anything to find out the truth – a truth which I suspect most of us already know.