Sunday, January 03, 2010

When Silence is Less than Golden

As if to respond to my post last week about Agudah missing the boat on the very issues they dealt with last weekend comes a very wise observation from Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn on his blog, Daas Torah.

If there is any issue that has moral clarity it is the Tropper/EJF affair. It is clearly a major Chilul HaShem. However, aside from Rav Moshe Sternbuch’s condemnation – the Charedi rabbinic leadership has been silent. There has been absolutely no response from any Charedi quarter about the events which led up to Leib Tropper’s resignation from EJF. Last week’s Agudah convention here in Chicago would have been a very opportune moment to do so. But… nothing. Complete and utter silence on this issue. As though it never happened. Tropper who?!

I can understand not wanting to draw attention to the occurrence of a Charedi Chilul HaShem. It makes that world look very bad. That must have been the consensus among their rabbinic leaders in their decision to avoid mention of Tropper and EJF. How did they deal with immoral behavior by some religious Jews? They spoke about the immoral influences of the ‘Goyishe world’ upon us – and how to avoid them. What can be gained – they probably thought – by bringing up this disgusting event? More about that later.

This approach would be akin to the Yeshiva University Roshei Yeshiva ignoring the Chilul HaShem which resulted from that homosexual panel - on its very own campus! And that event was at least well intentioned. They too could have remained silent and let it fade away. Why exacerbate the issue by bringing it up? They could work quietly from the inside to prevent it from happening again. That would probably have been very do-able since virtually the entire administration, faculty and student body were of a singular mind on the inadvisability of that event. But the YU Roshei Yeshiva spoke up immediately and vigorously and forcefully condemned it. They recognized that their Yeshiva erred and faced up to it.

In my view this error of omission by the Agudah rabbinic leadership and other Charedi leaders has very serious consequences. By ignoring this event, advocating EJF’s continued existence, and some of its leadership praising its founder, Tropper, it ends up allowing this guy to continue his errant ways. If not in EJF then is some other project of his choosing.

Orthodoxy cannot afford to ignore the Chilul HaShem caused by its prominent individuals no matter how badly it reflects on its judgment. This applies to Charedim just like it does to Modern Orthodox Jews. The Charedi leadership trusted this man to be an Ehrliche Jew. A religious man whose Hashkofos clearly followed a Charedi path. They must come out forcefully and condemn what he did no less than when they condemn YU when they see something they don’t like there. They rarely hesitate to do that. Rav Elia Svei certainly didn’t hesitate. Neither did Rav Gifter and Rabbi Keller. They all publicly and severely criticized YU or its leadership in the harshest of terms. Is their criticism reserved only if the guilty party is not Charedi? Do Charedi miscreants get a pass?

The answer apparently is – Yes! Charedi miscreants get a pass. They do not mention any wrongdoing when a Charedi individual is involved. Why? Do they think that this would be undue Lashon Hara? Or that it would make Torah True (read - Charedi) Judaism look bad? “Can’t have that, can we?!”

If a Modern Orthodox institution or their rabbis make an error? No effort is spared to quickly condemn them by name. What about Lashon Hara? Well, if one is a “Sonei HaShem” the laws of Lashon Hara don’t apply do they. Neither does an institution that teaches Mada. It is illegitimate and not subject to the laws of Lashon Hara either.

Well, what about a Charedi Menuval who pimps his potential female converts - threatening to withhold their conversions? What if that same Charedi individual speaks of playing out a rapist fantasy with his potential convert - or asked her to participate in a Ménage à trois with his wife using her future conversion as incentive to comply with his fantasies? That fellow deserves to be protected?! Is this the standard of Charedi leadership?!

Perhaps it’s about the money. From what I understand there 26 million reasons to be silent about Tropper - and keep EJF going. I can see very easily how one may rationalize that the value of that kind of money towards a good cause can buy silence on this issue. After all, they aren't approving of what he did. They just don’t talk about it. Furthermore - what will be gained by losing all that money by condemning Tropper and closing down EJF? What about all the good they saw coming out of it until this happened? Are they supposed to lose all that and start over with no money at all? Very powerful argument – if you buy into their position that what EJF did was all good.

Agudah and other Charedi leaders seem to be quite content to live in this little Charedi bubble where they have got it all figured out. The problem is that there are far too many Jews - even from their own people - who live outside their bubble despite their best efforts to keep them there.

What has their silence on Tropper produced? From the Daas Torah Blog:

Tropper is coming back. This is not a threat nor is the result of paranoid psychosis from obsessing over the topic. It is simply a fact…

I just received word from informed sources in America that he has rabbinical allies who are bringing him back. The melave malke in South Fallsburg was not an aberration but served as a chance to test the water. He got away with it. Actually he tried testing the waters earlier with his Maimonides program (December 23) but was stopped by the staff. There has been no outcry from the Aguda i.e. The Novaminsker. Rav Reuven Feinstein has had only praise to say about him. Rav Wachtogel - his designated successor has not commented. The Bedatz hasn't said anyting. Where are the rosh yeshivos form Chaim Berlin or the Mir? There has been no one in chareidi circles except for Rav Sternbuch - and he has been criticised for being out of step or mixing in with something that is none of his business or simply that he is wrong. There was a protest by the RCA - but since he holds them in utter contempt - it doesn't count.

Tropper has been given the clear cut message that there is no significant objection to his return to power and he and his rabbinical allies are now taking the necessary steps.

Yes, he has. Thank You, Agudah.