Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Denial – and the Online Voice of Torah Jewry

Matzav.com bills itself as the online voice of Torah Jewry. And much like the Yated Ne’eman its definition of Torah Jewry begins and ends with the world of Chasidim and the world of the right. Thus their definition of Gedolim is limited to religious leaders who are exclusively from their camp. No one can or should deny that many of their leaders are deserving of that title. They are indeed leaders even if Matzav and their readership do not accord Rabbanim outside their camp this honor.

It should come as no surprise that Matzav recently reported in glowing terms a visit by a group of their Rabbanim to a prison in Virginia.

In typical fashion they wrote of the Mesiras Nefesh of one of those Rabbanim who although confined to wheelchair managed to make the long trek to that prison to be Mechazek – gives strength and encouragement – to the Jewish inmates there. It was measured a success by all - they said.

By itself that is a laudable act. One to be admired and imitated. What Matzav fails to do however is disclose the real purpose of this trip - except for allowing one lonely little comment among 5 others:

According to Die Tzitung this visit was specifically for R. Yisroel Moshe Weingarten and a letter of support was delivered from Rav Tuvia Weiss, GAVAD of the Eida Charedis in Yerushalayim. They printed the letter in which R. Weiss spoke fondly of RYMW as his friend from Antwerp.

Who is Rabbi Weingarten? An article in the above mentioned Yiddish newspaper that was translated at Daas Torah cites his credentials:

This distinguished rosh yeshiva the great scholar Rabbi Yisrael Weingarten is greatly treasured and cherished by all the gedolim that he has become acquainted with - such as the Satmer Rebbe zt"l, the Minchas Yitzchok and others. He is responsible for raising up a new righteous generation of distinguished students who are a glory to the Jewish people.

How could a distinguished Rosh Yeshiva from Satmar like Rabbi Weingarten end up in prison? One way is by physically beating and sexually molesting - possibly raping - his daughter in multiple ‘sex-a-thons’ - over an extended period of time.

That is in fact what he was convicted of in an American court of law. HaRav Weingarten was sentenced to a 30 year prison term.

If one wants to get a feel for the heinous crimes of this distinguished and cherished Rosh Yeshiva they should read the victim impact statements. If reading that doesn’t make you ill, you are not human. The victims of his sex abuse were not limited to his daughter. His son and other daughters were sexually abused too. His now ex-wife was constantly beaten. In essence he tortured his family mercilessly in unimaginable ways for years.

And yet all of those rabbis who visited him thought nothing of this. Indeed the reason for the visit was to give Rabbi Weingarten Chizuk! They even brought a letter from the head of the Eida HaCharedis proclaiming his eternal friendship to this man!

How can this be? How can rabbinic leaders give aid and comfort to such a man? How can Rav Weiss call this man a friend?

Like virtually every single convict who sits in prison today he denies everything and emphatically proclaims his innocence. And they simply believe him.

I suppose the rationale is as follows. The esteemed Rosh Yeshiva claims his daughter has been lying about this from the very beginning. How - they must rhetorically ask - can a man with a long beard, long peyos, who is so careful in separating himself from the evils of the modern world; and who has dedicated his life to teaching Torah have done something like this? His manner of dress and public behavior testify to his devotion to Torah! It’s simply not possible.

Rav Weiss - and the Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim who delivered Rav Weiss's personal message to this man must feel that the daughter - who is no longer religious - cannot be believed over the father who is. Having left the fold she has no longer has any Ne'emanus. Anything she therefore says about a religious Jew – let alone an esteemed Rosh Yeshiva - cannot be believed and should be considered a complete fabrication.

Rabbi Weingarten on the other hand who is obviously Frum and a Rosh Yeshiva to boot has a Chezkas Kashrus and we must be Dan L’Kaf Zechus. He should certainly believed in his protestation of innocence. Past accusations against him before he was ever arrested were apparently deemed not credible via their own ‘in house’ investigation and thus discounted.

What about his conviction at a fair trial? Since when do we judge a man by what the Arkaos Ha’Akum (secular courts) say? As in all incarcerations of Jews – espcially those who are so visibly religious - he was persecuted because Esav Sonei L’Yaakov -anti-Semitism:

As is well known these courts are a place which clearly manifest the inherent hatred that non-Jews have for Jews.

Talk about burying your head in the sand! I can't believe the extent of denial. It is beyond comprehension.

And then there is Matzav. When it comes to questioning a decision made by their rabbinic leaders, Matzav has no problem completely destroying the reputation of a religious Jew who dared to ask it. What about collateral damage to family members? It doesn’t matter. Kavod HaTorah comes first. Questioning a public policy statement of a rabbinic leader is tantamount to blaspheming God in their eyes. People get hurt? Tough!

Compare that to the way they are treating one of their own - a convicted sex offender whose heinous crimes are unspeakable. I guess Rabbi Weingarten is a holier Jew than me. After all he did not question anyone!