Thursday, February 10, 2011

Doing It Right - Doing It Wrong

There is a story in the Jerusalem Post about Rabbi Moti Elon who for many years prior to his dismissal - headed Yeshivat HaKotel. It looks as though he is going to face trial for sex abuse against two former male students back in 2003 and 2005.

When this story broke about a year ago, there was swift action by Takana - a group of religious Zionist Rabbanim that formed to deal with allegations like these. Rav Aharon Lichtentstein is a leading member of this group. Rabbi Elon was immediately removed from his position at the Yeshiva and ended up living in a part of the country where he would not be in contact with any students.

His wife and family have been devastated by it.

At the time a great number of Rabbi Elon’s students – past and present were incredulous. He was an extremely popular and charismatic Rebbe and a mentor to many students over the years. He was so well respected that even some Charedi students looked up to him. Shock and disbelief would be a mild description of what many of them felt.

Nonetheless, the evidence was pretty damning. And there were multiple incidents of it. There was no choice by this committee but to act quickly and they did.

The decision had consequences for Rav Lichtenstein. He reported tearfully to his own students at the time about serious threats he received from Rabbi Elon’s supporters. But he stood his ground and Rabbi Elon was out! And now Rabbi Elon will have to deal with the possible criminal consequences of sexually abusing his students.

There is unfortunately a similar case of a popular Rebbe in one of America’s premier right wing Yeshivos. Allegations of sexual molestation came forward about years of abuse to some of his students there.

While he was dismissed from his position at the Yeshiva. He still lives near it and is given honor by that community. His books are still being distributed by reputable publishers of religious books. And those books have glowing endorsements from at least one Rosh HaYeshiva who knows about the abuse.

What a contrast between two communities dealing with a sex offender. One community expelled a popular religious figure even while being threatened with physical harm and another still gives their popular religious figure Kavod as though nothing ever happened.

And we wonder why abuse continues in the Torah world? Abusers can see. They have eyes. They look at a popular religious figure who has a weakness just like them and see that there is very little consequence to them for their predatory practices.

There has been acknowledgement of late by even Charedi rabbinic leaders that sex abuse is a serious problem. That it must be faced. That there is no more room under the rug. There have even been some steps taken to battle it. Articles have been written. Public meetings have taken place. There was even a momentous document dealing with the issue that came out of Baltimore a couple of years ago. There seems to finally be an awareness - and a realization that something must be done.

At least on paper. When it comes to Tachlis - when it comes to a man who is known to have molested his own students - the awareness seems to melt away and he continues to be among the honored members of his own community. A community that knows what he did! I don’t get it!

I received the following mass e-mail sent out by a hero in the forefront of the battle. It is a desperate cry in public response to the attitude of Agudah whose successful legislative lobbying efforts are legendary.

"Despite decades of good intentions...."

It's called paving the path to this case the hell of little children being tortured while the adults had good intentions. We are trying to pass laws like this here in America, but Agudah keeps trying to stop us because of the separation of church and state.

Mandatory school background checks and fingerprinting? NO. Statute of Limitations Reform? NO. Clergy mandated reporters? NO. Anti-bullying laws in schools? NO. Safety abuse prevention education in schools? NO. "The government cannot tell us to do these things." So says Rabbi Zweibel, the Gedolim and the legal experts at 42 Broadway.

Which Torah or which Testament (Old or New) are they following that they claim it is written there that we are obligated to allow kids to be hurt? That is all I want to know. They never cite any religious texts or precedent. Just this amorphous "Da'as Torah." In fact, every cheder yingle knows the mitzvah of "Lo Saamod Al Dam Reyecha". The government just wants to mandate that we actually KEEP our Torah. Please let’s not fight them.