Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I wasn't going to write about this but it seems to have provoked the anger of some of my fellow bloggers. I therefore feel the need to add my take on it.

Last week’s issue of Ami Magazine featured an attack against the blogging world by Rabbi Avi Shafran. It has been republished in Cross-Currents. (As an aside, Ami is doing a sensational job at getting free publicity from the very people who would love to see it shut down. Controversy increases readership. But I digress.)

Rabbi Shafran did here what he has done before. He begins by noting that there are responsible blogs that “share community news or ideas and observations with others, and…  explore concepts in Jewish thought and law, (or) focus on Jewish history and society”. But then he goes on a “tear ” and strongly condemns the remainder of the Jewish blogging world - comparing them to Korach! Here is how he put it this time: 
The Korach blogs, though, are a separate category. Their anger, snideness, half-truths, and bald lies attract like-minded people like rancid meat draws flies. Together, the bloggerei and their devotees march proudly into what they believe will be a bright, shiny future, one devoid of the old bearded men who so vex them.
They’re not insincere. They believe what they say; that, in fact, is the greater tragedy. Korach, too, was convinced that he was right. Why else would he have summoned all the people to witness the “showdown” with Moshe? Did he think for a moment that what happened was even a possibility? Surely not.
But sincerity is no guarantee of rightness. Evil that recognizes itself is a rare bird. 
The big issue that generated most (but not all) of the acrimony in the J-Blog world is sex abuse. We need to look at this issue in that context.

First let me say that I share Rabbi Shafran’s view that the way criticism is handled on some of these blogs do cross a line. There is no excuse for disparaging Rabbanim who believe they are doing the right thing for Klal Yisroel – no matter how much one disagrees with them. In my view that is a Chilul HaShem. I have said this a “million” times already - these Rabbanim are Moser Nefesh for Klal Yisroel. There is not an evil bone in their body.

This is even true of those Chasidic Rebbes who have gone to great lengths to protect molesters like Avreimal Modrowitz. They are sincere. They believe they are doing the right thing. But– as R’ Avi points out – “sincerity is no guarantee of rightness.” Leaving out those Chasidic Rebbes, other rabbinic leaders like those who are members of the Agudah Moetzes have admitted mistakes in the past and are trying to correct them. That many of us feel they are not there yet does not take away from the fact that they act in ways they see benefiting the Klal as a whole. We can disagree. But to vilify them in the process is terribly wrong in my view.

That said it is understandable why victims of sex abuse (and their advocates) are so upset. They have been hurt and do not see the kind of rabbinic support they might have expected. So we should cut them a little slack when they express their anger. However I totally reject the venom some J-bloggers use against some of these rabbinic leaders. One can have compassion for victims without rancor at the rabbis. Rabbi Shafran is right to be upset by that.

But comparing them to Korach who earned a permanent place in Hell for challenging Moshe Rabbenu's leadership goes too far. And though I agree with him to a point about the acrimony on the part of some bloggers, R' Avi goes way too far and I protest.

These bloggers are indeed sincere as R' Avi admits. But is their intent evil? I do not see it that way. They side with victims of abuse and see some of our rabbinic leaders seeming to protect accused molesters. While that may seem to be the case to them, I don’t think it is as simple as that. These rabbinic leaders have weighed all considerations and have come to the conclusion that they are doing the right thing in how they handle things. I don’t agree with them. But their views are not sourced in evil, God forbid. They are sourced in the belief that this is what the Torah mandates.

But because of their legitimate concern for victims of sex abuse and the desire to protect our children  some J-Bloggers see  red when they think of rabbinic leaders like those on the Moetzes who they see as only interested in protecting the reputations of accused molestors. I don't think that is true. Nevertheless for those who do think that way - that is not the same thing as what Korach did. 

Korach’s cause was not just. He sought to challenge the leadership of God’s ‘hand-picked’ prophet, Moshe Rabbenu and to replace him with himself. J-Bloggers are not challenging Moshe Rabbenu’s leadership. They do not seek to replace the members of the Moetzes with themselves.

These bloggers are all about victims of sex abuse and how they have in the past been shortchanged - and are still being shortchanged. Rabbi Shafran is therefore wrong in characterizing them as modern day Korachs. They are not. They are only guilty of letting their anger do the talking – something I think we are all guilty of from time to time. Including yours truly. But their concern is for the victims. Their goal is to once and for all do away with child sex abuse. It is a just cause - of which Korach’s wasn’t!

It does no one any good to ‘villainize’ their opponents. Wouldn’t respectful discourse accomplish more than angry rhetoric against one another?