Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mafia Tactics of Satmar

Photo Credit: New York Times
Maybe we’ve really turned a corner here. The sex abuse trial of Rabbi Nechemya Weberman has had some significant changes over similar trials of the past. For one thing the supporters attending the trial are no longer there for the accused. They are there for the victim.

And the intimidation tactics of the Satmar community have backfired. As most people who read this blog already know, the four Satmar Chasidim who tried to buy off the victim and her now husband with a half million dollar bribe were caught and are awaiting their own trial. Their families are now suffering.

What is most important for me about this trial aside from the victim getting the justice she deserves is that the Satmar community is finally being exposed for what it is – a religious Mafia that cares little about the American system of justice. They will use any means available to undermine it when they think it serves their purposes. Legal or otherwise   

The blame must be laid at the feet of the current Rebbes of Satmar themselves. Their Chasidim do not sneeze without the approval of their Rebbe. That they tried to buy off the witnesses must have had at least the tacit approval of at least one of those 2 Rebbes. Probably the one that presides in Williamsburg if not both.

Trying to buy of the victim is just one of the Mafia like tactics they used. From the Wall Street Journal
The girl testified that her parents had suggested she drop the case as recently as six months ago, taking her to a Rabbi, who tried to get her to drop the case.
When asked by a prosecutor what was the benefit of proceeding, she answered,  “peace.”
Asked about the pressure to drop the case, she gave several examples, including “intimidation,” “intimidation of my parents,” “loss of business,” “having my nieces kicked out of school.” 
So much for the vaunted Chesed of Satmar. It does not extend to victims of sex abuse.  By living in a world of isolation they have managed to avoid any knowledge about how damaged they have become in the eyes of the world. They probably still think that the world is sympathetic to the “warm fuzzies” of the Chasidic world.  No longer. Someone ought to tell them - the jig is up!

Of course none of this behavior should surprise anyone who has been following the larger sex abuse issue or our times. Especially if one has read the book, Hush by Eishes Chayil (Judy Brown).

It isn’t only the Jewish media and blogs covering it now.  The world now knows the truth, thanks to respectable newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, tabloids like New York Daily News, and the electronic media ( in the example below. There are more). And thanks to the good works of people like Rabbi Yakov Horowitz and all the people who took the time and expense to show up at this trial. God bless you all.

I don’t know if this will stop the Mafia like intimidation tactics. I doubt it. But at least they will no longer be able to hide what they are doing. And if the Weberman trial has generated this kind of negative publicity - and more of the Chasidic world becomes aware of it, maybe they’ll change their ways. It seems that has already started by the fact that very few supporters of Rabbi Weberman have shown up at the trial.

The goal of Chasidic leaders of Satmar with all of these intimidation tactics is to prevent their ‘dream’ world from looking bad by such exposure. What they don’t seem to realize is that in trying to prevent the Chilul HaShem of exposure they have made an enormously bigger one by using these tactics – now exposed for all the world to see.  

And yet by keeping their people isolated they have a much greater chance of perpetuating this error. Who knows if the majority of them even know what’s going on at the trial. Even if they do, most of them are not getting their information from objective sources. They are getting it from those who are sympathetic to their cause.

Which is why they need to be exposed. Sweeping it under the rug which was their goal here will no longer be possible. Their attitude about the outside world has been exposed to that very world thanks to the attention it is getting and from the strength of victims like this one who refuse to be intimidated. Even at great cost to her family.

Satmar may use this to their advantage and point to what happened to this victim’s family when threatening others in the future.  But the world will be watching this time. They will no longer get a free pass.

It is interesting to note what Yesterday’s Daf Yomi (Shabbos – 54a) said about rabbinic leaders who remain silent while their brethren suffer. It is not a coincidence that this Gemarah was being studied by Jews all over the world just as the Weberman trial got underway.

The Gemarah teaches that if Jewish leadership is in a position to stop sin and they remain quiet, they take upon themselves the sin itself. This means that silence is far from golden in these situations. The greatest people of the generation were destroyed because of that silence. When rabbinic leaders are aware of wrongdoing, they must speak up for the victim. Passing the buck is not an option! 

The Gemarah does not tell us that exceptions can be made when Jewish education is on the line – an excuse given in the past for remaining silent and sweeping sex abuse under the rug… and used even in the present to oppose legislation that would enable victims to sue their abusers and enablers beyond the current statute of limitations. 

But that pales in comparison to what happens in enclaves like Satmar. They do not just ‘voice opposition to legislation and try to fight it legally in the courts. They intimidate. People lose their livelihoods. And more.

Just once I would just love to see one of the Charedi magazines do an honest investigative story on this community instead of fawning all over it. All the time.  Just once!