Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reactions to the Weberman Verdict

Nechemya Weberman - courtesy NYT
The jury has spoken, Justice has been served. Nechemya Weberman has been convicted of 59 counts of sexual molestation. He has yet to be sentenced and faces a possible maximum of 25 years in prison on one count alone!

As would be expected, victims advocates have cheered the verdict. Rightfully so. They are not the only ones cheering the verdict,though. A respected rabbinic organization and at least one Rosh Yeshiva have cheered it too. In their official response the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) also made clear their condemnation of the way Satmar and like minded communities have handled accusations of abuse in their community:
For many years the RCA has condemned the efforts of many parts of the Jewish community to cover up or ignore allegations of abuse, viewing these efforts as against Jewish law, illegal, and irresponsible to the welfare of victims and the greater community. 
Rabbi Yosef Blau, the Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan said the following about Satmar. From the New York Times
“It’s a system which allowed this abuse to take place,” he said. “It involves no scrutiny, no controls, and is a terrible way of dealing with children who have issues, whatever those issues might be.” 
The verdict and these reactions speak volumes about Satmar’s responsibility in perpetuating the “Webermans” in their world.

I have been a target of some pretty vile attacks from those who have defended Satmar, I have been accused of painting them all with broad brush strokes.  I have been accused of prejudging both Weberman andunfairly condemning his Kehilla for trying to defend him. I have been told that the whole thing is a “He said - she said” issue… and why believe an Oisvurf (outcast) “victim” instead of a holy man with a beard and Peyos who takes his glasses off in the street (so that he won’t inadvertently look at a woman).  

We now see just how holy he was. The jury did not deliberate long. They believed the victim. It was apparently quite obvious to them who was telling the truth and who was lying.

And yet I would not be surprised if Satmar stood by their holy Rabbi Weberman and called this an unjust verdict.  I’m sure they still consider the victim a whore as per the Satmar Rebbe’s insinuation. They probably feel more justified than ever about trying to bribe the victim to drop the charges and leave the country.

This would not be the first time that a community like this considered a verdict like this to be a perversion of justice.  It will not surprise me if there will be even more fundraising for this man as a matter of Pidyon Shevuyim. They will visit him in prison and advocate for him about ‘prisoner’s rights’. Trying to get him Glatt Kosher meals with Chasidishe Shechitta and Chalav Yisroel no doubt.   I would love to be proven wrong. But I don’t think that I will be.

Thankfully good and decent people outside of Satmar see Weberman for what he is and when it comes to dealing with sex abuse - see Satmar for what they are.

I do not believe that Agudah has made any statements about the verdict in this case. I await their response. But I can’t help but wonder how an organization that fawns all over Satmar will react to this.  One may remember that last August Agudah had its big Siyum HaShas at Metlife Stadium where nearly 100,000 people attended. Many of whom were Chasidim. 

In an effort to make this as inclusive as possible they wanted Satmar and like minded Chasidim attend. Satmar agreed to do it only of there was a Mechitza to separate the men and women.  Agudah spent a quarter of a million dollars to get that done. 

How ironic that it is a sex scandal that is bringing down a group so obsessed with avoiding any contact with members of the opposite sex. A group that won’t even allow a picture of a fully dressed and Tzanua woman to be published in any of their publications.

Will Agudah condemn this man now? Will they do what the RCA did and condemn the way Satmar has until now handled sex abuse? Will they say anything about the Mafia like tactics this community has used to harass the victims and their families in order to protect their accused molesters and their public image as the holiest among Jews? Or will they be silent. And the next time there is an Asifa of any kind will they spend another half million dollars so that Satmar will join them?

And what about Satmar themselves? Will they now change their ways? There has been some rumors to the effect that they will no longer use one of their own people as a counselor for children at risk… that they will send at risk children out of the country for therapy. That will be a victory for the Halacha of Yichud. At least in Willimasburg.

I am not convinced that these out of the country ‘counselors’ will be any better. My guess is that they will still not be getting any professional counseling by mental health professionals. They could do that here. They will likely get another “Weberman” who takes his glasses off when walking in the street. In effect they will just be shipping off the problem to another country.

One thing seems clear though. To those who say Satmar doesn’t care about what the rest of the world thinks about them… they are wrong. They do care. From the New York Daily News:
Embarrassed by the sex abuse trial of a Hasidic counselor, leaders of Williamsburg’s pious Satmar sect are considering a different way to deal with rebellious teens: shipping them out of the country for treatment.
But all this should not spoil the moment. This is a great day for victims of abuse. It should make anyone with a shred of common decency feel good.

Here is link to a WPIX report about the verdict, the trial and events surrounding it. It includes the reaction of the victim’s mother (Hat tip - Daas Torah Blog which has much more on this story).


The WPIX video that was here when this was posted is a continuous loop that automatically begins playing when you access this page. Many people found it annoying. I do too. I have therefore removed it and provided a link instead.

2nd Update: 3:05 PM CST