Monday, October 20, 2014

Clarifying My Views

Picture of me taken at the Kotel a few years ago
First let me say that Barry Freundel is a bad man. I could not agree more with those people who criticized my post yesterday on the subject. They were right. I was wrong. Now that I have seen just ‘who and what’ he is, he deserves spending some time in jail if he is convicted. And he probably will be.

To put it the way a woman who goes by the name ‘kweansmom’ did it in a comment yesterday: 
(Rabbi Barry Freundel) allegedly committed his crime during an especially emotionally vulnerable time for his victims and abused his position of trust as a clergyman. This is very different from a storeowner who places a camera in his dressing room. These circumstances should absolutely be taken into consideration by the court. 
I completely agree with her.

What makes his sin even worse and a greater Chilul HaShem than it might otherwise be is that he was such a respected Orthodox figure in the modern world. He commanded the respect of not only his coreligionists, but of the wider public. He besmirched the very Hashkafos that both he and I stand for. When a prominent Centrist figure like Barry Freundel  behaves as he did, it makes my version of Yiddishkeit look bad. I cannot find it in my heart to have compassion for people in positions of power who do things like that.

But all this is not the purpose of this post. I just wanted to be clear about my utter contempt for this man.

The purpose of this post is something that saddens me. Which is the complete misunderstanding of my attitude towards Charedim. Even by some of those that have similar Hashkafos. Which was made known to me by the following comment from kweansmom: 
I was really hoping you wouldn't (again) try to sweep the wrondoings of a beloved Modern Orthodox rabbi under the rug and call for second chances that you would never afford to an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi in a scandal. Sadly, I am disappointed. 
This statement is not true. I did not  try to sweep the wrongdoings of a beloved Modern Orthodox rabbi under the rug. But obviously kweansmom thinks it is true. As do some in the Charedi world that think I am overly generous to MO rabbinic miscreants while bashing Charedi rabbinic miscreants. So let me try once again to explain my views; explain why I wrote the original post; and try to examine why so many people think I am so biased.

First let me state unequivocally that I am not anti Charedi at all. I completely reject the accusation by anyone that I am. Those Charedim that understand what I do here (and there are many) already know that. I respect Charedi Hashkafos in the sense of Elu V’Elu. I only wish Charedim would do the same for my views (But again – that is off topic).

I have often said that there is little difference in lifestyle or values between moderate Charedim (which comprise the majority of all Charedim) and Centrists (RWMO) like myself. The Hashkafic differences are real. But they do not impact the relationship we have with each other nor should they. Which is why I believe that mainstream Orthodoxy of the future will be (and to some extent already is) a homogeneous entity comprised of these 2 groups - with moderate Charedim in the majority.

I have also expressed many times my admiration for the truly great Charedi Gedolim. The list is long but includes such luminaries as R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky (a particular hero of mine), R’ Moshe Feinstein, R’ Aharon Kotler, R’ Yitzchak Hutner, R’Avrohom Pam… and a many others. In light these two specific points I am always surprised when I get accused of having an anti Charedi pro MO bias. Especially when it comes from my own Hashkafic peers.

Perhaps it is because so many of my posts deal with Charedi wrongdoing. But that’s because that is what is out there in the public square. Much of what this blog is about is my reaction to stories reported in the media about Jews and Jewish subjects. Furthermore I have only been critical when there was a massive Chilul HaShem involved.
That I have suggested that some of that wrongdoing might have been generated by Charedi Hashkafos taken to an extreme is not the same thing as bashing the Hashkafa itself. That I have been critical of one or more aspects of that Hashkafa which I believe might result in something harmful to the fabric of Judaism (e.g. the Israeli Charedi policy of no secular studies in their high schools) is not a criticism of the Hashkafa. It is a criticism of what I believe is an extreme position taken by Israeli Charedim on the subject of studying Limudei Chol. Charedi Hashkafos are not inherently opposed to Limudei Chol.  

I will admit that I have used some… let us say colorful language in expressing these views in the past. Like using the phrase ‘head in the sand’ with respect to their insular approach to the outside world. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used that phrase as it can easily be taken as pejorative. But it was not intended as such. It is just the way I write – which is done to get people’s attention. I will try and do better in this regard in the future.

Finally I want to specifically address the issue of seeming to be kinder and gentler to MO wrongdoers than I am to Charedi wrongdoers. This was suggested in the above comment made by ‘kweansmom’ as well as others in private e-mails.

I do not believe that I am kinder to MO wrongdoers. I respond to the acts - not Hashkafos. There are differences between crimes. There is a difference between spying on women in a shower unbeknownst to them - and rape, sexual abuse, or sexual molestation. You cannot compare voyeurism to forcing a teenage girl to have sex with you and claiming it is therapy. Or taking advantage of seminary girls that have a crush on you, end up offering you sexual favors, and you taking them up on it. There is a difference between sodomizing young boys as a ‘Frum psychologist’ and watching one get undressed from afar. There is a difference between a rabbinic Kiruv leader fondling his young charges and watching them get undressed through a peephole.

Elon, Lanner, Meisels, Weberman, and Mondrowitz, (among far too many others) are all guilty of direct and unwanted sexual contact of varying degrees which ruined the lives of their victims. To my knowledge Freundel has not been charged with anything like that. At least not yet. If on the other hand he is also guilty of that too, then he is just as condemn-able as those other rabbis.

Those differences are why my post was initially more sympathetic to Freundel than I have been to the other above-mentioned rabbis. However, as I have already said, I have since come to realize that my sympathy was misplaced.  But to say that I would never go as easy on a Charedi rabbi as I did on an MO rabbi is absolutely not true. 

Had Mondrowitz for example only been accused of spying on young children while they were in a state of undress, I would have had the same sympathy for him that I did for Freundel.  I would have said he is sick and needs therapy. But Mondrowitz turned out to be a monster of major proportions that deserved a much harsher fate than he has living freely in Israel. Something along the lines of Mida K’neged Mida…. Or at least as long a prison term as Weberman got if not longer.

Freundel cannot be compared to Mondrowitz or to any of the others. So I while I apologize for my compassionate treatment of Freundel knowing what I know… my misplaced compassion was coming from those differences.  Not from any special treatment toward Modern Orthodox rabbis.

But as I also said, even that compassion was misplaced. What Freundel did was a complete abuse of power. He has caused psychological damage to his victims. He harmed the reputation of his Shul. He has very likely discouraged Mikvah usage causing some women to fear ‘being watched’ by their rabbi. He embarrassed Modern Orthodoxy. And he has caused a huge Chilul HaShem.  

I hope that makes my position abundantly clear.