Thursday, July 16, 2015

Remarkable Statements by Two Charedi Leaders

Guest Post by Paul Shaviv

Eida HaCharedis head, R' Yitzchok Tuvia (Tibor) Weiss
I am often accused of being a Charedi basher. This is not true. I emphatically deny it. In that same vein I have been challeneged to say something positive, as though I never have. That too is a complete falsehood.  Which is about to be proven. Again.

Not only do I not bash Charedim in general, there is a lot to be admired about them – and even emulated.  Although I have sometimes criticized various of their leadership, that was never meant to impugn their integrity. It was only meant to show my disagreement.  Some of which was profound.

One of the Charedi institutions with which I have disagreed a lot - is the Eida HaCharedis. My differences with them remain.

I am stunned to find out that their leader Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss is a Holocaust survivor that was rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton. Sir Nicholas was a Jew that was baptized at birth by his apostate Jewish parents and raised in the faith of the Anglican Church. He was a true hero of the Holocaust whose story was featured on 60 Minutes. What follows is a guest post by Paul Shaviv that demonstrates R’ Weiss’s gratitude to this man upon his passing. In the second part of his post he highlights a Charedi leader who is on exactly the right side of the issue on sex abuse in the Orthodox community.

Two Charedi leaders who clearly have done the right thing in each of two very different areas. What they did deserves to be publicized.  Dr. Shaviv’s words follow. 

There is a blog written in England, (apparently) by a Hassidish Jew living in London's Haredi community of Stamford Hill.  It is somewhat intermittent, and usually very critical of local leadership and institutions.

For some time, the blogger has tweeted rather than blogged, and his tweets are accessible from his site.  In the last couple of days he has publicized (one blog, one tweet!) two different statements by two Haredi rabbanim.  We are so used to bewailing difficult statements (and deeds) from that sector of the community, I think we should publicly acknowledge it when the opposite is the case.

The first is a letter made public (not sure where) by the Ga'avad of the Edah Haredis in Yerushalayim, R' Itzhak Tuvia Weiss -- not usually known for his user-friendly attitudes or proclamations!  It is a remarkable letter of thanks to the family of the late Sir Nicholas Winton, who died on July 1 at the grand old age of 106.  

Nicholas Winton was the son of a German family who emigrated to England in 1906 (rather unusual at that time), changed their name from Wertheimer to Winton, joined the Anglican church, and when their son was born in 1909 had him baptised as well. Nicholas Winton grew up as an assimilated, Christian English gentleman.  

In 1938-1939, he travelled to Prague at the request of a friend, and organised the rescue of 669 Jewish children, who he managed to get to refuge in England on a Kindertransport.  The children never knew who had organised their rescue, and Winton's heroism was unknown until 1988, when his daughter discovered a case of documents relating to his activity.  (He himself never claimed any credit!)  When his activity was made public, recognition followed and he was knighted by the Queen for his bravery 

His passing prompted huge publicity in England and elsewhere, retelling his story.  But among the children he rescued was 10-year old Tibor Weiss, who became a Rov, Dayyan and eventually the Chief Rabbi of the Badatz/Edah Haredis in Yerushalayim. On learning of Sir Nicholas' death, he published the following, remarkable letter. It speaks for itself.

Av Beis Din of the Gateshead community, R' Shraga Feivel Zimmerman (YWN)
The second is a published text from a Pirkei Avot shiur given by the Rav of Gateshead, R' Shraga Feivel Zimmerman.  Rav Zimmerman has been the Rav of Gateshead since 2008, and is an American - formerly of Breuer's and a shul in Monsey.  Being the Rav of Gateshead is an enormously important position in the Haredi rabbinate.  He has been outspoken on the issue of sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Haredi community - insisting on the need to hold perpetrators to account, and supporting victims. 

He advocates referring perpetrators to the police, and has been (and is) the target of malicious campaigns by elements in the Haredi community - including from within Gateshead itself - on that account.  Rav Zimmerman testified in Court on behalf of victims in the recent Todros Grynhaus case (who was sentenced to 13 years in jail).  I don't think that any such unambiguous statement (reproduced below) on pedophilia or sex abuse has been heard from any comparably eminent Haredi Rav. 

Kudos to the anonymous blogger for bringing both documents to public notice, and appreciation to the two Rabbanim for their generosity of spirit and 'hakaras hatov', on the one hand, and having the individual courage to stand up for what is right on the other.