Monday, July 31, 2017

The Jekyll and Hyde Story of Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer with bail bondsman (New Haven Independent)
Heartbreak doesn’t even begin to describe it! This story illustrates better than ever that sexual abusers are not limited to ‘stranger danger’. It also illustrates that abusers can be people of otherwise great accomplishment who are bright and talented leaders in a community that looks up to and admires him. With loving families and children who also admire him and inspires them. Such is the story of Rabbi Daniel Greer.

His life is filled with accomplishment. A 1998 New York Times article about the Yale Five tells us the story. The Yale Five were Orthodox Jewish students that fought the university’s requirement that all freshmen must live in the Yale dorm which was coed. Rabbi Greer and attorney Nathan Lewin filed the lawsuit in that case.

The article focuses on his daughter’s experiences as a religious student there. It also tells us a bit about Rabbi Greer’s inspiring life. Which sounds almost like it came out of an ArtScroll biography: 
In September 1956, as Daniel Greer's fellow freshmen were dining in the Princeton University Commons, he ate every meal alone in his dorm room. An Orthodox Jew some 10 miles from the nearest Orthodox congregation, only 16 years old because he had skipped grades, Greer kept kosher throughout college with the aid of the refrigerator, a hot plate and home-cooked meals he picked up on weekend visits to his parents.
''We were brought up to believe one goes out into the world,'' says Dov Greer, Batsheva's older brother, who has also attended Yale. ''But one doesn't accommodate one's religion for one's college. All Orthodox Jews know they live in a society that has some values that aren't ours. My father's main point is that the most important thing is that you are an Orthodox Jew. ''
With degrees from Princeton and Yale Law School, Daniel Greer moved easily into the secular world. He became an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, general counsel for the Commissioner of Investigation under Mayor John V. Lindsay and a candidate for New York State Assembly in 1972. But by the late 1970's, Greer had become a rabbi and moved with his wife, Sarah, to New Haven.
Unable to find an appropriate Jewish nursery school for Dov, their oldest child, the Greers founded one. Under Daniel as chairman and Sarah as principal, the school grew to include elementary and secondary grades serving 260 students, among them Batsheva Greer, who attended from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Not that she grew up sheltered. The Greers lived in a relatively poor neighborhood with a large black population; it was being revived by a nonprofit housing program led by Batsheva's father. As a teen-ager, Batsheva volunteered in a soup kitchen, took meals to house-bound senior citizens, organized an informal day camp for local children. ''And I didn't do it,'' she says with a rare flash of edge, ''as 'community service.' '' 
His story doesn’t end there. The New Haven Independent reports: 
Beginning in the 1980s, Rabbi Greer oversaw the revival of the neighborhood around his yeshiva at the corner of Norton and Elm streets, renovating neglected historic homes. 
Over the years, Greer has also crusaded against gay rights in Connecticut, at times played an active role in politics and government, and advocated for keeping nuisance businesses out of the Whalley Avenue commercial corridor. He and his family earned national attention for exposing johns who patronized street prostitutes in the neighborhood, for filing suit against Yale University over a requirement that students live in coed dorms, and then in 2007 for launching an armed neighborhood “defense” patrol and then calling in the Guardian Angels for assistance to combat crime. In the 1970s, Greer also led a successful campaign to force the United States to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish “refuseniks” to emigrate here and start new, freer lives. 
One can easily imagine how the community in which Daniel Greer lived saw him. He was probably seen as a man of near heroic proportion!

What he is now best known for has nothing to do with any of that. He has been charged with some of the more heinous sexual crimes I have ever seen in print. He denies the charges and plans to  plead not guilty. But the evidence is overwhelming. I am not going to go into detail of what he has been accused of. It is too graphic for my taste.

Needless to say, it is virtually impossible to believe any of it  based on his accomplished life and the way he raised his children. They obviously had no clue about these accusations and probably still don’t believe them. I can’t really blame them for that. The contrast between his life accomplishments and what he has been accused of is so stark that it would be a lot easier to believe his accusers are lying and have some sort of vendetta against him. But I don’t see how the evidence – most of which has been made public can be explained.

If these accusations are true (and I suspect they are) this man is obviously very sick. Here is someone that worked all of his life to do great things and apparently had this secret life that contradicted everything he supposedly stood for.  

It is not too hard to imagine that had his accusers gone to rabbis in the community instead of the authorities, they would have been disbelieved and probably vilified themselves.

If convicted, at 77 years of age he’s probably looking at a life sentence. I cannot imagine what this has done to his family. His  wife… his children must all be devastated.

If there is a silver lining here, it is that a lesson we should all know by now is reinforced. No individual, no matter how accomplished, should be above suspicion. If there are accusations of abuse, they should be reported to authorities immediately and investigated by them. Because chances are that those accusations are true.

I don’t know if there is anything anyone can do change sexual predators. They are sick individuals that I’m told cannot be cured. They seek gratification of their sexual desires in any way they can. Which usually means finding innocent victims for that purpose.

But there are things we can do to protect our children. We must be vigilant. We must educate ourselves and our children about this issue. We must report suspicions of abuse immediately to the authorities And we must make sure to never let preconceived notions about an accused predator color our perceptions about the reliability of their accuser.