Monday, March 11, 2019

Protecting Sex Abusers

Malka Leifer (Sunday Morning Herald)
I have been reluctant to talk about the Malka Leifer case. Not because it isn’t serious. It certainly is. But because it is one of yet another in what seems like an endless stream of stories about sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community. I just felt that I had nothing to add… nothing to say that I haven’t already said.

But this case is a bit different than the usual fare. The abuser is a woman. I do not recall ever hearing or reading about female sexual predators in the Orthodox Jewish community until now. Typically it has been men that were sexually abusing or molesting boys… or girls… or both. Not women.

What moved me to comment was the fact that an official high up in the Israeli government has interceded on her behalf.  More about that later. First a bit of history.

Israel has a major flaw in how it handles sex abusers. Especially those that immigrate from other countries. If I understand correctly Israel does not prosecute people accused of committing sex crimes in other countries. They are treated no differently than anyone else. They are no even put on sex crime registry. Israel does not even have one. 

That makes Israel a haven for fleeing Jewish sex criminals. Jews convicted of such crimes in other countries can immigrate to Israel under the law of return; be granted automatic citizenship; and then walk the streets freely. No one is the wiser. Not so in America.  Once someone is convicted of a sex crime here, they are placed on registry for the rest of their lives. Trying to warn a community in Israel about someone like this can get you sued for libel.  Ask Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.

There are two individuals that are among the worst of sex offenders and have escaped to Israel. They are currently living there fully and freely. One is the notorious Avreimal Mondrowitz and the other is Malka Leifer, who is currently facing 74 counts of sexual abuse in Australia. 

Mrs. Leifer was the principal of a Charedi girls school in Melbourne. According to news reports at the time she was  spirited out of Australia when it became known to leaders at the school she headed that one or more of the victims were considering filing a police report accusing her of abuse. Leifer fled to Israel and has been residing there ever since. Attempts to get her extradited back to Australia have thus far failed.  Primarily because her lawyers claim that she was mentally ill and not competent to stand trial. 

It has since been discovered that she was feigning illness and there have been renewed attempts to get her extradited to Australia.

This is where Charedi MK Yaakov Litzman comes in. He has interceded on her behalf. Possibly in illegal ways. From the Times of Israel
Police suspect Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman met with Jerusalem’s district psychiatrist to pressure him into issuing a false assessment for an accused sex offender, thus preventing her extradition to Australia, a legal official told The Times of Israel Saturday. 
The official confirmed a report by the Kan public broadcaster, which pointed out that the mere existence of a meeting between the de facto head of the Health Ministry and a key witness in the case against Malka Leifer during legal proceedings could constitute obstruction of justice on Litzman’s part. 
Litzman is protecting a sex offender. I can’t think of too many things more horrifying than when a powerful politician tries to protect someone believed to have abused a single child even once. Let alone 74 different cases of it.

Israeli MK and defacto Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (JPost)
Is Litzman an evil man? I don't think so. As the Deputy Health Minister he was lauded not long ago for his efforts in improving health care for all Israeli citizens. He had a very high approval rating from virtually all Israelis for those contributions. 

For that he was rewarded by being made Israel’s Minister of Health. And as a cabinet minister he was one of the few Israeli politicians in the inner circle of Israeli power. An unprecedented position for a Charedi member of the Keneset. He has since resigned over an issue dear to the Charedi world having to do with drafting yeshiva students into the military. But he still is the defacto chief of that ministry.

So what gives here? Why is this man who works so hard to assure the health of all Israelis, now doing everything he can to allow a sex predator to roam free in the streets?

I can only speculate. But I think if one looks at a common denominator between Malka Leifer an Avreimal Mondrowitz - one might see an answer. The connection is Ger. Litzman is a Ger Chasid. And so too is Mondrowitz.

Many years ago when there was a similar attempt to extradite Mondrowitz, Ger went to bat for him and did everything in their power to prevent that. They succeeded.

I don’t know if Mrs. Leifer belongs to Ger Chasidus. But Litzman does - so that when he was asked for help, he jumped into action.

It seems that Ger Chasdim in Israel believe that no matter how much evidence there is against an accused abuser, they simply refuses to believe it. That makes Mrs. Leifer a victim instead of a victimizer. This is how Ger saw Mondrowitz. And this is how they see Leifer.

Taking that position then becomes a matter of Pikuach Nefesh; or Pidyon Shevuyim; or simply saving a fellow Jew from an unjust, undeserved punishment. One must pull out all the stops for ‘innocent people’ like Mondrowtiz and Leifer. Even if it entails subterfuge or breaking the law

I cannot understand that position. I know there are cases of unsubstantiated rumors and I can understand trying to protect them - even as I believe that those rumors need to be checked out by professionals. But when there is so much evidence against them, it makes that kind of protection evil. Even if it isn’t intended that way. 

So what Litzman did is evil. But he not an evil person. He has been blinded by his particular Chasidus to always give accused perpetrators the benefit of the doubt and ultimately as victims themselves regardless of the evidence. Which they refuse to believe. I don’t know how anyone with a conscience can do that. But that is what preconditioned bias can do.

I’m therefore pretty sure that MK Litzman has no guilty conscience at all. He probably believes he is doing the right thing!

How ironic it is for Ger to protect those against whom there is so much credible evidence of sex abuse. Their view of sex is among the most restrictive in all of Orthodoxy. The lengths they go to to avoid any contact with women are so extreme that they will not even walk together with their own wives in public. They will instead walk a few steps ahead of them. I witnessed this myself many years ago in Bnei Brak on a Friday night when after the Seudah - what seems like the entire town takes a walk down R’ Akiva Street, Bnei Brak’s main drag.

Ger was once one of the mostly highly respected of Chasidus. One of their earlier Chasidic Rebbes is the Sefas Emes. He is known by that name because that is the title of his Sefer. Which is widely studied in Yeshivos all over the world.

I have no proof of this, but I have been told by many people who seem to be in the know that it is the more recent Rebbes and the current one that has taken them off the straight and narrow into this dark new world where sex – even between a husband and wife - is treated as a necessary evil for purposes of procreation only. And where accused abusers are treated like victims and victims are treated like abusers.

My - how Ger has fallen from grace! (Even in much of the rest of the Charedi world in Israel for reasons beyond the scope of this post.)

That is the long and short of it. We have a fallen hero in Litzman who is himself a victim of an indoctrination that turns justice on its head. And gives sexual predators the benefit of the doubt while vilifying their victims.

Litzman has been questioned by the police. Will he be prosecuted? Should he be? Stay tuned