Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Protecting Our Children

The richest man in the blogworld has posed some questions in the commentary section of a post that deserve answers beyond just a reply in that section.

How do I know he is the richest man? Because he is “happywithhislot”. I don’t know this gentleman but I really love that he chose this name for himself. It shows his character. It shows that he does not value material worth as the indicator of happiness and instead values the words of Chazal of “Eizehu Asher?” “Ha Sameach B’Chelko.”

But... I digress.

In commentary to my post on sexual abuse in the Torah world he asked three questions:

1) Has the time come for the Gedolim to make an Asifa about privately owned yeshivas?

2) Should any one man or family control a yeshiva?

3) Should a yeshiva be a business, a profit center?

Many of the greatest Yeshivos were run by a single individual or their extended families. Telshe, Mir, Lakewood... are all controlled by the Roshei Yeshiva. That doesn't mean they shouldn't listen to their Baalei Batim. I’m sure that in the more successful Yeshivos, they do. But Roshei Yeshiva make the ultimate decisions. There is nothing wrong per se with private ownership. As to whether a Yeshiva should be run as a business or a profit center... I wish they would. It might help their budgets if they could operate on a profit basis.

The real question is what do we do about this terrible plague of sexual misconduct in the Torah world that has been with us, and virtually unaddressed for many decades? How do we prevent it from ever happening again?

The solution to these kinds of problems is transparency and accountability. No matter who runs the institution they need to be accountable for their products and their methods. In the real world when a product is found defective or their methods found to be illegal, the management is held accountable by the consumer (represented by governmental protection agencies and remedied by the criminal and civil justice system).

So too, a Yeshiva. Its product is the student and it's "method" is the Mechanech. It is time for the Yeshiva "consumer", the parents, to demand this from their Yeshiva management

A system of accountability needs to be developed that is backed by rabbinic leadership of all stripes united in this cause. We need to have the type of conference held recently on standardizing Gerus. At that meeting virtually all segments of Orthodoxy were represented from Rav Nochum Eisentein representing Rav Elyashiv who is the Gadol HaDor of the Charedi world... to Rav Hershel Schachter, representing the world of YU. This is what we need here, with the additional participation of psychologists, psychiatrists, and other experts in the field of aberrant sexual behavior.

Standards of sexual misconduct need to be developed and guidelines set up for hiring and firing violators. Every teacher upon being hired should be made aware of the standards and be required to report to a principal misconduct of any kind. No exceptions. Batei Din need to be set up to deal with these issues and should include as varied (Hashkafically) a set of Dayanim as possible. These Daynim should be trained to properly deal with these matters and dispense justice fairly. Torah U’Mesorah should require all of its member day schools and high schools to participate or lose their affiliation.

I’m sure there are some other, perhaps many, steps missing that need to be added to these. That is why a conference is needed. It has to get done. Agudah, the RCA, Young Israel, Chasidim, Misnagdim, Sefardim, Torah U.Mesorah... ALL OF THEM should be involved and universal compliance needs to be mandated. This is the only way we can get rid of the problem. Anything short of that won’t work. If there was ever a reason to be united this is it. Nothing is more precious than our children’s welfare.