Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Protecting a Child Molester

As most people who have been following this story know by now, the Israeli Supreme Court accepted an appeal by Avreimal Mondrowitz’s attorney. They have denied his extradition to the United States to stand trial for multiple sex crimes.

A more detailed account of events are available in an article by Michael Orbach in the Jewish Star. It was however the following statement by attorney Michael Lesher, an Orthodox Jew and a long time advocate for abuse victims that piqued my ire:

“If prosecuted it [the case] would reveal so much about the corrupt underside of the society he comes from. All we ever wanted was simply for him to come to trial like others accused of such crimes. If he did come to trial we would learn a lot of unpleasant things, but invaluable things. I think there were a lot of people who didn’t want that to happen.”

This issue is an aspect of the Mondrowitz case that many people have danced around. But I think it deserves more than a cursory mention.

First let me say that an accusatory statement like this made out of the blue would be highly suspect. But Mr. Lesher much credibility on this issue. He is a religious Jew and has a Chazaka of Ne’emanus. He is presumed to be telling the truth. Furthermore he is more intimately involved with this case than most of the rest of us. He knows very well what is going on… and ‘who’ is doing ‘what’ for ‘whom’ behind the scenes.

The society Mondrowitz comes from is Ger.

Gerer Chasidim are one of the largest segments of Orthodox Jewry in the world. They have a long history going back many generations. And their Chasidus – perhaps more than any other - has a history of excellence in Torah learning. The Sefer ‘Sfas Emes’ a brilliant commentary on Shas was written by one of the previous Gerrer Rebbes and can be found in virtually every Beis HaMedrash in Yeshivos all over the world.

Like all other Chasidim they look to the Gerer Rebbe as the virtual Gadol HaDor. They don’t call him that because it is not really part of their terminology. But they view him as greatest leader in all of Jewry (as do all other Chasidim of their Rebbe). His word is their command. He is treated as virtually their king and sage advisor They often even see him as a miracle worker. Stories about miracles Rebbes do abound in all of Chasidus. It is the characteristic trait of the Chasidic Rebbe to be looked at in this way.

Their way of life is pretty much based on the values imparted by the current Rebbe and built upon the values of previous Rebbes. Their society is based solely on those values – irrespective of the values of other Jews -even the high profile rabbinic leaders of other segments. For the most part their values are quite high. They are Baalei Chesed who will do whatever they can for a fellow Jew – as is the case with much of Chasidus. They value learning and insist that a lot of time be spenyt on it - but do not see it as a permanent way of life for everyone. They therefore encourage working for a living for most of their Chasidim. That is some of the good stuff.

Sometimes such extreme devotion and loyalty to one man can lead to conflict – as it has in the recent election for mayor of Jerusalem. The Rebbe told his Chasidim to vote for the secular candidate. He won and the Charedi world blames Ger for their losing the seat of power in that city.

That was an outward manifestation of how their society works.

There are however aspects of that society that are far more secretive and some are truly sick - and even corrupt by any civilized standard.

That is the situation with Mondrowitz. He is ‘one of their own’. And as such they feel obligated to protect him from the outside world. The outside world is any secular official or institution. It doesn’t apparently matter to them what an individual is accused of. If he is one of them – he gets ‘protected’.

Do they believe he is not in any way guilty? Are they not aware of any of accusations? Do they automatically dismiss them because they of secular sources? Or perhaps they think what he did wasn’t so bad???!

All they seem to care about is that one of their own faces secular justice and they will not allow that to happen. Nor do they seem to care about how they are viewed in this.

Or do they? Mr. Lesher points out that they wanted to prevent Mondrowitz’s extradition precisely because they did not want the world to find out unflattering things about them. They realize that the entire world – including most of the Torah world –does not view what they are doing here favorably. But they consider what they do as a heroic attempt to defend a fellow Jew.

How can people whose values are so high - justify what they are doing here? They are supporting a sex criminal! They can’t possibly believe that everybody is wrong and only they are right.

How can they not sympathize with the victims? How can they just ignore- not only the evidence - but the many religious authorities - whether rabbinic, or mental health professionals - who believe in Mondrowitz’s guilt and have advocated for his extradition?

How can they protect this guy without even a thought of his possible guilt? How can an internal ‘group bond’ override the safety of their children? Mondrowitz is about to be freed to roam the streets. He will just pick up where he left off – advising adolescents about sex!

The answers to these questions - is apparently what that community wants to hide. They realize that most of the rest of the Frum world will completely reject those answers. When the truth is exposed Ger’s reputation will sink. It will be shown that their Hashkafa protects child molesters.

What a sad chapter for Ger. I used to really respect them.