Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Weren’t They There?

Last Sunday afternoon there was an important meeting here in Chicago that was arranged by the Jewish Board for Advocacy for Children. I was unable to attend because of a family emergency. But I was informed about the proceedings by a friend who did attend.

From his account it was well attended and a rousing success. It was co-sponsored by the Associated Talmud Torahs (ATT) – the Orthodox umbrella organization that oversees all Orthodox day schools in the greater Chicago area. It is currently headed by former Chicago Community Kollel (Lakewood) Avreich Rabbi Mordechai Reisman. That this organization helped to sponsor this event is a good sign.

The meeting was addressed by the Av Beis Din of both the RCA and the CRC - Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Rav Moshe Soloveichik as well as many national and local rabbis and mental health professionals active in this cause. The head of the Cook County States Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit spoke about his organization’s involvement. But the testimony from two abuse victims were the highlight of the event, They spoke about how they were treated by the Orthodox Rabbinic establishment and their own communities when the publicly revealed that they were sexually abused .

What is troubling from my perspective is the fact that there were key rabbinic leaders of Chicago’s Orthodox Jewish community that did not attend. I have to ask Why? Why did so many of them feel it was not important enough to attend? Or worse- boycott it. I can understand one or two people missing the event for personal or unavoidable reasons. But that there were so many missing from the event raises questions. One source even informed me that parents in a particular day school were told to actively boycott it! I hope it’s not true. But if it is… Why?

I don’t get that.

I am not casting any aspersions on any of these rabbinic leaders. I respect and honor them all. They are great people and deserve the respect of all of us. They must have had good reasons not to attend. But I cannot think of a single reason why they wouldn’t – try as I might.

There can’t possibly be any religious objection to it. Again - I can’t think of any. And I guess Rav Schwartz and Rav Soloveichik couldn’t either. As I said, they were there and addressed the audience. Rabbi Reisman’s ATT surely would have boycotted it if there were any religious objection. As I pointed out, his organization co-sponsored it!

I would have expected universal support for such an event and advocacy for the public to attend. Especially considering the subject at hand – preventing sex abuse.

Instead there was precious little promotion of this meeting. And it seems that parents in at least one day school were instead told to boycott it! I don’t get it. Chicago’s children are not immune to sex abuse. There have been far too many victims of it from various predators over the years.

I am disappointed that these leaders did not attend or apparently even lend their support to it. It would have certainly boosted the importance of the meeting if they had and advocated attendance. Why didn’t they?