Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Call for Prayer

Courtesy: Daas Torah Blog
Satmar Hashkafos are finally being revealed for all the world to see.  All because a young woman (who just turned 18) had the courage to defy the threats of that community and tell her story of a 4 year period of rape, sex abuse, and molestation by her unlicensed “therapist” Rabbi Nechemyia Weberman.

I  don’t know how many people who read this blog are sick of this story. I certainly am. I would much prefer  writing about the Kiddush HaShem taking place on the basketball court by a Los Angeles senior in high school with bright prospects in that sport for the future. He will be playing for Northwestern University’s basketball team wearing a Kipa and Tzitzis.

But I can’t allow the new developments in the Weberman trial and its implications for Satmar to go unnoted.

I am not a Chasid. And I have certainly had my criticisms of Satmar in the past. I am not going to re-hash them. I only mention it in order to preempt my critics. They will no doubt accuse me of bias against Satmar because of past criticism. 

The truth is that despite my criticism of them I do not have any particular bias against Satmar as a form of Chasidus. My criticisms are based purely on observations and indisputable facts and would apply to any group.

Here are some of the more recent observations.

A Satmar Chasid who was about as close to the previous Satmar Rebbe as one could be (he was his personal driver) “counseled” young girls in a private non licensed practice. He invited some of them to sleep in his home; has spent many hours with them during ‘therapy’sessions; has taken a few of them on long overnight trips; has violated Hilchos Yichud (probably hundreds of times)... this man has been accused of over 80 counts of sex abuse by one of those young women. 

She has had the fortitude to see this through to trial despite harassment of her family, defamation of her character, and bribery attempts to the tune of a half million dollars (to drop the charges). But instead of enriching herself she has retained her dignity (and her integrity in my view).

There were other victims who came forward to private individuals including rabbis and licensed therapists with similar accusations. Only they did not go public with these accusations for fear of what this community is capable of in terms threats and retribution - as was the case with the brave young victim who did come forward..

That victim testified under oath in excruciating detail about what Weberman did to her. Weberman has been denying that he touched her and testified to that fact yesterday at trial. Despite all the circumstantial evidence to the contrary and the highly believable 4 day testimony of the victim.

What should also not be over-looked is the fact that during his testimony, Weberman admitted defrauding his own people. Some of the money he raised for a “charity” he created in order to help children whose parents could not afford his fees, was used to pay tuition for his own children.

It has been revealed at trial that some of those charity funds were used to buy lingerie.

Even if he were innocent of the sex abuse charges, he has admitted being a crook! Not the kind of crook the Spinka Rebbe was. He stole from the government via a money laundering scheme and gave it to his institutions. Weberman helped himself to money that was meant for the poor.

What has been the Satmar response to all of of this? ...aside from all the thuggish tactics they have used against the victim? The Satmar rebbe of Kiryas Joel has implied that the victim is a whore.

And they continue to insist that Weberman is a great man who is being crucified by lowly elements from the fringes society. They are talking about Orthodox Jews who support the victim like Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. I guess stealing money from the poor does not take away from this man’s greatness in the eyes of Satmar even if they don't believe the sex abuse charges.

They have now called upon teachers in all their schools to pray along with their students for the welfare of this “Chashuva Askan” in a Kol Korei  (seen above). That when they say “Yehei Shmeh Rabbah” during the recital of Kaddish, they should bear in mind that Weberman should go free.

Satmar does not value the American system of justice. That is not new. Nor do they honor ethics like like patient doctor confidentiality or reporting abuse to the authorities: From the New York Times
Mr. Weberman testified that as an unlicensed counselor, he was not obligated to report allegations of child abuse to secular authorities, nor was he legally bound to respect the privacy of the young people he was counseling. As a result, he shared information given to him by the teenagers with their parents and schools, he said. Weberman testified that he revealed information about his ‘patient/client’ to her parents and her school. Not being licensed as a therapist – he is not subject to those ethics. 
What are their ethics? From another client who testified on his behalf: 
Beyond the details of the accuser’s case, the testimony also shed light into the way the Satmar Hasidic community enforces its strict religious rules. Ms. Gluck testified that masked men from the religious modesty committee, based in Monroe, N.Y., had come into her bedroom at night when she was 15 or 16 years old to take away a cellphone that she was not permitted to have. The same committee, Mr. Weberman testified, regularly referred young boys and girls to him for counseling. 
What  a great set-up. Confused young girls that do not obey modesty rules get referred to him for counseling. He charges parents thousands of dollars for the privilege of sexually abusing their daughters. And deniability is built into the halo he wears daily. A halo built upon an image of being so pious about sexual matters that he removes his glasses in the street so that he will not inadvertently look at a woman. For them his pious act grants him almost immutable credibility over that of the victim. This victim he says brought him to court in order to smear Satmar. That’s exactly what his community believes.

That Weberman is a Ganif… that’s OK. That he had Yichud with hundreds of female patients… that’s OK. That they can enter a young girl’s room wearing masks and confiscate her cellphone... that’s OK. That he doesn’t report abuse to the authorities… is Halacha for them. These facts are not in dispute.

I know that Satmar Chasidim don’t appreciate these kinds of posts.  I understand that. I don't blame them. The fact is that I know Satmar Chasidim. As individuals they are role models of Chesed. They are among the sweetest people you will ever meet. Very friendly. Very kind. Very gentle. Very hospitable. Always willing to go out of their way to help a fellow Jew. They do many good works.  Most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Their generosity of money, time, and spirit was matched by few.

But when it comes to protecting a man they see as an angel because of the halo he wears they - they completely lose all sense of right and wrong. It is as though they were turning from a Dr. Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde.

I know that many Satmar Chasidim, good and decent people are upset with me. I've been told that many of them do indeed not side with Weberman and side with his victim. I ask you all to please come out and say so in a loud and clear voice. Instead of praying for Weberman's freedom - there is no better time than now to stand up for the victim and condemn this evil.