Sunday, December 02, 2012

One People – Worlds Apart

I can’t help noting the similarity and perhaps irony of two scandals happening at once. Not only do they involve two very right wing rabbis - they involve similar offenses even though they are geographically divided by an entire ocean.

I doubt the two rabbis Nechemya Weberman and Chaim Halpern know each other – or even about each other. But they have both been accused of similar types of sex abuse by their victims.

Weberman is now undergoing a trial. He stands accused of sexually abusing a young woman starting when she was 12 years of age numerous times over a period of 4 years while counseling her as an at risk child. This unlicensed therapist was the go to guy in Williamsburg to the exclusion of anyone else – licensed or otherwise. Others have since come forward and made similar accusations.

Halpern is not undergoing any trials – yet. British officials are investigating his case to see if any law were broken. In both cases the accused sex offenders are being strongly defended by their communities.

Weberman’s Satmar community has held fundraisers and done other things - legal and otherwise - to save this man from the fate he deserves. They considered what is happening to him a ‘blood libel’ or the like. He retains the image he created as a pious Rav, well liked, caring towards the wayward young, and actively working for their benefit.

What is still troubling about this case is the complete silence of the right about Weberman. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single prominent Rav supporting the victim. It is as if they don’t care about what is going on here. There is complete silence.  Such silence can easily be interpreted as supporting Weberman! I’m pretty sure that all of his defenders see it that way.  

Should he get acquitted of charges for reasons of reasonable doubt (he said- she said cases often end up that way) this man will no doubt resume his duties as an unlicensed counselor. One where all young women at risk will only be able to see him for guidance and therapy. I shudder to think how many other victims will be affected by his sexual appetite. Lest anyone think this will not happen… that they will no longer allow him to do any therapy remember that they think he is completely innocent and that his accuser at trial is a vindictive Charedi hater who went OTD and is out to do the community harm.

Contrast that with how the British Jewish community is handling Rabbi Chaim Halpern. He has not been arrested. He may not even be charged with a crime. And yet these rabbis know a disgusting sexual predator when they see one. 30 women have come forward with all manner of accusations about his sexual advances, molestation, and abuse he had with them while he was counseling them.

They have taken action to relieve this man of his involvement with the Jewish community. There is no “What if he’s not convicted?” It doesn’t matter to these good Rabbis. They want him out! They do not want him to have any position of power. Anywhere! Not even in his own Shul… where members stand in complete disbelief and continue to support him. From an article in the Times of Israel by Miriam Shaviv:
Two weeks ago, Halpern, who is considered one of the top Haredi rabbis in London, resigned from his role as a religious judge in Kedassia, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. He also ended his relationship with Beis Yaacov Primary School, the Hatzolah emergency medical service and Chana, an infertility charity where he was a religious adviser.
He has been accused by about 30 women of “inappropriate” contact. Earlier this month, six rabbis and religious judges gave him a choice between withdrawing from his positions or facing a public statement against him. They could not remove him, however, from his synagogue, Beis Hamedrash Divrei Chaim in the neighborhood of Golders Green, which is run from a building he owns.
The exact nature of the accusations has not been publicly revealed.
‘Because he is still rabbi of his community, he is still operating at full speed’
According to Lichtenstein, the rabbis originally assumed that Halpern’s community would abandon him once it was clear he had lost his colleagues’ support. But last Shabbat, his synagogue was full.
The level of community support for Halpern “took them by surprise,” he said.
About 30 rabbis attended a post-Shabbat meeting on Nov. 24 in which those familiar with the alleged evidence against Halpern revealed what they knew.
“For the first time, most rabbonim heard the details and were shocked,” said Lichtenstein. “There was unanimous approval of a condemnation.”
Imagine if there were a unanimous approval by of condemnation of Weberman by 30 prominent in America Rabbis. That did not happen – and is not happening. Instead there is unmitigated support by his community while other rabbis stand by in silence.

All we hear are voices saying that all this Lashon Hara or Motzie Shem Ra which go uncontested by anyone of rabbinic stature!

What a difference. Where are the voices of reason here? Why is there only one heroic rabbi, Yakov Horowitz, at the trial supporting the victim? Where are the members of the Moetzes? Why aren’t they saying anything? Any of them? Where are the Roshei Yeshiva? Any of them? Where is that small still voice in good people that speaks to the heart and tells it to do the right thing? And not let evil stand uncontested!