Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Wrong Stuff

Rabbi Chaim Druckman
One of the saddest moments in the Dati Leumi/Religious Zionist camp in Israel is the sex abuse conviction last week of one of their former icons, Rabbi Moti Elon. In order to understand the magnitude of this event, imagine what it would be like for the Charedi world if - God forbid – a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva  like Rav Malkiel Kotler had been convicted of this crime. Not only has Elon been convicted - it appears that there are new allegations about sex crimes that are even worse than what he was convicted of.

Rabbi Elon was the popular charismatic head of Yeshivat HaKotel. He had a wide following that extended even beyond the Dati/Religious Zionist camp. A card carrying Charedi friend of mine who made Aliyah several years ago had somehow developed a very close bond with Rabbi Elon despite his being a member of the Religious Zionist camp. To say the least, the revelations of sex abuse not only surprised him, it devastated him. He was practically in denial about it – because of his great admiration for this man.

As I have said in the past, sex abusers are occasionally very accomplished people. They have established fine reputations for themselves. Not false ones by any means. They become admired for the real things they do, not anything imagined. But they have a mental illness that they cannot control. A perverse sexual appetite that seeks gratification. The urge is so great that it overcomes any sense of guilt about the possible damage they might do to their victims.

They sometimes even rationalize their abnormal sexual encounters believing their victims actually enjoy it… that they are only expressing their love for them in a ‘special’ way and that society just doesn’t understand. The point being that they think they are still good people.

And in every other way, they might be. It’s kind of a Jekyll and Hyde thing. I would not be surprised if this is how Moti Elon thinks of himself. I’m not even sure he realizes the damage he causes to his victims by physically showing them how much he ‘loves’ them. 

The bottom line is that he is a very sick man. He has a sickness that most experts believe cannot be cured. The only way to protect society from him is to keep him in jail. Failing that, to publicize what he did as a warning to stay away from him when guilt has been determined.

That’s what happened when 3 years ago when the Takana Forum founded by Rav Yaakov Ariel examined the accusations and found them to be true – calling him a dangerous man. They forced him to leave His Yeshiva and move to another part of the country.

The problem with a sex abuser that is a public icon is that his followers continue to believe in his innocence. Especially – as is the case with Moti Elon – he continues to deny all the accusations even after the conviction. The loyalty of some of them is so great that they go to extremes to protect his reputation.

One may recall that the most prominent member of the Takana Forum, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was threatened with bodily harm by Elon’s supporters at the time.

But according to Ynet  (hat tip - an astute reader who pointed me in the direction of Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn’s blog post  that linked the article), another icon of the Religious Zionist camp, Rabbi Chaim Druckman has done the unthinkable and publicly honored Elon. He has ‘invited the convicted rabbi to deliver his weekly Torah lesson at his yeshiva of Or Etzion’. You read that correctly. This too is a sad event. Rabbi Druckman is considered by many to be the ‘Rav Aharon Kotler’ of  Religious Zionists. He is one of the most honored and respected Rabbanim they have.

I have in the past defended Rabbi Druckman against the onslaught of Charedi criticism of his special conversion court. But I cannot defend him here. In effect he is no different than Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the rabbis of Lakewood and the Rebbes of Satmar and Ger. Just like those rabbis, Rabbi Druckman simply cannot believe that a widely respected member of his community is guilty of the things he was convicted of. He only sees the considerable amount of good Elon has done during his rabbinic career.  

What’s worse - this is not the only time Rabbi Druckman has made a bad mistake. He has defended another sex offender in the past. Although I do not necessarily agree with her feminist politics - former Takana forum member Ayelet Vider-Cohen is right and I can only echo what she said: 
"Rabbi Druckman has been questioned in the past by the attorney general for failing to handle and report sexual offenses committed by Rabbi Kopolevitch at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva," she said. "Unfortunately, he is pursuing a policy of covering for assaulters, throwing the students to the dogs. This act includes defamation of God and trampling on the victims' dignity." 
How is Rabbi Druckman all that different from the Satmar Rebbe? He saw Nechemya Weberman as someone who dedicated his life to dealing with Chasidic kids at risk. And in every other way, he was seen as an exemplary Chasidic Jew. To this day they still cannot believe all that he was accused and convicted of. And continue to proclaim his innocence. As does Rabbi Belsky about Yosef Kolko. As does Ger about Avrohom Mondrowitz.

What will it take to get these rabbinic leaders to realize just how much damage they do with these mistaken attitudes?