|HaRav Malkiel Kotler, Rosh HaYeshiva of BMG|
A great injustice is ongoing in the Torah world. An injustice that should be upsetting to anyone who fears God no matter what slice of Judaism they belong to. It shouldn’t matter if you are Charedi, Modern Orthodox, or even Conservative or Reform. In fact it shouldn’t even matter if you are Jewish or not!
The story is unfortunately all too familiar and well known to the blog world. It involves a Charedi Jew who has been falsely vilified by his peers and former employers. Vilified because he reported to the police a man who sexually abused his son. I am not at liberty to reveal his name. But he is identified as Rabbi S.
Rabbi S was a member in good standing in the very Charedi world of Lakewood. He was widely respected there. He even gave a Chabura - a regular Talmudic lecture to advanced students at Beis Medrash Govoha (BMG more commonly referred to by its location in New Jersey as Lakewood).
He played by all the rules there. Not because he just wanted to get along… but because he believed in them. Even after suffering the trauma of his son being sexually abused. The accepted procedure there is to go to the rabbinic leaders who will decide whether it should be reported to the police. Whether or not this appropriate is beside the point I wish to make. Which is that he listened to his ‘Daas Torah’– even when I’m sure that every fiber in his body told him to go to the police right away.
Those rabbinic leaders told him not to go… but believed there may have been a problem and required that the accused abuser undergo therapy. At that point Rabbi S. did not report the abuse to the police. Under therapy the abuser admitted his guilt. But then after a session or two he stopped going thus violating the conditions under which he would not be reported. When Rabbi S found out about it, he went immediately to the police.
Long story short the accused was tried in court, admitted his guilt, and was convicted. – even though he recanted before his conviction saying he was pressured into admitting his guilt.
Rabbi S. was ‘thanked’ for his efforts with huge smear campaign. Prominent members of the Lakewood community publicly vilified him - in writing - as a Moser (someone who informs on a fellow Jew to the authorities). A Moser is about the lowest form of human being a Jew can be in these circles - not that Rabbi S actually was a Moser.
Adding to all this was Torah VoDaath Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. He publicly insisted that the abuser was innocent and that his accuser – Rabbi S was the true guilty party – implying that he sexually abused his own son! Rabbi Belsky has since denied that this is what he meant. But knowing the convicted abuser personally - he still maintains his innocence despite the admission of guilt.
Rabbi S was chased out of BMG and Lakewood. He has relocated to another city where he joined a Kollel and is being paid a small stipend… which is not really enough to provide for his family.
Since all this happened, a prominent signer of the above-mentioned vicious attack realized his error and publicly apologized to Rabbi S for his part in harassing him and family. I have also been told that Lakewood mashgiach, Rav Matisyahu Salomon (who was involved in the initial response to Rabbi S and the abuser) now regrets his part in it too and is quite agonized over it.
For their part - the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and the OU publically applauded the conviction of that abuser saying that justice was done.
Rabbi Belsky however remains intransigent. He is the Posek for the OU. The OU responded to criticism of Rabbi Belsky by saying that his job at the OU is secure and that he is entitled to his views – with which they disagree.
Rabbi Belsky is important to the OU – the largest Kashrus supervision agency in the world. He is widely respected by the right wing. His presence at the OU gives them credibility with the right. Which increases their prestige and wide acceptance of products they certify as Kosher.
The OU was not always respected this way. (One can see how badly disparaged they were in the early days of their existence in an article in today’s Forward by historian Jonathan Sarna.) They need Rabbi Belsky or someone like him to retain that respect in the now competitive world of Kashrus supervision. A billion dollar industry these days, if I am not mistaken.
I have also been told that Rabbi S asked his former bosses at BMG for his old job back. He was denied. Why he would want to go back there is beyond me. I would be running the other way and filing lawsuits for wrongful termination.
But that’s me. Rabbi S is a much kinder and braver person than I am and he is willing to overlook all that has been done to him and simply go back to work as a Marbitz Torah – a spreader of Torah. Here is a man whose son was violated in the worst way and by simply doing what was right in his eyes (and in the eyes of just about anybody with a sense of justice and compassion) and look what he got for it!
All this has been weighing very heavily on my mind recently. This man deserves a lot better than what he is getting. And there ought to be something done about it. If he wants his job back – he ought to get it. I don’t know how to put pressure on BMG to give it back to him. My impression is that they are impervious to pressure. And my guess is that they will push back strongly if it is applied.
But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried. There are a lot of people sitting this out for fear of repercussions. But that is not what courage is all about. I don’t know how many people in Lakewood read this blog. But I would love to see an uprising of protest by the very people that BMG serves. I’m talking about the students, Avreichim, and even faculty there. Petition the Roshei Yeshiva. Let them know that a great injustice is being done there and the world is watching. Let them know that their own students and faculty will not stand idly by and let it happen.
I realize that this will take a lot of courage since the likely response by BMG leaders will be to expel the protestors. I know that risk and fully understand if there are those who – fearing loss of livelihood - will not do it. But for those of you who have the courage to do it – it is the right thing to do.
I would also ask the OU to consider looking for another Posek of similar stature to Rabbi Beslky and replace him. I believe that Rabbi Beklsky’s intransigence in this issue - painting Rabbi S in evil terms is at least in part preventing BMG from rehiring Rabbi S. I would also ask the RCA many of whose rabbis work for the OU - to try and influence the OU to do the right thing.
I would also suggest that the survivor community stay out of this – since they are not going to influence BMG in any way – except to be further vilified by them.
I know that I am asking a lot of sacrifice from a lot of people. But something needs to be done or justice will remain perverted. If not now, when? If not me, who? If anyone has any other ideas please feel free to share them. Rabbi S needs to have both his job and reputation restored. That is the least BMG could do.