Thursday, August 04, 2016

Victims (Survivors) of Abuse Come First

Four of the defendants (Ynet)
Everything I’ve ever heard about the Belzer Rebbe has been inspiring to me. I am not a Chasid, nor do I agree with the philosophy of Chasidus. But I still admire Chasdic Rebbes like the Belzer Rebbe. I recall that when Israel was attacked by Hamas rockets in 2014, The Belzer rebbe told students in the Belzer Yeshivos -  not to take summer vacations but instead continue learning Torah for the Zechus (merit) of the soldiers fighting in Gaza. I recall The Belzer rebbe being one of the first to visit soldiers injured in that war. 

The Rebbe is one of the biggest champions of Baalei Teshuva in the Torah world - having personally mentored many of them. Not to become Belzer Chasidm, but just to become observant... And at their own pace. Without any pressure. Once they become observant they are fully included and treated as though they were born observant. Unlike the way some observant Jews treat Baalei Teshuva as second class citizens.

This is not to say that I agree with everything he has said or done. But he certainly deserves universal recognition and praise for the things he’s done for Klal Yisroel.

Which makes a report in the different news sources so sad.  For the Belzer Rebbe, his Chasidim and for all religious Jewry. I truly regret trauma that the Belzer Rebbe and all of his Chasidim no doubt must be going through. Three different news sources, Ynet, Times of Israel, and the Forward have reported that six Belzer Mechanchim that teach at a Belz Talmud Torah in Tel Aviv have been being indicted for child abuse. 22 victims were allegedly abused.

The descriptions of that abuse as described are hard to read. And if true, students there can’t be blamed for referring to that school as Bergen-Belsen, the infamous Nazi Concentration Camp. From Ynet
According to the indictments, the offenses were allegedly committed over the course of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 against 22 complainants aged 3-10, who were taught by the defendants. During that time, the defendants committed daily physical and emotional violence against the students, which was characterized by cruelty, humiliation, and intimidation. 
I am not going to publish the details of that abuse as described in those news reports. They are just too sickening. 

5 of the 6 defendants are accused of physical and emotional cruelty. They have denied those charges and tried to explain them away in their individual contexts - calling some of those instances of cruelty - jokes! Well, it’s hardly a joke to the victims. They will no doubt be traumatized for a long time. These are the kind of ‘jokes’ that can easily lead a child to go OTD or worse, God forbid.

The sixth defendant, Avraham Mordechai Rosenfeld, is truly the sickest of them all.  If even half of what he is accused of is true, it makes him a real piece of human garbage. And exceedingly worthy of being called by the nickname of Rosenazi! 

He is accused of raping  these boys and  committing the some  of the most disgusting and vile acts of physical, emotional and spiritual damage one can imagine. To say that he is a sociopath is an understatement. If convicted, he should be put away for life! (If I understand correctly sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated.)

How he and his co-defendants were able go on like this for 11 years is a question that needs to be answered. I don’t know where the buck stops in that Cheder. But someone dropped the ball there. And I am being kind.

I don’t understand how that kind of cruelty could be hidden from administrators for so long. Surely they must have known about their school’s nickname of Bergen-Belsen. What possible motive can they have for ignoring it?

If it was to protect the reputation of that school… well that just follows a pattern of behavior that used to be the case in all schools – including non Jewish ones - and is now recognized as belonging to the ‘dark ages’. Perhaps this school still operates on the premise that protecting the school is more important than protecting the individual victims. If that’s the case, that school needs to close. What’s left of its reputation is not worth protecting in any case.

In any case, I can’t imagine the emotional pain these victims – or better survivors - must be going through. They deserve justice. The ultimate ‘buck’ in Belz  stops with the Rebbe. It is my sincere hope that the Belzer Rebbe’s reputation for caring about the welfare of every single Jew – regardless of how religious he is or not – is extended to these victims who are the children of his own Chasidim.

Now I’m sure that the Rebbe had absolutely no knowledge of what was going on at that school. But as the leader of the entire Belz Chasidus, I would think he feels responsible nonetheless… and makes sure that those boys get what they need to heal. And if I’m right about him, I’m sure he will.