Thursday, June 09, 2022

The Enemy - is Denial

Left: Rabbi Uren Reich - Right: aftermath of Ger violence (VIN)
One of the things plaguing Ger these days is the war between factions. It makes Ger look pretty bad. The latest example of this war has brought out condemnations from many prominent Charedi personalities. 

Recently a fight broke out on Shabbos between the 2 factions . I don’t believe that anyone was seriously hurt but there was physical contact and blood was drawn. A Gerrer Chasid visiting from the US The son of R’ Avrohom Shor was hit in the head with a rock! (I believe he is OK.)

In what was an expression of outrage Rabbi Uren Reich said the following: 

(He) does not like when the term “Rasha” is used to loosely, because it loses its meaning. However when a Jew hits another Jew, he truly is a rasha, he is lashed in Bais Din, and does not count toward a minyan. 

Is this what Ger has become... a bunch of street thugs protecting their leader with violence?! 

I obviously agree with Rabbi Reich. But this is the least of Ger’s problems. If the following is true, it should have spelled the end of Ger as a movement. But they survived and are as big as ever – despite the current controversy between the Rebbe and his followers on one side  – and the Rebbe’s cousin and his followers on the other. It is about a story from December of 2019 that I was just made aware of. 

The short version is that years ago the Gerrer Rebbe’s son was accused of sexually molesting some of his students in one of Ger’s Yeshivos in Israel ‘Ner Israel’ (It is now closed and had no connection to the Yeshiva in Baltimore by the same name.) The victims were told to never discuss those accusation with anyone - on pain of swift expulsion from Ger and being told about the spiritual consequence of being hated by God – for even talking about it! To assure secrecy, they were also paid 300,000 NIS for their silence.

The Rebbe had been told about his son’s attempts to abuse those boys and he must have believed it since he had his son transferred to another school – all while publicly denying that it ever happened – and attacking anyone who said it did - as liars. 

This kind of cover-up activity is typical among religious institutions in the belief that if it ever got out it would hurt – not only the particular religious institution but the religion itself.

If there is one thing all religious institutions have in common, it is protecting their reputations. It doesn’t matter if they are Orthodox Jewish institutions or Roman Catholic ones. The desire is the same. Which one of the reasons cover-ups in a church, Shul, or school happen. And it explains the length to which their religious leaders go to cover it up - all while denying accusations when they occur.

It also explains why the Catholic Church kept the massive amount of sexual abuse by many priests quiet for so long – until they were exposed by investigative reporters in the Boston Globe. Hundreds of victims came forward to say they were abused in parishes all over the world. Since then many more victims have come forward exposing even more priests of sexual abuse. Some of them were even part of their Church hierarchy!  I believe moist of  those priests were defrocked, jailed or both. 

The Catholic Church - although shrinking - is nevertheless still  alive and well, despite these troubles. But until they were exposed they covered it all up in the belief the Church would be irreparably harmed by that kind of news.  

What about our religious institutions? It’s true that we have made a lot of progress. But I believe that cover-ups  still rule the day whenever possible. If Ger is any example - we have not yet reached the point of significant change needed to improve things. The reticence among some of our religious leaders - (even those outside of Ger) to report abuse to the police is an indication of that. 

While these particular leaders explain that the reason for keeping accusations on the down low is for purposes of protecting innocent people from false allegations of abuse, I think it is just as reasonable to assume it is also to protect the reputation of the institutions they are involved with... and even Judaism itself. I was recently reminded of that motive when many years ago a prominent religious leader told a group of educators that even if allegations of sexual abuse in one of their schools was true, it should be swept under the rug for fear it would  destroy Jewish education – and perhaps even Judaism as we know it. 

While that attitude is generally no longer the case, I believe not reporting abuse directly to the police is in part subliminal due to that fear.  

Which brings me back to Rabbi Reich and others who expressed outrage at the physical altercations between factions of Ger Chasidus. I do not recall any outrage expressed by Rabbi Reich or any other rabbinic personality of his stature reacting with the same sense of outrage when this news came out 3 years ago. Where was the concern for the welfare of the victims who were brave enough to come forward? Victims that continue to suffer many years after the abuse?

Well, I am outraged by the cover-ups as much as the abuse itself. Sexual criminals are sick usually people who cannot control their urges and act upon them when given the opportunity. Is some cases they are just sociopaths that could not care less about their victims. In other cases they might have a conscience and eve express remorse at what they did. My understanding is that there is no treatment for them that would be successful for them to overcome their urges. So they will continue their opportunistic abuse. 

The people that cover it up, however, are not sick. They are trusted leaders that in most cases guide their people well – according to the tenets of their  beliefs.

I think they even believe their own rhetoric about protecting innocent people from false allegations.  But that some religious leaders such as those in Ger bend over backwards to cover-up abuse is obviously the case. To the best of my knowledge they still  deny that the heir to the throne of Ger is s sexual abuser. 

Is it possible that one day the Gerrer Rebbe will be a serial sexual abuser?! I guess it is.

One of the consequences of this whole thing is that innocent Ger Chasidm will suffer - through no fault of their own. I know quite a few Ger Chasidim that are among the finest human beings I have even known. They would literally give you the shirt off their backs if they sensed you needed it.  They will go to the ends of the earth to help a fellow Jew. That these Chasidm will be tainted by the current controversies is unfair to them and it makes me sad.

But the people that will suffer the most are the victims and their families. with an attitude that sgtill in many ways clings to  covering things up whenever posssible - it means that wide spread sexual abuse will continue.

Unfortunately, I don’t think sex abuse will ever be completely eradicated. This  Mental disorder will always be around. Sexual deviancy is mostly untreatable. But that doesn't mean we should just sit back and do nothing.

There has to be a unified and concerted effort on the part of all of Orthodoxy to prevent it as much as possible and to make sure that when it does happen it isn't covered up. Denial is our biggest enemy in this regard. 

Prevention of sexual abuse - and justice for the victims should be the primary goal of all of our religious leaders. Until that happens there will be unnecessary suffering among far too many of us.  If we can't fully stop it, we can surely make a big dent in it  Reducing it to the lowest possible number will then spare countless numbers of future souls from becoming victims themselves.