The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, December 08, 2006
The New York media is today reporting about the arrest of a Brooklyn rabbi on charges of child molestation. Reportedly rumors of abuse by this rabbi had been circulating for more than two decades. One can only hope that the legal justice system reaches the right result.
When I was in law school, a fellow student would express his fury whenever the subject of NCSY came up, but he would never elaborate. Then, a few years later, a longtime NCSY leader was charged in a Jewish Week report of abuse against NCSY members - including physical, verbal and sexual abuse. A report commissioned by the Orthodox Union was quite damning, indicating that many had known for years that, at the very least, something was amiss. Subsequently, the rabbi was charged with and convicted of sexual abuse toward female students at a school he was employed with.
Also while I was in law school, another fellow student told me that in a boys yeshiva high school, one student committed a sexual act against a younger student. The rabbis suggested some sort of counseling, and, according to my classmate, the perpetrator later got married and fathered children. He did not give me more details than that - and I am not even sure which school this allegedly occurred in.
Perhaps less reprehensibly, but nonetheless disturbingly, I was told about a rabbi who had a sexual relationship with a much younger woman. The relationship was probably consensual in the legal sense, but at the very least, this man has no business being a rabbi if the allegations are true. The person who told this to me heard it from the women allegedly involved, and asked me to promise (at the woman's request that it be kept quiet) that I would never specify details to anyone, and I therefore haven't and won't.
Sexual abuse is a far worse crime than physical abuse, and yet from my own experience with the latter - admittedly going back more than two decades - I fear that there is a knee jerk desire to keep things quiet.
On this blog 18 months ago, I wrote about my 6th grade rebbi, who "grabbed me, slammed my head and body against the wall and punched me repeatedly. This went on for quite a while. When he was done, he warned me not to tell my parents, or he would have me thrown out of the yeshiva." Two days later, when I told the school principal what happened, the principal's reaction "was to berate me for making false accusations against a rebbi, and he actually forced me to apologize to the rebbi. The rebbi was not fired and I went back to his classroom."
At the end of the school year, the rebbi left, and went to a chasidic yeshiva. I would like to think that I was his last victim, but have my doubts.
That was one of two severe beatings I encountered in my elementary school, and I can remember a number of other students being subjected to physical abuse.
Today, while the situation is surely not perfect, and I have heard that in chasidic schools these kinds of things still happen (albeit less frequently), I sense that parents are much more likely to serve as advocates for their children, and the schools are aware that there is zero tolerance for abuse.
It's relatively easy, however, to eradicate physical abuse in our schools. In the past, rebbis would simply beat students up in the hallway, as though that was an acceptable reaction to misconduct or mischief. For obvious reasons, when it comes to sexual abuse or impropriety, there are rarely third party witnesses, and it is difficult and perhaps impossible to differentiate between unfounded malicious rumors and clear evidence upon which action must be taken.
Nevertheless, in a society in which people are implored to consult rabbis about family planning, Internet use, and bugs in lettuce and water, it is time for our rabbinic leadership to provide guidelines so that the masses understand what the proper approach is in each situation involving allegations of abuse.
It is not okay, in contrast, for the rabbinic leadership to respond to allegations of abuse by sending the alleged perpetrator elsewhere.