Friday, February 05, 2016

Sorting Through The Rubble - The Message Is Clear!

The UOJ Vault - June 2009 - 1,324,564 Views

Don't take my word for it!

Don't believe a word I say - unless I can logically and factually back it up. And the same goes for anyone with a message, any message from any messenger. It's either true and can be established, or it's hyperbole and rabble-rousing by clown-type imbeciles, costume and all, with nothing else to say but "trust me", I know what's best for you, your children and everyone that I/we deem a Torah-true Jew.

This has been the mindset for at least two decades, certainly since the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky z"tvkl. And Rav Yaakov saw this era coming, the era of Yiddishkeit being distorted and shredded by people with absolutely no sense of reality, and the lack of understanding and caring that what was good for the individual, the yachid - was good for the klal - the masses --- and not the other way around.

So, if thousands of kids were herded through a flawed yeshiva system, a system that did NOT care for the individual child, but rather thrived on numbers, and raised funds based upon being the "biggest" yeshiva, with great numbers of kids in their system, the individual - mostly regular great kids, very normal kids that needed unconditional love and attention, would get lost in the shuffle.

Rav Yaakov understood that, Rav Elya Svei did not. The Lakewood gang did not and we are now paying the price; thousands of families that were emotionally forced to engage in this fraud called kollel, are now poverty stricken, and a great deal of them, their parents, and their children paid with their souls. This community induced poverty was a desperate attempt by the Establishment to reel in the masses under the control of a few. If you need organizations and yeshivas to sustain you and your family, who would bite the hand that feeds you?

Entire families are disenchanted with Judaism, not just children. I guess the Agudath Israel can now develop a new government sponsored program -- call it Project NO - and have it headed by one of their own, someone who talks the talk, walks the walk, but when it comes down to the underlying failures of the program, for the inability to comprehend and address the real issues, old and new, he will toe the line of the establishment, rather than standing up for the brutal reality, and those victimized and re-victimized.

It was not that long ago when an acquaintance of mine, a true ben Torah with a large family living in Lakewood, took a chainsaw, and decapitated himself. Other contemporaries of mine have confided in me that they despise what has become of them, and hate waking up in the morning. They have been totally neutered, by them having to rely on their wives supporting them, and regularly signing documents to enable them to receive Welfare in one form or another.

A bright high school buddy of mine died oh so young, by intentionally destroying his body with food and alcohol and God knows what else he consumed to put himself out of his misery. He was not a flunky kindergarten rebbe, he founded and headed a large school.

Another former yeshiva friend, was instructed by his rosh yeshiva to go on a taanit dibbur, stop speaking entirely, until he purged himself from his inclination to gossip and speak loshon hara. He cracked up and spent years in a mental institution. He lives in Lakewood, the last I heard was that he is permanently emotionally disabled.

These are not isolated cases, there are countless horror stories similar to the above that I am aware of.

My educated and informed guess is that Shua Finkelstein in Lakewood put himself out of his misery, because the Lakewood Mafia protected his molester. His molester is part of a family that donates large sums of money to Lakewood - Beth Medrash Govoha. The Lakewood philosophy of dealing with child-abusers in a "respectful and dignified" fashion, in my opinion, played no small role in Shua's death.

It is no coincidence in my mind, that David "Fifi" Zahler, who over the last years developed a close relationship with Moshe Eisemann on the Ner Israel campus in Baltimore, intentionally jumped to his death. Nobody dares to say this publicly, that's why I will.

The System is broken, it collapsed under its own fraudulent weight; the evidence surrounds and envelops you, but you refuse, or are too petrified to deal with this reality!

"Once we could say we didn’t know. Now we know." Borrowing from David Zwiebel's "confession" -- David, we now know as well, you and your organization, Agudath Israel, are pitifully corrupt and morally inept, nobody should be trusting any important life and death issue to you and your cohorts! And that's believing for a brief moment that in fact you now know because you really know or because you were "forced" to know, rather than choose to know. In either case, evidence of sexual child-abuse in Orthodox Jewish schools and camps has been festering out there for some fifty years, including in your own summer camp and in hundreds of your directly affiliated schools, and yet you did nothing to protect these violated children, and did everything to protect the vile child sex-abusers and the criminal, despicable rabbis that protected them.

You all have lost any moral authority on this issue -- and worse, you all deserve to be held criminally negligent and responsible for the thousands of troubled lives and God only knows how many related, self-destroyed lives by children who could no longer bear the pain.

So, I'll have none of your continued lies; when I chose to dig deep into the authenticity of what else you and the likes of you were selling; I became aware of the extent of your involvement in covering up these unspeakable crimes, and I, to my horror, discovered that except for a handful, the rest of you are petty, conniving, mind-thieves without a scintilla of a moral conscience.

The message is so apparent -- none of these rabbis should be able to dictate to you what's in your best interest -- because they are destroying our Jewish heritage to cover up their own crimes, where "d'racheha darchei noam" should be first and foremost; instead they are damning our children and ultimately us, all of us, to an unsustainable and self-destructive life that is causing misery and desperation to the vast majority of Orthodox Jews. We must set up a bulwark that will prevent the espousing of misery as a way of life, foolproof systems of protecting our children, in and out of yeshivas, from those that would destroy them by enfeebling their minds with their self-manufactured religious rubbish, and not protecting their physical and emotional well-being that were entrusted to their care; that not only is the antithesis of everything Jewish, but it is anti-Jewish!

Rabbis and their underlings, that would protect pedophiles and their enablers at the expense of our children and our families -- whether the crime occurred yesterday or forty years ago, must be treated as amongst the greatest enemies that ever faced the Jewish nation.

These rabbis stand stark naked before us -- and it is ugly! They must be taken down!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Let there be no illusions – the campaign to end the scourge of sexual abuse is as pertinent for the Jewish community as it is within all of our society.....

 Chief Rabbi Mirvis: I salute the bravery of sexual abuse victims who speak out
by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Chief Rabbi Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Mirvis

IT’S SEXUAL abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week across the UK – the first of its kind, aiming to generate a frank and necessary public conversation about a crime as old as the taboo that has, shamefully, protected it. It is a poor reflection on our society that such an awareness week is necessary. Sadly, it is.

Sexual violence and abuse are among the most insidious of evils, with devastating lifelong consequences.

Let there be no illusions – the campaign to end the scourge of sexual abuse is as pertinent for the Jewish community as it is within all of our society.
The Torah links the way we speak to others, to the prohibition of being an inactive bystander: “You may not go about as a talebearer among your people; neither may you stand idly by the blood of your neighbour” (Leviticus 19:16).

The inference here is that just as harmful speech can sometimes be a killer, so too can silence. If keeping quiet has the effect of allowing others to be victims of cruelty, there is an obligation to speak out against a perpetrator, regardless of the implications on his or her reputation. 

The Talmud, based on this verse, defines the role of the bystander in the following way: “One may not stand idly by while others are in danger. One should exhaust all means to rescue people from rape, drowning, attack by criminals or attacks by animals. Until the victim has been fully extricated from the dangerous predicament, the obligation still obtains.” (Sanhedrin 73a). There is no doubt that this unequivocally denotes a responsibility to prevent a child abuser from destroying lives, now and in the future.

 Our sages further teach us that in such a situation, one should not wait until summoned. Rather, if one is in possession of relevant evidence one must come forward voluntarily in order to “destroy the evil from your midst”.

In recent years, we have achieved a great deal. Debate about whether to involve statutory authorities where cases of abuse are identified, is all but over.

Support is now readily available for victims of abuse. Training for rabbis and rebbetzens, certainly for United Synagogue communities, is better than it has ever been and our procedures and policy documents are constantly under review. Yet, there is still so much more work to do.
Our community is blessed with countless rabbis, teachers, leaders, parents and family members who epitomise all that is good about Judaism and are forever deserving of our reverence and veneration.

But in this context, when we encounter shameful exceptions to the rule, we have a responsibility to recognise how difficult it can be for victims of abuse to come forward and share their experiences.

While all around you are conferring praise and respect upon someone in (or close to) the family or a prominent member of the community, how can you possibly even begin to report them for committing such a terrible crime? Even if you try to speak up, will anyone really be inclined to hear your story?

Let the message go out that we will receive victims of abuse with warmth and sensitivity and create a culture of support for them right across our communities. Neither stature nor reputation should be a barrier to our willingness to report or comprehensive investigation.

Perpetrators of these crimes, particularly those who have sought to hide within the infrastructure of the Jewish community, have desecrated the name of God and destroyed lives. Their actions often steal innocence and betray trust and are among the very worst crimes that can be committed.

I salute the bravery of those victims who have found the courage to speak out and hope that their example might give others the strength to do the same.

Many campaigners have made it their life’s mission to tackle this problem and we are indebted to them for that invaluable work.

We must not stand idly by the blood of our neighbours.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

We must make sure that such a person will never again be in a position to repeat such offenses. It is therefore not enough to fire the perpetrator from his (or her) work place: it is both the organization’s and society’s duty to make sure that the crimes are known and punished....

Mishpatim – Judaism Abhors Child Abuse

Just after the giving of the Law at Sinai, the Torah presents us with an assortment of laws, some criminal, some civil and some purely religious.

The civil laws in our Torah portion this week, Mishpatim, regulate how we act with one another. 

They must have been of immediate, practical use, even in the desert; they dealt with slavery, mayhem, and stealing, among other sins. Even more basic are the foundational principals of justice – some explicit and some implicit, but clear in their meaning. The Torah is clear about equality. No one is above the law. Individuals of all stations in life and society must be treated equally. It does not matter if they are of high rank or not. It is of no concern whether they are men, women or small children: the law is equal to all of them.

These laws are as relevant today as they were in ancient times. Mishpatim makes clear, for example, that Judaism abhors the abuse of children.

As the Torah well understands, child molestation is an ancient vice. It has become much more widely discussed because of several recent scandals, mostly in religious institutions.

There are some objective reasons why such things happen quite often in religious institutions. 

Children are taught and trained to be obedient and to accept their elders as authorities – which makes it so much more difficult for them to resist abuse or to report it. Unfortunately there is no sex education in some of the schools; nor is the subject discussed in some homes. So when something like this happens, it takes time for a child to understand it and even more than that – to talk about it.

Child molestation almost always causes enormous, multi-level damage to the victim's soul: it may make the victim unable to form healthy relationships. They may lose trust in people, because the molesters are often those who were supposed to be their caretakers and protectors.

It should also be stressed over and over again that this crime of child molestation is not just a civil offense: it is also a very severe religious crime. Under Jewish law, it may even deserve capital punishment. Offenders may also be liable for the most severe punishment of karet (untimely death by the hands of the Almighty).

It is important to say all that because there is a tendency to cover up such incidents, especially in institutions, and sometimes even to protect the perpetrators. Partly this is so because those in charge are often more in touch with the molester – who may be a colleague or a friend – than with the children. This is especially the case since children hardly ever express their hurt. And, of course, institutions do not want their reputations to be harmed.

The first and foremost duty of any educational institution, and the prime responsibility of its heads and leaders, is to be rid of anyone who causes such great harm. Good reputation or personal friendships must by no means stand in the way of investigation and clean-up.

We must make sure that such a person will never again be in a position to repeat such offenses. It is therefore not enough to fire the perpetrator from his (or her) work place: it is both the organization’s and society’s duty to make sure that the crimes are known and punished.

As Mishpatim reminds us, no one is above the law.  Child molestation is not a local problem; seemingly, it has been with us for millennia. Our duty is to diminish, even eradicate, this evil as much as humanly possible.

Rabbi Steinsaltz, who lives in Jerusalem, is a teacher, philosopher and author who has translated the Talmud into Hebrew and English. 

Read more:  http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/mishpatim-judaism-abhors-child-abuse#pxq2a2xlipZso0yD.99

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

One of the two rabbinical leaders of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect of Hasidim is due to visit Israel bearing cash for anti-draft yeshivas that boycott IDF draft notices...

Satmar rabbi to visit Israel with money for army draft opponents


Zalman Leib Teitelbaum asks for lists of students hurt at anti-draft protests and of yeshivas boycotting first call-up 

One of the two rabbinical leaders of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect of Hasidim is due to visit Israel bearing cash for anti-draft yeshivas that boycott IDF draft notices, and for ultra-Orthodox students injured or beaten during anti-draft protests.

Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, who has tens of thousands of followers in the US, is due for a 24-hour visit for a family celebration. He has called for a list of yeshivas whose directors refuse to comply with Israel Defense Forces draft orders, Channel 2 reported. Many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas allow their students to go to army induction centers to go through the process of applying for deferments, which eventually become exemptions. 

In a letter to yeshiva heads, Teitelbaum has also asked for the names of yeshiva students who have suffered injuries in anti-draft protests.

Both groups are to benefit from a fund at the rabbi’s disposal.

Jerusalem police on Tuesday arrested six ultra-Orthodox Israelis demonstrating in the capital against the detention of two Haredi men who failed to show up at the army induction center to enlist.
In December, thousands of Haredi protesters demonstrated against the draft. Several protesters clashed with police, who in turn sprayed tear gas at the rioters.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory national service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.

Reforms passed in the Knesset in 2014 that sought to do away with the exemptions and gradually increase ultra-Orthodox recruitment met fierce opposition from many in the community.

Rabbinic leaders of the community view military service as a threat to their way of life.

In late November 2015, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Equal Service Law that dramatically rolled back the 2014 reforms and scrapped collective penalties imposed if annual quotas for ultra-Orthodox draftees were not met.

A number of ultra-Orthodox recruits have been disowned by their families and ultra-Orthodox soldiers often complain of harassment and violence by community members.


Jerusalem - Just hours before the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, was due to land in Tel Aviv in order to visit with his Chasidim and to celebrate his grandson’s wedding, a newspaper columnist issued a call to ban the Rebbe from the country.

As the leader of a large and influential Chasidic sect in America, the Satmar Rebbe brings with him large sums of money that will be donated to groups that oppose Zionism and the Chareidi draft.  Others who have close ties to Satmar have taken part in anti-Semitic demonstrations in America against Israel.

The Satmar Rebbe has paid 100,000 NIS to any yeshiva whose talmidim abstain from voting in our elections and he has prevented the emigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel, preferring instead that they remain in Yemen, in danger, or that they be relocated to the United States.

Because of this it is fitting to deport the Satmar Rebbe back to the United States.  It is important for everyone who cares about the past and the future of the Jewish nation, no matter if they are on the right or the left, to come out and to demonstrate against this great enemy of the State of Israel, who comes to our country and will use his own Chasidim, who live here among us, against us.​ 


Monday, February 01, 2016

Still, the walls of the ultra-Orthodox ghetto have been breached and thousands are pouring out, much the way the Jews of Germany, Austria and Hungary did when their own ghetto walls fell between the times of Moshe Sofer and Herzl....

WITH ORGANS installed in synagogues, German inserted into prayer books, Jewish scholars disowning the messiah, and Jewish schools teaching history, philosophy and math, a flabbergasted Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) ruled: “All that is novel is forbidden from the Torah.”Two centuries on, ultra-Orthodoxy’s resistance of religious change remains as fierce as it was when its revered founder consecrated the slogan that still remains its emblem, rallying cry and mission statement. However, in the war that his successors initiated generations later – the war on Zionism – ultra-Orthodoxy is in the throes of a grand retreat.

The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) war was declared the morning after Zionist prophet Theodor Herzl published in 1896 his own mission statement, “The Jewish State,” the platform for the Jews’ political resurrection, which most rabbis rejected as blasphemy.

On the Hasidic end, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneersohn (1860-1920) ruled that even if the Zionists had been observant, and “even if there had been room to believe they will achieve their aim,” observant Jews “should not listen to them” because the Talmud forbade the Jews to undo their exile, and a Jew’s hope is that “our redemption will be brought about by God himself.”

Anti-Hasidic sages went a step further and ordered their followers to boycott Zionism.

Jews must avoid “connecting with what amounts to religion’s destruction and an obstacle to the house of Israel,” wrote Lithuanian sage Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, while the chief rabbi of Lodz, Eliyahu Meisel, wrote that “anyone with God’s fear in his heart shall distance himself from them [the Zionists], will not walk with them, and will keep his legs from their paths.”

One hundred and twenty years on, a Hasid is a minister in the Zionist government; thousands of ultra-Orthodox men serve in the Zionist army and a plethora of ultra-Orthodox colleges lead thousands into the Zionist state’s economic beehive and social mainstream.

Reform Judaism, which also originally opposed Zionism claiming the Jews had already been redeemed when Europe emancipated them, humbly changed its mind after Hitler’s rise to power, and in 1937 formally adopted the Zionist idea.

Ultra-Orthodoxy delivered no such note of surrender; not after Hitler’s rise to power, not after the Holocaust, not after Israel’s establishment, and not even after the 1967 Six Day War, which other religious Jews interpreted as proof that Zionism was God’s will.

Addressing his followers in the summer of 1967, Lithuanian-born and Bnei Brak-based Haredi leader Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach (1899-2001) accused a victory-drunk Israel of having “completely deviated from the manner and the course in which we have walked throughout our exile.”

Like the rabbis of Herzl’s time, he still saw in Zionism a reincarnation of Judaism’s great messianic trauma, the Shabtai Tzvi affair, when most rabbis accepted a 17th century Ottoman Jew as the messiah only to eventually see him convert to Islam.

Moreover, Shach resented the very marriage of Jews and power. Recalling longingly the days when the Jews were “one sheep among 70 wolves,” the Haredi sage claimed that the newly warring Jews had suddenly emerged as “the arbiter between the wolves.”

Alarmed by the euphoria about him, Shach reiterated ultra-Orthodoxy’s original dismissal of the Zionist quest to transform the Jews into an active nation. “Things have turned around,” he said lamentingly, “and the people of Israel enters a situation whereby it is a factor among the nations, and who knows what this situation’s results might be.”

Unimpressed with Israel’s military victory, he preached, “There is neither redemption nor the beginning of redemption here… we remain in exile, which remains as bitter as it ever was.” The Torah, he noted on another occasion, was given in the desert. “We didn’t have the Land of Israel then, or ‘territories,’ yet we were an eternal nation.”

That, in brief, was the mindset with which a bloodied, minuscule and humbled Haredi community struggled to build itself in the shadows of the Zionist enterprise that its founders derided as heresy.

The result would be an improbable journey into a joint future, a political voyage and social odyssey during which Israeli ultra- Orthodoxy grew in numbers, space and sway until its formula of accommodation with the Jewish state became the victim of its own success.

Numbering hardly 30,000 in 1948, the young Jewish state’s Haredi community was on the defensive – ideologically, socially and politically.

Ideologically, it had to explain its thinkers’ failure to see the approach of calamity, a rabbinical blindness that contrasted Zionism’s foresight and was morbidly symbolized in the Warsaw Ghetto’s last Seder. Held with the Zionist-led uprising’s fire exchanges already audible outside, the Seder was led by Rabbi Eliezer Meisel, one of the ghetto’s last deportees to Auschwitz and grandson of Rabbi Eliyahu Meisel, who had boycotted Zionism.

In addition to this moral burden, Israel Orthodoxy had to rehabilitate from the Holocaust’s blow to its demographics and reach an accord with the Jewish state that would somehow help its restoration in the shadows of Zionism’s victory and demands.

THE HOLOCAUST was explained away as God’s will. “There is an account in all this,” said Shach in a sermon titled “And a Storm Rages.” God, he explained, “conducted a one-on-one account, a long account spanning centuries until the account accumulated to six million Jews, and that is how the Holocaust happened. That is what a Jew should believe, and if a Jew is not wholesome in this faith then he is a heretic.”

While Zionists, both secular and observant, dismissed this narrative of guilt as escapist and denialist, all ended up saluting ultra-Orthodoxy’s political maneuvering opposite the Jewish state. Launched unassumingly in 1948, it was based on the formula that was revolutionized in 1977 and is now coming undone.

The undeclared aim was to restore the proverbial ghetto, where thick and tall social walls would keep rabbinical authority unquestioned and modernity’s temptations at bay.

The key to such social resignation lay in the Jewish state’s leading social welder – the army. If Haredi men joined the army, they might cease to be ultra-Orthodox. If exempted, their distinctiveness would be preserved and, in fact, deepened.

Haredi rabbis, therefore, met with David Ben-Gurion while the War of Independence was still raging and requested that the IDF not conscript their young men. Hitler, they said, burned Europe’s network of Talmudic academies and they were out to rebuild it. Though himself a deeply secular man, Ben-Gurion was moved by the argument and agreed to grant deferments from military service. He had, however, some conditions.

First, he extended only 400 deferments, which even in 1948 was but a fraction of one percent of the newborn IDF’s 115,000 conscripts. Second, Ben-Gurion demanded that the undrafted indeed study Torah, as the rabbis said they would.

It was a modest beginning, memorably animated by Ben-Gurion’s meeting four years later with the ultra-Orthodox leader of the time, Avraham Karelitz, better known as “the Hazon Ish,” or “a man’s vision,” as he titled one of his books of Talmudic exegesis.

Unlike subsequent meetings between secular and Haredi leaders, that one was not about political horse trading. Initiated by the intellectually curious Ben-Gurion, it was about ideas. “If two camels meet on a narrow path,” said the rabbi, “one burdened with a cargo and the other carrying no cargo, the one without cargo is supposed to make way for the one with the cargo.”

Borrowed from a Talmudic ruling, the parable’s moral was that those not burdened by the demands of Jewish law should make way for those who choose to bear this burden.

Though insulted by the comparison, and though later noting that the rabbi had no recipe for a Jewish state’s attitude toward freedom of conscience, Ben-Gurion left intact his deal with the ultra-Orthodox. The ghetto’s slow but steady construction now proceeded unopposed. By 1968, the 400- man quota had doubled, and by 1977, an aggregate 25,000 Haredi men had already avoided full military service since Israel’s establishment.

This social nucleus of the emerging ghetto incubated in the secluded neighborhoods where the ultra-Orthodox lived with their rabbis close to their schools, yeshivas and shops. This self-segregation was further cemented by the men’s failure to acquire vocations, in line with their commitment to spend their time studying Torah, all of which reduced to a minimum their daily contact with the rest of society.

Economically, since breadwinning was left to the women, who in turn worked mostly as underpaid teachers, ultra- Orthodox households soon counted among the country’s poorest.

This formula, of maximum piety alongside minimum livelihood, service and social integration, allowed ultra-Orthodoxy’s growth during the early years. By the Six Day War, major Hasidic groups like Gur and Belz, which were decimated in the Holocaust, were back on their feet, while Shach’s Ponevezh Yeshiva, the Harvard of ultra- Orthodoxy, had already produced a generation of Israel-born Talmudic scholars.

By the mid-70s, there already were some 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis, representing a more confident community, but still one on the social margins where it might have remained but for a political earthquake that rattled the outside world, and whose many aftershocks included an offer that ultra-Orthodoxy’s politicians could not refuse.

The earthquake was Labor’s loss of power in 1977, and the offer that came from the winner of that seminal election, the Likud’s Menachem Begin, was as simple as it was sincere: unlimited draft deferments, generous budgets and senior government positions in return for a long-term alliance between ultra-Orthodoxy and the right.

Ultra-Orthodoxy embraced the deal that became a pillar of the political order, unaware that from the viewpoint of its founders’ war on Zionism it would prove a Faustian bargain.

The upside, from the Haredi viewpoint, was that what began with an annual 400 draft deferments quickly mushroomed to thousands, while government funds flowed directly into the budgets of yeshivas, seminaries, elementary schools and kindergartens, and assorted tax breaks and incentives helped ultra-Orthodox households increase their available income.

MOREOVER, THE deal included unprecedented power, highlighted by an ultra- Orthodox politician’s appointment as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.

Hoping to stick to its guns in its war on Zionism, ultra-Orthodoxy avoided taking cabinet positions ‒ benefitting from the Zionist enterprise was one thing; legitimizing and accepting responsibility for its actions was another. And so, the original formula of minimum service for maximum piety made way for what critics now derided as maximum authority for minimum responsibility.

At the same time, Haredi women were bearing more than twice as many babies as secular women while their households were developing a dependency on the state’s child allowances, which, thanks to formulas concocted by ultra-Orthodox politicians, could reach a monthly $2,000 for a family with 10 kids. This was besides a plethora of budget transfers and tax breaks custom-tailored for Haredi beneficiaries.

By the turn of the century, the annual number of ultra-Orthodox men avoiding full IDF service had crossed 7,000 ‒ enough to man two combat brigades.

Besides provoking the middle class, where many felt they were financing a celebration of draft-dodging and voluntary unemployment, this arrangement also perverted the Jewish tradition that, while cherishing lifelong study, had never financed it for more than a select few.

It was an anomaly that had to explode, and it did.

The first setback to the formula of 1977 came in 1999, when ultra-Orthodoxy’s political deal fueled the rise of a political party dedicated to this formula’s eradication.

Led by outspoken journalist Tommy Lapid, it won six Knesset seats that year, and 15 four years later.

Lapid’s electoral success both expressed and fanned popular anger in the middle class that serves in the army, fuels the economy, pays taxes and feeds the budget that, in his view, ultra-Orthodoxy abused.

While this electoral dynamic pressured the ghetto walls from outside, economics would pressure them from within following new legislation in 2002.

With the Treasury fearing that the budget would soon be unable to finance the growing number of non-working Haredi men, a bill written by a public panel allowed ultra-Orthodox men to go to work at age 23 in return for shortened military service.

On the face of it, this acceptance of reduced service further bolstered Haredi privilege, as Lapid indeed charged and the Supreme Court later agreed, prompting the Knesset to rewrite what is known as the “Tal Law,” named after its formulator, Justice Tzvi Tal. Yet, this legislation signaled to ultra-Orthodoxy that its deal had exhausted itself: if their community were to survive, its men would have to work.

The following year, the 1977 deal was dealt its most devastating blow when Ariel Sharon left the ultra-Orthodox out of his coalition ‒ the first time the right had done such a thing. The long-term deal signed with Begin proved to have an expiration date, and it had arrived.

Faced with a harsh recession, Sharon and his finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, cut in half the child allowances that had become central in many ultra-Orthodox families’ livelihoods. Prodded by Lapid, who was now deputy prime minister, they also trimmed government funding for yeshivas and other Haredi causes.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians felt choked.

With 65 percent of ultra-Orthodox males unemployed and their average income less than half that of the rest of the population, Haredi rabbis realized they needed a new deal with the Jewish state.

The ideal of non-work was, therefore, quietly abandoned. Ultra-Orthodox vocational schools began to sprout in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, initially training plumbers, mechanics, electricians and nurses, and then spreading to computer engineering, accounting and law.

A decade after the passage of the Tal Law, 12 mainstream universities and colleges were offering special programs in which 7,000 students were enrolled and 8,000 had already graduated. It has since become a groundswell. Last year, the Council for Higher Education reported that 9,000 ultra-Orthodox students were studying for an undergraduate degree, following the previous year’s 8,300.

At the same time, the IDF opened special units for ultra-Orthodox men, who increasingly realize that proper military service is the best entry ticket into the workplace.

What began with a lone infantry battalion, soon became three, and then spread to the air force and navy where former yeshiva students are now mechanics; to intelligence, where they became analysts; to computers, where they became programmers; and to human resources, where they became personnel clerks.

Last year, a record 2,400 ultra-Orthodox men enlisted out of 8,000 called, and the numbers keep rising. Meanwhile, the Israel Police last year trained and hired 15 ultra- Orthodox criminal investigators. This is besides the hundreds who are doing National Service at first aid stations, old age homes, hospitals and charities.

Most symbolically, following a Supreme Court ruling that deputy ministers cannot function as de facto ministers, ultra- Orthodoxy’s Council of Sages approved its senior politician, Yaakov Litzman’s acceptance of a full cabinet membership as Health Minister.

The rabbis’ longstanding refusal to let their representative swear allegiance to the Zionist government and to become responsible for its deeds – was thus abandoned, reflecting the steady retreat from the historic formula of maximum authority and minimum responsibility.

This is not to say, however, that the previous reality is now history.

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis still live in separate neighborhoods; most Haredi men still don’t serve, work or study to acquire a profession; some in the units the IDF opened for them are not fully ultra-Orthodox; the laws that ease Haredi men into the workforce are still unfair to the rest of the population and remain a political bone of contention; ultra-Orthodox schools still refuse to teach a core curriculum of secular studies; and a hard core of diehard fanatics is fighting to uphold ultra-Orthodoxy’s seclusion.

Still, the walls of the ultra-Orthodox ghetto have been breached and thousands are pouring out, much the way the Jews of Germany, Austria and Hungary did when their own ghetto walls fell between the times of Moshe Sofer and Herzl.

Back then, it took hardly two generations before the newly freed Jews became lawyers, doctors, dentists, scientists, publishers, journalists, bankers, and tycoons.

The same process is underway in Israel – the Zionist creation where more than half a million ultra-Orthodox Jews now speak no language other than the Hebrew that Zionism revived; the Jewish state where thousands of ultra-Orthodox men now hold rifles and swear on the Bible that they are prepared to die in its defense; the Jewish state where Haredi young adults increasingly mesh daily in the workplace with the secular majority; the Jewish state where every Sunday morning a broad-bearded Gur Hasid removes his fedora while taking his seat around the cabinet table and joining the business of realizing what started off as Theodore Herzl’s dream and most rabbis’ nightmare.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The “Ultra” approach worked for a while but it won’t anymore, and the problem is there is no ready alternative available. The mild American version of Haredism is really just parasitic on the Israeli version, and has it’s own fatal weaknesses....

On the alleged collapse of Haredism

Channel 10 news has come under a lot of fire recently (mainly from Haredi media figures) for airing a series of video segments entitled “Haredim: Disintegration”, in which their Haredi affairs correspondent (yup, that’s a thing, and rightly so) Avishai Ben Chaim lays out his contention that Haredi society is in the midst of a great collapse. In the first episode of the series the controversial claim is made that 1 in every 10 people who are in the Haredi education system at age 15 are leaving the fold later in life. This figure has been challenged on statistical grounds and the usual kind of debate has followed.

There is some confusion over what is meant by becoming not Haredi (it seems that it includes people who remain observant, so that would kind of include me). After the second episode aired, the Channel 10 anchor even mentioned a previous series they had aired which covered how demographic trends in Israel very much favor the Haredim. Some Haredi media figures have complained bitterly that Ben-Haim completely misunderstands what Haredi life is actually like, while some have congratulated him for saying what everyone’s been thinking for years. 

I don’t really know what to make of the actual numbers and don’t find it particularly interesting, but I live in a Haredi neighborhood and have many Haredi friends, and my feeling from the ground is that the general trends that Ben Haim is talking about are very strong, and spreading. There is a great deal of jadedness among young people here. In addition to the people actually leaving observance, there are many others seriously questioning their Haredi beliefs and way of life.

There is also much talk about a shadowy group of people referred to as “החרדים האנוסים”, “the Haredi Marranos”, meaning people who continue to live a completely Haredi lifestyle outwardly, but have lost any belief in God and Judaism. This is all actually happening and is significant, whatever the exact numbers. I think that the collapse of the Haredi world is inevitable as it faces Historical forces much more powerful than even it’s own high and much-fortified walls.

 Haredism is essentially a reactionary over-correction.

When the ghetto walls started coming down in the 18th century, traditional Judaism rightly recognized an existential threat. So it developed an intensely anti-modern ideology. But I mean more than this. The aspect of modernity that so frightened and disgusted the rabbis of the time, the thing that got such a primal rise out of the religious establishment, is the modern tendency toward relativism. They saw the world moving towards a society where anything goes, to an ideology that claims that there is no objective reality to transcendent non-physical things, no absolute standards for goodness or beauty, no moral difference between cultures, and no actual ultimate meaning and purpose to anything.

To counter this an ultra-Orthodox culture developed, where everything is thrown into stark relief as either black or white. Where absolutely all aspects of life, from the most exalted religious duties to the most mundane trivialities of daily existence, is either done the right way or the wrong way. A world of hyper-absolutism, demanding (at least in theory) a total commitment of one’s time and efforts. This culture has been quite successful, with some stops and starts, and has reached it’s crowning glory in the past 30 years or so, as it has cemented it’s place as the gold standard for what observant Judaism should look like.

Humans (I firmly believe) need to have purpose. They need to feel that it is possible to get closer to truth and transcendence. Frankly, we need this more than anything. So the Haredi mindset holds great charm for people who are looking to find something worth dedicating themselves to. It certainly held great charm for me when I was in my 18-21 years old reckless-idealistic phase.

But there is a downside to all this. Beyond the fact that the lifestyle has become increasingly non-functional financially, the Haredi mindset is extremely vulnerable to outside influences. It presents a world where not only everything is absolute, but where all these absolutes are known with complete certainty to (at the very least) certain leaders. The prototypical Haredi has a picture of reality that is simply obviously false. He disdains science and thinks that it doesn’t have anything of interest to teach him. He thinks that the outside world is completely and totally evil and unpleasant. He thinks that all people who disagree with any of the numerous and highly specific tenets of his weltanschauung do so either out of malice, or usually (he is graciously willing to concede) out of sheer stupidity or ignorance. Now it is possible that the actual prototypical Haredi doesn’t actually exist, (he does, I’ve met him, but for the sake of argument…) and any actual individual varies from this to at least some degree but the stereotype is useful for showing the general trends. The properly Haredi mindset tends to collapse completely the moment any degree of honest doubt enters the equation.

The Internet has brought about a situation where a very significant proportion of the young people in the community simply know for a fact that the version of reality that they are given by their respected elders is at the very least shockingly simplistic, if not outright false.

 Most people of course just find a way to live with it without disrupting their lives too much (this is always true of humans), but some don’t, and even among the apathetic majority the discontent continues to fester. The world just isn’t so simple and stark as it was portrayed to me by my Haredi mentors (most of whom are wonderful, kind and intelligent people, just blindly committed to a set of unexamined premises). This whole philosophy developed as a reaction to something else, it has not developed on its own merits. It is therefore really just a historical fad. An “ism”. This kind of thing does not survive well in the free marketplace of ideas, which is why said marketplace was kept so un-free for all these years. That has now changed. Irrevocably. The Internet is in, and once it is in you cannot get it out no matter how valiantly you try. It’s over.

The thing is that the great danger which Haredism was reacting to has not gone away. Not by a long shot. It is currently playing itself out, fascinatingly, on the great stage of the west’s war of ideas. We see every basic concept being challenged as just a figment of our imaginations, just a social construct. Cultural relativism is now the norm among the West’s intellectual elites (with potentially grave consequences for Israel). So how does observant Jewry (at all levels of observance) counter this now? The “Ultra” approach worked for a while but it won’t anymore, and the problem is there is no ready alternative available. The mild American version of Haredism is really just parasitic on the Israeli version, and has it’s own fatal weaknesses. But I get ahead of myself. This is a topic for a different post.



The Haredi Rabbis want us to believe that secularism is creeping into our lives, therefore they must ban the Internet and all forms of communicating outside the ghettos we live in.... 



The Enemy Within - Part Two - The Evolution of Right Wing Fanatacism

From The UOJ Archives-Saturday, July 30, 2005 B.C. (Before Convention) Posted on the original site:unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com

The Enemy Within-Part Two-The Evolution of Right Wing Fanaticism

There are four separate catagories of movements that constitute right wing Judaism in the U.S.A.

1- Yeshivishism
3-Agudah/Lobbyism/Government Activism.
4-Boro Parkism/Flatbushism

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I was told privately that he was being prevented from working for any other Hillel and was being required — I’m not sure how or whether this was enforced — to go to counseling. I never heard from him or saw him again. I can still locate him on Google, and he seems only to have worked in non-rabbinic fields since that time....

The Right Way To Deal With A Sexual Advance

Twenty years ago, my Hillel rabbi, a bearded man in a black suit with a velvet kipa who presented himself as a committed Orthodox Jew, invited me to the Hillel building one evening to hang out with him and some other students. When I arrived, the building was dark, and he and I sat down to wait for the others. We chatted for a while, but when the other students didn’t arrive, I suggested that I call them to see when they were coming.

The rabbi inched closer to me on the sofa and said, “They aren’t coming. I didn’t actually invite them.” Taken aback, I asked what he meant, and he said, “Would you like to go for a drive with me?”  I said no, and he began to tell me that he was attracted to me, that he wanted to be close to me, that he’d like to spend time alone with me. He reached out to touch me.

I was a new graduate student, just out of college, and he was in his 50s. I knew his wife from Shabbat dinners, and his older children were my age. I had seen him as a religious role model: an observant Jew interested in music, connected to the modern world, deeply spiritual but also an intellectual. And he was trying to cheat on his wife with me on the Hillel sofa.

In that shocking moment, I had the presence of mind to tell him how uncomfortable I was; I pulled away from him and left the building, shaking.

I spent the rest of the evening thinking about what to do, and I decided not to do anything. I assumed no one would believe me, and I didn’t know whom I would tell anyway. The decision plagued me for weeks, but I decided that pushing aside my anger and sense of betrayal was probably the best solution. I stopped attending Hillel.

A couple of weeks later, at a meal with local synagogue members, I heard some of them praising the Hillel rabbi for his exciting programming and dedicated leadership. To their surprise, I reacted strongly: “I hate the rabbi. He’s an awful person!” I exclaimed, without adding any specific details.

That might have been the end of this story. Nothing might have happened; I might never have said another word to anyone. They might have ignored me or judged me or gossiped about that strange outburst. They might have defended him and moved on.

Instead, one woman from that group, whom I only slightly knew, said, “Can you come talk to me privately?” We stepped into a different room, and I told her, in tears, about that terrible night.

She didn’t say, “You must have misunderstood him” or “But he’s a wonderful rabbi” or “Are you sure?” She didn’t ignore me. She didn’t make me feel crazy or stupid. Instead, she said, “We have to do something about this right away.”

Later that week, I sat with her in her living room, facing the regional director of Hillels for the area, also an Orthodox rabbi. I told him the story while she sat beside me. He looked at me skeptically and said, “I think you must have misunderstood him” and “But he’s a wonderful rabbi” and “Are you sure?” As I cried, the woman said, “Gillian didn’t misunderstand him. She knows what happened.

You need to do something.

After some discussion, the regional director agreed to pursue the issue and, as a first step, would speak to the rabbi himself. A few days later, the regional director contacted me and said, “I spoke with the rabbi. He corroborated everything you said. He admitted it all, and he’s sorry.”

I don’t know what happened after that, but within a week or so, the rabbi had been fired from Hillel and a statement was released suggesting that he had committed some financial indiscretion. I was told privately that he was being prevented from working for any other Hillel and was being required — I’m not sure how or whether this was enforced — to go to counseling. I never heard from him or saw him again. I can still locate him on Google, and he seems only to have worked in non-rabbinic fields since that time.

 Shortly thereafter, an Episcopal chaplain affiliated with the university very kindly reached out to me, presumably at the request of the Hillel board, so that we could meet to process what had happened, and I was offered additional counseling, which I declined. After a few months, I barely thought about the event again.

As I read the stories in recent years of terrible abuse perpetrated by rabbis and hidden or ignored by their colleagues and acquaintances, I think more and more about my very different story. Of course, unlike the many children who have been abused by rabbis, I was a legal adult at this time and not a young child; I was approached with the possibility of a sexual relationship and not forced into one; the rabbi in my story told the truth rather than trying to discredit me.

But another important difference stands out as well: someone believed me. How easy it would have been for that woman to ignore my outburst. How simple to have dismissed this student whom she barely knew as “having a bad day” or “being too emotional.” But she didn’t. She listened to me and, when I couldn’t speak for myself, she spoke for me. She pressed for change to be made, and it was made.

I don’t know what would have happened if this ordinary woman, invited to an ordinary meal, had not taken the time she did to pursue justice. I would certainly have permanently stopped attending Hillel, and, since I met my now-husband at a regional Hillel event a few years later, that decision could have changed my life significantly.

On a more fundamental level, I never had to reckon with feeling betrayed by the Jewish community. I never had to doubt my own worth or veracity. I never had to face the man who attempted to abuse his power over me or hear him lie about me. I never had to rebuild my faith or lose it altogether. I was able to maintain my (I believe, accurate) sense that he was one bad person among a huge pool of good people. This incident has hardly touched my life since it happened. I felt, as all our young people should feel, as important to the Jewish community as this “important” rabbi was.

Ordinary people, like all of us, can pursue justice the way that wonderful woman did for me. 

 We can save the Jewish community from itself if we listen, and if we make sure that every voice is heard. We can all learn not only from victims of abuse and their harrowing stories but also from situations in which sexual impropriety is handled correctly. That this man tried to abuse his power is a sad statement on humanity and, perhaps, on the Jewish community; that he was prevented from continuing to do so shows how much power we each have to change the world for the better.

Gillian Steinberg teaches English at SAR High School in Riverdale.

Read more: 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When smartphones came along, they forced the mobile phone vendors to sell “kosher” devices blocking unclean and heretical websites including, shamefully, those offering support to the victims of sexual abuse.....

Prepare for an Earthquake in the Jewish World

  Religious Jews, of every stripe and flavor, are now doing it for themselves, and the rabbis have never been less relevant. 

If you do anything this weekend, take time to read Tamar Rotem’s fascinating feature in this newspaper on entire young families leaving the ultra-Orthodox community. It’s 5,300 words long and well worth every one of them. Once you’ve done that, search online for Chaim Levinson’s analysis last month on the Jewish terror group whose members are accused of burning the Dawabsheh family in Duma and other “price-tag” attacks and how they defy any rabbinical discipline. Then go a bit further back and read Yair Ettinger’s series on the coming schism in the national religious or modern Orthodox community. I’m not flagging up these pieces just to recommend the fine work of my Haaretz colleagues, though they certainly deserve it — I’m doing it because there is a deeper tectonic shift happening beneath our feet, in Israel and in large Diaspora communities, that is about to cause an upheaval in Jewish life and fundamentally change the landscape.

It isn’t showing up yet in the data, there is no scientific or objective way of measuring these trends at this point. The change will be detected by the Central Bureau of Statistics years, probably decades from now and sociologists and then historians will begin researching and writing papers. But it’s happening. Haredi couples are breaking with their families, to ensure that at least their own children have the chance of an education that doesn’t include only ancient rabbinical texts. Bands of young fundamentalist settlers are defying rabbinical edicts in their quest for a mythical Jewish kingdom. Entire observant Jewish communities are breaking with the religious establishment to appoint women as cantors and rabbis.

A wide range of personal, ideological and professional motives are at play and the manifestations of the ferment are evident in many areas and often contradicting directions, but they all have one thing in common: Religious Jews, of every stripe and flavor, are doing it now for themselves and the rabbis have never been less relevant. Some are losing their faith and embracing Jewish atheism and agnosticism, many more are redefining what it means to be a believer and a practicing Jew, without anyone else deciding for them.

An entire generation of rabbis has lost touch with a generation of men and women 50 years younger than them. Technology has done two things — it has produced modern medicine that allows us to live well into our 90s, even to 100-plus, thereby creating a thin layer of ancient rabbis, still revered by their followers but more acquainted with the mores and norms of pre-Holocaust Poland and Lithuania then 21st-century Israel. 

Whether or not these venerable sages are compos mentis is one thing, but their very longevity has prevented the emergence of new leaders who could perhaps get a better grasp on contemporary affairs. Meanwhile technology has created the Internet and all its mobile platforms, which, unlike the cumbersome boxes and antennae of television that the rabbis succeeded in the last century to ban, have made inroads into their communities.

A wide range of personal, ideological and professional motives are at play and the manifestations of the ferment are evident in many areas and often contradicting directions, but they all have one thing in common: Religious Jews, of every stripe and flavor, are doing it now for themselves and the rabbis have never been less relevant. Some are losing their faith and embracing Jewish atheism and agnosticism, many more are redefining what it means to be a believer and a practicing Jew, without anyone else deciding for them.

The rabbis tried to stop Haredim from owning computers, then they backed down and ruled instead that they could have computers but must remain offline. When smartphones came along, they forced the mobile phone vendors to sell “kosher” devices blocking unclean and heretical websites (including, shamefully, those offering support to the victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence), but they couldn’t stop young Haredim buying one kosher phone for appearance’s sake and a second, regular smartphone allowing them a window on the world.

The newfound independence is resulting in thousands of young Haredi men and women seeking academic and vocational education and striking out in new “secular” professions; the moment they leave the confines of their cloistered existence, they and their families’ lives are changed forever. As they seek new forms of Jewish life, some may embrace Israeli secularism, but for many of them the fresh alternatives being created by communities that are still in need of a good label — “modern” or “neo-Orthodox” or “egalitarian” are all woefully inadequate to encompass the full range — will be attractive destinations. But they could go anywhere or create their own communities.

Whatever the outcome, the upheaval is underway and promises to be fascinating. And explosive, as we are seeing in the religious settler community, where the breakdown of the rabbis’ discipline has resulted in the terrible murders of Duma and a belated, half-hearted reckoning by extreme figures like Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who, in a series of interesting columns in his Besheva settlers’ weekly, is finally coming to terms with the fact that he and his colleagues have lost control of their murderous wild boys. Meanwhile, there are other young people who grew up on the settlements and are reaching different conclusions, which will be just as worrisome to their rabbis.

A hundred years ago millions of young Jews broke with their families, their rabbis and the old religious order and joined the communist revolutions, assimilated in Western societies or went off to rebuild the ancient homeland. We are about to behold another such earthquake within Judaism.

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.698851

Monday, January 25, 2016

Our community needs to wake up to the reality of how predators operate, and not rationalize away their behavior. Otherwise, we are all responsible for contributing to the walls of silence around the sexual crimes of the powerful....

Sacrificing Victims On The Altars Of Silence And Power 

Stories about sexual violence and rabbis behaving badly continue to make headlines. These incidents are not restricted to the Jewish world; sexual violence and abuse of power know no boundaries of faith. Yet Jewish communities are left with questions begging to be answered: How do we react to these crimes? How should we react?

But we must first ask: Why do these behaviors persist? Because we let them happen. Our community reinforces a culture of silence, and even when victims overcome it, we often blame the victims. If we want this to stop, it is time to look in the mirror.

All too often, when powerful individuals commit sex crimes, silence is the default reaction. In all of the recent cases, the rumors and rumblings about inappropriate behavior that circulated for years before abuse came to light were met with silence. Ignoring rumors about misconduct or “creepy” behavior empowers individuals to carry on acting inappropriately and may even embolden them to venture further. Silence enables abuses of power to continue and allows inappropriate actions to develop into illegal ones.

Because of our silence, many cases of sex crimes never get reported. And when they are reported, we excuse the behavior of our leaders and instead question that of their victims.

Powerful individuals often rise above suspicion. In the ongoing case of Marc Gafni, his position of power has been cited to explain why people ignored the allegations against him as a spiritual teacher who has had numerous sexually and/or psychologically abusive relationships. When communities have to face the idea that their leaders may not live up to their virtuous public personas, they experience cognitive dissonance. They are reluctant to accept that a member of a religious group, especially a leader, would behave in ways that go against their avowed ethical norms. Aware of the pushback they will generate, victims or concerned community members may feel powerless to speak out against the powerful.

 Further, those who abuse their power can easily orchestrate cover-ups or ensure they are not held accountable for their actions. But once we recognize this cognitive dissonance, we can challenge and confront those who make excuses for a leader’s misconduct.

Blaming victims or creating a hostile environment for them are common tools we use to deal with the cognitive dissonance that surfaces in these cases. Our relationship with or knowledge of the perpetrators clouds our judgment when we learn that they have misbehaved. That is why we need an outside, objective oversight body whose job it is to investigate and intervene in these cases, especially those that are ambiguous or unclear. When we know that we will be held accountable for failing to act we will be less likely to turn away from victims and more likely to act on information about suspicious behavior.

We must train ourselves and our communities to acknowledge concerns, particularly those about people in positions of power in our communities. These concerns must not be whispered, but voiced loudly and clearly to those who need to hear them and to those who can and will take action. When rabbis simply state that they regret supporting a perpetrator but fail to offer further comment — it makes them culpable. Rabbis should provide clear statements as to why they regret their past support of a misbehaving leader and that they stand together with his or her victims.

Even when victims do find the strength to speak out, they are often met with responses that neutralize their concerns. In the 1950s, Gresham Sykes and David Matza named five strategies delinquents use to neutralize their crimes. Their framework sheds light on how the way we speak about sex crimes can neutralize and deflect blame from the perpetrators to the victims. The five techniques include denial of responsibility (it’s not the perpetrator’s fault), denial of injury (Gafni called his actions an “outrageous act of love”), denial of the victim (Rabbi Eric Siroka suggested he was having an affair with his victims), condemnation of the condemners (Gafni says his detractors are committing “sexual McCarthyism”), and appealing to higher loyalties (Gafni’s supporters explain his actions as part of his special energy used to counsel and teach). These excuses are all too familiar from media coverage of recent incidents.

Once I understood the techniques, they leaped out at me from the news stories reporting the sexual crimes and abuses of power of our leaders, and I understood how we were failing their victims. These strategies dilute accountability and make it less likely that perpetrators will engage in the introspection necessary to address the problem. They ensure that perpetrators remain free of guilt. They focus our attention on the actions of individual perpetrators rather than on dysfunctional structures in our communities that allow sexual violence and abuse to occur and remain concealed for many years. One is the practice of allowing rabbis to investigate one another; another is not publicizing the reasons for their expulsions from their organizations.

While rumors do not indicate outright criminality, they must be investigated. The cost of ignoring them is too high. But investigating allegations after they occur is too little too late. We must implement clear policies and action plans in our institutions to deal with problematic behaviors before they arise rather than rely on the current reactionary responses. We need to make definitions of prohibited behaviors explicit so that we can recognize when we need to blow the whistle or turn to the police. Victims need our assurance that it is safe for them to report crimes, that we will protect them and stand by their side.

Our community needs to wake up to the reality of how predators operate, and not rationalize away their behavior. Otherwise, we are all responsible for contributing to the walls of silence around the sexual crimes of the powerful.

Guila Benchimol, a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar, is a doctoral candidate in sociological criminology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.