IN MEMORY OF MOSHE MENACHEM KANOVSKY ZT"L --- ON HIS YAHRZEIT
It was at the same time hilarious and loathsome to bystanders. On Friday afternoon, April 13, 2007 (two days after Passover 5767), a 31-year-old ultra-Orthodox lawyer jumped to his death from a 69th-floor office of the Empire State Building in NYC. "Only in New York," said a yokel bus driver, "Only in New York." Visiting tourists dashed to the 33rd street to take pictures of the leg severed below a knee, which sluggish cops didn't cover right away. Theresa Colon, a tourist from Virginia, shrieked: "I cried and got sick to my stomach, I pray he knew who God was."
That lawyer knew who God was. He knew it a lot better than silly southerner Ms. Colon would ever know. I know it because that lawyer was a gifted Jewish scholar and my long time chavrusa at the Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, Moshe Menachem Kanovsky zt"l. I recollect the sleepless nights we spent in Bais Midrash going over and over Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos, Rishonim, Acharonim, and Shulchan Aruch. Moshe Kanovsky polished off many masechtos and knew many Mussar books by heart. Moshe Menachem had really earned his Semicha (the rabbinical ordination).
The New York bus driver was also dead wrong. Not "only in New York." In fact, it started in Baltimore, at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College. And I know it started with rabbi Moshe Eisemann. I reminisce how he would unflaggingly approach Moshe Menachem, I recall that Moshe frequented him on Shabbosos. Was Moshe Kanovsky raped by rabbi Eisemann? I can't say for sure. And I will not make it up about my beloved dead chaver merely to get some people "excited" with the new evidence against gay and pedophile rabbi Moshe Eisemann. But something happened. And it happened when Moshe Kanovsky was a student at Ner Yisroel, and it had something to do with rabbi Moshe Eisemann.
Moshe Menachem suddenly became withdrawn and stopped coming to seder. Through much of the day he slept in his dorm room or listened to Rush Limbaugh's talk show. On one occasion he decided to pour out his heart to one of his rebbeim whom he trusted a lot - rabbi Shraga Neuberger. After that Moshe Kanovsky got even more disheartened. What did "rav Shragi" tell him? I talked with Moshe and his roommates who knew about that conversation. This is the story: rabbi Shraga Neuberger (his shaggy beard still proudly displaying bits of his last dinner) laughed off Moshe Menachem's plea for help and added with an acrimonious wink, "I wonder if you will ever find a shidduch (get married) in your lifetime!" I bear witness that those were rabbi Shraga Neuberger's precise words.
Shortly thereafter Moshe Kanovsky left Baltimore for New York City. I doubt that Moshe went there with an intent to be with his father Yaakov. He was always closer to his mother and siblings who lived in Silver Spring (his parents got divorced in Philadelphia when Moshe was eight). Most likely, he assumed that he would get help from his famed uncle rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and head of the Agudath Israel of America. Later I discovered that the Rebbe didn't help Moshe Menachem. Was that because his nephew was less important for "der Rebbe" than his relationship with the powerful NIRC, Agudath Israel, and rabbi Moshe Eisemann? I believe so.
Moshe was an educator, a rabbi, a lecturer, Jack-of-all-religious-trades but not a lawyer. Law was never his passion. He had to go to the Cardozo Law School because ostentatiously holy NYC and Baltimore rabbis with much blood on their hands were afraid of his lofty moral standards and did everything in their power to keep him out of the "klei kodesh" field. They also did an outstanding job to fulfill rabbi Shraga Neuberger's after-dinner "prophecy" ("I wonder if you will ever find a shidduch in your lifetime!"). But anyhow Moshe Menachem spent most of his free time learning Torah and helping poor people in NYC with free legal advice and Torah classes.
I had never been a big fan of conspiracy theories, muckraking, or sensationalism. However, I was wholly unprepared to learn about Moshe Kanovsky's suicide. I knew him well as a highly intelligent, kind-hearted, and soft-spoken soul, who knew fairly well even prior to becoming a rabbi what the Jewish Law warns about suicide, and I doubt he could have done it even taking into consideration possible manic depression / post-molestation effects. Likewise, as stated by the newspapers, all his family and friends didn't notice "any significant changes in his emotional state, even as he started working part-time for an attorney in the Empire State Building."
Many posters on the Internet acknowledged that he didn't jump but was pushed out of the window as it appeared from the security cameras' footage. At first it sounds crazy and distorted, but reason out who was that last "client" whom Moshe saw before abruptly interrupting his meeting with him and going to "another room" to jump out of the window? Why were there wrangling statements from Moshe's law firm denying that he ever worked there? What's more, two days prior to Moshe's death, right after Passover, the Vaad Harabbonim (Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore) mailed their infamous letter to the members of Baltimore's Orthodox community on the issue of sexual abuse. Moreover, Moshe Menachem died on the day the Baltimore Jewish Times published its cover story on the contemptible sexual predator rabbi Ephraim F. Shapiro!
Questions. Questions with no definitive answers... We want to rid our religion of child molesters, but we disregard the fact that they are not pure rapists. They deliver inspiring lectures, possess a compelling writing style, raise generations of students, establish important connections. Make an effort to uproot these potentates! The iniquitous child-molesting rabbis groom many disciples wholly saturated with their venom who later occupy positions of authority to safeguard their teachers. A parallel comes to mind with the students of the wicked Balaam (who was a sexual pervert too and, according to Sanhedrin 105b, even had relations with his donkey). Balaam's disciples of today also fit nicely with their definition in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:22) as having "an evil eye," "an arrogant spirit," and "a greedy soul."
A small number of people cover up for rapists because they sincerely believe the molesters were slandered, other craven underlings lick the ass of the mighty and powerful because they are no different than them. We know that a person who is a sexual predator or enabler flouts his own religious doctrines. That's the reason the Agudath Israel is a cringing supporter of all Catholic bills - the people whose ancestors were systematically tortured to death and burned at the stake by that very Catholic Church itself!
Eisemanns are covered up by hobnobbing Ner Yisroel and Baltimore Mafia leaders because they are one and the same: all of them need to live in luxury edifices, take expensive vacations, and be "respectable." Learn from the Agudath Israel! That name means "a bundle" or "a bunch" in Hebrew. In truth, they do work like a bunch of thugs. We also need to group together. Until that happens, we will be ignominiously defeated every step of the way! Firing single email shots from behind your browser can't help a great deal. We need to establish an incorruptible, powerful, and brave organization outside the Internet. We need a place to go to where we will never be betrayed by our leaders who are in reality self-appointed narcissistic cowards!
Until that happens, we will be doomed. What happens when you speak up in Baltimore against the "religious" atrocities of explosive, disgruntled, but still "infallible" leaders, who effectively hold all power in their hands? You will be chased out of all shuls by their NIRC-dependent bellowing from the pulpit mealy-mouthed rabbis, ostracized by the indignated and held in thrall to the establishment "community," get threats in the mail, and face mud-slinging and character assassination. You will be forced out of town like rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau's daughter who was molested by her dad. Because at this point in the real (not virtual!) world only these criminals have the real dominance.
The gist of Passover is freedom. One very unwell person on the Internet made a crafty calculation that Moshe Kanovsky was falling down from the Empire State Building for 4.9254203994149455 seconds. It's really irrelevant if Moshe Menachem jumped himself or was plunged by mobsters, because we know who is responsible for his death, which in actuality started many years ago at NIRC. But I believe that in those final five seconds of his short bright life he (like the Jewish children in the days of the Talmud who jumped off the Roman ship to drown themselves in order to escape molestation) was really free. Free from rabbi Moshe Eisemann's sexual improprieties, free from rabbi Shraga Neuberger's sardonic laughter, free from his uncle's hypocrisy. Free from that heinous tinged with cynicism lie that we now call "Orthodox Judaism," which is in reality inimical to every single thing the Torah-true Judaism stood for all the erstwhile generations of our pure grandparents. And those five seconds of freedom were worth an entire life in this world.