Monday, August 25, 2014

Of Batei Din, Girls Seminaries, Vulnerable People and the Internet, part 3

Guest post by RaP

An open letter to Jewish parents of daughters in North America: 

In recent months a very serious scandal has enveloped the popular practice of sending your daughters away to seminary in Israel. Four seminaries have been blacklisted as unsafe by a special bais din in Chicago (CBD) that investigated allegations of sexual abuse against students by the principal rabbi who was forced to resign in disgrace. As a result two accrediting American colleges, Touro and Skokie have withdrawn recognition of the seminaries. In addition a class action and RICO legal case has been launched by some parents who wish to regain the tuition deposits based on the alleged sexual abuse and its ongoing cover-up that has made the seminaries unsafe.

This is a very serious matter that involves the present and future welfare of your daughters and their reputations as well as the good names of your families.

A huge fight has broken out between a bais din of rabbis in Israel (IBD) and the CBD -- not over the fate of your daughters but over which bais din has the final jurisdiction and say over the four controversial seminaries, its rabbis, staff, finances, ownership, and lastly over your daughters in the hands of the problematic seminaries.

Naturally the seminaries in Israel and the IBD that backs them are putting up the fight of their lives because if they remain blacklisted by the CBD and the American credit-granting colleges that in turn determines eligibility for college credits and student aid, and also being censured in Jewish public opinion, the logical outcome is that they will go out of business and have to shut their doors. All the while the CBD and its backers have stuck to their advisory against attending the four seminaries and have even backed the legal case against the seminaries and against those who have run them or participated in them including a new owner and even one of the judges on the IBD. Altogether not a healthy situation.

Dear parents, you will not read about this problem in the official Jewish media. The Yated, Hamodia, Jewish Press, Mishpacha, Ami will never inform you about such real-world problems. They would much rather like to talk about saintly dead rabbis, how exotic people become religious or far-away gentiles become Jews, give cook-book recipes, opine with unsolicited dating and marital advice and much more mind-numbing trivia and drivel. Neither will official organizations such as the Aguda, the Orthodox Union, or Torah Umesorah. You may be lucky if even a staff member at your daughters' high-schools will hint to you off the record about the problems of serious sexual abuse at the center of this terrible machlokes (dispute). The ONLY place you will find out about this huge scandal is by reading a few important blogs where the posts discussions are lengthy, acrimonious and yes, quite depressing!

You are in a quandary but you can do something about it: Perhaps it's high time to stop this craze of letting vulnerable mostly eighteen year old very religious girls leave the protection of their caring parents and secure homes and travel to a far-off land and face possible predators in institutions manned by unknown people in the guise of rabbis, wise-ones and mentors and potential wolves in sheep's clothing ready to pounce and sexually abuse the thousands of little red riding hoods sent their way, while you are deluded into a sense of false security.

You may say it won't happen to my daughter/s or it's only a tiny percent and my daughter/s will be safe and protected by Hashem. But think of this, let's say that 5,000 girls are sent away to the one year seminaries each year and "only" one percent are abused, that makes it 50 girls! How about if two percent face some form of potential abuse, that's equal to 100 girls. And ten percent would be 500 girls! Are you prepared that one day you get a call or find out that your daughters were one of the 50, or 100, 500 girls that faced sexual abuse of some sort? Even if it is half a percent, that is 25 girls! Which of you is ready to volunteer one of your daughters to be part of the 25 victims of a sexual predator and sacrifice her to that modern-day Moloch?! Hopefully none of you!

But what if God forbid your daughter does become one of the statistics and is one of those who wittingly or unwittingly became a victim of sexual abuse in a seminary, a place she went for more Yiddishkeit but found something far different instead?

Until now people maybe thought that such types of sexual abuse controversy revolved around geirim (converts), ba'alei teshuva (returnees to Judaism), or off the derech (OTD) kids, or in weird families where there is serious sexual dysfunction with issues of incest and child molestation, types who may have been part of a prior more promiscuous lifestyles, while your precious protected frum from birth (FFB) daughter was safe and removed from such things in your Torah homes, bais yaakovs and schools.

But we live in crazy times! Anything can happen, and it does! The laws of unintended consequences can strike when you least expect them to! And this is what has been happening far too long with the daughters you have been sending to Israel that has now exploded into the open. Critical mass has been reached and breached. Masses of girls fly to Israel to be under the spell of fakes and charlatans posing as holier than thou spiritual leaders, and you are now seeing the results spill into the open like a festering wound that cannot contain its ever-swelling inflammations any longer. The hidden wounds are now becoming open raw sores searing your flesh that bleed profusely!

Okay, so let's say you either get a call from Israel or a while after your daughter gets back she plucks up the gumption and tells you that she was groped by a teacher in one of these seminaries in Israel. Or that she was unexpectedly molested when visiting someone or she as raped in the back of a car or when going some place that seemed safe until then. Or that some room-mate was an aggressive lesbian and she tried to report it but was hushed up. (All these cases have happened, unfortunately, causing great harm and damage to the victims for a lifetime!) Let's say you are brave enough and decide to go talk to your rabbis and ask for advice. One of the things the rabbis in Israel (IBD) are saying in defense of their stand defending the seminaries and staff, is that hey, your daughter was eighteen or nineteen if and when she was sexually molested and they will say who says it was even molestation, it could well be that your daughter was always that way, (slightly?) loose with her morals and in any case the IBD and their backers can and will say that your daughter was OF  THE  AGE  OF  CONSENT and in fact in Israel that AGE  OF  CONSENT is sixteen years of age! So sue us!

By the way, they may also say that in Halacha the age of consent is twelve and half when she became a "gedola" ("adult" according to Jewish Law) even fit for marriage in traditional Torah societies of ancient and not so ancient times when boys and girls got married at thirteen! They will be strict interpreters of Halacha so don't count on any leniencies or the type of understanding you get in Western countries for victims of sexual abuse, something that has not reached Israel yet.

Therefore, say the IBD and their backers your daughter was not seduced or molested or sexually abused but she was an ADULT and therefore the assumption is that she WILLINGLY partook in those forbidden but not illegal pleasures of sexual gratification unless proven to the contrary (naturally it will need to be done with corroboration by two kosher shomer Shabbos adult males after everyone is interrogated -- including your daughters -- by the three judges on the bais din as well as any to'anim ["representatives"] appointed by the accused). In sum, you don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of proving your daughters innocence or that the accused is guilty of anything under such circumstances. You are in a lose-lose situation when such a horrible predicament strikes you!

Not just that dear parents, but the IBD will tell you that if your daughter is to be believed she must come before the IBD itself in session and tell her tale in the presence of the accused in order to give the accused a chance to hear the charges and respond to the allegations! Are you ready for that? They may also tell you why didn't you call the police? As if a seminary girl trapped in an institution where her every move and even thoughts and intentions are known and monitored would dare go to the police and give her report to the hardened Israeli police who have their hands full fighting murderous terrorism and who have a very low view of Haredi and religious Jews altogether and would quite probably laugh her out of the police station? How about going to your local cops in the USA or Canada or Mexico and telling them that your daughter was groped or maybe even raped by a rabbi or some stranger five thousand miles away in Israel, how dumb will you all look? Think about all this seriously because that is what the IBD and their backers are saying if you want to be taken seriously and make a case of it.

According to Judaism what is the obligation to send girls at such a vulnerable time in their lives to seminaries in far off Israel? Young Jewish men who learn in yeshivas who go to learn in other yeshivas in out of town cities or lands is a path to acquire more Torah. Even they face hurdles, but for men Judaism teaches that by "exiling oneself to place of Torah" one will grow in Torah! Rabbi Akiva did that! While his wife remained behind at home! So why is this now an accepted pattern for young, single, naive, delicate, refined and protected Jewish religious girls as if it is owed to them?

Sure, if parents are very secular and in any case they send their daughters to co-ed high schools and then to colleges with co-ed dorms, and have their kids bring boyfriends and girlfriends to sleep over at home they fully expect that their young daughters and sons will have active sexual lives. They sadly live with the fear and reality of "date rape" and "campus rape" from fellow students and even faculty all the time. But not so parents of very religious Jewish girls. The opposite is true, the parents of very religious Jewish girls want their daughters and sons to be virgins until they get married. On invitations to Jewish religious weddings many print that the bride is a "besula" a virgin but what if as a result of going to seminary your daughter is not a besula because she lost her virginity to a sexually perverse predatory rabbi or mystery person out of the reach of justice? This is not a stupid of filthy, vulgar question. Think of that statistic that out of 5,000 maybe one percent of girls will potentially be victims. Meaning 50 wonderful young Jewish women will have their lives ruined forever by going to an ALL GIRLS seminary, something that they could have easily avoided by not going there!

The allegations are that the rabbi who ran the four accused and condemned seminaries made victims out of HUNDREDS of girls during his ten year tenure! How many more unknowns and victims of similar predators are there? It is frightening to ask and think about the true situation! But now it is out in the open and unavoidable! Unless you don't care or are ignorant about the situation!

So please dear parents, this year make a bold decision, DO  NOT  SEND  YOUR  DAUGHTERS  TO  ISRAEL but keep them closer to home. In your communities they will all want to date, let  them start dating at eighteen and give themselves a greater fighting chance of being appealing to a potential good Jewish religious husband. It will reduce the "shidduch crisis"! If you want to spend around $20,000 on tuition, plus airfares, two trips home for Yom Tov and some Simchas, or medical visits if needed, plus a phone bill, trips and eating out, clothing, ladies accessories, and who knows what else that adds another $20,000 or more even, then you are looking at around spending $50,000 for your daughter to do NOTHING in Israel for a year when you could use that money to help her get married or help your other kids with more important needs, maybe you could donate that money to a more worthy Tzedaka, a Yeshiva or Chesed close to home. Most of all to help or to a build up learning programs for post high school girls closer to home in your own home city where you can keep a closer eye on the situation because that is the type of family you are.

By the way, the Chasidim have never sent their daughters away anywhere. Their daughters go straight from the father's home to the husband's home with no pit stops at seminaries or colleges anywhere. So make up your minds what you are willing to risk for the sake of your daughters. The choice is yours and your wallets!

The world economy is tough. Only the very wealthy are thriving and have money to burn. Most of you work hard for your living and quite honestly spending a fortune so that your daughter can have a year of fun waltzing around Israel doing absolutely nothing, maybe (more likely probably) getting brainwashed into an outlook that is alien to how you raised your daughters, that now carries with it the uninvited dangers of potential predatory sexual abuse and cruel mishaps for which few in the establishment will show you mercy, that will cause you grief, pain, and shame all of you for life, all this is just not worth your while. Or maybe you like taking risks like this. It is your choice of course!

Dear parents: Keep your precious frum Jewish daughters closer to home! If your daughter is 100% part of your daily household, even though she is about eighteen, yet definitely not yet in your opinion a "consenting adult" because she is 100% financially and personally dependent on you then don't ship her off to Israel where if something goes wrong, they will take your money for tuition, not refund it if something God forbid goes wrong, and will add insult to injury and tell you that she was a "consenting adult" in the evidently increasing likelihood she gets sexually abused or molested in an ever-worsening storm of sexual depravity by some pervert teacher or rabbi or mentor! As the saying goes, the life you save may be your own -- and your daughters'!

So just say NO!!!