It didn’t take very long for some holy rollers to pop up and tell us why God punished the East Coast with a devastating storm. Not only didn’t it take long, there seemed to be a rush to see who could come up with a reason first. I don’t know who actually won that race. But I do know that there are a lot of people who think they have a direct line to God and know exactly what He was trying to tell us.
Well, I’m glad I now know. Or do I? It seems that not everyone came up with the same reason. There are no fewer than 6 different people who seem to have intimate knowledge of God’s purpose in inflicting damage on America’s East Coast residents. One of them commented right here in a comment thread last Thursday.
Is the Lakewood community still not Frum enough? Was it because New York legalized gay marriage? Perhaps it is because Israel’s depends too much on America? How about an environmental message? Are we ignoring climate change? Is this God’s way of getting us to stop our earth destroying ways? Or maybe it’s Iran’s fault?
I’m sure this will not be the last of it. For example I have yet to hear the classic one about Tznius. I’m sure that is yet to come up from someone.
Needless to say, I think these people all have agendas driving their claims of knowing God’s intended message. But I do not think it helps matters to use a tragedy to push an agenda. It would be far better if these people would just keep quiet and instead do whatever they can to help their fellow man in need. People in distress do not need to be harangued about why they were punished. Especially if such statements are clearly speculation sourced in an agenda.
But now that everyone else is doing it, I thought I may as well join the fray. I have a few thoughts about God’s possible message too. If anyone want’s to accuse me of being agenda driven… go right ahead.
It seems like almost every day there is another report about a religious Jew abusing another human being sexually. Just last week there was a report by Miriam Shaviv in The Times of Israel about yet another prominent Charedi rabbi in England who was accused sexual abuse – some of it apparently shocking!
London’s ultra-Orthodox establishment is investigating one of its most senior rabbis following a barrage of rumors that he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a woman, The Times of Israel has learned.
The rabbi wields considerable influence in the city’s Haredi institutions.
Over the past few weeks, he has been accused in blogs and on the street of a variety of sexual misdeeds with at least one woman — for whom he was allegedly acting as a counselor — and possibly with others. The allegations range from serious criminal offenses to actions which, one rabbi said, may be halachically dubious, but “in the non-rabbinical, non-Haredi world, wouldn’t raise eyebrows.”
The rabbi at the center of the rumors did not return a phone call…
One local Haredi rabbi, who like all the British interviewees for this article requested anonymity due to the case’s sensitive nature, said he did not believe the rumors, which “seem incompatible with [the rabbi’s] personality.”
Because of the accused rabbi’s senior status and popularity, if the most serious allegations were proven, “it would send shock waves through the community. It would be on par with the chief rabbi being accused of such a thing,” he added.
Shock waves? I have long ago stopped being shocked by such stories. I don’t know if any of these charges are true or even exactly what they are. Or how many victims there are – if any. But it seems the charges are credible enough to have a committee investigating them:
Since mid-October, his London colleagues have met twice to discuss the handling of the case, once in the Orthodox suburb of Golders Green in North West London, and once in the considerably more Haredi Stamford Hill.
Now a prominent London rabbinical authority has appointed a small committee to investigate the claims. The committee apparently includes a mental health professional and a legal professional; at least one of them is Jewish.
As I said such stories are no longer shocking to me. But the relatively common occurrence of this type of thing does not lessen the terrible consequences for the victims. Nor does the continued protection and defense by their communities (including their rabbinic leadership) of accused molesters like Mondrowitz and Weberman help either.
Which is more devastating, Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Weberman? Sandy may have hurt a lot more people. It will be difficult to restore their lives to some semblance of normalcy. It will certainly take time. It will also take a lot of work and help from friends and community. But Hurricane Sandy’s victims will God willing survive and resurrect their lives.
That does not happen for too many victims of sexual abuse. Far too often their lives are permanently damaged. Some to the point of death by their own hand.
Yes my friends there is a lot of Teshuva to do. And a lot of work to do to rid the Torah world of the scourge of sexual abuse in all its manifestations. In all segments of observant Jewry. All over the world. There is also a lot of work to do to try and make whole the lives of victims to the best of our ability.
Although there is progress in how we deal with these things now, we have a long way to go. As long as there are communities that protect their accused molesters and reject the pain of their victims – our job is not complete. By a long shot!
Why did the East Coast where the greatest numbers of religious Jews live get such a terrible blow last week? I don’t know. I am not a Navi. But the sex related issue of Tznius is almost always pointed to by some rabbinic leaders as the cause. I agree that it might be sex related. But not in matters of Tznius. Perhaps it is the way we deal with sex abuse. If there is any message from God in this, perhaps the first thing we ought to look at is how we still fail to recognize just how short we fall in this department.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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