There are other issues that show how blinded Charedim insist on being to any reality other than what their Gedolim say. We saw it with the ban on Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s books and the ban on Rabbi Nosson Kamenesky’s books. (Even though I believe that in both instances Rav Elyashiv was misled by Charedi community activists the results are the same. Rav Elyashiv spoke – and people listened!)
No where is this approach more damaging than in the area of sex abuse. One can see this very starkly by what happened to Rabbi S in Lakewood. The idea for example that self policing sex abuse and dealing with it ‘in-house’ has long ago lost any credibility. The damage done to innocent people with such policies in place has been demonstrated time and again.
The reason rabbinic leaders in organizations like the Agudah Moetzes and Lakewood Yeshiva insist on going to rabbis before going to authorities when there are suspicions of abuse is to protect the accused. They know that an individual’s reputation can be damaged for life is he is falsely accused – even if he is exonerated. But thy refuse to recognize that it is rarely the case that children make false accusations.
They also factor in damage to the reputation of the school when things are made public by virtue of reporting it directly to the police. That’s why they prefer handling things from the inside.
So even though the reality is that credible accusations of abuse are best handled by professionals and much damage has been done in those instances where they were handles ‘in-house’ – nothing will not change in the Charedi world because Daas Torah has spoken.
There are indications that things might be changing. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has a very interesting post in Cross Currents along these lines. Here is what he says:
We fully live the charedi life style, but our hearts are sometimes not so enthusiastic about it, and our minds are increasingly alienated from it. We are victims of repeating memes with which we were bombarded, and then discovering that they are not true.
He then goes on to show that a commonly made claim by rabbinic leaders and politicians in Israel that the government is run by a bunch of evil men – is totally false.
What seems to be happening is that people like Rabbi Adlerstien who are among those making such discoveries – are beginning to speak up and tell the world about the emperor’s clothing. He is not the first one to do that. Just last week Rabbi Berl Wein did the same thing. As have other moderate Charedim in the past – like Rabbi Dovid Landesdman, and Valley Torah High School principal, Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger in a very eloquent statement about how to handle sex abuse in this video.
I am happy to hear that there are many Charedim that have become disillusioned with some of their memes. They are the ones who will hopefully bring change. My only question is how many of them think this way? And how many still buy into the infallibility of rabbinic statements? I suppose time will tell. But you probably know which side I’m rooting for.
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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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