An open letter to Rabbi Avi Shafran and some of his critics
Dear Rabbi Shafran,
After reading your article about sexual abuse in our community, I was left hurt, insulted and betrayed.
The traditional reading on Yom Kippur’s Mincha is parshas arayes. That parsha details some of the most horrendous and repulsive behaviors any human can possibly commit. Why does the holy Torah command us to read that specific segment on the holiest of our days? The Mishna Brurah, has a simple answer: since a man’s self desires sexual sins, and one may have transgressed these prohibitions, he should repent. The Shulchan Oruch doesn’t exempt anyone from hearing this reading. It doesn’t exempt Talmidei Chachomim, nor people with frocks or shtreimels or white beards.
I fully understand that exposing such criminals may shed our community in a bad light. But covering them up shed us in an even worse light. As a result of your article, Rabbi Shafran, wherever and whenever I go with my hat and jacket, I feel like I proclaim “I protect child molesters! I deny that there are problems within my community!” This chilul hashem is by far greater than that of exposing criminals. Most people today understand that there are sick deviants in any society. Most people are able to understand that one who transgresses the Torah by the most odious acts is not a shomer Torah umitsvos. But when the systematic cover-up of such incidents is exposed –and it is exposed, believe you me- that’s when our community as a whole is being demeaned, shamed and ridiculed.
I am fully aware of the abysmal injustices that the Orthodox –and especially the charedi- communities in Israel have suffered at the hand of the Bolshevik Zionists – in some cases even murder. I am fully aware that secular Zionism propagates hatred of true Jews and has a lot to answer for. But it is no excuse for us to behave like them. Since we know what it means to be betrayed, we should be all the more careful not to betray the wretched victims of sexual abuse. Since we decry secular Zionism’s denial of its crimes, we must not deny our crimes either. But all of this is besides the point. In the final analysis there are no excuses; we must do what is right for the simple reason that it is right.
Rabbi Shafran, I understand that there are hachic problems in dealing with this topic. But I also understand that the Torah has specifically empowered our sages with daas Torah in such cases. Daas Torah can rule that a criminal is to be turned over to the authorities even without two kosher witnesses. I would also remind you, that in Jewish Law, a criminal tried for capital punishment but found not guilty, isn’t free to roam à-la O.J. Simpson or Teddy Kennedy. In the time of the Temple, such criminals were left to die in solitary confinement.
I would like to address now some of Shafran’s critics;
not only are you no better than him, you are far worse. You have exploited the victims of sexual abuse for political gain, for your fame and for the pleasure of putting down your opponent. Rosenberg has an exposé on how haredi culture (which he either doesn’t know, as is obvious from his articles, or he willfully distorts the facts) breeds more abuse and cover-ups. Unfortunately there is some truth to his words. But he conveniently omits a few disturbing facts; he writes: “Look at it this way. If you could stop a murderer from killing by calling police, but choose not to do so because breaking omerts would result in less desirable shidduchim [matches] for your children, would your inaction be correct? Is your child's "better" shidduch more important than the victim's life, a life you do not have the power to restore? If this question is in any way difficult for you, you're in the wrong species. Check your lineage for apes.” Well, sweetheart, you full and well know that murder was actually covered up. Unfortunately for you, that didn’t happen in haredi communities. It happened among your darling Reform brothers. That’s right – there are at least three incidents I am aware of, when Reform “Rabbis” were committing adultery with their congregants wives. In two instances the cuckolded husbands opted to have their wives assassinated, while in the other, a Rabbi himself ordered the murder of his wife, in order to marry a woman he recently “converted” to Judaism. You’d imagine that according to Mr. Rosenberg’s analysis there’d be a tremendous outcry in those communities, harshly condemning the tragic events. Not so. Not only the community tried its best to hush the events and refused to talk to the media, but when one of their own tried to document the case, she was beaten, her nose was broken, she received death threats and was ostracized. So much for the great secular civilization many of you so much adore.
Then you have the bleeding heart ultra-righteous blogger who abhors sex abuse so much, that any comment containing the names of sexual predators is deleted from his blog’s comments section. Well, as long as they belong to his party. In other words, Ze’ev Kpolevitch, who was convicted of no less than 19 counts of rape and statutory rape, but after serving a nominal 3½ years sentence, was brought back to the yeshiva, doesn’t make it to the blog world. That’s right, the pervert is brought back to yeshiva after conviction, he is still there, and you remain silent. The Israeli media accused Rabbis Chaim Druckman and Avraham Shapiro of covering up the case and urging witnesses to remain silent. That somehow wasn’t detected by your radar, Mr. Righteous. Why? Since you don’t care about this, why are you so adamant other predators are brought to justice? And don’t you think your over-defensiveness just gives credence to other allegations? If you bar as much as mention of the name George Finkelstein, don’t you think it raises suspicion that the allegations against him, as well as allegations of cover-up against Norman Lamm may be true?
You criticize others for the very same thing you’re guilty of. At least Shafran doesn’t run around accusing others of cover-up. You have exploited sexual assault victims’ plight for your own sick games, for political gain and idiotic partisan politics.
© Joseph Izrael 2007