Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Abuse, Sexual and Otherwise, in the Haredi Community and Elsewhere

posted by David Klinghoffer

Rod Dreher has a strong and important post up about sexual abuse in the Haredi community. My only reservation, and I’ve thought about this for a long time, concerns Jewish and other blogs like the ones mentioned in the New York Times article that Rod cites. Some of these crusading blogs allow, even encourage, anonymous or poorly sourced accusations. This is absolutely ripe for a different but also insidious kind of abuse.

Yes, Jewish and Christian spiritual leaders have been shown to harbor a certain number of sexual predators, but the Internet too harbors its share of people psychologically and spiritually twisted in other ways who use the power and lack of accountability built into the medium to hurt or humiliate, with no proper journalist’s regard for truth. If we can believe that rabbis and priests do terrible things, we can also believe that anonymous Internet users would use blogs to strike at clergy members (or whole religions) they hate, using this most hideous of accusations, including for reasons that have nothing to do with sexual abuse.
There are a lot of crazy, spiteful people out there, and a whole lot more who are eager to pass on rumors and innuendo if it suits their prejudices. Very tragically, rabbis and priests cannot any longer be assumed to be reliable. But neither can people who write on the Internet, especially when they do so anonymously or pseudonymously.


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Shmarya

posted October 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm


David,
YOU write on the Internet.
Yes, there are unreliable bloggers, some with agendas.
There are also victims and victims advocates who, if exposed, would face tremendous censure from their religious communities – including religious communities you regularly write about in positive terms.
Caution should be used.
But doing nothing about child sexual abuse is not an answer.
And that, David, is meant to be personal – YOU can not sit back and do nothing.
And you must shift your priorities from attempting to make religions look good to making those religions accountable to the weakest among them.
I mean “must” as a moral imperative.
God doesn’t care about flackery or PR, David – he cares about those kids.



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David Klinghoffer

posted October 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Welcome, Shmarya. You know I have mixed feelings about your site. I do feel that for all the good it has done, it does as much evil by presenting a grossly distorted picture of Orthodox Judaism, as if it were all filth and corruption. That contributes to a different source of pain — cynicism, negativism, despair — that itself won’t in the end leave children (or adults) unharmed. Rod’s simple message — “Go to the police” — seems much more responsible and untainted by spite.



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Your Name

posted October 14, 2009 at 5:52 pm


David, I think you’re right that we should be cautious about trying our religious leaders in the court of public opinion. Prominent people make prominent targets, and it seems like the most prudent path is to let law enforcement handle such situations.
Out of curiosity, does Judaism have procedures for dealing with sin within a congregation? The New Testament outlines procedures for rebuking fellow Christians over serious sins (obviously these are not intended to replace legal penalties if the sin crosses the line into illegality), starting with private actions by a small group, and building into churchwide discipline in cases where a sinner remains unrepentant. Is there a Jewish parallel?



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Josh

posted October 14, 2009 at 5:53 pm


Sorry, that last post should have said “Josh”.



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Mergatroid

posted October 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm


Josh wrote: “Out of curiosity, does Judaism have procedures for dealing with sin within a congregation? ”
Like cherem? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherem



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RJohnson

posted October 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm


David, I am wondering if the outgrowth of anger as expressed by Shmarya is a natural outcome of finding no support within the organizational community for dealing with these accusations. For example, within the Catholic community there were literally generations of victims who found absolutely nobody who would help them within their religious community. Many times they were accused of lying, or if they were believed at all they were told that they had to be quiet lest any disrepute come to the “good” Father or to the parish. And then, when accusations were taken to the police, in many cases there was no cooperation whatsoever between legal authorities and the institution with regards to investigation.
The anger Shmarya and other victims express seems to come not only from the abuse they have suffered, but also from the response leaders in the religious communities gave when made aware of the accusations. In short, if they have done what you suggest (go to the police) and found no help there, what is their alternative but to go public with their accusations? And the fact that there is STILL reprisals against those victims who come forward yet today would seem to give credence to Shmarya’s words, “…if exposed, would face tremendous censure from their religious communities…”
I’m not suggesting that these organizations, whether they be Jewish, Catholic or secular, should be vilified in public or have their assets taken from them without trial. But I am suggesting that perhaps the God that these groups claim to serve has finally grown impatient with their denials and lies and has decided to expose their corruption to public view.



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David Klinghoffer

posted October 15, 2009 at 5:45 pm


RJohnson: actually Shmarya’s anger, by his own account published on his website, originates with nothing to do with sexual abuse but rather because he was upset that the Lubavitcher Rebbe didn’t respond to his calls to do more for Ethiopian Jews. His spite has since metastatsized to include almost every aspect of Orthodox Judaism.



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Shmarya

posted October 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm


Shmarya’s anger, by his own account published on his website, originates with nothing to do with sexual abuse but rather because he was upset that the Lubavitcher Rebbe didn’t respond to his calls to do more for Ethiopian Jews. His spite has since metastatsized to include almost every aspect of Orthodox Judaism.
Please.
Exactly how many agunot call you crying? How many sex abuse victims?
Actually helped anyone like this, David? I doubt it.
You have a bully pulpit. You’ve had one for a very long time.
You use it primarily for politics and politics masked as religion. That’s also fine – even though I disagree with your spin on these matters.
You could, however, use a portion of that bully pulpit to help stop the injustices prevalent in your religious community. But you do not do it, just as you do not use this bully pulpit to help right other wrongs that are committed by what we could call your political/religious “good guys.”
How would God vote?
One thing’s for sure, David. God will not vote for your silence and your indifference.



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Your Name

posted October 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm


The worst offenders when it comes to sexual abuse, it seems are the public school teachers. According to some studies 25% of people interviewed claimed to have beenabused sexually by a public school teacher. This doesn’t justify abuse done by any clergy person, but I’m wondering about the selective outrage. I don’t see anyone talking about shutting down the public schools. (I happen to be one, by the way. That is a public school teacher, not an abuser.)



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Shmarya

posted October 20, 2009 at 6:09 pm


According to some studies 25% of people interviewed claimed to have beenabused sexually by a public school teacher.
Considering the vast majority of kids attend public schools, that number isn’t all that surprising – although I’m sure it’s high.
At issue is what schools do to prevent abuse and what they do once abuse is uncovered.
While not perfect, the public schools have a far better record than private religious schools have.
For example, in NY State, the Catholic Church and ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups have consistently worked to block mandatory background checks of religious school employees. Those checks have long been the law for public schools.
This is not an isolated example.



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