When I read the New York Magazine piece exposing the man-on-boy sexual abuse of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, abuse that spanned decades and implicated Brooklyn’s rabbinic hierarchy in a prolonged coverup, I hoped for change in Orthodoxy. Two weeks later, the Forward broke the story of the Rubashkin family’s abuse of its workers at the world’s largest Glatt Kosher slaughterhouse.
But the reaction to both stories has so far been muted. A spate of commenters has left comments here and elsewhere decrying the “lashon hara” involved in outing these creeps, with some insisting the “lashon hara” is worse than the crimes committed by Kolko or Rubashkin. If anyone thought rabbis – our so-called moral leaders – would react with horror to either story, one would have been wrong. In rabbinic parlance, Rabbi Kolko is innocent until proven guilty, and his accusers, who dared to violate lashon hara and mesira law to out this pedophile, are guilty no matter what. And what self respecting rabbi would let animal cruelty or worker abuse or theft get in the way of a nice glatt kosher steak? The answer to that largely rhetorical question is none would.
Today’s Orthodoxy is bereft of morality. It is merely a collection of microscopic laws viewed narrowly, without context or meaning. Any Judaism that can l’chatchila (with foreknowledge) sanction the kashrut of a rib steak produced through theft, abuse and animal cruelty, or that covers up for child abusers like Rabbis Baruch Lanner and Yehuda Kolko while persecuting their victims, is not a Judaism I can subscribe to. And, I hope, it is not one you can subscribe to either.