As many of you already know, UnOrthodoxJew – the anonymous blogger who successfully outed accused pedophile Rabbi Yehuda Kolko – is in the process of outing another well-placed, well-known alleged haredi pedophile.
A question is repeatedly raised: In this new case, in the Kolko case and in others, the abuse was known for many years. Rabbis and community leaders knew of the allegations but dismissed them, and worked to silence – and often intimidate – alleged victims and their families. Why? Why would Torah leaders act this way? On the surface, it seems counter intuitive.
Here are what I believe to be the underlying causes of this situation:
- Today’s gedolim and rabbinic leadership have little to no advanced secular education. (In fact, many have no secular education at all.) They do not have the wherewithal – or the desire – to understand complex issues rooted in science and medicine. In fact, these rabbis distain the secular world and its science because in many areas – like genetics, archeology, anthropology and physics – it clashes with these rabbis’ understandings of what the Torah says.
- After the Holocaust, rabbinic leadership views rebuilding the lost Torah world of Europe to be priority one. Everything that can be done is done to achieve this and sacrifices are made to this end.
- Often abusers are very talented rabbis and teachers. Their loss to the rebuilding effort would be very great.
- Most of these man-on-boy abuse cases do not involve penetration and, as Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Schienberg, one of the gedolim mentioned above, is alleged to have told Kolko’s victims and their families, “The was no penetration. Therefore, according to Torah there was no abuse.” Rabbi Scheinberg is also alleged to have told the families that, because there was “no abuse according to the Torah,” going to police or the media was mesira, informing – a crime punishable by death in Jewish law – and lashon hara, forbidden speech. The idea is that lack of penetration means no harm, and no harm means no foul. But, as any expert in the field will tell you, the presumption of no harm is simply incorrect. Indeed, great harm is done, whether or not penetration occurs.
- Haredi societies do not teach sex ed to middle school or high school students. Most parents and grandparents are woefully ignorant of the scientific and medical aspects underlying reproduction and reproductive activity. And deviance and deviant behavior is, while despised, not at all understood. Therefore a molester can be viewed as a monster or as a man who had a weak moment. Most often, the monster will be from a non-presdigous family without good rabbinic connections, and the man who had a weak moment will be wealthy or a famous rabbi.
- Ignorance helps make abuse possible. Haredi media is tightly controlled by the same men who protect abusers. Haredim are strongly discouraged from reading non-haredi media, listing to non-haredi radio and from watching TV of any type. And the Internet? It is under a ban, a ban instituted by? The same rabbis protecting abusers.
- Haredi society is tightly controlled. Deviants – in this case meaning whistle blowers and independent thinkers – are quickly pushed out or cowed. Abuse victims and their supporters face ostracism. It is not uncommon for victims’ elderly grandparents to be threatened or for victims’ children to be denied school placements and shidduchim.
Simply put, in a society like this, rooting out abuse is very difficult if not impossible; the only viable method for doing so involves what some would term a tremendous hilul haShem, a tremendous embarrassment to the community, its leadership and God.
Indeed, a common haredi complaint against UnOrthodoxJew has been that, even if Rabbi Kolko is guilty, the damage done by UOJ to the community, to Yiddishkeit, and to God is far worse a crime than Kolko’s fondling of little boys. Within this argument is the clear implication that Kolko’s alleged victims past and future should be somehow sacrificed on the altar of rebuilding haredism.
The Torah to which haredim pledge fealty both condemns and bans child sacrifice. Just as one may not offer his child to the fire of Molech, one may not abandon him to the fondling of rabbinic abusers, no matter how talented, charismatic or well-connected those rabbinic abusers may be. God does not want children sacrificed on an altar of abuse, even if that altar has a rabbinic hechsher (imprimatur).