Rabbi Gil Student and the Art of Coverup

Rabbi Gil Student approvingiy links (an "excellent post", he says) to a foolish post by an RCA rabbi calling himself Rabbi Without A Cause defending the gedolim. Here’s an excerpt:

…I’m reminded of Rocky (the original film), the scene when Rocky is in a bar, watching a television interview with World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. Apollo is yukking it up and playing the dandy, telling kids to wear suits and carry briefcases rather than become a professional athlete. The bartender calls Apollo a clown, and Rocky turns on him. “You calling Creed a clown? You calling the heavyweight champion of the world a clown?” Rocky, the third-rate ham-and-egger, knows what boxing is about, knows the kind of work you put in to train and win a fight, and knows the work ethic, not to mention talent, that goes into becoming heavyweight champion. He respects it in a way that others cannot, because they’re not in the field.

That’s the way I feel when I hear people mock gedolim and question their Torah knowledge and their ethics. These are rabbis who have spent decades learning and teaching, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen hours per day. They’ve been dedicated to this their entire lives. They don’t take breaks and luxurious vacations, they don’t watch TV and movies or read paperback novels, they don’t hang out with their friends schmoozing. I’m not romanticizing it; this is the life.

There are some 2700 daf in shas, and the Gedolim can tell you what’s on each page. They can quote Rishonim and Acharonim and debate and discuss the different sides of each argument. They know Shulchan Aruch, they know poskim and teshuvos.

And they know life. They answer questions from rabbis like me every day, with sensitivity and wisdom and creativity. They know how to be lenient, and they know when to be strict. They are quite familiar with the human condition.…

Here’s the comment I left on that blog, just in case this fool follows the example of his mentor Rabbi Student and censors me:

Yup. What they did to Rabbi Slifkin – and how they did it – was pure gadlus. That’s why so many of us make fun of them – and it.

Are you foolish enough to believe that dedication to a cause equals gadlus? I don’t care how many hours or how few vacations. I care about results.

How about a certain child abuse coverup with heavy participation from gedolim? Is that gadus?

Is telling victims that, because there was no penetration, there was no abuse, gadlus? Telling them that calling the police is mesira – is that gadlus?

You’re not rabbi without a cause, you’re rabbi without a clue.

With rabbis like these, who needs haredim?

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33 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Mikva Abuse, Modern Orthodoxy

33 responses to “Rabbi Gil Student and the Art of Coverup

  1. (01/05/2007)
    A Peek Under The Rug
    Rabbi Mark Dratch
    Just a decade ago, the issue of sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community was merely whispered about by some, discussed behind closed doors by few, and hushed up by many. It was certainly not a significant part of many public discussions and forums.

    And yet this Thanksgiving weekend it was featured prominently on the agendas of the annual conventions of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, where I had the privilege of addressing the topic openly, and the Agudath Israel of America.

    Prominent rabbinical leaders who spoke for the Agudah included Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha; Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, rosh hayeshiva of Maor Yitzchok; and Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Agudah’s executive vice president for government and public affairs.

    Acknowledgment of a problem is the first major step in confronting it. So we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. After all, the emphasis of the Agudah presentations was not on helping victims of abuse, but on calling for decent and responsible speech (which was judged to be lacking in many blogs which bring allegations to light) and on protecting the dignity and honor of many prominent Torah leaders (who have been subject to harsh criticism for their perceived mishandling of abuse cases). Nothing wrong with that—as far as it goes. Lashon hara (derogatory speech), lashon nekiah (decent speech), and kevod ha-Torah (respect for Torah and its teachers) are fundamental values in our tradition. But there are other fundamental values as well.

    It is most appropriate for an organization like Agudath Israel to address head-on the issue of the molestation of innocent bodies and souls, the issue of the honor due to the tzelem Elokim (image of God) in which everyone is created and is violated when a person is abused, and the issue of correcting the misguided communal values and pressures which discourage and prevent victims from coming forward and getting the help they desperately need.

    With all due respect to Rabbis Salomon, Wachsman and Zwiebel, I do not believe that many of the bloggers and accusers they roundly condemn and label as “resha’im” (wicked) or “maskilim” (corruptly modern) were motivated by a disdain for rabbis, their authority or their opinions. At least not originally.

    My experience with many victims/survivors of abuse is that they desperately want rabbinic leaders and the community and the Torah and the halachic system—which they were taught to revere and upon which they were raised to depend—to work for them.

    Many believe that rabbis and rabbinic judges are advocates for those that were hurt and injured. Many, whose physical and emotional welfare were torn apart, want, at the very least, their faith to sustain them and remain strong. But many of those who speak out in crude and insolent ways have felt betrayed by those very rabbis and communal mores in which they desperately wanted to believe. Many felt revictimized by those they believed should have been there to help them. So they lash out with feelings of betrayal, disillusionment, abandonment and resentment. This is perhaps no excuse for crude behavior, but perhaps an explanation…and an indictment.

    Rabbi Salomon responded to the accusation that these matters were being swept under the rug through denial and cover-up by stating that, in fact, he and his colleagues have dealt with cases of abuse (kudos for this public admission) and that they do indeed sweep these matters under the rug—in the sense that they keep their efforts discreet in order to protect human dignity. Unfortunately, it appears to many of us that in doing so the human dignity of many victims has not been protected. It appears to many of us that in doing so perpetrators have been allowed to remain where they can perpetrate again and again.

    It appears to many of us that misrepresented piskei halachah (halachic decisions)—like that of the gadol who was quoted as ruling that without penetration there has been no abuse, or those who promulgate prohibitions of speaking out because of lashon hara and mesirah—have been detrimental to the welfare of victims and have not been publicly corrected. It appears to many of us that the opinions of poskei ha-dor (leading halachic figures) in these areas have been roundly ignored by many (like those of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv that obligate the reporting of known child abusers to the police in America).

    When our community and its leaders will act efficiently, appropriately, and responsibly, their critics will be silenced. When allegations are listened to seriously and respectfully, and responded to effectively and properly—in accordance with the halachah and informed by the best expert resources contemporarily available—communal integrity and respect will be restored.

    The problem with sweeping things under the rug, for whatever reason and for whatever motivation, is that the shmutz remains. Our communal carpet has been soiled for too long. And there’s just no more room under it to hide any more of our secrets. It’s time to peek under the rug and clean up the mess. n

    Rabbi Mark Dratch is founder and CEO of JSafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse Free Environment.

  2. david

    Certainly studying physics day and night without letup or medicine or law does not make one an expert in the chosen field. Anyone will agree that “great” chassidic rebbes, gedolim to some, might be “great” without scholarship but merely based on inheritance. There truly are rarely gedolim such as Moshe Feinstein or Joseph Soloveitchik who have a finger on the pulse of reality. It is a burned out terminology as are so may appellations.

  3. shmuel

    Great article. Well argued. And it’ll be ignored by charedim because they never heard of him and he uses his goyish name. And that’s why Charedism is so sick.

  4. Neo-Conservaguy

    “You’re not rabbi without a cause, you’re rabbi without a clue.”

    How to win friends and influence people, blogger style…?

  5. Jim the Catholic

    Neo-Conservaguy is right Shmarya. Your heart is in the right place but you are your own worst enemy. You remind me of a certain Catholic I once knew. He felt he had to be angry all the time at the Bishops & read the worst motives into any & all of their actions since the scandal & to savage those who reminded him that they are regarded by Our religon as the successors of the Apostles.

    This fellow even in his clearer moments admited that his anger reached a point where he was just angry for the pleasure of feeling self-rightous rage against others & it cut him off from God. Sadly in the end this fellow did loose his faith. I pray he one day gives up his pride & find it again.

    Divine Anger is God’s Will toward Justice it is NOT an emotion. It’s fine to be angry if it moves you to seek justice but when it degenerates into self-satifying rage & leads you to allienate rather then convince well what bloody good is it then? And what use then are you?

    Also when anger leads you to rail against non-issues then it’s a waste of time.

    I read Rabbi Without A Cause’s respone to you. He denies he was talking about the bogus halacha justifying abuse because there was no penetration he was talking about the white lists.

    Anyway this weekend I must go into NYC. There is a seminar on Autism I wish to attend to help my daughter. God bless. I will read your response if any when I get back.

    Cheers!

  6. frummeyid

    Shmarya, that article by Rabbi Dratch is excellent. It restates the obvious source of your anger. PLEASE PLEASE for the sake of the kids moderate the venom so we can all help those who need help. Most of the leadership who got this wrong are not evil; they just need to be shown the right way and educated. Of course, there are some evil people being exposed. But many people who didn’t act when they should have are not evil, just very wrong. And even if someeone IS clueless in some regards, that doesn’t make him a fool.

    By the way, if dedication to a cause and the renouncing of material pleasures is in and of itself to be admire, then Osama is quite the gadol.

  7. Ahavah bat Sarah

    I’m astonished that anyone here is still clinging to the false idea that if the blogs just spoke nicely, then they would be taken seriously and things would change. That is, ummmm, the product of the south end of a north going bull. The Rabbis jump on the tone and the language precisely to deflect the obvious fact that they have acted at least negligently and often with malicious intent to cover up crimes committed by their own. If they were really interested in solving the problem, they would have had a big meeting about flushing out pedophiles and sexual perverts and keeping them away from their chosen types of victims, not a meeting about how to diminish the effects of bloggers. The fact that the meeting was about bloggers and not perverts says it all. There is ZERO intent to change anything. There is only intent to keep their power and authority at all costs.

  8. shmuel

    Ahavah is right. In this day and age, when we see the light at the end of the tunnel, when lawsuits are finally being served and we have the baddies on the run, for the Agudah to hold a press conference and blame bloggers for a lack of respect, when the Agudah rabbis (or Agudah-affiliated people) have been studiously ignoring this problem, or willfully covering it up, for 40+ years, is so mind-blowing, you just have to lose respect for them. I have. So have thousands of others, When we express our frustration with them, they call a meeting to bad mouth…bloggers? People they’ve already forbidden their minions to read? There are no words to describe their lack of respect for klal Yisroel.

  9. Yochanan Lavie

    “There is only intent to keep their power and authority at all costs.”

    Yup, that about sums it up. I responded in another post that today’s rabbis don’t have the original smicha from Sinai (if there ever was such a thing), and they are a self justifying oligarchy. Furthermore, the Rocky analogy is silly. These mugs are just a buncha palookas.

  10. Very sad.

    Sad because you claim to pursue honesty and integrity, but you warp my words. I never said that one cannot disagree with gedolim. I said one should do so with respect. I never said dedication = gadlus, just that these are not people who are in it for themselves.

    And Sad because you, like your poster Ahavah, are willing to misread others’ statements in order to confirm yourselves in your own belief that you are good and the rest of the world is evil.

    And Sad because you cannot even see your own hypocrisy. To you, anyone who disagrees with you is not only wrong, but maliciously, malignantly so, and deserving of ridicule.

    So small-minded.

  11. Neo-Conservaguy

    My suggestion was to stick with publishing the facts – they speak for themselves and are frequently damning enough. Why give “the other side” a target to attack (the tone and the insults), allowing them to divert attention from the real issues raised. I’m not ignorant to the anger – the rage, at times – felt toward those who wear a suit of piety while acting in ways against God and man; I feel it too. I just recognize that such anger only hurts me, at least when moments of clarity occasionally force the way into my jumbled mass of thinking. Better we should hold and keep the high ground by insisting that the focus stay on issues rather than personalities.

    Just kidding of course, let’s have at it with the Modern Orthodox rabbinic intruder. 😉

    “And Sad because you cannot even see your own hypocrisy. To you, anyone who disagrees with you is not only wrong, but maliciously, malignantly so, and deserving of ridicule.”

    …Exactly as the Orthodox rabbinic community, including the so-called “gedolim”, treats the more open-minded Jews that believe in using all of our modern secular knowledge to enhance our understanding of God and Torah, even if it means sometimes having the courage to discard dated, mistaken understandings of how the world around us works.

    It’s not supposed to be “Torah” in one mental box and “Madah” in another with a great big RCA-approved mechitsa in the middle; the integration should be seamless and without fear of the impact of each upon the other. I met R. Slifkin in person, heard his presentation and toured the zoo with him, and his magnificent integration of those “boxes” got him a whole can of rabbinic whoop-ass opened up on his head by “gedolim”; guess which from whom I have more respect? Think hard.

  12. Rabbi W/O A Cause —

    Get real. You used two specific examples in your post and need to retract both of them. Further, the gedolim you praise have acted with MALICE toward the RCA and many others. Your blindness — and the blindness of your mentor Rabbi Student — only hurts Modern Orthodoxy.

    I have in no way twisted your words. You simply refuse to put these “gedolim” in their proper context, with abuse coverups, ahalakhic attacks on the RCA and Rabbi Slifkin, and so much more kleinerkeit.

    I shudder to think you lead Jews.

  13. Neo-conservaguy:
    So you’re suggesting that once one party – or multiple parties – have been abused, that means everyone should be abused?

    Shmarya:
    More of the same, I see. Still very sad.

    There’s nothing for me to retract in the example I gave. I did clarify on the post page itself that the two posters I cited didn’t intend things to sound the way I heard them, but that’s about it.

    And there’s a lot you need to retract in your distortions.

    But I can see you are a very angry person, and anger doesn’t lend itself well to backing down.

    Perhaps, though, you ought to edit your “Comment Rules” if you are having so much trouble following them.

  14. Lets see if I understand you:

    1. You based an entire post on two examples. Both examples were clearly false.

    2. You want people not to disparage gedolim. Many people pointed out the behavior of gedolim – especially in the Slifkin affair and in repeated child abuse coverups – was both deplorable and unhalakhic. You replied that you were not talking about abuse, had no verifiable knowledge of same, and din’t want it in the ‘conversation.’ You had – and have – no answers for what the gedolim did to Rabbi Slifkin, and, more importantly, how they did it.

    3. You want gedolim treated with respect, no matter how poorly they have treated others.

    If you are an example of the RCA’s young leadership, the RCA is doomed.

  15. There’s nothing for me to retract in the example I gave. I did clarify on the post page itself that the two posters I cited didn’t intend things to sound the way I heard them, but that’s about it.

    Actually, there is. It’s not about my intention, or how my words came off to you. In the example you gave, my post has nothing disparaging or ridiculing to say about Gedolim in any manner. It was just unfair. But I’ve already told you that.

  16. Neo-Conservaguy

    “Neo-conservaguy:
    So you’re suggesting that once one party – or multiple parties – have been abused, that means everyone should be abused?”‘

    Not at all. How did you infer that from my statements?

    How about responding to my other points about the behavior of “gedolim” as they acted in the Slifkin Affair (among many)? Does such behavior encourage and/or deserve respect? Come on – take a stand.

  17. Orthomom:
    Yes, because of an error in the link – as I’ve already communicated to you. I linked to the wrong post. But in the post I cited you did say what I quoted you as saying.

  18. Neoconservaguy:
    Because I wrote: “To you, anyone who disagrees with you is not only wrong, but maliciously, malignantly so, and deserving of ridicule.”

    And you replied: “Exactly as the Orthodox rabbinic community, including the so-called “gedolim”, treats the more open-minded Jews…”

    So yes, you are saying that since some open-minded Jews have been abused, that means that it is appropriate to abuse me.

  19. Shmarya:
    “You based an entire post on two examples. Both examples were clearly false.”

    Nope. I based it on the ridicule found in the blogosphere in general – including your site, I might add. Those were examples, not the set of all cases.

    “You want people not to disparage gedolim. Many people pointed out the behavior of gedolim – especially in the Slifkin affair and in repeated child abuse coverups – was both deplorable and unhalakhic. You replied that you were not talking about abuse, had no verifiable knowledge of same, and din’t want it in the ‘conversation.’ You had – and have – no answers for what the gedolim did to Rabbi Slifkin, and, more importantly, how they did it.”

    As I’ve already said: I don’t defend any cover-ups of abuse. To me, any one who covers up abuse is not a gadol.
    As far as the R’ Slifkin case – No, I don’t agree with them. But I also don’t see that their actions in it warrant ridicule.

    “You want gedolim treated with respect, no matter how poorly they have treated others.”

    I would like to see human beings treated with respect. And I would like to see human beings who have accomplished great things treated with respect, even if I disagree with their opinions.

    “If you are an example of the RCA’s young leadership, the RCA is doomed.”

    [sigh] Three posts, three insults. Is that the best you can do? Is that what your supposed humanitarianism inspires in you?

  20. “As far as the R’ Slifkin case – No, I don’t agree with them. But I also don’t see that their actions in it warrant ridicule.”

    Let’s see:

    1. The banned him without speaking to him first.

    2. They (with one or two exceptions) could not read Rabbi Slifkin’s works because they don’t understand English. (Can you imagine a ‘gadol’ 2000 years ago not understanding Aramaic and at least the basic workings of Latin and Greek?)

    3. They denied Rabbi Slifkin all due process.

    4. Many admitted they signed the ban only because Rabbi Elyashiv did, not because of their own understanding of the case from reading the materials, because they did not read them. For his part, Rabbi Elyashiv did not read them either and refused a meeting with Rabbi Slifkin, as did several other ‘top-tier’ gedolim.

    So, banning someone and trying to ruin his life can be done by so-called gedolim in an unhalakhic and spiteful way, and you, proud RCA member, don’t see anything worthy of ridicule.

    I repeat: “If you are an example of the RCA’s young leadership, the RCA is doomed.”

  21. Orthomom:
    Yes, because of an error in the link – as I’ve already communicated to you. I linked to the wrong post. But in the post I cited you did say what I quoted you as saying.

    Yes, but does your “error” not require you to make any clarifications or retractions? You misquoted me, and linked me as an example of one who “ridicules” Gedolim when my posts (or any of mine, as I feel I’ve demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction but yours) don’t show any such ridicule.

  22. Neo-Conservaguy

    “So yes, you are saying that since some open-minded Jews have been abused, that means that it is appropriate to abuse me.”

    Perhaps the many years of your studies in rabbinic exegesis has lead you to read more into my words than I intended? I certainly wasn’t approving of the abuse of any party, which I clearly stated in my initial comments to the author of this blog. See what happened when you have a tradition of taking a wonderfully concise, tightly written work like Megillath Ruth and then quadrupling the size with ArtScroll commentary? 😉

  23. Orthomom:

    I don’t understand. I posted an “Update” clarification in red bold letters, and took out the link to your site. What else is necessary?

  24. Shmarya:

    I’m still not clear. You disagree with their conclusion, and think the process was wrong. That equals cause for ridicule? I rely on the Gemara’s statement that “leitzanuta [ridicule]” is prohibited.

    I also don’t quite understand how you equate “ruining his life” with banning his book. Can you clarify?

  25. There is a process in halakha for judging a case. It was not followed. Both sides were not heard. The judges could not properly evalute the ‘evidence’ they had due to language barriers, etc. They acted outside of the halakhic framework and did so with intent. The smeared Rabbi Slifkin and tried to destroy his life.

    You don’t get that? You think wall posters up all over Jerusalem and Bnai Brak along with articles in Yated Neeman calling Rabbi Slifkin’s work “heresy” and him a heretic did not personally hurt him? That it did not hurt his income? Cause great emotional distress?

    If you can’t understand this, there’s nothing else left to say.

  26. I don’t understand. I posted an “Update” clarification in red bold letters, and took out the link to your site. What else is necessary?

    If you recently took out the link to my site, than nothing else is necessary. Thanks.

  27. Neo-Conservaguy

    “I also don’t quite understand how you equate “ruining his life” with banning his book. Can you clarify?”

    Are you honestly unaware of the other actions taken against him in addition to the egregious actions related to the book ban?

  28. Shmarya:
    I don’t agree with the rulings on the Slifkin case, but note:
    1. While there is a protocol for judging cases, this wasn’t a din torah.
    2. Just as a doctor will recommend that people not eat certain foods and rely on others’ research, that’s what seems to have happened in this case. The rabbis who banned the book relied on others’ “research.”
    3. If they believe his books shouldn’t be read – and I emphasize that I don’t agree with them – then isn’t it logical for them to say so to those who ask them?

    Conservaguy: What other things did they do?

  29. They lableld the books kefirah and Rabbi Slifkin a heretic while at the same time refusing to hear him out or meet with him or his rabbinic supporters. Find the halakha that condones this type of action. Can’t do that, can you?

  30. Shmarya:
    Actually, labelling books kefirah and someone a kofer is well-within halachah, as is refusing to meet,if the claims are well-grounded. Read the position of Rabbi Akiva in Perek Chelek.

    Neo-conservaguy:
    I’ll take a look at the link.

  31. So, a Shomer Shabbos Jew with smicha from recognized rabbonim who CITES POSITIONS HELD BY RISHONIM AND ACHRONIM can be labeled a heretic and ridculed in public, all without a fair hearing?

    Readers, understand this well. This RCA rabbi says that is what Judaism is. Run away from it – and him – as fast as you can.

    The actual fact is the rabbis who did that to Rabbi Slifkin did it OUTSIDE of the halakhic process. They acted incorrectly, and they should not be followed.

  32. Observant Jew

    Even if one were to believe that the books are kefirah, the way in which the whole thing was done was an enormous chilul Hashem, causing thousands of people to feel distanced from Orthodoxy, bringing ridicule upon the notion of rabbinic authority, and ensuring that people who would never have heard of the books got to read them. All of which could have been avoided had the Gedolim sought to meet with R’ Slifkin or his maskimim for a constructive resolution. Yes, the ban was ridiculous.

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