Sunday, June 3, 2012

Agudah Acknowledges Dropping The Ball On Abuse, Claims Near-Perfection


Mishpachah magazine just featured an interview with Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice-President of Agudath Israel of America. I've met him, and he's a very nice, very intelligent person. But his comments are astonishing.
"Look, I don’t write off the bloggers as leitzanim and reshaim, because they will be judged, as we all will, after 120 years for their motivations and techniques. I'm not a condemner, by nature."

"I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they’ve created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues. The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman. That’s a high price to pay."

"Then there is the damage wrought to the hierarchy of Klal Yisrael. We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation, and it’s dangerous to ruin the fabric of Klal Yisrael by denigrating the ideal of daas Torah and by allowing personal attacks on gedolei Torah.”

Reb Chaim Dovid believes that the process of decision-making through the Moetzes is as close to perfect as can be. “It’s a homogeneous group of the most intelligent, empathetic individuals — all great talmidei chachamim — and they grasp all aspects of an issue right away.” 

Where do I begin?

Let's start with the positive. R. Zwiebel acknowledges that the charedi world was not taking the issue of abuse and molestation seriously. That's worthy of credit, even though it's blindingly obvious. Given that there are other Agudah spokesmen who only weigh in on this topic to claim that there is a baseless witch-hunt in this area, it's refreshing to see R. Zwiebel admit that the charedi leadership dropped the ball on this issue.

It's also good to see R. Zwiebel acknowledge that a large part of the credit for the charedi world beginning to take these issues seriously is due to bloggers. That can't be an easy admission to make; Failed Messiah and UOJ write many things that are distasteful, to say the least. But it is clearly due to them that the charedi world started to address abuse, and so it is good that R. Zwiebel gives credit where credit is due.

On the other hand, given these admissions, R. Zwiebel's other comments are all the more incomprehensible.

R. Zwiebel admits that the Charedi world did not take these issues seriously - that the abuse of hundreds, probably thousands, of children continued, while molesters were protected and parents were told to shut up. But he wonders if stopping that evil is worth rechilus, lashon hara, and - I'm almost gagging at typing this - bittul zman! By what possible measure might it not be worth it?!

Then we have to think about whether there really are crimes of rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman. Sure, there may be some accusations that are false. But, as Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz notes, the majority of discussions about abuse are about cases which are true, and talking about them on the Internet was leto'eles, since it has gotten them dealt with - nothing else worked! So where is the excess of rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman?

Then we come to R. Zwiebel's protest that the blogosphere has denigrated Daas Torah and the honor of the Gedolim. Well, yes, it has. But considering that Agudas Yisrael's version of Daas Torah is a recent invention, I can't see that the exposure of its failings is such a terrible thing. And considering that the Gedolim are the leaders, and are thus responsible for dropping the ball on the issue of abuse, surely any loss of respect is their own responsibility. I haven't seen anyone denigrating and losing respect for rabbis such as Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein. Respect is given when it is justly earned.

Next we have Mishpachah describing R. Zwiebel as believing that "the process of decision-making through the Moetzes is as close to perfect as can be." Given that he's just admitted that, unlike the majority of society, the Gedolim did not know how to deal with the issue of child abuse (i.e. they did not know that YES IT REALLY HAPPENS, YES IT'S REALLY TERRIBLE, NO YOU CAN'T DEAL WITH IT ON YOUR OWN, GO TO THE AUTHORITIES), how on earth does he believe that their decisions are "as close to perfect as can be"?

Look back at the fiasco of Daas Torah over the last decade. Banning Lipa's Big Event at Madison Square Garden, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, due to it being irredeemably wrong, then permitting it a year later (where Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky publicly admitted that the Gedolim erred). Issuing various bans based on information from askanim with a deserved reputation for incitement and devious behavior, in some cases an actual criminal record for fraud! Giving great honor and power in geirus to a known manipulator and scumbag, and failing to condemn him when his even worse crimes are exposed on the Internet. Protesting the innocence of the monster Elior Chen, and defending this on the grounds that other rabbis say he's innocent. Announcing to a crowd of 40,000 people at CitiField, who have been informed that Daas Torah in such a context is binding on all Klal Yisrael, that kids from homes with Internet must be expelled from yeshivos - then promptly retracting it the next week. Heck, there are still rabbis who covered up for molestors being honored as Gedolim! Even charedi apologist Jonathan Rosenblum writes subversive columns about the problems in the Daas Torah process, though he attributes all the blame to askanim. This is a decision-making process that every normal person can see is deeply flawed - and R. Zwiebel claims that it's "as close to perfect as can be"?

And what reason does R. Zwiebel give for believing this? That the Gedolim are talmidei chachamim, intelligent and empathetic. I am sure that they are; but these are not sufficient requirements for good leadership. It's troubling that R. Zwiebel sees a positive aspect in their being homogenous; that is, of course, a negative. Note that Chazal say that if a Sanhedrin reach a verdict unanimously, it is rejected! (There are a number of other halachos in the Gemara regarding the process of rabbinic judgment that are negated in the contemporary Daas Torah process. With all the talk about the greatness of Chazal, why are they not followed in this area?)

Good leadership requires people who are relatively young and independent, not elderly and relying on handlers. It requires people who are in touch with the community, not living in the ivory towers of the yeshivah world. Leadership in the area of abuse requires people who understand the problems, respect the expertise of people in the mental health profession, and respect civil law; not people who are too naive to believe the "tawdry tales," do not respect the expertise of people in the mental health profession, and think that the authorities are the goyishe enemy. Good leadership requires a system of checks and balances, not cronyism and the suppression of criticism and a constant fear of not appearing frum enough. And most of all, as Rav Aharon Lichtenstein explains so well, good leadership requires wisdom.

R. Zwiebel, representing Agudath Israel, has always insisted that someone with suspicions of child abuse may not go directly to the authorities without consulting a suitably-qualified rabbi first. Recently, he admitted that Agudath Israel will not be providing a list of such allegedly suitably-qualified rabbis (for the simple reason that any rabbi that Agudah names will face prison if he does not report the cases that come to his attention). And R. Zwiebel agrees here that many rabbis have not dealt with such cases properly. So he knows that the system is badly broken, but insists that it must continue!

Sometimes, observing the system of rabbinic authority in the contemporary Charedi world is like watching a comedy. Except that it isn't funny, because the consequences are so tragic.

99 comments:

  1. http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/43-philosophy/358-rabbinic-paralysis-why-rabbis-wont-take-responsibility

    Rabbinic Paralysis: Why Rabbis Won't Take Responsibility

    During a student's first years in yeshiva he learns to think creatively and ask probing questions. However, when he embarks on his rabbinical studies, the rules change. Suddenly all that is a thing of the past. Now he is taught not to think, for his opinion is not important; he is now taught that he must simply accept. This approach, a far cry from the methodology of the Talmud, produces "rabbis" incapable of analyzing primary sources and reaching an independent conclusion. One tragic example is child abuse within the observant community.

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  2. "We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation"

    Funny, I always thought we were a God-centered nation.

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  3. For those interested, the article can be read here.

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  4. Here's one vote for R. Slifkin as head of the moetzes.

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  5. "Given that there are other Agudah spokesmen who only weigh in on this topic to claim that there is a baseless witch-hunt in this area"

    Well, it's not so easy to say that this spokesman would claim there's a baseless witch-hunt when he wrote, "Abuse, of course, is a serious sin and a serious problem and, tragically, it exists in every community, including the Orthodox."

    Other than that, your article was excellent.

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  6. I want to get to the bottom of this issue. Who can explain to me what is the Agudah's halachic rationale for protecting child molestors?

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  7. Bravo! Bravo! this post was an amazing read.
    Thanks for taking the time to post it.

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  8. Do you mean Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik from Chicago?

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  9. "As close to perfect as can be" reminds me of Mary Poppins, "Practically perfect, in every way," as she said. At least she was practically perfect.

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  10. The Moetzes is just like the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. They're just there for the photo ops and the honor. Two organizations propping it up by its own members.

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  11. This blog, like R. Slifkin, is an outstanding example of the evolutionary process of which the blogger is so enamored. R. Slifkin was once a right-wing yeshivah student, and evolved into whatever he is currently. This blog began primarily as an exploration into the legacy of rationalist medeival Torah scholars, and has evolved into little more than an alternative version of the anti-semitic failedmessiah blog.

    I started to write a full response to the many flaws in this post, but then realized I've neither the time nor the inclinatiion to do so. Suffice it to say that any rational person not blinkered by the personal politics in which R. Slifkin seems permanently enmeshed will see this screed for the unfocused floundering it is. The Agudah is by no means without its problems, and I'd be the first to agree the fictional "da'as torah" concept, a creature of post WWII America, had no clothes. But I'd still take it over any other group or philosphy R. Slifkin reccomends. Because as we've seen so vividly these past 12 months - in which this blog has free-fallen from a forum of scholarly discussion into just another anti-rabbinic establishment blog - Rabbi Slifkin's philosohy is essentially no philosophy. It's a catch-as-catch can hodge podge of rationalism when it suits him, and justification of tradition when it doesnt. It's a system that might work fine on a personal level, but will never succeed beyond that.

    R. Slifkin should quit while he's ahead, or at least, not irreversibly lost, and return to the founding principles this blog was built upon.

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  12. I think that referring to Rabbi Zweibel (Mr. Zweibel?) as "Zweibel" will distract from your arguments. It makes it sound personal. Why not criticize him while still using the proper title?

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  13. Fixed. Thanks. (It's also appropriate even aside from the point that you mention)

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  14. "Do you mean Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik from Chicago?"

    No, I mean R. Chaim, from RBS.

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  15. "This blog began primarily as an exploration into the legacy of rationalist medeival Torah scholars, and has evolved into little more than an alternative version of the anti-semitic failedmessiah blog. "

    Kein Yirboo. And may all Jews one day have the emotional and intellectual capacity to deal with criticism without yelling "Anti-semite." Amen.

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  16. DF, you should get out more. I forwarded this post to a Rav who is associated with Agudah, and he whole-heartedly agreed with it.

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  17. Df you claim you started to write detailed responses to supposed flaws in the article, but then conveniently decided not to. Is it because you can't point out any flaws in convincing fashion and are simply upset that Rabbi Slifkin criticizes your beloved leadership group? Flaws don't get assumed to exist because some guy says "they are there I just don't feel like naming them"

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  18. The leaders keep making the same mistakes, defending evil-doers and punishing the victims. The inability to learn from past mistakes rightly diminishes a person's stature as a wise man whose judgment one should trust. They really have nobody but themselves to blame for this.

    When they correct their mistakes and start taking the very simple steps Rav Slifkin mentions they may be in a position to earn some of that respect back.

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  19. While I pretty much agree with the analysis and criticism of the esteemed R' Slifkin, there is a very important aspect of this whole debacle that I think he (and almost everyone else) is avoiding, maybe because the implications are too awful to face.

    He very correctly demonstrates just how badly the gedolim and rabbinic leadership have approached the sex abuse issue, and how awful the current system is. So, yes, to anyone with half a brain, these people should not be trusted to handle these issues properly.

    But not he - nor any other person who is willing to criticize the gedolim - has allowed themselves to openly acknowledge a much more serious problem: not just that the gedolim and rabbonim aren't to be trusted because of their cluelessness or incompetence, but rather that these individuals are guilty of purposefully protecting people they know to be dangerous criminals, and thereby directly responsible for any harm these perpetrators have inflicted since they were known about.

    It may well be that they've been choosing this course of action because they have rachmanus on the molesters family, or because they genuinely think publicizing the issue will hurt the community, or be a chillul hashem, or any other well-intentioned rationale. (And I don't think we should rule out the possibility that their motivations may at times have also been far less than noble.) But regardless of their reason, if they actually were convinced that the allegations against the person were true, and they failed to report it - for any reason - then they are criminally responsible for any further harm these abusers inflicted! Let me say that again - THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE!

    I think most people are avoiding thinking about the issue this way because the implications of it are just too profoundly difficult to face. So they choose instead to couch the rabbonim's offenses in much more forgiving terms ("they made mistakes", "they handled it wrongly", "they didn't understand the issue", etc.).

    But we need to face up to this unpleasant reality. If the rabbonim knew about the danger (and after all the stories that have come to light these past years, we have no reason to doubt this) and they deliberately chose not to tell people about it, shouldn't they be held accountable? This is not just about people "making mistakes" which should result in a loss of trust. This is about people deliberately choosing a course of action that any reasonable person could expect would result in further children being harmed.

    So why are we only saying "Don't trust the rabbonim anymore"? Why aren't we instead saying "Arrest the rabbonim for allowing these perpetrators to harm further children!!"?

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  20. I think we have to stop framing this as an issue with Gedolim/ Rabbanim, and start framing this as an issue with the kids that are being harmed and need protection. Solutions won't come for the charedi community, it just won't. Just like we can't expect the Catholic Church to buck up and face its problems. The gedolim and askanim in power have a vested interest in keeping thier populations in check and silent, to keep themselves in power. Admitting falability and abuse diminishes that power. The Charedi system is failing. It just doesn't work on so many levels, from a social standpoint from an economic standpoint. So the question is what do we do now.

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  21. Re "The Moetzes is just like the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. They're just there for the photo ops and the honor": this is a profoundly unfair comparison. The Queen is a respected symbol of her country who has earned the love of her subjects by conscientiously fulfilling her ceremonial and charitable responsibilities for 60 years out of a strict sense of duty.

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  22. It's true that abuse/molestation/tax evasion/etc. among Orthodox Jews should be addressed. But doesn't a blog like FailedMessiah or UOJ that presents ONLY the aforementioned crimes of the Orthodox community, without diluting it with any good points of Orthodoxy, give a reader a slanted view?

    If I were to concentrate all the crimes committed by blacks or Hispanics in New York in one website, and not mention any good deeds performed by blacks or Hispanics, such a website would indeed be deemed a racist website. (In fact, my internet filter blocked UOJ, saying that the site falls under the category of "Hate/Abuse/Racism".

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  23. What makes him a "rabbi"? Any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a beard who works for charedim becomes a "rabbi" now? (Remember Kobre?) He's trained as a lawyer- went to my law school, editor of law review, wonder how he dealt with his female classmates- and serves as a spokesman. To call him "rabbi" is to make a mockery of it. "Zweibel" is just fine.

    Joseph: I recommend Brian's speech to his followers in "The Life of Brian": "No, you don't have to follow *anybody*!"

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  24. I often think of the following in this context:


    http://www.enotes.com/ones-who-walk-away-omelas

    "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is Ursula K. Le Guin's allegorical tale about a Utopian society in which Omelas' happiness is made possible by the sacrifice of one child for the sake of the group. In an allegory, many symbols and images are used in an attempt to illustrate universal truths about life. ''Omelas'' was first published in the magazine New Directions in 1973, and the following year it won Le Guin the prestigious Hugo Award for best short story.



    KT
    Joel Rich

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  25. I have to say I agree with Yehudah P. There's much to be critical of in the Charedi world. I have close relatives with whom I can no longer have normal conversations because they're so close-minded about military service, employment, da'as torah and many other things. But the extent to which Chessed (even if only internally) is nurtured in their children is something that I don't believe exists, at not least to the same extent, outside the Charedi and Chardal (who deserve much of the same criticism) worlds. This is just one example.

    As important as the points made by this blog are (and I identify with 95% of them), I don't think you'd want it to be such that an outsider who reads a random but significantly-sized sample of the posts gets the impression that Charedi Judaism is basically evil and corrupt.

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  26. No, I mean R. Chaim, from RBS

    Sadly this great man and talmid chochum doesn't receive a tenth of the respect he should because he doesn't fit the Charedi mold of RBS.

    I have heard more than one mainstream Anglo Charedi rabbi speak of Rav Soloveichik in less than complementary terms.

    They don't reach the tips of his toenails is greatness.

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  27. that's why it is only "near" perfection and not actual perfection!

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  28. "But doesn't a blog like FailedMessiah or UOJ that presents ONLY the aforementioned crimes of the Orthodox community, without diluting it with any good points of Orthodoxy, give a reader a slanted view? "

    I think you make a fair point, but I believe the answer to your question is "No." These blogs are not intended to be authoritative representations of Orthodox Judaism to outsiders; they are intended to be vehicles of reform. They preach from and to Orthodox Judaism (admittedly slightly complicated by the fact that Shmarya has left, but the same purpose remains). We DO live in a community that thinks itself better than others and without the same problems, and chipping away at this delusion does not necessarily imply racism.

    Also, it happens not to be true that FM never posts positively. UOJ is a one issue blog. Is he also racist for his Catholic abuse posts (which bizarrely make up a large proportion of his posts)?

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  29. Carol,

    Why do you assume that there is a "halachic" rationale for this?
    This is about power, not halacha. Heres the simple truth: these "Gedolim" are out of touch. It saddens me to say it, but it's true.

    Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz, where Toto pulls the curtain to reveal the Wizard is just an old man with a bullhorn & smoke machine? That's the image that comes to mind. Note that the Wizard is NOT an evil, cruel tyrant. He is actually well-intended. But over the course of time, he became too powerful, and (perhaps) started to believe the myth of his own omniscience.

    The system is corrupt. I say: let it crash & die. But have faith! Torah will not disappear. There are tens of thousands of Torah-observant Jews who want nothing to do with these Gedolim. It is these communities that will carry Torah forard in the next century.

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  30. BSD said...
    "We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation"

    Funny, I always thought we were a God-centered nation.



    IIUC r zweibel realizes that God is the ultimate center, but just meant something like josephus'es observation that the masses are with the pharisees. he sees the excesses of bloggerdom as departing from that.

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  31. Rabbi Zweibel sounds like a very sensitive and intelligent man. The essential statement in the interview was:

    "I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they’ve created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues. The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost.

    Looking at this statement in detail:

    "people who are pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain."

    This implies that it is purely a personal, emotional – and irrational – issue.

    "communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously."

    He is speaking as if the "communal issues" were abuse and molestation. Perhaps each act of abuse and molestation is an individual's criminal act and they becomes communal issues when the community protects the criminals and oppresses the victims.

    "The question is, if the fact that [the bloggers have] created some degree of change is worth the cost"

    Here he is framing the issue as a cost/benefit analysis, and he doesn't think the benefits of taking abuse and molestation seriously outweigh the costs to the community.

    It is true that there is no perfect approach to dealing with the monsters that lurk among us. Civil and criminal law in the USA has come over the years to bias the system in favor of protecting children though in the past the approach was more like that of the Agudah, at least for those with power and influence.

    Rabbi Zweibel can't quite bring himself to state explicitly the things he implies:

    "Well, these kids and their families just have to take one for the team," or maybe "Well, the process of decision-making through the Moetzes is as close to perfect as can be, and you can't make a perfect omelette without breaking some eggs."

    But who am I to judge. He's a sensitive, intelligent man in the employ of "a homogeneous group of the most intelligent, empathetic individuals — all great talmidei chachamim — and they grasp all aspects of an issue right away.”

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  32. "R. Zwiebel ..... But he wonders if stopping that evil is worth rechilus, lashon hara, and - I'm almost gagging at typing this - bittul zman! By what possible measure might it not be worth it?!
    "

    maybe he meant

    A case in point is abuse and molestation issues. The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, the isolated good these blogs have achieved in a few instances for a few individuals are far outweighed by it’s numerous rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman on thousands of non related topics. That’s a high price to pay."

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  33. He didn't say that. But even if he did, he will still be grossly wrong, on both a factual and moral level.

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  34. Reject,

    I am sure that is what R' Zweibel would say, but his remark shows that Charedi Judaism is more and more about the "Gedloim" being the only conduit to Godliness.

    Add this to the list of moments in whihc CJ turned Catholic.

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  35. I'm sure that they do have a halachic reason because everything they do is al pi Torah. That reasononig maybe twisted but it's there. Again, anyone knows what it is?

    So why are we only saying "Don't trust the rabbonim anymore"? Why aren't we instead saying "Arrest the rabbonim for allowing these perpetrators to harm further children!!"?

    Ok, what we have so far on this thread is that the rabbonim are evil to variious degrees. They are out of touch, only care about power, protect the criminals and themselves should be arrestred. Needless to say that they are people of inferior moral character. Is this what we are saying here? I would like to have the names of the people that should be arrested.

    On the other hand some, not many but some, have found Zwibbel 'sensitive' (sic!). Do you still feel this way?

    Pardon my ignorance but what is RBS?

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  36. > Then we have to think about whether there really are crimes of rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman.

    There was plenty. There was rechilus "Did you hear that the Goldberg's kid was causing trouble in the yeshiva and saying terrible things and they had to expel him?", there was "loshon horo". "we did nothing wrong and you're a sinner for saying we did" and there was "bittul zman" - after all, all the time spent abusing innocent children should have been spent learning Torah.
    The Chareidi leadership is more about circling the wagons than promoting love of God in the world.

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  37. "The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman. That’s a high price to pay." - DZ

    Hmm. Could he be referring to Agudah and its more recent conventions?

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  38. reject said:
    "IIUC r zweibel realizes that God is the ultimate center, but just meant something like josephus'es observation that the masses are with the pharisees. he sees the excesses of bloggerdom as departing from that."

    Bloggers are the new pharisees. Gedolim are halachic saducees and should meet the same end.

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  39. Carol,

    First, if you carefully read my earlier analogy to the Wizard of Oz, I clearly made the point that while I think these Rabbis are tragically out of touch, they are most certainly NOT evil. But the dynamics of their extreme isolation has had disasterous consequences.

    As to your first point, regarding halachic grounds, again, (to understand where they're coming from) you must view it in context of a life or death struggle. In that context, EVERYTHING is permitted. "Et la-asot l'Hashem - heferu Toratecha." If you are engaged in a holy war, all is permitted. And if some children have to pay the price, well that's just collateral damage.

    It's insane, I agree, but it's really what Zwiebel is saying.

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  40. Phenomenally written. Couldn't have agreed with your exposure of Daas Torah more.

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  41. "Pardon my ignorance but what is RBS?"

    Ramat Beit Shemesh

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  42. Step one is to free poskim and other religious leaders, and their institutions, from heavy reliance on a small in-group of wealthy machers for their financial support. Broad-based support from a properly empowered and respected base of wage- and salary-earners organized into true kehillot would be far more conducive to proper leadership and decision-making.

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  43. Carol, I never said they are evil. In fact, I said that I would even consider that they might even had good intentions. I just feel that they should be held accountable for the harm that has occurred due to their (well-intentioned, but misguided) actions.

    Who should be arrested? Anyone who has been shown to have known about a dangerous predator, chose not to report it, and subsequently that predator hurt another child.

    Consider this: imagine if these perpetrators were just your average goy, and your neighbors knew about the threat they posed to your children and chose not to let you know about the danger lurking in your neighborhood. If something subsequently happened to your kid, and you found out that the neighbor knew about the risk all along, would you not hold these neighbors criminally accountable?

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  44. Excellent Post!! Standing Ovation!! Incredibly well done. Thank you for writing it!

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  45. Avi said: "Also, it happens not to be true that FM never posts positively."

    I checked FM today to get some statistics--out of all the searching and clicking, I found only one article that could be considered positive: that a Chabad rabbi (R. Binyomin Jacobs) was bestowed an honor by the Queen of Holland. That article will be batel b'shishim next to all the other negative articles about Chabad on FM.

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  46. Very well done.

    My favorite part of the article was R. Zweibel's reminisce of seeing his sister perform in a school play. I doubt he'd be allowed in to watch his daughter's performances in his gedolim centered world.

    But that was back "when the world was normal, before the internet and blogs."

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  47. One foot in each worldJune 5, 2012 at 3:37 AM

    First of all, I agree with everything that R. Slifkin wrote. Secondly, I think that Rabbi Zweibel's admissions took a great deal of courage and are huge leaps forward, even if he stated the obvious. Sometimes admitting that the emperor has no clothes takes guts, too.

    But I have to say something in his defense, not that he needs me to defend him, nor am I an intimate of his. But I have observed him and here is what I believe: I believe that were he given the freedom to say and do what he wants he woud say and do otherwise. But in the end, he is a hired hand, an intelligent, accomplished, excellent spokesman who works for an organization he truly believes in but (in his heart) knows is broken and needs fixing. But he can't do it because they won't let go.

    And so a number of insiders will grumble quietly in whispers and little will get done except when there is great pressure from outside and the big gutsier askanim from within. And then change may happen, in small increments, very slowly and always too late.

    And to outsiders they will always look tragicly comical, out of touch, and be a bit of a laughing stock for their unrealistic and untenable positions and for their self-preservation and self-perpetuation tactics.

    If only those in touch with reality could put together a competing Moetzes...

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  48. It is unfair to equate UOJ with failedmessiah as some have been doing. While failedmessiah has helped expose the abuse problem and possibly aided in the efforts to bring about change, he runs a clearly antisemetic blog and also promores leftwing Jew hatred and settler hatred w the same zeal that he uses (rightfully) on the abuse problem. I don't think UOJ's blog is antisemetic at all, is it? He also is a person who admits his mistakes and takes back statements when he is wrong (unlike FM).

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  49. Agudah handled the spate of child abuse cases disasterously. It's no secret, and they have been and continue to be belittled for it. That's fine.

    Here's what I don't understand: No entity is perfect, whether it's democracy, socialism, capitalism, health care, modern orthodoxy, ultra orthodoxy, etc. And yet I imagine Rabbi Slifkin would be extremely upset to learn that the ultra orthodox call for a dismantling of everyone who associates themselves with modern orthodoxy, simply because a few of them have made poor and damaging decisions.

    What upsets me about blogging, and honestly, I never would have clicked over here if my husband hadn't asked me to read this, is that you're essentially accusing someone in a forum where they can't hear you, and you don't give them any ability to defend themselves.

    In a court of law, this is a vital civil right - the right to face your accuser. In the blogging world, we've removed that right, instead safely mud slinging and throwing our opinions and weight around where we feel the most comfortable. Is it fair to not award them the ability to respond in kind, face to face? This is how lashon hara is spread. Is this such a worthwhile use of our time? Spreading discord?


    Every commenter is a Ph.D and CEO. Every person gets an equal say, no matter what their background. Say what you will, but I met someone recently who has a popular blog and who posts with such authority that you would believe that God Himself whispered in his ear. In person, he was far from the infallible person he assumes himself to be.

    I've gone to some of R' Slifkin's lectures, and have enjoyed them immensely, but there are many paths to God, and as long as it follows a Torah framework, Rambam himself said that these paths are equally valid. Be it rationalistic or spiritualistic or kabbalistic, there's room for everyone. I wish we would stop denouncing other people in the name of making ourselves feel better.

    Furthermore, I live in an area without strong Agudah influence, and many people really take for granted how important it is to be a firm and united political entity. We've felt the lack of that in many ways with our special needs son. I guess people don't realize how important this can be.

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  50. "you're essentially accusing someone in a forum where they can't hear you, and you don't give them any ability to defend themselves."

    That's ironic. Agudah's Jewish Observer condemned my books, and did not print my letter refuting their points. I, on the other hand, allow comments here defending Agudah, and I would be happy to post a response from R. Zwiebel himself.

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  51. I don't have time to read the entire article, but you seem to think that rechilus and loshon hora are not as serious as child molestation.

    Go take a look throughout Jewish history (I believe you are getting a PhD in the subject) and see if you can't find numerous, documented cases of massive tzaros coming to the Jewish people because of this loshon hora and rechilus.

    There are many ways to fight a cause, even one as important as dealing with child molestation - success does not necessarily mean that the means were the right ones chosen or worth it.

    Civil Rights abuses were pretty horrid in the US before the civil rights movement - with crimes clearly on a par as child molestation committed regularly. One of the great things about the

    Civil Rights Movement, though, was not just it's success, but also it's method. Peaceful and positive.

    Great changes can happen through great means.

    In terms of bitul zman - again, I don't think you take the severity of that seriously enough [again, I don't have time to read the whole article, so I'll go on what I've read so far].

    Jews were at the forefront of Communism. Jews today are intermarrying at an alarming rate. Jews went to the UN and condemned Israel to the Goldstone committee. Jews broke the boycott against Hitler in 1933. And I could go on.

    Many, if not all, of the above examples have one thread in common - they were committed by people disconnected from the Torah.

    Our connection to Torah is a real protection. True, that connection can get perverted and politics can blind or mislead - no doubt. But in this world we face multiple dangers and we shouldn't underestimate how bitul Torah exposes us to those dangers and how great those dangers can be.

    In short, don't lose site of the ends, but make sure you take the time to properly consider the means at the same time.

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  52. DF you wrote: "This blog began primarily as an exploration into the legacy of rationalist medeival Torah scholars, and has evolved into little more than an alternative version of the anti-semitic failedmessiah blog."

    I couldn't disagree more. The difference between this blog and Shmarya's failedmessiah is that R' Slifkin makes intelligent and constructive criticism whereas Shmarya is little more than a demagogue, bitter at the religious community that he once lived in.

    Yes, this blog sometimes makes strong statements against individuals or trends in the religious world. And it should. There ARE serious problems. Shmarya's blog, with all the good that some of his whistle-blowing did in certain specific cases, more often than not degenerates to simple-minded hate-mongering and exaggerated or invented stories. Has this blog ever invented stories? Does this blog use outrageous, yellow-journalism style exaggerated headlines? Does this blog ever make serious accusations without pointing to legitimate proof? I certainly don't think so.

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  53. I wonder whether part of the reason why members of the religious establishment - especially high-ranking Rabbanim - have such a difficult time handling these cases of child abuse is that child abuse doesn't quite fit into any clear Issur Torah.
    Sure, you can say the perpetrator is in violation of things like ואהבת לרעך כמוך or ועשית הישר והטוב etc. But people who literally spend all of their time engrossed in learning often have a hard time taking seriously something that isn't 'on the books' as אסור, as opposed to the many things that are.

    A Rav I respect very highly as a person once half-jokingly said to me something along the lines of "So what's the big deal with rape - It's חמישים כסף לאבי הנערה according to the Torah".

    It just comes much more naturally to these people to rant against things clearly prohibited by the Torah, where they can quote Psukim and Chazal. Let's face it, unfortunately, their intellectuality and ability to think is largely constrained by pre-existing texts anyway. They just don't have the frame of reference to deal with anything else.

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  54. First Agudah spokesman Avi Shafran's appalling remark praising Madoff, and now this.

    I thought shimush chachamim was supposed to elevate and improve a person.

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  55. YS, but do you know what is their reasononiing? Did they actualy reveal it? Yes, a 'highly respected rav' joking about chamishim kesef is an indication of an attitude, but what's the psak based on exactly?

    Not sure it makes sense that people whose reasoning and morality is 'constrained' by whatever should be in a leadership position or highly respected. See Emunos veDeos part 3 chapter 8 or 9 (I'm not sure which one it is).

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  56. YS,

    You suggested that some Rabbis don't take child abuse seriously becasue "it doesn't fit into any clear issur."

    Seriously?!

    This, from the same people that obssess day & night over tzniut? (FYI, apart from cross-dressing, there is not a single reference to any restrictions on dress in the Torah.)

    Are these Rabbis so clueless that they can't figure out what is clear to any man-on-the-street? I've been accused of being overly critical to some Rabbis, but your "defense" makes them look like utter fools!

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  57. "One of the great things about the Civil Rights Movement, though, was not just it's success, but also it's method. Peaceful and positive. "

    It was indeed mostly peaceful, with the exception of the times when people like John Lewis, now a US Congressman (and a huge supporter of Israel, BTW), were beaten by racist cops. But it make great use of lashan hara and rechilut to spread the word about what was really going on. I still remember the strong language used by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King -- a Republican, BTW -- against Barry Goldwater -- who was no racist -- in 1964 after the latter voted against the Civil Rights Act. (See here for an example.) The Civil Rights movement proved that lashan hara and rechilut were mitzvot when used against rashaim and even against good people like Goldwater who found the rashaim horrible but refused to do anthing about them. The situation today is comparable; the Gedolim are like Goldwater and the racists are like the child abusers.

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  58. "In a court of law, this is a vital civil right - the right to face your accuser. In the blogging world, we've removed that right, instead safely mud slinging and throwing our opinions and weight around where we feel the most comfortable. Is it fair to not award them the ability to respond in kind, face to face? This is how lashon hara is spread. Is this such a worthwhile use of our time? Spreading discord?"

    Devorah,
    You make a valid point. We should grant no legitimacy to people who make accusations without granting the other side a right to be heard. Your mistake is in ascribing that error to RNS. He is more than willing allow comments and would, no doubt, meet face to face with those he criticizes. In fact, he TRIED to do that when they banned his works.

    OTOH, the Agudah and its Rabbanim allow no discussion and refuse to allow those they attack to respond. Their publications regularly attack RNS, Modern Orthodoxy, Chovevei Torah, Avi Weiss, Dov Linzer, Uri L'tzedk, etc. Do you think they allow letters to the editor from those individuals?

    Again, you make a valid point. We should not attack other people without giving them the ability to respond (especially if we dont read or understand the language in which those individuals write). To do so is to act contrary to Torah. It is shameful. So is the entire list of "Gedolei Yisrael" who banned RNS without speaking to him. So is the Agudah, whose spokesman, Avi Shafran, regularly posts on Cross-Currents and allows no comments!

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  59. Moshe said:

    "Jews were at the forefront of Communism. Jews today are intermarrying at an alarming rate. Jews went to the UN and condemned Israel to the Goldstone committee. Jews broke the boycott against Hitler in 1933. And I could go on.

    Many, if not all, of the above examples have one thread in common - they were committed by people disconnected from the Torah."

    Apart from the disparity and absurdity of the comparisons you make (and which would require a whole separate history lesson) you undermine your argument simply because the actions or episodes you mention above were not justified, motivated by or done in the name of Torah or Judaism unlike the actions or lack thereof of the Gedolim.

    Furthermore, you state:

    "Our connection to Torah is a real protection. True, that connection can get perverted and politics can blind or mislead - no doubt. But in this world we face multiple dangers and we shouldn't underestimate how bitul Torah exposes us to those dangers and how great those dangers can be."

    That may or may not be the case - you fail to give concrete, measurable examples but rely instead on scare tactics.

    The fact of the matter is that Haredi (anti-Zionist) Judaism's adherence to Torah serves little to no purpose for the wider Jewish Am and is a self-serving universe, but its indiscrepancies in the name of Torah have far wider and negative results for the broader Jewish community and more importantly, condemns the innocents within to terrible depredations.

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  60. Moshe said:

    "Jews were at the forefront of Communism. Jews today are intermarrying at an alarming rate. Jews went to the UN and condemned Israel to the Goldstone committee. Jews broke the boycott against Hitler in 1933. And I could go on.

    Many, if not all, of the above examples have one thread in common - they were committed by people disconnected from the Torah."

    Apart from the disparity and absurdity of the comparisons you make (and which would require a whole separate history lesson) you undermine your argument simply because the actions or episodes you mention above were not justified, motivated by or done in the name of Torah or Judaism unlike the actions or lack thereof of the Gedolim.

    Furthermore, you state:

    "Our connection to Torah is a real protection. True, that connection can get perverted and politics can blind or mislead - no doubt. But in this world we face multiple dangers and we shouldn't underestimate how bitul Torah exposes us to those dangers and how great those dangers can be."

    That may or may not be the case - you fail to give concrete, measurable examples but rely instead on scare tactics.

    The fact of the matter is that Haredi (anti-Zionist) Judaism's adherence to Torah serves little to no purpose for the wider Jewish Am and is a self-serving universe, but its indiscrepancies in the name of Torah have far wider and negative results for the broader Jewish community and more importantly, condemns the innocents within to terrible depredations.

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  61. To Charlie Hall:

    I didn't see much loshon hara in that quote - the comment about lacking concern and comprehension is strong, but I'm not sure it's loshon hara nor is it of the excited, emotion and lack-of-respect filled comments and articles that one often times finds on the blogs.

    Perhaps you have other examples?

    Either way, though, the success of the movement didn't come through the fiery speeches of Malcom X and the like, but rather by skillfully showing the public the evil of the Jim Crows laws and presenting a constructive and positive solution which worked within the basic values and beliefs of America.

    In other words, part of the success of the civil rights movement comes from the fact that they were not trying to undermine democracy, the constitution or the 'American way of life'. Rather, they were trying to help America better live up to the ideas and values that are most fundamental to America (as expressed in documents such as the declaration of independence and the constitution).

    They weren't trying to undermine the authority of Congress, the President and the Courts, but rather work within that system when possible and point out it's short-comings when necessary (such as sit-ins and the like).

    My sense from the little I've seen on these blogs and from what I've heard is that there is a great deal of emphasis on pointing out the short-comings of the Charedi world and/or the Gedolim of the Charedi world and little if any emphasis on working within the existing framework, structure and value of the Charedi world.

    In fact, more often than not, the framework, structure and values of the Charedi world are the focus of criticism. Such a tactic not only is unlikely in my mind to lead to meaningful change, but it also blinds the criticizers to all that the Charedi world has to offer.

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  62. To Meir Moses:

    "Apart from the disparity and absurdity of the comparisons you make (and which would require a whole separate history lesson) you undermine your argument simply because the actions or episodes you mention above were not justified, motivated by or done in the name of Torah or Judaism unlike the actions or lack thereof of the Gedolim."

    First of all, I'm happy to hear why the comparisons are absurd - it's easy to state that something is absurd, I would prefer, though, an articulated explanation. You may even convince me.

    With that said, this is not an idea that I came about over night or in some sort of knee-jerk reaction way.

    Everyone is proud of the fact that Israel has won all (or almost all the wars). They are all proud of the modern economy, the Chesed that it does inside the country and (when there is a disaster) out.

    However, no one is willing to honestly face the fact that that same state has plunged the Jewish world into an almost HUNDRED YEAR long war with the Arab and Muslim world. People don't chase down and execute Jewish girls in Paris because some guy is learning in Kollel, they do it because of what the IDF does.

    Hizballah doesn't blow up Jewish centers in Argentina or send missiles into Israel because of what the Moetza Gedolei Yisrael do or don't do, they do it because of there opposition to the Jewish state.

    And what's more, the Jewish world isn't fretting day and night about a nuclear armed Iran or weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists because of the Chumrot of the Charedi world.

    NOTE, I'm not talking about moral responsibility here, Arab and Muslim terrorists have no right to commit the crimes they committed.

    What I am talking is policy. Whose policy has been and is better for the Jewish people OVERALL.

    And I say, let's look back at Jewish history since the Enlightenment and see the consequences of the various actions of the various Jewish groups during that time.

    This distinction of whether or not someone does something in the name of the Torah or the name of Judaism has some validity, but only some. Jews made decisions about who Jews should be. Some assimilated, some reformed Judaism, some reformed Orthodoxy, some started new political movements, and some stuck as much as possible to their understandings of the 'old way'.

    Now, we have 200+ years of hindsight. How did everyone do. What were the results positive and negative of their decisions.

    You want to draw different conclusions from the data, fine - sounds good. But first present your data and offer your explanation.

    In terms of purpose for the wider-am. The wider am in one way or another left the Torah and the Charedi world has responded to that fact. They are focused on primarily on raising and maintaining Torah-based families and communities with Chesed and out-reach projects that reach beyond their community.

    That is how they see the Mitzvah of the moment in a post-enlightment, post-holocaust world were much has been destroyed and the need to rebuild is great and those who are interested in rebuilding are limited. You can try and belittle that, but it's a project that they took up and which to one extent or another no one else in the Jewish world was interested in.

    You can think that they should have joined your project, whether it's Zionism, Torah and Mada, social causes, etc, but they have no obligation to take up and/or agree with your project.

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  63. To Moshe:

    The civil rights movement, because it occurred in a democracy, did not have to overthrow the government. As the g'dolei haTorah, charedi, point out, Torah is not a democracy. Furthermore, the civil rights movement sought to have the Law properly applied, not change the law. There were constitutional amendments that were not properly applied. And, because of the structure of the US, the courts were separate from the legislation and separate from the executive branch. Orthodox Judaism has the same people legislating as sitting on the court.

    Furthermore, a lot of non-orthodox Jews helped the Blacks in the courts. How many orthodox Jews fought for the blacks? How many OJs were in public service?

    When Jews who learn and apply Torah do so without worrying about marrying out or kiruv or blind respect for Torah scholars, building barriers, then fewer Jews will marry out, fewer will throw off what they know, and more will respect Torah scholars. Nowhere in Torah does it say that every child will remain in a Jewish community or that every child will be a talmid chacham. Precisely the opposite. What does G-d really want from us?

    Hundreds of years ago (fifty years ago), people where more learned, more observant. We were slaughtered, anyway. We had a Sanhedrin, etc. We were slaughtered, anyway. We don't do Torah and mitzvot because we don't want to get slaughtered and we don't do Torah and mitzvot b/c we want our children to be "frum." We do or do not do Torah and mitzvot because we see something that makes sense to us. Thanks to the Master of the Universe for giving us the Torah, the capacity (or lack of) to learn it and do it, and the choice to.

    Yes, it would be excellent to have both the good and the bad of OJ, chareidism represented.

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  64. Yoel B writes: "First Agudah spokesman Avi Shafran's appalling remark praising Madoff, and now this. "

    This is misleading in its brevity.

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  65. Charlie Hall your last post has to be one of the most ridiculous things posted here.

    "It was indeed mostly peaceful, with the exception of the times when people like John Lewis, now a US Congressman, were beaten by racist cops."

    Are you actually that ignorant that you would cite THIS as the only kind of violence during the Civil Rights era? Yea the Civil Rights Movement was peaceful...except for the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers, a whole host of race riots, serial race murders which were usually committed by groups of blacks, like the Zebra murder gang in SF.

    If you had even an inkling of awareness of that era you'd know that violence was plentiful, coming from both blacks and whites. Black churches were bombed and civil rights supporters lynched, not to mention sometimes aggregious police violence against demonstrators. Whites were targeted for murder, assault, and mass vandalism. Race (ie black) riots tore apart large urban areas with orgies of violence and destruction.

    "The Civil Rights movement proved that lashan hara and rechilut were mitzvot when used against rashaim and even against good people like Goldwater who found the rashaim horrible but refused to do anthing about them. The situation today is comparable; the Gedolim are like Goldwater and the racists are like the child abusers."

    First, the argument you make that the alleged efficacy of lashon hara in the Civil Rights movement is a halachic proof negating establish halacha is beyond absurd. I'm guessing that this was a bit of hyperbole on your part, but then again, who knows.

    Secondly you display a frighteningly simplistic view of the era in question. It was not, as you for some reason believe, racist whites versus peaceful, racially-enlightened blacks. As Thomas Sowell once pointed out, racism is like oxygen; its everywhere and it burns. The Civil Rights movement, MLK aside, exhibited a tremendous amount of racism - and antisemitism - itself.

    Thirdly, many within the Civil Rights movement were quite explicit in their use of violence to achieve the movement's goals. Malcolm X was probably the most eloquent in doing this, but was hardly alone. Painting the movement as a peaceful effort led by MLK is a gross simplification that ignores the tremendous variety.

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  66. Dawidh,

    Yes, I was being ironic and hyperbolic; I'm well familiar with the civil rights movement because I lived through it in a segregated southern state. I was trying to point out the absurdity of Moshe's comment that suggested that the Civil Rights movement was entirely peaceful and did not use lashan hara or rechilut. Were we to use MLK's methods against those who coddle child molesters, the AI will WISH that we returned to lashan hara and rechilut.

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  67. To Barry:

    The civil rights movement, because it occurred in a democracy, did not have to overthrow the government.

    As a later poster points out, there were many who advocated a violent response to the situation of blacks in the US. My point is that the success of the civil rights movement came from the peaceful protests that worked within the system that they were trying to reform. They didn't try to fundamentally undermine that system.

    My sense is that often times the criticisms made towards the Chareidi world aren't solely about the issues being addressed, but are also an attempt to undermine the Chareidi world. But even if the intention is solely to address the issue at hand, if it is presented as a threat to the Chareidi world then it will far less successful.


    "When Jews who learn and apply Torah do so without worrying about marrying out or kiruv or blind respect for Torah scholars, building barriers, then fewer Jews will marry out, fewer will throw off what they know, and more will respect Torah scholars."

    I don't think the source of Jews leaving has anything to do with whether or not the Orthodox worry about marrying out or build barriers. The roots go way back to how a Jew is suppose to act in the modern world and the place of religion today.

    In an era when religion is looked upon as antiquated, the Bible written by man and out-dated and G-d a matter of personal choice and a philosophy of one has to be part of the modern world, you are going to have large numbers of Jews leave the fold.

    In terms of being slaughtered - I'm not arguing that one keeps the Torah so that they don't get slaughtered. I am saying, though, that the decisions we make have consequences and it's important to look back and see if we can see any connection between the tragedies that have befallen us and our the decisions of the Jewish people.

    And, pertinent to this article, I'm saying that just because the crime is one as horrid as child molestation does not mean that we should be careless with the laws of Loshon Hara, Rechilus or Bitul Zman (although if one is engaged in helping to protect kids from abuse that is definitely NOT bitul zman).

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  68. To Charlie:

    Please clearly articulate your position - do you believe that it is acceptable to engage in Loshon Hara and rechilus in order to combat child abuse? If you do, what other aveiros is one allowed to violate to combat child abuse? Are there any limits to be put in place? If so, what are they?

    Secondly, the civil rights movement was ultimately successful - what do you attribute that success to? I attribute it to the ability of the likes of Martin Luther King to convince the majority of Americans of of addressing the issue both from a moral and American values point of view. He did that not by calling people names, but by inspiring and showing the laws to be hypocritical and immoral.


    Here is a quote from King that summarizes why I think he was so successful (although it's not about the civil rights movement in particular):

    "And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends."

    If you want to change how the Torah world deals with certain issues you can't do so by abandoning fundamental halchas of the Torah. Even if you are successful in your narrow issue, you have embarked upon a path that has much broader and negative consequences later down the line.

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  69. The other main point I am trying to make is that loshon hara and rechilus can be just as destructive as child molestation - just not as visibly destructive and not as viscerally abhorrent.

    So my main points are that:

    1) The ends do NOT justify the means - one needs to use halachic means

    2) Loshon Hara and Rechilus are destructive and can cause as much if not more damage than

    3) Bitul Zman disconnects us from the Torah and being disconnected from the Torah also has destructive effects


    An additional point is that I think one can document to some extent the truth of these points, but it might be more constructive if we just focus on the points themselves and leave history for another day.

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  70. Moshe: I reread one of your posts and came across one of the most obscene remarks I have seen on a blog in a long time. You write:
    "People don't chase down and execute[you mean "murder," don't you? LK ] little girls in Psris because some some guy is learning in Kollel; they do it because eof what the IDF does." Shomu shamayyim. Are you out of your mind? Because of what the IDF does??? They do it because they are vicious anti-semites who hate all Jews!

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  71. "We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation"

    What they are saying is in their Haredi world the Talmud Chacham's status must protected at all cost.

    Frankly this is an extremely disturbing position.

    Arguably the most important concepts in the Torah is Ahavas Yisrael and Misphat Tzedek, all others fall into these categories.

    The proper treatment of all Jews and of course anyone who is abused is paramount to Jewish ethics.

    Protecting the so called institution of the T.C. should not even be on the radar screen. We can clearly see in the Haredi world a major shift and corrupt attitude of true Jewish values.

    The cover up created in certain communities proves to most these people are not fit to be leaders regardless of how much Talmud they know.

    There is a big difference between book knowledge and living a just life.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

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  72. I still feel Devorah was right when she says you condemn people without giving them the ability to defend themselves....your problem with the gedolim when they banned your books was that they did it WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING YOU for your side of the story.
    Well here you are condemning Zwiebel before actually speaking to him...this is classic Slifkin where hypocrisy abounds

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  73. I would have absolutely no problem with the Gedolim critiquing my books (as I critiqued R. Zwiebel) without consulting me first. Banning is a different matter. Surely you are not saying that no-one can ever critique anything in print without speaking to the author first?

    I suspect that you give this right to the Gedolim, but not to others. Classic haredism where hypocrisy abounds.

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  74. Not to mention that many (all?) of those who banned R. Slifkin's books did NOT read them, but relied on excerpts provided to them by interested parties.

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  75. To Lawrence Kaplan:

    Truth be told, the violence began BEFORE the IDF or the state - in 1920 - in response to political developments. The Arabs politically and religiously objected to the Zionist movement and they violently expressed that opposition.

    Through the wars and counter-wars, terrorism and counter-terrorism, propaganda and counter-propaganda there has developed a vicious antisemitism that wasn't seen before in the Arab world.

    The potential was obviously there, but it need not have been expressed. We brought it out with policy decisions that we made. Those decisions may be legally and morally justified, but policy decisions aren't solely judged on their legal or moral legitimacy - they are also judged on their effectiveness.

    When it comes to countering antisemitism, the Jewish State has failed miserably. One can point to it's successes in other areas, but not in this one.

    So, to clarify, I'm not saying that the IDF is in the wrong we they attack Hamas or Hizbullah. It is totally morally and legally justified in my mind.

    But whether or not the IDF is allowed to defend the people of Israel is not the whole question. The question is, looking back, did the State of Israel make the Jewish People safer - that was one of it's stated goals. Did it help quell antisemitism? That was also one of it's stated goals.

    I think the answer is a) no, it did not quell antisemtism and b) it may not have made the Jewish People safer at all (in fact, it may have endanger them).

    You can call me mad for thinking that and my comments obscene. In my mind, though, that just means that you are not intellectually capable of critically addressing the question of whether or not we are actually safer today because we have a State of Israel.

    One last point - antisemitism is not a light-switch, on or off. It's more like a dimmer switch, more intense, less intense, more prevalent, less so. And what we do effects how prevalent and intense it is. It may not be the only factor, but it's significant one.

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  76. Please keep the comment thread on-topic. Moshe's abhorrent claim that "loshon hara and rechilus can be just as destructive as child molestation" can be defeated (or ignored) without going off-topic.

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  77. To Rabbi Kaplan:

    'you mean "murder" don't you'

    Yes, I mean murder - in cold blood.

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  78. Moshe - why do you assume that intensified anti-semitism is a response to IDF actions, but refuse to consider the possibility that widespread Torah non-observance is a result of how Torah leaders lead?

    Moishe Potemkin

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  79. To Rabbi Slifkin:

    I do not mean to say by 'serious' that Loshon Hora is as abhorrent as child molestation. I mean that it can be as (or more) destructive.

    And so I ask again - do people here believe that Loshon Hara is legitimate as a means of tackling child molestation?

    And let me sharpen the question - I don't mean in a situation where one can justify the speech on halachic grounds that there is toelit. If it can be justified halachically then it's no longer loshon hara.

    What I mean is whether or not you think that it is permissible to violate the issur of loshon hara or rechilus in order to fight against child molestation?

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  80. To Anonymous:

    If you can demonstrate that that is the case I'll consider it. From what I understand, people left the fold because of the opportunities afforded by the enlightenment.

    In other words, the question is why did the Reform movement, haskalah and other non-Torah based movements start. The vast majority of non-observant Jews today descend from decisions made during that time.

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  81. Moshe: People left the fold because of the greater openness of outside society, In England there was a very weak Jewish Enlightenment, and yet Jews left the fold in droves. See Todd Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England.

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  82. To Rabbi Kaplan:

    I've added the book to my reading list - thanks for the recommendation.

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  83. Basically, this takes us back to Kamtza and Bar Kamtzah. At the end of the day, the rabbis of the time (gedolei yisrael of all generations) facilitated the destruction of bayit 2 because they were too timid to act in the face of the powerful (the host).

    Today's rabbis (less gadol) refuse to take a stand against the true offenders (abusers), and their mikdash (the sacred space of daas toirah) is crumbling as a result.

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  84. To solomon:

    Interesting how you skipped over the loshon hara and sinas chinam aspect of that story.

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  85. Regarding those who questioned the theme of this blog: I understand it to be about intellectual honesty in the Torah world. The Torah is Truth, the seal of G-d is Truth, and when those who purport to represent it compromise that value, R' Slifkin calls them out.

    People are entitled to be mistaken. But cognitive dissonance has no place in Torah.

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  86. Moish - funny how you miss the essential point that the rabbis didn't intervene to blunt the effects of either and are therefore the clear failures here. That is why Ravina and R. Ashi included the line about the rabanim in the story. Otherwise, what is it doing there? Start with pshat, flavor with drash. Use the rational faculties HKBH gave you.

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  87. To Solomon:

    I didn't argue against the point you made, I claimed that it didn't present the full picture.

    Do you think the Gemara is only musar for the Rabbis? Does is not also have a message for the rest of us about the dangers of loshon hara and sinas chinam?

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  88. Of course it does. The message to us, as individually obligated Jews, is to treat our fellow Jews with respect. If someone you don't like comes to your party - or your kids bar mitzvah - don't let the animosity of the Gemera's host drive your actions, but be appropriately welcoming. If you are the victim of such sinat chinam, and you think others were involved, don't use that as the motivation for a consipracy to spread false rumors (the lashon harah of the story) to our enemies.

    Our tag lines of what destroyed Bayit Rishon (the big 3) and Bayit Sheini (sinat chinam) are useful, but when the literature has a different pshat, we have to respect it. Same thing occurs in the first perek of Yishayahu, where Rabbi Artscroll insists the issue was that the Jews didn't daven properly, which is so far off the mark it is sickening to read.

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  89. Hello Solomon:

    Well, I'm glad that we started to find some area of agreement.

    With that said, I don't think the issue of Loshon Hora is not limited solely to the exact types of situations that the Gemara is referring to (I imagine that you would agree).

    I think it is a general warning of how what we say, how we say it and who we say it can have far reaching consequences.

    I also believe that that point has to be taken into consideration even when taking up noble causes.

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  90. To Solomon- You missed the whole story of Kamtza Bar Kamtza eitirely. It says it was the fault of Kamtza Bar Kamtza (who was a traitor) and of Rabbi Zecharia why? Because he didn't kill the traitor and had tollerance towards him. The Rabbis are not to blame. NOT by the Pshat of the episode but only according to some modern people who wish to interpret things according to their folly. Check this (for starters) for the answer which is talked about here clear with the Gemarah- http://jtf.org/forum/index.php/topic,56681.msg513334.html#msg513334

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  91. Moshe - Lashon Hara is a much broader issue, and yes, the halachot and moral concepts apply even to those speaking for noble causes. But the gemara in Gittin is less emphatic about that than it is about sinat chinam, how it can escalate, and the failure of religious leaders to castigate their flock.

    TzVi - your link is overly militant, but yes, the "ovatanuto" of R Zechariah - again failed leadership due to overly narrow focus on minutiae and lack of understanding of consequences of the bigger issue - is laid out for us to see. But peshat of the Gemara is that the immediate kamtza incident, which is about sinat chinam, is the main point.

    I would welcome thoughts from RNS about the topic.

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  92. To Tzvi:

    While I think you have made a very good point about reading the story, I again ask if there is not more to the story than that. Namely:

    a) the hatred and insensitivity of the host

    and

    b) the silence of the Rabbis at the Simcha

    Yes, Bar Kamtza was a treacherous traitor and yes the humility of Rabbi Zecharia was misplaced at the time (at least according to Rabbi Yochanan).

    But are not the extreme and unforgiving hatred of Kamtza and the Rabbis silence also significant contributing factors?

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  93. To Moshe: Check the Mefarshim as well. I don't have the link, but I believe Rav Bar-Hayim talks about it as well quoting the Hattam Soffer, the Meiri and others.
    a) It wasn't the hatred and "insensitivity" of the host that was the problem. This Bar Kamtza was a traitor, that is why he wasn't invited in the first place. A gathering of all the important people of the generation including the Hachamim was more then likly a planning of rebellion again't Rome. They didn't want this traitor (as he demonstrated) to take part exposing the plans of the Jews.
    b) The final conclusion says its the fault of R' Zecharia (for not destroying this traitor) and of Kamtza Bar Kamtza (HIM personally), their is no mention of blaming the host or the Hachamim, which is telling us that is was not their fault.
    also the topic of "Sinat Hinam" is a big topic, but in this case it wasn't Hinam- Baseless. And when its "baseless hatred" its awful, but sometimes it is justified and not only baseless but actually a great Mitzva to hate evil traitors.
    (By the way, thank you Rabbi Slifkin for allowing the first post on this, but I would like to ask if you will or what happened to the second link I provided as well, this topic is discussed and explained clearly in that link as well, I hope you post it, thanks.) P.S. Moshe join the forum, perhaps we can furthur discuss it there.

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  94. OK, I don't know how this thread spiraled off topic, but please keep on topic (or take the discussion elsewhere)

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  95. Ok last post (I'll try) but I'm posting this because I don't see my earlier post contsining this link which I would like Moshe, Solomon and other interested Jews in this topic to read. Here it is, if one would like to debate it join the Forum I linked a few posts back, I'll find you just bring the topic up, Kol tuv). http://thetorahrevolution.blogspot.com/2011/08/revisiting-kamtza-bar-kamtza-by.html

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  96. This just strengthens my conviction that Agudah needs to be scrapped. Maybe it's possible for a Da'at Torah organization to function in a responsible manner, although I honestly doubt it. This is just proof that they're every bit as rotten as the Roman Catholic Church.

    However, I'd like to point something out. Barry mentioned that Torah is not a democracy - but that is in fact, not completely true. Recall the story from Bava Metzia 59, where a Halachic ruling that is in line with God's own intentions is overruled by majority vote - and God rejoices. Certainly this implies some sort of democracy, does it not?

    Also, Moshe's quotation of MLK referencing hypocrisy is in fact not an example of exposing hypocritical laws but rather hypocritical people in a hypocritical system, which is exactly what Rabbi Slifkin is trying to do.

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  97. @bear jew, in Bava Metzia 59 the masses weren't there. the majority of rabbis, and probably only those of them qualified for horaah, made the decision.

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  98. Reject,
    Well, perhaps democracy isn't the right word. It's more like an oligarchy where decisions are made via majority vote. But the point still stands that decisions are made by a group of people, often with conflicting ideas, deliberating. My impression is that there's not that much debate or dissent involved in Agudah, because the rabbis involved are all products of the same ivory-tower approach to Torah, which is of course doing things completely backwards - but that's another matter entirely.

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