Saturday, November 17, 2012

Misrepresentation and Ignoring Chazal

As I noted in a previous critique of an article by Rabbi Avi Shafran, there are people who reasonably claim that it is pointless and undignified to pay any attention to him; after all, this is a person who believes that Bernie Madoff is more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully, and who believes that "unyielding reverence for currently regnant dogmas" is more of a problem in the scientific community than in the charedi community. However, since Rabbi Shafran has an important position and his voice is heard by many people, I believe that he cannot be ignored.

Rabbi Avi Shafran's latest missive boggles the mind. Not only does he utterly misrepresent the people that he criticizes; he quotes a Gemara that proves precisely the opposite of the point that he is trying to make.

The object of Rabbi Shafran's ire is the speculation of an article in New York magazine that child abuse is more common in the Orthodox Jewish community than in other communities. According to Rabbi Shafran, this speculation was based on the theory that repression fosters abuse. Rabbi Shafran responds that, on the contrary, it is the lack of fearing God that enables immoral behavior.

However, checking the original article (via Google; Rabbi Shafran did not provide a link or reference) reveals that "repression fosters abuse" was only one theory offered regarding the claim that abuse is more common in the Orthodox community. There were several other theories that were also offered: that there is a higher degree of shame in the Orthodox community over such things; that there is fear of badmouthing rabbis; and that there is a perceived prohibition of mesirah. Does Rabbi Shafran deny the existence of these? Why did he not mention them?

(Of course, we can also add the fact, admitted by Agudas Yisroel's own executive director, that the charedi leadership did not take abuse and molestation issues seriously enough. And Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who works for a taskforce approved by Agudah, writes that the rate of abuse is higher in charedi communities, for the reasons given above!)

Bizarrely, Rabbi Shafran concludes by noting that even religious people sometimes forget to fear God; he cites the Gemara's account of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai's wish for his students that their fear of God should equal their fear of man.

Well, that's the whole point!

The Gemara's point is that people's fear of God is less than their fear of man. In other words, contrary to Rabbi Shafran's claim, what stops people committing crimes is not fear of God so much as it is fear of man. Which is exactly why there is reason to believe that abuse is higher in the Orthodox Jewish community. In the charedi community, perpetrators have less to fear, since they know that due to widespread concerns of shonda and mesirah, they will not be reported!

I don't know why, with so much happening right now, Rabbi Shafran is writing an article in response to something written in 2006. But if he's going to do so, he should at least accurately represent those that he is disputing, and listen to what Chazal are actually saying! Especially since the latest Orthodox scandal, currently unfolding in the UK, simply further proves that Chazal were right and Rabbi Shafran is wrong.

UPDATE: See too this post by R. Daniel Eidensohn
more common in the Orthodox Jewish community than it is elsewhere?

Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/11/16/the-evil-eleventh/#ixzz2CV2RjpCa
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
more common in the Orthodox Jewish community than it is elsewhere?

Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/11/16/the-evil-eleventh/#ixzz2CV2RjpCa
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

24 comments:

  1. Rav Shafran, like others of his ilk, live by the principle: if you can't attack the message, attack the messenger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We should always remember that Avi Shafran literally makes his parnassa from writing articles that advance the agenda of Agudas Yisrael. He has the strongest bias possible (it's his bread and butter), and therefore cannot see things clearly.
    It is interesting that one of the arguments often made by Avi is that his opponents are bias because they would rather submit to their own desires than those of the gedolim. In fact, he too has the same bias - the bias of submitting to the gedolim (which pays him his salary) vs. the alternative of starving!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I suspect the timing was an attempt to get ready for an avalanche of anticipated child molesting convictions of rabbis in the NYC area. On trial right now are Rabbi Nechemya Weberman and Rabbi Emanuel Yegutkin. Most damaging for Agudah may be the trial of Rabbi Yosef Kolko (nephew of Yehudah Kolko). Senior Kolko's case was given elaborate coverage by Robert Kolker in New York Magazine. Jr. Kolko's trial will reveal that the Lakewood Beit Din knew that Kolko was indeed a pedophile. He even confessed it to him. Proof of these facts have been ruled as admissable at the trial. It will be hard for Agudah to run away from a case involving Lakewood, and by extension, a prominent member of their Moetzes, R. Malkiel Kotler.

    In addition, BBC 4 is working on a story about abuse of rabbinic power in Golders Green which Kedassia is trying to ignore (therefore trying to cover up). BBC is investing a lot of resources in this story (perhaps to make up for some of their fiascos on this topic). Sources in the NYC anti-abuse advocacy community tell me that they have been scheduling multiple interviews in NYC re. the Weberman case and other dynamics of cover-ups.

    While the Weberman case involves Satmar, it is getting the most publicity. When the evidence phase of the trial starts on Mon, Nov 26 we can anticipate major national and international media coverage by the likes of the New York Times, BBC, CNN, and others.

    While Shafran is trying to claim Jews are better, by focusing on these other scandals he is trying to set up a false equivalence with a slight tilt in favor of orthodox Jews. It aint gonna wash. But I can see why he is trying.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm about to buy your book, "The Challenge of Creation" because as former yeshiva student and father of a frum family, I'm desperate to believe in God even though I can no longer rationalize his exsistence.

    Then I find my way here to your blog, as Israel is about to enter another war in Gaza and what are you writing about? You're nitpicking with Rabbi Shafrin over nothing. Are there not enough attacks against our people. The entire world is calling for our destruction and you are fighting over stupidities in public!

    How terribly disappointing. If I don't respect you I can't read your books. Is there anyone else you recommend on the subject of the conflicts between science and Torah? A book preferably.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm in America. Your book is in my shopping cart on Amazon in the next tab over.

    I really just want to find answers to my faith in God isssues.
    From the dicussion on this blog it seems like your approach is to throw the entire Yeshiva world out the window as well. I'm not ready for that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm in America.

    Well, I'm in Israel, and a rocket landed not too far from my house. So please don't lecture me about what I should be thinking and talking about.

    From the dicussion on this blog it seems like your approach is to throw the entire Yeshiva world out the window as well. I'm not ready for that.

    I can understand that. But I don't understand what that has to do with reading my book on Torah/science. Remember Rambam: "Accept the truth from wherever it comes."

    ReplyDelete
  7. I appreciate you taking the time to answer me and I thank you for writing the book because the Jewish People need it.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the book will benefit me very much now that I have met your online persona. I have a painful history with frum bloggers attacking a fairly innocent family member. That's all.

    Take care

    ReplyDelete
  8. ehlyoffuDon, he is just pointing out the shortfalings in the logic of the chariedi movement and the blatent lies. whether it is american chareidi or israeli charedi or any other movement, RNS isnt trying to personally attack anyone he is just trying to point out the truth as he views it (and even provides sources for his views It's not like he is fabricating lies). To conclude with a phrase by Edmund Burke about the american revolution "They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze."

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thats supposed to be Don. Something happened wrong

    ReplyDelete
  10. Don is a troll and I'm amazed that anyone takes him serious. He can't respect you but he is asking for you to recommend books to restore his faith? Please...

    I'm half the way through the 'Challenge of Creation'. It's excellent and you are making nefoshos.

    Unfortunately, we all have to spend time on Avi Shafran. The post is necessary in this case. You did the right thing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. They want the masses of Jews to receive a certain message, regardless of whether it is true. His job is to deliver that message. I'm pretty sure he's not going to stop for any reason, unless his employers decide to give up on distributing that message. And why would they give up if they persist until now? It obviously serves an agenda they have to get Jews thinking this way. Maybe they think it's a good agenda. Maybe it's malicious. How can one know?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Its obvious that Don is not a real person. He just found a way to attack you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Don, this post wasn't an attack. The fact that you think questioning Rabbi Shafran's logic in a published article he wrote is somehow an attack on Shafran and the yeshiva world shows that you are not thinking critically but thinking with your "allegiance" to certain figures. If he is the aguda spokesman he can't be mistaken about something? Then how do you expect to examine the Torah / Science issue honestly? And why not just gobble up what Rabbi Shafran says on the topic then? Are you "throwing the yeshiva world under the bus" by suggesting he does not have a valid answer there?

    Abuse is a very serious issue and coverup of abuse or the commonality/rate of abuse is a subject which can affect all of us and our families. Discussing this issue with critical thinking is not an attack on anyone but it is extremely important. Protecting children and families should be our #1 priority and I'm quite confident after reading this blog for years that that is Rabbi Slifkin's priority in raising these issues, along with the point he is making about rabbinic authority in general which is also a valid subject. I can't see how this post could offend someone.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Don, as a parent in the Orthodox community I am entitled to have an Orthodox rabbinic and lay establishment who is dedicated to protecting all of our children. No, I cannot rely on them so I will protect them myself. However, please do not belittle the gravity of this issue. Our leaders are buried up to their neck in excrement, and it's because they keep shoveling more and more of it onto themselves. The time and place for discussing this is always, until we have good leaders who are part of the solution and not the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  15. don said...
    "I'm about to buy your book, "The Challenge of Creation" because as former yeshiva student and father of a frum family, I'm desperate to believe in God even though I can no longer rationalize his exsistence."

    Unfortunately, as good a book as it is, neither that or any other book will cause a non-believer to believe in god.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It might, perhaps, restore your faith in the Torah.

    Which is not a history book, nor a science book. But neither is it what your Morah told you in kindergarten.

    As for the topic of this post ... this we really don't need now, but if it's happening, at least let it be dealt with b'yosher.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your otherwise fine mind seems to go haywire sometimes. All your criticisms of the article are wrong. Let's go through some of them.

    a) Rabbi Shafran believes that "Bernie Madoff is more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully" - you know full well that he made no claim at all about the totality of these two men. He merely said that Bernie Madoff's admission of guilt and sorrow over his actions is a greater act than skillfull piloting of a plane to save lives. You can certainly disagree with that, but he did not state the foolish statement you ascribe to him.
    b) However, checking the original article (via Google; Rabbi Shafran did not provide a link or reference) reveals that "repression fosters abuse" was only one theory .. - the article is very long, Rabbi Shafran was analyzing and disagreeing with one significant point in it. Is it only OK to criticize an article if you comment and disagree with every point in it?
    c) Rabbi Shafran's point is only this - one society teaches that immoral behaviour is wrong and perpretrators of such immoral behaviour will have to answer to G-D, and therefore in this society such behaviour is not allowed, "repressed" if you will, and another society does not teach thus, morals are looser and there is less "repression; the former society will have more moral behaviour. All clear linear logical thinkers should know that the statement of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai does contradict the above point in the slightest. You can argue all you want that abuse is greater in orthodox circles because there is less reporting in Orthodox circles, and you MAY BE RIGHT, but that has nothing to do with Rabbi Shafran's point! He was merely defending a foundational principle of the Torah that esxcercising self control will not lead to more sin, but rather less sin!
    Everything I am saying is so simple and straightforward, that it forces me to believe that you have personal animosity towards Rabbi Shafran, and lose good judgement in your desire to criticize him.

    ReplyDelete
  18. a) Rabbi Shafran believes that "Bernie Madoff is more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully" - you know full well that he made no claim at all about the totality of these two men.

    You're splitting hairs. Here is a quote:

    "I confess to harboring some admiration for Bernard Madoff... I can’t muster much for Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger."

    The whole point of his article was to argue that Madoff is more worthy of respect - that his crime was no more serious (from a moral perspective) than stealing a dime, whereas his apology was amazing, unlike Sully, whose good deed was no more than his job, and who is a money-hungry atheist.

    "repression fosters abuse" was only one theory .. - the article is very long, Rabbi Shafran was analyzing and disagreeing with one significant point in it.

    But he gave the impression that this was THE argument given for the alleged higher rate of abuse.

    the former society will have more moral behaviour. All clear linear logical thinkers should know that the statement of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai does contradict the above point in the slightest.

    Sure it does. In a case where there is significantly LESS yiras bnei adam (i.e. with abuse in the Orthodox community) Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai's statement shows that the Orthodox community will not be more moral than other communities, and may even be less moral.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Really, now, Yosef. Are you claiming that in nonJewish society they do not teach that child molestation is bad? Well I'm quite sure that they teach that any harming of others is bad and morally wrong. They don't necessarily threaten with an amorphous response (now? Or later?) from a God figure but unlike the frum world most people, except for a criminal underclass, do NOT flout the US law! Molestation among many other crimes is certainly against the law and frowned upon in nonJewish and nonFrum society.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Rabbi Slifkin -

    Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's statement says that in the Orhodox community there indeed is a factor in play that would lead to more abuse than in a community where reporting is more prevalent, it does not say anything about whether exercising self control (repression) will lead to more or less abuse. I fail to understand why this isn't clear.

    Student V -

    I'm not saying that at all. The article was saying that the greater repression that exists in the Orthodox Jewish world will cause more people to become child molesters. Rabbi Shafran was only taking issue with that assertion.

    We can disagree with Rabbi Shafran all day long (for instance many Orthodox Jews would probably maintain that celibacy of the Catholic church can be a cause of some deviant behaviour and that celibacy is too much repression)but his article doesn't "boggle the mind", isn't foolish, and has nothing to do with the statement of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.

    And it is quite certain that at some level, the Torah view is that self control leads to more moral behaviour and not less.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's statement says that in the Orhodox community there indeed is a factor in play that would lead to more abuse than in a community where reporting is more prevalent

    Exactly. So it contradicts Rabbi Shafran's claim that there is no reason to believe that abuse is more prevalent in the Orthodox community.

    The article was saying that the greater repression that exists in the Orthodox Jewish world will cause more people to become child molesters. Rabbi Shafran was only taking issue with that assertion.

    No. The article was saying that there is a higher degree of molestation in the Orthodox community. It gave repression (by which it meant sexual repression) as one suggested reason for that, amongst many.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I stand behind what I wrote - והבוחר יבחר.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yosef, you responded to me:

    "I'm not saying that at all. The article was saying that the greater repression that exists in the Orthodox Jewish world will cause more people to become child molesters. Rabbi Shafran was only taking issue with that assertion."

    But you contradict yourself. Your comment, which I replied to said this:

    c) Rabbi Shafran's point is only this - one society teaches that immoral behaviour is wrong and perpretrators of such immoral behaviour will have to answer to G-D, and therefore in this society such behaviour is not allowed, "repressed" if you will, and another society does not teach thus, morals are looser and there is less "repression; the former society will have more moral behaviour. ...He was merely defending a foundational principle of the Torah that esxcercising self control will not lead to more sin, but rather less sin!
    "

    So we see several things from your comment. 1. You did not just assert that Rabbi Shafran was negating something, but you also asserted that he is making a positive claim himself (ie, he is claiming that repression = less sin in addition to merely doubting the claim that repression = more sin). Very different from what you wrote this time around which I quoted at the very top

    2. You DO suggest that one society teaches molestation is immoral while another doesn't. As I showed by highlighting your comment in bold.
    3. If you define repression as the forbidding of these behaviors, then how does that tie into more general behaviors? For example, both societies view molestation as wrong. Both societies therefore repress. But Orthodox society is more repressive of sexual behaviors in general (including behaviors not considered wrong or illegal by other societies). So what is the connection between repressing or not repressing these other behaviors with the equally societally repressed behavior of molestation? All discussing this issue - you, Shafran, and the article he critiques - need to address this point to make these claims. Ie, if Orthodox Judaism represses physically contacting a non-spouse, but this is allowed in secular society, what's the connection or relationship with molestation which is repressed or forbidden in both societies?

    But the other claims about reporting seem obviously true. So why does Shafran give the impression that he negates the entirety of the field (not even just the article itself, or the author, or the particular point he disputes according to you, but the entire field) ? Because part of the Aguda agenda is to say that there are no experts in anything except them. Am I right?

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.