Monday, December 31, 2018

A Stain on Religious Zionism

In the past I have frequently criticized the appalling misuse of rabbinic authority in the chareidi world. In fact, this was one of the reasons for my leaving it. Over a decade ago, I joined the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) community, in which I have been very happy.

It is therefore with great distress that I am writing about a deeply upsetting misuse of rabbinic authority in the dati-leumi world. There is still an enormous difference between the two worlds - this particular wrongdoing is being loudly and publicly discussed by many people in the dati-leumi world, including in the dati-leumi media, which would never happen in the charedi world. But it is nevertheless a stain.

Several years ago, the charismatic and brilliant teacher Rabbi Motti Elon was accused of inappropriate behavior with students. Takana - a religious organization that deals with abuse in the dati-leumi community, under the guidance of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztz"l - investigated and decided that he was guilty. The police also launched an investigation and Elon was convicted of two counts of sexual molestation.

At the time, Rav Chaim Drukman - one of the most prestigious rabbinic figures in the dati-leumi world, and a recipient of the Israel Prize for his contributions to society and education - believed that Alon had been wrongly accused. He stated so publicly and challenged the legitimacy of Takana, which became (along with Rav Lichtenstein) the subject of slurs and threats. Significantly, Rav Drukman also supported Elon to continue teaching. There was a lot of anger against Rav Drukman, especially in light of the fact that in handling the case of another abuser, many years earlier, he had likewise acted incorrectly. But Rav Drukman clearly sincerely believed that Elon was innocent, and it was hard to absolutely conclusively prove otherwise.

A few weeks ago, yet another person came forward with an account about Elon. This time, he had recordings of Elon's behavior. He went to Rav Drukman, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu and Rav Yaakov Ariel, and they summoned Elon. Faced with the recordings, Elon had to confess.

Now, at this point, it was obviously clear that all the accusations against Elon had been true all along. Rav Drukman had made a terrible, terrible mistake. And as a result, there had been further victims. And good people had been baselessly slandered.

What would be the appropriate course of action for Rav Drukman? At the very least, a public and profound apology for all the harm that had been caused as a result of his mistake. And yet he has made no public statement at all!

This has caused immense distress for countless people in the dati-leumi world, aside from being an enormous chillul Hashem. And with Bayit Yehudi shamelessly promoting Rav Drukman as the rabbinic head of the party, it's no wonder that many dati-leumi voters are jumping ship along with Bennet and Shaked.

By now, it's already probably too late to apologize. Yes, Rav Drukman is an amazing person, with incredible accomplishments - but that just makes it all the more painful that he caused so much harm and has not reacted appropriately. The only way to repair at least some of the harm would be for Rav Drukman to take personal responsibility, and step down from public leadership.

As a wise uncle once said, with great power comes great responsibility. And with great responsibility comes great accountability.

49 comments:

  1. Rav Drukman also knew the open secret regarding the former head of Netiv Meir...

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    1. +1. This was a horrific offense, but you are right that this was not his only offense.

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  2. As you said, the big difference between the DL and haredi community, is that in the DL world it is OK to say that a senior Rabbi (what the haredim would call a "Gadol") made a mistake in judgement.
    This doesn't make him any less of a Talmid Chacham, or a less reliable Possek, it just means that when it comes to areas outside his expertise, he is just as prone to making a mistake or a bad judgement of character as anyone else is.

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    1. The point was to at least apologize which is not outside his expertise.

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    2. there are halachik parameters regarding ne'emanut, as well as kabalat loshon hara. when a gadol chooses to believe or reject an accusation that is in effect a psak halacha that this accusation does/does not meet the torah's standard for what may be believed.
      if later evidence comes to light showing that what happened is not in accordance with what the torah allows/requires us to believe, that is irrelevant, at the time that the psak halacha was made, it was made based on what information was available at that time.

      therefore, either r' druckman paskened correctly at that time, in which case there is nothing to criticize or apologize for, he did what the torah required of him at that time. subsequent events may change the psak at a later time, but they are not retroactive. or one can claim that r' druckman's psak was mistaken at that time, in which case one certainly is impugning r' druckman's reliability as a possek.
      to claim that the halachot of ne'emanut are outside his "area of expertise" is likewise to make him less of a talmud chacham and less of a possek.

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    3. The proper policies for running a school are outside the expertise of R Drukman??? This "mistake" should very much impact your evaluation of his ability to pasken. Protecting his kids was one of his most important responsibilities as a Rabbi and he completely blew it because he corruptly preferred to protect a friend.

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    4. Bottom line, this is what happens when the Torah "justice system" is in action. And to think we wish to be governed by "righteous" judges??

      All this really makes me start to question whether the Torah is divine . . . look at so many of the Rabbis who are most successful at it.

      Maybe it IS time to start judging Judaism by Judaism?

      And re whether its a "mistake" in psak?? What do we expect from an ad hoc jurisprudence that is so uncontrolled and informal - I am not looking forward to a civil justice system run by these guys . . .

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    5. @Anonymous: This is complete and total absurdity. Nothing in the Torah requires you to hire a convicted child sex abuser to teach children. By your standard, no Rabbi can ever be held accountable for abetting child sex abuse, because, after all, he was following his own p'sak. This is beside the fact that all of the other Rabbis, who also presumably follow the Torah, ruled that he could not teach. He enabled Elon access to additional victims. He needs to resign from further decision making roles for the community.

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    6. david oshie,
      i take it that you agree with the second of the two possibilities that i proposed "or one can claim that r' druckman's psak was mistaken at that time, in which case one certainly is impugning r' druckman's reliability as a possek.
      to claim that the halachot of ne'emanut are outside his "area of expertise" is likewise to make him less of a talmud chacham and less of a possek", which is fine.
      so your response to Michael Sedley (to whom my response was addressed) would be that saying r' druckman made an error does indeed diminish him.
      what i don't understand is what is the "complete and total absurdity"? it is possible that the circumstances where such that indeed the torah allows or even requires us to accept the accusations, but one must at least consider the possibility that in R' druckman's opinion the evidence did not rise to that level.

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    7. @Anonymous: Yes, so your second possibility is correct. But the notion that the Torah has some super-special way to evaluate whether someone has committed sex abuse is absurd. He has no special powers that the secular authorities and the Takana Forum don't. He simply did what many other have done: Ignored or covered up sex abuse by friends and colleagues.

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  3. So much harm? I don't see "so much harm" here. Certainly not sufficient to call for him to step down from a leadership position.

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    1. Child sex abuse is not "harm". Got it. And of course educational leaders have nothing to do with protecting students from pedophiles, so why would he step down? Wonderful way to solve that problem.

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  4. While its a great quote, unsure if quoting Spiderman's uncle really fits into the context of this article.

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    1. Anytime is the right time to quote Uncle Ben.

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  5. I had the misfortune of meeting Rav Drukman a number of years ago when he tried to cover up yet another scandal involving a school administrator's misappropriation of funds at a dati leumi school. His public speech and arrogance at the time were quite sickening and it was evident then that this man is not fit to hold any sort of public office, let alone be allowed to influence our children's education.

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  6. And great accountability for our leaders is (or was once) a halachic norm.

    This is why Moshe was severely punished (denied entrance to Israel) for a seemingly minor act of disobedience (hitting the rock in a fit of anger instead of speaking to it as God commanded).

    Such a mistake might have been forgiven (or at least entail a lesser punishement) if it was done by you or me, but when done by a leader (especially one as great as Moshe), an example would have to be made - as a lesson to the rest of the nation.

    I realize that our modern secular legal system doesn't believe in making examples out of convicted public figures (that's a completely separate discussion for another time), but at the very minimum, it should not go easy on them either.

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  7. "Rav Drukman clearly sincerely believed that Elon was innocent, and it was hard to absolutely conclusively prove otherwise" ' Rav Drukman had made a terrible, terrible mistake."
    It is not too late for a public apology and admission of a horrible error of judgement. Rav Druckman was guilty of not condemning a presumed innocent man without benefit of proof. Stepping down from leadership would do more long term harm to the movement.

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    1. Elon was convicted of child sex abuse and then R Drukman's provided him with new victims. How many more children have to be raped before the person responsible steps down. Would you hire a bridge builder whose bridges collapse for a second time if he apologizes?

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    2. David Ohsie,
      take a deep breath, such histrionics should be reserved for condemning charedim (just kidding). no children where involved, the youngest alleged victim was 17. this was not an issue of pedophilia. likewise there were no allegations of rape, or of consensual sex. there were allegations of inappropriate remarks and touching. if the allegations are true, then elon has a serious problem with homosexual desires, and certainly should not be a teacher of torah, but calling inappropriate touching "rape" makes you sound like a hysterical intersectionalist, and clearly demonstrates why the secular community has no credibility on these issues in the eyes of religious people.
      ( i don't know you, and you may consider yourself a religious person. but your mindset is clearly secular).

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    3. Right, if Motti Elon is a 'pedophile' then at least 80% of all active homosexuals are also 'pedophiles' and yet David Ohsie is a tireless advocate of greater acceptance of active homosexuals. Go figure.

      With that said, Druckman really has to go. As the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 8:7) makes clear, stopping predatory homosexuals is a very serious matter and he clearly and repeatedly was in dereliction of his duty. Part of the problem is that the religious world has adopted this loony ideology according to which there are no such thing as homosexuals so they are either don't know or pretend not to know when there is an obvious homosexual taking an excessive interest in young men. My mother taught in an English boarding school and I was close friends with some people in a Catholic PPH so perhaps I'm more alert to this than most people, but, really, I think that anyone who didn't realize that Motti Elon bats for the other team needs a bit of time in the 'Yeshiva of life'. The other part of the problem is that Rav Druckman just appears to be kind of useless. His catastrophic administration of conversions in Israel continues to cause major problems to this day.

      Bottom line: successful movements that want to run a country get rid of bozos.

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    4. @Anonymous: This is completely utterly and completely false. To be honest we have no idea how bad it was because he lied throughout. We don't know how many victims he had or how old they were. But we do know that one of the victims was a boy at least at the start of the relationship and that he did engage in sexual relations.

      "According to your own confession, you continued to have a sexual relationship with a man, contrary to your oral and written commitment to observe the laws of Yichud also in relation to men.... It is intolerable to think that a process which began with a boy turning to his rabbi for help ... Would end in the student over the years becoming a partner in a sexual relationship with the rabbi".

      Your comment demonstrates why religious authorities have no business investigating sex abuse charges and why they need to be turned over immediately to the authorities who will investigate objectively instead of covering up for Rabbis.

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  8. If Moshe Rabeinu could admit to a goy (Yitro) he was mistaken about something, why can't these -- or any -- Rabbis admit to and apologize for a mistake? It doesn't lessen them as Rabbonim -- in fact it raises them to greater heights! Our greatest leaders all made mistakes and learned from them.

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    1. Hiring a convicted child sex abuser to teach is more than mere incompetence. It is a complete lack of concern for the people under your care in favor of a colleague.

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    2. You're completely familiar with contemporary Rabbinic behavior, I see.

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  9. You are so pathetically transparent. What brought this post about now, and not when you were castigated about this some weeks ago? Obviously, it is the split of Bennett and Shaked. Because now you're planning on voting for them and calling on others to do so, and they don't have R Drukman around their necks, so you can get away with it.
    Proof? This line: "And with Bayit Yehudi shamelessly promoting Rav Drukman as the rabbinic head of the party, it's no wonder that many dati-leumi voters are jumping ship along with Bennet and Shaked."

    Puh-leeze! The split of Bennet and Shaked has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with Elon; Bennett himself never called R Drukman out over it. So this won't wash. Pathetic.

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    1. So how did David Ohsie receive an email from me, discussing this post, before Bennett made this announcement? Obviously, either I have ruach hakodesh, or I am secretly in touch with Bennett and he confides his secret plans with me!

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    2. I can vouch for the fact that R Slifkin and I started discussing an article on R Drukman very soon after he posted the article about abuse in the Charedi community.

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    3. And Netanyahu started discussing how to run Likud's 2019 campaign six months ago. Means zilch. The question is always, always timing of release. And that whole paragraph about DL voters jumping ship (because of R Drukman!?!?!?!?) is telling, as is your lack of denial that you plan to call to vote for Hayamin Hachadash.

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    4. The timing was because he published about Charedi abuse, and then I and other suggested he publish about RZ abuse. Anyhow, who cares about timing? R Drukman needs to go.

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  10. You can have leaders that inspire, but who are rotten inside.

    You just can't know the inside of a person based on reputation.

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  11. Natan, is your apology forthcoming?

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    1. An apology for calling out those who abet and cover up abuse?

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    2. Double standard - everyone has something to apologize for in one way or another. Perhaps Natan should apologize for leading his "flock" astray. If truth were the motivator, then his followers wouldn't be so bad off - However, since ego is the motivator, all is essentially lost.

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    3. Thank God for Modern_Orthodox. Without him, all would be lost...apres moi, le deluge

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  12. Interesting to see the number of commenters who think that hiring a convicted child sex abuser to teach kids can be excused, as long as it is done by a Rabbi they look up to? What exactly were you saying about the Charedim being worse in this? I don't see it...

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    1. I think it's more of a cognitive dissonance: they (I) can't believe this Rabbi is capable of sexual abuse of minors, if I see his daily conduct and that he adheres to all of the minutiae of Jewish law. If he is a sexual deviant, wouldn't that show up in laxity in other things as well?

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    2. @Yehuda: You are correct that this plays a large role, not just in the coverup of Rabbinic abuse, but all kinds of abuse. It is hard to believe the the colleague that you worked with for all these years is a sex assailant.

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  13. BTW, for all those who offer the ridiculous defense that R Drukman believed Elon. Besides the fact that this means that R Drukman is a complete incompetent for putting a convicted pedophile back with kids, on what basis do you assert that he believed Elon. What makes you believe that this is any different from all the other abuse cover-ups where the leadership simply cared more about the Rabbi than the kids and decided to let him teach anyway, risks be damned. Is that just because he the Rabbi you look up to?

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  14. David Ohsie, your intensity on this subject is a bit frightening. We all abhor this kind of behaviour, no matter who the perpetrator is, but your vehement refusal to consider or address basic halachic parameters (which of course, if you claim to be a g-d fearing jew, should influence your viewpoint slightly) involved in this saga. Your over the top hysteria is a bit abnormal. I'm guessing this touches a personal place. Get help.

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    1. If I had the chutzpah ,I'd suggest the same would apply to Natan as well. "Kol haposel...."

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    2. Not sure what your point is. R Drukman ignored the decision of all the Rabbis in his own camp who had investigated this and decided that Elon was a danger. In fact he refused to consult with them. What could be a bigger violation of halacha but to set aside the decision of the consensus of Rabbanim to protect students and instead protect your friend?

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  15. who was head of netiv meir discussed in first post?
    How did RAL get off the hook after his bogus original response?

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  16. How can we reach you, Rabbi Slifkin, by email? Thanks

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  17. is there an email address at which you can be reached?

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  18. I agree 100% with the conclusion of the amazing written article. Let's hope new leaders will step up to the plate that are actually responsible people who care for their community instead of their political' position and alliances.

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