Sunday, May 24, 2020

Late To The Party, Again

Well, it took a couple of years, but the charedi establishment finally reached the same conclusion as everyone else: that the person they referred to as "HaRav HaChasid R. Eliezer Berland, Shlita" is actually a thoroughly evil monster. They acknowledged that he has transgressed, or has committed sins that come close to transgressing, all three cardinal sins - idolatry, murder, and illicit relations. Idolatry - for setting himself up as a deity. Murder - for encouraging his followers to beat and even kill his opponents. And illicit relations - taking advantage of countless women.

The results of this investigation by the three top charedi Batei Din were just announced. The investigation itself was launched, with publicity, last June. At the time, I wrote a post entitled HaRav HaRasha, Shlita, in which I was sharply critical of this enterprise.

The primary problem was that no such investigation was required. Berland had already confessed in court and was convicted. There was also plenty of video evidence of his madness. The new charedi investigation also gave Berland a hechsher while it was taking place, stating that nobody was allowed to speak against HaRav HaChasid, shlita, until the investigation was complete.

There's a steady pattern of things that us non-charedim realize, and which the charedi establishment denies, and which eventually the charedi establishment is forced to come to acknowledge. Many people were warning for years that Rabbi Leib Tropper was a sicko; the Gedolim instead were giving him unprecedented power, but were later forced to agree. Everyone warned that crowded situations should be avoided when coronavirus broke out; the Gedolim insisted that the yeshivos should stay open because "Torah protects", but were later forced to agree. And now they have finally agreed that the non-charedim were correct about Berland, too.

(The supposed justification for the way in which the charedi investigation was done was that only such an investigation, launched with the consent of Berland, would get his followers to abide by the ruling. If anyone thinks that this is actually going to happen, I've got a bridge to sell them. Read about this "biography" of him on Amazon, and check out the reader reviews.)

Being late has consequences. Tropper ruined lives. Coronavirus took lives. And for years, Berland was allowed to continue his sick preatory activities without any opposition from the charedi establishment. Just a few months ago, he was arrested again after it was discovered that he was fleecing millions of shekels from terminally ill patients by promising miracle cures.

But the problems here go beyond those caused by needless delays. What happens even now? To what extent will the findings of these Batei Din be publicized?

Years ago, Mishpachah magazine printed an article, "The Fire and the Light: The Mystical World of Rav Eliezer Berland" which was a puff-piece about the holy Rav Berland. Are they going to print a follow-up article warning about him? Of course not. (And kal v'chomer Ami magazine won't print anything; besides, they are too busy triumphantly boasting about how ultra-Orthodoxy reacted to coronavirus.) In the official world of Orthodoxy, it just doesn't happen that revered rabbis have any significant flaws, let alone turn out to be monstrous predators.

This refusal to air dirty laundry has several terrible consequences. One is that it means that people are more vulnerable to being preyed upon, since they are conditioned to believe that Holy Men can't possibly do anything wrong. Another is that people who are preyed upon are much less likely to tell anyone about the absolutely unthinkable thing that happened. And yet another is that the predators enjoy much greater freedom, since they know that people are very unlikely to expose them.

Some people complain that I spend too much time criticizing the problems with charedi society. Well, if charedi society itself would be open about exposing its problems, there would be less need for other people to do so.

39 comments:

  1. It does not acknowledge anything. It says to stay away. The smartphone is given more negative play. Please. Correct your statement our explain it.

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    1. Are you suggesting that Rav Berland is innocent?

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    2. Did you read the linked article? https://www.bhol.co.il/news/1102662

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  2. It's sad that people like Rav Berland exist in the Jewish world, as it gives a Judaism a bad name. Well, at least we're not like the Catholic Church.

    I agree with the last few sentences. If no one subjects charedi society to constructive criticism, who will?

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  3. I wonder why they don't mention him by name - just "the leader".

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  4. Read the article linked above: https://www.bhol.co.il/news/1102662

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    1. Doesn't say anything about why they don't mention him by name.

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  5. This is also a problem by MO rabbis. Have you heard of Rabbi Motti Elon? or the YU scandals. In fact cover ups happen by powerful people non jews as well.

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    1. Camera in the mikva guy, near DC. Quite MO, no?

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    2. True, but as I recall he was fired from his shul by its Board. That was decisive action, agreed?

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    3. He wasn't just fired. They called the police and he was jailed.

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    4. there is comparison between the stories about MO rabbis and chareidm. Barry Freundel (Washington) went to jail; Motti Elon was dismisses immediately when the Bais Din found him guilty of indecent acts, Rosenblatt (Riverdale ) was fired too. The culpable people in the chareidi scandals were never sanctioned. The scadals in Torah Temimah-or Halpern in London- were barely slaps on the wrist. Basically, the chareidi world has great difficulty accepting that there are bad apples amongst them and sill never pursue any real legal punihsment.

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    5. Washington quit on his own.
      Riverdale was never accused to the level of Berland, just looking without physical contact, no recording. And he had a top notch lawyer on retainer, plus yichus. And the community knew about it but didn't mind, hardly grounds for firing, and his contract was supposedly up in a couple of years, not worth fighting over.

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    6. Profundus I would encourage you to check the facts on r Motti Elon he was protected by other MO rabbis for many years due to them not believing victims and due to his promises etc that he will stop. on the other hand Pogrow was condemned in no uncertain terms by haredi rabbis. My point is cover ups happen everywhere , have you heard of Jimmy Saville and Jefrey Epstein?

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    7. Talmid:
      Rav Elon's students to this day deny it
      And a few accuse him.
      Though he supposedly admitted to the first "bet din"

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  6. Allow me to be the first to "complain that I spend too much time criticizing the problems with charedi society." (despite being 100% correct on the substance/merits of those complaints). Your brain is proven as bigger than this issue and letting these kinds of issues consume you to obsession is not healthy, especially when its also so PERSONAL and EMOTIONAL for you.

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    1. I may sometimes agree with you, but this one is a slam-dunk. Occasionally you have to say yep, you got this one.

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    2. crimes involving that body part are given a pass in haredi circles , since me tur nisht redden fun...

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    3. Also to be clear-not suggesting you stop your anti charadi rhetoric entirely-just save it and space it out with more substantive stuff in between.

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  7. Back in the real world I tried to teach our junior consultants that when a client made a decision that they thought was stupid, instead of calling the client stupid they should try to understand how the client's priorities must’ve different from the consultant's when formulating a recommendation.
    I’m not saying that’s applicable to great religious leaders but if one were to apply that approach,one might posit that religious leadership understands that there will be sacrifices but that their overall goals are best reached with the collateral damage you discussed. Why not be upfront about this thinking? perhaps as Colonel Jessup said "you can’t handle the truth" KT

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  8. Dear R. Slifkin,
    You are right about the everything except one detail. The confession of Berland in a state court doesn't matter. The state jurisdiction system works even worse than our gdolei ha-dor. People sometimes are compelled to confess crimes they didn't commit because they are despaired from the justice and afraid from worse outcomes.

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  9. There is an inherent problem in all heirarchies which is, who guards the guardians? Being a rabbi - of any denomination - a vicar, a priest or an imam is by virtue of the nature of the role, an invitation to unbounded egoism.

    It should not be surprising to us that a number of our spiritual leaders are bad apples.

    When I first became religious, I was socialised to believe that the chareidi way was the best (actually the only) way. The problem of flaws in leaders was one only in theory.

    After "the scales fell from my eyes" and I left the Rabbinate, I did some academic inspection work for a British organisation that accredited various (often religious) institutions including yeshivos. In a discussion with the mashgiach of a well known yeshiva I asked who ensured that the teaching and other standards of the Rosh Yeshiva were at an appropriate level. The reaction was one of incredulity and hurt. This man is a world expert in his field, he said. You should know better given your yeshiva education he asserted. All I had actually suggested was that the yeshiva invite in another rosh yeshiva for the day to discuss teaching, swap ideas and perhaps have the visiting Rabbi watch the delivery of a shiur. Pretty modest.

    Since then I have come to the conclusion that more not less oversight is necessary. That oversight would need to be independent and contain both rabbis / rebbetzins and laypeople. To be rally radical, perhaps a couple of people from other demoniations or other faiths too.

    This is more necessary in religious leadership than in other types of leadership because of the consequesnces of a breach of trust. If an MP has his or her nose in the trough, I can vote for a different party. If all parties are at it, I can opt out, which is bad but my soul is not on the line. When a rabbi behaves badly, especially if that poor behaviour is systematic and even if it is not sexual, the results for religious engagement are often catastrophic.

    Unfortunately, I might as well believe in the tooth-fairy (or that Torah protects). I know many fine rabbis who do not have an ounce of ego within them. However I know quite a few at the other end of the spectrum too. The rabbis who agreed to such oversight would be the ones who least needed it and those opposing it? Well lets just say they are the ones you've really got to watch.

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  10. You praise them for condemning Berland, but the Kol Korei is worded very weakly, and doesn't even dare identify him by name.

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  11. Due to the repeated covering up of a serial child molester in an unnamed Town in Israel many years ago, I almost left observance. I couldn't be a part of a system that would allow such a thing, which it did, knowingly. I got over the blaming Torah for the sins of men but not everyone will. Especially people who are the actual victims which I was not.

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    1. We are careful but the criminals & protectors have freedomMay 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM

      Why can't the town be named?

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    2. I know just what you mean. I myself almost gave up US citizenship when I learned there were criminals on the streets.

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    3. My good friend Feivel, (who looks around and sees hope every day), why not share your background so DF should realize that your comment makes much more sense than he thinks.

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    4. Anonymous - I'm glad you recognize the problem with your friend's comment. I'll be happy to read his background if he chooses to share, but it wont mean much to me, who doesn't know him. More importantly, there is nothing in the world that can justify it. Comments like that - "I left/almost left X b/c of this or that bad thing" - have been made since the world began, for every religion or party under the sun. They were excuses then, they will be excuses in the future. Ideologies of any significance are bigger than their adherents.

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    5. DF, your argument is in fact quite good, but due to certain not-extremely-unusual circumstances Feivel's claim is eminently reasonable. You'll have to think a little out of the box for this one. Otherwise we're in the same box--er page. ;)

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    6. Anonymous, you write with a pleasant tone of voice, and are a welcome breath of fresh air from all the yelling in the next post up (which I had a good time participating in, I freely admit :- ) I have my doubts, but I do have an open mind, and so I can only wait to see if Feivel will share his story. You may be right, perhaps he may be an exception.

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  12. This is very interesting. RNS is not attempting to claim, obviously, that the Mizrachi/DL community is pure as the driven snow, whilst the Charedim of Israel is Satan incarnate. No, that would be patently absurd. Instead, he is only claiming that the Charedim are slow to condemn their own, whereas the Mizrachi are quick to do so. I don't know if this is true or not, but lets assume it is - this is supposed to be a criticism of who, again?

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  13. I think this is a very important post. It's a shame this will go basically unnoticed as just a drop in your sea of chareidi criticism

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  14. to be fair to the chareidi periodicals, they have a policy to never write anything negative on anyone, chareidi or otherwise. you can argue that it does no good to not be balanced in your reporting in general, but to imply that nothing negative is written about chareidi gedolim to maintain the illusion of infallibility, is simply unfair

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    1. Not true. Plenty of Mussar in the beginning pages of Mishpacha/Ami.

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  15. The justice system here will more than likely give him a slap on the wrist. In some respects, his antics during his globetrotting days were somewhat comical. Especially when the South African police could not catch him. There was a bit of a joke called Where in the world is Rabbi Berland(based on the old Carmen San Diego and where's Waldo). Berland should consider himself fortunate that Israel was lenient as had he pulled this stunt in the states, he would be in prison until he died.

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  16. A thought just occurred to me. Some Jews whose progressive political activism outshine their Torah observance are almost always pictured wearing a talit, even at moments that wearing one is inappropriate. So too I see him wearing one while being booked. Does that make him part of their cabal too?

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  17. Well, if charedi society itself would be open about exposing its problems, there would be less need for other people to do so.

    Mishpacha's article was disgusting, but Berland's movement has nothing to do with Charedi society. He runs a cult for sephardi BTs who don't know where to stop. No Charedi would ever make a shidduch with them, or allow them in their schools. The closest they come to interacting with ordinary Charedim is doing the washing up in the kitchen of a yeshiva. There are dozens of similar Bresev cults (one is in my neighbourhood) and they all the have the same clientele and they all have no more to do with Charedi society than with DL society and actually, in practice, somewhat less

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  18. A lesson in human (not Jewish) credulity
    https://www.amazon.com/One-Generation-Rabbi-Eliezer-Berland-ebook/dp/B079WJVF3F

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  19. You won't believe this response by his followers https://l.messenger.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fravberland.com%2Fmany-rabbis-and-tzaddikim-are-standing-with-rav-berland-hes-holy-of-holies-rav-salmanovitch%2F&h=AT0tRyG5WhsJFnoUXeJtWU5PqKuSaZQLPTQg5xdE_MZjr7UYYZSzM-CHxoXBM0TSrf5C1b4_IsxxO6YA8zT-ExE-EBAcUwSNGrcHkqrVj_CdaoIO5ujc7L7fguhIIt2N8g

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