A Dati Leumi Disgrace?
In the wake of my post criticizing the moral bankuptcy of charedi rabbinic and political leadership over the Walder case, a number of people challenged me regarding dati-leumi rabbinic leadership. There were two criticisms: first, that I hypocritically avoid calling out problems in the dati-leumi community, and second, that the dati-leumi community has just the same failings as the charedi community in this regard.
With regard to the first criticism, it is not at all true that I avoid calling out problems with the dati-leumi rabbinic leadership. I once harshly condemned Rav Druckman, in a post titled A Stain On Religious Zionism, for his protection of Motti Elon. And today I am perfectly willing to call out Rav Shlomo Aviner for his undermining the accusations against Walder. And Rav Tau, who insists that Walder was perfectly innocent, is worse than any charedi rabbi.
But Rav Aviner and Rav Tau do not reflect a fundamental problem in dati-leumi society in the way that people like Rav Edelstein and the Yated reflect a fundamental problem in charedi society, for two reasons.
One is that they are both marginal figures. Rav Aviner might have been aiming for the position of mainstream dati-leumi a few decades ago, but in the last twenty years he has been steadily discrediting himself among the mainstream and is now respected as a rabbinic authority only in a narrow segment of dati-leumi society. And Rav Tau, who claims that the accusations against Walder are part of a conspiracy because he criticized the Supreme Court, is an utterly fringe figure, regarded by the vast majority of dati-leumi society as a lunatic.
The second factor is the difference between the ways that charedi and dati-leumi society are structured. In charedi society, someone like Rav Edelstein is revered as a Gadol HaDor, which means that few would dare to overtly criticize him. And in parts of charedi society, the only material people read is Yated Neeman and the like. Dati-leumi society, on the other hand, is entirely different. Anyone can and does readily criticize rabbinic authorities such as Rav Druckman when they feel that he has done something very inappropriate. And people are reading newspapers such as Mekor Rishon, which readily printed a confrontational and seriously accusational interview with Rav Aviner.
Thus, problematic statements about Walder in dati-leumi society are marginal and readily discounted. The same is not true of charedi society. Yes, there are an increasing number of voices, including medium-level rabbinic voices, condemning Walder and announcing support for victims. But the problematic statements are being made by enormously influential rabbinic leaders whom many follow unquestioningly and others do not dare openly dispute, and by prominent people in the mainstream of charedi society.
Today it was brought to my attention that no less than Rav Zev Leff, a very popular and mainstream rabbinic figure among American charedi-lite communities, delivered a terrible shiur about the Walder case. He says that there is no proof that Walder is guilty (!). He gives equal likelihood in general to complaints about sexual abuse being genuine and being fake (!!). And he says that complaints can only be taken seriously if the victims present them to a proper Beis Din in the presence of the accused (!!!). And that anything else is forbidden lashon hara (!!!!). And that Walder's books, even if he is guilty, are perfectly fine and they should be kept, since he is already dead and presents no further harm, so the books don't hurt anyone (do the victims not exist?!).
I asked a person who works for a victim-advocacy organization to write a public response to Rav Leff. The person replied said that if they issued a response to every rabbi that is saying something terrible and ridiculous right now, they wouldn't have time for anything else at all. (The person did share some good news is that there are things going on behind the scenes which will hopefully bear fruit in the near future.)
Meanwhile, there is a video by victim advocates going around in which they say that there is a Vaad HaRabbonim for everything under the sun - where is the Vaad HaRabbonim to deal with sexual predators and helping victims? I'm sure that the makers of the video mean well, but a "Vaad HaRabbonim" to deal with these problems is the last thing that we need. As we saw with Meron, the basic problem with charedi society is that they think that they are equipped to manage things on their own, and do not need to be part of national professional standards.
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