Union for Traditional Judaism Holds Conference On Child Abuse

Here’s the press release: Reports are on the rise concerning incest and child abuse in yeshivas and days schools. Many deny it’s a problem. We strongly disagree.

The Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ) is hosting a special “awareness” program featuring rabbis and children advocates who stand on the forefront of combating this Chilul HaShem. The program is Sunday, March 15, from 9:30a.m. – 1:00p.m. at UTJ Headquarters, 811 Palisade Ave., Teaneck, N.J.

LUKE SAYS: Here’s some background on Rabbi Mordecai Gafni who is a subject of the following blog comments. What strikes me is how little research Rabbi Saul Berman did while he was defending Gafni and then when he apologized for defending Gafni. At neither time did he have possession of the facts. In this example at least, Rabbi Berman (like Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) is reckless. Contrary to what Lisa and many others claim, it has not been "revealed that Gafni was indeed abusing women." There have been no criminal charges against Gafni (I don’t know what charges Gafni would face if he returned to Israel following the Bayit Chadash flame-out in 2006) and no civil lawsuits against him on these grounds. There are no independent witnesses to whatever went on between Gafni and various women. All we have is Gafni’s side and the women’s side (wikipedia). To make grand pronouncements in any direction on this seems reckless to me.

Perhaps some people don’t understand The Mystery of Love.

ROBERT POSTS TO HIRHURIM: I salute the UTJ for confronting this important issue. It is especialliy gratifying to see that prominent faculty members from the two other modern orthodox rabbinical schools, YU and YCT, are participating. To the credit of YCT, ever since its Director of Continuing Rabbinic Education, Rabbi Saul Berman, apologized for his strong public defense of sexual predator Mordechai Gafni, YCT has been at the forefront of addressing the phenomenon of sexual abuse in the Orthodox world.

LISA POSTS: Rabbi Berman was the director of Edah, when he defended Mordechai Gafni in the Jewish Week. He was NOT affiliated with YCT at the time. He was only appointed the Director of Continuing Rabbinic Education at YCT after he profusely apologized. No one can question that he sincerely felt terrible after it was revealed that Gafni was indeed abusing women. In fact, Rabbi Berman even proclaimed that he felt indirectly responsible for the abuses that occurred following his defense of Gafni.

HAROLD POSTS: Lisa, I beg to differ. One can question the sincerity of the apology. Remember, shortly after it was revealed that Rabbi Berman was terribly wrong, Edah folded. Without an apology, would YCT ever have offered him a job? Maybe he was truly sincere, maybe he had no choice but to apologize. And, on the subject of Edah, I always wondered why the Lanner Affair was never discussed at any JOFA or EDAH conference. After all, it was a perfect example of the old boys network protecting one of its own at the expense of the community. On other hand, since the OU president who had to resign in the wake of the scandal was a sibling of a prominent JOFA leader and donor, I can understand Rabbi Berman’s reticence to address the Lanner Affair.

J. POSTS: The problem is that the real people who need to be having conferences about this are not those on the sidelines of modern orthodoxy, who never had that much of a hush hush policy to begin with, but rather the Charedi world. Every week I seem to come across another story of child abuse, and all we seem to come across is more sweeping under the rug and denial. The fact that a Chossid being tried in court for repeatedly raping his daughter has the support of leading Charedi Rabbonim is a shocking disgrace. The fact that some Charedi Rabbonim in London have recently issued a letter about how concerned they are about Government guidelines to prevent child abuse, which they consider non-tzniusdig is a joke – where were the letters protesting child rape by klei kodesh??!! The fact that there are Rabbonim and Charedi politicians trying to stop the extradition of Avremel Mondrowitz – who R. Avigdor Miller described as ‘the Jewish Hitler’, who sodomized tens if not hundreds of boys, CRIES OUT TO SHOMAYIM. Who protests the spilled blood and broken neshomes of our holy children??!! The problem is that the list goes on and on and on. How many more children will have to KILL THEMSELVES for people to do something???
When the Bluzhever Rebbe was in a concentration camp and he heard the screams of a group of holy yiddishe kinderlach being lead to their deaths, he desribed how even the melochim were crying. Who cries for our children?

F-P writes: I am semi-amused by the statement that "Many deny it’s a problem".

No one denies that it’s a problem. I’ve read a lot of back-and-forth about this and never seen anyone claim that it’s not a problem.

What people disagree about it the cost/benefit of various proposed solutions. This is not the same thing as denying it’s a problem.

People who put out statements that they know to be false, such as this one, in order to demonize those who disagree with them, are a problem, IMHO. Although many deny it, of course.

Mitch Morrison writes: Disclaimer: I am Noge’a B’davar in that i put in the ad. To F-P, I wish you were right but in the weeks i’ve been involved with this program i’ve been amazed by the many who are oblivious to this issue, as well as those who say this is a smear campaign by Modern Orthodox. At the same time, i’ve been approached by a number of victims who heard about this program, some of whom have never gone public because of fear of being shunned. one person who did try to go public was told he’d never have a shidduch. So unfortunately, i would politely disagree with you, although it wish you were right and that awareness were not an issue.

F-P posts: Advocates like to point to people’s fear of being shunned as evidence that there is opposition in the community to publicizing the matter, and this is presumably your intention in bringing it up here. But IMHO, the main issue victims have, and the main reason they fear that they won’t get a shidduch, is the worry that people will see them as being so traumatized by their experiences as to impair their ability to have normal family and spousal relationships thereafter. Paradoxically, anti-abuse organizations actually magnify that problem, by emphasizing (& exagerating in many cases, IMHO) the trauma on victims, and by keeping the issue on the minds of the public.

GEORGE POSTS: As far as Mr. Morrison’s comments go, I think that he should realize by now that by many modern orthodox Jews recognize that the UTJ is to the right of YCT on many issues (e.g. mixed keriah minyanim, mixed megillah minyanim, women reciting bircos hatorah on the Torah in women’s prayer services, progressive revelation, all of which UTJ opposes and YCT condones or actively supports). In that respect, I am not surprised that YCT has refused to work together with Rabbi Price but embraced Rabbi Berman despite his serious mistake. In the end, Rabbi Berman was a better match for YCT’s liberal student body than the more right-wing Rabbi Price. Believe it or not, some of Rabbi Price’s Talmidim do not accept the Teaneck Eruv and have taken upon themselves all sorts of other chumras.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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