Live and Let Live?

Spotlight_poster_goldposter_com_1-400x593My wife and I just went to see a truly excellent film entitled “Spotlight.” It tells the story of the investigative reporting team for the Boston Globe newspaper by the same name that broke the story regarding the mass cover-up of catholic priests who were caught molesting thousands of children over the course of decades. The local dioceses worked to silence victims and quietly pay them off while at the same time denying that there was a well-known and systemic problem of child abuse being facilitated by the church. The acting was superb and the story was gripping – and admittedly quite disturbing.

When the film ended and my wife and I were exiting the theater, we were greeted by several couples from our community who, amid sighs of relief said, “I guess we should be glad that we’re Jewish!” My wife and I looked at each other and replied, “The Hasidic and Haredi communities throughout the US and Israel are plagued with virtually the same problem of pervasive child abuse and they are covering it up in much the same way.”  The response we got was one of shock. “But in Judaism we don’t believe in celibacy so how could we be having the same problems as catholics?” I proceeded to explain to them that although Judaism doesn’t believe in celibacy, the Hasidic and Haredi views of sex and sexuality were adopted from catholic asceticism centuries ago. I further explained that the unnatural segregation of the genders ultimately leads to the objectification of women. In the Haredi world there is near absolute silence with regard to education about sexual development and healthy sexuality, which contributes prominently to the problem. Add to this that Hasidim and Haredim almost universally forbid their followers from going to the police to report cases of abuse by their rabbis, and you have something very close to what was experienced in Boston and many other cities across the globe.

As we watched the film we were absolutely stunned at the parallels between the two communities and their issues with both pedophilia and deviant sexuality. The studies cited in the film showed that the majority of priests involved in such activities were emotionally stunted, having the mentality of a 12 or 13 year old and an inability to properly function in social settings. This reminded us of the very many Haredim and Hasidim whom we have encountered that have weird social ticks, an almost inability to process social cues, can be seen picking their noses in an almost obsessive manner in public, don’t regularly bathe, and who operate on a level of general immaturity in most areas of their lives.

The way in which the offending priests were constantly shuffled around from parish to parish was reminiscent of how elementary school “rebbes” are caught and then transferred to other schools – all while the administrations and “gedolim” possess a full knowledge of such behavior. The way that the cardinal  featured in the film went out of his way to defend and protect the offenders for the supposed greater “good” of the church reminded us of the many instances that Haredi rabbis and leaders have shown up to court to defend molesters because they feel that it is wrong to “take him away from his family.” The similarities were eerie, but not surprising.

Many times when I speak out passionately against the practices of the Haredi/Hasidic community, I am told to “stop being so negative” and to have more of an attitude of “live and let live,” but I am not so sure that this is the right thing to do.

There is a mentality within Judaism that has true Torah values in a stranglehold and is desperately trying to suffocate them and replace them with an evil doppelganger known alternately as “Toyrah” and “Yiddishkeit.” These people – whether knowingly or not – have taken a Near Eastern religion and have turned it into a Eurocentric phenomenon. The way they dress, the way they [mis]apply Jewish law, the way they censor and sanitize Jewish texts and history, their ascetic and ostensibly catholic ideas about sex, and their cult mentality of “Daas Toyrah” – all of it is literally destroying Judaism from the inside out. And if we are honest with our history, the mentality of “live and let live” is how we got to where we are in the first place. If we continue to allow this movement to speak for and represent Judaism, then we are all headed for disaster, God forbid. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, I am completely serious.

It’s not child sexual abuse alone that is proof of how out of control the problem is, there are many more. Judaism is a religion of law, and yet almost every facet of halakhah has been infiltrated by these impostors and has been redefined. Kashrut, Shabbat, Taharat HaMishpahah, Tefillah, and the list goes on – everything is being re-invented and re-interpreted to levels of absurdity that have never before been sanctioned or tolerated by mainstream religious Jews in history.

If we want our reasonable, intelligent, compassionate, honest, and morally-sound Judaism back, then we need to take it back. We need to stop giving our money and resources to Haredi and Hasidic institutions. We need to stop buying their books and their sefarim. We need to stop sending our sons and daughters to their yeshivot and seminaries. We need to stop attending their shuls and kollelim. We need to stop paying their salaries through our dues. And most of all, we need to stop kidding ourselves that the problems these communities and individuals present are being perpetrated by an unfortunate minority.  We need to come to grips with the fact that the “gedolim” are not the true spokesmen for authentic Torah Judaism and its values – not in any way. The Haredi/Hasidic system is one that subsists almost entirely on fear and welfare. If the givers stop giving them either their allegiance or their money, then the system will ultimately shut down. And if we give our time and resources to those who are working to heal Judaism and restore authentic expressions and values, then truly Torah-based institutions and their rabbinic leadership will eventually flourish.

Many who speak out against the things taking place in Judaism are angry people – and, in my opinion, understandably so – but too often they are branded as “trouble-makers” and “naysayers,” being cast aside while their words fall on deaf ears. I want to go on record right now and say that I love Judaism and I love the Jewish people. I care very much about the futures of my children and my grandchildren. I also am not a fan of conflict. It turns my stomach to have to fight and – like most everyone else – I would rather just leave all of these issues alone.

“Live and let live” is the easy option and not rocking the boat has the added advantage of allowing one to pass through the orthodox world undetected. But the problem is that, like all the catholics in Boston who decided to remain silent in the face of blatant corruption and evil within the church learned, such silence only makes things worse. The philosophy of “live and let live” is how we got to where we are in the first place.

I might be indignant and passionate, but I’m not “angry.” I may be expressing harsh criticism of the Haredi/Hasidic world, but I’m not flying the flag of “Dati Leumi” or “Modern Orthodoxy.” And lastly, I am not denying that there are truly good Jews in the Haredi and Hasidic camps because there certainly are (and many of them share my sentiments on these issues). I am just trying to say that if we truly love each other as Jews, if we truly love God, and if we truly love the Torah, then “live and let live” is simply not an option.

I would love to be able to speak about these things in more positive terms, but honestly, when what we are talking about here is a truly negative subject, how can we truthfully speak about it in any other way?

May HaShem help us all to be more vocal and to do what is right.

3 thoughts on “Live and Let Live?

    • While I agree with the critique you express here in general I felt that your focus implies that this problem is primarily a Haredi/Hassidi problem – it is not. The MO and DL world both in the US and Israel also have their fair share of “rabbis” who have abused their position and trust in matters sexual, financial and political.

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      • לק”י

        Shalom, Yossi.

        Thanks for your comments.

        You read it that way because I do imply that it is mainly a Haredi-Hasidic problem. Let me be clear, I do NOT feel that the “rest of us” in the Dati Leumi and Modern Orthodox worlds are immune to common human failings, including the disgusting crimes of an illicit sexual nature. There have been rapists, womanizers, and even child-molesters in those camps as well. However, the numbers are incredibly disproportionate. Groups that deal with child molestation and abuse in the Jewish world report incredibly high percentages of Haredi and Hasidic instances of these crimes. Those working in a legal setting report that the majority of defendants in these cases are Haredim. Just think, the community with members that are least-likely to report have the greatest numbers of recorded cases. Given that statistically (according to Dr. David Pelcovitz and other experts in this field) only about 7% of cases are ever reported, the actual numbers must be staggering.

        There are several reasons for the disproportionality of pedophilia and other sex crimes in the Haredi-Hasidic community:

        1. They discourage reporting cases to the police. This is the absolute number one reason child molestation flourishes and maintains such high numbers in the Haredi world. The social outcry against the victims who come forward is not only disgusting, but it is often sadly coupled with a cry of support for the perpetrator! Molesters are protected and shuffled around. And when they admit to raping young children, the rabbinic response from their leaders is “nothing happened.” This just simply does not happen in the DL and MO world. Crimes are reported and people are brought to justice. Their names are publicized and those who are given to such things are thereby discouraged from doing so.

        2. They protect the abusers. This is related to the previous reason, but it deserves its own place. While victims and their families are brow-beaten, Haredi and Hasidic leaders work to protect admitted abusers and keep them out of jail and maintaining their stipends and/or paychecks. Before I left the Haredi world altogether, I enrolled my children in a school in Israel where it was discovered that the “rav” who acted as principal to this disaster of an institution was paying several “rebbes” off the books who had actively molested and raped boys in the school. I moved them to the local Mamlakhti-Dati-Torani school and never looked back. Currently, the Chabad-Lubavitch community adjacent to ours is working very hard to protect a child rapist who was caught red-handed by the police. They posted his very expensive bail and are approaching every lawyer in our MO community to defend this pervert and to keep him out of jail. The punchline? The Chabad shluchim keep telling these lawyers that it was a “victimless crime.” Why? Because the boy that he happened to be caught with was not Jewish. Since non-Jews have no souls and are like animals in the heretical Chabad system of mysticism, there was no “victim” in their estimation. This type of behavior is common and gives molesters in the Haredi world a warm,fuzzy feeling of confidence that all of the clout in that world will work to protect them even if they are caught. They thus feel safe and secure in continuing to freely molest children (halilah wa-has).

        3. They unnaturally separate genders. In the Haredi-Hasidic community, genders are separated unnaturally from early childhood. This, coupled with an absolute silence on issues of natural, sexual development in children, breeds an intense shame and confusion in people as they develop sexually, causing them to act out in perverted ways and to be secretive about it. When my son was in a Haredi school, he was told that the mere hearing of a woman’s voice while singing would condemn him to being burned alive in hell. Issues like masturbation, natural sexual attraction among young people, or the desires that are a part of wanting to love, etc. – all of them are kept silent, and when they are discussed, young boys are told that everything associated with them is pure evil and will condemn them to severe Divine judgment. It was once bragged to me by a Hasidic man about to be married that he had never seen his parents so much as touch each other’s hand. And he thought this was not only normal, but correct and healthy! In other words, the idea that develops in the minds of young Haredi and Hasidic men and boys is that women are only good for “one thing” and that one thing is evil. Not knowing about the goodness and emotional healthiness of attraction to the opposite gender and not seeing healthy love modeled for them by their parents, not ever having had a discussion that puts sex into a proper and healthy context, and never having been reassured by a loving parent that their feelings are normal and healthy and should be reserved for marriage, these young men develop unnatural attachments to other boys and men, or even act out their feelings on younger sisters. The DL and MO communities do not have such a construct and if anything, they have the opposite problem of teenage pre-marital sex. Frankly, if I had to choose between them, I would take the latter.

        So, on the one hand, I agree with you that MO and DL “rabbis” have abused their positions to commit sexual crimes. Without a doubt. On the other hand, I completely disagree that these communities have “their fair share” as if the numbers are similar. This is simply not true. It is a much larger problem in the Haredi-Hasidic world.

        What I do is I educate my children about these issues and who is allowed to touch them or see them without clothes on (i.e. parents or doctors helping them, etc.) and who is not. We also talk about what to do if something happens or they feel uncomfortable, that they should tell their parents or a teacher immediately. We – my wife and I – are careful not to seclude ourselves with children, lest a false accusation be made (this is a practice that many neglect, but I think should be maintained). And we likewise do not allow our children to be secluded with adults, unless there are several adults or many children in the group and we know the family. In other words, I do not blindly or naively trust people simply because they identify as DL or MO. That would be silly. However, because of the way in which DL and MO communities swiftly and openly deal with these instances, I do sleep better at night knowing that my children are not in an environment that encourages and protects the activities of molesters and other predators.

        Many of the fathers in our shul are conceal-and-carry types, so I frankly pity any fool caught harming any child in our community. It would probably not end well for him.

        Hope this helps to elucidate my position on the matter.

        Kol tuv,

        YB

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