Monday, May 04, 2009

More Frum Hypocrisy

Another day – another travesty from the frum community. Well, this one isn’t really new, it’s actually an old issue – how to deal with the problem of sexual molestation in yeshivas. But it's in the news again. Firstly, there was a powerful article in last week's Forward which profiled a victim of such an atrocity. And also, recently,a person that I tremendously respected has backtracked on the issue and is now taking a side diametrically opposed to what he seemed to have previously held. According to various blog reports (Failed Messiah, Vos Iz Neias, Harry Maryles), Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has publicly declared his opposition to the Markey Bill. This bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims of molestation to bring their perpetrators to justice, and it would also provide them a brief window of opportunity in which to bring to justice crimes that have long since passed. Unsurprisingly, certain powerful religious institutions – namely, the Catholic Church and the Agudas Yisroel – are vehemently opposed to this bill. (You can listen to a recording of the radio show where he made his statement by going to those aforementioned blogs.)

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the Agudah is against this bill, and I’m not going to rehash the debates that are going on in the comment threads of those blogs (I strongly recommend the VIN one), but everyone (including myself) has been pretty shocked that Rabbi Horowitz has actually come down on the side of the Agudah on this one. Until this point he has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the victims, and it’s truly disappointing to see him change his stance in this manner.

Anyway, in the debate, one of the big red herrings that is being thrown around to excuse the Agudah’s position is that if this bill is allowed to pass, the schools will risk being shut down due to an onslaught of litigation. Everyone is screaming that if it passes, people will be suing left and right, and then the sky will fall in, and all the yeshivas will be forced to close, and it will be the end of the world as we know it!!! Oy vey!!

Please! That is such a bunch of BS.

Let’s put aside the fact that in the other states where such a bill has been passed, no such dire prophecy has ever come close to happening like that.

Let’s ignore the fact that the schools have nothing to fear unless they know they have something to cover up.

Let’s instead talk about this issue of schools closing down. Because, you know, it’s come up some time in the past. There was a point in recent Jewish history where the most famed and prominent Jewish school was actually forced to close down.


Volozhin was the jewel in the crown of 19th century European Jewry. Putting aside the fact that there is much misinformation about what exactly caused the institution to shut its doors, the version of the story that the chareidi world believes is well known. Ask any black-hat yeshiva boy, and he will tell you, in a most proudly defiant tone of voice, that Volozhin was closed down because the heads of the yeshiva were being forced by the Russian authorities to incorporate secular studies into the curriculum. And the roshei yeshiva felt, horrible as it may sound, that it was better to have this sacred institution close its doors than to sully it with the taint of secular knowledge! That’s how bad secular studies are! And that’s also how important pure torah study is!

This legend is one of the foundational myths of the chareidi world, and regardless of its veracity, it tells us that, to the chareidi mindset, there are some things that are worth paying the awful price of closing down the most venerable of torah intuitions.

So, I can’t help wondering, if chareidim feel that it’s ok to close down a yeshiva because of secular studies, but it’s not ok to close it down because it harbored (or may still be harboring) child molesters, does that mean that chareidim believe that learning secular studies is worse than molesting a child?


Update: Rabbi Horowitz has posted an article explaining his rationale.
Update 2: Rabbi Horowitz apologizes (for offending people, but not for his position).


TJ said...

You are so insightful. Excellent point. I'm not familiar with the abuse situation at hand you are speaking of--but abuse in day schools should obviously be "yehareg v'al ya'avor".

Shalmo said...

My condolences for all the victims>>>

Who is the guy in the picture on this thread?

Is he someone who was molested? Does he have his story out where the rest of us can read what he went through?

Anonymous said...

It does seem from the Agudah's argument that they believe every Jewish child has the absolute right to be molested in yeshiva and they'll do everything in their power to make sure no one deprives our children of this rite of passsage by closing any of these illustrious institutions. Huh?

Joshua said...

I must be a terribly cynical person. I found the linked to article about the actual history of Volozhin to be far more surprising than the behavior of Agudas Yisroel or Rav Horowitz. I had always taken the charedi story about its closing more or less for granted. I had no idea that it was inaccurate.

The Hedyot said...

> Who is the guy in the picture on this thread?

The same guy as in all the other photos I've put up.

mo said...

"The same guy as in all the other photos I've put up."

I just checked your other photos there are no pictures of this guy does he have a name? was he molested also?.

Gina said...

Morons -
The picture is like every other one The Hedyot posts - randomly found on the internet. Let it go.

Mo said...

To Gina,

How do you know Hedyot found the picture on the Internet, why cant Hedyot answer for himself who this guy is? was he molested? Whats his name?.

Why the name calling?

The Hedyot said...

Gina was right on the ball.

gillian said...

God, Hedyot, what happened to your intelligent commentors? How'd this thread turn into a ridiculous conversation about photograph identity? You need to turn on your mediating thing and weed out the fruitcakes.

The Hedyot said...

Gillian -
I already have.

NoPeanutz said...

That's exactly the point Hedyot.
Agudah is saying that studying something that is not Torah is worse than child-molesting.
But what's the chiddush?

TikunOlam said...

I am ao disappointed with R' Horowitz. And frankly, shocked. I am hoping he comes out with an explanation. He does so much good work for the OJ community, I can't understand why he would be against this.

e said...


TikunOlam said...

You might want to swing by DB, put in your two cents on this topic and link to your post.

e said...

Ok. I started reading the "real" reason why the Volozhin Yeshiva closed down, but that document is freaking long. I have no patience to read 58 pages. Can anybody who's read it give a brief summary of what it says?

The Hedyot said...

Read the DovBear link. He pretty much sums it up over there.

Joshua said...

e: To summarize: The Netziv was willing to compromise to the extent that there would be some limited secular studies a few hours a day. He only closed the Yeshiva after the Russian government demanded so much time be set aside to secular studies and so little to Torah that the entire matter became ridiculous.

alex said...

"Until this point he has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the victims"

Is R' Horowitz truly no longer an outspoken advocate for these victims? Why don't you ask him to post here with his assessment of that charge?

The Hedyot said...

> Is R' Horowitz truly no longer an outspoken advocate for these victims?

I'm not saying that he's not still an advocate for them. But to those who feel that the benefits of this bill far outweigh the drawbacks that he mentions, his credibility as an unbiased advocate has just taken a major nosedive.

alex said...

"I'm not saying that he's not still an advocate for them."

Way down here in the comments you say this. Your main post however implies otherwise.

The Hedyot said...

Alex -
By now hopefully you've heard some of the tremendous amount of backlash that R' Horowitz has received on his position (see his own apology here). I stand by what I wrote.

Shalmo said...

See if they castrated molestors then the number of child sexual abuses would be far lower.

Harsher and more frightening laws tend to equate lower crime.

They need to have tribunals or some sort of system that keeps rabbis accountable to the public. Sadly in orthodox communities these men are close to demigods and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

alex said...

"my opposition to the Markey Bill did not and will not in any way diminish my support for your cause."

These words of R' Horowitz are what you should've posted, not just the URL.