It is not that I haven’t had any positive reactions to my book Abuse in the Jewish Community and my many articles on abuse. I have. But, I have also received hate mail and threats of all sorts. No one wanted to hear that abuse existed and no one it seems is willing to accept the fact that abuse is still being perpetuated. No one wants to accept that it can happen in their own homes, schools and camps despite the fact that abusers are being caught arrested and even admitting their sins. Rather than hearing about the problem I have been dismissed as being just an advocate, as if that is a major shortcoming, despite the fact that I do not see myself as one. And, I have even been accused of being someone who has an interest in this area only to create a cottage industry around the topic – simply a lie. My training and interest is to treat people with significant emotional and psychological issues and problems and alert others so they may prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
The fact that I have treated individuals, not one but several, who have been abused by molesters that are still being protected by their religious leaders and whose leaders often send their minions to belittle my work has not deterred me from writing about it. So it is enormously refreshing and phenomenally gratifying when two major religious leaders, both within days of each other, publish articles not simply supporting the fact that abuse exists and must be addressed rigorously and with real determination, but actually naming names of religious leaders who have protected and perhaps even enabled abusers to continue molesting. These two are religious leaders of very large Orthodox congregations and are familiar with the devastation that abuse causes. They have both apparently resolved to publicly take on this terrible scourge of abuse.
Rabbi Efram Goldberg of the Boca Raton Synagogue writes that ” When a major Jewish organization retains a Rabbi who continues to defend a pedophile who pled guilty in court, and continues to defend a letter he wrote stating that the victim who reported the pedophile is a moseir who has no portion in the world to come, it is on the wrong side of this issue.” (http://rabbisblog.brsonline.org/2013/08/23/be-on-the-right-side-of-this-issue/) Similarly Rabbi Heshie Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere (my Rabbi) writes “”The time for serious vigilance of child abuse in the Modern Orthodox Jewish community is long overdue. It is time that lay and religious communal leaders have zero tolerance for child abusers and cease to cover up, enable, or protect them.” (http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/not-enough-progress-rabbis-leaders-dealing-sexual-abuse)
The critics of these two bold Rabbis and their proclamations have thus far belittled their pieces in primarily two ways. The first is that neither is a Rosh Yeshiva (head of a religious seminary) as if that were to mean that they have no insight or knowledge of the real world and Halacha. The other critique is that they are both Rabbis of Modern Orthodox congregations and therefore they impact only a very small slice of the religious world. These criticisms stem from the same sources that have been deflecting the issue for years and have attacked anyone willing to confront the problem as being heretical and should be removed from the community.
My response to the critiques is simple. There has been some hand wringing in the last few years about just how much the Modern Orthodox world has shrunk and given up in comparison to the more right wing Hareidi world. I see it very differently. It takes a Modern Orthodox sense of reality to confront real issues in the real world. It takes a sense of determination and willingness to understand how important it is to report an abuser to the proper authorities and just how serious the need for intervention and treatment is. It takes a Modern Orthodox religious leader to deal with a broader group of Jews than primarily just students in a Beit Midrash (study Hall) to get a real feel for the constellation of issues that we face day to day and how to address them. I, for one see this as a signal that the modern Orthodox world is very alive and thriving and willing to stand up and come forward to confront what must be confronted. Kol Hakavod to these two resolute Rabbis!