I don’t know if Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky from Baltimore molested those three children. As of now, he’s been accused, but not convicted. What I do know is that Baltimore has a problem with denial.
When Chaim Levin posted a warning about Rabbi Krawatsky on November 10th, I followed the post, because I’m from Baltimore, and feel an affinity for the community. I was saddened to see numerous people defending Rabbi Krawatsky. The average comment was some variation on, “Rabbi K couldn’t have done that. He was my child’s Rebbe/counselor and my child loved him.” Many attacked Chaim personally for sharing such a post.
After the articles came out yesterday, detailing the situation, a friend asked me, “What causes people to double down?” She said she finally understood why I’ve commented in the past that Baltimore has a problem when it comes to handling sexual abuse.
Here are my thoughts. The families defending Rabbi Krawatsky are in a bind. They firmly believe that he is a good man, a talented teacher, and a fun-loving counselor. They entrusted their children to his care. They allowed him unsupervised access, and in some cases, facilitated extra time for their children to be alone with him. They HAVE to believe that he is innocent. To entertain the notion that he is guilty of molestation is to admit that they misjudged him. To admit that he may be guilty is to admit that they allowed a predator to have full access to their children. And to admit that is to come face to face with uncomfortable realization that parents cannot fully protect their children from every evil that exists in the world.
Here’s the thing. It’s not black and white. The parents that are writing, “He is an amazing Rebbe. There’s no way he did what those children are saying” are simply wrong. Because it’s possible to be a great Rebbe AND a child molester. It’s possible to be a phenomenal camp counselor AND a predator.
Baltimore parents, educators, and Jewish leaders need to stop thinking in binary terms. Children’s lives are at stake. The adults have to take appropriate action, no matter how uncomfortable it is to face reality and admit that mistakes were made, trust was given where it shouldn’t have been, and reparative actions need to take place immediately.
Baltimore needs to learn from its past.
Baltimore needs to do better.