Rabbis and Naivete


There they go again. After more than two weeks of horrific news about Jews acting badly from the United States, Australia, and Israel, religious leaders are manning the trenches.  It is just so ingrained in their armamentarium of excuses to take the positions they do. It is more than some perverted and extreme sense of cognitive dissonance, it is a defense mechanism so concretized that the honest experiences of others, painful though they are, are completely rejected for no reason other than the desire to believe that their followers can do no wrong. All sense of empathy for those harmed is gone. Rather than accept the reality that there are extremely pressing issues – serious ethical and moral violations by their followers, abusers and molesters in their midst, people who are dangerous and have harmed their very own – they talk about the bloggers. They refer to those notorious, ubiquitous bloggers who create what they call a false sense of fear and allegedly act as judge and jury and falsely condemn innocent people, or so they say. It is so much easier for them to complain that the charges are false, that convicted child sexual abusers are falsely imprisoned, that the FBI hates Jews and that the police in Beitar Illit do not know what they are doing. And so abusers and molesters and extortionists and thieves believe that they will be protected by their leaders or at least look away while they comfortably continue to ply their satanic trades in the hope that the officials of their religion will protect them, no matter how sinister they are or whom they may terrorize.   

Even now as a man has been sentenced to thirteen years in jail for sexual abuse in the state of New Jersey, his religious advisor, an extremely prominent religious leader states publicly that he has been wrongfully charged and convicted. It is hard to believe this scenario. If the rabbi so strongly believes the abusers innocence and had evidence to prove that why did he not testify in court for the abuser? Instead, he remains in his enclave in Brooklyn issuing statements about the abuser that are apparently false and seeking to lead his followers to believe that the authorities who diligently did their work from the initial arrest through the judicial process and are seeking to remove abusers from their midst are in the wrong. Still the Rabbi is himself protected in his role as a leading decisor of kashrut issues.

The FBI recently arrested ten individuals for allegedly kidnapping and torturing men who refused to give their wives a get, or a Jewish divorce. These extortionists and torturers’ are also considered to be wrongfully targeted. After all, the argument goes; they were only helping agunot, chained women, to get out of the marriages they were stuck in. The fact that the men arrested are said to have extorted many thousands of dollars for this service, that they physically harmed their targets and that they kidnapped them taking them across state lines in the trunk of a car, seems to be of no concern to their supporters. Make no mistake; I am a supporter of coercing a get from a husband who refuses to give one once it is clear that the marriage is no longer viable. My approach though would be more targeted, meaningful, and direct. Picket their homes, chase them from their synagogues, and shun them in their communities. The intransigence they show deserves it. Physical torture crosses all reasonable lines!

I have been accused of being too liberal, too honest, too supportive of the rights of people, and maybe too simplistic to understand. Sorry but I believe in consistency and honesty. Does that make me the one who is naive? I still am accused of being too honest and a no-nothing. Sticks and stones – you know. I have also been told to watch my back. Those threats and arguments have always rung hollow. Their desperation however seems to be getting worse. Protecting abusers convicted in an open court while accusing honest law enforcement and judicial professionals is patently wrong and perhaps even a bit delusional.

 Maybe I am just naive or not sufficiently political too. Perhaps the accusations against me are all true. I am and have always been a believer in the better angels of our nature. I guess that makes me naive. If that’s true than I am happy to be.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."