The other Australian fire- a Purim spiel for us all

This blog post is dedicated to a young man who begged our Jewish community in Chicago to help him seek justice for what happened to him as a child when he was molested by a prominent rabbi.  I did not believe that what he alleged was possible.  The events of the last few years have shown me to be so wrong.  I can not remember the young man’s name, but I hope this post will provide some contrition for my sin of complicity.

This Purim season in Israel will be an interesting time. There will be the third snap election in a year (dare we call it Purim ha Sheni, that is, second Purim?).  Unfortunately, like the expensive election, it will not all be fun and costumes this year. Use some flame retardant fabric, because like the fire in Australia, a fire is going on here, even as we have the rainiest season in years.  It promises to burn brightly and reveal terrible things about the pedophile problem here in Israel and abroad in the haredi community.

With all the miracles and holiness here in this land, it is really tough to send pedophiles to prison, especially when they are under the finest rabbinical supervision available, the Health Minister no doubt. Surely, the good Rabbi only wants to make sure the alleged perpetrator gets justice, cruelly ignoring the ruined lives of the 74 young Australian girls in a Melbourne Bais Yaakov girls’ school that the beast was a teacher and principal at.  Trust me, with three children of my own, I have a hard time seeing this miscreant as anything other than the embodiment of pure evil in this world.

The whole situation is all truly ironic.  The Bais Yaakov school system that was started by Sarah Schenirer with the blessings of the Chofetz Chaim and the Gerer Rebbe in post-World War I Kraków, Poland was at its time a revolutionary approach to Jewish women’s education. It is now a mainstay within Orthodox Judaism, with branches located worldwide in every Jewish community with a significant population.  It is tragic that a successor to this formerly progressive institution has become a byword for sexual depravity and that the present head of the Gerer dynasty seems to be defending the wild life that makes this whole travesty possible.  Oh, the times they are a changing.

Three weeks ago on January 14th, an Israeli court Tuesday delayed the extradition proceedings to Australia.  The Jerusalem District Court granted the request of Malka Leifer’s lawyer to question a psychiatric panel’s ruling last week that she had lied about being mentally ill. Just like Rabbi Litzman, he knows more about psychiatry than a panel of psychiatrists with paper behind their names. It is truly difficult to make Rebbetzin Leifer into a lifer in or out of the land of milk and honey.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that the psychiatrists’ conclusions “removed the obstacles that stood in the way of any significant progress in this case.”  However, hearings in the case are expected to take place in February or March, further delaying a possible decision on extraditing Leifer to Australia for trial, just in time for the macabre Purim spiel to unfold, one that will make any Trump scandal look like a Boy Scout Jamboree.  Unfortunately, it is not a joke to 74 girls in Australia and the victims of other pedophiles at Jewish religious schools in Israel and abroad.

As the allegations of three molested sisters against the beast surfaced in 2008, Leifer, an Israeli citizen left the school and fled back to her native Israel so she would not become a lifer in Australia.  Her esteemed Rabbi, Yaakov Litzman was appointed as Israel’s Health Minister in December, 2019, despite Israeli police recommendations that he should face criminal charges for alleged interference in the extradition case against accused pedophile Leifer.  As Mel Brooks said in History of the World Part One “it’s good to be king.”  Or we might paraphrase the script and say that this applies at least when one is the head of a Hassidic dynasty.

Jews and Gentiles in Australia have raised hell over the case.  Certainly, the promotion of Litzman to a post of incompetence is related to Bibi Netanyahu’s quest for political survival. Unfortunately, this is just another case where political expediency triumphs again over moral integrity.  I guess I have just lost the love.

It is ironic that there is now a sexual continuity between my old Roman Catholic affiliation and my kids’ education in Orthodox religious schools.  They too can get molested by the clergy or religious teachers.  Gee, why leave the Roman Catholic Church at all when you can have the same fun without leaving?  Basically, Litzman’s actions have opened the happy hunting ground for pedophiles.  You ask me how so?

Well, I remember the death of former Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005.  Questions around the Kiddush table that shabbos following the death and funeral of John Paul came to me from other shule members as to whom the dead pope’s likely successor would be.  I said I was sure that Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger had it when I saw Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law give the mass at the dead pope’s funeral on the news.  Law had to retire in disgrace at the end of 2002 in the wake of the pedophile scandal in the Boston Archdiocese as revealed in a number of installments in the Boston Globe.

The celebration of mass, one of the Church’s most holy sacraments by Law was a very obvious and very public slap in the face to the victims of the scandal and their families that had resulted in 500 separate lawsuits and a record payout of $100 million in settlement money from the Church.  Needless to say, the new reactionary pope and cynic (later Emperor Palapatine impersonator, literal leader of the the Inquisition as guardian of the Vatican pedophile files and later Pope Benedict the 16th) got the papacy from the College of Cardinals.  The reactionaries in the B16 bomber flew according to my prediction in the wake of the puffs of smoke from that special chimney in Vatican City.

Litzman appears to be deploying the same tactic.  By shaming the victims and their families and prolonging the agony, he cynically hopes that this will shut others up.  However Rabbi, don’t rest just yet.  A friend of mine used to work in a children’s daycare facility here in Jerusalem.  One of the parents was a police officer who told her that there was a special undercover unit whose mission was just to deal with such cases in the haredi community.  As far as I’m concerned, I hope they turn the Leifers and their associates into imprisoned lifers, putting them away and throwing away the keys forever.  As Bibi’s good friend Donald Trump likes to say, lock her up!

About the Author
Akiva ben Avraham is a former community college adjunct, US Army intelligence analyst and officer, and a caregiver.