Why Don’t You Take a Seat: The “Ultra-Orthodox” Child Abuse Scandal

Much of the mainstream media is abuzz with the novel news of “ultra-orthodox” communities in New York and the scandal of rampant, covered-up sexual child abuse. Essentially, the story is that people with big hats walked up to the low bar of American ethical requirements and somehow managed to limbo under it. I know, oy. So I’ll only dwell on this briefly.

On the one hand, this is to be expected. According to the media numbers, the unspecified “Hasidic” Jewish community is at least no worse than society at large. And why wouldn’t the media recycle the overblown Catholic child abuse scandal? Just change the chess pieces from medieval to shtetl. Replace bishop hats with old black Polish hats and the work is done. Also, from the traditional Jewish perspective, the generalized negative reporting about observant Jews has probably been a constant since we first crossed the Jordan. So the media will criticize “Western” religious tradition, the Yids will kvetch about ignorant journalists, and then the world will move on to the next distraction.

On the other hand, the Jews involved here have committed acts that ought to be understood, but understood to be grossly irresponsible. It’s easy to understand some of the basic thought processes involved here. No one ever really understands Jews because it requires too much logic and reading. The media isn’t fair aside from a few exceptions. And rabbinic courts are supposed to be preferable to others.

Indeed, addressing that last issue first, it must be said that there is no one actually arguing that the American justice system is better. Smearing reputations with allegations that may or may not be true, and crimes that usually leave insufficient evidence, are problems that Jewish courts and American ones face. In this entire hubbub, who knows whether the American courts are any better at sorting the mess out. But in protecting these communities and their courts from public opprobrium, the Jews who have acted have undoubtedly failed. With all their traditions, reasoning, and good intentions, they have narrow-mindedly hidden the truth and now we must all trip over this stumbling block and fall on our noses. We ought to gain a lesson from this pain. This narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness has hurt Jews generally, observant Jews especially, and, quite obviously, the Jewish victims of child abuse most pointedly.

One would perhaps expect the worst communal outrages to be directed at the abusers rather than the abused, but in choosing to cover up flaws the exposed cover-up has become far worse than the initial problem. We live in a Western society that has fortunately learned a bit from Jewish sexual mores. How hypocritical that we should do as the Romans once did, subjecting our youth to filthy sexual exploitation and then normalizing it.

Perhaps the dirty details need not be discussed. Perhaps, in many of these cases, the statute of limitations has run out. But the Jewish people have no statute of limitations. We are already in need of tikkin ha’am. Renewed shall be the people that has been broken. The pulsating glow of Jewish culture that “ultra-orthodox” Jews are committed to must become a bright light, or something to that effect.

You get the point: c’mon guys.

About the Author
Daniel Greenberg is an attorney obsessed with Israel, foreign policy, and the history of anti-ZIonism.