I would like to sincerely thank the many readers who have generously responded to my request for contributions to help get the staff in Yeshiva Darchei Noam paid up to date. With your help, I was able to distribute a partial payment to them this past Friday. If you haven’t as yet done so, any contribution that you are able to make will be sincerely appreciated. May Hashem repay you with hatzlacha and nachas.
I am hopeful that this week's column in the Jewish Press will be the first salvo in a broader effort to take back the wheel of our kehila from the hands of the kanoim who have been driving the bus off the beautiful shvil hazahav (golden path of moderation) for far too long.
The very fact that people have been telling me to, "Watch your back," and "Get steel window covers for your home," since I posted the email last Wednesday, is an indication that things are way out of hand.
This is very very long overdue, and I hope that the ehrliche Yidden around the world who are sickened, as I am, by the increasing episodes of 'askanim' and 'kanoim' harming people and wreaking havoc on our kehila, will find their voices and speak up as I have.
Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos,
Persecuting the Righteous and Protecting the Guilty
Olam Hafuch Ra’isi
By: Yakov Horowitz
All week long, my email inbox and the comment threads on many of the frum blogs have been melting down with irate comments from frustrated members of our community, expressing their justifiable anger at the horrible treatment of my dear chaver and colleague Dr. Benzion Twerski at the hands of ‘askonim’ and ‘kanoim’ (I actually think of them as baryonim; see Gittin 56a).
Reb Benzion’s “sin” for which he and his family members were subjected to verbal harassment and threats, was that he accepted an invitation from Assemblyman Dov Hikind, to chair a panel of frum mental health professionals and educators, who were to make recommendations to protect our children – in a Torah-appropriate manner and in consultation with leading rabbonim – from abuse and molestation in our schools and homes.
I have had the privilege of interacting with Reb Benzion many hundreds of times over the past 11 years, as I’ve sought his guidance in dealing with the abuse cases that have come my way. I would like to inform those who do not know him that he is a genuine talmid chochom, a true chassid, and an osek b’tzarchei tzibur b’emunah (one who selflessly devotes himself to communal needs) in every sense of the word. I am proud to call him a friend and I am inspired by his devotion to the children of our community.
In a period of thirty-six hours, I fielded several anguished calls from Dr. Twerski, describing the pressure he was subjected to and the harassment that his family members were undergoing, as a result of his courageous efforts to make meaningful improvement in the arena of abuse and molestation. I must admit that after hearing Reb Benzion describe the details of the threats he and his family members were receiving, I advised him to resign from the position he had assumed as I felt that he almost had no choice due to the circumstances.
It is painful to note that history is repeating itself, as Reb Benzion’s father, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, one of the great, visionary leaders of our time, and prolific writer of over 40 books, was the subject of death threats and required police protection a generation ago when he began writing and lecturing about spousal and child abuse in our community. Just imagine how many abused children’s lives would have been saved over the years had we collectively protected Dr. Twerski by reporting the individuals who threatened him, and sent clear unequivocal messages to our elected officials and police officers to arrest and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Just imagine how much of the chillul Hashem that we are suffering now through the secular press on the matter of child abuse would have been avoided, had we taken his sage advice seriously and adopted reasonable, Torah-appropriate guidelines to keep our children safe.
What an olam hafuch (lit. upside down world; see Bava Basra 10b) we have created. We sit silently by, when decent caring mental health professionals who have devoted their lives to helping Yiddishe kinder are terrorized, while alleged and convicted pedophiles live peaceful lives in our communities. I am certainly not calling for vigilante violence directed at pedophiles, but it just boggles the mind that none of the child molesters in our community have ever, to my knowledge, been subjected to anything remotely resembling the harassment that the Drs. Twerski were. (And if you question whether or not there are convicted child molesters living in our community; go to http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm, and search by the zip codes of our heimish neighborhoods. Warning: you will probably lose your lunch.)
This incident with Reb Benzion is just another sorry example of the Chinese Water Torture we have suffered through over the years, as we gradually have ceded the moral high ground to the kanoim (extremists) who have increasingly over the past decade or two shredded the kind, beautiful, spiritual, tolerant and moderate charedi society that I was raised in with their anger, intolerance, pashkevilin (unsigned and/or fraudulent kol korei’s), threats, intimidation, and often violence.
Make no mistake about it. We – the vast majority of charedi moderates who have been bullied into submission by these immoral, violent people purporting to represent Torah values – are in a struggle for the very soul of our Torah society. And thus far, we have been losing this battle very badly.
Two weeks ago, in these pages, I published a column on the painful topic of child abuse, “Lm'aan Hashem -- What Will it Take?”
Here is a quote from the article:
“Is there any more sacred obligation than protecting the children entrusted to our care? Shame on us, for failing to treat it as such. Shame on us, for allowing ourselves to repeatedly get distracted with meaningless and often silly non-issues raised by self-appointed “askanim” that purport to pose spiritual risk to our children, while our paramount communal responsibility to keep evil people from destroying the physical and spiritual lives of our children keeps getting bumped to the back burner.”
Well, to this I add: Shame on the kanoim who harassed a wonderful member of our community like Dr. Twerski. You have the blood of future abuse victims on your hands – kids who could have been saved by the initiatives that Dr. Twerski would have implemented.
And shame on all of us for allowing such an olam hafuch to be perpetuated.
© 2008 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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