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Play by the Rules
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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1/25/13

Play by the Rules

"Ka'bel Es Haemes Mi'mi She'amro -- Accept the Truth From Whomever Says It" Rambam (Maimonedes)

The attitude of European, Chassidic emigrees to the "New Country" can be divided into two distinct groups -- those who arrived prior to World War Two and those who came afterwards.

Both sets of my grandparents were part of the former group. They raised their children as proud, observant American Jews, all the while embracing their new host country and all the opportunities it offered their families.

On the other hand, many of the Chassidic Jews who arrived on these shores after the horrific trauma of the Shoah strived mightily to recreate the shtetel and the protective wall that surrounded it. The Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum zt"l, whom I was privileged to spend many Shabasos with in Belle Harbor in my teen years, led this charge and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Incredible as it may sound, several weeks before his first Pesach in America, the Rebbe zt"l reached out to our uncle Reb Yecheskel Landau zt"l, the Veretsky Rebbe of Flatbush, asking him to find a child who could ask him the Four Questions at the Seder! There were simply and tragically no kids to be found in Williamsburg. (My uncle Dr. Duddy Horowitz actually traveled from Scranton to be with the Rebbe for Pesach.)

Ironically, the miracle of Satmar's rebirth as a stand-alone community generated challenging and potentially dangerous side effects which are reverberating to this very day -- and which exploded into public view during the Weberman trial.

Four generations of children have been raised in isolated Chassidic enclaves -- each of them requiring less interaction with the general population than their parents did. They were raised to trust members of their community and view those outside it -- even observant Jews -- as having a dramatically different set of values and culture.

However, as I pointed out in "The Monster Inside" in a 2007 Mishpacha essay, http://bit.ly/U1ghhe the twin messages that 1) people outside our community are viewed with distrust, and 2) folks inside are (all) "good" and trustworthy, are toxic when it comes to dealing with the messy issue of child molestation.

How can it be that someone raised in our "protected" community is doing horrible things to children and how in the world can we rely on someone outside our community (professionally trained therapists and/or the authorities) to protect our kids, treat our victims, and train us how to avoid these problems in the future?

That's why the message coming from Weberman's defenders and widely promoted in Charedi publications that he was convicted because visibly observant Jews cannot get a fair trial is so harmful and dangerous. (see here http://bit.ly/10jwzL2 for comprehensive treatment of why Weberman was convicted on all 59 counts.)

This notion is precisely what got us in this mess and continuing to promote it will only set the stage for more abused kids and destroyed lives.

What our children desperately need to hear from us is that Weberman was convicted because he behaved inappropriately and invaded the personal space of children. Because he violated the halachos of yichud and the norms of general society.

We need to tell our children that American laws and the officials who enforce them were made to protect us and keep us safe.

We need to teach our kids to play by the rules, not that those rules are stacked against us.



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