Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Thursday, 18 September 2008

All the Wrong Priorities

Let's say you're a community leader with power, prestige and importance. You are presented with two problems afflicting your followers:
a) The whispers are getting louder and can't be ignored. Sexual abuse of young students in your school system by their trusted teachers is rampant. People on the outside know about it. Your denials are falling on deaf ears. But a Jew in the local secular government has enlisted the help of a respected talmid chacham to deal with this in as proactive a way as possible.
b) Some of your older activists don't like the "modern" music being played at simchas and listened to by the youth of the community. They don't like the drums, the saxophone or the electric guitar. Old fashioned stuff, like the kind they used to make 200 years ago is fine but this new techno-stuff? It's a toeivah!
You get to choose one issue to deal with. Which is it? Sexual abuse of minors or that old time rock 'n' roll?
If you're a sensible person, you choose (a) in a heartbeat. A community thrives on the health of its members, especially its young ones who represent the future. Sexual abuse is, in every way, the worst form of abuse, leaving incurable scars in the psyche of its victims for life. How many mitzvos in the Torah are there about protecting one's weaker brethren, punishing the wicked and keeping a safe society for all it's members?
If you're a Chareidi leader, on the other hand, you go for (b). You hire Rav Avi Shafran to condescendingly dismiss those who are making the effort you're not to bring the abuse situation to light. You hire other writers to publicize all the great things that the Chareidi community is doing to avoid discussion of the subject. You allow street thugs in black hats and yarmulkes to accost and harass the previously mentioned talmid chacham into pulling out of the government venture by making it clear to him that he is not only physically in danger if he cooperates with the authorities but that his family's life will be hell too. And then you go back to discussing the ban on post-1750's music, the parameters, how much trumpet is too much trumpet, are Spanish guitars too modern, etc.
Why? Why the obvious lack of contact with reality?
Probably because the Chareidi leadership, more than most other forms of leadership in the Jewish community, seems to be completely cut off from the rank and file that they effectively rule over. Accessed by a handful of self-righteous zealots, they hear about how modern music is contaminating the pure Torah atmosphere of their community. So they respond accordingly to protect their constituency, or so they think. And they know next to nothing of the sexual abuse in their yeshivos due to the efforts of those same zealots to discredit and destroy any who would try to make them public.
This is a recipe for a social disaster. May Heaven give them true understand so that such a thing does not happen.

16 comments:

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

If you're a Chareidi leader, on the other hand, you go for (b). You hire Rav Avi Shafran to condescendingly dismiss those who are making the effort you're not to bring the abuse situation to light. You hire other writers to publicize all the great things that the Chareidi community is doing to avoid discussion of the subject. You allow street thugs in black hats and yarmulkes to accost and harass the previously mentioned talmid chacham into pulling out of the government venture by making it clear to him that he is not only physically in danger if he cooperates with the authorities but that his family's life will be hell too. And then you go back to discussing the ban on post-1750's music, the parameters, how much trumpet is too much trumpet, are Spanish guitars too modern, etc.


You pull a neat trick. Juxtapose two current news items about chareidim that have nothing intrinsically to do with eachother on any level, and bingo, you've made a clever dig at "the chareidi leadership".

I guess this is a new version of Protocols of the Elders of Zion--imagining there is some global chareidi "situation room" where a chareidi leader discuss how to respond to all these issues at one sitting.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Hey FKM, welcome.

I'm sorry, did I misinterpret all those speeches about how Rav Eliashiv, shlita, is the supreme halachic authority? About how even Rav Ovadiah Yosef, shilta, has to bow to his dictates?
Am I missing something when chareidi columnists all talk about how every decision has to go through "the gedolim"? How to not consult "daas Torah" is an issur d'oraisa?
Perhaps there are two sets of leaders, one of which are approached by the thugs and another that is purposefully ignoring the child abuse epidemic?

Baruch said...

thought this was an excellent and insightful post from somebody who truly looks at both sides of the fence.

I'm sorry, did I misinterpret all those speeches about how Rav Eliashiv, shlita, is the supreme halachic authority? About how even Rav Ovadiah Yosef, shilta, has to bow to his dictates?
I'm intrigued...what speeches?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

thought this was an excellent and insightful post from somebody who truly looks at both sides of the fence.

What made you think that?

I'm sorry, did I misinterpret all those speeches about how Rav Eliashiv, shlita, is the supreme halachic authority? About how even Rav Ovadiah Yosef, shilta, has to bow to his dictates?

When issues are brought to their attention they give their response. I don't think he has regular sessions where they sit down with a world Jewish agenda and go down some list as you would have it.

And how on earth do you know if the abuse issue isn't being dealt with in ways hidden from the public? The whole portrayal is one big fat stereotype and I'm shocked and dismayed that Baruch bought into it.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm intrigued...what speeches?

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331213971&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

And how on earth do you know if the abuse issue isn't being dealt with in ways hidden from the public?

http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2008/09/rav-chaim-soloveitchik-on-local-sexual.html

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Your links above are to the opinions of individuals who are not gedolim, nor spokesmen for any gadol, nor spokesmen for hareidi community.
This is a non-response.

And you still haven't rebutted my first comment directly. Your post is basically dishonest propaganda designed to conjure up some kind of "Godfather" image on the chareidi leadership.
It's despicable.

Baruch said...

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331213971&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
That's the craziest thing I've ever seen. If what I'm reading is correct, he's R' Eliashiv's appointee to the Court.

And how on earth do you know if the abuse issue isn't being dealt with in ways hidden from the public?
R' Pinchos Lipschutz wrote the following:
"When its [YU's] rabbinic faculty sits on the sidelines and does not act vociferously and publicly to project and protect Torah values, are they not reinforcing the moral decline which is eating away at the fabric of the Am Kadosh?"
I happen to agree with R' Lipschutz's assertion that those who are in a position of leadership and don't act vociferously and publicly to project Torah values in response to their own communal issues are reinforcing the moral decline which is eating at the fabric of the Am Kadosh.

Baruch said...

What made you think that?
See my last email.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm sorry, maybe I've been misreading the dozens of articles in the press over the last few years but I'm sure I've gotten the impression that when the Chareidi wants to ban something, they have no trouble getting a "kol koreh" with a certain number of signatures from very specific rabbonim who are seen as leaders in the community.
The entire concept of an authoritative kol koreh which always has the same signatures on it directly implies that these rabbonim are politically leading the community and making decisions for it.
I remember such a kol koreh about denim skirts, Schweky and now saxophones but I don't recall any about child abuse. Perhaps I missed it?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

I happen to agree with R' Lipschutz's assertion that those who are in a position of leadership and don't act vociferously and publicly to project Torah values in response to their own communal issues are reinforcing the moral decline which is eating at the fabric of the Am Kadosh..

I happen to agree with that too.

But let's just be clear about something.
The J-blogosphere has made the following argument:
1)Hareidi gedolim/leaders/askanim/kanaoim don't hesitate to publicly ban and lash out against any slightest thing that infringes on frumkeit.

2) Hareidi gedolim/leaders/askanim/kanoim are decidedly NOT lashing out publicly against child-abuse in their schools in any way.

3)Conclusion: Hareidim apparently don't think child-abuse is a threat to their frumkeit and can be totally ignored.

You see any gaps in this logic?
I'll point out two:
1)notice that the typical ban/ public lashing-out are on the subjects of FOREIGN INFLUENCES ENCROACHING ON THEIR SOCIETY.
Fashion, music, higher ed. courses, academia, job training- all these things are usually coming from the outside-in.

I rarely see a frumkeit-protecting ban that is inwardly directed.
So internal problems in hareidi socitey just don't get the same public treatment as external threats.
I don't know why that is, but that's the pattern I see. And you can't draw the conclusion that an internal problem is considered acceptable to the leadership just because they don't treat it like another external threat.

2) Public bans lashing out in posters is good for changing a wrong public attitude.
But do you think the hareidi society needs to be sensitized by public announcements to the issur of sex-abuse?
The attitude of the hareidi man on the street is not the problem here. He already knows its totally wrong.
With the other bans, however, the public attitude is the focus.

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of RBS made a nice drasha, but commenters there easily saw that it had no real impact on the current situation on the ground. He was just venting and people felt good that something was said.
Zero results against abuse.

Garnel Ironheart said...

>1)Hareidi gedolim/leaders/askanim/kanaoim don't hesitate to publicly ban and lash out against any slightest thing that infringes on frumkeit.

Enough examples of that recently.

2) Hareidi gedolim/leaders/askanim/kanoim are decidedly NOT lashing out publicly against child-abuse in their schools in any way.

Enough examples of that not happening lately too.

3)Conclusion: Hareidim apparently don't think child-abuse is a threat to their frumkeit and can be totally ignored.

> You see any gaps in this logic?

Yes, but the gap is the one you purposefully left. My conclusion would be totally different:
Chareidim think child-abuse is a threat to their frumkeit and cannot be totally ignored. But the implications of how big the problem are require a sea change to the official Chareidi position that this is NOT a big problem but limited to isolate cases on the edges of the community.

1)notice that the typical ban/ public lashing-out are on the subjects of FOREIGN INFLUENCES ENCROACHING ON THEIR SOCIETY.
Fashion, music, higher ed. courses, academia, job training- all these things are usually coming from the outside-in.

Whereas pedophilia is home grown?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

But the implications of how big the problem are require a sea change to the official Chareidi position that this is NOT a big problem but limited to isolate cases on the edges of the community.

And you honestly think public announcements and kol koreis are the effective ways to making a sea-change in the official chareidi position? Ridiculous.
Kol koreis are to enforce and re-enforce the official chareid position! Not to change them. A whole different social mechanism is needed to make that kind of change.

Whereas pedophilia is home grown?

In a certain way. If it's a mental disturbance then I would certainly call it an internally generated problem of sorts.

Baruch said...

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of RBS made a nice drasha, but commenters there easily saw that it had no real impact on the current situation on the ground.
Which commenters?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Which commenters?


http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2008/09/rav-chaim-soloveitchik-on-local-sexual.html?showComment=1222102320000#c4481432750612168395

http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2008/09/rav-chaim-soloveitchik-on-local-sexual.html?showComment=1222112700000#c2131125590208835791

http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2008/09/rav-chaim-soloveitchik-on-local-sexual.html?showComment=1222117320000#c7259187186272170273

And this one said it all:
http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2008/09/rav-chaim-soloveitchik-on-local-sexual.html?showComment=1222118160000#c3832857047968291060

Baruch said...

I thought it would only be proper to finish my conversation with FKM before I left the J-blogosphere.

When you said "commenters there easily saw that it had no real impact on the current situation on the ground" for some reason I thought the implication was that you meant most of the commenters. And you misread Rafi.

FKM, I sincerely thank you for helping me to sharpen my exposition on the J-blogosphere. I now know how better to convey to people pshatim they're wary of, and I owe that to you.

I hope you moichel me for anything I may have done to you.

Oh, and speaking of which...Hatzlacha with Yom Kippur.

SOF DVAR.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Baruch, where are you going?

Ksiva and chasima toivah to both of you.