By Shmarya Rosenberg (Failed Messiah blog)
November 18, 2012
Rabbi Natan Slifkin writes:
…As I noted in a previous critique of an article by Rabbi Avi Shafran, there are people who reasonably claim that it is pointless and undignified to pay any attention to him; after all, this is a person who believes that Bernie Madoff is more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully, and who believes that "unyielding reverence for currently regnant dogmas" is more of a problem in the scientific community than in the charedi community. However, since Rabbi Shafran has an important position and his voice is heard by many people, I believe that he cannot be ignored.
Rabbi Avi Shafran's latest missive boggles the mind. Not only does he utterly misrepresent the people that he criticizes; he quotes a Gemara that proves precisely the opposite of the point that he is trying to make.
The object of Rabbi Shafran's ire is the speculation of an article in New York magazine that child abuse is more common in the Orthodox Jewish community than in other communities. According to Rabbi Shafran, this speculation was based on the theory that repression fosters abuse. Rabbi Shafran responds that, on the contrary, it is the lack of fearing God that enables immoral behavior.
However, checking the original article (via Google; Rabbi Shafran did not provide a link or reference) reveals that "repression fosters abuse" was only one theory offered regarding the claim that abuse is more common in the Orthodox community. There were several other theories that were also offered: that there is a higher degree of shame in the Orthodox community over such things; that there is fear of badmouthing rabbis; and that there is a perceived prohibition of mesirah. Does Rabbi Shafran deny the existence of these? Why did he not mention them?
(Of course, we can also add the fact, admitted by Agudas Yisroel's own executive director, that the charedi leadership did not take abuse and molestation issues seriously enough.)…
Not only did Agudath Israel of America's executive director rabbi David Zwiebel admit that haredi leadership did not take abuse and molestation issues seriously enough, he credited bloggers and activists with forcing haredi leadership to actually pay attention and begin a process of dealing with these crimes.
Yet his spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran continues to attack, often in the most vile terms, these same bloggers along with activists and The Jewish Week's Hella Winston.
So either Agudah is unhappy that it has been forced to recognize the widespread problem of child sexual abuse and deal with it or Shafran is not in step with the rabbis he works for and that he calls "gedolim."
I believe that most of Agudah's "gedolim" are in Shafran's camp – or, rather, that Shafran is in their's – and that Shafran is not out of step with their feelings about this issue.
So they allow Shafran to publicly espouse postions that Zwiebel may not agree with because, well, the rabbis do agree.
And that's why I think that nothing short of massive successful civil suits against these rabbis and their "nonprofit" yeshivas and federal indictments for RICO violations will really bring true change.
…Bizarrely, Rabbi Shafran concludes by noting that even religious people sometimes forget to fear God; he cites the Gemara's account of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai's wish for his students that their fear of God should equal their fear of man.
Well, that's the whole point!
The Gemara's point is that people's fear of God is less than their fear of man. In other words, contrary to Rabbi Shafran's claim, what stops people committing crimes is not fear of God so much as it is fear of man. Which is exactly why there is reason to believe that abuse is higher in the Orthodox Jewish community. In the charedi community, perpetrators have less to fear, since they know that due to widespread concerns of shonda and mesirah, they will not be reported!
I don't know why, with so much happening right now, Rabbi Shafran is writing an article in response to something written in 2006. But if he's going to do so, he should at least accurately represent those that he is disputing, and listen to what Chazal are actually saying! Especially since the latest Orthodox scandal, currently unfolding in the UK, simply further proves that Chazal were right and Rabbi Shafran is wrong.
Shafran is vile man, a person who truly is beneath contempt, a buffoon in clown suit, large floppy shoes and a big red nose who spends his days creating alibis for criminals who rape children and for the rabbis who protect those criminals.
Like the non-kosher pig that displays its kosher-looking hoofs as if to say, "I'm kosher, you can eat me," Shafran puts forward passages from the Talmud and stories of "gedolim" to "prove" that his fellow clown suit wearers are kosher – but they are not.
The head of Agudah's Council of Torah Sages, the Novominsker Rebbe, is every bit as much a criminal as is Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, one of several pedophiles the Novominsker knew about for decades but did nothing to stop.
And that's the point.
Clowns like Shafran (and, by extension the Novominsker) don't accurately represent what the Talmud is saying because the truth doesn't matter to them – they are fundamentally dishonest, uncaring people more concerned with protecting their power and their institutions and their money than they are in protecting Jewish childrens' lives.
These little children suffer immensely.
And that immense suffering and the men in clown suits who try to conceal it are not an outgrowth of haredi Judaism – they are haredi Judaism itself. These defenseless little children are sacrifices on the altar of haredism.
And as much as Shafran, Zwiebel and their cohort may try to disguise this fact with lies, the truth will eventually – sooner rather than later – win out.
May that day come exceedingly soon.