By Kobi Nachshoni (Ynet News)
August 14, 2013
Less a week after he was found guilty of indecent assault by force on a minor, Rabbi Mordechai Elon is receiving significant support from one of the most prominent religious Zionist rabbis. Ynet has learned that Rabbi Chaim Druckman, one of the leaders of the national-religious public, invited the convicted rabbi to deliver his weekly Torah lesson at his yeshiva of Or Etzion.
In the past few days, Rabbi Druckman has avoided voicing a public opinion in regards to Rabbi Elon or repeating his past statements in favor of the man or against those who accused him of committing sex offenses – likely for fear of creating a public row.
Druckman has been criticized in the past for innocently backing Ze'ev Kopolevitch, the former head of Jerusalem's Netiv Meir Yeshiva, who was convicted of indecent acts against his students, thus hurting the victims once again.
Buy Ynet has learned that last week, shortly after the court delivered its ruling, Druckman invited Elon to go on teaching at his yeshiva, as he has been doing in recent years. On Sunday the convicted rabbi returned to his routine teaching duties, and after delivering a lesson at a Jerusalem synagogue he headed south to the Or Etzion Yeshiva in Merkaz Shapira.
Rabbi Elon's weekly lesson at the Or Etzion Yeshiva, which he himself graduated from, is held at a relatively late hour and is attended by a small number of yeshiva and kollel students. It was founded three years ago, six months after the Takana forum ruled that Elon had committed serious sex-related religious and moral offenses, and following the police's recommendation that he be indicted.
The lesson was initiated by Rabbi Druckman as an expression of support for Elon.
Since the conviction, Rabbi Druckman is the only one who has expressed support – even if not publicly – for Rabbi Elon, but estimates are that several other prominent rabbis believe he is innocent, and as time goes by they may also speak in his defense.
'Trampling on victims' dignity'
Druckman is one of the most important rabbis and educators in the Religious Zionism movement, and is even considered by some as the most prominent. He serves as head of the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot and Association of Hesder Yeshivot and is considered the unofficial rabbi of the Bnei Akiva youth movement. As such, his decisions may be highly significant for hundreds of thousands of youths and adults – students and graduates of these institutions.
Ayelet Vider-Cohen, a former member of the Takana forum established to fight sexual abuse in Israel's national-religious sector, said in response to Rabbi Druckman's support for Elon that the latter's grave actions left "injuries and scars that cannot be erased on the spirits, bodies and souls of his students." She added that Druckman's reaction served as a further serious injury to the victims.
"Rabbi Druckman has been questioned in the past by the attorney general for failing to handle and report sexual offenses committed by Rabbi Kopolevitch at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva," she said. "Unfortunately, he is pursuing a policy of covering for assaulters, throwing the students to the dogs. This act includes defamation of God and trampling on the victims' dignity."
Vider-Cohen, who serves on the board of Orthodox Jewish feminist organization Kolech, said that her movement supports the victims and has complete faith in their claims.