Monday, February 29, 2016

Mesira XI: Epilog - Getting Involved


By now, I am more or less done with the topic of Mesira and Child Sex Abuse. There is nothing more to add but I do need to make a closing statement.

From the moment I first noticed this Kol Koreh, my mind was boggled. It had a one-time appearance in a few publications but it seems to have made only a brief splash and then fade into dreamstuff. It was so brief that most American Jews didn’t even notice it except for a few sharp-eyed (bored?) bloggers. Yet, I could not let it pass because, in my eyes, this edict is not merely unnecessary and unhelpful, but it is actually counterproductive and potentially harmful. I saw it as something more insidious than a lame attempt to pacify the armchair quarterbacks who call out, “Why don’t the Rabbis do something?” I saw it as a travesty of Halacha and common sense.

An indictment of the Kol Koreh is an indictment on the ones who signed it. Some of whom are friends of mine past and present, some are venerable leaders of the chareidi community considerably older than I, some are related to me and at least two of them have been proposed as potential mechutanim. These are my peers. This is not a group that I wish to lock horns with.

Anyone who has followed my writings knows that my primary agenda is to hold aloft the banner of Torah and Yiras Shamayim. As a rule, I come to praise Talmidei Chachamim, not to bury them. Taking the confrontational stance that I have on this issue, normally goes against my grain. Yet, as long as I have a blog dedicated to pursuing the “emess” – that barely anybody reads – I will not abstain from presenting the truth as I see it. In this case, I have really merely taken the side of a “silent majority” including the gedolim of past generations and even many contemporaries who dissociated themselves from this Kol Koreh.

Thus, it is with much reservation that, in the course of my postings (Mesira VII), I singled out two very chashuva Rabbanim to challenge their public statements. One is Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita with regard to his contradictory position. I dealt with it at length in my previous post. The second of whom was Harav Yechiel Perr, Shlita, with regard to the statement quoted in the Jewish Press. In my post, I called this statement “incomprehensible”. Ever since I posted it, I thought that I am not being fair to Harav Perr if I do not explain why.

Let’s have a look at the quote (all emphasis mine – YH):

When the Torah commands us ‘Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa” it teaches us also that what people tend to do is to stand by watching the harm being done to others and to do nothing to stop it,” said one of the document’s most prominent signers, Rabbi Yechiel Perr, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson Rabbinical Seminary. “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business. But it is! The Torah has made it everyone’s business when a Yid is being harmed.”

On the surface of things, this all sounds very reasonable. Like Reb Dovid Lichtenstein said (in the name of Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita): “When you see somebody running after somebody with a gun or a knife, do you call a Rabbi or do you go to the police?”

But things are not the same beneath the surface. This is not how things happen in real life. It is hard to understand why these highly intelligent people are so detached from real life as opposed to Harav Doniel Neustadt, Shlita who said: “The analogy of somebody breaking down your door is misleading. Because this is not happening right now. This is not an emergency situation which is happening at the moment…”

What Rabbi Neustadt is saying is that our decisions are not made during "play action" but rather between innings.

Nobody ever literally “watches” anybody being harmed. Molesters do not invite spectators. We are not there “when a yid is being harmed”. It just doesn’t happen. At best, we may actually see the aftermath of somebody who has already been harmed (R”L) and we see a damaged victim, but, unfortunately we never see an offender actually doing damage. What Rabbis Cohen and Perr and Reb Lichtenstein are doing is taking a metaphor ("watching") and treating it as a literal reality.

Incredibly, these Rabbanim use this rationale to advocate a drastic action against an “offender” who has not been positively identified and who has not even been confronted regardless of whether this action is actually helpful to the victim! Evidently, our priority is not the proven damagee but the unproven damager.

This is Lo Taamod?!

Says Harav Perr, all this is because “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business.”

Hold on there! What kind of people are we discussing? Are we talking about victims and/or their parents? Aren’t they already involved??

No. We are talking about friends and neighbors who have no firsthand knowledge of what took place or by who; and who were not asked by the victims to intervene. Maximum, they “heard about it”.

Have they “watched” anything? Definitely not.

Can they testify against anybody? Not if they haven’t watched anything.

So how are they supposed to get involved?

It’s not that they “don’t want to get involved“. They are in no position to get involved!

But don’t be discouraged. Because contrary to what Rabbi Perr is implying, this Kol Koreh is not instructing us to get involved. It is instructing us to call in (involve) “law enforcement” and to personally stay uninvolved.

So now I have a big surprise for anybody still reading this: I and my fellow "detractors" (Rabbi Neustadt, Rav Eisenstein, and a silent majority of community Rabbanim) are not saying to not get involved. We are saying not to get the secular authorities involved. We should definitely get involved – k’mo she’tzarich!

Behold the true meaning of לא תעמוד על דם רעיך.

Based on the underwhelming feedback that I have gotten on my blogsite, at my site meter, and personally from my nearest and dearest, I can safely conclude there aren’t a whole lot of people who actually read my posts and certainly nobody is rushing to establish the neighborhood panels that I have been calling for. But this is what “getting involved” really means.

Getting involved means seeing to it that the community has some kind of a vaad and program to deal with predators. It does not mean forcibly chasing them out to Florida to be rid of them only to subsequently import different ones from California on the inter-city molester exchange program. Getting involved means being willing to invest time and energy to participate in such a vaad.

Getting involved means approaching the players of the drama, not avoiding them. It means confronting the molester to be certain that he is a molester.  And perhaps to ascertain why he is a molester.

Getting involved means to approach the victim to be certain that he or she is a victim.  And perhaps to ascertain why he or she is a victim.

This last passage may sound derisive, but it’s really not. Fully understanding the problem is essential to implementing the most effective solution. As such, getting involved means to make the effort to understand what is going on - from all sides - before deciding what to do about it. Before doing something that is more harmful than helpful. And before doing something that cannot be rectified.

This is not easy and this is not pleasant but this is what getting involved really means.

If this is what Rav Perr, Shlita had in mind, then Kol Hakavod. He is certainly correct that people don’t want to get involved. Luckily for them, this Kol Koreh instructs us not to get involved. It tells us to pass the buck to the secular authorities who "know better" and then to pat ourselves on the back for maintaining לא תעמד על דם רעיך and ובערת הרע מקרביך as we waltz into shul and daven for good health, parnassah, and the best shidduchim --- for ourselves.

My signatory friend claimed that these Rabbanim were at least brave enough to take a stand. My impression is that these were the ones timid enough to follow the herd.

Klal Yisroel needs people who really know how to get involved.

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