Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ein M’Rachamim B’Din (or Animosity Means Never Having to Say I’m Sorry)

Author’s note – This post is an update on the Malka Leifer episode. This post will not be appreciated if you are not familiar with my previous posts on this episode (and even then…). The following are the most relevant posts:
Thinking Like a Jew  - The Halachic premise for my position. The “moral compass”.
There is No Ex-Tradition in our Tradition – The keynote post that says it all.
Victim Turned Predator – As it sounds.
Flirting with Danger – Where this is all leading us to.
Dassi’s Lament – What does HKBH think of all this?
This post is in response to this news item (HERE) that was published in the Australia Jewish News on May 3, 2018.

We are all brought up to be polite and well mannered. Our parents, kindergarten teachers, Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo all instruct us: “Always say ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘I’m sorry’…”

·        It’s nice to say “please” even if you are the boss and you are talking to an underling or a parent talking to a child.

·        It’s nice to say “thank you” even if it is for something that is owed to you.

·        It’s nice to say “I’m sorry” even if it’s really not your fault.

We should always be nice, courteous and respectful. מעורב עם הבריות.

Did I say always? Well, there is an exception for every rule.

When I was a teenager (after Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo), I took Driver’s Ed at a local public school. Driving is an adult activity and entails adult responsibility. If one’s car comes in contact with another person’s car, (or, chas v’shalom, with another person) there is likely to be some damage. And, at least one of the parties will be held responsible for the damage. And damage usually costs money.

In this regard, the instructor was teaching us the proper procedure if we are ever involved in such an event. There were DOs and DON’Ts. Most of these are what we might expect.

On the DO list: DO do whatever the law requires and exchange information about your license, registration, and insurance. 
On the DON’T list: DON’T run away. DON’T lose your composure.

But he added something that we did not expect:

DON’T ever come out of your car and say: “I’m so sorry. It was all my fault.”

It’s not your job to determine whose fault it is. And even though you were behind the wheel and you know what you did wrong, you still may not be certain about exactly what happened. And you may not be taking into account that the other driver should have signaled or perhaps was following too close. Or you may be unaware of some of the traffic laws (maybe you had right-of-way). It may not be all your fault.

But once you say it is, it can be used against you and it can wind up costing you more than you should pay. Especially if the other fellow suddenly thinks it’s fashionable to wear a neck brace and he remembered that his right knee has been feeling sore aver since that incident (two weeks ago…)

The message is that the reason to be courteous and well-mannered is to preserve cordial relations with your fellow man. But when your fellow man is not so interested in maintaining friendly relations and is more interested in squeezing you for cash, this is not the time to be courteous and well mannered.

Sometimes an apology is a formality. But other times it is an admission of blame. And, when it is one-sided, it is seen as an admission of total blame. The message is: “Yes, it’s totally my fault. It isn’t your fault at all.” And when “fault” come with a price tag, the price tag will be just as one-sided.

We are told that in times of discord between two parties, very rarely is one side completely at fault and the other side totally faultless. Even if one side is clearly the aggressive or obstinate one, and if not for this aggression or obstinacy, the two sides would get along or the damaging incident would not have occurred, there are still usually some areas where the injured party may have contributed to the altercation.

So say our Sages in the story of Dina (see Rashi Breishis 34:1) and, later, in the Parsha about the Naara Ha’Meurasah (see Rashi Devarim 22:23). It is not a good idea for an attractive young woman to go out alone for a stroll in a bad neighborhood. And if something bad happens, she carries some of the blame. I have written much about this in the past.

As such, I have been taught repeatedly in my coursework for marriage counseling, Gishur (meditation), and even Toen Rabani that the standard in a dysfunctional marriage is that both sides can be ‘blamed’ even if only one side clearly demonstrates to be the “impossible” one.

Thus, when one side in a quarrel - invariably, the unequivocal injured party - demands a full apology from the other side, they are not only demanding acknowledgement that they have been injured. They are demanding total exoneration for themselves. They want the other side to concede that they are totally faultless. Often, this need for exoneration is more valuable to them than the admission of fault from the perpetrator.

Sort of like – it’s not the money, it’s the principle.

We have a similar concept when it comes to saying “Thank you.” If I walk into a store and plunk down a wad of cash for some coveted item, say a food processer or something, the cashier will hand me the item with a big smile and say, “Thank you” as in “Thank you for your business”. I will likewise smile and say “Thank you” as in “Thank you for importing this contraption from China”.

The stewardess at United Airlines will always thank you for choosing their airline, even though you could not have gotten there without them. This is called “rite of business” or a "best practice". Of course, she has a vested interest in her gratitude. She does not want you to use American Airlines next time.

And you will thank her for finally getting around to you and giving you the miniscule snack that everybody else got twenty minutes earlier (as well as for not dragging you off the plane).

Certainly, business is a two-sided transaction and both sides have gained something from the other. They both have what to be grateful for with what they received from the other party and it is only appropriate to say "Thank you". But they don’t really have to. After the transaction nobody really owes anything to the other. Each side gave the other something of comparable value in order to receive the “favors” of his counterpart. What was received was earned.

In my youth, I read the famous short story from Y. L. Peretz, Four Generations – Four Wills. I was deeply moved by it. You can read the whole story HERE (you may not immediately see the entire text - if so, click View All and then on the third frame in the window).

Briefly, the story is a sequence of wills from four generations of Jews wherein, in each succeeding generation, the testator is both less religious and more wealthy than his predecessor. The last person’s will is actually a suicide note. He lamented that his money was his misfortune. His immense fortune bought him everything he ever needed except for one thing – a genuine favor. Nobody ever gave him any goods or services out of friendship. Only for cash. He ends his note as follows:

Is there anyone I want to thank?

No. I paid everybody for everything.

Yes -- even for this last drink.  (He is referring to the glass of arsenic which he is about to drink – YH.)

From the first time I read it I was shaken by the last lines of this story (this was obviously the author’s intent). It sends a profound message.

The original story was written in Yiddish and I do not know who translated it to English and how precise he or she was. I wonder if, in the original Yiddish, the third to last line was, “Is there anyone I want to thank?” like “s’fahran eimitzer vher ich vill danken?” or perhaps, what it really should have read, “Is there anyone I need to thank?” (s’fahran eimitzer vher ich darf danken?). 

Clearly, my version is what he was really asking: Is there anybody that I am obligated to thank? There is no reason to assume that he was a nasty or uncouth person who wouldn’t say "Thank You" to the fellow who sold him his arsenic after he rung it up. Or to the many women who liked to kiss him. I am certain he was a polite and proper gentleman.

So his message is that a true debt of gratitude only comes about from an act of unsolicited kindness. But, the minute the “kindness” is paid for, it is no longer a chessed but a bill of goods or a service. It has been paid for. There is no debt. Of course, it won’t hurt to be courteous, but there is no obligation.

Just like apologies, when one wants to maintain a lasting relationship with somebody else, it helps to say "Thank you". But when this is not part of the agenda, it is expendable.

Where am I going with this?

I am very sorry for this long introduction. Can we get down to business, please?
Thank you!

The Malka Leifer episode may have been moved to the back burner, but it is still on the stove. Nothing of note has happened over the past few months except a few minor court hearings that turned out to be preliminaries for future [minor] court hearings. The Sapper sisters and the Malachei HaTzedek – Manny Waks, Shana Aaronson, and Meyer Seewald are kvetching that their plans for Mesira and Lo Tasgir are not materializing fast enough.

At least they were mekayem Gonev Nefashos l’mehadrin

Apparently, Mrs. Leifer has been incarcerated in prison since March 20. It seems the powers-that-be subjected her case in this great Jewish State of ISRAEL, our eternal Jewish homeland, the Medinah of Reishis Tzemichas Ge'ulasenu to the Christian Arab judge George Karra who decided that she is not entitled to bail or house arrest. I have no idea why not nor can I conceive of any possible reason. She is definitely not a flight risk nor a risk of physical violence, and house arrest (with monitoring devices and everything) precludes her being a danger to anyone from the public. 

What disturbs me the most is that she is doing “time” in a very run-down prison without having been convicted of any crime whatsoever. Bear in mind, she is not being held by the Israelis for committing any heinous sexual offenses. She is being held merely for evading extradition hearings, something she should not be subjected to under any circumstances. 

So far it’s been over 60 days. There is no question in my mind that this constitutes gonev ish[a] u’mechara. Nice to see the Sapper sisters and the over 2300 people (mostly Jews) who support their campaign and "Like" Dassi's Facebook page, and who have an active part in this unjustified imprisonment, to be so thrilled about this.

Yet, there was one very interesting development almost four three weeks ago (I work slowly these days) and that is the topic of this post.

On May 3, 2018 a posting appeared in Dassi Erlich’s Bring Leifer Back Facebook page. In this post, Dassi linked to an article that was published in the Australian Jewish News titled: 

Erlich walks away from Adass board

The article opens thusly:

ALLEGED victim of child sexual abuse Dassi Erlich said this week she will no longer speak to the Adass Israel School board because she feels they aren’t serious about apologising to victims.

We learn from this that despite Dassi’s claims just a few weeks later (see HERE) that, "I definitely don't see myself as a victim. And I don't even see myself as a survivor. That would mean I'm trying to survive something and I believe I'm a lot further along than that. If anything, the word 'thriver' comes to mind." Dassi is still a victim (okay – an alleged victim). Sadly, she hasn’t come much "further along than that". As a victim, Dassi Erlich is in the process of demanding an apology from the Adass School Board.

It’s not like the school board is not willing to accommodate her demands at all:

At her first meeting with the board last July, Erlich – who claims she was abused by former Adass principal Malka Leifer – asked for a public statement of support, an apology and a statement that would encourage victims to speak to the police and seek support.

Yet, doing so is not as simple as it looks:

“They said they could do that, they just have to check with their insurers first.”

Still, they didn’t throw in the towel:

However, in November, a draft apology was rejected by Erlich as she felt it didn’t address the key issues, and then this March she was asked by the board to write the apology she wanted herself, which she felt was ridiculous. “I walked out of that meeting so angry,” she said.

Apparently, Dassi hasn’t gotten what she wanted and so she “walked out… so angry.”

So this victim survivor  thriver is still an angry person after ten years. And the question in my mind is: Is she entitled to be angry?

Most everyone under the sun - even the Adass board – seems to think so. Everyone except me. I don’t think so. And why not?

I have two answers. The first answer relates to the advice from my Driver’s Ed instructor: I am not convinced that this is really their fault.

To explain this, we need to first establish that the Adass school [board] is not Mrs. Leifer and Mrs. Leifer is not the Adass. They are two distinct entities. And in Judaism we have a rule that states:

לא יומתו אבות על בנים ובנים לא יומתו על אבות איש בחטאו יומתו  

The alleged damage was done by the accused Mrs. Leifer and not by the school [board].

Yes, of course, it was the school that hired her and brought her to Melbourne and, as such, they are clearly responsible (responsible means answerable – not liable) for the integrity of its employees and the welfare of the students. But what this means is that that they must take reasonable precautions and not be negligent. As long as they were not negligent and complicit to the alleged crimes, and they did not aid or abet the alleged perpetrator nor did they ignore complaints, they did not do any damage and there are no grounds for liability.

The negligence would need to be in one of two areas:

Negligence A

The school negligently hired a bad apple. This means that the accused Mrs. Leifer had a history of past unruly behavior that could have and should have been uncovered.

Indeed, I have seen some unsubstantiated blind rumors expressed by members of the peanut gallery suggesting a criminal background. But I have searched long and hard to find a single reputable news item that suggests such a thing and have thus far come up empty. Likewise, this does not seem to be the premise of the judgment against them courtesy of Justice Jack Rush.

Hence, I can only conclude that there is no valid claim of negligence in this area.

Negligence B

The school was made aware of the misdeeds at the time they were taking place and did nothing to terminate them.

We have even much stronger proof to put this to rest. 

Firstly, as all the news stories relate, the first allegations only came to light after Dassi had some therapy sessions in Eretz Yisrael sometime in 2008. The indications are that within two weeks of the initial phone call to Australia, Mrs. Leifer was involuntarily boxed up and shipped back to Eretz Yisrael courtesy of Adass.

Secondly, here as well, the judgment of Justice Jack Rush was incredibly, not predicated on their turning a blind eye and allowing Mrs. Leifer to continue her activities but, to the contrary, their sin was that they shipped her out faster than anybody could grab hold of her. The Kangaroo court “judge” actually incriminated them for promptly seeing to it that she does not do harm for another day. Mind boggling!

But thirdly, I would like you to click on this link and go to 31:45 on this podcast and hear the very voice of Dassi Erlich exclaim: “Like the school had no idea…there were so many signs in retrospect…No one ever dealt with something like this before…

So here we have the angry Dassi Erlich admitting on public radio that the school board, yes, the same one that she sued, had "no idea" what was happening, and due to no previous experience, were not cognizant of the warning signs. (By the way, this statement exonerates the Adass school from Negligence A, as well.) 

Another interesting remark from her interview (21:50) is that, “There was no one that I could actually talk to…she [Malka Leifer] was seen as the head of the community…

What Dassi is implying is that Mrs. Leifer was the top of the totem pole so there was nobody above her to complain to.  So, amazingly, there was no higher authority to complain to but, all of a sudden, there is a higher authority to sue about eight years later!

Now, of course, Dassi was at the tender age of 16 when this business allegedly began and we can understand that she was probably not too keen on administrative hierarchy at the time. But, was she an orphan? Where were her parents?

The answer to this is, as Dassi exclaims (22:30), she came from "an abusive home" so she was not on confidence terms with her parents. I can understand this. However, every person must have a parental figure and, as such, she also claims that she has six siblings and they are “all very close.”

Dassi has an older sister named Nicole Sapper Meyer. Nicole also claims to be a victim of Mrs. Leifer. But she is two years older! This means her abuse began at around 18 years of age. Now, apparently this abuse continued over the course of 4 years. This means for Dassi to the age of 19 and for Nicole to the age of 21!! (Unless it was shorter for Nicole). Aside from the fact that we have crossed over into the age of consent – and nobody was forced, how long does it take to find somebody to complain to?

But, this is not all. There is an even older sister named Michelle Sapper Orbach. Where was she? And there is another older sister in the story who was living in Manchester and has since (לא עלינו) been taken to Olam HaEmess. Where was she at the time?

Four years of alleged abuse in a family of adult sisters and nobody tells each other?? And nobody tells the board???

Now, as I wrote in my original post, there were certainly some very logical reasons why the girls kept it to themselves and it can be perfectly understandable. But none of these reasons are the fault of the Adass board.

So here is Dassi Erlich telling us publicly on Dovid Lichtenstein’s show (“The most listened to Torah radio program in the world!” – DL) that the board "had no idea". The board had no idea - but Dassi and her sisters did! And eight years later they go and sue the board for what they knew and the school board didn’t. And now she is angry because they do not give her a satisfactory apology?

The Adass school needs to apologize to the victims that didn’t breathe a word to them about what was going on in real time??? These girls kept the information from the school board and they are angry at the school?

Incidentally, this article says that when the youngest sister, Elly, wanted to get involved with Mrs. Leifer, "Dassi and Nicole tried to subtly warn their little sister to avoid the principal." So, by now they know everything (and the school knows nothing) and all they do is "subtly warn their little sister"?? They didn't tell her straight out and stop her? 

And Elly is angry at the school????

If I was the school, I would be fuming angry and demand an apology from them!

Let’s go on to the second answer on why they are not entitled to be angry. This one relates to the story by Y. L. Peretz.

The news items tell us that the Sapper sisters, one after the next, took the Adass school to the secular Kangaroo court. Dassi herself won an AU$ 1.27m settlement against the school. The other two sisters settled for undisclosed amounts. I was informed behind the scenes from an unreliable source that whatever was paid out came from the school’s insurance.

Now I already wrote in my original post how disgusted I was with this court case and the above rant explains why. It’s because morally and Halachically there was no justification for such a suit. I am not going to complain about it being held in “Erkaos” per se’ because I maintain that there are times that a legitimate grievance can be taken to “erkaos”; especially if an insurance company is involved (besides, these women are not very observant, in any case). But if there is no legitimacy to the grievance and it is brought to erkaos to be judged strictly by non-halachic standards (i.e., in order to give it legitimacy), this is untenable.

But let’s forget all of that and look at something else.

The girls sued. They won. Presumably they were paid. Damage done, damage paid for. End of story.

Or, it should be.

Because, just like once one pays for a service, there is no obligation to say “Thank you” – that obligation was sold to the payer, likewise once one compensates for a damage claim, there is no longer an obligation to say “I’m sorry”. This was also sold to the payer. It’s nice to do it anyhow, but it can no longer be demanded as an obligation. The obligations have been paid.

It is usually appropriate to apologize out of just plain common courtesy. But this is only if the apology does not come with a price tag. And, here we come back to the advice of my Driver’s Ed instructor. One-sided apologetics is an admission of liability. And one need not admit liability voluntarily and pay the price for it.

Why on earth do you think the board told her, “they just have to check with their insurers first”?

This apology is not a courtesy. This is business. And nobody has the right to be angry if another party determines that it is not in their best interests to do business.

One more thing. I have a sneaking suspicion about why this apology is so important to the Sapper sisters. As I wrote above, a one-sided apology serves a dual purpose. (1) The offending party is admitting that the incident was “all their fault”. (2) It goes on to indicate that the injured party is totally blameless.

I speculated in an earlier post (Flirting with Danger) that this campaign carries some serious risks. One is that if Mrs. Leifer is actually extradited to Australia and put on trial and is acquitted, the insurance company may have grounds to countersue the Sapper sisters or possibly vacate the ruling of Justice Rush and demand that they return the retribution money. A formal apology would go a long way to hamper such an occurrence.

To sum up, assuming all the allegations are true, then the Sapper sisters are the victims of Mrs. Malka Leifer and no one else. They are not the victims of Mr. Koppel or Mr.  Abelesz or any of the members of the Adass board. These people did nothing to them and gave them all the cooperation they could afford to safely do. The board does not owe the Sapper sisters anything. They paid them. They did not molest them.

But they are the victims of the accusers. Despite that Dassi publicly admitted that the board is essentially blameless, they were sued and now they are being publicly shamed in the Australian Jewish News (and Facebook).

It doesn’t matter to me what happened to these women ten years ago. They were almost adults then and they are fully adults now. There is no excuse for their current manipulative behavior. I cannot sympathize with them.

When victims demand things they are not entitled to min hadin - not Halachically and not morally - there is no room for rachmanus.

The cash register is ringing. They are doing business. This is a Choshen Mishpat matter, not Pirkei Avos. 

אין מרחמים בדין!

1 comment:

Sally Feiglinovich said...

Another point which I think you missed.

There have been dozens of cases in Melbourne where the Catholic Church had to pay out compensation to victims - for doing far, far worse than Leifer ever did.
And the amount of compensation has been $75,000-$150,000.
Why judge Rush made Adass pay over a million dollars is crazy.

(I read somewhere that the 7 Sapper children went through the Adass school system -and their parents never paid any tuition! Rush never even considered this. )

Another question - why the insurance company didn't appeal?

As for Dassi Erlich, she, like Manny Waks, is enjoying every minute of her "victimhood". They hope to make it a lifetime career. (Meanwhile both are divorced)