What Haredim Don't Understand About The Weberman Verdict
Satmar hasidim and other haredim are decrying the Weberman verdict based on presumptions that are false. Here is what they're doing and an explanation of why what they are doing is wrong according to the halakha, Jewish law, they claim to follow.
A common response to the guilty verdict against child sexual abuser Rabbi Nechemya Weberman is that he was convicted with “no evidence” against him.
“I Am Heartbroken About This Decision! Can't Believe It! With No Evidence! No Proof! No Witness! Should Be Such A Outcome,” one Weberman supporter tweeted.
Another Weberman supporter, a self described hasid named Shimon Rol, tweeted, “Still waiting for the smoking gun, the proof. It's horrible that you can put away a man for life without any proof.…For the record: no evidence was ever presented in court against the accused. It was her word + hateful media against his word…This past Shabbos I heard similar story during Leining in shul. In that case the accuser was Potifar and the accused Joseph.”
Yet another Weberman supporter tweeted a version of this comment several times: “JUSTICE In ameRica??? OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony: Not Guilty. But Hasidic Jew Nechemya Weberman: Guilty with 0 Evidence.”
What all of these comments have in common is that they imply judgement of America’s justice system by comparing it to the beit din (Jewish religious court) system.
They expect two valid witnesses against the accused and a valid warning to the accused given within seconds preceding his crime – the standards the Torah seems to endorse.
Without those elements, they think any American court decision against someone they support is flawed.
But they’re wrong on several levels – including on the halakhic level.
Rabbis long ago realized that there were many cases where there could never be two witnesses to the crime, let alone a kosher warning.
But instead of letting these violent criminals free on this technicality, they imprisoned them. And in dinei mamanot and other non-violent crimes, they assessed penalties and enforced settlements.
Murderers were starved to death with the idea that if the murderer was really innocent, God will intervene to save him. If not, he dies a guilty man.
The halakha is that a beit can – and should – act based on what it believes the truth to be, regardless of whether or not there were two witnesses and a "kosher" warning.
Most haredim don’t know this, however, because, despite the black hats and long black coats, most haredim – especially most hasidim – are very poorly educated.
Secondly, halakha recognizes secular courts as valid when the Jewish community lacks the legal power to detain, imprison and (enforceably) fine a criminal or, in capitol cases, execute him.
Halakha also recognizes that the punishments given for various crimes will most likely be different in the secular system than they are in the beit din system. Halakha approves of these differences, as long as the penalties and punishments given to Jews are basically the same as the penalties and punishments given to everyone else.
In the Weberman trial, there was evidence.
There was the victim’s testimony given for about 14 hours over several days. There were credit card receipts from Weberman’s charity for lingerie and Weberman’s admission that he took the girl on an extended car trip outside New York City with no chaperone – a clear violation of yichud law. The social worker at the girl’s new school diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder, and the girl told the social worker about the abuse.
But even more than this, there are other Weberman victims – at least one still within the statute of limitations – who contacted the D.A. but were too afraid of retribution from Satmar to testify.
But the fact that they came forward would also count against Weberman in a beit din. It would not have been one brave victim against the Satmar machine; it would have been her and several others.
The point is that Satmar has almost uniformly supported Weberman and attacked the victim from day one of this case. Weberman was helped financially and in many other ways. The victim was helped in none.
Instead, Satmar hasidim allegedly tried to bribe her and her fiancee, offering $500,000 in cash if they would leave the country and not testify against Weberman. The fiancee’s restaurant lost its kosher supervision when he refused to cooperate with Satmar’s demands about the case, and his restaurant was forced to close. Hasidim called the girl a “zona,” a “whore,” a “piece of dirt” and depicted her on posters as a missile about to strike the Satmar community. They defamed her on Twitter, Facebook, and on blogs. One of the two Satmar Rebbes, Aharon Teitelbaum, in a public speech in front of tens of thousands of hasidim likened the victim to a prostitute.
There is no basis in halakha for acting this way.
Satmar could have helped Weberman with his legal bills and been kind and supportive to the victim at the same time. That would have been the proper thing to do if there was any real doubt about Weberman’s guilt.
But like much of the hasidic and haredi communities, Satmar views women who are raped and abused as enticers. It is their beauty, their lack of “modesty,” their very existence that tempts men to sin.
That’s how 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girls walking to school in Beit Shemesh became “whores,” “curvas” and “shiksas,” and that’s how haredi men in long black coats and flat top black hats rationalized spitting on them, chasing them and even stoning them.
Women are “vessels of filth,” “stinking holes that bleed impurity” and that “entice” otherwise “pure and holy” men to sin.
I’ve even heard similar language used by haredim about boys who have been sexually abused by a rabbi or a prominent haredi community member.
The boys “wanted it,” they’re “gay,” they “seduced” the older rabbi, who just could not resist their charms.
But the Satmar Rebbe’s rant and the attacks against the victims are not halakha – even if they are the current minhag ha-rav (custom of the rabbi) and minhag ha-rebbe (custom of the rebbe).
And that is a lesson Satmar hasidim and other haredim need to learn.