The Orthodox Union is facing a leadership crisis and confusion in its top ranks, as a former senior lay leader tries to step in and right the listing organization just as he did in the aftermath of the Rabbi Baruch Lanner child sexual abuse scandal.
The Jewish Week's Editor-in-Chief Gary Rosenblatt reports that OU president Simcha Katz is about to challenged by former president Harvey Blitz, in an almost unheard of leadership fight centered around what many even inside the OU perceive to be the OU's deepening leadership crisis:
…“There is chaos within our leadership,” a key [OU] staff member complained. “We are a multimillion-dollar organization with no chief professional at the helm.”
He cited as an example that the OU at first signed on to — and later withdrew its support for — a strong statement by its rabbinic group, the Rabbinical Council of America, endorsing the conviction last month of Satmar chasid Nechemya Weberman on child sexual abuse charges.
“We looked foolish,” said the staff member.
It seems [OU President Simcha] Katz agreed to sign on to the RCA letter, but after [OU Executive VP Rabbi Steven] Weil received criticism for it from segments of the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox community, the letter was removed from the OU website.…
The story of the OU's endorsement-retraction on the Weberman verdict was broken by me on Failedmessiah.com, and I know Rosenblatt was personally made aware of my story.
But somehow – and who knows how that might be? – Rosenblatt did not cite the story's source. This is a big non-no in journalism, as our recent joint experience with the New York Times shows.
At any rate, Rosenblatt's report confirms that haredim pressured the OU to withdraw its endorsement of the RCA Weberman letter.
If Rosenblatt would have probed further, I think he would have been told that some of that pressure involved causing OU Kosher major problems – and costing it major money. OU Koser is the OU's major source of income.
Imagine a scenario where the OU suddenly did not appear on many meat and wine products, for example, because those products Satmar-controlled and Satmar-linked co-kosher supervisors forced the OU out.
Now what would that do for OU Kosher's image in the Orthodox community?
And anyway, we all know what the OU thinks about child sexual abuse because as Rosenblatt himself reported years ago, the OU tolerated and covered up the ongoing child sexual, physical and emotional abuse by Rabbi Baruch Lanner. It did this for decades.
As I was told by a senior person involved in trying to clean up the OU after the Lanner scandal broke, the OU covered for Lanner primarily because Lanner's kiruv, missionary outreach, was so good.
It was a cost-benefit analysis, he told me. Lose a couple kids each year due to Lanner's abuse, damage a few more, but gain so many new neshamot, Jewish souls, for Yiddishkeit through Lanner's missionary work with the less-than-truly Orthodox. The OU's missionary outreach won and the kids it should have protected lost.
So, compared to that, what's so bad about retracting your endorsement of a guilty verdict in a child sexual abuse case, a case in which a haredi rabbi sexually abused a girl beginning when she was 12-years-old until she was 15? A case in which the victim was demonized as a "whore" the Satmar Rebbe himself?
And if that retraction can save the OU lots of money, money that it can use for missionary outreach and Jewish education projects (not to mention paying its staffers)?
Why, it's another cost-benefit analysis! And, surprise! Just like last time, the kids lose.