"Why does The Jewish Week highlight the testimony of a few aggrieved students over the unstated but nevertheless very real testimony of the thousands of students who have studied with Rav Bina over the past 30 years or more? Is their testimony to be considered invalid, inaccurate or misguided? I hope the unspoken voice of these thousands will save the reputation of a man who has devoted his entire life to the education of American Jewish boys."
Rabbi Aharon Bina is the rosh yeshiva of Netiv Aryeh in Jerusalem's Old City, a major school in Yeshiva University's year in Israel program that grants college credit for yeshiva studies. Students spend their freshman year in Israel studying in a YU-approved yeshiva. Those who chose to return to the US to begin actual university studies do so as sophomores.
Last week, The Jewish Week published an exposé on Rabbi Bina documenting abusive behavior which includes humiliating individual students in front of their peers, being emotionally and sometimes physically abusive, and expelling students without notice. Expelled students were thrown out of Netiv Aryeh without their parents being notified. They had nowhere to sleep. Some had no one to turn to for help. These students were used as public examples to scare the majority of students to keep them in line. Bina sacrificed a few students to 'save' the majority.
Bina also forced certain students and faculty to attend individual therapy sessions with psychologists hand picked by Bina. Bina then forced these psychologists to share the therapy notes from those sessions with him without permission from the patients. Bina then used content from those notes to publicly humiliate patients.
Bina is clearly a disturbed man.
But even though Bina's misbehavior was widely known throughout the Modern Orthodox rabbinic community and within YU's administration and rabbinate, nothing was done to stop Bina, and Netiv Aryeh remained on YU's list of approved schools.
This behavior mirrors the OU's behavior when its leaders and staffers covered up for Rabbi Baruch Lanner during the decades he physically, emotionally and sexually abused kids in the OU's National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) program and at the day school he taught in.
The rationale for the OU's silence and it's failure to fire Lanner or report him to police is stunning.
When I investigated this several years ago one of the key figures in the restructuring of the OU that took place after the Lanner scandal was broken by The Jewish Week told me the reason for the OU's coverup was simple. Lanner did great kiruv (outreach), the man told me, and the rabbis and OU's lay leadership thought that outweighed the damage done to a few kids.
Enter Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan and principal of the Modern Orthodox Ramaz day school.
Lookstein opposes The Jewish Week's reporting on Bina for the same exact reason rabbis covered up for Rabbi Baruch Lanner – the good Bina does for the majority of his students trumps the bad his does to a few:
In the article on Rav Bina, Gorsetman and Rosenblatt ask a rhetorical question: “But some are wondering why, indeed, Netiv Aryeh is so popular, with an estimated 110 first-year and 60 second-year American students … Why do families, deeply concerned about the emotional, educational and spiritual well-being of their children, continue to send their sons to study with Rav Bina when his controversial reputation is so well known?”
Perhaps the answer to that rhetorical question is not what the authors would have expected. Maybe the 170 who are voting with their feet are studying at that yeshiva because they and their parents regard Rav Bina as a wonderful educator who is not perfect. After all, who is?
Why does The Jewish Week highlight the testimony of a few aggrieved students over the unstated but nevertheless very real testimony of the thousands of students who have studied with Rav Bina over the past 30 years or more? Is their testimony to be considered invalid, inaccurate or misguided? I hope the unspoken voice of these thousands will save the reputation of a man who has devoted his entire life to the education of American Jewish boys.
In the ancient world, child sacrifice was done because the sacrifice of a small number of children was thought to appease the gods, and that meant that the deaths of those few children benefited the many. The ends justified the means.
That is essentially the same argument Rabbi Lookstein makes today, which is why Lookstein is unqualified to lead any Jewish organization which deals with children.