A prominent haredi rabbi has reportedly been forced to step down from all his positions of leadership – except for the synagogue and study hall he runs in his house – because he allegedly sexually assaulted young women who came to him for marriage counseling or with halakhic questions. Is this a victory? Is it progress?
The resignation via IfYouTickleUs reads: “Since several complaints have arisen against me relating to marriage counseling I have decided in my interest to withdraw from public positions beyond my beis hamedresh, and please God I will continue to teach Torah in regular shiurim with the help of Above. 5 Kislev 5773 [signature]”
A prominent haredi rabbi, C.H., has reportedly been forced to step down from all his positions of leadership – except for the synagogue and study hall he runs in his house – because he allegedly sexually assaulted young women who came to him for marriage counseling or with halakhic questions. Is this a victory? Is it progress?
In many other cases over the past decades, teachers and rabbis forced to resign from haredi schools and institutions due to pedophilia or sexual misbehavior almost always surface in another haredi community and commit the same crimes there.
Even rabbis who stay in place but lose position tend to re-offend without difficulty.
The only thing that really has a chance to stop these crimes is police intervention, prosecution and prison time.
But in this case like in so many others, the leading haredi rabbis of Golders Green protected the alleged criminal. They allegedly threatened and harassed victims and their supporters, intimidated potential witnesses and obstructed justice in other ways.
A less powerful haredi rabbi and several activists and victims wouldn't give up, however, and that doggedness – combined with an open, active police investigation into the alleged criminal and into the rabbis who were protecting him – led to a shift in the behavior of the leading haredi rabbis, and that led to the alleged criminal's ouster earlier this week.
It's amazing what the fear of prison can do.
The refusal of victims and their supporters to give up in the face of strong opposition and harassment from the most powerful members of their community is certainly a victory, no matter the result achieved.
But no one should think this result redeems the rabbis who protected this alleged abuser and demonized and harassed his alleged victims.
And no one should think that the result – the resignation from certain positions of community leadership and a pledge to stop acting as a marriage counselor– will prevent this alleged abuser from re-offending. It will not.
But what it might do is convince witnesses and victims to refuse to cooperate with police because the problem has now been "solved" – even though in reality, it has not.
The pull to accept rabbinic authority and view their rabbinic leaders as kind, caring and honest rather than craven and self-serving is very strong for most victims as is the desire to stop the harassment and threats.
What these victims and their supporters need to know is that the "solution" now in place really isn't a solution, and the hell that you went through will be the same hell others will be forced to go through a year or two or three from now when the alleged abuser re-offends.
Only police and the courts can effect real change.
And even though it won't be easy, if you cooperate with them you will almost certainly spare many other young women from the pain and suffering you've gone through.
When you have a hazard in your house that could potentially injure someone, it is a d'orita Torah law that you must fix it to remove the danger. You cannot risk the lives and bodies of others because it is inconvenient for you to fix it or because you know the hazard is there and therefore you can be careful and avoid it – you can't warn everyone and you can't be vigilant 24 hours a day.It won't be easy but it is the right thing to do – call police, cooperate with them, testify in court. Put this abuser behind bars where he belongs, in a place where he won't be able to sexually abuse any other women.