Based on recent reporting about ex-rabbi Marc Gafni and the people who still support him despite his history of predatory behavior, the founder of the Center for Jewish Feminism, writes about how guys like Gafni, especially rabbis still in the Orthodox community who are like Gafni, get and maintain community support despite allegations of sexual abuse.
Above: ex-rabbi Marc Gafni
Elana Sztokman has a new article in Medium on sex abuse in the Jewish community.
Based on recent reporting about ex-rabbi Marc Gafni and the people who still support him despite his history of predatory behavior Sztokman, founder of the Center for Jewish Feminism, writes about how guys like Gafni –especially rabbis still in the Orthodox community who are like Gafni – get and maintain community support despite allegations of sexual abuse.
Here's a brief excerpt:
…[S]ocial hierarchies in the Jewish community favor high-profile abusers over their victims. Within hierarchies around knowledge, power, status, position, and money, rabbis enjoy many privileges. They are revered as all-knowers, possessors of people’s vulnerabilities and secrets, responsible for institutional reputations and fundraising, and considered representatives of entire communities. Rabbis are trusted and entrusted with layers of power. In the Orthodox community, this has an added gender hierarchy, in which all-powerful rabbis belong to exclusively male organizations that get to decide whether to believe the often female and powerless victims. In short, rabbis have power, prestige, and high-profile friends, as well as a lot of money riding on their reputations. Victims usually have none of that.
Abusers in power know how to use their status to lure, manipulate and silence victims. In a process known as “grooming”, the powerful abuser will make promises such as, “You’re my favorite,”, or “This is sacred time with me,” or “You’re special,” which play on the hierarchies with promises of social mobility. When Todros Grynhaus, a recently convicted UK abuser, tried to force his victim — a haredi teenage girl — into a sex act, he said “You might as well make yourself useful,” reinforcing the idea in the victim’s mind that she was a useless, powerless nobody. Emotional manipulation is the abusers’ specialty, and abusive rabbis know well how to use their power for these ends.
In the Jewish world, where rabbis are often respected for their “charisma”, this dynamic is especially problematic. The more charisma a rabbi has, the more power he has to abuse through emotional manipulation. Moreover, charisma, which is one of the primary signs of an abusive or even sociopath personality, makes people believe the abuser’s story rather than the victim’s testimony. The Jewish community has the unfortunate tendency to equate charisma with righteousness, which benefits rabbi abusers and leaves low-status victims struggling alone.…
Read it all here.