An Unfortunate Announcement
We don’t often see an effort by a beis din that ties together so many elements of the Orthodox community – Israel and the US; haredi and centrist. Sadly, it is a warning to the community about an extremely talented, but extremely dangerous predator. Nothing more need be said than what is contained in the documents that follow. We are all mispallel for the day when announcements like this will become unimaginable.
The name of “Rabbi” Meir Pogrow should have appeared in the post itself. Otherwise, it remains opaque to someone who won’t or can’t read the Hebrew, and doesn’t announce anything nor effectively warn off anyone. Ideally it should also have included mention of Michlala, so that family members of possible victims can ask and start the conversaion, as well as where he currently lives and where to be on the alert.
There is English section in the azhara l’tzibur (warning to the public, the second document) and it does very adequately warn whoever may be involved without providing unnecessary risqué details which I am not at all curious to know.
Come on. It doesn’t say what this fellow Pogrow did other than it was “immoral”. There is no photo of him. Assuming that Pogrow is not stupid enough to use his real name anymore, how does this help anyone from being a future victim? Seems like the message here is “hamayvin yavin” which seems ill-suited for its intended purpose.
This reminds me of the signs of the Disney Resort that said “No Swimming” without mentioning that alligators might be a factor to consider.
1) What details would you need to have, over and above being told that he engaged in arayos, in order to decide if the rabbonim were correct in warning women and girls to stay away from him?
2) If I wanted to know how Pogrow looks, I would Google his name and I am positive that pictures of him would pop up. I don’t know that it’s Bais Din’s duty to issue “Wanted” flyers with physical details.
While the Hebrew does refer to arayot, the English does not and in general is extremely opaque.
Don’t you want to cast the widest net here in terms of potential victims? This is addressed to insiders which misses the point.
When the FBI sends out a warning, it is very specific and detailed. This isn’t.
[YA – I beg to differ. The beis din speaks to those who are interested in the decision of a traditional beis din, not the wider world. The language it uses is quite comprehensible to the target audience. And I, for one, am quite happy that no beis din uses the FBI playbook rather than the Shulchan Aruch as its manual of procedure.]
To YA’s comment on my earlier post below:
The individual in question has taught in numerous locations outside Israel and certainly taught many students from outside Israel. I myself understand the language of the Beit Din in the Hebrew, but to be transparent to all parents and their children, who might or might not be proficient enough to understand:
a) the Beit Din’s declaration needs some kind of English translation, period. And that translation should be faithful to the original.
b) the “Azhara” needs an more transparent English translation that is not severely truncated/edited
I don’t agree that there is an onus on Rabbi A (or CC) to make any additional announcements (save for a note that there’s an accompanying English translation). Both pieces explicitly name the perpetrator in the clearest of terms.
This is how far things can go when someone learns Torah to make himself “great” to be a “master” of Torah to be called a talmid chochom, to make his own system for the sake of making himself famous so that ריחו נודף על כל הארץ. When one learns Torah for his own ego, not to connect to Hashem, removing Hashem from the picture – without nullifying himself to Hashem , no lishma – the Torah also becomes a vehicle for his narcissism . A סם המות . All this is talked about in the ספרים הקדושים.
You don’t know the person in question. I do. Lest it appear that I am defending his actions- which I most definitely am not- I have to not provide my real name. This is a stunning tragedy for his family, the victims, and so many others. Please consider the possibility that he did learn Torah lishma, from major gedolim and talmidei chachomim, and, completely independent from all his improprieties, did in fact come up with a system that has helped hundreds of talmidim learn and master wide swathes of Torah. He is a tremendous motivator and made many believe in, and then actualize, their heretofore untapped potential. The system he implemented for his shiurim in RBS made dozens of American married bnei torah, working olim into incredibly successful lomdim. Just ask any of them. Chazal teach us that kol hagadol maichaveiro, yitzro gadol as well, and there’s no question that pride, and hubris, preceded the fall. Acher’s Torah was still learned by Rabi Meir, and thus passed to all of Klal Yisrael. In this case, every talmid needs to ask his rav how to proceed. I pray that those who were hurt by him find unconditional support, and that all who were helped by him can recover from the shock of finding out that that their rebbi was, unfortunately, not domeh l’malachei hashareis. May HKBH have rachmonus on klal yisrael.
This was not a one time slip due to a taava. if you see any of the details this was a systemic and systematic manipulation of people going back years. I cannot believe that he could have had even a drop of Yiras shomayim to do these things. Torah without Yiras shomayim is worth nothing. don’t learn from him and we don’t pasken like r. Meir .
Please consider the possibility that he did learn Torah lishma
The first beraisa in Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avos effectively precludes such a possibility.
Acher may have gone off the derech, but he was “honest” in his dealings and his approach, he didn’t pretend nor hide his deviation from the path of the Torah. If he stopped believing he admitted it. This RASHA used the TORAH as a cloak for his sickening machinations, there is no comparison, and please do not in any manner compare him to anyone at all. Pogrow is a predator and has been for many years, possibly all his life, a RASHA GAMUR. When you look for any tzad to dan him lkaf zcut you are making a tremendous error. I am sure it’s coming from the good of your heart, but don’t allow your yiddishe rachmanus to give this sicko any empathy.
Whatever happened – and we’ll never know all the details or events – the point for everyone now is: What can we do to prevent another story like this? Here are some ideas.
A. Educate young women about what appropriate teacher/mentor/rabbi behavior is and is NOT.
B. Refrain from having male educators for young women (it’s considered wildly inappropriate to have female teachers for high school or beis medrash boys – so why is a male teacher for young women OK? (If anything, MEN are more likely to be the ones to carry on inappropriate relations/abuse students, as every statistic shows). And we don’t lack wonderful female Torah teachers!
C. What kind of mechanism can be set up – a database for educational institutions perhaps?) where allegations/rumors of inappropriate behavior (that don’t reach the level of criminal/illegal and are thus never prosecuted) can be recorded and checked for hiring purposes?
D. Provide teacher/rabbi training seminars for all educators about what behaviors/actions need to be avoided – both for safety, morality, legality – and also to protect the educator from being in a situation that will be misunderstood or lead to false allegations.
E. Designate one person in, or connected to, every institution to field complaints (for example, when girls come to seminary, they are given the name and number of a social worker, and if they feel a teacher’s behavior is off, abusive, or inappropriate, they know who to call for advice/help).
Any other ideas that the Jewish community needs to think about?
The Jewish community should not respect, look up to or empower people just because they know a lot of Torah and are smart. Yiras shomayim has to be the most important quality. If this was the case this incident would have been stopped along time ago.
How do we check for Yiras Shamayim?
[YA – According to the gemara in Berachos (at least according to one understanding thereof), by hearing from family members who interact with them when their guard is down. (If you can get them to talk, which is a different matter, of course.)]
For reasons unclear to me, it is considered most appropriate (at the institutions I have been in) that the teacher for halacha (with possible exception of tznius) be male. Elementary, high school, seminary – I didn’t have a single female halacha teacher, although I did have tanach and hashkafah morot.
I wonder if it has anything to do with female rabbis?
[YA – You’ve got it backwards. One of the objections to female rabbis is that, at least at the moment, they do not have anything resembling competence in halacha! Most male rabbeim will not be selected to teach halacha, because those who have had serious training in gemara understand the many years of full-time work in rishonim and poskim that is necessary to field intelligent questions. ]
R’ Adlerstein: Do you mean that women who have studied halacha (seminary, post-seminary, GPATS, Nishmat, etc.) have “no competence” — to answer sha’alos from around the world, to give landmark p’sakim, etc. — ? Obviously, that’s agreed upon by everyone.
But to say there are simply no women have enough (basic) Halachik knowledge to effectively teach a high school girls’ class ?! That’s a stretch.
[YA – I don’t think it is a stretch at all. My opinion – and that is all it is – may be a result of teaching halacha to high school senior girls in a modern Orthodox school for three decades. If you want to nurture a mature understanding of the complexity of halacha, and how it works from the inside (rather than teach them to memorize lists of permissible and impermissible activities) then, yes, you require far more sophistication than available to American women.]
“I wonder if it has anything to do with female rabbis?
[YA – You’ve got it backwards. One of the objections to female rabbis is that, at least at the moment, they do not have anything resembling competence in halacha!”
Probably true for the vast majority-but a principled objection to female Rabbis can’t be lack of knowledge. Would you recognize a female who passed the identical smicha test as a male-eg the Israeli CR test. If knowledge is issue let them take the exact same test.
How about the “Isha” that apparently helped him? why is she not named?
[YA – Because she did not appear before the beis din. Her name will emerge.]
Maybe I am naive, but what I wonder about in these situations is, what happened to the laws of yichud? I get the distinct impression that the first step is these were blatantly ignored. Which is hard to understand, since these are halakha — they are not a chumra, but straightforward dinim in Shulchan Aruch.
How about a policy that any rabbi or rebbe caught violating the laws of yichud is immediately terminated, no exceptions.
In my outreach organization, we have that policy for yichud with any female at all or male who is a minor.
Unless one is personally involved, none of us know anything at all about this matter. None of the allegations are mentioned. Even Pogrow himself, to take him at his word in the JPost article, was not told what the allegations are.
Details matter. The difference between 20 years in prison for rape, and a consensual relationship that went south, lies between three of four words. Even the laws of אונס and מפתה, while related, are quite different, and carry different ramifications. That is the fundamental problem with this case and all similar cases. Stories and names are splashed about the public, but the details – the crucial facts – are never discussed. It’s as though someone believes we, the public, are mature enough to hear the barest outline of the story, but not so much so as to hear the actual details. As though we were too delicate for it. As though the headline is perfectly fine, but sudden considerations of modesty prevent anything more that. There’s a word for that, and that word is “patronizing.” The end result is that we are completely ignorant of even the allegations, let alone the defense, and are told, in essence, by people whom we don’t know, “just trust me, it was bad.”
I have no axe to grind, don’t know any of the principals, not defending or questioning anyone. But I know enough to reserve judgment until I have the complete picture.
So do you think Cross-Currents acted prematurely or inappropriately in posting this?
I realize that we don’t have all the information and believe me, I don’t want it either. Evidently, even at its most favorable, it’s not good. At the very least, those who want to explore the Torah learning methodology he developed may want to rethink it if they haven’t started yet, and can consult with someone appropriate as to decide how to proceed.
Obviously the bstei dinim acted correctly. The question now is how we should react to the scandals involving prominent officers of the NYPD which appear to have been facilitated by persons who may be ritually observant but whose behavior was both a chillul hashem and not religious at all.
1) The main problem with the Beis Din being so circumspect is that you can’t solve a problem without knowing what the problem is and what caused it. In this case, the problem was, in part, child sexual abuse that went on undetected for many, many years. This is like doing the 9/11 report by saying that some really bad people murdered American citizens with no further detail. How can you fix that? http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Prominent-rabbi-and-educator-accused-of-grooming-abuse-of-power-457329
2) The lesson here is that anyone can be an abuser. Checking how much Torah he knows or what his friends and family think of him is not a good test.
3) Consent is irrelevant when the victim was groomed for sex abuse as an underage student: “Schoor told the press she met Pogrow at the age of 15 when ‘the process of grooming and manipulation began.'”
[YA – No gainsaying any of these points. But some tweaking nonetheless of the three points:
1) The fix will not come by providing more lurid detail. It will come from people insisting on finding out which institutions were involved, and what practices can be instituted to prevent their recurrence. We should not make the mistake of judging events of 20 years ago by the knowledge we have today of abuse and its perpetrators. Nor should we allow the reactions of 20 years ago to today’s incidents. The public will press forward. The names of institutions involved is already in the public domain. The beis din in particular did not want to compromise its position of acting strictly in accordance with common procedure. That is why they did not name the female therapist in the US who served as a broker. The name will emerge.
2) Anyone can. But there is still a profile that makes it more likely to inflict this kind of abuse. It is a mixture of genius, charisma, and arrogance
3) Nothing to add!]
Rabbi Adlerstein, with your forbearance, one reply to your insightful comments which I mostly agree with:
1) Hindsight is 20/20, but it seems to me that they can state that he is guilty of sexual abuse at institutions X, Y, Z without lurid detail. And information that is not sourced in the Beis Din will automatically be disbelieved by some, as is evidenced in this comment thread and by the need for Rav Malinowitz to publish a followup clarification. I fear that the lessons remain unlearned.
2) Maybe genius, charisma and arrogance can make you more prolific, especially among adults. But *anyone* can take a child student and tickle them while deriving sexual pleasure in a variety of ways that we don’t need to detail further here. And of course almost all good teachers have some form of genius and charisma in them. 99.9% are wonderful, but the 0.1% who teach competently or better but are guilty of CSA are spread around in a random manner, I’m afraid.
[YA – 1) At this point, you’ve exhausted my capacity to fully explain. The question will have to be put to them 2) No disagreement possible]
To characterize this announcement as “unfortunate” is a semantic slap in the face to his past, and thank Hashem, no-longer-future, victims.