Some Good News

There are always people who do more than complain. They contribute to rectifying bad situations. Sometimes it takes a little time to find them, or for good ideas to gel into action.

Here are two of the brighter lights that have shone on the ongoing Chaim Walder debacle.

  1. A group of charedi women were understandably not impressed or satisfied by some of the “official” reactions in their community. They distributed some 320,000 flyers expressing support for abuse victims, and distributed them to charedi communities, where the internet and social media do not reliably penetrate

As time passes, it becomes clearer that the Israeli charedi community is positioned where the US community (both charedi and Modern Orthodox) found itself 30 years ago. We did not know about the frequency of abuse, its causes, and – most importantly – its effects on victims. It took much public education and many suicides to change attitudes in the West. A good deal of the reason for the disappointing responses in the Israeli charedi community is that the attitudes that we shed decades ago have not changed in a community that is much more isolationist. The flyers distributed by these courageous activists will hopefully create a buzz that will keep the conversation going until some progress is made in finding sensible solutions.

The women are now attempting a second wave of publicity. I don’t think we’ve ever done this before on Cross-Currents, but we are going to urge our readers to consider donating to the cause.

  1. A particularly powerful and cogent statement about what we need to think and do was offered by the Av Beis Din of the Federation of Synagogues in London, Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman. If your blood pressure has been rising dangerously, this clear-headed presentation will help calm you.

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44 Responses

  1. Joe Hill says:

    I understand that the “Chochmat Nashim” organization spearheading the above fundraising for these women is a decidedly Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist entity.

    • Shoshana Keats Jaskoll says:

      Hey Joe- Yes Chochmat Nashim agreed to accept & distribute the funds for the project. We have always joined with Haredi activists to help when they asked. We know the activists, in fact, one is our deputy director. Chochmat Nashim has always seen the Jewish people as one community that must advocate for and support one another whenever we can. Moreover, there is a real fear for many Haredim of being “pasulled” and other orgs were concerned that this effort might harm their other work. We have no such fear as the community is our support and those who would passul us are not our audience. The funds from this campaign will go to this project (flyers) and any extra raised will go to other projects raising awareness and support for victims of sexual abuse in the Haredi community, chosen by the activists.

    • D K says:

      I would similarly like to question. Who is the Rabbinical board or leadership who are helping decide how to act and how to improve the situation? Sometimes even the best of intentions ends up simply leading everyone down to you know where…

    • YB says:

      Yes Chochmat Noshim is primarily a Modern Orthodox entity and they also help out their Charedi sisters in campaigns such as this one to believe survivors. Charedi women are afraid to be the public face of a pushback campaign so Chochmat Noshim partners with Charedi women and CN is often the face of the campaign

    • Raymond says:

      I do not get why that is significant.

  2. Shoshana B Jaskoll says:

    Hey Joe- Yes Chochmat Nashim agreed to accept & distribute the funds for the project. We have always joined with Haredi activists to help when they asked. We know the activists, in fact, one is our deputy director. Chochmat Nashim has always seen the Jewish people as one community that must advocate for and support one another whenever we can. Moreover, there is a real fear for many Haredim of being “pasulled” and other orgs were concerned that this effort might harm their other work. We have no such fear as the community is our support and those who would passul us are not our audience. The funds from this campaign will go to this project (flyers) and any extra raised will go to other projects raising awareness and support for victims of sexual abuse in the Haredi community, chosen by the activists.

  3. Sarah Elias says:

    Chochmat Nashim can in no way be described as chareidi. In fact, looking at their website gives me the impression that they are more feminist and anti-chareidi social norms than anything else. Their mission seems to be to turn chareidi society into a version of their own very modern Orthodoxy. I have read Keats-Jaskell’s writing and did not get the feeling that she has any respect for chareidim at all.

    • The women behind the flyers are charedi. They needed help in getting the job done, and Chochmat Nashim provided the assistance.

    • Dr. E says:

      Sarah:

      Bringing in Chochmat Nashim, which appears to represent an outgroup to your worldview, and the question of their respect for Chariedim, is a red herring. The system which allowed Walder and others in the past (and no doubt others out there currently), is broken and has been for a long time. Looking for haskamos as a prerequisite to validate individuals or to be machshir any activism is what got the community into this mess. And if you want to play the Daas Torah card, it’s obvious that the lack of internal transparency has Halacha l‘maaaseh made the construct irrelevant. And given the constant questions of whether the Torah luminary actually said something, exactly what he said, to whom, and what was the basis of precisely what (filtered) information was fed to him—makes the idea of emunas chachamim as a value or imperative irrelevant anyway. The bottom line is that there is a need for a paradigm shift in this sugya which with all of the impropriety scandals of the past, has never happened. The only question now is whether the frum community has the humility and stomach to dismantle the structure and rebuild, with appropriate independent checks-and-balances, as opposed to mere short-term lip service in response to the hock.

  4. Sarah Elias says:

    Addendum to my comment: I can’t comment on the flyers that Chochmat Nashim has handed out because I haven’t seen them. I hope they were appropriate.

  5. Caren May says:

    Women Rock!!!!!
    As we see from sefer Shemot, the savior of Klal Yisrael occurred through the women with their compassion, energy, knowledge and dedication.
    Batya, Yocheved, Miriam, Tziporah were foundation rocks….no matter what culture they belonged to ( RZ, Modern, Traditional, Charedi, chassidish-light, Right-wing, liberal, conservative, progressive, etc…)

    Perhaps year 2022 can begin without labels & categories, Joe, and let’s work hard to strengthen Yahadut!

  6. Bob Miller says:

    “We did not know about the frequency of abuse, its causes, and – most importantly – its effects on victims. ”

    About the effects on victims, before that magic moment when we caught on:
    1. Couldn’t our authorities, as people, have imagined what the effects could be?
    2. Couldn’t our authorities have asked some victims? Over time, they each must have learned who some victims were, even if most victims kept silent.
    3. Did we disbelieve victims because of our false preconceptions, or was this really because we wouldn’t dare or didn’t want to confront perpetrators?
    4. Qualitatively, what Really New Information about the victim experience emerged from modern psychology and other disciplines? These often just substantiate known phenomena.

  7. Joe Socher says:

    Isn’t this campaign directly in opposition to the “daas torah” quoted in the previous post? Aren’t the “official reactions” reflective of “daas torah”?

    • You’ve asked two questions. Answers: 1) Yes 2) I sure hope not. We have no idea – and likely never will find out – what Rav Gershon meant. The Daas Torah proclamation was signed by one of the talmidim. Who? How much of it was his? What was Rav Gershon’s objective, and who was his intended audience? Did he mean anything more than advice to mechanchim of children of a particular age? Determining those things is not easy in a charedi world not known for its transparency. (As one prominent charedi thinker immediately reacted: “Was this Rav Gershon speaking, or his chatzer?”) I certainly believe that the bottom line Israeli chareidi response was woefully and tragically wrong. But Rav Gershon has a proven track record of wisdom and caring. He should be given every benefit of the doubt.

      • YS says:

        “But Rav Gershon has a proven track record of wisdom and caring. He should be given every benefit of the doubt.”

        I don’t doubt the track record for wisdom and caring, but isn’t it possible that this is a matter of overall hashkafa, or even a tribal issue?

        You could ask the same question about ‘wisdom and caring’ about Rav Gershon not publicly and clearly stressing for everyone who listens to him the importance of providing a parnassah for their families and teaching their children an umanus. Or of contributing to the physical security of the עם היושב בציון.

        You can be wise (or at least smart) and caring and still lead your flock the wrong way.

      • Nachum says:

        The cognitive dissonance, it *burns*. You give over a half-dozen lines about how the whole concept of “da’as torah” is pointless- after all, if you have no way of knowing what it is, what is it?- and then talk of a “proven track record.” Do you not see this yourself?

      • dr. bill says:

        giving him and others in his league the benefit of the doubt means to assume it is their handlers, not them, who are(often) making these pronouncements. daas toireh is not what it represents. what lies behind these announcements is someone’s view of what should be said in order to …….

      • Bob Miller says:

        Are any Gedolim helpless to assert control over their retinues? If true , this should be a cause for deep communal concern, to be followed by action, not acceptance.

      • Caren May says:

        When listening to Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz video/audio RE: the Chaim Walder he gives somewhat of an explanation (excuse) to the words of Rav Edelstein.
        When anyone, especially someone in a leadership role speaks, there are many intended audiences, for instances Dr N. Blumenthal & Dr Pelcowitz spoke to parents, educators & mental health providers. Rabbis YY Jacobson & Eisenman spoke for the public & their words have traveled far & near.
        Rav Edelstein is a protector of Charedi. Yeshiva world specifically centered in Bnei Brak & Israel, his talk (who ever wrote, gathered the ideas) was to strengthen, fortify, enclose, isolate, and keep that machaneh pure.
        There is no need to once again debate/argue the essence of the daas torah origin.
        Let us all at this precarious & difficult time fortify & strengthen Yahadut & stop bashing all other cultures (RZ, MO, Charedi).

  8. lacosta says:

    “… is positioned where the US community (both charedi and Modern Orthodox) were 30 yrs ago… ”

    — i believe it is fairer to note that as far as all such controversial issues [ abuse, aguna, gay etc ] , there are 3 time frames. approximately 10 yrs after the MO community makes peace with an issue , the US haredi community begins to deal. the hareili community a generation after that, if ever…

    • Mark says:

      Rabbi Adlerstein is just plain wrong about where the Battei Din in Bnei Brak are holding on abuse. I would strongly recommend he gets hold of Yeshurun Vol. 22 and reads the articles by Rav Y Silman and R MM Shafran of Bnei Brak, from 12 years ago.

      Then he can apologize.

      • 1) Might pay to read before you write. I didn’t say anything about batei din in Bnei Brak 2) The Yeshurun articles are quite good. They amount to a ראיה לסתור They were written 12 years ago, and did nothing to stop CW – whose activities were known by then. R. Lopiansky did a good job showing what has to be done, but neither he nor anyone else I know is holding his breath. It will happen in the US because it isn’t Bnei Brak. And, as R Willig opined in his excellent shiur, Bnei Brak is about where the US was 40 years ago. If you have a modicum of honesty, you will ask yourself why that is so.

      • Mark says:

        “There are Battei Din that are regularly dealing with these situations effectively…. with no Rachmanus… no games… exactly what went wrong here, I have NO idea. The assumption that nobody wanted to touch it, I doubt highly that’s what happened. I have no idea what happened there.”

        If this speaker has no modicum of honesty, I’ll gladly share his cheilek in Gehinnom.

      • Mark says:

        In other words, Rav Yitzchok Berkowitz (the speaker) does not consider the handling of CW himself to be an indictment of the system. It was a local failure that he is at a loss to explain. He highly doubts assumptions raised by others – and he actually lives in Eretz Yisrael.

        In terms of the communal response after it exploded, as Caren May wrote above, there are reverse considerations that apply to EY that do not apply in the US. [Additionally, the confusion and probably anger over the suboptimal end result of CW killing himself generated an immediate backlash that probably gave CW the last remnants of any schar he deserved in Olam Hazeh.] Those considerations yielded responses that were devastating on many levels. As Rabbi Berkowitz said, it could be they have to be reconsidered, but if the Gedolei Eretz Yisrael decide not, so not.

    • Mark says:

      Just to help you along:

      וידוע ריבוי הקרבנות שמוחזק למזיק יכול לעשות ובזה מותר לסלקו מלעשות מעשיו לעתיד מכמה טעמים שכל אחד כדאי לעצמו או מטעם רודף אחר וכו’ ובילדים נחשב לאונס ואם עושה עבירה שאין בה דין רודף הרי הוא בכל מקרה מזיק כידוע הנזק הנפשי שגורם לכל ימי חייו לנפגע בנוסף למה שמרבה נפגעים וניזקים נוספים דכידוע שנפגע נעשה בהרבה פעמים לפוגע ויש בזה משום מציל את הניזק מהמזיק… וכידוע שאם אינו מטופל אין דרך למנוע ממנו מלעשות מעשיו במחשך אלא לאסרו
      ועוד יש בזה משום אפרושי מאיסורא רגם אם אין לו דין רודף להרגו מ”מ מותר

      דבר טוב ותיקון גדול הוא ועודדתי הדבר בזמנו מה שהקימו בארה”ב בתי דין מיוחדים לנושא זה בכמה מקומות הלאו כל דיין הרוצה ליטול את השם יטול ולא שייך בזה הדין דכל שלשה יכולים לדון דאנן סהדא שרק מי שמתמחה בדבר זה וקרא ושנה בזה והוא אדם שקול דמצד אחד אינו מאמין לכל תלונה וכל סיפור שמספרים הורים או מתלוננים והרבה דמיונות ודמיוני דמיונות יש בענינים אלו וכבר ראיתי כן ביושבי בבי”ד בענין זה שאפי’ בעלי מקצוע יש כאלו שמיד בטוחים שסיפור ההורה הי’ ונברא ואדם בעלמא ואפי’ דיין ומורה הוראה יכול מיד להגרר להאמין ולהשתכנע באמיתות הסיפור ובסוף אחרי חקירה מתברר שהכל נולד וקרה בדמיונו של המתלונן ולפעמים הילד נפגע ומפחד לומר ממי ומטיל הדבר על מורה או מלמד מסויים ולכן גם אם מצד הילד אכן פגעו בו צריך לברר מי הפוגע ומצד שני ראיתי שמי שאינו מומחה בזה מיד יקבל את תשובת הפוגע והצטדקותו ובפרט אם הוא אדם מכובד או בעל הסברה טובה שיסביר שהנפגע הוא שאשם בזה והי’ היוזם של מה שקרה או שהי’ מעידה חד פעמית או שהי’ מצב מסוים או שטעה ונתכוון לטובה וכ”ש אם יכחיש לגמרי בבטחון ולפעמים אין הפוגע משקר ביודעין אלא הוא עצמו מאמין עכשו במה שמכחיש ולכן מסוגל לשכנע שיאמינו לו ולמומחים בנפש יש להם הגדרות לכאלו ובאמת בכל אלו בדרך כלל מדובר באדם עם סטי’ נפשית שהבטחות והתחייבויות על העתיד אינם שוים כלום וכל שאינו בקי בכל זה לא יוכל להיות דיין בדבר גם אם יודע כל התורה וכמו שמי שאינו מבין שפת אנגלית לא יוכל לדון

      ולכן רק בתי דין כאלו שנתמנו ע”י נציגי הציבור ועסקנים המתמצאים בזה וגדולי תורה רק בתי דין אלה הם הכשרים וראויים לדון בזה ואם החשוד טוען ליזל בתר הנתבע ובוחר בי”ד בעלמא אפי’ כאלו שאיתמחי בדיני ממונות או בעריכת גיטין הוה כאומר שמוכן לדון לפני עמי הארץ לאותו דבר או לפני חרשים שאינם שומעים שפתם של המדברים בענין זה ונחשב כמסרב לדון לפני הבי”ד שמחוייב לדון לפניהם ושומעין העדות שלא בפניו… ובפרט כשברודף ומזיק עסקינן דהוה הצלת נפשות

      יעוץ לביה”ד: ומה טוב הי’ שיצמידו לעצמם מומחה מקצועי שקול ובר דעת בחקרם ענין כזה שיוכל לעזור להם הן בחקירות והן בהבנת המציאות וכן כדאי שיהי’ להם יעוץ משפטי שלא יסתבכו עם חוקי המדינה אשר תו בצלם ויש לבדוק אם יש דרך לקבל איזה

      The hotzaas shem ra is appalling and mind-bogglingly damaging because it will lead to people in Eretz Yisrael who will go only to Charedi Battei Din, not having confidence in any of them.

  9. Weaver says:

    To all those hemming and hawing about halachic procedure, loshon hara, blah, blah, blah:

    When it becomes known (call it anan sahadi if it makes you feel better) that someone is a rasha, or has acted horribly, none of the above technicalities matter.
    Was any historically evil person found guilty by beis din? Did someone take Heinrich Himmler or Joseph Stalin to beis din? Does that prevent anyone with half a brain from knowing who they are, rendering judgement, and speaking of them accordingly?

    Stop with the stupidity.

    • rkz says:

      You must have forgotten that lashon hara applies only to Torah observant Jews.
      When it comes to Torah observant Jews, you need a beit din.
      AFAIK, a haredi (litvish, chassidic and sephardi) beit din to deal with these issues is in the process of being formed.
      Of course, abuse of any kind is assur, and becuse of Lo Taamod Al Dam Re’akh there is no heter to refrain from stopping abusers.
      Please read what Harav Eichnstein shlita wrote (in his own name, not any handlers or chatzer)

  10. Steven Brizel says:

    Take a look at Chumash-who had the Binah Yeserah and who was responsible for the remarriage that led to the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu and who stayed loyal in Egypt , and at the episodes of the Egel HaZahav and Korach-Women, not men who were given extra mitzvos to get their hearts and minds back on the right track and keep them there If RZ?MO women can help their Charedi sisters in this Es Tzarah-that is wonderful. I seriously doubt that the level of Avodas HaShem of any Charedi woman would be adversely affected by the purely tecnological assistance offered by a group of RZ/MO women

    • mb says:

      Steven Brizel,
      I looked in my Chumash, could find those stories anywhere.:-)
      Cheers

    • Ben Waxman says:

      “I seriously doubt that the level of Avodas HaShem of any Charedi woman would be adversely affected by the purely tecnological assistance offered by a group of RZ/MO women”

      I don’t know. Maybe they’ll all sit down for a cup of coffee and talk about “stuff”. These RZ/MO can be tricky.

  11. lacosta says:

    given that there is no such thing as ‘askanot ‘ , ‘ shatlanot’ , gedolot hatora etc , there is of necessity an old boys network flavour to everything in the haredi world . but when he crosses the threshhold , is he still the boss? is there girl power there e g if lots of wives were to say , ‘no , this magazine makes us invisible , it’s not coming in this house anymore ‘ ? in the US , a wishy washy maybe . in hareili israel , i imagine it’s a stretch .
    Knowledge is power , if you can’t be informed that such issues go on , how can you expect to protect your family . If abuse issues are covered up , OTD issues can be blamed on hilonim and tel aviv and dybbuks arein, rather than having gotten violated in the mikva or by the rebbe….

  12. Mark says:

    A few comments:

    (1) I would advise Charedim in Israel to approach Rabbi MM Shafran’s Beis Din in Bnei Brak. He has written very educated articles on the subject, including in Yeshurun in 5770. He, along with Rabbis Malinowitz and Bess, signed against a different predator about 5 years ago.

    Rabbi SIlman has also written articles on the subject that display an understanding of the issues.

    (2) I would strongly advise against running awareness efforts for the Charedi through chochmatnashim. Its efforts run the risk of being presented as those of enemies of the Charedi community seeking to infiltrate it with one of its wrongheaded ideas. It will potentially thus make things much worse.

    • Bob Miller says:

      So you’re accusing Charedim of paranoia? It’s sad if disparate Orthodox groups can’t find any common ground on an issue like this.

      • Mark says:

        On trusting any outside groups, kal vachomer a group like CN, with tznius-related matters, the inflection point between justified angst and paranoia is…? [I’m thinking of those old calculators that would display an “E” if the numbers got too high.]

  13. Shades of Gray says:

    Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz has also made positive suggestions these past few days:

    1- Subsidization of his “Let’s Stay Safe!” children’s book, published in English, Yiddish and Hebrew, and tailored to meet the cultural needs of the chasidish, charedi and Dati Leumi communities. See article from last week:

    https://jewishlink.news/features/48181-rabbi-horowitz-has-a-goal-keep-children-safe

    2- Posting  a note of support for survivors with the hashtag #IStandWithAbuseSurvivors

    This week, R. Horowitz  wrote a Times of Israel blog post about focusing inward, rather than on misplaced concern for communal image:

    Members of our community are understandably feeling humiliated and even under siege from the negative press directed our way in the wake of child abuse scandals…However, those who are toiling to promote the public relations of our community without expending at least an equal amount of their energy improving child safety are making our public image worse not better, for they are just hammering home the points our detractors are making…Our public image will dramatically improve when we direct our focus inward; reporting abusers to the authorities, encouraging victims to come forward without fear of retribution, helping them get professional counseling, and making research-based, child safety training for children, parents and educators a top priority…Everything else will fall into place once that happens.

    https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/our-kids-need-protecting-not-our-community/

    The above Times of Israel post has a link to a video from last week, “Our Children Are Not Hefker”, whose title is taken from Rashi’s explanation of Shimon and Levy’s response in the story of Shechem and Dinah. R. Horowitz concludes the video with the words of Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

    Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

    • D K says:

      I’ve seen this suggestion before and am a little confused. How is a children’s book, “Let’s Stay Safe!”, going to help women learn not to be taken advantage of by a narcist male? Wouldn’t a phycology book discussing sick personality disorders and the things such people do be a better choice?

      • Bob Miller says:

        Do you deny that many of Walder’s victims were children? You’re not a little confused; you’re just focusing on another class of Walder’s immediate victims. Also note that children have parents, who themselves are massively hurt when their children are abused by those they respect. Rabbi Horowitz has been going to bat against abusers for years, exposing himself to a lot of cynical opponents who are more than a little confused.

  14. Weaver says:

    Another related point to keep in mind:

    “As has been pointed out by many, it is impossible to run a society that would require two male witnesses – not to mention the requirement of warning a perpetrator – in order to punish criminals, as such a system would not be able to convict anyone and thus would not have any power of deterrence. (Why the Torah has rules and procedures for criminals that can’t be implemented in the pre-Messianic world is a topic for a future post.) Jewish courts always did what they thought was necessary in order to secure order, and halakhah gives them this authority. To say otherwise is itself a hillul ha-shem because it means that when it comes to dealing with crime Jewish law is unworkable, while the truth is that Jewish law can deal with every possible situation.

    Here is what the Rashba says on this issue (Teshuvot vol. 3, no. 393), and his words have been quoted again and again. Note especially his strong language that insisting on Torah requirements will “destroy the world”.
    ורואה אני שאם העדים נאמנים אצל הברורים רשאים הן לקנוס קנס ממון או עונש גוף, הכל כפי מה שיראה להם, וזה מקיום העולם, שאם אתם מעמידין הכל על הדינין הקצובים בתורה ושלא לענוש אלא כמו שענשה התורה בחבלות וכיוצא בזה נמצא העולם חרב, שהיינו צריכים עדים והתראה, וכמו שאמרו ז”ל לא חרבה ירושלים אלא שהעמידו דיניהם על דין תורה, וכ”ש בחוצה לארץ שאין דנין בה דיני קנסות ונמצאו קלי דעת פורצין גדרו של עולם ונמצא העולם שמם

    See also R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski, Iggerot R. Hayyim Ozer, vol. 2 nos. 833, 837.”

    https://seforimblog.com/2014/02/the-vilna-gaon-part-3-review-of-eliyahu/

  15. anonymous says:

    Hi
    Where can I find Rabbi Willig’s shiur?
    Thank you

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