Reacting to the Weberman Case

by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz

[Editor’s note: Presumably, CC readers are not interested in sitting in judgment about events they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to judge. Many of us, however, do need to learn much more about the parameters of abuse, and the possibility of witness intimidation. A high-profile trial (with others waiting in the wing) in the frum community increases our awareness of problems with death-dealing consequences. Since I have the pleasure of speaking at times with Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who possesses a rare blend of experience, professionalism and courage, I encouraged him to submit some reaction. He first offered to submit an original piece; when that proved impracticable for him, we agreed to post the essay he published on his own blog. Here is Part One -YA]

Dear Readers:

Many of you have asked tough questions regarding my advocacy on behalf of Weberman’s victim and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to write and ask them. From my vantage point, questions are a quintessential sign of respect; it means you considered the issues to be worthy of your time and thoughts.

Here are some of the questions posed by our readers on our website (www.kosherjewishparenting.com) and on twitter (@yakovhorowitz) where a running account of the trial in real time is being posted:

1) Why can’t these things be dealt with internally, and why don’t we work this out in Bais Din?

2) Why should the bar be set lower with abuse cases than with other matters in halacha, where two witnesses and a Din Torah are required to incriminate someone?

3) How can anyone possibly figure things out when there is an accusation?

4) What is this “raglayim l’davar” that so many people mention?

5) So many of the people who bring accusations of abuse have abandoned religion or engage in antisocial/harmful behavior such as drug use. How can we believe them?

6) Don’t we have an obligation to judge others favorably (dan l’kaf zechus)?

7) Why should we trust a 17-year-old’s word over a respected 50-year-old rabbi? Especially when there is no physical evidence only a he-said-she-said? How do we know she is not lying?

8) Why the rush to judgment? Don’t we believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty?

9) Why didn’t you give Weberman the courtesy of listening to his side before you jumped on the side of the girl?

(Please feel free to continue to post questions, comments and complaints at the footer of these columns as it will help us frame and clarify our discussions. I respectfully request that you include your real name and city where you live unless there are personal matters listed in your comment. Our community will be a healthier place when we become more comfortable dissenting respectfully and listing our names when we post our thoughts.)

There are no quick and easy answers to these questions, so forgive me for taking the long route. I believe this issue is so critical that it deserves the time and effort necessary to answer in a fully developed manner.

Gaining a deep understanding of the complex issues surrounding abuse may be one of the most important gifts you can give to your children, so please carefully work your way through each of the links and references provided.

Perhaps the best place to start would be with a brilliant and overarching chidush (novel idea) on this subject delivered by my Rebbi[1], HoRav Dovid Cohen Shlit’a, at a national conference on the subject of Abuse Reporting in Far Rockaway a few weeks ago. Rav Dovid has been the Posek[2] (halachic advisor) for Ohel Children’s Home and NEFESH for decades now and has been paskening sheilos (giving halachic rulings) of this nature throughout that time frame.

During his presentation and more so during Q&A, Rav Dovid addressed questions 1-4 in many different forms, and he framed the issue early in his shiur (lecture) with a profound one-liner, “This is not a sheila of Hilchos Arayos; it is a sheila of Rotzeach U’shmiras Nefesh!”

He explained that people mistakenly think that since a predator is engaging in a sin of an illicit relationship, it is governed by Hilchos Arayos (Hilchos is plural for Halacha, or Jewish Law. Arayos refers to immorality) as would be a forbidden union of two consenting adults. In that case, it would fall under the domain of Bais Din (Jewish Court) and the bar to punishment would include two witnesses and all other rules of Bais Din.

Child abuse, however, said Rav Dovid, has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be genuine sakanos nefashos (threat to human life) due to the havoc it wreaks on the victim’s life and due to the fact that abuse often leads directly to drug use and suicide. As such, a confirmed child molester has the status of one who presents a life-threatening risk to others – whose laws are discussed in the section titled Rotzeach U’shmiras Nefesh ([Laws Governing the status of] A Murderer and [the biblical obligation to] Guard One’s Life) . And whoever sees someone posing danger to others has an obligation to step in and protect the potential victim.

Rav Dovid stated that the only avenue to provide protection to children from predators is through the authorities who have the training, resources and capacity to investigate and prosecute offenders. But aren’t there false accusations, someone asked? To which Rav Dovid replied, that the people who are best trained to sort things out are the authorities. When a few people pointed out that there are significant flaws in the judicial process, he responded that schools have flaws too, yet we still send our children there. He explained that we either trust the system or we don’t, and we have painfully seen what happens when we try and take care of these things on our own.

On a personal note, during his presentation, he shared with us that he himself is surprised that he has not gone mad from the pain of all of the abuse cases he has listened to over the past 30 years. I humbly second the motion.

As to the broader matter of reporting children in danger to the authorities; … In 1997 when Project YES was founded, I asked the legendary Rabbi Moshe Sherer zt”l (after his passing, I penned This Tribute to him) to help us answer the challenging halachic questions we were dealing with in Project YES. He asked HoRav Shmuel Kaminetsky shlit’a to serve as our rabbinic advisor and we leaned heavily on his broad shoulders during that time. Over the years, Rav Shmuel consistently told us to call the authorities whenever a child was in danger.

The halachic reasoning which drove the psak that authorities need to be called when there is danger to life, extended itself to other areas as well. In 1998, we got a similar, unanimous ruling from a body of our leading Roshei Yeshiva, to report Frum Drug Dealers to the police. It is important to note that our great rebbi, HoRav Avrohom Pam zt”l, who was the most extraordinarily gentle and kind person we knew, spoke first and told me, “Er is a rotzeiach (he is a murderer),” saying that not only can, but we must report the dealer to the police.

There has been a great deal of churn in the media about the Agudah’s position on “raglayim l’davar” (loosely translated as “legs to stand on”), where some say one ought to consult a rabbi if he/she is not sure if the suspicions are legitimate. But there is unanimous agreement among all our gedolim shlit”a that one must immediately go to the police if there is credible evidence!

Over the past few years, I have had the honor of presenting at Agudath Israel Rabbinic Meetings, most recently at the 2011 National Convention and the 2011 MidWest Convention in the presence of our leading gedolim shilt”a including HoRav Shmuel Kaminetsky shilt”a, HoRav Avrohom Chaim Levine shlit”a, and HoRav Ahron Feldman shlit”a, and they each made that point numerous times.

To sum up this segment; the clear, unequivocal and ongoing p’sak, hadracha and shimush (ruling, guidance and mentorship) I received over a period of fifteen years was to do everything in my power to keep children safe from spiritual and life-threatening danger. It was a sacred and overwhelming obligation that was placed on me by Rabbi Sherer zt”l and the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah when we started Project Y.E.S. in 1997 and I try my very best to be their faithful shliach (messenger).

I am humbled and honored to be worthy of their continued trust as evidenced by their full-throated chizuk and haskama (support and approbation) for the Project YES Safety Book we published with Artscroll last August and which has help make over 18,000 Jewish homes safer so far.

That hadracha and shimush compels me to support a victim who comes forward with credible evidence. And there is way more than credible evidence that Something is Terribly, Terribly Wrong here.

To Be Continued…

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29 comments to Reacting to the Weberman Case

  • L. Oberstein

    I have been told by experts in dealing with addicts who come from the frum community that the vast majority are victims of sexual abuse. I was told of a young man who spoke at a Torah Umesorah convention and began by saying that in the audience was the principal who expelled him from the school due to his behavior but who never inquired as to why he was acting out. Had someone bothered to find out that he was a victim of sexual abuse by a rebbe, his life would have been different. This young man was the son of a prominent educator and no one had been alert to signs of abuse or molestation. That principal got up and begged his forgiveness saying he had no idea.
    The attitude that we must hush up predatory behavior is sad and misguided. Before a few brave individuals like the late Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg started talking about spouse abuse, it was taboo. Today, there are still benighted parts of the orthodox community who view involving outsiders as a bigger sin than what the abuser is doing. This is not true in Baltimore any longer as the rabbonim are very alert and open to dealing with it. But, the shame and guilt prevent many a victim from speaking up. There was a rabbi/mechanech in this city who was well known for his sexual abuse of young men,both in the day school and in his synagogue a generation ago. Many knew but no one spoke up.
    It was discussed at our table this Shabbos because a younger man (25) studying to be a psychologist couldn’t fathom how it went on and the older man(70) said that all the boys knew but who would report a rabbi? Rebbetzin Weinberg asked her father if there were wife beaters in Lita and he said that there were and she asked what people did. he answered that they closed their windows. Those days are over and if they aren’t in your city, what are you doing about it?

  • cvmay

    L’kvod HaRav,
    Why does the Satmar community either ignore, disbelieve or disown this entire case?
    Why are they not concerned with getting to the truth and righting a ‘wrong’?

    [YA – How about, maybe they believe him! Maybe they do not have access to any damning evidence against him. Maybe they are doing exactly what frum Jews ought to do, unless they have inside information: give him the benefit of the doubt. If all of us would do the same, it would still not diminish our need or our ability to consider all the mistakes and pitfalls surrounding the case, and work to ensure their elimination.]

  • Dovid

    IMHO the taboo against addressing this issue (which is mercifully starting to break) is part of a larger problem in Orthodox Jewish life – the tendency to portray Torah life as perfect and idyllic. Torah giants are seen as infallible, yeshivos and kollelim are presented as spiritual havens where nothing wrong can happen, and Torah and mitzvos is viewed as the self-sufficient answer and solution to everything and the only key we need to happiness, bliss and a perfect life. We have to acknowledge that even Torah communities have problems, even prodigious talmidei chachamim are humans who are susceptible to all kinds of vices, the Torah can be both a sam hachayim and sam hamaves, and religious life is supposed to be complicated.

    We are reading now the stories of Sefer Bereishis which tell of just how difficult and complicated the creation of Am Yisrael was, that our avos struggled with human tendencies such as envy, fraternal strife, lust, vanity (the Midrashim about Yosef), and so on. One of the great educational blunders we are guilty of is twisting the text of the Chumash into a pretzel so that Yosef and his brothers are all saintly roshei yeshiva and chassidishe rebbes who acted with pure kedusha and “sinned” only on their level. By reading Chumash that way, we miss the opportunity to teach ourselves and our children that even Torah Jews have problems, that we cannot expect everything to be shiny just because we learn in yeshiva and live in a vibrant Torah community. The Satan is very clever and does not give up. He follows us wherever we are, whoever we are, and whatever we do.

    The attempts to sweep the abuse issue under the carpet out of denial is not just cruel and irresponsible – it demonstrates a fundamentally mistaken perspective on Torah life, that we are free from the ordinary vices and problems that plague general society because we have the Torah. Torah does not automatically eliminate these problems; it demands that we actively address them. And in order to address them we need to recognize that they exist.

  • Joe Hill

    Rabbi Horowitz:

    What will be your reaction if Mr. Weberman is acquitted in court?

    Will you say you have faith in the American legal system and you thus accept the court’s verdict and accept the now adjudicated innocence of the formerly accused? Or will you still believe in the accused’s guilt? If the latter, how do you justify accepting a guilty verdict but rejecting a not guilty verdict?

  • Sarah

    Every question you ask is being dealt with in Civil Court, which is where accusations like this SHOULD be taken care of; i.e. not within the closed community. Also note that prosecutors do not take cases where there is little evidence to present. Therefore this case is more than a he said/she said situation.

  • Daniel

    To the bracketed answer from YA to Question #2, the only worthy response I can come up with is: LOL.

  • Chana

    Thanks for posting this-looking forward to part two. Tangential thought-but I’m assuming that if marijuana is legalized states-wise, there will only be an obligation to report harder-drug dealers to the authorities?

  • Shades of Gray

    “We are reading now the stories of Sefer Bereishis which tell of just how difficult and complicated the creation of Am Yisrael was, that our avos struggled with human tendencies such as envy, fraternal strife, lust, vanity (the Midrashim about Yosef), and so on. ”

    In ‘Are “Gedolim Stories” Good for Chinuch?’ Rabbi Simcha Feuerman writes:

    “Discussing the emotional lives of our Forefathers in a cavalier fashion would be inappropriate and, of course, we must tread carefully out of respect for their great characters that in many ways are beyond our comprehension. Nevertheless, some reflection on this topic is in order. No amount of tortured pilpul and darshanut can completely eliminate the reality of Yaakov’s emotions. When Yaakov sees Rachel for the first time, he kisses her and cries (Bereishith 29:11). True, it was a chaste kiss, perhaps the kind one gives to a young relative, [Ramban on Bereishith 29:9]but it was still an emotional embrace. Yaakov’s love for Rachel makes the seven years of labor feel as if it were a mere few days (ibid 29:20). You can call it any kind of love you want, love of her virtue or love out of gratitude that she will be one of the matriarchs– but it was a strong and powerful emotion. Seforno (ibid) comments on this verse that “Love makes people think in a less than logical manner.”

    Of course the point of this is not to suggest that we all become enslaved to our passions and be led around by them. However, we also should be a realistic in accepting our emotions. Love is powerful and real.”

  • Shades of Gray

    Another part of R. Feuerman’s essay, relevant to the topic of abuse and the like:

    “Another side effect that comes from denying the feelings and emotional process inherent in many stories, is that people can become split off from their emotions–allowing them to live double lives. When they are behaving and feeling frum they are one kind of person. But when they have negative and dangerous feelings, they disown them and perhaps disassociate from themselves. This allows them to sin in far worse ways, as they feel as if it is another person doing it.

    Is it then any wonder that we sometimes hear disturbing news of a supposedly great rabbi or community pillar being caught committing horrible and reprehensible acts?

    Thankfully, these situations are rare. And it is not my point to be outraged or surprised that even great people can stumble and sin. No one is perfect, and temptation is great. Hazal tell us, ein apotropos le’arayot. However, how can we understand the psyche and conscience of a man who can give a moving and inspiring derasha at one moment, and in the next moment commit reprehensible acts? The answer is via this mechanism of emotional disconnect and disassociation. This kind of psychological problem can find fertile soil in a culture that denies and represses feelings.

    In the Intermountain Jewish News(5/13/10), Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is quoted similarly:

    “The rabbi has also had to struggle with the ethical dimensions of what motivates an individual to commit as heinous a crime as pedophilia, especially when the perpetrator may be a religious person, sometimes even a rabbi.

    “From conversations with psychiatrists and therapists, I’ve learned about the term disassociation, where literally both the victim and the perpetrator are able to disassociate themselves,” Rabbi Eisenman says.

    “When they’re involved in the criminal act, they’re one person. When they get back to the synagogue and put their tallis on top of their head, they’re somebody else. I’ve realized this on my own, and when I spoke to therapists they validated this.”

    Often, the rabbi adds, the pedophile or molester fits a mold that was fictionally described by Robert Louis Stevenson, as the “Jekyll and Hyde” dual character, in which one aspect of the personality doesn’t even remember what the other has done.

    “Exactly,” the rabbi says. “They live with an inner conflict and the conflict is very, very deep. When they pray, they pray with sincerity. Unfortunately, when the addiction takes over they become a different person. It’s very scary.”

  • Bob Miller

    Joe Hill’s confidence in our criminal justice system is touching.

  • Eli

    “Rabbi Horowitz:

    What will be your reaction if Mr. Weberman is acquitted in court?

    Will you say you have faith in the American legal system and you thus accept the court’s verdict and accept the now adjudicated innocence of the formerly accused? Or will you still believe in the accused’s guilt? If the latter, how do you justify accepting a guilty verdict but rejecting a not guilty verdict?”

    If something is not “proven beyond a resonable doubt”, it does not mean that we do not have the CHIYUV to be choshesh. U’Shmartem MEOD L’nafshosechem. Rov works for Issur V;Heter, but Chamira Sakanta M’Issura.

  • Barry Dolinger

    Joe,

    You’re making a fundamental mistake about how the criminal justice system works, so allow me to explain (I’m an attorney in RI and Mass.). A guilty verdict means that the jury decided the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The other option is not a verdict of “innocent” but rather “not guilty.” All that this would mean is that there was not enough evidence presented at trial (keep in mind that not all evidence makes it into trial for a variety of reasons)to convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt; such a verdict would not in any way indicate that the defendant is innocent. All it would show is that the jurors had some reasonable doubts based on the evidence they were presented.

  • leah

    Rabbi Horowitz,
    I don’t know what really happened.
    If it is true, the girl’s parents deserve plenty of blame. Why did they leave a 12 year old girl alone with an unrelated man who was unlicensed? It is not like she went to a real doctor’s office for real treatment and there was a receptionist there. They sent a child ALONE to a man, and an unlicensed one with no office staff.
    I don’t think most of the frum community is in denial that abuse happens. I think, like me, they just don’t believe these sorts of abuse could happen to them because they wouldn’t invite it to happen. I have a 12 year old daughter. IF she needed therapy, I’d take her to a licensed WOMAN therapist, and she wouldn’t go alone. I have also sat her down and told her to run screaming if she is touched inappropriately etc. So I just don’t believe a Weberman-like story could happen to my family.

  • L. Oberstein

    Leah, all parents of children who are molested by teachers, etc. don’t believe it could happen to their family. That is the problem, not the solution. They get away with it because no one believes the child and she or he is told to be quiet because it will shter shiduchim for her and her siblings.

  • SD

    Leah:
    Perhaps you don’t understand the dynamics within Satmar-type communities.

    1)Girl gets into trouble, is suspected of misbehavior.

    2)School, which does not recognize parental autonomy, seek their input, or believe in giving people the right to make their own decisons, tells parent that the girl must be seen by Mr X, who is the head of the Va’ad Hatznius and is the only one who can pronounce her cured.

    3)Parents have the choice of doing as they are told or have their other kids expelled from school and their shidduchim chances greatly diminished.

    And why does school believe that Mr X is the only person to see? Well, that’s because Mr X is well-connected with the school and community and has charmed someone influential to believe that he is the sole determinant of who is “cured.”

    The parents did what they were told, by “leaders” who could ruin their family’s reputation in a flash, should htey choose to do so.

  • leah

    You all missed my point. I didn’t say that I don’t believe abuse can happen. I didn’t even say “it can’t happen to me/my family.” I well believe that sometimes a trusted adult does bad things, and a parent can’t prevent it. I send my kids to school; so what if a teacher gets a kid alone and molests them? That can and does happen. What I said is, A Weberman type WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ACCESS to my child. If I took my child to a therapist, it would be a WOMAN (and as you well know, women are very unlikely to sexually molest young girls), I would attend sessions with my daughter/wait outside, etc. Therefore, I don’t think THIS TYPE OF ABUSE would happen to my family. Plus I have told my daughter about sickos and she knows to tell me if an adult, even a teacher, does something inappropriate. I think the parents here made many mistakes, and bear responsibility for putting their child in danger. And no, I don’t believe that Satmar-type communities are filled with dopes. I suspect that there was something very wrong/off with this particular family, and that is one reason Weberman preyed on the kid.

  • Avi

    Leah, according to reports today from the courtroom, the mother was forced to send her child to Weberman, forced to pay enormous sums for his “therapy” and even forced to apologize to him when she expressed disapproval at something he did! If she didn’t cooperate, she risked expulsion. The hold that these community institutions have on their members is incomprehensible.

  • leah

    Avi-
    Pretty sick. I’d sooner send my kid to public school.
    as it turned out, the kid is not religious anyway, so that might not have been a bad choice for the victim….

  • Just a Girl

    First of all I would like to thank whoever wrote this page.It’s honest and beautifully written. Thank you.
    Now.
    Leah,
    Everything you said is the exact reason how so many children are getting abused. I hope you said what you did because of a lack of knowledge not of sensitivty. Everybody thinks that a ‘weberman’ has no access to their child. I can’t even describe to you the pain I feel upon reading that. You are condeming all parents of abused children. You can’t imagine the grief, self-blame and blinding pain that parents of abused children go through. I want to clarify so you can be aware and have a clearer picture of how the majority of abuse in the frum community actually happens. I also want to clarify so that people who think the way you presently do can understand how the parents of abused children love, care and protect their children just as much as you do if not more. They are not bad parents. Quite the opposite.

    I was a frum innocent little girl. Just like your daughter. I was the oldest in my family. I was adored. I said Modeh Ani every morning twice. Once when I woke up and once in school. I was that happy to be awake every day. My teachers loved me I had friends and I was always happy. My parents were the center of my existance. They adored me. I was their pride and joy. And if you love something, you protect it with your life. If you would have asked my mother years ago she would have definitly agreed with you and maybe have even be more condeming of the parents of ‘Off The Derech’ children. Whispering questions like how could thier parents have let this happen while shooting dark glances in their direction. She was and still is the pinnacle of a concerned and slightly overprotective mother. I got countless speeches about the sick people in the world and how I should come right to my mother if anyone says or does anything remotely innappropiate. She defined clearly from a very young age how important it is to be open and honest with her about these things. She was crazy protective. She never let me go to my friends houses unless she knew the family extremely well. I remember throwing tantrums about how everyone is having a sleepover by a certain girls house and my mother refused to let me go because something about the girls older brother was weird. My mother insisted on walking me to and from my bus stop everyday even when I was old enough to be embarressed by it. She stayed in the doctors room by my yearly checkups even when I was begging her to leave. Every time we went shopping she would grip my hand the entire time and not let go until I was back in the car. Once I got distracted by something pretty in a shop we were in and let go of her hand to get a better look at it. When I found her two minutes later (not more) she was speaking to the security guard with tears in her eyes about shutting down the store until I was found. I was like ‘Ma what are you doing? I’m ten years old – I was right behind you’ and she just hugged me for way too long. I remember being so embarrassed because I was way too old to be seen hugging my mother in public. I was never allowed around any males alone, EVER. Not even my cousins. I used to think she was paranoid but now I know I would do the same for my daughter.

    I was sexually abused. Badly, for many years. It was by a female. My babysitter. We knew the family really well. This is why I didn’t tell my mother. One night before all this started I walked passed my parents room and I heard my mother crying so I stopped and listened in the way that little girls do, she was on the phone to a friend of hers and she was crying because there was a playgroup that was found out to have been molesting children for years and another one of her close friends sons had went there years before. I so badly wanted to protect her from any sort of pain like she always did for me so when it happened the first time I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. I loved her that much. After that I had already been victimized and predators know how to keep their victims under their control. Read up on the psychology behind it. It is a rare phenomenon when a victim breaks the cycle. My head was put in a bath tub and held there until I nearly drowned and when it was taken out I was told that if I ever told anyone then she would do that to my little brother but she would keep hids head in. I was old enough to understand the term ‘drown your baby brother and make it look like a mistake’. And yes I thought it might be a possiblity that my parents could save me. But it wasn’t worth the risk. I loved my baby brother too much. To this day I wonder if she would’ve drowned him had I show any hesitation. I was just an eight year old girl protecting her family from a nightmare that was too painful to share. It wasn’t worth it.

    I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. I can’t remember the last time I cried like this. I’m sobbing over this laptop. I have never ever spoken of any of this outside of therapy. Reading you proscribe my parents as bad parents has been singularly painful for me. There was nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘off’ about my family. Me and my younger siblings were the prettiest, best dressed, happiest little children you have ever seen. If you saw us on the street you would probably glance enviously at my perfect little family, with our bright blond hair, little dimples and bright blue eyes. My young parents were everyones idea of perfect. My father learned my Chumash homework with me every night. For years. Point is that people rarely have parents as good as mine are. Leah, If there is such a thing as a Parent Award you Leah would be the first to give it to them.

    I’m not saying that it didn’t change anything, my perfect childhood outside of the abuse probably gave me the stregnth to get through this all. When as a teenager I finally told my parents what had happened it broke them as people, but as parents they pulled themselves together and have been here ever since helpng me pick up the pieces of my shattered soul. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for their stregnth I, the little girl who once was exactly like your own little girl would be lying in a grave with the whole world wondering what had happened. Leah I truly hope you never need to know how much like yourself the parents of abused children are.

    If you want to understand more I just started blog to help young girls like myself understand themselves and start dealing with recovory, go to mypureneshama.tumblr.com

    Whoever is screening these comments please leave mine up. I know it is really intense but I think that people should know. If you want me to edit any part of it I will

    Be Well,
    Just a Girl

  • leah

    Just a Girl – you are brave to tell this painful story, and I am so sorry and sad to hear about what you went through. I hope the rest of your life is filled with only good things.
    But perhaps because of your hurt you didn’t completely understand my message. I said clearly that there are many cases of abuse that can’t be prevented by wonderful parents, myself included. I gave the example of sending your kid to school, and a teacher gets them alone and abuses them – how could the parents have known that teacher was a sicko, and how can they have prevented it? In your case, there was a seemingly wonderful babysitter, and your parents obviously could not have known that she was secretly abusive.
    But still, parents DO need to know what is and isn’t normal and what safeguards should be in place. The parents in this case should have known themselves that it is highly inappropriate to take a 12 year old girl to an unrelated man with no license for therapy, and to leave her alone with him. And until parents realize what is and isn’t safe, there will be more abuse. For example, my son’s rebbe (my kid is 8) invited him to his house for Shabbes. As far as I know, he is a nice, normal teacher, married, with kids. But I told my son NO. Furthermore, I called the principal and told him to remind his staff it is not acceptable to invite a child to his house (other than for a whole-class party, where parents come and chaperone), or give kids rides home from school. I know other parents who would have just said yes. I think we need parent education – not because we can then prevent or end all abuse – we can’t, sadly – but because we can cut down and prevent some of the abuse. I don’t think the Weberman victims parents are guilty of being bad parents, but I do think they bear responsibility in this case, because if they had the mindset I do, their daughter NEVER would have been left alone with Weberman.
    Rabbi Horowitz, can you weigh in on this?

  • Bob Miller

    If all relevant authorities inside and outside our communities (the latter include police and courts) came down really hard on predators, fewer predators would dare to attack kids. Instead, we often see twisted excuses for inaction and even grossly wrong action.

  • S.

    Leah

    >as it turned out, the kid is not religious anyway, so that might not have been a bad choice for the victim….

    She wears a sheitel.

  • Shades of Gray

    “I don’t think the Weberman victims parents are guilty of being bad parents, but I do think they bear responsibility”

    The question is what the community which is known for tzniyus and the school were thinking; according to the NY Post report of the trial, the school forced her to pick him , and the mother protested in one story:

    “When Weberman announced he was taking the teen on a daylong drive, her mother protested, citing “Yichud,” the religious rules that prevent unmarried men and women from being alone together.
    But again, the school stepped in and ordered the family to go along with Weberman, she testified.
    “I had no other choice,” said the mom, who explained that the school even made her write Weberman to say she was sorry for disagreeing with him. “I had to write him an apology letter.”

  • Joe Hill

    So once anyone is accused, he can never be exonerated even after a Not Guilty verdict? Even if truly innocent, he must always walk around with a Human Branding permanently burnt on his forehead?

  • Yakov Horowitz

    I fully agree with Leah that it is a parent’s responsibility to keep your kids safe.

    This means (among other things) taking the time to really understand the entire gamut of child safety matters.

    This Project YES free video http://vimeo.com/44062853 is a good place to start.

    The problem, though, is that in some cases, people find themselves in communities where child safety is not valued, undermined or even opposed. Like a culture that makes a parent write an apology letter for questioning a flagrant violation of yichud and tzniyus.

    The parents then feel that they have no choice.

    But keeping your kids in a dangerous setting like that is abdicating your most sacred responsibility.

    In my opinion, that’s when it’s time to order a moving truck.

    Yakov

  • ARW

    “The problem, though, is that in some cases, people find themselves in communities where child safety is not valued, undermined or even opposed.”
    “In my opinion, that’s when it’s time to order a moving truck.”

    Rabbi Horowitz,
    With all due respect, I think this viewpoint shows a profound lack of understanding of how the Chasidish world works. Chasidish parents want to keep their children safe just like anyone else and the way they want to do that is by following the words of the Holy Torah. However, in the Chasidish world, the Torah does not value personal autonomy and in fact in many cases considers the concept of personal autonomy dangerous and deviant. In the world of Satmar, following authority is in all cases the proper way to follow and bring honor to the Torah. The words of the Rebbe are holy and for all intents and purposes carry the weight of life and death with them. In turn the words of his appointed servants, such as school principals, carry almost equal weight. Sending your child to a non-licensed counselor (after all of what value is a goyish license?), paying large sums of money (which means he must be good) and writing apology letters are words of Torah, not things to be questioned and reasons to order a moving truck. Ordering a moving truck, which means moving outside of the world of Satmar, implies a large amount of personal autonomy and an understanding of the broader world outside your Chasidus and understanding that the broader world has many good things to offer. I am not at all sure that someone who has always lived in Williamsburg understand these concepts.

  • Just a Girl

    Thank you Leah for reclarifying. I guess I am coming from a very extreme standpoint on this, because of my experiences that I forget how clueless people are and how many children go through abuse that might have been prevented.

  • E.F

    …It just upsets me when people blame all this stuff on molestation. The victim chose this derech. Her siblings chose this derech too. I’m not saying she wasn’t molested. But everybody knew the victim’s family as the only ones not obeying school rules. Of course this could have been handled better. As you mentioned, every school and mosed have their faults. The victim’s family live far from a satmar kind of lifestyle. So don’t blame satmar all the way. Yes, I grew up in Satmar, and had my fair share of issues with them. Looking back now however, there are so many positives, so many things I thought they didn’t do right when I was a kid and look back and thank them for it. Not every school is for every child. The victim’s family refused to take their kid out when Satmar advised them to. The victim’s family BEGGED for another chance, and then the school advised them to see a therapist. …

  • Joe

    Do you know how many innocent people are in jail for many many many years with our court system? Do you know how many people get vindicated with DNA (Which in this case “weberm” can never be accomplished) How are you so sure that this girl Was truthful in this particular case, that really would never ever could be proven otherwise Because there are no DNA?