Judaism contains an infinite reservoir of inspiration, wisdom and faith for Jews
and non-Jews alike. It has given humanity the Bible from which both Christianity
and Islam emerged. Some of the most profound and influential Western thinking
about morality, the good society and the purpose of life have been derived from
the Bible and its commentaries. Its impact on the founding fathers of America is
Even the more inclusively Jewish Talmud and its
commentaries has been shown to have had a crucial impact on the thought of men
such as John Selden, one of 17thcentury England’s foremost jurists, and
And, of course, for many Jews, Judaism is the sine qua non of
their very being that encompasses faith, practice and cultural
But like any religion, Judaism, when confronted with scandal
within its ranks, sometimes operates according to a warped and ultimately
self-destructive inner dynamic in which secrecy is maintained and reputation is
protected even if the worst of injustices are performed.
Not unlike the
ongoing sex scandal that has been rocking the Catholic Church, the case of Rabbi
Mordechai “Moti” Elon, one of the most charismatic spiritual leaders in the
religious-Zionist movement, is a painful example of this
Within the religious-Zionist community – as with other
religious communities Jewish and not – incredible pressures are brought to bear
against the victims of sexual harassment to discourage them from filing police
charges against spiritual leaders like Elon, out of a belief that this somehow
protects Judaism’s good name.
Self-proclaimed defenders of the Jewish
religion’s reputation sacrifice the welfare not only of those who have suffered
sexual abuse but also of those who might suffer it in the future. In a cruel
distortion of Judaism’s message of justice for the weak, the Torah is marshaled
to protect the criminal and blame the victim.
Young men and women who
dare come forward to complain about sexual abuse are accused of transgressing
the Torah’s prohibition against slander, while the revered rabbi or teacher who
shamelessly exploited his student’s confidence is transformed into the victim of
a witch hunt. While shame plays a central role in discouraging victims of sexual
abuse from going public, in tight-knit, relatively insular communities this is
especially true. And this fact is not overlooked by those who use shame to
In short, the ends justify the means – out of a
misguided desire to prevent the desecration of God’s name (Hilul Hashem), crimes
are covered up. In the process, a much larger desecration is
To combat this self-destructive dynamic, a group of religious
Zionist rabbis and educators formed the Takana Forum. Only by providing a
discreet alternative to a standard police complaint, could the problem of sexual
harassment in the religious-Zionist community be properly treated, the members
of the forum believed.
Seven years ago, after hearing the testimonies of
Elon’s victims, the Takana Forum concluded that Elon had to be exiled from
formal education. At the time, his abrupt departure from his position as dean of
the capital’s Yeshivat Hakotel was explained as a result of work-related stress.
But the limitations of the forum’s policy of discretion and taking care of
things behind closed doors soon became apparent. Ignoring the Takana Forum’s
ruling, Elon gradually returned to teaching.
Indeed, the tremendous
pressure to protect the reputation of Elon and, by extension, the entire
religious-Zionist community, nearly prevented justice from being
Ofir Sagi, the state prosecutor in charge of Elon’s case, told Army
Radio on Thursday about the difficulty of finding victims willing to testify
against the rabbi. In the middle of the trial, one of only two victims who were
willing to bring charges against Elon pulled out. We can only guess what methods
of intimidation were deployed.
“Wednesday’s conviction will, one hopes,
send a message to other victims not to remain quiet,” Sagi said. We pray Sagi is
The beauties of the Jewish religion are apparent to all who have
experienced them. Pursuit of justice, even against a highly respected rabbi,
should not be confused with an attack on Judaism. It is, instead, the ultimate
affirmation of Judaism’s underlying ideals.
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