Prominent yeshiva dean calls on Druckman to apologize for backing Elon

Elon insists his affection for a distressed teen boy in 2005 was misinterpreted. But now, new allegations have surfaced.

By
February 3, 2019 16:54
4 minute read.
A CHILD abuse victim is portrayed in this illustrative photo

A CHILD abuse victim is portrayed in this illustrative photo. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, a co-dean of the prestigious national-religious Har Etzion yeshiva in Alon Shvut, has called on Rabbi Chaim Druckman to publicly apologize and admit he made a mistake in publicly supporting convicted sex offender Rabbi Moti Elon after his conviction in 2013.

Lichtenstein sent his letter to Druckman last Wednesday, and in the absence of a public apology from the latter, Lichtenstein published his letter on Facebook on Sunday afternoon.

Druckman has steadfastly refused to publicly apologize for having criticized Elon’s conviction and for having invited him to lecture at his yeshiva following the conviction, even after new revelations of alleged sexual abuse by Elon in the last 12 months came to light in December 2018.

There has been little, if any, public criticism of Druckman for his behavior in the affair by senior Israeli rabbis, although two major donors to institutions associated with the rabbi froze contributions, while the serving president of the Rabbinical Council of America, together with eight former presidents, stated publicly last month that Druckman should apologize.

Druckman issued a vaguely worded letter, without apologizing, in January to the heads of hesder yeshivas talking of the importance of standing on the side of victims of sexual abuse and against their abusers, while saying that he understood that his “activities in this realm gave a different and wrong impression.”

Lichtenstein described the letter as “exceedingly disappointing,” and saying that Druckman’s position as one of the most senior and influential national-religious rabbis in Israel, and his previous public support of Elon, required a public response.

“The way to respond to this is not by a casual remark in a letter dedicated to general and agreeable statements, but rather directly and explicitly in a letter or statement devoted exclusively and explicitly to the case,” wrote Lichtenstein.

The rabbi wrote that Druckman’s letter had “no apology, no acknowledgement that a mistake was made, not even of judgment, and no attempt to request forgiveness from those who were harmed.”

Lichtenstein added that Druckman’s failure to publicly apologize was having the exact opposite effect from what he wrote in his letter of the “full obligation to deal with sexual abuse and to stand on the side of those who are harmed, and to stand against those who do such harm.”

“The dissonance between the declared goal and the actions and statements of previous years and the failure to take responsibility in the letter hurt the victims [of Elon], disappoints the community, undermines the goals of the letter and generates a lack of faith in the seriousness of dealing with sexual abuse in the future,” he said.

He then called on Druckman to issue a new letter where he “takes responsibility” and recognizes the harm he has caused, and to clarify what he will do in the future to avoid repeating such an incident.

Elon was convicted in 2013 of two counts of sexual assault against a minor. Druckman, however, publicly criticized the conviction, and invited Elon to lecture at his yeshiva in Merkaz Shapira.

After several years, Elon returned to public life, giving lessons and receiving students and youth in private.

In December 2018, new allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Elon, alleged to have occurred over the previous 12 months.


The alleged victim brought audio and video evidence of Elon’s sexual abuse to Druckman, as well as to rabbis Yaakov Ariel and Shmuel Eliyahu.

On the basis of the evidence, the three rabbis instructed Elon to stop teaching and all public activity, and to stop receiving children in private.

According to the conviction in 2013, during a private meeting in 2005 with a 17-year-old boy, known as “Alef,” Elon stroked his face and different parts of his body on top of his clothes; sat the boy on his lap; and kissed him on the face.

In a separate incident, Elon met Alef in Hakotel Yeshiva where the rabbi served as yeshiva dean. He took him to his office, closed the door and sat down next to the youth on a couch. He was accused of then bringing Alef towards him, sitting him on his knees and, while clothed, rubbed against Alef’s body while both were fully dressed.

Charges regarding a second complainant from 2003 were dropped when the alleged victim refused to testify in court.

Elon vigorously denied the allegations and his supporters have argued that he was accustomed to giving warm hugs to many of his students.

They claim that the incidents for which he was convicted were misinterpreted. Supporters also claimed that he was the victim of a conspiracy to besmirch his name by opponents of the rabbi.

Elon had been one of the predominant figures in the national-religious world before allegations of misconduct arose, and he served as the dean of the renowned Hakotel Yeshiva.

Elon has headed several Jewish, religious and social organizations and institutions, and hosted television and radio shows. He also led a Bible study group held at the President’s Residence. He is the son of former Supreme Court deputy president Menachem Elon.

A spokesman for Rabbi Druckman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rabbi Heshie Billet, one of the former presidents of the RCA who was party to the joint statement last month, said that a statement by a senior Israeli rabbi was "long overdue."

Said Billet “The silence of the religious-Zionist Torani community in Israel has been deafening. It is a shame that nine American rabbis had to speak out publicly in Israel about Rav Druckman."

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