The president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and eight former presidents have jointly called on Rabbi Haim Druckman to apologize to the victims of convicted sex offender Rabbi Moti Elon and acknowledge that he made a mistake for supporting Elon in 2013.
Druckman’s public support for Elon after he was convicted, and his refusal to apologize for that support since new allegations emerged against the disgraced rabbi in December, have led to heavy criticism and pressure against him. The RCA is one of the most influential rabbinical associations in the US.
In a statement given to The Jerusalem Post, the nine RCA rabbis said that Druckman is “a great Torah scholar and a wise man,” but added that his failure to apologize for his support for Elon was a serious problem for them and their constituents.See full op-ed by rabbis here
“At this time he must know that there is no rationale for his support of Rav Elon. We hope that a great leader like Rav Druckman would follow the example of King David who admitted his errors. He should issue a definitive admission of wrong and make a specific apology to the victims of Rav Elon and to the Takana Forum.”
The letter was signed by Rabbi Elazar Muskin, current president of the RCA, along with rabbis Heshie Billet, Kenny Auman, Shalom Baum, Shmuel Goldin, Kenny Hain, Shlomo Hochberg, Leonard Matanky and Dale Polakoff.
In the letter, the rabbis issued four requests to Druckman: that he publicly admit his error in supporting Elon after the investigation of the Takana Forum; that he publicly apologize to Elon’s victims; that he publicly apologize to the late Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, a former member of Takana; and that he establish professional guidelines to protect students of Bnei Akiva yeshivot from sexual molestation and abuse.
In 2013, after Elon was convicted on two accounts of indecent assault by force against a minor, Druckman told the media that the court’s decision had been wrong and invited Elon to lecture at his Ohr Etzion Yeshiva in Merkaz Shapira.
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. The three subsequently instructed Elon to stop all public activity and consulting youths in private.
Druckman has come under heavy pressure to apologize since these revelations. Funding has been frozen by two major donors to institutions to which the rabbi is connected.
He issued a vague statement earlier this week saying it was important to “stand against” sexual abusers, but did not apologize for his support of Elon or to Elon’s victims.
In their letter to Druckman, the RCA rabbis noted that two of the former presidents – rabbis Billet and Goldin – met with him at the beginning of January to express their concerns and asked him to publicly admit his error in supporting Elon, as well as to apologize to the rabbi’s victims for having ignored the recommendations of the Takana Forum in 2010.
Allegations of sexual abuse by Elon were first made to the Takana Forum of national religious leaders, which instructed him to cease all educational and public activity in 2010.
The rabbis said they had waited for three weeks for an appropriate response from Druckman but that it has not been forthcoming.
They noted that many American rabbis and members of the Jewish community have children who study in programs in Bnei Akiva high schools which Druckman chairs, as well as members who have made aliyah and send their children to such institutions, noting that the rabbi’s actions therefore had a direct effect on them.
The RCA rabbis said that Druckman’s statement earlier this week “was a small step in the right direction,” and that he had done “the right thing” in instructing Elon to cease all public activity after the revelations in December.
They said that his recent statement was nevertheless “inadequate,” and that they could not understand why the rabbi could not apologize or admit his mistake.
“We want to be clear. We respect Rav Druckman for the incredible leadership and dedicated work that he has done during his life to serve Israel and to build generations of educated Torah observant Jews, who themselves have contributed so much to Israel,” they wrote.
The rabbis added that they value the work of Bnei Akiva yeshivot (YBA), but are “disappointed that the lay board of YBA was not strong enough to voice their own concerns about the behavior of Rav Druckman, their Rosh HaYeshiva [head of the yeshiva],” adding that they nevertheless “do not want to harm YBA.”
In conclusion, the nine rabbis wrote: “With much regret, we feel it necessary to publicly share our thoughts on this matter.”
Sources close to Druckman said in response to the statement that they were “saddened and expressed surprise to hear that important rabbis in the US do not listen to the President of Takana Forum Rabbi Yaakov Ariel who determined unambiguously that he fully accepts the apology of Rabbi Druckman to the victims.”
Ariel, another prominent and influential figure in the national-religious community, gave his backing to Druckman saying that the latter had indeed retracted his support for Elon, had been partner to the decision to instruct Elon to stop public activity, and was ready to apologize to Elon’s victims.
No public apology has yet been issued by Druckman however.
The sources said that “Rabbi Druckman will continue to do everything to prevent harm to people and especially students, including sexual abuse,” and that they were “certain that the public recognizes and appreciates the work of the rabbi in which he has worked for the sake of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” and that “Rabbi Druckman’s home is open to anyone in need of assistance, from the weak and poor up to the heads of state, and the rabbi gives help and assistance to everyone.”
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