Only a quarter of haredi rabbis favor publicizing scandals involving their peers, but three-quarters admit muckraking is an effective deterrent, according to a survey funded by the Lipshitz Religious Education College.
Rabbis said they were concerned that investigative reports on the misdoings of rabbis would desecrate God's name, said Dr. Yoel Cohen, of the Holon Institute of Technology, who conducted the study.
"Generally speaking, religious people misunderstand the media. They think media has an ideological agenda when in reality it is driven by commercial concerns." Over the past several months Cohen surveyed 300 haredi, national religious and non-Orthodox rabbis. Those surveyed were asked to express their opinions on freedom of the press, the public's right to know, and the impact of the media on people of faith.
In his survey, Cohen differentiated between "mainstream" national religious rabbis and "hardalim", a hybrid term that combines haredi and "leumi," or nationalist. The term refers to the more conservative, mostly younger, settlement rabbis who combine a very strict interpretation of Jewish law with religious Zionism.
"I found huge differences between mainstream rabbis and hardalim. Hardal rabbis are very similar to haredim in their outlook," said Cohen.
"They tend to be more suspicious of a free press and less liberal." Cohen found that rabbis born in Arabic countries were the most conservative on issues such as freedom of the press, the impact of the media on religious values, and the conflict between media and religion.
For instance, only 17 percent of rabbis born in Arabic countries said they agreed with the Western principle protecting the public's right to know.
In contrast, 61% of Israelis and 83% of Anglo-Saxons from all streams of Judaism said they favored the principle.