American Rabbis to Druckman: Admit error in defending sexual abuser

Perpetrators of sexual molestation must be publicly identified in order to protect the community from them.

By COURTESY
January 25, 2019 06:53
3 minute read.
Rabbi Motti Elon.

Rabbi Moti Elon 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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This op-ed is authored by Rabbi Kenny Auman, Rabbi Shalom Baum, Rabbi Heshie Billet, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Rabbi Kenny Hain, Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Rabbi Dale Polakoff

On January 3, 2019, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin and Rabbi Heshie Billet met with Rav Chaim Druckman in their roles as representatives of the current President and eight past Presidents of the Rabbinical Council of America.

The purpose of this meeting was to present him with a letter sent three weeks earlier to Mercaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva of which he serves as Rosh Yeshiva. They also presented Rav Druckman with a Hebrew summary of the letter which included the following requests:

1. That Rav Druckman publicly admit his error in supporting Rav Elon after the investigation of the Takana Forum and its recommendations.


2. That he publicly apologizes to Rav Elon’s victims since the time that he ignored the recommendations of the Takana Forum (2010).


3. That he publicly apologize to Rav Lichtenstein, z”l (our revered Rebbe) and the Forum,

4. That he establishes professional guidelines to protect students of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva from sexual molestation and abuse.


At that time, we said that we would wait two weeks for Rav Druckman to respond as requested. If not, we said that we would release our letter to the public. To enable Rav Druckman to have a fair opportunity to formulate a proper response we extended our deadline another week.


Unfortunately, that deadline has passed.


The American Orthodox clergy and its constituents have children who study in post high school programs in Yeshivot Bnei Akiva (YBA) network. Many of our members and children who have made aliyah send their children to YBA schools. Therefore, what happens in this case is of direct importance to us.


Our experience in the US has taught us the importance of reporting sexual molestation directly to the police.


Sometimes either when the statute of limitations has passed or when the victim refuses to go to the authorities, then the community must deal with the problem as forcefully as possible. We are also aware that sexual molesters are often repeat offenders. That is the purpose of the Takana Forum. We support it fully for the noble purpose it serves.


We also are painfully aware that sexual molestation is a life-threatening crime. We know of young people who committed suicide as a result of molestation. An apology to victims of sexual abuse is an important step towards their healing. Furthermore, one must never choose to have sympathy for the perpetrator or even an innocent family over sympathy for the victim.


Perpetrators of sexual molestation must be publicly identified in order to protect the community from them.


Rav Druckman did the right thing in December 2018 when he forbade Rav Elon to teach or meet with students.


How we wish that he had accepted Forum Takana’s very same wisdom almost a decade before. But, we acknowledge that this time he did the right thing.


On January 22, Rav Druckman issued a statement which was a small step in the right direction but inadequate. He spoke about people who were “possibly” hurt because of his support for Rav Elon. He spoke about being “misunderstood.” Rav Druckman is a great Torah scholar and a wise man. 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. Yossi Greenfield, a Rav Druckman and Rav Elon supporter, did just that. We do not understand why Rav Druckman cannot do something similar.


At the same time we do welcome Rav Druckman’s statement endorsing professional guidelines regarding prevention of sexual molestation in Yeshivot Bnei Akiva. We look forward to that becoming a reality.


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. We value the work of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva and the critical role they play in educating our children in Torah, secular studies, and commitment to serve Israel. We 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 yeshiva. At the same time, we do not want to harm YBA.


With much regret, we feel it necessary to publicly share our thoughts on this matter.


This was additionally written by: Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Rabbi Dale Polakoff

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