The Elon Lesson

The sentencing last week of Rabbi Mordechai “Moti” Elon concluded the trial of a prominent, charismatic national-religious spiritual leader.

December 21, 2013 22:20
3 minute read.
Rabbi Motti Elon.

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


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The sentencing last week of Rabbi Mordechai “Moti” Elon concluded the trial of a prominent, charismatic national-religious spiritual leader. It also reminded us all of the dangers and distortions that exist in closed communities, particularly those based on religious faith.

There is much that is appealing in faith-based, conservative- minded communities, particularly in this age of post-modernism that has brought with it a crisis of faith and untethered value-relativism. In Israel, haredim, Muslims, Druse, Beduin and others are interested in conserving their unique identities and values. Often religion is the primary source of values and identity. For many, life is inconceivable outside their respective community.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

While there may be many positive aspects to these “communities of meaning” as providers of belonging and identity, there are many potentially destructive elements as well.

In the national-religious community, as in any other closed, faith-based community, scandal – particularly sexual scandal – is often dealt with in accordance with a warped and ultimately self-destructive inner dynamic.

Community leaders exert much energy maintaining secrecy and protecting reputations. Victims of sexual harassment are denied justice, and they are often placed under massive social pressure to discourage them from filing police charges – particularly when the suspected sexual offender is a high-profile rabbi.

Self-proclaimed defenders of the community – in this case the religious-Zionist community – evoke the name of Judaism as justification for their despicable behavior.

In a cruel distortion of Judaism’s message, leaders motivated by fear that their community will acquire a bad name confuse the victim with the sexual predator.

Young men and women who dare to come forward to complain of sexual harassment are accused of transgressing the Torah’s prohibition against slander, while the revered rabbi or teacher who shamelessly exploited his student’s trust is transmogrified into the victim of a witch-hunt. Shame is a particularly powerful tool utilized to intimidate and to silence dissent. Crimes are covered up supposedly to prevent the desecration of God’s name – in the process a much greater desecration is committed.

The Takana Forum was created within the religious-Zionist community to combat this self-destructive dynamic. Similar bodies have been created in haredi, Muslim and Catholic communities. Only by providing a discreet alternative to a standard police complaint could sexual scandals be properly treated, believe the creators of these bodies. While the Takana Forum and similar bodies are an improvement to a situation in which almost all complaints are suppressed, they tend to prefer settling matters quietly, behind closed doors, even if sex offenders go unpunished.

In Elon’s case, the Takana Forum was ultimately ineffectual. Seven years ago, the forum reached the conclusion that Elon had to be banned from teaching in formal educational institutions. But despite warnings, he returned to teaching.

Even today, after being convicted and sentenced, Elon continues to teach in various frameworks, including at Or Etzion, a hesder yeshiva headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman that receives state funding. Among his circle of supporters, Elon enjoys the sort of status reserved in secular societies for rock stars and celebrities, combined with the unshakable religious belief that as a spiritual leader, he has a unique understanding of God’s will that makes him all but infallible.

Serious thought should be given to taking further steps against Elon. Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich called Thursday to prevent him from teaching at Or Etzion.

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate will reportedly be considering stripping Elon of his title “rabbi.”

It is not surprising that many people searching for meaning and belonging are attracted to closed communities.

These communities have many positive attributes. But when tight-knit, faith-based communities are dysfunctional, it is the obligation of others, whether politicians, government authorities or institutions, to step in to take responsibility for protecting the weak.

Related Content

August 15, 2018
Election 2018: A Jewish perspective