I am not inclined to dwell on stories of sexual abuse. Not because I don’t think they are serious issues. Of course I do. They are perhaps among the most serious issues affecting Orthodox world. Sex abuse is as much a part of Orthodoxy as it is in the rest of the world. Experts in the field generally testify to that effect.
The argument against such thinking has always been that a Torah based life will preclude such behavior… that our sense of ethics and morality will hold sway over us. While that may generally be true, we are not the only ones that have a moral code or lead lives based on biblical values.
The reason the statistics are likely be the same is because being a sexual predator has nothing to do with the moral code of the community from which a predator comes. I believe it is a form of narcissism and psychopathy in which to satisfy his abnormal sexual urges.
Sexual predators are manipulative calculated and cunning. Someone that might otherwise be an exemplary individual – even a pillar of the community – will act on their impulses when no one is looking. They develop patterns of behavior that seek out victims to satisfy those urges and find ways to keep their victims quiet. Thus they can be walking around in a community for years, getting tons of respect and accolades galore while they secretly satisfy their abnormal sexual urges in private. Until they are caught.
I don’t dwell on these cases for several reasons. One is that unfortunately there are so many predators out there that my blog would be doing nothing else. So, as important as these issues are, I allow others to deal with it – which they do in a far more effective way than I ever could. I also feel very strongly that there are a variety of issues - some of them existential - that are important to discuss. I try and touch all of them as I encounter them.
Even though I don’t dwell on issues of sex abuse, I do occasionally deal with it as the situation warrants. Especially when prominent widely integrated Orhtodox Rabbis and educators are involved. Such was the case when I discussed convicted rapist, Nechemya Weberman who had wide and deep integration into the world of Satmar. Or like Elimelech Meisels who preyed on women in his seminaries which were geared to young women of the Yeshiva world.
Unfortunately we now have another individual like that. He is highly integrated into the world of Orthodoxy . His name is Meir Pogrow. If you google him you see almost entirely his accomplishments and contributions to the Torah world.
He is quite brilliant. Perhaps even a genius. His website boasts over 2000 Shiurim (lectures) on a variety of Torah subjects. He developed a program called Master Torah wherein he claims to enable people to understand Torah at much deeper levels than is commonly learned. He has several prestigious Semichot (rabbinic ordinations) including one from the Chief Rabbinate. He has even received a document qualifying him as a Dayan (Judge) in a Beis Din (religious court). He has taught at places like Aish Hatorah. He was a Rosh Kollel. And he now lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel.
One can see from this that he is not only brilliant, but pretty mainstream. Which makes him extremely dangerous.
What is unique about this particular predator is that a ruling was issued by a Charedi Beis Din warning people to stay away from this fellow. It seems that he was supplied women for abuse by a female associate so that he could sexually abuse them in hotel rooms.
A letter was issued signed by rabbis that are highly respected in the Charedi world. And they almost never sign anything publicly! They additionally published a letter in both Hebrew and English warning the public about him and said the accusations are so severe that modesty prevents them for discussing them publicly.
I don’t think there has yet been a predator that was so widely respected and as brilliant as Pogrow that has committed sexual crimes as heinous as this letter indicated. I don’t think there has ever been a letter to this effect by about someone like this by Charedi rabbis.
In addition to warning as many people as possible about this guy, (which is one reason I am discussing it here) it is important to note that knowing Torah is no guarantee that it will not be misused. Nor does it prevent a predator from committing these crimes. In fact being brilliant and knowledgeable in Torah is actually a weapon in the hands of someone like Pogrow. A weapon he has used effectively on his victims. He is not the first one to do that. And unfortunately he will likely not be the last. Sexual aberrations combined with obsessive compulsive disorder will not go away just because we will it.
It behooves all of us in the Orthodox world to be vigilant. We can no longer assume that prominent Orthodox figures that have great Torah resumes could never be guilty sex crimes.
My sincere hope is that other religious bodies like the Agudah will take note of what happened here and allow credible accusations of abuse be reported directly to the police. Let them sort it out. Let the experts deal with it. Because even in the rare circumstance that an accused abuser is innocent (which could ruin his reputation) the greater danger is that there will be more victims if the accusations are true. If there was ever an adage that was true, it is the following. Justice delayed is justice denied!