In recent days prominent rabbi Mordechai (Moti) Elon, founder of the religious Zionist outreach organization Mibereshit, has been accused of sexual harassment of young men in counseling situations. The religious Zionist forum Takanah (mentioned in the case of the founder of Megeirot) learned of the allegations several years ago. In its statement, the first anyone heard of the story, Takanah reports on a deal with the rabbi to leave Jerusalem for the smaller, more isolated northern town of Migdal. Elon also agreed to stop counseling.
Lurker explains why covering up harassment and molestation is a bad thing. Takanah was formed to protect the past and future victims of sexual abuse and harassment. Instead they protected the powerful rabbi. As Lurker writes:
By engaging in this sort of “not in my backyard” cover-up, the members of Takana showed that they have learned nothing whatsoever from the many similar cases of rabbinic sexual abuse that have preceeded this one. Habitual sexual predators always repeat their pathological behavior. The people who bear the brunt of the responsibility for Elon’s victims over the last four years are the committee members themselves.
Not at all surprsingly, other victims are now starting to come out with their stories:
As someone who closely followed the Baruch Lanner scandal for two decades, I find this entire scandal nauseatingly familiar:
- The shameful cover-up to protect the sexual predator and the community.
- The inevitable recidivism of the predator.
- The publication of the facts only after the cancer has metastasized into something too outrageous to ignore.
- The victims who finally find the courage to speak up only after (and because) the scandal has become public knowledge.
- The cruel demonization of the predator’s hapless victims.
- The crowds of blind groupies living in group denial, ready to defend the predator regardless of the facts or the cost for future victims.
- It’s the same story every single time — Lanner, Kolko, Weinberg, Gafni, et al. — and now Elon.
The members of Takana thought that if they tried to handle the problem “quietly”, then it would just “go away”. This, in spite of the fact that this irresponsible approach has never worked, and has proven itself a tragic failure repeatedly. The end is always the same. The Takana members bear no less guilt than Elon himself.
It’s like reliving the same awful horror movie over and over again.
Muqata also linked to a (Hebrew) transcript of a talk by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. Unfortunately, R. Lichtenstein has to defend Takanah against complaints by Elon’s defenders. Yet Takana was right to publicize the story, only it took too long. In the transcript R. Lichtenstein seems proud of how Takana kept the story secret for four years despite the best efforts of reporters:
We wanted to ensure privacy because of human dignity and the principle of secrecy, not a concept invented by “Takana” but an element of basic human respect. In another place [MiI: I’m not sure what is meant here], there aren’t reporters right under your nose searching for information. And yet, we managed to keep the secret for four years! And people are wondering how it was possible? A man in the street, the press knew nothing.
Keeping secrets is not a good thing when it protects molesters.
I found this passage especially disturbing: (my translation and emphasis):
There was a story involving two incidents and we debated and debated, and the whole time, we were hoping it would straighten out. After the first stories and a “shmitah” passed [MiI: a sabbatical year (7) since the first incident occurred—it was reported to R. Lichtenstein 5-6 years ago.], we hoped that the man accepted responsibility, and surely now he is interested in overcoming these tendencies and understands that it affects his situation and standing.
At that stage we took a soft approach in terms of the steps we wished to take so that the phenomenon would not spread and so that there would be a touch [Heb: nima] of sanctions, and pass on the message, “and your camp should be holy.” We hoped so much. Who wants to get dirty with such a thing? Who would be interested (in announcing it)? Mercy for a man on a personal level. Imagine how much one must pity a man that should not be pitied. All this time, we hoped.
I understand this mercy for their colleague. But where was the mercy for the victims? All these years the victims suffered in secret, thinking they were the only ones. They probably thought they had imagined it, or blown it out of proportion. The silence of Takana led to the abuse of new victims.
Think what pain could have been averted if Takana had warned the public three years ago. Elon’s reputation should have been the least of Takana’s concerns.
My husband pointed out that Takana was still a young organization, not yet mature enough to take on a powerful and influential figure like Elon.
I hope that next time, it will be.