Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Jewry's Indifference To Rabbinic Abuse?

Charlotte Schwab writes in her book Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust:

When I was asked to contribute to the article Lilith magazine was preparing about Carlebach's alleged sexual misconduct, I refused, asking why they would not publish articles about living rabbis who have transgressed, who still transgress, rather than writing about a deceased rabbi, about cases which cannot be investigated formally because the accused rabbi is deceased. They chose not to write about living rabbis who are accused of sexual misconduct. I had the same experience with Moment magazine. I was told they would not publish anything "against" rabbis. An assistant editor there told me that a rabbi who was regular contributor to the magazine had effectively "killed" the article I submitted to them which she, and possibly others there, wanted to see them publish. Further, in trying to find a publisher for this book, several large publishing houses told my agent that they "would not 'take on' the rabbinic establishment."

The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America

On the morning of January 25, 2002, I placed a telephone call to the Orthodox Union in New York City to see if anything had changed as a result of the Rabbi Baruch Lanner case... I informed the receptionist who answered that this was a long distance call, and that I wanted information about whether the Orthodox Union or Rabbinical Council of America has a policy regarding rabbis' sexual misconduct. The call was given to a man who sounded angry from the minute he answered, and became angrier by the minute. I repeated to him that I was calling to ask if the Orthodox Union or the Rabbinical Council of America has a policy regarding sexual misconduct by their rabbis. He said, "I do not know what that means." Then, he snapped, "Any behavior that is contrary to halacha is not permitted." I asked what that meant. He said, abruptly, angrier, "Any behavior contrary to Jewish law or civil law is not permitted." I asked how a woman who has a complaint would proceed. He said, angrily, curtly, "Send me a letter; I presume your name will beon it," assuming I have a complaint. I asked, "What is your name?" He barked, "Rabbi Steven Dworken." I asked him to spell it. He did, curtly.
I asked, "What will be done with the letter? Is there any written down procedure? Who will be involved? How will you handle it?" He said, tersely, still sounding very angry, "We'll see. This is an internal matter. Shabbat shalom!" He sounded almost as if he were spitting the latter words out. The words, which mean have a peaceful Shabbat, and his tone were in entire contradiction. I could only shudder at what a woman who might call about having been abused by a rabbi would do at such a hostile response, and I could imagine her fear, her tears.