Thursday, April 26, 2007

Baltimore's Response to Allegations of Sex Abuse

With all due respect to my friends from the Baltimore Community, i think I am going to be sick.
The Jewish Daily Forward ran an article today on the ongoing debate over the handling of the publishing of the allegations of sex abuse by a former principal of the Baltimore Talmudical Academy, who is now deceased. I wrote about this a few days ago, and expressed my disappointment in the Torah sage, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, for telling his constituents to boycott the Baltimore Jewish Times, ostensibly because of the article they published about Rabbi Shapiro. The article in today's Daily Forward clears up the fact that some in the Orthodox community have wanted the paper banned for a while, for publishing interfaith wedding announcements, advertising non-Kosher food, and showing pictures of women whose dress fails to meet orthodox standards. While I don't agree, at least those reasons I can accept. Banning the paper for publishing stories about alleged molesters is not an acceptable reason. In any event, here is what made me sick. In the article, the following quote appears: "We were outraged by the way they dealt with the molestation case,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, a prominent rabbi living in Baltimore who heads up the Washington office of the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America. “The person who is accused is dead,” Cohen added. “We need to ask what good does publishing his name do and what harm does it cause his family.” OMYGOD!!!! Hello? What good does it do? How about helping dozens of victims heal? Don't we learn anything? A few days ago I made reference to Baruch Lanner, a convicted orthodox Rabbi sex offender and the damage he did to so many. How can we (yes, i mean "we" for I am part of this community) allow this to continue? As someone who witnessed the damage done by these perpetrators, (I worked with children who had been abused for many years) burying the information with the perpetrators merely pepetuates the abuse. All those, and there appear to be many, who suffered silently, can now begin to, or if they are lucky, finish the need to heal brought on by these events.
Many in the Orthodox community of Baltimore have done an amazing job in helping the community deal with this. Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, of congregation Shomrei Emunah, devoted a recent sermon to the need to speak out against sexual abuse. For many, this is an unprecendented step. We need it. Because of people like Abba Cohen (above) who made this thoughtful, caring comment: What are they going to do next? Have a molester of the week feature?” G-d help us.


bendinai said...

The dissimilarities between the Baltimore story and the Baruch Lanner situation are too great to honestly equate the two.

Mottel said...

I disagree. I knew Baruch Lanner. And the comparison was aimed at those in the community who refuse to acknowledge what is happening under their very noses, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Both the Lanner incident and the Shapiro incident seemed to have shared that. And those who continue to say things like.. What good would this do now that he is dead doesn't understand anything about the harm that has been done.