I’d hate to see Tzedek disappear

I have a lecture to prepare. I don’t really have the time to deal with scurrilous nonsense, so I will be brief.

Tzedek was set up with the best intentions. I am confident that the financial and non financial backers are good people whose final and laudable aim is to help our society deal with past ills and (perhaps even more importantly) create an awareness so that the horrible crime of abuse is seriously minimised etc

Organisations, though, need to be very careful with their words and claims. It is relatively easy to lose credibility very quickly. That’s not to say they shouldn’t speak out. That’s an entirely different matter.

I don’t allow ad hominem attacks on this blog. The purpose of this blog is multifarious as can be seen by the range of topics I choose to write about.

In trying to discredit me, however, I had to laugh with angst at claims and  descriptions put out by Tzedek.

  1. I’m ultra-orthodox. Well, let’s see. Where do I start. My Rabbi isn’t. He advises me on halachic matters. He is shunned by the ultra-orthodox and described as modern orthodox or centrist orthodox. He is a world-class Talmid Chacham but the Aguda don’t even let him speak or sit on a dias at Daf Hayomi Siyumim. He sits at the back on a normal table. It’s a bizayon Talmidei Chachomim. He can learn better than most of them on the dias, but because he is not considered ultra-orthodox, he has no place! I have a PhD, which means I spent many years of my life studying in a University. That’s a no no. Worse, I’m still there. I teach secular topics—Science. I even use the internet, constantly. I use social media. I have a blog. All these are forbidden by ultra orthodox. But wait, it gets even worse. I run a band which plays non-Jewish music and this is to crowds who are mixed dancing. Guests aren’t dressed modestly either, especially in the warmer months. Read my posts on Israel and related matters and see if I’m closer to Zionism than “non” or “anti” Zionism—hallmarks of ultra orthodox. Read my critique of the extreme groups. Yes, I have to unashamedly try to keep Torah and Mitzvos, but if that’s the definition of ultra-orthodox, then I guess many of us are damned by Tzedek. Tzedek’s CEO’s own father is “ultra-orthodox”. Does he describe him as “my ultra orthodox father”. Why do I say, “damned”? Because it is entirely irrelevant what shade of white, black or grey somebody is unless you believe in strange conspiracy theories that people who are lumped by Tzedek into some category (which they don’t define) are likely to be so dumb and stupid, that they will hide the truth or protect people from that same  “Tzedek category”. Sorry, this type of characterisation is Grade 1 level. Does the CEO preface his remarks about someone defending homosexuality as saying “Homosexual Joe Jones said …” that’s simply boorish. It has no credibility as far as debating logic is concerned, let alone, in my case any resemblance to fact. It is a transparent and poor attempt to deflect from the lack of research conducted by Tzedek on the matter of Rabbi Brander’s visit to our shores. Did Tzedek actually ring a roof body, all of whom reacted with probity after reading some of the toilet blog posts and their comments? At the risk of repeating myself, there is no such thing as a Gzera Shava for people, to the extent that if one  does belong to a group, that they are thereby tarnished ipso facto and have lost their independence of thought and action. There is no better proof of that than Tzedek’s CEO’s own father. Is he tarnished because he is Chabad? Why not? Answer: he has his own views and expresses them. A contradiction to the implied thesis in the CEO’s hyperbole. But …. maybe I am ultra orthodox in Galus Australis style, simply because I don’t eat at Lord of the Fries or similar establishments? The mind boggles.
  2. I’ve been criticised because I sit on a Shule board, one of whose ex-members is now facing proceedings. I understand that the CEO of Tzedek is alleged to be one of the victims of said ex-member. Well, hello there Tzedek. Your CEO and his father (and indeed readers of my blog) know very well that it was me who initiated the removal of said ex-member from the board. Do you not remember my father הכ’’מ asking me to take a post down because he thought I should not get involved! Let’s go further. I even had an attempted intervention order (later withdrawn) placed out on me by the aforementioned ex-board member now facing trial, because I was “in his face” so to speak. Tzedek, you have the wrong address. But it’s worse than simply having the wrong address. What’s really worrying, is that (a) you actually know you have the wrong address on such matters, and (b) had you even bothered to ring a single board member of my Shule, they would have told you this. Indeed, ring the accused’s father! Go on, do us all a favour and return with your findings.
  3. On the matter of the COSV and the accused’s membership, again, Tzedek is so far off the mark, it’s really sad that this fact demeans Tzedek terribly. I was present when the conundrum was raised, and frankly, Tzedek ought to have been proud, of the attitude of each member of that executive and individual Shule Presidents. But, let us not let the truth get in the way of Tzedek’s tirades, hyperbole, and one liners in the press.

A pattern is emerging with Tzedek, and it’s a very sad one. It is turning people off Tzedek; people who used to look up to them. Their raison detre is brave and important, but their execution (sic) due to poor research, questionable leadership and the emotive untruths expressed by its leader(ship) is damaging its credibility. That would be a great shame.

I don’t have a clue if any member of Tzedek’s board read my blog, so my words may be in vain. By all means, someone please pass on this blog post to each and everyone of Tzedek’s board members. I would be most happy to meet them in my house at a time of their choosing, and properly explain what is wrong and my thoughts on how it can be fixed.

Have a nice day, everyone. I hope to!

Tzedek shouldn’t be in the business of besmirching honourable people

Rabbi Kenneth Brander is beyond reproach. He has done probably 1000 times more for victims of abuse and beyond than our own Captains of Morality, and is well-known to be absolutely rock solid on moral issues, such as abuse. Yet, we have the Tzedek organisation, in a move which can only be described as approaching the level of the disgraced site run by Scott Rosenberg, expressing “concern”. To be sure, Rosenberg’s site, like Tzedek, performs some good; but it is an amoeba with an anti-Orthodox (especially Chabad) agenda. It isn’t at all dispassionate about fact finding, and is often twisting and sensationalising headlines like a desperate journalist trying to bring down organisations. Unlike Rosenberg, though, I would have expected Tzedek to have done its own solid research before they dare cast any real “concern” about Rabbi Brander. Tzedek have been tardy. If they have anything of substance, apart from discredited articles from the Forward and elsewhere which we can and have all read, then they should put up. Otherwise, let them shut up, and spend their time in the holy task of supporting victims and unmasking actual predators and their supporters.

Does Tzedek think the community are a pack of fools who need their imprimatur in order to determine moral issues? Do they think that the community and individual Shules haven’t seen the badly researched, journalistic hooey, flashing in neon lights? Rest assured, that members of this community involved in overseeing this visit include many people and Rabbis who are at least as moral, sensitive and aware as Tzedek, but perhaps less inclined to hang people on the basis of unproven innuendo or use over-inflammatory language. Yes, it is true, that some have not (thank God) been victims themselves, but you do not have to be a victim to loathe predators or support those who might come to you for help.

I have personally seen current correspondence from arguably the most respected professional experts in this arena, who are very well acquainted with a situation in which they support Rabbi Brander unequivocally based on personal knowledge of the facts.

Rabbi Brander is not only to be looked up to; he has demonstrated many times that he has zero tolerance for those who wish to sweep such issues under the carpet. He has demonstrated this many times in his career, well before it became de jure to do so. Tzedek would do a lot better to actually engage Rabbi Brander in an hour of private discussion. They would be most surprised, and less inclined to issue their “letters of concern”. I have every confidence that they will be most impressed and enthused.

Life isn’t that simple though, and forming a “connection” between Rabbi Brander and the current civil  proceedings over past issues at YU is, frankly, beneath contempt. Is everyone at the Yeshivah Center a supporter of predators because of past sins and ills? Of course not. If they are, then there are people who are directly or indirectly affiliated with Tzedek that can equally dubiously be accused of such “sins of association”.

Tzedek—many in this community do not consider you as our soul or sole moral compass, even though we admire many things you do. We do not consult you in respect of who we should and should not invite to our shores. We have our own access to facts and research, that you simply may not have, nor have discovered. As long as you sit on the outside and do not work within roof bodies all of whom equally abhor abuse, you are in danger of eventually becoming less relevant.

I urge anyone who can attend any and all of Rabbi Branders’ Shiurim and colloquia to do so, and this includes members of Tzedek. This is a unique opportunity.

Disclaimer: it was originally my idea to have the Centre for the Jewish Future  invited to Melbourne to aid Orthodox congregations and organisations in order to re-enfranchise ever increasing Jewishly unaffiliated youth to the holy covenant of Torah and Judaism.

Cheap shots

I was sent a post from Tzedek where its founder wrote (amongst other things)

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school, who said he didn’t try to stop child sex abuse at the high school because he could not be sure the allegations met halackic threshold for truth;

This is a gross lie and misinterpretation of the facts designed to besmirch a respected Rabbi whose position on these matters has been published in writing many times. What R’ Schachter did do, was suggest the kid go immediately to see the School psychologist.

But let’s not let truth get in the way of those whose agenda, while noble, sometimes impedes their Yashrus.

Rabbi Manis Friedman apologises

It is never too late, and it is usually the sign of a good person when they publicly apologise. I received a copy of the apology

I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.

For that I am deeply sorry.

Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.

From now on, I will make sure to make those points absolutely clear. This is about more than regret. The subject can’t be neglected.

I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.

I also received some comments attributed to Manny Waks of Tzedek where Manny was alleged to have said:

It is regrettable that Rabbi Friedman waited until now to issue this apology – but it is nonetheless a welcome development.

I do not understand this back-hander. If it takes a week of world-wide condemnation for someone to realise their wrong and express it, why focus on that week and give them a slap? People don’t always act immediately for a variety of reasons. There is all manner of reason for this, but I see absolutely no value whatsoever in being hypercritical about such. When victims take years and years to realise that going to the police is the right thing to do, would anyone dare say, “Oh that’s a good first step, but we regret that you took so long?”. Rabbi Friedman is not a victim. One week really isn’t an eternity, and Manny’s attack over this aspect really is unnecessary and mean-spirited.

I have no issue with Manny’s organisation Tzedek pursuing the issue, and I am on record as being critical of Rabbi Friedman. That being said, he was very foolish, but he isn’t a fool. I have every confidence that he will turn this incident into a launching pad to assist in shaking out the cobwebs and helping those who have experienced trauma. Sadly, some groups, such as Satmar and the supporters of Rabbi Halpern and Rabbi Padwa are not within cooee of even coming close to changing their attitude to the (correct) Torah view, let alone addressing the issue properly within their communities. Hopefully, Manny’s organisation can make some incursions into these two topical infamous cases. I’d encourage Tzedek and other similar organisations, however, to be a little more temperate in their language. When someone apologises, don’t give them a back-hander; it serves nothing.