Rosenblum's Smoke-Screen




Jonathan Rosenblum’s latest article about Tiger Wood’s indiscretions is a clever analysis of how heroes can tragically fall.

However, Rosenblum waffles his way into the trap of finishing his piece by disingenuously bringing the orthodox Jews into the picture, as a ‘neat’ contrast, wrapping up his article:

I wish I could say that self-destructive behavior, like that of Tiger Woods, is unknown among Orthodox Jews, or at least among Orthodox rabbis. But I have no particular desire to make a fool of myself.


Rosenblum would have wished to say that orthodox Jews don’t succumb to weaknesses of the flesh – in contrast to Tiger Woods. But, in view of this week’s scandal of Rabbi Tropper – such a claim would indeed “make a fool” of Rosenblum.

So he goes for next best:

I am not aware, however, of any figure revered by a large cross-section of Torah Jewry whose private behavior ever stood revealed to be wildly dissonant from his public image.


Rosenblum’s argument is that some orthodox leaders (those “revered by a large cross section of Torah Jewry” – that’s quite a limitation in our factious world) have not been exposed/revealed to have behaved as badly as Tiger Woods.

From a man who eloquently espouses (on any and every occasion he puts pen to paper) that Hareidim are demonstrably better people than all other types of Jews, Rosenblum’s half-hearted claim that the world’s greatest Hareidi rabbonim are better moral examples than a golfer is rather sad.

Yes, it has been a bad few weeks for the Agudah and for their trusty-lackey spokesman Jonathan Rosenblum.

Things seemed to get to a good start, with the much heralded speech by Agudah head Rabbi David Zwiebel, who boldly mentioned at the Agudah convention in October that the “Internet addiction… Substance abuse. Alcoholism. Tobacco addiction. Gambling” exist.
“We are not immune,” he continued. “These things are happening, in our world! We’re losing too many of our young ones… Can we not face these problems? Can we not recognize them?”
And then Rabbi Zwiebel explicitly mentioned child molestation and domestic violence.
“There are problems, and they are niglos [out in the open—ed.]!” concluded Zwiebel. “We can’t pretend. We must talk and we must do something!” (www.vosizneias.com)


After dozens of years (generations?) of NOT recognizing these human problems also exist in Hareidi communities, and therefore a disastrous history of their rabbonim repeatedly resorting to Denial/Distract, Blame the Victim/Messenger and Circle-the-Wagons knee-jerk responses - whenever these crimes and social diseases were (inevitably) revealed – this seemed to some like a long overdue breakthrough.

Finally, a willingness to admit, openly discuss and work on solutions to these problems.

But, in December the rabbonim of the Agudah surprisingly banned all Hareidi internet sites, blogs and forum  – the only place where exactly these covered-up issues Rabbi Zweibel referred to have been “niglos” and openly discussed – was a step back to the old discredited Agudah methods.

It then became clear that this banning (glaringly out-of-step with the fresh new honesty policy) was immediately needed as an emergency pragmatic tactic by Agudah - in order to shut-up the snowballing revelations on these Hareidi blogs, of the nefarious indiscretions of Rabbi Tropper.

This revelation (nigloh) has been followed by an awkward silence by all the Agudah “gedolim” and the pathetic response of their spokesman Rosenblum.

Rosenblum prefers to direct our attentions to Tiger Woods' indiscretions, rather than those rather closer to home, of Rosenblum’s colleague Tropper.

Rosenblum has missed an opportunity to take Rabbi Zwiebel’s call for honesty and action seriously. It’s all very well preaching this from a convention podium – but quite another to throw out the old Agudah habits when a new scandal hits the fan.

Deny/Distract (Rosenblum smoke-screens about Tiger Woods);
Blame the Victim (rabbonim issuing insinuations about the abused woman)
Blame the Messenger (ban the Hareidi blogs);
Circle the Wagons (no Agudah statements, no recognition of a problem)
....business as usual for the Agudah.

Comments

  1. To be fair to Rav Rosenblum, his quote brought above could be referring to historical figures, not anyone alive today. We have no schmutz on such figures as Rav Chaim Ozer Grodsinsky, the Chasam Sofer or the Mechaber, for example.

    What should also be recalled is that Rav Rosenblum does not write in isolation. No matter what source publishes him, his work must be approved by Agudah censors. It is therefore unlikely that he will ever have something appear in print that satisfies the non-Chareidi frum community in terms of a mea culpa. They would not allow him to print it even he felt it should be. Thus, when he does admit there's a slight problem, it is his way of saying that it's actually a really, really bad problem but this fashion is the only way he can get it through.

    Certainly it beats Rav "Rubashkin is innocent I tell you! Shafran and Rav "It's all the police's fault that Chareidim call them Nazis!" Lipschutz.

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  2. He did say "a large cross-section". How many people are there like that?R' Elyashiv? R' Kanievsky? R' Yosef? No, those three are good. He narrowed it down to a very small subset. Plus, he could be talking about right now - once the dirt is dished, people don't revere them any more.

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  3. Would JR consider those who took money from Tropper to be revered such as the senior figures of Moetzes who were part the EJF sessions as well as Jonathan Rosenblum himself. Perhaps the halachic experts could help. But I always assumed that when you depend on someone for money you are nogeiah b'davar when it comes to objectively evaluating them. Thus I ask Rabbi Rosenblum (as he was listed on EJF literature) why he does not explore that issue? Bottom line, how many of the ban signers were recipients of Tropper money?

    I would also ask attorney Rosenblum (Yale Law) why he does not recognize a conflict of interest. Professional journalists at least advise readers of their relationships to their subject.

    Mind you, there would be a better analogy in Tiger if he was accused of throwing games for mob bookmakers or sleeping with the officials scoring the games or even selling defective golf clubs.

    No one is accusing the rabbis of lousy golf playing. We are saying questions need to be asked about the integrity of psak and dayanos. But obviously these are trivial things to Jonathan compared to the honor of the Agudah. Which goes to prove that a combination of rabbinic training and legal training is no match for the self serving unhalachic politics of the Agudah.

    David,yYou are too kind to David Zweibel, another lawyer-rabbi. Agudah has been holding meetings about molesting for FIVE years. People used to argue that change is a slow process. But the Israeli Agudah showed it can knock out a hole-in-one ban in several weeks. Over the last five years they have done dozens of bans. They have even streamlined the process to where they have dispensed with the old fashioned practice of letting the objects of the ban make the case for themselves. Clearly, in Amsterdam the community was old fashioned when they had multiple meetings with Spinoza before they put him in cherem. Or perhaps daas torah indicated that Nosson Kamenetsky's Making of a Godol was much more dangerous than Spinoza. I also admire how the internet ban dispensed with old fashioned handwritten signatures and replaced them with printing. Definitely a good practice that speeds things up. I imagine Zweibel is sincere in having another 5 years of meetings to confirm that the revealed has been revealed clearly enough.

    I used to think the objective was to persuade the established leaders to reform. But I am getting pessimistic. While this deterioration is a tragedy for the community it creates a booming job market for PR flacks and hacks.

    Jonathan, keep it up. It may cost the community it wellbeing. But it should have no bearing on your income.

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  4. A few points:

    1) But, in December the rabbonim of the Agudah surprisingly banned all Hareidi internet sites, blogs and forum

    What does this ban have anything to do with Agudas Yisrael of America? What has it to do with Agudah at all?

    2) It then became clear that this banning (glaringly out-of-step with the fresh new honesty policy) was immediately needed as an emergency pragmatic tactic by Agudah - in order to shut-up the snowballing revelations on these Hareidi blogs, of the nefarious indiscretions of Rabbi Tropper

    Became clear? Exactly how? What evidence is there to suggest that these two events have any connection whatsoever? Or is this just the product of someone conspiracy-minded enough to connect two unrelated events with a theory which the whole proof is nothing but the motivation of poring scorn?

    3) Rosenblum: I am not aware, however, of any figure revered by a large cross-section of Torah Jewry whose private behavior ever stood revealed to be wildly dissonant from his public image.

    You haven't shown how Tropper would fit this category. Revered? I beleive Rosenblum is referring to an entirely different type of person. A godol, or similar stature talmid chacham, not a busy askan.

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  5. David I find two of your points here very insightful:

    (1) Perhaps the internet ban was indeed to prevent the Tropper scandal hitting the "real" charedi sites and blogs. The timing is certainly accurate, and had those sites been open they certainly would have carried some details about it.

    Honestly I think this was wise and appropriate. Lashon Hara is only l'toeles if it is kept to the absolute minimum necessary to achieve its job - and we see quite clearly that without any Charedi reporting, this scandal surfaced and the fallout has begun. Any additional talk would only be chilul Hashem.

    However, in today's media-addicted world, it would serve everyone better if the Charedi leadership would make a constructive statement about the matter. Both to give the best PR chance for our community, and to help the community itself to reflect on the awful case with a Torah perspective.

    After all, the Gedolim trusted this man with decisions more precious than maybe any other askan.

    (2) Rabbi Rosenblum's assertion that Gedolim ("revered" figures) don't stumble into such a mess is nothing but a self-serving red herring. The problem which many have been grumbling about is not the Gedolim, chalila, but the Gedolim-askanim dynamic of today.

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  6. Hamasig,

    Nice try but you know well that David's points are right on the mark. The only issue may be his calling the names on the Kol Korei "Aguda".

    And yes, Tropper was revered and praised by many rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, even some of the major leaguers.

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  7. Hamasig - "is this just the product of someone conspiracy-minded enough to connect two unrelated events with a theory which the whole proof is nothing but the motivation of poring scorn?"

    I am not a private investigator and I am not holding incontrovertible proof of the connection between the R.Tropper scandal and the Kol Korei banning the Hareidi internet sites.

    However, it is far more than a wild conspiracy theory.

    The same organization and the same individuals were behind both R.Tropper and behind the Kol Korei.

    No less than 10 of the rabbinical signatories on the Kol Korei banning the Hareidi internet sites are are the same rabbonim on the Haskama letter for Tropper's Eternal Jewish Family (EJF).

    And the Kol Korei ban simply didn't make sense as a stand-alone act. The same rabbonim had banned use of the internet ALTOGETHER several years ago, and so the sub-ban on davka Hareidi internet sites (not the goyisha ones this time!) was otherwise redundant.

    Further the timing of the Kol Korei was too immaculate to be put down to mere coincidence.

    Yes, this evidence is circumstantial, we have the same people, the shared motive and the timing - but it's pretty compelling.

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  8. No less than 10 of the rabbinical signatories on the Kol Korei banning the Hareidi internet sites are are the same rabbonim on the Haskama letter for Tropper's Eternal Jewish Family (EJF)

    Big deal. You can find the same names on dozens and dozens of letters.

    And the Kol Korei ban simply didn't make sense as a stand-alone act. The same rabbonim had banned use of the internet ALTOGETHER several years ago,

    It makes sense if it works where the first one didn't. It makes no sense if it doesn't work in the same way the first one didn't.

    Further the timing of the Kol Korei was too immaculate to be put down to mere coincidence.

    Unless they have nothing to do with each other. That's what makes all conspiracy theories juicy.

    It also makes no sense issuing bans on Ivrit sites to takle a problem of someone who has extremely limited influence within the Ivrit speaking world.

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  9. The interesting thing about the internet ban was that there were no eidah signers and the sephardi signers were Agudah connected.

    In contrast the paskavil attacking tropper seemed eidah in character and spelled america, yiddish style, consistent with eidah fashion. Morevoer the scandal was broken by Daas Torah's R Eidensohn, an Eidah oriented web site. I know for sure that multiple sources were given the tropper recordings by Dec 9 and the ban came a few days later, with the names printed, not signed (that cuts a few days off ratification) So the timing and the coalition allignment makes sense. The American and Israeli Agudah are aligned on their connections to Tropper.

    Proof no. Plausible, yes.

    I would be interested in hearing a plausible alternative explanation for the ban and for its timing. Why now?

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