Child Abuse: Rav Motti Elon and Komemiyut


The case of Rabbi Motti Elon, the charismatic National Religious rabbi, has now been investigated by the police in Israel, who are apparently recommending prosecuting Rabbi Elon for child abuse and other sex crimes.

Meantime, shocking details are emerging from the ultra-orthodox community of Komemiyut , located near Kiryat Gat, regarding a decades long cover-up of a child molester in the community, Shimshon Walzer  – who is reported to have attacked dozens of children. The alleged perpetrator is now in the USA, and is unlikely to return to face his investigators.    

Of the 40 cases in which there is suspicion of abuse by Walzer, the police have reportedly collected complaints and testimony from 16 purported victims, who were aged between 7 and 16 when the acts were committed. Two complained against an additional suspect (who was a minor during the time of most of the alleged offenses). Many of the witnesses, now married and living outside the moshav, were not willing to make official complaints, for fear they would be exposed. The acts were apparently frequent, and committed in abandoned barns and chicken coops, or surrounding fields.

It is interesting to compare these two cases – Rav Motti Elon, and Shimshon Walzer.

In both instances, their communities endeavored to handle the problem internally.

With Rav Motti Elon, Takana, a forum of leading National Religious rabbis, tried to control Rav Elon’s access to victims, for a period of four years between discovery until they finally threw their hands up in despair at Rav Elon’s non-compliance, and broke the news in February this year about Rav Elon’s alleged affairs with his male (over 18 yo) students.

It now seems that there were other victims which Takana was unaware of, which the police have  investigated, including minors.

In Komemiyut, Shimon Walzer was apparently dismissed from his teaching job 18 years ago, as a measure taken by the community to address his alleged pedophilic behaviour. He was subsequently employed as a fundraiser by the community - a profession which, compared with teaching, inevitably resulted in Walzer having less day-to-day access to children.

However, with victims reportedly “in every family in Komemiyut” – the community’s efforts to handle the problem internally, appears to have been disastrously unsuccessful.

The incentive for close communities, whether National Religious or Ultra-Orthodox, to contain scandal by trying to control the behaviour of alleged pedophiles, without recourse to the police, social services and mental health professionals, is a hazardous policy – which indeed, in both cases, seems to have back-fired with terrible costs to the safety of children (and, in Elon’s case, over 18 year old youths).

This comparison would not be complete without noting that Takana worked within the legal framework of the Mandatory Reporting Laws (under which Takana were apparently not required to report Rav Elon's misdemeanours to the police - as the cases Takana were aware of solely involved 'consenting' over-18's) - whereas the community of Komemiyut seems to have broken the Mandatory Reporting Laws, over a period of decades.

Dealing with alleged sex criminals in our communities is not a problem for which there is a Holy Grail solution.

Even the police, prison services, psychiatric and psychological professionals, the works…regularly fail to curb pedophilic behaviour.  

[Incidentally, these resources are not much more successful with (non-sexual) violent criminals and thieves, drug dealers or fraudsters. Repeat offenders (recidivism) is not solely a problem of dealing with pedophiles. People don't get better in prison.]

What is clear, is that communities do have resources which the authorities (police, social services, etc) lack; and it is surely obvious that communities working in isolation from the big-guns provided by the State, are hopelessly lacking in ability to “deal with” such major crimes internally.

An improvement upon both approaches would be a community based organization, such as the recently established organization “Magen” in Bet Shemesh, working in full cooperation with the State authorities, in compliance with the Law, and solely focused on strengthening the safety of the community’s children.   

Comments

  1. David,

    While it is understood that Magen was only recently established, do you have any actual examples of successful "operations" working with the state authorities to stop a pedophile?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Anonymous

    As you mention, Magen is still in start-up phase.

    Evaluating the effectiveness of Magen's approach will only be possible with time.

    Also, clear definitions are needed for what would be considered "success".

    In that regard I question your definition of success: "to stop a pedophile".

    Does this mean to put him in prison (and what if he comes out and re-offends)?

    To get him treatment?

    To get him out of a career which gives him access to children?

    To chase him out of our community (and into someone else's)?

    Can you explain in more detail what would constitute successfully "stopping a pedophile"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd say cutting off his winkie would do for a start!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay, short of that (no pun intended) I (the "real" anonymous would say, any and all of the above! It's up to you, your organization and the experience that you will gain as Magen grows to determine the best course of action with every suspected pedophile.
    However, in the meantime we the community of concerned parents want to see results! This means that those who are abusing our children are distanced from their victims. "Out" him, arrest him, get him treatment, whatever, so long as the result is that he will not be able to continue destroying lives. You've taken on a big responsibility, fraught with serious repercussion if you err, but we the parents "have your back." Do whatever you feel is right, but (I repeat) stop these pedophiles!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anon,

    You the parents may have Magen's "back" until some well meaning rabbonim decide that they can handle it better.
    We all know that Ramat Bet Shemesh is a haven for pedophiles because they enjoy the protection of some of the community leaders.
    Sending a pedophile to another community, school or job just reinforces this.
    Parents should stand up to such community leaders, schools and such and send the message that we won't tolerate this and "no, perhaps you don't know better" than the professionals on how to deal with this sickness in our midst.
    It is very sad that after the high profile cases in RBS over the last years that certain rabbonim were allowed by their kehilot to ban David Morris and Lema'an Achai rather than banning molestation and pedophilia.
    What are we coming to?

    ReplyDelete
  6. David Morris and Lema'an Achai were not banned; they were only banned from making fundraising pitches from the pulpit.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It Depends What "is" is. (Clinton)13 August 2010 at 09:57

    To The Clarifier:

    Ahemjaned and the other depsots aren't Anti Jewish, they are just Anti-Zionist.

    When a Rav says that an upstanding local organization that does holy work can't make appeals (but other organizations are free to) it is certainly a form of ban.

    Such a Rav should also know that actions such as this cause a direct hezek to the organization (and the poor people it helps) and he will be accountable one day for this damage. If even one person stops giving on account of these "Nuremberg like" decrees the goraim will have to answer for his actions. Perhaps one should ask Lema'an Achai if, in fact, donations from this shul have decreased. If they have no pilpul about "pulpit" will help. Direct, tangible hezek occured.

    To say that Lema'an Achai is "only banned from making fundraising pitches from the pulpi" is not a ban insults the intelligence of his own as well as the entire community.

    The time has come for people to put aside egos and work together for welfare of our community.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Contesting the Clarifier13 August 2010 at 15:42

    Can the Clarifier clarify why Lema'an Achai was banned?

    If there is a problem with David Morris what is the purpose of punishing tzedaka?

    What did this noble organization do to receive the wrath and fury of the Mora D'asra of BTYA?

    Just because David Morris is involved? Perhaps then those who disagree with this policy of the Rav should ban the businesses and services of BTYA members.

    Then again people connected to Lema'an Achai and David Morris wouldn't stoop to such low levels.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear The Clarifier,

    The subtlety of being "banned from the shul" vs being "banned from making appeals" is lost on me...

    What's the difference in its effect upon the kehilla?

    And what is the 'crime' David Morris and Lema'an Achai have been accused of (and apparently found guilty)?

    Aside from working diligently to protect our children from abusers and their enablers?

    By the way, an "enabler", as defined by the law, is someone who doesn't report suspicions of child abuse cases to the police/authorities.

    Wouldn't that include the rav of BTYA?

    ReplyDelete
  10. The only "crime" ever committed was in mentioning to the Jerusalem Post that "local Haredi Rabbis" had not been helpful in local child abuse cases. The BTYA Rav saw himself in these nameless allegations ( guilt, perhaps?). The ban was imposed by what the Rav thought was a dent in his ego. No more, no less. Now what kind of Ben Torah cares what anyone thinks of him or what is reported in the secular press? Rav Kornfeld didn't get upset, nor , for once, did Rav Perlstein. They simply don't care what it says on the Internet nor in the JP. The big question to ALL BTYA members is why didn't ANY of you question this and why did you just sit back and let it happen? You should ALL have doubled your donations to Lemaan Achai just out of embarrassment.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Boruch haGever Asher Yivtach Ba"HaShem15 August 2010 at 13:04

    Anon,

    Good point. The only issue here is that David Morris NEVER said "local Haredi Rabbis".

    As you said the rav of BTYA must have felt a raw nerve and acted in defense.

    How can a kehilla of educated, thinking people tolerate the banning of such an amazing organization?

    Could someone from the shul please explain this to me.

    Yes, a rav can be a tzaddik, a talmid chochum and very wise.

    He is also human and can make mistakes.

    It is frightening to think that a kehilla such as BTYA could tolerate this injustice just because "the rav said it".

    ReplyDelete
  12. As there seems to be a dispute of the facts, regarding what I was quoted as saying in the JPost artice in June 2009, for your convenience, this is the "offending" passage in that JPost article (see http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/p/that-article-in-jerusalem-post.html):-

    According to Morris, the problem is concentrated in local independent schools - facilities partially funded by the Education Ministry but not supervised by it - which have failed to be supportive of parents who claim that their child has been a victim. In most of the schools, a rabbinic authority has the final say, and in many cases ends up believing the perpetrators' story over the victims', he says.

    "I don't know why the community leaders chose to protect the adults over the children, but we hope that we can now start to get the word out that children have to be listened to and protected at all costs."

    Morris also says that the response of the authorities such as the police and social services is slow and bureaucratic, with the accused not being found guilty or exonerated for years.

    "It's a no-win situation," he continues. "Most people are greatly disappointed by the official response from both within the community and from outside."

    ReplyDelete
  13. ...That's IT??!!!

    Rav Malinowitz has banned a chesed organization, and publicly humiliated David, because of THAT?!!

    If that's what ALL the fuss is about, then, frankly, Rav Malinowitz is totally, way out of order on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  14. B"H

    I was pleasantly surprised that the mamlachtim (undying state loyalist) rabbis investigated one of their own. After all, he wasn't one of those "extremists." (Sarcasm: there are two, not one religious zionist camps now.)

    I have asked around if Jews think that Shlomo Aviner will be successfully brought to the High Religious Court in Jerusalem, for aledged inproprieties against women, including married women. I was told, no. He's too popular, and it would hurt the RZ camp(s) too much, much more so than the Elon affairs.

    I hope this isn't because his victims were "only women," and that is more tolerable than male victims of male perps.

    shlomo-aviner.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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