Rabbi Yosef Blau: A Reaction to Rabbi Motti Elon's Public Speech
Note from Tzedek-Tzedek: Rabbi Yosef Blau is the mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University and its affiliated rabbinical school Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchal Elchanan. Rav Blau has been active in helping survivors of abuse in the Orthodox community, including cases involving rabbis and teachers. Rav Blau has kindly agreed to offer his insights to Tzedek-Tzedek regarding the case in Israel of Rabbi Motti Elon, and in particular Rav Elon's speech last week, available in its entirety at: http://www.inn.co.il/TV/Cat.ashx/0/180107.
A REACTION TO RABBI MOTY ELON’S PUBLIC SPEECH
By Rabbi Yosef BlauThe Israeli court system will determine Rabbi Moty Elon’s guilt or innocence of the charges against him. His public speech in Migdal will not affect that determination. However the speech challenged the credibility of Takana, the forum set up by prominent rabbis, psychologists and legal experts to respond to accusations of improper sexual behavior by rabbis and Jewish educators in the Orthodox community. Rabbi Elon accused the forum of making up charges against him and improperly influencing the legal process. He also announced starting a new yeshiva based on his followers in Migdal. To show his disdain for his critics he is calling it the yeshiva of love.
Elon’s charisma and control of his followers were apparent from the onset. The video began with his leading them in religious song, establishing him as the rebbe. Throughout he not only claimed innocence, but cast himself as righteous and a martyr. Facing the difficulty that he accepted leaving his position as rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hakotel and stopped his other projects; Rabbi Elon claimed that he wanted to prevent a chilul Hashem although innocent of all charges. For his supporters the implausibility of this explanation is irrelevant. Their loyalty overcomes any skepticism. I have learned from observing similar situations in America that a charismatic leader does create such trust in his disciples.
He reduced the entire structure of Takana to a small group of power-hungry individuals who mislead the major rabbis to believe the false allegations. He quoted snippets of conversations that supported his description of events although he never clarified what the original complaints were and what exactly occurred when he was interviewed by the forum. Behavior that would not be considered acceptable when done by others was justified as his way of showing love (pure and holy) for his pupils.
I have no direct knowledge of what actually happened but years of involvement with comparable situations in America led to hearing echoes in his speech of what I have heard numerous times. The popular and charismatic leader accuses others of being jealous of his success and manipulating young people to think they were abused. This dismissal of many rabbis and professionals is not questioned by followers who have been convinced that their rabbi is unique. In my experience this scenario has never corresponded to reality. For some true believers no proof will suffice to cause them to lose faith. Unfortunately it is faith in a man disguised as faith in Hashem and Torah.