Was The Rav Motti Elon Case Messed-Up?

Rav Motti Elon, once the star rabbi of the National Religious camp, was indicted this week on charges of indecent acts against two minors.

The alleged incidents took place in 2003 and 2005, involving teenaged male yeshiva students. The Jerusalem District Prosecution claims that Rabbi Elon exploited his position as an educator and molested these two teenagers on various occasions in 2003 and 2005. Overall, the indictment covers five counts of forceful indecent act and abuse of authority.

Allegations against Rav Elon were first publicised in February 2010, by the hitherto unknown Takana Forum.

Takan Forum had been established in 2003 by leading National Religious rabbis, legal experts and mental health practitioners. The Rav Elon case was apparently brought to Takana soon after Takana opened its doors, and was the first (and so far only) case where Takana has gone public.

Takana's remit is to manage cases of alleged immoral or abusive sexual behaviour by rabbis, teachers and other influential people, within the National Religious sphere of influence.

This initiative followed the Netiv Meir (Yeshiva High School) sex abuse case in which school principal Rabbi Zeev Kopelovich was convicted in the 1990's of molesting pupils in the school over a period of many years, and reportedly with the knowledge of some within the school’s administration, and senior members of the religious Zionist movement, who had failed to inform police about the crimes.

Takana's mandate is solely to manage cases where the suspect cannot be charged with criminal offenses under Israeli law – but may be immoral, abusive, inappropriate. Any case which is categorized as criminal, is referred for investigation by the police, not by Takana.  

In the Rav Motti Elon case, the allegations received by Takana were apparently lodged by students who were not minors (ie were over 18) at the time of the alleged offenses, and who did not press charges with the police or in civil court.

Reportedly due to Takana's instruction, Rav Elon duly left his various rabbinical, management and teaching positions in Jerusalem, and moved to Migdal, a remote village in the north of Israel. This was part of a wider agreement, or protocol, by which Takana governed Rav Elon's behaviour and, in particular, his relationships with students.

When Rav Elon broke that protocol, Takana broke the story.

In the ensuing furore, Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein, instructed the police to investigate whether Rav Elon had committed crimes. The main differentiator being the ages of students who had brought allegations they had been molested bt Rav Elon. During the investigation, further students came forward, brought allegations to the police, and, according to the charge sheet, these boys were 17 at the time of the alleged offenses.

Takana is a well thought out program, operating in a minefield.

It is certainly a major step in the right direction, away from any assumption that religious (or any other) communities can effectively manage criminality in their midst.

This same lesson was learned, equally painfully, in the Modern Orthodox community in the USA with the Rabbi Baruch Lanner case. Allegations concerning Rabbi Lanner were brought by students to the NCSY Youth Movement, who referred the case to their parent organization, the OU, who established an internal Beth Din to investigate and judge the case.

That Beth Din cleared Rabbi Lanner of any misconduct.

When Rabbi Lanner was subsequently arrested in 2002, then charged, then convicted of sex offenses against minors, the OU was required to establish a second investigation, to make recommendations about how to assure such dangerous and scandalous foul-ups could not be repeated in the future.

One of Takana's objectives is to change the law in Israel, so that rabbis, teachers and other people of influence, will be included in existing legislation which spotlights (for example) army officers and employers as being in "positions of authority" who can criminally abuse these positions, even in cases which would otherwise be considered consensual.

If the law were to be changed in this way, Takana would essentially be putting itself out of business – and, by the sounds of it, gratefully so.  


  1. I hope that Takana will be able to go out of business. This should not be voluntary and should have the full public and legal backing it deserves.

  2. I read the blog post twice and I'm not clear on where the mess up was...Did I miss something?

  3. I think Takana is guilty of perpetuating a cover up. Their job should be to encourage and support victims to report abuse. Instead they took it upon themselves to punish Elon, threatening him with going public. (This is a standard cover up technique.)

    Two years later, and who knows how many victims later, they finally 'gave up' and went public. What took them so long? Were they guarding on Elon to ensure against any more victims? They should have publicized his misdeeds to everyone within toeles distance, while pushing for a police investigation.

  4. Rocky - Takana was initally dealing with a case that was not criminal, as the alleged "victims" were all age 18 or over. The acts in question were undoubtedly immoral, but not, under Israeli law, illegal. Accordingly, Takana reached an agreement with Rav Elon that he would no longer be involved in activities that would bring him into contact with youth, so as to keep anything similar from happening again, but there were no grounds to go to the police. It was only when Rav Elon did not keep to the agreement that Takana (properly) went public, in order to warn that Rav Elon was a danger. Subsequent to that disclosure, several cases came out where the victims were, in fact, minors, and it is for these subsequent cases that Rav Elon is being charged.

    The proposal now is to make it that there is a presumption of coersion in a teacher/student relationship, even when the student is not a minor; if there were such a law in effect at the time of the initial Takana agreement with Rav Elon, even the earlier cases would have been criminal, and would have been dealt with by the police, and not Takana. As no such presumption now exists under Israeli law, there was nothing for Takana to take to the police at that time, which is why they reached the original agreement.

  5. David - Did you see R.Elon's speech in his own defence?

    What do you think?

  6. Jack- yes, I watched the R.Elon speech.

    A few thoughts:

    I found it a moving performance;

    The bottom line, I feel, is he's fighting yesterday's (actually 2010's) battle.

    He's focused on Takana, and undermining its integrity.

    However, Rav Elon's no longer facing Takana's allegations.

    Rav Elon's now facing the Criminal Court and the Public Prosecutor.

    He reminds me of similar "I'm innocent" speeches by Moshe Katzav, Bill Clinton, and other brilliant, famous and charismatic individuals - desperate men who have been tragically upstaged by their moral failings.

  7. Anon: "Takana reached an agreement with Rav Elon that he would no longer be involved in activities that would bring him into contact with youth, so as to keep anything similar from happening again, but there were no grounds to go to the police."

    This is exactly what I'm talking about. Who were they to work out any agreement? And just how were they going to ensure that he fulfill his agreement? Did they hire a shomer? Anyway, this agreement is no better than R'Kornfeld's pedophile shita.

    Also, anyone can make a complaint to the police, and it will be investigated to some extent, even if it's not clear if the law was actually broken. Had this happened, maybe the other teens would've come forward then, two years ago.

    That Takana did not publicize this two years ago to see if there were more victims, and instead handled it themselves quietly, is simply a cover up to me.

    Perhaps just substitute the word Joe Paterno for Takana and see what you get...


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