May 30, 2015

G-d Is Good, (Some) People Not So

I am quite disabled after hip surgery, but I am livid. 

There was an article in the New York Times about a Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt who likes to take children and young adults naked to the sauna and Mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) and watch!

Some even reported that he "gawked at a naked 12-year old," "invited a 15-year old for intimate night time conversations during which he frequently put his hand on the boy's leg," and invited himself into a 17-year old's living room and tried repeatedly to persuade him to change into a bathrobe."

The article describes how this has been going on for around 30 years and the Rabbi was asked in various forms to stop by the Riverdale Jewish Center synagogue, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and even investigated by Yeshiva University (YU). 

Interestingly, this is happening after the "2012 sex scandal involving top Rabbi's from Yeshiva University, another with Rabbi Baruch Lanner with "sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of scores of teens" in his charge in the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and most recently, the 6-year sentencing for "videotaping more than 150 women" (going to the Mikvah) of Rabbi Freundel of Kesher Synagogue (right here in Washington, D.C.). 

All of these sex scandals involved highly prominent rabbi's (and I feel sick to my stomach even using that esteemed word for them), and at the time this abuse was going on and for years after, no one wanted to believe this was happening!

A friend posted this article about Rabbi Rosenblatt on my Facebook page --we both know this Rabbi from Riverdale, NY where we grew up--and asked "What have you to say to this?"

Well let me tell you...many have come forward for the NYT's article and others on my Facebook page and behind the scenes to confirm knowledge of Rabbi's Rosenblatt's gawking and other inappropriate behaviors with children.

- "I refused to consider having him perform my marriage ceremony because of this and another of his 'unusual habits.'"

- "Not only was this common knowledge personally--it was known institutionally, by both YU and the RCA."

Yet others choose to continue the disbelief (some excerpts):

- "I believe these rumors to be vicious slander."

- "I want to believe some weird habits are being blown out of proportion."

So let me tell you that not knowing something is happening or not wanting to believe does not make it so. 

I and others I have spoken to remember children being invited to play racquetball as I remember it (squash in the article) and to go to the Sauna with the Rabbi afterward. 

As someone described for the NYT article about going to the Mikvah with the Rabbi, I can attest that this similarly happened to me PERSONALLY. 

Before I got married, the Rabbi accompanied me to the Mikvah for the ritual bathing which he said was needed before marriage, and just as the 15-year old victim in the article described, the Rabbi was "watching me" and I remember the Rabbi also telling me that he had to in order to see my whole body immersed.

I also remember feeling his look at me being off and feeling sick afterwards, like I just wanted to wash again and again. 

However for others referenced in the NYT article, it was much worse, "The routine was always the same: 'Always the hand on the shoulder or the leg, always the hand touching some part of your body'…The rabbi’s touch 'was very seductive and it was very manipulative in a way.'"

Unfortunately, as is typical, it is easier to blame the victims or disavow them, then acknowledge a deep-rooted sick and evil in our society by some who are at the top of the pecking order religiously and otherwise.

To be completely clear, the chilul Hashem is NOT with the victims, but RATHER it is with the man who for over 30 years continued this sick ruse, even after he was asked repeatedly to stop his inappropriate behavior with children and young adults. 

For those who choose to continue to look the other way, say how nice and scholarly these Rabbis are, and make every excuse in the book, rather than demand a FULL investigation and justice, all I can say is they are being complicit! 

One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved.  

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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