No more cover-up

The Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES -

In June 2017, The Jerusalem Post pub­lished an ed­i­to­rial ti­tled “Crime and no pun­ish­ment.” In it, we ar­gued that Moti Elon, once a promis­ing and prom­i­nent Na­tional Re­li­gious rabbi turned con­victed sex of­fender, should not be al­lowed to re­turn to an ed­u­ca­tor po­si­tion and re­open a yeshiva in Jerusalem where he could teach young stu­dents.

What prompted the ed­i­to­rial was news that Elon had opened a yeshiva in Jerusalem called “Beit Va’ad U’Midrash” and that he was once again meet­ing with and teach­ing young men. We also took is­sue with the sup­port he was re­ceiv­ing from an­other rabbi, Haim Druck­man, an Is­rael Prize lau­re­ate, for­mer mem­ber of Knes­set and dean of the pres­ti­gious Or Etzion Yeshiva.

Sadly, we could not have been more right. This week, news broke that Elon, a con­victed sex crim­i­nal, was again abus­ing his po­si­tion of power and had al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted a young man who had come to seek his coun­sel. The young man re­port­edly pre­sented doc­u­men­ta­tion of the as­sault in meet­ings with a group of rab­bis, among them Druck­man.

The Elon saga has been go­ing on for years along­side the im­moral cover up by rab­bis and sup­port­ers who re­fused to come to terms with the news that the rabbi they held in high re­gard was a sex of­fender.

In Au­gust 2013, Elon was con­victed on two counts of in­de­cent as­sault by force against a mi­nor. He never served jail time and was in­stead given a six-month com­muted sen­tence, which he served through com­mu­nity ser­vice, three years of pro­ba­tion and a NIS 10,000 fine he was or­dered to pay the vic­tim.

Elon de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, never ad­mit­ted to his crime and never apol­o­gized to his vic­tim. But, he also did not ap­peal his con­vic­tion in the Jerusalem Mag­is­trate’s Court, a sign pos­si­bly that he him­self un­der­stood the ev­i­dence against him could not be re­futed or over­turned.

It is im­pos­si­ble to know, but had rab­bis like Druck­man taken the court’s de­ci­sion se­ri­ously back in 2013, this young man might not have fallen vic­tim to Elon’s new al­leged sex­ual of­fenses. Druck­man has a his­tory in pro­tect­ing sex of­fend­ers. In the 1990s, he al­lowed Ze’ev Kopolovich, rosh yeshiva of the pres­ti­gious Ne­tiv Meir high school in Jerusalem, to con­tinue teach­ing even as re­ports came to his at­ten­tion that Kopolovich was sex­u­ally as­sault­ing stu­dents. This went on un­til the rabbi was fi­nally ar­rested and con­victed.

Also then, ear­lier ac­tion by Druck­man could have spared the pain of ad­di­tional vic­tims.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett took an im­por­tant step this week, say­ing Elon should not be al­lowed any fur­ther con­tact with stu­dents. We agree, but we would urge Ben­nett to con­sider an ad­di­tional step – call­ing on Druck­man to step down from his lead­er­ship role as the head of Bnei Akiva yeshivot in Is­rael. A man who has re­peat­edly sup­ported sex of­fend­ers should also be held ac­count­able.

The Elon case shows once again how much work is still needed within the Or­tho­dox com­mu­nity to purge sex of­fend­ers and pre­vent them from re­peat­ing their crimes. Elon’s mis­con­duct was first han­dled in 2003 by the Takana Fo­rum, a group of rab­bis, ed­u­ca­tors, law pro­fes­sion­als and ther­a­pists, which works to pre­vent sex­ual abuse. The fo­rum or­dered Elon to re­lin­quish his post as head of the prom­i­nent Yeshi­vat Hako­tel and to with­draw from pub­lic ap­pear­ances and com­mu­nity lead­er­ship roles.

At first, Elon agreed. He moved to a small town called Mig­dal near the Kin­neret and agreed to re­frain from hold­ing pri­vate meet­ings with young men seek­ing his coun­sel.

But when rab­bis like Druck­man started to come out in his de­fense, he be­gan to reemerge. Druck­man’s de­fense con­tin­ued even af­ter Elon was con­victed. In 2013, Druck­man said he be­lieved the court was mis­taken in con­vict­ing Elon.

“I don’t be­lieve there is any­thing in his To­rah les­sons that is not kosher, there is no rea­son not to learn from him or lis­ten to To­rah les­sons from him,” the rabbi told Arutz Sheva at the time.

The Or­tho­dox com­mu­nity needs to learn a les­son from this ex­pe­ri­ence. Sex crim­i­nals are rarely one-time of­fend­ers and while ev­ery per­son is in­no­cent un­til proven guilty, once a rabbi is con­victed by the courts, there should be a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy on al­low­ing him back into pub­lic life.

The old rab­binic boys club needs to come to an end.

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