Opening a can of worms

I do enjoy when enablers stick their foots in their mouths. It makes it easier to understand how such a person could turn a blind eye to child abuse. So I thoroughly enjoyed this comment from former senior Sydney rabbi Boruch Dov Lesches:

In a legally recorded telephone conversation heard by Fairfax Media and provided to NSW detectives investigating the Sydney Yeshiva cases, Rabbi Lesches admitted to counselling the alleged abuser upon learning that he had sexually abused a boy a decade his junior. Rabbi Lesches said he told the man that both he and the boy would be forced to leave the Yeshiva community if he could not control his urges.

”If not, both of them would have to leave,” he said.

Rabbi Lesches, who never informed police of the abuse, said he did not know that the man had ignored his warning and gone on to sexually interfere with at least three other boys during the late ’80s. He said other Yeshiva leaders were responsible for supervising the man.

In the conversation, Rabbi Lesches suggested one of the man’s victims, who was aged about 11 at the time of the abuse, may have been a consensual partner. ”Everyone was telling different stories and trying to put the blame on someone else,” he said.

”We are speaking about very young boys … everybody says about the other one that ‘he agreed to this’.”

When challenged on his position that young boys could give consent, Rabbi Lesches replied, ”You would be surprised,” and added that some non-Jewish boys, who he termed ”goyim”, began acting or thinking sexually ”from the age of five”. He also said teenagers from poor backgrounds had ”nothing else to do in life, only thinking 24 hours about sex” with each other, members of their own families and even ”dogs”.

Rabbi Lesches also said reporting the alleged abusers to police so many years after incidents occurred would ”destroy them and their children” and cause pain for victims.

”Do not talk this way … when it is such a long time ago, everybody suffers,” he said. ”If you start to do something about it will not be productive.”

Keep in mind, this man was a religious leader. He knew of the abuse and did nothing, and now wants the victims of the abuse to remain silent to spare the abuser and his family any suffering.

Lesches’ comments read like a stereotypical, anti-Semitic script, yet this is what the man actually said. He not only blames the victims, but takes cheap shots at non-Jews, as if that would make his comments less moronic.

According to the article, Lesches is one of three officials who knew of the abuse but did not report the abuser. The article also states that a traditional rule called Mesirah does not allow Orthodox Jews to report crimes in the community to non-Jewish authorities. That rule might explain why so many people knew about this abuser’s actions yet allowed it to continue. It also explains this:

The alleged abuser was also appointed to the board of an Australian company involved in providing educational materials for Jewish students. He has in recent years been sheltered by a leading Los Angeles Jewish welfare group, with 2011 emails between the man and one of the organisation’s senior members showing he was in danger of having his past in Sydney exposed.

”I have no idea how anyone found out – but calls are coming daily from many sources. So far, we’ve been protecting you,” wrote an executive director from the LA organisation in an email to the man.

This shows how problematic dogma can be when it comes to doing the right thing. One would think every member of the faith would value protecting children over religious officials. Yet when the religion demands a certain behavior, people must choose which to follow: the moral thing or the faith. Far too often, people choose the latter and others end up paying for it.

Lesches apologized for his comments, stating that he “would like to make my position absolutely clear: Without any reservation, I endorse the rabbinical rulings encouraging victims of abuse to report to the police.” Yet he also stated that he had no idea that the abuse occurred despite admitting that he knew about it in original interview.

It takes an impressive amount of denial to reach this point, and it is unclear whether much will change as a result of all the attention. This inaction results from centuries of tradition competing with modern views about child abuse. While Lesches may actually care very much for children, he and people like him often let their religion trump that concern. That is why he would blame the victims in the first place.

And just to make a point about that, let us say the boy initiated the sexual contact. The boy was a child. Whether he was interested in sex or not, the adult in that position should know not to allow such activities to occur. This man could have allowed the boy to confide in him and talk to him about his curiosity and feelings. If the boy were interested in other boys, the man could have spoken to the boy about that or introduced the boy to someone his own age. There are dozens of ways to address that boy’s interest that do not begin or end with the adult having sex with him.

This kind of argument needs to stop because no one applies it in any other case. No one says that it is okay for a person shoot a child to death because the child expressed interest in the person’s gun. We do not blame the child if he gets mauled by a tiger because he told a zookeeper he wanted to pet one. We do not blame the child if he blows his hand off because he told a fireworks specialist he wanted to set some fireworks off.

Yet when it comes to sex, we suddenly expect children to be completely responsible for their normal curiosity. When someone takes advantage of child, we can argue about whether the child should have been more wary. However, we cannot and should not fault the child for someone taking advantage of them.

6 thoughts on “Opening a can of worms

  1. Above and beyond all things that convinced me to become an atheist, the most powerful argument was that “men of the cloth” are, apparently, unapologetic scumbags. It would appear that once you believe Cosmic Tinkerbell is Your Friend, you can get away with murder. I haven’t a molecule of respect for organized religion (and damned little for the unorganized variety).

  2. Schala, I saw the SPLC article a while ago. I think it is rather pathetic that people who have no interest in Silverman would trash him without even listing their sources.

  3. I treat carnation, Raging Bee and WithinThisMind as trolls. They don’t argue in good faith…or argue at all.

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