Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Human Imperfection

A few weeks ago the Economist reported on some research which had peered into the mechanisms of powerful men who feel themselves above the law.

Everyone expects this of American senators or junior British ministers. In Israel it used to be career officers, though it seems the army may be well into getting its act together; Haim Ramon was convicted of sexual harassment a few years ago... and of course, we've got a former President on trial for serial rape.

None of which prepared anyone for the case of Rabbi Mordechai Elon, who abruptly disappeared a few years ago amid vague rumors of ill health, and who suddenly this week was unveiled as having harassed at least one or two of his students. Moreover, the unveiling was not done by a police investigation (for whatever reason, there have been no complaints with which to involve the police). Rather, the story was broken by a group of highly respected volunteers who have taken the job of protecting youth from abuses by educators; they call themselves Takana, Correction.

I cannot overemphasize the impact of this story on the Modern Orthodox community in Israel. Everyone I know is reeling. (Here's a story from a former student of Elon that will give you a vague inkling, no more than a shadow). You can't even use the normal platitudes of "maybe it will turn out to be wrong", since then the accusers will have destroyed themselves, which would be an even greater shock.

I know many of the figures in this story, some of them since childhood. There is nothing important that I could say about the case itself, but there are social implications in various directions. I'm posting on this out of a feeling of integrity: I can't lambaste all sorts of worthy targets all the time, but remain silent when the problem is next door (almost literally next door). Once I've had time to work through the social implications, maybe I'll revisit the story.


Barry Meislin said...

Ah, so now we can understand why Anshel Pfeffer does what he does....

(And to understand is, of course, to forgive....)


Anonymous said...

I don't get this Anshel Pfeffer - first he waxes lyrical about having had his identity sculpted and then claims that presumably during the same time he had it wiped out - reads like he wants to eat the cake and keep it

and a word of consolation from outside and afar:

if all the students were as old when it took place as the by now 29 year old one I read about your Rabbi Elon is, if it is true, miles and miles away from the real bad ones - I somehow don't find this sex-stuff all that exciting not even if its done by a widely revered man. That said I of course disapprove of coercing from high to low like boss to secretary and doctor to patient etc. but stuff like that should be dealt with without huge public outcries and the little I read smacks of hyperventilating.