This past summer has, unfortunately, been filled with happenings the likes of which we have not experienced in Klal Yisrael for a long time. It started with the loss of three great leaders who left us. Even though it was because of old age, it was extremely difficult to bear, because we became yesomimve’ein av. KlalYisraelwas orphaned.
Intellectually, we understand that it is the way of Hashem’s world – old people pass on.
The butchering of a nine-year-old boy by a so-called member of the frumcommunity is beyond our comprehension.“Va’yidom Aaron”: our minds shut down, and we stand in bewilderment.Then, our immediate reaction to the horrendous incident of someone seeking advice from the great Baba Elazar,zt”l, and then plunging a knife into him and taking his life can only be, once again, “Va’yidom Aaron,” that we standstone deaf in astonishment.
The abuse of an Israeli boy by his mentor over a number of years, something that that destroyed the yingele’s lifein the process, requires a reaction and a corrective strategy. We must change the way our communities operate.
Because of Leiby’s age and immaturity, LeibyKletsky, z”l, trusted a man who “looked frum” by his actions and inHamechanech Magazine – Chanukah 5772 11his manner of dress. Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira trustedmembers of his flock; the perpetrator was thereforeable to come near and commit his monstrous crime. Ayoung elementary-age school boy was abused becausehe was completely trusting of his mentor. Rachmanalitzlan.
Obviously Hashem is sending us the message thatwe must all do teshuvah. But what kind of teshuvahmust we do? The answer can only come from ourEineiHa’eda, the GedoleiHador. What then, b’derechha’teva, in human terms, should KlalYisraeldo?
What precautions must we take to stem this scourgefrom our community?
As a society, KlalYisraelhas been fortunate beyondits wildest dreams. Even during our prolonged galus,we have taken care of each other in every imaginableway. We have formed structured organizations forevery need that a Jew may encounter from birth to thevery end of life.
Our community has increased exponentially,and with it, our need for more skilled mental healthprofessionals, Rabbanim, Principals, Rebbeim,Moros, mentors, camp counselors, etc. Because of theaccessibility of skilled frumpeople who are proficientin their fields, we avail ourselves of their servicesreadily, and we flourish. KlalYisraeltakes advantageof multifaceted leadership and professionalism… andin an unprecedented manner.
We are aware of the wondrous things our leadershave accomplished through their administration ofthe general community, and in particular, our youth.
Our Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbonimplay central rolesin shaping wonderful students, training and preparingthem for their own future leadership in furthering themesorah. By and large, we have effective teachers inour schools who understand the younger generationand how to deal with them. We have at our disposal,as never before, frummental health professionals whohelp in the care of special needs individuals. Respectedspecialists in every area of mental health serve amongus as leaders, confidantes and advisers.
The community has thus come to look up to andtrust others in so many ways… such that we may havestopped questioning their integrity. If one has attendeda particular yeshiva… or belongs to a specific religiousgroup… or attends a particular shul that espouses aparticular philosophy… then he or she is automaticallyaccorded our complete trust. If one dresses inyeshivisheor chassidishegarb, we determine that heis an upright person who believes fully in the teachingsand practices of our Torah.
The three above-mentioned tragedies, though,happened because we trusted deranged individualswithin our camp… and all because they seemed to be“card-carrying members” of our “frum” community.
They were thus able to perpetrate heinous crimes.Hashem yishmereinu, may He protect us.
An integral part of our upbringing is not tobe choshedbe’kshairim, not to suspect others ofwrongdoing, not to believe any lashon hara, as inthe case of Gedaliah ben Achikam… and certainly notto suspect that they might commit horrible crimes.
However, how, then, can we guard ourselves fromperpetrators?
Are we not encouraged to continue in the waysof Avraham Avinu, the pillar of chesed, who pened
his door to every nomad who came his way? Mustwe stop inviting Shabbos guests unless they areour friends whom we have known for many years?
Should we completely refrain from the great mitzvahof hachnasasorchimfor fear that something sinisterlurks beneath the guest’s facade?
The answer is a simple and resounding NO. Weare privileged to be living a Torah way of life with allof its ramifications, because Hashem promised thatnothing bad will ever occur to us if we keep His Torahand mitzvos.But should we do nothing and simply havebitachon, complete faith, without personal hishtadlus,that nothing will happen to us? We all know the answerto that question. Are we so foolish as to completelyrely on the notion of “shomerpesa’im Hashem” thatHashem watches over simple people who cannot takecare of themselves? I think not. History has provenotherwise.
Avraham Avinualso had conditions for acceptingstrangers into his home. They had to wash their feetbefore entering; with that act, they discarded theiravodahzarah, their heathen life style, their strange,corrupt views that might not mesh well with those ofhis family. Avraham tested them before letting themin, to ensure that they would not corrupt his home.
We are thus right to consider this example set byAvraham Avinu. In many professions, psychologicaltesting is required to ascertain competency andstability before licensing is awarded. When the publicis placed into the care of individuals, the communitymust have some measure of assurance that they willnot be compromised physically or mentally in anyway. Even a psychologist must be tested and receiveapprobation, not only for competency but also foremotional stability.
I am by no means suggesting, chasv’shalom, thatevery member of KlalYisraelbe tested for stability.
What I would like to see happen somehow is that everyperson who is assigned the responsibility of caring forothers or who will be in close contact with children forany length of time, bescrutinized somehow,not merely given acursory approbationof academiccompetency, but also arecommendation vis avis general stability.
Both physical andemotional abuse hasbecome more prevalentas our population growsand our communitybecomes more open. Wefrequently read and hearhorror stories of abusechanging the characterof our community andcausing untold damageto individuals. Besideseducating our young tobe alert to telltale signsof abuse and to reportit to parents, we need tobe proactive.
Every new sefer,even if written byfamous talmideichachomim, must havea “haskamah”showing
competence andtrust. A new Rav, nomatter how bright andknowledgeable, needs asemicha, ordination, to prove his capability to becomea decider of halachah, in order to gain public trust. Ashochetneeds a certificate of kabalahin order to betrusted to slaughter.Why, then, should not a camp counselor, amentor, a teacher, or anyone who has close contactwith our children, receive at least an authoritativerecommendation that attests to character and otherrequisite qualifications? Rabbanim, RosheiYeshivosand Menahalos, can surely be consulted in this regard.
Going into a shidduch, we investigate the prospectivespouse endlessly. Why? Because we are placing ourchild into another’s hands. Why is it not the same forall to whom we entrust our children?
This is no wayshould be seen ascasting aspersionson the thousands ofyereimand shleimimwho teach, mentor andguide our children. Theoverwhelming majorityof those who servethe klalare selfless,respected individualsand wonderful rolemodels for our youth. Atthe same time, we havea great responsibilityto protect the klalandthe prat from the illsthat might visit uponthem, regardless of howremote. Schools, camps,social organizations,shuls, etc. need toundertake due diligenceregarding theirprospective employees before contracts aresigned. In today’s world,failure to probe canendanger our children.
When we haveexecuted our role inthe education of ourchildren, we can haveno doubt that Hashemwill indeed protect them.