Friday, November 11, 2011

Yeshivas Penn State

Think you've seen a child molester? According to Agudas Yisroel, you're required only to report your discovery to a rabbi, who will decide on your behalf if what you saw should be brought to the attention of the police. Officials at Penn State, we've recently learned, followed Agudah's advice to perfection. 

Surrounded by some talmidim

When Mike McQueary caught Coach Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year old in the team showers, he should have intervened. But instead of overpowering Sandusky and rescuing his victim, McQeary went home and made an appointment to see his rebbe, the head coach Joe Paterno. Though Paterno carries great stature at Penn State, he's not the community godol. That role belongs to the University president and a few days later Paterno reported what McQeary had seen to two of the president 's gabbaim: Tim Curley and Greg Schultz. Schultz, in turn, notified university president Graham Spanier.

After what I presume must have been deep deliberations the hanhala at Penn State decided that the matter did not reach the level of raglayim l'davar and Sandusky was not reported to the police. Though the record of those deliberations have not been made public, its seems logical to assume that the gedolai Penn State took meta-halachic considerations into account and decided that though Sandusky had been caught red-handed, dealing with the crime internally was preferable to causing a chilul Penn State.

Could the same thing happen in a Yeshiva? Absolutely. Its easy to imagine the directors of Jewish schools, and the leaders of Jewish communities behaving precisely in the same way that their counterparts at Penn State behaved. Jewish officials worry about money, glory and reputation just like University officials. In fact, we've already has a similar case in our community. At Torah Temimah a school president put his institution's reputation ahead of his responsibilities to child safety and allowed a child molester several decades of uninterrupted access to children. We now know Graham Spanier did the same thing for Jerry Sandusky, on what I must presume were similar grounds.

The difference, Agudah apologists will be quick to point out, is that Grahman Spanier is not a Torah scholar. Though he made a serious error, the apologists insist that no Torah scholar could do the same. By definition, anything a Torah scholar decides to do is the right thing to do. If McQueary had gone to a rebbe, instead of a head coach, he'd have received infallible advice.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in their record to suggest that gedolim are equipped to hand out such infallible advice.They are are men, not angles, and men make mistakes. Such mistakes have already been made, as Kolko's victims will unfortunately attest, and they will continue to happen so long as we continue to behave like Penn State and put the glory of our schools and community ahead of the safety of our children. This is what Agudah is asking us to do when the organization tells us to delay reporting molesters to authorities until after a rabbinic review. Though Agudah insists that the delay is required only to ensure that the case meet the halachic status of raglayim l'davar the reality is that men, being men, will also evaluate meta-halachic concerns such as how the case affects things like cash flow and reputations. They should not be given that opportunity.

PS: Maaminim at Penn State reacted to the news the Paterno had been fired by rioting. Sound familiar? Superstitious faiths all produce the same pathologies.

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