Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Priorities - Child abuse vs Music

Two items recently crossed my desk. The first was an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post written by Matthew Wagner entitled "Haredim move to silence 'treif' music". It was about a movement to ban musicians who produce or perform any music which the Guardians of Sanctity and Education deem inappropriate. Musicians playing such music would be banned from playing in wedding halls, their CDs would be banned and their concerts disallowed.

The other item was a breaking news piece from JTA indicating that Rabbi Benzion Twerski had resigned from a task force in formation being brought together to deal with sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, also an Orthodox Jew, is establishing the task force to deal with this scourge. Twerski resigned because of the many threats against him and his family made by several individuals from his community.

When taken together these two items suggest such a profound and disturbing conflict regarding the current goals of the Orthodox world, of which I am a member. If music is so important, is not the emotional welfare of members of the community even more so? How can music be a threat and abuse not be? While some may argue that this is not the message to be learned, that the insular community is seeking ways to deal with the sexual abuse problem discreetly, it is clearly not so when someone as prominent and discreet as Twerski can be so horrifically threatened. But, he is not the only one to receive threats. Apparently so have musicians. The canceling of a recent concert is evidence of this.

IN MY work I too have received threats, most recently for suggesting that the rigid shidduch approach to dating seems not to be working. What this approach has accomplished in recent years is to increase rigidity and unrealistic demands for a spouse; rates of domestic violence are increasing and so are the divorce rates.

There seems to be little balance left in the Orthodox world. There is no allowance made for harmless pleasure and those who abuse are given a free pass. Those who attempt to stand up are threatened.[...]

To suggest that the decisions of a few vocal individuals make are the only correct approach and allow them to steer us away from doing what must be done is simply illogical. Every society has its ills. So does ours. We must find productive ways to deal with these ills if we are to survive.

The writer, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is the founder and director of the Adult Developmental Center in Hewlett, New York. His most recent book, The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures, is published by Urim Publications.


  1. This historically might be the most significant debate in modern Jewish history (at least within the Orthodox world). The ramifications will potentially put Daas Torah and Emunas Chochamim on the killing floor. The whole subject of child molesters and incest within frum schools and families and how to appropriately deal with it will very quickly undermine the very structure of the frum community if it is not quickly delt with (at least in the United States).

    A big question for this blog would be does one have the right to ignore the rabbis or even undermine them if they feel that there is a pikuach nefesh situation that is not being delt with properly. This question is especially crucial for laymen who want to organize on behalf of the community. Especially since it seems the situation of psak or sometimes the lack of it seems to fly in the face of experts. For example, I have not seen any frum professional who works with youth with problems suggest that the new Jewish music and secular media has caused people to fry out in significant numbers. Yet it has been claimed by askanim who may have conveyed this information to the gedolim that these foreign influences cause wholesale damage to our youth.

    Also do the gedolim owe the public more discussion on these issues? Yes, recently there has been some overtures of discussion from the rabbonim. They have had lectures and parlor meetings. What signs should one look for if you think that your children have been abused etc… Also to make rabbis aware of the phenomenon. Nobody however has discussed (in the United States) from Chareidi kehilla leaders what to do with an individual who has been identified as an individual. Also there still is no discussion of putting safeguards in place in the school system.

    That is enough of my rambling for now.

  2. Leaders tackle real issues.
    Megalomaniacs tackle easy ones.

    To deal with the rampant sexual, child and spousal abuse taking place in the frum world requires leadership. Too many people have too much invested in the current system to allow it to change. Only a real leader can overcome such opposition.

    To deal with music? That requires thuggery by the very same people who are preventing any changes mentioned in the previous paragraph from occuring.

    You can tick off Shmwecky but you don't dare enrage the askanim.


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