Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Prominent London rabbi resigns in sex scandal

Times of Israel   A leading British rabbi accused of sexual misconduct stepped down from most of his public positions Monday night, following extensive attempts to oust him, The Times of Israel has learned.

Rabbi Chaim Halpern, who is considered one of London’s most senior Haredi leaders, has left Kedassia, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, where he was a religious judge. He is still the head of his Golders Green synagogue, Beis Hamedrash Divrei Chaim, in the heart of Jewish London, but will no longer act as the rabbinic adviser to Beis Yaacov Primary School, the Hatzolah emergency medical service or Chana, an infertility charity.

Accusations that he had engaged in “inappropriate” contact with at least one woman surfaced during the high holidays, in October, when a local rabbi confronted him and tried to drive him from the neighborhood. Since then, sources say that about 30 women, most of whom had gone to Halpern for counseling, have also made allegations, and several have apparently given statements to a solicitor at Teacher Stern, a top London legal firm. The London Metropolitan Police are still assessing whether the claims warrant a criminal investigation.[...]
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See also the Jewish Chronicle

46 comments:

  1. All typically vague accusations and information. Sounds like someone didn't like the rabbi and is attempting to engage in character assassination.

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  2. I wanted to reproduce my comments here to generate some discussion of whether the idea is sensible and practical:

    We have seen in the past few years many many Rabbonim (including very choshuve Rabbonim for example the current scandal in London) who have had allegations of abuse, rape, seduction brought against them by women. Whether the allegations are true or not I do not know. However, to protect everyone (the reputation of Rabbonim and the safety of women) I think it would be a good idea to require any Rov giving advice to a women to only give it while his Rebbetzin is in the room with them. I know this can make it uncomfortable and maybe more difficult for in terms of availablity, but I believe it should be mandatory. If the Rov is willing to talk about those issues in front of his wife, if he is willing to ask the questions he asks in front of his wife, there is a lot less chance that he will do anything wrong or be accused of anything. I know of one choshuve Rov in Rechovot that does this - he will not see a woman unless his Rebbetzin is in the room with them. Rabbonin are not trained psychologists, not licensed with a state authority, not subject to all the consequences of a professional abusing his fiduciary relationship, therefore, I believe this is a necessary safeguard both for the women seeking advice and the Rabbonim that there yetzer horo does not get the better of them or to protect them from false accusations. R Eidensohn - what do you think of this?

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    1. I agree with your concern - but I don't think your advice is practical because as you note it will interfere with communication. It would be simpler just to require that all communication be by phone of perhaps by skype.

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    2. it has become common for a rav to have a video camera running in his office full time. No-one needs to know about it and no-one needs to watch the video, as long as there are no accusations.


      Michoel

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    3. Avrohom: Very very few such accusations have ever been made against rabbonim.

      Michoel: And will all the video be saved for years and years, so when a false accusation is made 10 years later he can disprove it. They will have tens of thousands of hours of video footage all saved?

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  3. I don't think skype or phone would be useful because the problem with communication, especially when dealing with intimate matters is the communication per se goes beyond the boundaries of professional advice and leads to a more emotional and intimate connection. Things said in private can be very dangerous or misinterpreted. With the Rebbetzin in the room, the communication is much less likely to take on such a character. I believe, despite it making it harder and possibly less convenient in some circumstances, it is very sensible and actually necessary in these times when there is so much chillul hashem being caused by Rabbonim and the women they are so to speak advising. I believe it is Rabbi Rubin in Rechovot who takes this approach. If there had only been a few cases of chillul hashem with rabbonim assumedly succumbing or abusing their position with women, then I agree, inconvenience might negate it. But given the ever growing incidents, I think it is time to enact it for all Rabbonim that they do not advise women or meet women without their Rebbetzin in the room.

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    1. I don't think there are more incidents then in the past - but there clearly is more public revelations due to the internet and world wide communications as well as reduced inhibitions about reporting these stories.

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  4. Recipients and PublicityNovember 21, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    This surely qualifies as the "Leib Tropper" story of England. With an ultra frum rov using the cover of his status, prestige and credibility to fool around with, manipulate and take advantage of weak, confused and vulnerable sincere naive Jewish women who have no clue of the monster they are dealing with when coming to such a venerable personage. Probably the women have no clue what real sex is since they are so cloistered and taught nothing about the facts of life, so that they can become ensnared in this predatory monster's web so easily and keep quite for so long. Who knows how many mamazerim ch"v could result from this guy's irresponsible behavior?

    Like Tropper, this Chaim Halpern has his defenders and rabbinic enablers who will always support him (on the basis of he's a "talmid chochem" or "he must have done teshuva" or "there is no halachik 'proof' since women cannot be believed they are not kosher eidim" or "there was no penetration" etc), and he is then allowed to hold on to his shull or walk away with millions (like Tropper did). What an utter disgrace and a total Chillul Hashem berabim.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityNovember 22, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      "kolbismaher mit a van said...leave already Tropper alone."

      Why?

      By the way, does anyone know the whereabouts of Leib Tropper and what he has been up to since he was forced to resign in disgrace from EJF and from his own Kol Yaakov yeshiva?

      It has been far too quiet..!

      You cannot wish away Troppergate, just like you cannot wish away Watergate.

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    2. He runs a blog here:

      http://rabbileibtropper.wordpress.com/

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  5. It's very simple. Don't have yichud with them. I know my Rav will talk with women, but only if his door is open and his wife is home. It's not that hard to figure a way not to be secluded with women, you just have to want to.

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  6. "...but I don't think your advice is practical because as you note it will interfere with communication."

    I'm not so sure. My stepfather z"l and mother were psychotherapists who worked together with almost all of their clients. They were very effective, and worked out an approach that was pretty flexible and non-intimidating. Granted, it wasn't for everyone – but what is? One of the most dangerous delusions anyone in any helping profession can have is that they can be all things to all people.

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    1. Not sure what this has to do with a rabbi being asked questions or providing guidance. I think the arrangement you suggested would inhibit communications. The Rebbetzin in not a co therapist but is just a watchman. She is not a co posek but a watchman. If she was a co rabbi than I think your suggestion would be fine.

      In addition most rebbetzins have much to take care of like a family. They teach etc. Don't know where they would find hours a day to watch her husband answer questions and provide guidance

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  7. The rule that "Ein Apotropes Learayot" applies to everyone, no Rabbinic exception. That does not say he is guilty but precautions must be taken. All Rabbis dealing with 'sensitive' cases should have cameras recording all. No shutoff controls & offpremise recording.

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  8. the "GOOD" that comes out of this story is that the Rabbonim have not covered this up and denied all goings on, rather they have taken action to get rid of this menuval.
    A couple of decades ago, especially in Haredi world, this kind of scandal would not have come out in public.

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  9. I don't think that is a problem - inhibiting communication. Plenty of halachos are inhibiting. Yichud is inhibiting. Not using a telephone is inhibiting. A Rov is also not a counsellor. He may be a posek but certainly he is not a trained counsellor. He has experience in life, and may be very wise but certainly has no formal training. The advice a Rov is giving in these situations can become inappropriately intimate - it can lead the Rov to become too curious, too attached as well. And yes it may be difficult to arrange times for the Rebbetzin to be available, but I do not see that as a problem. It is also very difficult to arrange appointments with specialist doctors - but you wait or seek another one who is more available. Exposure to sensitive, intimate marital and sexual situations left unbridalled, without restrictions causes more damage and chillul Hashem than yichud in an elevator for a few minutes which although makes life often inconvenient, was seen by chazal as appropriate to assur. I know of one Rov where I live who makes appointments with married women to see them by themselves on a regular basis to discuss their "situations" and marriages, which as far as I understand includes questions like "how is your sex life", is your husband fulfilling his mitzva? Unfortunately, Rabbonim aren't trained in these areas and communications like these can create a terrible addiction in Rabbonim to know everything about everyone, even their sexual lives. I still believe having the Rebbetzin there when a woman is seeking advice from a Rov and is alone (ie without her husband or father or someone else) is necessary, not just appropriate

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  10. A - there are plenty of accusations..it is true a lot don't make it to the press because victims are scared, scared they won't be believed, scared of the repercussions for them and their families - almost like rape cases in general. You wouldn't think rape and abuse is that common given the amount of accusations etc but in reality it affects about 1 in 3 people, maybe more.

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    1. That's in secular society. In the Torah community it is less than 1 in 100.

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  11. Angela from Brent CrossNovember 22, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Glass windows in office doors for all consultations would help. And in our world it may be that rabbis cannot give informal advice any more. Office hours, appointment books, written notes and probably fee for service will become the norm, just as they are for other professionals. In fact, maybe we should do the same for bloggers!

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  12. This is not just something 'made up' by people who do not like the man. this is tens of women who have given documented evidence all saying the same thing, and a situation that has been going on for years with everyone politely ignoring it.

    I do not know what practical changes to implement, but it is a fact that if this man had been observing hilchos yichud properly, this could not have happened.

    that said, i am not a posek so i do not know the answer ot this, i am just airing the thought: if a rabbi was having a consultation with a woman in his home, in a separate room with the door closed nad unlocked or slightly ajar, where his wife was at home, but it was understoood by all his family that when he was haing private consultations no one is allowed to disturb him, would that be OK under hilchos yichud, or would hte fact that it was understood that he was not to be disturbed obviate that?

    Angela's idea is a good one, i think - glass doors so that all that happens can be seen, but that people outside cannot hear what is said.

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    1. I don't think that hilchot yichud are enough to avoid sexual abuse. Because for hilchot ichud, it is enough that someone could, in theory, surprise you... This leaves largely enough time for a cunning perpetrator to abuse his victim...

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    2. http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/91866/rabbi-stands-down-face-allegations

      jewish chronicle reports the matter

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    3. Not correct.
      Many years ago when I was having "matrimonial" problems we were advised to go to a well-known female marriage guidance counsellor (fully qualified, I think she had 3 degrees). Most of the sessions were with my (now ex) Madame and me together. We each had about 2 hours of one-to-one sessions. During the entire time I was in the consulting room with the counsellor the door was fully open and her husband wandered in to the room regularly. I don't think there was ever a break of more than 10 minutes without him coming in. That is how it is supposed to be.

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  13. The rabonin tendler aviner fleee lau alon all had serious charges against them and nothing happened. Rav chiam pardas( abd tel aviv and נכד of rav harlip was covicted and died in jail.

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    1. Some of your above list have been marginalized and are now irrlevant - whereas prior to the charges they were major influences. so what is your point - that being discredited is not enough but that they should go to jail?

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    2. R. Aviner was not marginalized.

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  14. A simple solution:
    Rabbis should only deal with men, and women should only go to Rebbetzins with their questions and problems.

    AB

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    1. Your suggestion is only of limited usefulness - there are many issue which require a halachic knowledge that is not available to the Rebbetzin - assuming she has the time and counselling skills. This is similar to the suggestion that psychotherapists only see the same gender.

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  15. Question to Dovid and Daniel Eidensohn:

    If Chaim Halperns wife wants a get - and he refuses to give one - would she also have to sit and wait until her hair becomes white? If rabbonim forced him to give a get: would it be a get meussa?

    If he preyed only on unmarried women, not on married ones, would it be a get meussa if he was forced to give a get?

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  16. יסכר פי דובר שקר, הדוברים על צדיק בגווה ובוז, אוי לכם מיום הדין ואוי לכם מיום התוכה

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  17. Bad people in England, strive over Gossip, its baloney macrony, Rabbi Heparin is a genuine good person, dose louds of good, any one that dose good, UK keep your tradition bury him alive

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  18. Since when are the rabbanim or rebbetzins are certified to be marriage councillors? All other shaalos kashrus or hilchos niddoh doesn't take longer than a few minutes and should be asked by husbands. Unfortunately the rabbis think because they have learned gemara and shulchan aruch they know everything. They are councelling women on matters they haven't authority or the faintest understanding . Shaalos about gittin should be asked at the beis din and not privately.
    And because they do, as a consequence of listening to their taanos disqualify them to be dayanim in the matter. Unfortunately more often than not they will be sitting on the beis-din at the din –torah.
    Secondly they soon realise that this women are vulnerable. If they would conduct according to Shulchan Aruch they don’t need camera or any other surveillance system. Result would many more happy people and couples and less gittin.
    Bob

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  19. As long as we do not know what realy went on it is better not to say anything about anybody in person until proved guilty, the evil inclination loves these scenarios and has ambushed the public to gossip on something that has no substantial evidence except from the Goishe Cronicle which should be called the Lieing anti Torah toilet paper!!!!!
    We are living in dangerous times Moshiach is coming the world is in turmoil we must keep away from evil gossip and await for the outcome !!!
    Lets ask you accusers and liers if it was true then why did it go on for so long and woma continued to go !!!!

    So lets get clear evidence then talk until you have two witnesses you cannot say anything!!!

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    1. you can stick your head in the sand if your want - but the situation clearly is not viewed by the local rabbis as you claim. Nor is it viewed that way by prominent rabbis outside the community. You are wrong the halacha does not require two witnesses before you can act as if something bad was done.

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  20. בס"ד
    Concerning the גילוי דעת signed by five prominent רבנים of North-West London concerning one of the רבנים of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (heretofore referred to as the Union).
    On line 2 they write that the Union is “at last in process of setting up a בית דין” which implies that they have been begging for the Union to set up a בית דין and the Union was dragging its feet. This is however far from the truth; the Rav concerned has agreed to a בית דין right from the start, and it was these very five רבנים who repeatedly pushed it off.
    As a matter of fact Rabbi W. was approached by many רבנים and laymen to ensure that a panel be set up right after the ימים טובים to which he responded that he’s going on holiday and will negotiate afterwards. (An email with the above response will be presented to the בית דין if necessary). After returning from holiday he was approached once again. This time he replied, “There is no point in a panel, since there is no evidence, and therefore I have nothing to do with the case anymore”. This proves that the signatories deliberately jeopardized all attempts at forming a mutually nominated בית דין for the case.
    Furthermore, on the Monday after the so-called “investigation and conclusion”, Rabbi E. agreed with the גאב"ד of the Union that should the Rav concerned step down from public position, he can continue to serve in his own Shul, and say Shiurim. Why did this decision drastically change retroactively only a couple of days later, as soon as the Union announced the forming of a בית דין? How does this fact concur with the signatories’ supposed desire that a בית דין shall be set up?
    On line 7 they write that a decision was taken “after painstaking and extensive investigations”. This, regretfully, is an awfully deceitful statement, since על פי תורה, and even להבדיל in legal action, true investigating must be done שמוע בין אחיכם, which in this case was not. The accused must be present and allowed to defend himself prior to any prejudices, and definitely a decision, being made. If a conclusion was made without the aforementioned condition, to the effect that the rav is currently not fit to serve in Rabbinic capacity, then this decision can in no way be upheld either in הלכה, nor in secular court. It holds no ground. No proper חקירה ודרישה according to דיני שלחן ערוך, or with experienced professionals, was ever conducted on the matter.
    Rabbi G. admitted that not only was there no fair trial, but there was no trial altogether; the conclusion was made prior to the Rav’s appearance, based on the allegations! Without kosher עדים, lies and exaggerations were accepted and used with clear intent to destroy the reputation of the Rav. Furthermore, if the decision was already made prior to the ‘trial’, why was the Rav called upon at all? Was he summoned just so they can present a façade of a trial? It is also worth mentioning, that Rabbi K. expressed to the Rav at this session, his heavy heart against him because of the milk issue etc. Can such an outspoken foe judge objectively?

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  21. The tactics employed to destroy the Rav, by forcing מתפללים to leave his Shul and by pressuring all shuls to publicly display the above mentioned document, even those who are not affiliated with the London Beth Din, is reminiscent of tactics employed by authoritarian dictators when somebody dares question their rulings. If you wish to appeal the ruling you are welcome to do so, but you’ll be destroyed before you reach the appeals court!
    In light of the above we can therefore safely assume that the רבנים involved in coming to the disparaging decision, have personal נגיעות against the accused, whilst others are against the Union in general for various reasons, such as the heated dispute over the עירוב. Perhaps this is also just a continuation of the Manchester מחלוקת over 20 years ago, when the מרא דאתרא was similarly pressured to leave town with the help of one of these signatories.
    In paragraph 3, the five רבנים further state that “whatever the motivation of the proposed בית דין, and whatever it may conclude…” their own conclusion calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Rav still stands. גדולי ישראל have decreed that על פי תורה, the correct way to proceed with the matter was to set up a בית דין. It takes lots of gumption to suspect that such a בית דין would have motives other than to come out with the ultimate truth עפ"י צדק ויושר.
    Continuing with the statement in paragraph 3, that whatever the בית דין will concur, “We are in no doubt as to the veracity of our own conclusion that the grave allegations warrant immediate withdrawal…” brings us to question. Why would they not accept a פסק from the בית דין? The document claims that the signatories purportedly desired all along that a בית דין shall be formed? Didn’t Rabbi W. agree to this with the גאב"ד and other רבנים in a meeting at his house (being unwell to travel to the גאב"ד, after having been up Thursday night till the wee hours of the morning at one of the famous meetings)?
    The idea in itself that רבנים should state that no investigation or conclusion will change their decision, is neither rational nor democratic. It brings to mind the proverb “Don’t confuse me with facts, I’ve already made up my mind”. Moreover, since the document repeatedly refers to allegations, indicating that nothing has been proven further than allegations (out of fear of a slander lawsuit this had to be admitted), then why are they not waiting breathlessly themselves for the panel’s finding on these unproven allegations. Does it make sense that רבנים who cannot identify their findings any more compelling than allegations, should choose to uphold their conclusion albeit on non comparative fact findings? Do these רבנים perhaps fear that the בית דין might exonerate the Rav completely? Are they afraid that they may have to admit that they erred, and in doing so destroyed the reputation of a reputable Rav and his entire family, in addition to generating an outrageous חילול השם?
    In paragraph 4 the five רבנים are “disheartened by the totally erroneous perception created by troublemakers… that they are creating a battle between the various kehillah organizations”. Perception?! After all the above clarifications on the way they dealt with the issue, is it not clear that it is the five רבניםwho have a hidden agenda and wish to besmirch the Union, either to settle a score on the issue of the עירוב, or for personal נגיעות these רבנים have to denigrate the accused Rav. There remains no other explicable reason for the unethical and unhalachic manner in which the five רבנים conducted themselves on this particular matter.
    The undersigned רבנים write in paragraph 6, that they took every precaution to prevent מחלוקת and רכילות from spreading, and regret and condemn the “inappropriate and inaccurate manner in which certain individuals have aired their views” on the matter. I wish to bring to attention that the individual guilty of spreading lies on the internet and in the media is alleged to none other than a close associate of Rabbi W.! (and a Mispallel of Rabbi F.)

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  22. Last but not least, they mention in paragraph 4, their desire to “see אחדות and merging of all קהילות in North-West London into one united body for the benefit of our families…”. Under whose guidance? For whose benefit? Let us go back in history to the first forty or fifty years post World War II. Who built up yiddishkeit in North West London? Who built the mikvaos? Who initiated חלב ישראל? Who created the Bais Yaakov schools, and the חדרים? Who introduced our bochurim to ישיבות? Who implemented and rallied for צניעות? The Union along with the London Beth Din.
    At the same time there were many prominent דיינים in North-West London, for example Dayan Swift z”l, and Dayan Grossnass z”l, who were at all times accorded the greatest honor as befitting such legendary תלמידי חכמים. No individual or organization in that era ever quarreled with them and never was there מחלוקת or פירוד לבבות.
    The first one to unfortunately launch a מחלוקת in the previously united community was one of the undersigned רבנים! Shall we stand idly by as he lectures us about unity and spills crocodile tears over the לשון הרע, or מחלוקת caused in this case? And while אחדות is mentioned, it is noteworthy that the אחדות that suddenly formed between Rabbi E. and Rabbi L. smacks of נתחברו מואב עם מדין; conflicting sides uniting to combat a common enemy. The fact that Rabbi E. testified against Rabbi L. in secular court is no longer relevant due to the issue of greater importance, namely ridding NW London of the influence of the Union.
    It is common public knowledge that the five undersigned רבנים each have agenda’s of their own in this deliberate dispute, and it was most certainly not publicized לשם שמים. Its goal is to try to remove the Rav from North-West London, and ultimately undermine the entire Union, so that it should not be more powerful than them. They go so far as to insinuate that they wish to see the merging of all Shuls in North-West London to be united into one body under one power only; namely theirs. Is it mere coincidence that their conclusion was publicized only one week prior to the announcement of the completion of a new Shechitah under the supervision of Rabbi K., or perhaps was the allegation and decision preplanned for commercial reasons? After all, it is an old trick successfully used by pre WWI Anglo Jewry to rid itself of an acknowledged frum Rav, by spreading allegation of misconduct (as attested to in the memoirs of the London Rabbi Ferber z”l at the time).
    All this sheds light on the only viable reason they saw it fit to get involved in the matter to begin with, when the Rav is not under their jurisdiction, they were never called on to intervene, and the Union was assiduously looking into the matter. The פסוק tells us that אבימלך said to יצחק: "לך ממנו כי עצמת מאוד" (Take leave from me as you have overpowered me.)

    הקנאה התאוה והכבוד מוציאין את האדם מן העולם
    השנאה מקלקלת את השורה
    ודי למבין

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  23. rabbi,E. why was my comment not posted?

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    1. Because what you said isn't true. He was not declared innocent. The police said they didn't have a case against him. there is a big difference between those claims.

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    2. ok thanks . i stand corrected. However, in for the sake of emmes, etc. why have you not posted this news item that "The police said they didn't have a case against him" on your site.
      I certainly hope you will post this reply. thanks.

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    3. the testimony given to the rabbis indicates there is a serious problem. To make a big deal of the police statement gives an inaccurate and not truthful picture of what is going on.

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    4. if you reported the "testimony given to the rabbis" etc. then to post the police statement would be fair accurate reporting, simply because its the truth - that the police said they are dropping the case " it is not making a big deal". Not to do so is hiding a true piece of info.& unfair.

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