Friday, July 25, 2014

Seminary Scandal: Character witnesses are irrelevant in verifying abuse allegations

update: Rabbi Karlinsky wrote:

My article was directed to “observers”, both for those who had positive experiences with an accused, who on that basis reject the possibility of the allegations being true, or those having to decide whether to engage with him, who will use the (sometimes significant number of) character witnesses coming foward. It in no way is meant to reflect my opinion on the workings of a Dayan. But if you are interested in researching what the proper approach is for a beit din, you may want to see Shut Shoel U-Meshiv (Kama) sec.1 #185, arguing that a court accepting testimony in areas like this is NOT governed by the usual practices governing removing a person from a presumption of kashrus. The standards demanded of an educator or Rabbi ARE higher than for an average citizen. While it is not "guilty until proven innocent", claims made by women with lots to lose, and which reveal a pattern that experts recognize as predatory requires the accused to clear his name if he wants to continue in a Rabbinic position.
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From my book Child and Domestic Abuse Volume II. this is accepted as halacha l'maaseh
Sho’el U’Meishiv (1:185): Rumors spread about a certain teacher who had lived in that city for 8 years. Children that he had taught while they were young and now were 13 years or more older testified that he had sodomized them when they were younger. The previous summer a certain G d fearing man found out about this and was outraged and informed the rav of the community. However the rav did not want to accept this testimony… However the Maharik and the Terumas HaDeshen wrote and the Rema rules in Shulchan Aruch that in a situation where kosher witness are not necessary - then even a woman or child is believed. If so, in this matter it is definitely impossible for there to be adult males and it is impossible for there to be testimony in the matter. That is because without a doubt this man – even if he is wicked and dissolute – keeps his deeds secret and he only amuses himself with small children and claims he is only playing with them. Therefore it is obvious that they should be believed. However we are not trying to disqualify him from being a witness or making an oath but we only want to be able to say whether he perhaps did this. Our Sages said in Nida (61) that while it is prohibited to believe lashon harah, the concern aroused by it is required. And in Mo’ed Koton (18) they said that regarding bad talk – at least some of it is true. Therefore woe is to us that in our days such a thing happened that a man like this should be a teacher of children who are pure creatures and there is concern that he violated them. Therefore in my opinion it is appropriate to remove the crown of teacher from his head. They need to be concerned for their souls until he completely repents with appropriate afflictions and only then can he considered a full member of the community and it will be an atonement for his sins. Furthermore as long as he hasn’t confessed his sins then repentance is not possible as the Tevu’os Shor wrote in siman 2…. But in this case where there is testimony – even though it is not from kosher witnesses it is worth more than rumors and it is obvious he should be prevented from getting students to teach.

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Cross Currents    by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of Shapell’s/Darche Noam Institutions: Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell’s and the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women

We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.

In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously well adjusted success stories of said Rabbi’s activities. [...]

When a Rabbi or educator is accused of improper behavior of a sexual or abusive nature, character witnesses are irrelevant to verifying whether the accusations are true. All the many people who have been helped in the past in no way undermine the credibility of the accusers. What is important is the specific accusations, whether there is a pattern to those accusations, and whether the accused can properly refute those accusations. If the defendant is being falsely accused by vindictive or unstable women, either the cross examination of the accusers will verify that, or direct testimony to contradict the claims can be provided. If the accusations are credible, if a pattern of improper behavior is verified, if the accused is guilty, then all the people who were helped should have no impact of the conclusions one needs to draw. In fact, his help is revealed to be part of his abominations, empowering him to continue preying on vulnerable and innocent victims. Those he helped are his “honest” measure, enabling him destroy the lives of those he was cheating. [...]

4 comments :

  1. There has been objection to questioning accusers. Essentially, not politically correct, putting the accuser "on trial", making her (or him, which was not mentioned in the post) (both types of him cases) relive the (supposed) molestation, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I appreciate Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky teaching us the workings of a Dayan, and how a Dayan comes to conclusions. It is obvious that he believes in guilty until proven innocent.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My article was directed to “observers”, both for those who had positive
    experiences with an accused, who on that basis reject the possibility of
    the allegations being true, or those having to decide whether to
    engage with him, who will use the (sometimes significant number of)
    character witnesses coming foward. It in no way is meant to reflect my opinion on the workings of a Dayan. But if you are interested in researching what the proper approach is for a beit din, you may want to see Shut Shoel U-Meshiv (Kama) sec.1 #185, arguing that a court
    accepting testimony in areas like this is NOT governed by the usual
    practices governing removing a person from a presumption of kashrus. The standards demanded of an educator or Rabbi ARE higher than for an average citizen. While it is not "guilty until proven innocent", claims made by women with lots to lose, and which reveal a pattern that experts recognize as predatory requires the accused to clear his name if he wants to continue in a Rabbinic position.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Iinteresting that you differentiate between accusers that put themselves on the line vs those accusers that just accuse, and refuse to be questioned about their accusations.

    ReplyDelete

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