Sunday, June 14, 2009

Abuse - Sex and Kiruv III

Rav Sternbuch has a teshuva 5:278 regarding the incident described before. It is part of a larger discussion about men teaching Torah in girls seminary.

At this point it is important to note that in recent times that kiruv (religious outreach) has become widespread. They have succeeded in bringing back many souls to the life of Torah. However it is often a mitzva habah b'aveira (a mitza associated with sin) because of the close association of teachers or rabbonim to the girls in private conversation. This brings many tragedies and causes chillul HaShem (profanation of G-d's name). (There have already been a number of cases that have come before us at the Bedatz concerning kiruv workers who deal with girls and women which have resulted in tragedy.)


  1. R. Hershel Schachter, who is a big supporter of NCSY, refers to it as an aveirah li-shmah.

  2. The problem is that the danger is not just in kiruv, and not even just in Chinuch in general. The most hair-raising stories I know of (and in some cases I know a fair amount about the actual situation, not just the "talk of the town") had nothing to do with "Rabbis" (although the guy may have had smicha). It's a real issue.

  3. Recipients and PublicityJune 14, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    Part One:

    Again, not quite sure what this post has to do with kiruv rechokim by qualified rabbis to secular Jews, be they male or female?

    The comparison with the previous post is also way off, because nowhere did it state that the rabbi who ran off with the gentile airhostess was a teacher at a girls' seminar, so why is that case being used to dirty and demean other respectable men who teach at seminaries?

    Out there in the Torah world there is a debate whether men should be teachers at girl's schools such as Bais Yaakovs, and of course there are those like in the Satmar world and in other Chasidishe and Charedi circles like most of those connected with the Eidah HaChareidis who would never allow men to teach women. But by the same token, for girls they also ban the use of any textual learning in bais yaakovs, have very little secular studies, expect women to have shaven heads upon marriage, must wear shpitzels or tichels, marry only a man with a shtreimel, never drive -- all of which are not the source to draw upon when trying to look for a workable, sustainable and successful model for being mekarev, mechanech and turn young secular wowmen, many of whom are already college-educated, often have a nice budding profesioanl career and have their own money, were raised in 100% open societies with all the luxuries of life and yet still and all have made the momentous decision to become baalas teshuvas no matter what it takes.

    Now that there are predatory and misguided teachers is no chiddush, but this almost silly focus on "kiruv & sex" as being somehow a uniqque problem is ridiculous.

    The titles for this series of posts could just as easily be "Sex & Chinuch" focusing on all the actual stories of sexual abuse in chedorim, mesivtas, yeshiva ketanos and yeshiva gedolas of talmidim by their rebbeim at all levels and the many case cases that are being exposed, make it into the media, and the various controversies surrounding how the higher echelon rabbonim are not dealing with the problem and in fact protect the abusive rebbeim and hound the innocent parents.

    How about a series about "Sex & Rabbonus" with so many sordid episodes of communal and pulpit rabbis crossing the line and having affairs with women in their congregations? There are plenty of problems to focus on in the rabbonus.

    Or how about "Sex and Balebatim" with so many Orthodox, Haredi and Hasidic men away from home and comingly with other females (often very young, sexy, on the prowl and seductive) as employees or associates? It's easy for the average religious Jew, even women, to have casual sex or more if they want with many willing people out there in the big wide world and it does happen. The batei din are filled with cases of broken marriages and gittin due to deliberate zenus. So whether in the workplace or in their free time frum balebatim are having many forbidden encounters with prostitutes, co-workers, homosexuals and all sorts of crazy sexual hookups that are very widespread and well-known, yet for some or other odd reason it is now "kiruv" that is taking the heat in these posts for too much association with sex as if the field of kiruv alone has the problems of evoking over-active yetzer horas and libidos in its participants and practitioners, which is of course as ridicoulous as it is false simply because the entire society and any place that religious men and women live and work in is often-times surrounded by easy and avaible sexual temptations...

  4. Recipients and PublicityJune 14, 2009 at 8:51 AM

    Part Two:

    ...I am beginning to wonder if Rabbi Eidensohn is writing these series because it almost seems that someone else with a more flippant and lighthearted, and sadly even, lighheaded approach is at wheel?

    Back to the topic though, in the vast enterprise of kiruv rechokim it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep men away from all the stages of the kiruv process, from initial encounters on campuses and offices (are the kiruv wives, or worse yet, single female kiruv workers, also supposed work at all hours while the husbands recruit college students or go to executive offices?), to traveling around to various locations as guest speakers or scholars in residence in places swarming with Conservative, Reform, Atheist, or Zionist Jews (is the wife also supposed to be on short notice to go to all sorts of locales to speak on Torah topics?), all in a secular society that is ENTIRELY coeducational, mixed and expects comingling.

    That is why kiruv centers are NOT shulls because they cannot halachically offer minyanim there, indeed some would argue that is forbidden Halachically, if you want to be Satmar about it, and a major reason they oppose kiruv as it is understood to be and would call it a "mitzva habaa be'aveira", which is the parting of the ways between those who are basically OPPOSED to kiruv and those who rely on the guidelines of gedolim like Rav Ruderman and Rav Hutner who allowed mixed groups for NCSY, but the Satmar attitude is NOT to have ANY kind of mixed seating (and hence NOT to have men teaching women under any circumstances) and in that case the kiruv process would never start since all initial recruiting encounters start in mixed settings because in secular society, where the secular Jews live, there is absolutely no separation between men and women in high school, college, work and leisure.

    That is the reality and that is the environment all kiruv workers must contend with.

    If you want to be Satmar about it, then move to Satmarland, but there can be no kiruv taking place if Satmar non "guidelines" are being put forth.

    In Halacha as in psak it is essential for the posek to know who he is dealing with and not impose a one size fits all pesak because there are lenient and alternative ways to deal with the application of Halacha, especially in a field as fraught with complexities that have never been faced before (when was there ever a time when masses of secular Jews sought to become baalei teshuva as have been going on since the 1960s?)...

  5. Recipients and PublicityJune 14, 2009 at 8:51 AM

    Part Three:

    ...So yes, kiruv rabbis must have an affinity and the ability to live in the secular world and slowly but surely draw the potential baal teshuva closer while in this coed world. To add to the complexity almost always the kiruv workers themseleves are baalei teshuva and they have not been away from the former lifetsyle long enough to be strong enough to withstand its temptations. If many FFB kiruv rabbis can fall victim to temptations with less religious people then surely the former BT kiruv rabbi is even more at risk.

    But honsetly, this should have nothing to do with who gets to teach at seminaries. The best female BT seminaries, such as Machon Chana of Lubavitch and Neve Yerushalayim that has has had the greatest impact and succes with baalas teshuvas are run and staffed almost entirely by rabbis with few women on staff.

    In fact it is probably part of their huge succes rate of making the young women into strong frum women and new aishes chayils is because the BT girls have never been in the presence of exemplary Orthodox men of ahigh moral caliber and if they have good male teachers who are moral and respcet their boundaries, they learn how to relate to the frum male, usually it will be spouse they will soon meet who is a male BT and have a pattern set up of how to relate. Sometimes even chinuch habanos is men's work.

    In psychological terms, many secular girls have negative stereotypes of males and by having the right kind of ehrliche and refined rebbeim who are not out to exploit them sexually or emotionally they are able to work out their negative counter-transferences and emerge ready to tie the knot with a male counterpart.

    Just because there are risks, does not mean that the process must be condemned.

    This is part of a long war against assimilation and perhaps the correct lesson to learn from Zimri and what happened in the sin of Shittim in the chumash when male victims among klal yisroel were seduced by the alien women, is that in a war, any war, and kiruv rechokim is essentially a counter-assimilation war, there are inevitably going to be korbanos and victims as part of the occupationl hazards of this type of risky yet highly rewarding and much needed work!

    That kiruv rabbis have problems with their yetzer horas is not a reflection of kiruv, any more than when mechanchim and rabbonim or balebatim cross the line and have affairs and commit other forbidden sexual activities which are refelction of the sexually permissive society we live in and not a reflection of either being a mechanech, or rov, or balebos or doing kiruv!

  6. Gil Student said...

    R. Hershel Schachter, who is a big supporter of NCSY, refers to it as an aveirah li-shmah.
    Could you please be specific what he views as the sin that is allowed in order to do the mitzva?

    I met a young lady who was involved in a kiruv program here in Jerusalem - and the girls were sent into bars to meet guys and encourage them to be frum. Unfortunately some of them ended up drinking too much and ...

  7. Recipients and PublicityJune 14, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    "the girls were sent into bars to meet guys and encourage them to be frum" -- there is actually a Christian missionary program like this that's called "hookers for Jesus" I kid theee not (I have a book on all the techniques that missionaries sanction) and it's considered a "legitimate" way to get guys to "be born again Christians" so this is the first time I hear of it being used in so-called "kiruv" -- must be someone there was either using that missionary formula or is on that very sad and pathetic wavelength.

    Again, what those girls did or were advised to do is not "kiruv" -- which is like defining a need for treating men who suffer from ED with the "advice" that they need to go to bars and brotheels and spice it up.

    That is neither good medicine nor is it a cure for ED because the cure is worse than the disease since in a bar with disreputable types there is the assured risk of contracting any one of STDs, HIV or getting one's pretty little throat starngled or slashed or both by a drunken sailor or bar patron (in NYC a bar bouncer actually did this to a late night female patron recently and is on trial for murder -- gillui arayos and shefichas damim are often not far from each other!)

    Let's keep perspective here please and there is no doubt in my mnind that Rav Shachter was not talking about bar situations, but was rather being tongue in cheek and expressing the classical dilemma of the para aduma that it is metaher the temeim and metame the tehorim, which is what some gadol said about what purpose Mizrachi or its Bnai akiva youth wing served, good for the frei but terrible for the frum.

  8. Rav Schachter was talking about being in a coed educational setting -- standard NCSY operating procedures. He did not mean anything more than that.

  9. As a female in chinuch for over four decades, all the Bais Yaakov high schools & seminaries employ male teachers for limudei kodesh and limudei chol. Many yeshiva ketanos in New York even employ female teachers till fifth grade to teach the English subjects.
    What's the problem? Are we in the era of going to gender designated doctors, dentists, accountants, lawyers, social workers and cashiers? Is everything assur that pertains to male-female? The foundation to Torah yiddishkeit is crumbling & cracking with all this nonsense.

  10. please note , Rabbi sternbuch is talking about private conversation, not public shiurim to women.

  11. When I was in yeshiva, pundits would say that NCSY stands for: Negia Can Save Yiddishkeit, presumably referring to the laxity regarding the mingling of the sexes.

  12. Recipients and PublicityJune 17, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    To observer, becoming shomer negiah or "shomer" is taken very seriously by students in NCSY.

    Often it's mostly the female students who to their credit take on becoming shomer negiah as well as giving up wearing pants or shorts as they did in their secular lifestyle and start wearing skirts and dresses only, quite a remarkable turnaround for which they should be commended and admired.

    In all kiruv programs, becoming shomer negiah is a part of a process or continuum as serious and challnging as becoming shomer Shabbos or shomer Kashrus or leaving Christianity (yes, many Jews are in various Christian movements) and in the over-all struggle to become shomer Mitzvos.

    It is a process in kiruv rechokim and in the related process of becoming baal teshuva and it is not and never has been official policy of NCSY or any kiruv organization to break Halacha, on the contrary they work with the students baasher hu sham on the level they are at and try to move them along to fuller observance till the students can take pride in becoming more or fully observant in all areas.

    So it is ridiculous to malign NCSY or any kirv organization based on misconceptions and distortions of the way kiruv rechokim works and how people eventually become baalei teshuva.

  13. Recipients and PublicityJune 17, 2009 at 6:02 AM

    To Aaron who says that "please note , Rabbi sternbuch is talking about private conversation, not public shiurim to women."

    What kind of misdirected nonsense is that? How is it possible to mekarev anyone without counseling them, either in groups or privately?

    The counseling process, or shmoozing, is as much if not more important than actual classes or lectures which often times just sound like sermons or academic lectures that make little or no impact on the listeners and it is often the private talk or the request foongoing counseling that allows the kiruv worker or rabbi concerned to use that opportunity to hear about deeper concerns and offer insights and advice that will allow the girls and students to make real progress withe the hadrcah and, yes, daas Torah they will hear.

    As a comparison, a kiruv worker functions as BOTH lecturer/teacher AND as a "psychologist"/counselor and while lecturing/teaching takes place in a more more formal setting, the wwork of a psychologist or school counselor takes place in a more private and one on one setting for the benefit of the student/s and it is most frequently that the student will turn to the lecturer or teacher they have decided to trust and confide in for personal guidance AND THIS IS VERY GOOD BACAUSE IT INDICATES THAT A BREAKTHROUGH HAS BEEN MADE AND THAT THE STUDENT WISHES TO BE "DRAWN CLOSE" (MEKAREVD BY KIRUV!!!) AND THAT BINGO WE HAVE A BAALAS TESHUVA IN THE MAKING WHICH CANNOT HAPPEN OR BE GAGED VIA LECTURES OR CLASSES ALONE. Rav Shternbuch is surely not banning this, but he is warning that in these type of deliocate situations greater care and caution must be exercised because there is danger in the privacy of the situation that cannot be avoided and that illegal yichud not become a setting for crossing of red lines and where the barriers between the kiruv rabbi acting as counselor and the student who has placed her trust in him lead to an unfortunate breaking of the halachos of tsnius, negiah and fall into gillui arayos.

    If the kiruv worker cannot trust himself and if he is not ready for this job, then he must be stopped and not get to this type of situation in the first place, but the vast majority of kiruv workers and rabbis have been able to keep their boundaries and not fall into the traps of breaking the boundaries of tznius, negiah and arayos. Which does not mean to say that there are no problems, as there will be, as an occupational hazard, of this type of counseling/hadracha work that must be done, so counselors and self-annointed mashgichim and mashpiim be warned and beware!

    This challenge is actually no different than what is faced by all regular psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, teachers and all men or women who are in professional situations that bring them into the presence of clients, patients or underlings who have placed their trust in them and it is to be expected that professionaly no illicit relationships will occur by the inability to retain and maintain boundaries. If not, then that is when the real probelms begin.

    So this is not unique to kiruv because it can be found in any field of rabbonus, chinuch, education, mental health and any field of employment where men and women are in close proximity to each other either by choice or by circumstances.

  14. Observer, it is evident that your knowledge of NCSY is all based on hearsay.


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