Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Charisma: A Note on the Dangerous Outer Boundary of Spirituality

Jewish ideas  by Paul Shaviv who contributed a chapter to my book Child and Domestic Abuse Volume I [this originally appeared in April 18, 2011]. hat tip Joel Katz

For the past several years, I have contributed postings to a number of websites on the subject of the dangerously charismatic teacher in schools. The material was based on my book on Jewish school management that was published at the beginning of 2010. The section on the charismatic teacher was entitled “The Pied Piper.”’[i]

Tragically, between the time that the section was originally written (in 2007) and the time the book was published, a former Jewish Studies teacher at our school was arrested on very serious charges of sexual molestation and assault. His alleged offences were committed in Israel. Following his arrest, an investigation in Toronto unearthed many issues of concern. He had exemplified many of the good and many of the bad characteristics of the charismatic teacher, especially one active in the religious life of the school. While in Toronto (as a shaliah) he had been immensely popular; had been idolized by students and by some staff; was a talented musician, much in demand locally as a singer at weddings and other community celebrations; and was also used by NCSY as a youth leader and resource. Many former students testified to the profound religious influence he had on their lives. Others—as it emerged—had far darker, tragic, and damaging memories.

The whole episode and its aftermath caused me many hours of reflection, and made me reconsider fundamentally many other encounters throughout my life with charismatic rabbis and teachers—in both personal and professional capacities. I concluded that although many good teachers and rabbis have elements of charisma in their personalities and style, the overtly charismatic personality almost always masks far more sinister agendas, and must be treated and managed with the utmost caution.  The tipping point is where the personality of the teacher/rabbi is more important than the content of his message or teaching. Sadly, most readers of this article will be familiar with examples from within our own community, let alone examples from other educational and religious communities. [...]

1 comment :

  1. This article addresses how to identify the dangerous Charismatic Personality.

    I'm assuming that the charismatic personality doesn't necessarily start off evil. Often, he could have started off with sincere idealism, with a drive to do what's right. And then, his success and power, allows him to fall into a terrible pitfall.

    What about the Charismatic Personality himself. How can he protect himself and guard himself against falling into abusing his "power"? What can he do? How can he protect himself, and how can we protect the vulnerable from him, that he should only help them and not exploit them?


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.