Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Meir Pogrow: Rav Yizchok Berkovitz and Rav Reuven Leuchter discuss how to deal with the scandal

update: I was extremely disappointed by the words of both rabbis. They basically ignored what happened or perhaps never knew what really happened. They just used it as a spring board to talk about what we or teachers or kiruv workers need to do to avoid having temptation or charisma. There was no mention or awareness of the institutional setting of this scandal. There was no mention or awareness that Pogrow operated in an environment which failed to protect students from being harmed by him. There is no awareness or mention of the issue of abuse and seduction. In short there is absolutely no mention of anything which prevent another teacher destroying the lives of their students.

Does Ner Le'Elef actually talk about sexual abuse or is that viewed as a dirty topic which shouldn't be discussed in public.

Ner Le'Elef    Less than two weeks ago, the Orthodox community learned of a terrible scandal, a lowlight for rabbis around the world, as the promiscuous and abusive escapades of a popular teacher/scholar were called out.  The whistleblowing was led by six geographically diverse senior rabbis, with broad-based affiliations in the Orthodox community.  The important news sent shockwaves through a community of students and teachers, many of whom were acquainted with, or even students of, the abuser.

The healing has just begun for the victims and their families, and even many rabbis previously unfamiliar with the case — and still modestly unaware of the tawdry details — were terribly unnerved by the vulgar news.  Many sought counsel to better understand the pathology of what had transpired, so that they might continue in their own noble work and the spiritual development of their communities without, G-d forbid, cultivating future potential scandals.
Olami, a movement dedicated to helping rabbis inspire growth in Jews of all backgrounds, arranged reflective lectures by two leading educational lights.  Rabbi Reuven Leuchter, the spritual guide of Ner Le’Elef and other educational institutions, spoke to rabbis and educators around the world on “Charisma and Control”, discussing the pathology and dynamics that nurture unhealthy rabbi-student relationships.  Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, rosh kollel of The Jerusalem Kollel,and a leading authority on Jewish Law and rabbinic training, spoke on “Moving on After Scandal and Tragedy”, instructing rabbis and educators on the “cheshbon hanefesh” (self-assessment) necessary to inspire growth in others by cultivating honest growth in oneself. [....]


  1. Think about their audience and the purpose of their talks. It was a discussion for rabbis that are going out into the world to influence people and what they as individuals can learn from Pogrow. This wasn't a message to yeshiva or seminary administrators and leaders.

    I personally heard Rabbi Reuven Leuchter speak on this very subject many years ago when he cautioned against the charismatic influence. At the same time Ner L'Elef was trying to send guys to Austin to join Pogrow's kollel. Rav Leuchter and Ner L'Elef certainly did not know what he was doing.

  2. I don't understand the disappointment you express in your update. Rav Leuchter and Rabbi Berkowitz both work in the field of training people to do kiruv. It is totally reasonable that their angle would be to "talk about what we or teachers or kiruv workers need to do to avoid having temptation or charisma." I am not sure why you would expect them to be the ones to address the larger institutional failures here, particularly in the setting in which they were speaking. I agree with you that these issues need to be addressed, but not necessarily by those Rabbis in that setting.

  3. From the way both rabbis were talking it seems that the issues are not talked about. Instead they focused on how a teacher or kiruv worker not fall into temptation. It is not just institutional failings - it is what the response should be if they noticed another teacher acting in this way. What would they do if students reported inappropriate behavior? If a student reported being seduced or molested - what should they do. This is apparently the official response to the scandal - it is not sufficient

  4. The headline of the article is revealing: rabbis supporting rabbis

    Given that title, what do you expect?

  5. the title is ambiguous. It can mean that the rabbis who are very upset about the matter are being told not to be so upset because it was the result of a sociopath genius and was basically a unique event. Or they can be given chizuk by giving them the tools to deal with reports and suspicions of abuse. I was hoping the latter and in reality it was the former.

  6. Why do you say this is "the official response to the scandal"?
    As an aside, when I was in Ner L'Elef the official position on psychological issues was if anyone came to you with anything other than normal run-of-the-mill issues, refer them immediately to a professional therapist.

  7. I am not sure what the "why not?" is going on. To the extent Rabbi Berkowitz is involved in this issue and proper responses by yeshiva or seminary administrators, he would speak to them specifically (maybe even one-on-one), not to kiruv workers going out in the field.

    If you mean why didn't Ner L'Elef know about this, I don't know the answer. Presumably nobody told them. As far as they knew, Aish was sending their star Rabbi to start a new kiruv kollel in America.

  8. there is a need for the rabbis in the field to understand these issues as well. From the one question that Rav Berkovitz was asked it is clear he did not understand anything about abuse and Rav Berkovitz went out of his way not to talk about the issue

  9. Ignorance of abuse and the kick it up the the professionals solution is not a helpful response. Of course the therapist should deal with the case - but that is no excuse fro someone in kiruv or a community rabbi or teacher not knowing about the topic

  10. Again, you are 100% correct that these are important issues. But there is an important point about book reviewers. Often, reviewers will criticize the book, not for not having done its job properly, but for not having done the job the reviewer would like it to do. That is unfair. Instead of thinking of these talks as the all-encompassing response of these rabbonim/organizations to this issue, think of it in the terms of what it is: Guidance to kiruv workers not to fall into that trap. If you feel they did not offer the correct guidance on that point, by all means criticize. But it is unfair to criticize them for not discussing in this particular forum the issues that you would want them to discuss. Perhaps you can direct a question to the organization about what they do to prepare their students re. those larger issues you raise.

  11. the point was that these rabbis were specifically asked to explain what had happened with Pogrow - and they instead turned it into a session of what the normal individual should do to avoid losing himself. What they said was fine - but it in no way addressed the topic that they had been asked to address.

    If they said that the information being sought would be provided by professionals and that this was basically a mussar talk - I would no problem. But that is not how this was presented.

  12. I am not sure where you got that categorization from. The website you link to says that Rav Leuchter would talk about "the pathology and dynamics that nurture unhealthy rabbi-student relationships" and that Rabbi Berkowitz would talk about "the “cheshbon hanefesh” (self-assessment) necessary to inspire growth in others by cultivating honest growth in oneself."
    I know that the Pogrow "affair" is what led to these talks, but where does it say that they were specifically asked to discuss the details of the Pogrow case?

  13. not sure why you don't see the elementary issue. Rav Leuchter himself admitted he didn't really know the facts in the Pogrow.
    There are important lessons to be learned from the Pogrow case - and not just a generic concern with charismatic teachers. I am not concerned about the bloody details specific to the Pogrow case. But there is a need to explain the issue of sexual abuse and harassment and the issue of not only referring someone to a therapist - but picking up that that there might be problems, knowing what the protocols are for dealing with other teachers or authority figures who might be involved in inappropriate behavior.

    In sum, a disaster occurred and the rabbinic response is that we need to be more introspective and aware of what WE are doing. WRONG RESPONSE. In essence the good rabbis said is that we need to deal with this scandal by doing teshuva and introspection.

    Did you listen to the question that Rav Berkovitz was asked - that he really didn't provide a meaningful answer - that was directly dealing with Pogrow.

  14. I haven't listened to R' Berkowitz yet.
    I think we are at an impasse. I agree with you that all the issues you raised should be addressed with those going out to do kiruv. I am just questioning your upset at them not doing it within the confines of these specific two speeches.
    Over and out.

  15. I just think that you want to criticize all rebbeim so you can feel "better" than them. Can you tell me from who do you follow Daat Torah? Please tel me a list of 5 living Rebbeim that you admire them? Maybe I am wrong but from your post I reed that you feel that you are above every Rab that it is considered mainstream ortodox. You are angry.

    Best regards

  16. I suggest you get guidance in reading comprehension. Rabbis are not above criticism. Please stick to the point I made instead of ad hominem attacks. Do you agree with what I said or disagree with it. Why?

    Bottom line: Your analysis is wrong

  17. You didn't answer my question. List me 5 living rebbeim that you admire. Who do you follow for daas Torah.

    About your question I know them personally and I have hear from them regarding other similar issues strong reproaches. But they are carful to who they transmit that and how.

    They were speaking to future mechanchim and rebbeim so they were addressing only one point that was nogeah to that minute.

    gut shabbos, will be waiting for your answer...

  18. I don't answer "when did you stop beating your wife allegations"

  19. Ok, this is your blog and you are in your right not to answer. But I think that you don't have one.

    By the way about Rav Berkowitz and Leuchter I heard the Shiurim and they address and transmit very good the point that they want to make. It is not YOUR point. But that doesn't give you the right to criticize them.

    At least you didn't publish their mobile this time.

  20. Meir Pogrow is a hero... or at least he was for quite some time. A man who really knows Kol HaTorah Kullah, who was given Kovod left, right and center, and still manage to have his way with countless women... he's my hero! I've been trying to pull something like that for years but haven't been able to, and the huge difference between us is that Meir Pogrow is almost as short as a midget, was extremelly fat (until he starved himself to becoming incredibly thin only to get fat again) and is as ugly as the gates of gehinom... and I'm quite good looking!
    He stopped being my hero the moment he got caught... oh... and the underage stuff is also a no no... serious crime pal... should have stuck to over 18s only!
    Sorry Pogrow, can't be my hero unless you can pull it all off ad lenetzach and not mess around with under 18s.
    Can you imagine how many Hot Channies he must have put to bed? It's every Rav's dream...
    Also, people sometimes think that a kiruv setting is the ideal setting to pull this off. I think it's really the Kollel, Yeshivishe and especially Chasidische circles which are much more conducive... bored and undersatisfied (or completely unsatisfied) wives... give them attention and you're half way there. I'm half way there with maaaany of them... have scores of whatsapp "special friends"... just need to do a Pogrow on them now.
    As for Rav Berkowitz - He's as real as it gets. Mamash a heilige Rov... if you can be like him you'll surely not have Pogrow as your hero.
    As for Leuchter - The man is a PSYCHOPATH!!!! Much more dangerous than 10 Pogrow's combined. He hides behind his "close relationship with Rav Wolbe". Ridiculous... Now here is a man who's destroyed many many lives. I became a Krum Frum thanks to him.
    Go on Eidensohn... let's see if you have the courage to publish this piece of uncontestable truth now!!!

  21. Hey, why did you delete my comments regarding Leuchter????

  22. Because I have no independent comfirmation that your slanderous comments have any basis in reality. I have never heard anyone make the claims that you have.

  23. If you posted my remarks about Leuchter I guarantee you would find that many people share my opinion about his general mental health...

  24. Back to the point: Who here fantasizes about his Talmidot, wives of his friends, hat channies in general??? You would be shocked if people have the guts to be honest and reply to this post...
    Koheles 9:17 "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"

  25. You should delete all this guy's sick comments.


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