Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad Deal for the Yeshiva

As mentioned in several prior postings, the Agudath Israel of America has allowed itself to become entangled in fiascos that deviate from, and are, in many respects, contrary to its noble mission to facilitate and bolster the quality of life for religious Jewish observance and education in America. The new Executive Vice President, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, apparently has been tasked to redirect the organization. Some of the toochases he will need to kick belong to some very prominent rabbis.

As synopsized in the posting of 15 July 2009, Agudath Israel had, over the years, fallen into the denial trap with respect to various types of abuses within the religious Jewish community. Prior to the modern information technologies, a newspaper editor really could control the flow of information (and, for that matter, a leader such as a rabbi wielded even greater control over information before newspapers became the norm in the community). Accordingly, it was in many respects appropriate policy to restrain word of an occasional from going out to "the street" while the rabbis and community leaders worked to help the victim.

Add to this the fact that the religious community prided itself that certain behaviors contrary to the Torah were in fact rare within the community. Under such circumstances, it was more convenient to deny that the misbehaviors occurred than to confront the misbehaviors and the misbehavers. In fact, it was -- and still is -- a community taboo to even mention such misbehaviors by name.

And so, the Agudath Israel now finds itself ensnared in its past policies of denying that certain occurrences within the insular religious community occurred.

Addressing the problems of sexual abuses by the clergy, New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey introduced Assembly Bill 2596, the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations to bring civil suit against, inter alia, educational institutions, for sexual abuse of children.

The Markey Bill presented a double whammy for Agudath Israel. For one thing, it brought home the uncomfortable fact that sexual abuse of children by clergy in the religious schools is not the exclusive province of the Catholic Church. Of more practical concern, however, was the fear that some financially strapped yeshivas might now be subject to existence-ending litigation on account of past wrongs by long departed employees. And so, the Agudath Israel issued a policy statement against the Markey Bill. [Given the oft-expressed attitude that sexual abuse by the clergy is a Catholic problem and we, the Rabbis, are not as depraved as some of the Catholic clergy, it is more than a little bit ironic that Agudath Israel is now working with the Catholic Church in opposing the Markey Bill.].

In short, the combination of s-e-x-u-a-l i-m-p-r-o-p-r-i-e-t-y and m-o-n-e-y have tripped up the Agudath Israel.

With its opposition of the Markey Bill, the AI has now postured itself as a champion of financial stability for yeshivas and other religious Jewish institutions. Which is why AI and Rabbi Zwiebel have just been thrown a real screwball pitch.

The recent mass arrests in Newark, which ensnared several rabbis, are more than just an embarrassment to the Agudath Israel (and indeed, this Jew is quite disgusted and embarrassed by them). The Newark arrests all resulted from the various songs sung by one Solomon Dwek, the Rabbi's son who, being under investigation for some significant bank fraud, chose to deliver up some more fish to the FBI in order to posture himself for some merciful treatment. Solomon Drek is, quite appropriately, scorned and reviled in the Jewish community for squealing on his fellow Jews (and, I suspect, will find few if any admirers among the gentiles).

But Dwek's problems, which started from his construction business being whipsawed in a bad econonomy, have also landed him in Bankruptcy Court. And now, the Trustee of Dwek's bankruptcy estate is now suing Dwek's father's yeshiva, the Deal Yeshiva, claiming that about $13 million of Dwek's ill-gotten gains traversed through the Deal Yeshiva's bank accounts. The Yeshiva is reportedly behind in the payment of salaries to its rank-and-file employees.

Now, if Agudath Israel of America is so staunch an advocate of financial security for yeshivas, how is it going to handle this one? What say you, Rabbi Zwiebel?

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