A Session for Confession
"The Agudath Israel needs to take corrective discipline with its misbehaving bratty children, instead of trying to convince the principal to not suspend the kids each time they misbehave. It should position itself as a proponent of compliance with tax laws instead of as a cover-upper of tax cheats, and as a proponent of zero tolerance for sexual abusers instead of a cover-upper of sexual abuse. This will take some practical leadership."
Perhaps the Agudath Israel is coming through. In a hurried response to the mass arrests in New Jersey (which only exacerbate the AI's increasingly embarassing public image), the AI convened a hastily-planned symposium (for men only, but that's a whole separate issue). The speakers at the symposium included none other than Naftali Tzvi Weisz, the Grand Rabbi of Spinka, who spoke some very contrite words. The speakers also included high-profile criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, who said many of the things I have been saying for years. The videos of the event are very, very interesting, and can be viewed here if you have the time and inclination.
My take on it:
(A) Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel recently assumed the post of Executive Vice President of the Agudath Israel of America. He is a lawyer, and understands many of the legal nuances involved far better than mere rabbis.
(B) The Spinka Rebbe, having signed the tentative plea agreement, now has to do all sorts of contritional acts. Moreover, the plea agreement is a "package deal" contingent upon, inter alia, "a case disposition agreement executed by representatives of Spinka and all of its constituent organizations." The Rebbe's reference in his discourse to various watchdog-type committees is probably a reference to the terms and conditions of such case disposition agreements.
(C) In one of the videos, (approx. 2:00), Ben Brafman tells a semi-humorous story wherein he attended a minyan (English translation: A group of at least 10 Jewish men convened for prayer service) to say Kaddish for his father, and the guy selected to lead was his former client. Understand that Ben Brafman's clients are all criminal defendants. This, no doubt, made many of the AI hierarchy people in attendance wince.
(D) This symposium would have been unimaginable a year ago. But now, AA seems to be moving rapidly out of denial mode and is confronting problems which, only a short while ago, it would never admit existed. With the Jersey arrests making the headlines, the AI hierarchy now is beginning to realize that it can no longer go about delivering the morality lecture when so many members of so many of its affiliated groups are not behaving in a moral manner. Expect more events and missives with the new "obey the laws" message!
(E) Personal sentiment: It would not surprise me in the least if, within the next few months or years, the Agudath Israel of America erects a website. I leave it to those in the pari-mutuel profession to assign particular odds to particular time frames.