May 21, 2005

Dealing With Abuse Allegations: The Halachic Way -- Or The Awareness Center Way?

The Jewish Press

Posted 5/18/2005
By Editorial Board
Dealing With Abuse Allegations:

The Halachic Way — Or The Awareness Center Way?

Rabbi Hershel Billet, who chaired the Rabbinical Council of America`s Vaad Hakavod process leading to the RCA`s expulsion of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, has at least partially lifted the RCA`s extraordinary veil of secrecy surrounding the matter (news story, page 3). Rather than settle the matter, though, his disclosures raise questions beyond those we’ve articulated in a series of editorials these past few weeks. And the implications go far beyond the issue of Rabbi Tendler.

For one thing, the newly revealed identities of the members of the Vaad present special problems. Some of the members are individuals known to have had very public — and in some instances very nasty — disputes on unrelated subjects with Rabbi Tendler. Further, it appears that there is significant overlap between membership on the Vaad and on the RCA`s Executive Committee to which the Vaad made its recommendations. Thus, not only is there the unfortunate appearance of possible lack of impartiality, but apparently the Vaad, in large measure, reports to itself for confirmation of its own recommendations. And still unanswered is why one member of the Vaad, a rabbi, resigned — according to one source it was because this individual was upset by what he perceived to be “an agenda” on the part of some Vaad members; by the prejudicial leaks to the newspapers; and by the role of non-rabbi members of the Vaad.

Also of great interest is the startling revelation that Rabbi Billet sought to get a principal witness against Rabbi Tendler to disavow her recantation of negative things she’d said to the Vaad Hakavod about Rabbi Tendler. That witness, described publicly as "Joanna, the Jamaican cleaning lady," testified before a formal Monsey, New York, bet din that her earlier statements to the Vaad about Rabbi Tendler were spoken in error. The recantation, it needs to be emphasized, was made to a formal halachic bet din. Nevertheless, Rabbi Billet, who was chairing a non-halachic panel, attempted to have her change her testimony. Extraordinary.

Posted by kshaw at May 21, 2005 08:49 AM