May 21, 2006

Facts in Gafni case must be brought to light


Andrew Friedman

In 2002, U.S. Rabbi Baruch Lanner was convicted of aggravated sexual contact and sexual contact, and of endangering the welfare of two teenage girls by touching their breasts while serving as principal of the Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean Township, New Jersey. The girls testified that Lanner also telephoned them at home, made lewd and sexually suggestive comments, and promised one that he would marry her.

But the real tragedy of the story is that Lanner had been accused for years of sexual impropriety, inconsistent and occasionally violent behavior, but students' calls for help were routinely ignored by Lanner's superiors, both at school and at the Orthodox Union, the parent group of theAbuse Tracker Conference of Synagogue Youth group that Lanner headed. It took a media expose by the New York Jewish Week to finally force the rabbi to resign both posts and Orthodox Union officials to admit they had allowed a dangerous situation to fester by ignoring warning signs that Lanner posed a danger to his students.

Years of accusations

Israel now finds itself in a similar position with regard to Mordechai Gafni , the charismatic but troubled former leader of the Bayit Chadash community in Jaffa who now stands accused of rape and sexual misconduct. Like Lanner, Gafni is a talented speaker with a magnetic personality. And also like Lanner, he has been dogged by accusations of impropriety (sexual and non-sexual) for years. And, again like Lanner, Gafni has managed to avoid prosecution and punishment for his accused actions for years.

Posted by kshaw at May 21, 2006 07:03 AM