Jun 29, 2009
Response to Rosenblum
I am a bit surprised that the Jerusalem Post published an anonymous article - I did not know newspapers did that. Unless of course the writers name is actually "Name Witheld"....
Some features of the response:
Rosenblum mentions the work of Lema'an Achai only in connection with the Gush Katif refugees and those from the North. This gives the impression it is a narrowly National Religious organization. That is not true.
Lema'an Achai is a tzedaka and hesed organization that serves the entire Ramat Beit Shemesh community (not only the refugees from Gush Katif and the North). Most of the families helped by Lema'an Achai are haredi (despite the fact that several leading haredi rabbis do not encourage supporting Lema'an Achai.) So its head, David Morris, certainly has no anti-haredi agenda. Most of the community - haredi and nonharedi - supports Morris's efforts.
Rosenblum refers to the case against the heder rebbe being closed (the police decided not to pursue further investigation), and that this was not the outcome Morris wanted. Rosenblum misses the point entirely.
The case was closed due to lack of sufficient evidence to indict and prosecute, which often happens in cases in which the primary claimants are minors - as Rosenblum, a lawyer, should know. The facts in that particular case are very disturbing (there is more than one complaint against that particular rebbe), and yet he is presently teaching young children in the same position he held previously - with the agreement of some (not all) of the haredi rabbis in the neighborhood. This is exactly the problem on which the original Jerusalem Post news story focused, and this is exactly the indifference that many haredi and non-haredi residents alike are concerned about.
Rosenblum highlights the fact that Morris is not professionally trained. Morris is not a professional, nor does he claim to be. However, his organization has many professionals on staff, and he consults them on all these issues. Rosenblum knows this, and it's very unclear why he chose to give a different impression.
ROSENBLUM IS CORRECT that the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood is generally well educated, etc. However, many residents feel that the rabbis are "behind" the community on this issue. That was exactly the point of the original article. Rosenblum himself points out that the haredi community in general has begun to approach this issue more aggressively.
That is particularly true in the US and to a lesser degree in Jerusalem. The Ramat Beit Shemesh haredi community lags behind in this area - though since the original article was published, public awareness has been raised.
ROSENBLUM PITS Morris against the rabbis. Yet Morris consults with rabbinic leadership consistently, and several rabbis in the neighborhood fully support his efforts to raise awareness on this issue. Rosenblum could have easily checked this out. Why didn't he ask Morris for comment? Had he spoken to him, he would have realized that there is no antiharedi agenda coming from Morris. The agenda is to raise awareness and spark more action, and that is exactly what is happening.
Rosenblum puts words in the mouth of Morris to paint him in a negative light. For example, Morris never used the word haredi or epidemic.
Morris is out to raise awareness, do hesed and help protect our children. He has done, and in this case is doing, a great job. Most Ramat Beit Shemesh people think it's crazy that Rosenblum turned him into the "antiharedi" bad guy.
Lema'an Achai is not the antiharedi bad guy either. As mentioned above, most of the families Lema'an Achai has been helping (some for years) have been haredi. Furthermore, some (maybe many, I don't know the exact number) of its leading administrators, social workers, therapists and counselors are haredi themselves.
Unfortunately, this and the other examples show that Rosenblum was writing a knee-jerk bashing of a nonharedi person and organization who had the strength to point out a weakness in the Beit Shemesh community. Rosenblum owes Morris and Lema'an Achai a major apology.
ROSENBLUM WRITES, "In addition, publicity can lead to hysteria in which parents become convinced that their children are at great risk in school. (In fact, more abuse takes place within families or involves older children as perpetrators.)" This line completely baffles me. Is Rosenblum saying that since most abuse takes place at home, we should be less careful and less concerned about abuse in school? Is that how he would (not) react if he heard about abuse in his own child's school?
Rosenblum's own column closes with a call for more education and public lectures in the areas of parent/child communication and abuse.
Awareness has been raised and people are asking good questions and encouraging more action. Even Rosenblum's way-off-the-mark piece is part of the solution. Thank you David Morris for being the catalyst.