The US rabbis' ultimatum to Rabbi Drukman

Going public from across the ocean with criticism of Rabbi Drukman and demands that he apologize on the pages of a newspaper is unacceptable and inappropriate - let alone shocking from a halakhic point of view.

Lila Lowell

OpEds Rabbi Drukman
Rabbi Drukman

Please don’t misunderstand, I in no way defend perpetrators of sexual assault and especially those who abuse children. I was a case supervisor in the division of Child Protective Services and saw more horrors than one can imagine.

Nevertheless, the villain in the Israeli situation is Motti Elon. The fact that nine American RCA rabbis decided to castigate Rabbi Druckman in public on the pages of a newspaper and bring him to his knees smacks more of a turf war over influence and policy than a knowledgeable reaction to events.

Were R. Lichtenstein alive, I think he would have strenuously objected to the behavior of these nine RCA rabbis vis a vis R. Drukman.  
If Rabbi Drukman seems to have made a mistake, it was because he did what he thought was enough and it turned out not to be. It is important to remember that he is Israeli and that Israel is behind America in sophistication. Certainly, Israeli rabbis have had little experience in dealing with educational figures who are discovered to be sexual offenders.

Motti Elon was not simply a Rosh yeshiva or a teacher or a communal rabbi, he was a major star. He gave a weekly Shiur at the Yeshurun Bet Knesset Sunday evenings,  it was packed with people of all ages including my husband and I. He appeared on TV EREV Shabbat. He was the reason we bought our apartment in the location we chose; we wanted to be near his Shul.  His influence was enormous. So much so, when the story initially broke, hardly anyone believed the student who brought the accusations. Motti Elon was so revered and so admired for his learning and his Midot, it was difficult for young and old to accept the rumors. I share this because I am guessing, given Elon’s stature and his many friendships, that Rabbi Drukman tried to give him a face saving option, not realizing the severity of the situation and given that Elon never once admitted to any of the charges.

For this group of American rabbis to publicly shame Harav Drukman is totally wrong and completely unacceptable. It would have been more appropriate for them to have continued to speak to Rabbi Drukman quietly and to have dealt with Rabbi Drukman’s efforts on Elon’s behalf behind closed doors even if they did not succeed in getting what they wanted from him. But they didn’t.

Once Rabbi Drukman became aware that Elon had violated all the agreements he had made with him; which included staying away from students, not teaching young people, and more, Rabbi Drukman totally distanced himself from Motti Elon.

I don’t see where this group of nine rabbis of far less stature than Rabbi Drukman, have the halakhic right to publicly shame Rabbi Drukman and make demands of him such as apologizing to Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein zts"l who departed this world four years ago. What happened to the concepts of slander and gossip. loshon hara and rechilut, slander and public shaming, halbanat panim? Were Rabbi Lichtenstein alive, I think he would have strenuously objected to the behavior of these nine RCA rabbis vis a vis Rabbi Drukman.  

In addition, destroying HaRav Chaim Drukman, a venerable and beloved leader of Israeli Religious Zionism with more accomplishments than all these rabbis put together, along with all the much needed projects he heads such as the conversion program for Russians, simply adds another victim to the demolition list generated by Motti Elon. How is that helpful?

Last point, these rabbis quote the Takana Forum, an Israeli forum of 23 Israeli rabbis and women of stature who established a code of ethics and procedures for dealing with religious sexual offenders in the educational and public sector.  Though the RCA rabbis reference the forum, not one of these Israeli rabbis and esteemed women are signatories to the article condemning Rabbi Drukman. Their work is done away from the media and only when there are unauthorized leaks, does it enter the public domain. 

In fact, sources close to Rabbi Druckman said in response,”referring to the letter the RCA rabbis made public, “they were saddened and expressed surprise to hear that important rabbis in the US do not listen to the President of TAKANA Forum Rabbi Yaakov Ariel who determined unambiguously that he fully accepts the apology of Rabbi Druckman to the victims.” Rabbi Ariel said of Rabbi Druckman, that Rabbi Druckman did indeed retract support for Elon and that Rabbi Druckman had been a party in instructing Elon to stop his activities and that he, Rabbi Druckman was ready to apologize to students.

The behavior of Motti Elon, whose rabbinic title has been revoked, is beyond despicable and criminal. He is responsible for the life long misery and suffering of many young people. Castigating Rav Drukman for trying to be a mensch by known halakhic standards is wrong, even if with hindsight his actions may have been misguided R. Druckman, It would have been much more respectable for the nine rabbis and for Rabbi Druckman if all was handled quietly, if  changes and procedures were established within the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva and the entire Religious Zionist educational world so this kind of abuse never ever happens again. 

May Hashem Watch over all our children and grandchildren so that none ever experience  the humiliation, suffering and cruelty of sexual abuse, particularly by a teacher or religious leader.