"There is the disgraceful case of the former headmaster Kopolevitch of Netiv Meir yeshiva high school who lived in a pedophile's heaven for the last fifteen years, abusing dozens, even hundreds of boys under his tutelage." — Naomi Ragen
Rabbi Ze'ev Kapelovich is a convicted sex offender. He was the former principal of the Netiv Meir Yeshiva. His crimes include conducting indecent acts with 19 of his pupils, many of them under 16.
If anyone has a photograph of Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch please forward it to The Awareness Center, Inc.
Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.
Table of Contents:
- Police seek to question Shapira, Druckman in connection with yeshiva sex scandal case (01/30/1998)
- News in Brief (02/04/1998)
- Dedicated Teacher (02/06/1998)
- Ex-yeshiva head indicted for forcing pupils to have sex (04/23/1999)
- News In Brief (04/27/1999)
- Former yeshiva head indicted on sex charges (04/30/1999)
- The unraveling kippa (05/07/1999)
- Conspiracy of Silence (05/24/1999)
- Kopolevitch pleads not guilty (06/11/1999)
- Plea bargain agreement reached in yeshiva molestation case (10/11/1999)
- Court convicts former yeshiva head of indecent acts against students (10/11/1999)
- May I Have a Word, Mr. Rubinstein? (11/04/1999)
- Former yeshiva head apologizes for molesting students (11/11/1999)
- Constructive whistle-blowing (11/12/1999)
- Kopolevitch gets 3 1/2 years (11/19/1999)
- Decries Light Penalty (11/28/1999)
- Rabbi faces indictment for sexually abusing students (03/08/2000)
- Yeshiva teacher accused of molesting students (01/12/2000)
- Nowhere to Cry For Help (01/31/2000)
- Rabbis who go off the rails (07/06/2006)
News in BriefBy Danna Harman, Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post Staff, Itim
The Jerusalem Post - April 27, 1999
Meimad activists protest against Lapid
Holding pots of "chulent," Meimad Party youth staged a demonstration yesterday outside the Shinui Party offices in Tel Aviv to protest recent statements made by Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, which they find offensive and divisive.
"Why not eat chulent on Shabbat?" the protesters chanted, in response to Lapid's call for secular Jews to "eat shrimp on Shabbat."
"Tommy Lapid, using gimmicks and harsh language, is dividing the people and increasing hatred between secular and religious in this country," said Meimad spokesman Moni Mordechai. Danna Harman Shapira, Druckman won't be prosecuted
Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein decided yesterday not to prosecute former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira and former NRP MK and current NRP candidate Haim Druckman for failing to take action against the former head of Yeshivat Netiv Meir, Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch. Kopolevitch has been indicted on charges of forcing 19 of his students to engage in homosexual relations with him.
Police investigated allegations that some of the students had complained about Kopolevitch to Shapira, the head of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and Druckman, who was head of the B'nei Akiva yeshivot at the time, and that they had not passed on the complaints to the authorities. Police recommended prosecuting the two rabbis. Rubinstein did not provide the reasons for his decision not to do so. Dan Izenberg
30 injured in bus crash
Twenty-six seventh graders and four escorts were lightly injured yesterday when a bus driving them home from Masada turned over on its side, just north of the Beit Kama intersection in the Lachish area, Israel Radio reported last night.
The pupils from the Korczak School in Ramat Gan were treated at the scene and taken to Soroka and Barzilai hospitals, the radio said.
The driver said a semitrailer suddenly appeared before him, apparently trying to make a U-turn, without its headlights on. To avoid hitting the truck, he veered to the right, going up onto the shoulder of the road. The bus hit the side of the truck and then turned on its side, he said, according to the radio. Jerusalem Post Staff
No appeal on Lederman's release
State Attorney Edna Arbel decided yesterday not to petition the High Court against the parole board's decision to release Yisrael Lederman one year before the end of his three-year jail sentence. Lederman was convicted of spilling boiling tea over Labor MK Yael Dayan in 1996, causing second degree burns to her neck and chest.
The parole board decided that Lederman had expressed unambiguous regret for his action and said he had learned his lesson. The board first decided to release Lederman last September, after he completed half his jail term. However, the High Court of Justice accepted a petition by Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein calling on it to reconsider its decision. In 1978, Lederman was convicted of killing a Palestinian and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was released after three years. Dan Izenberg
Ben-Porat: Report too close to elections
Former state comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat said yesterday on Army Radio that the latest report should have come out earlier rather than so close to elections. "The date could have been moved up," she said. "Publication of a state comptroller's report influences elections results. I wouldn't put out a report so close to elections." Ben-Porat said in 1992, she had moved up the then-annual report's publication date by two weeks to distance it from the election campaign. Itim
Former yeshiva head indicted on sex charges
Jewish Weekly - April 30, 1999
by Naomi Ragen
Naomi Ragen.com - (May 7, 1999)
The symbol of the election campaign for the National Religious Party is the unraveling knitted skullcap. Vote for the Mafdal, the commercial says, or all our wonderful educational institutions, our youth groups, our synagogues will go under.
As I watched the commercial, I thought of an experience I had last summer.
Boiling beneath a corrugated tin roof and its one lone fan that sluggishly pushed the stale air in dusty circles, I sat beside an old school friend. We were waiting to visit her son. I studied the bars across the small opened window, the gray metal lockers, the old peeling wooden cubbyholes where visitors like us were meant to deposit our personal belongings before being led inside. It was visiting day at the "religious wing" of a prison somewhere in Israel. My friend's son was serving out a term for murder. Like many others in the prison's "religious wing," he too wore a knitted skullcap.
This week I read about the indictment of Rabbi Zeev Kopolevitch, once head of the most prestigious yeshiva high school in Israel, Netiv Meir. In 23 pages, over nineteen former students describe a series of shocking sexual abuses at the hands of Kopolevitch. But most shocking of all, was the fact that the most respected Rabbis of the National Religious Party, leader of B'nai Akiva yeshiva movement and Knesset member Rabbi Druckman, and former chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, had both allegedly been informed about the abuse and had chosen to do nothing, thus allowing it to continue.
My school friend and her husband are gentle, educated, deeply religious people who abhor violence and extremism. When their son was thirteen years-old, he was invited by a Kahane party activist to use Kach's workout room in the Old City. Unbeknownst to his parents, he became an avid Kach follower. When he was barely fifteen, he and two friends decided to avenge Meir Kahane's death by exploding a grenade in the crowded Old City shuk. As a result, an elderly Arab man was killed.
My friend and I see each other in synagogue every Shabbat. It is a synagogue in which prayers for the government and the army are said with sincerity, where new recruits are blessed from the pulpit, and where more than one son has fallen in defense of our country. It is also a place where- despite the admirable but ignored protests of one or two members -- someone regularly places Kach literature along with the study sheets about the weekly Torah portion.
Something has gone awry here.
When did messianic fervor to settle Yehuda and Shomron begin to erode reason and human values?
Was it inevitable that the hatred which Jewish settlers experienced in building their homes among Arab villagers, find an echo in their own hearts, shouting down the sincere idealism, the love of Eretz Yisrael which was their original motivation? And if so, is it possible to really serve G-d with a heart attune only to the worthiness of its own cause, deaf to the cries of pain coming from others?
I was taking a bus the other day and an elderly woman got on. She put her cane on the side and stretched her arms between both of the bus's railings to help herself up. A woman wearing a wig, perhaps innocently in a hurry, rushed up the steps behind her, pushing her. The elderly woman turned around, furious: " And you call yourself religious? " She thundered. "You're a fake, a fake!"
Like it or not, those who wear the knitted skullcap, or any other accouterment of religious observance, have a tremendous responsibility. We aren't allowed what for others would be natural human frailties, feelings of revenge, because our Torah forbids us to hold a grudge, to take revenge, to spill human blood....Or to ignore the suffering of innocents because it embarrasses those in power.
We must ask ourselves if in our enthusiasm for one sacred idea, we have not trampled so many others. We must ask ourselves if the knitted skullcap still sits well, and firmly, and comfortably on our heads. As any B'nai Akiva girl-- knitter–of- skullcaps-- will tell you, when a skullcap starts to get crooked, or is too round or flat, all you can do is start from scratch, taking out all the wrong stitches that led you astray.
Stitch by painful stitch, we need to get back to where it was we started from, not so long ago.
Conspiracy of SilenceBy Netty C. Gross
The Jerusalem Report - May 24, 1999
An alleged scandal at a flagship Orthodox Jerusalem high school is exacerbated by suggestions that it was allowed to fester for years
STUDENTS MILL AROUND THE corridors of Netiv Meir, an all-male yeshivah high school located on the main drag of Jerusalem's largely ultra-Orthodox Bayit Vegan neighborhood. Portraits of bearded, glum and famous rabbis share wall space with ads for an Orthodox rock concert. In the halls, teachers talk to students, who are preppy-looking even if there's an odd tzitzit, or ritual fringe, protruding from under a shirt. There's a security guard, who wants to know why I am in the place. In short, everything seems normal. But it's not. The 46-year-old live-in school, until recently the jewel in the crown of the religious Zionist Bnei Akiva yeshivah network and the darling of the parent National Religious Party, is reeling from a sex scandal. Indeed, some feel that the affair has visited as much pain and anguish on religious Zionists as Bar-Ilan University student-turned Rabin assassin, Yigal Amir.
In the last week of April, charges were filed against Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolovitch, for 15 years Netiv Meir's rosh yeshivah, or principal. The charismatic, 52-year-old rabbi is accused of sexually abusing 19 students between 1991 and his dismissal in 1997. The 23-page indictment describes him as a pedophile, who promised good grades to male students, who allowed him to kiss and touch them in intimate areas. In the 1,500 pages of evidence gathered by police, it's alleged that Kopolovitch asked his victims to strip and masturbate with him, threatening bad marks if they refused.
Kopolovitch, the indictment alleges, arranged late-night study sessions for favorites at the Netiv Meir dormitory, in its infirmary or at his nearby home, stressing the importance of a relationship "beyond the spiritual." The alleged contact with Kopolovitch was the first sexual encounter for many of the victims. Some reportedly needed psychological counseling to recover from the trauma. Kopolovitch, married and the father of three, denies the charges. Through his lawyer, he has reportedly said he is the victim of a witchhunt orchestrated by students "who didn't understand me" and a power struggle at the yeshivah.
THE CHARGES AGAINST Kopolovitch are serious enough, but they're only part of the story. There's also the "conspiracy of silence," as police call it. Investigators say Kopolovitch's alleged behavior was known within the school for several years and tolerated by the governing hierarchy of the religious Zionist movement. Top rabbis were allegedly aware of what was going on, but didn't stop it or report it to police or social workers - a criminal offense.
Netiv Meir had a close relationship with leading figures of religious Zionism, including former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapiro, former Bnei Akiva yeshivah network chairman Rabbi Avraham Zuckerman, and his successor, Rabbi Haim Druckman, who in late March accepted the No. 2 slot on the NRP's Knesset slate. Police believe Shapiro and Zuckerman knew about Kopolovitch's alleged abuses for five years and did nothing; Druckman forced the rabbi to resign in 1997 after a Jerusalem weekly published the allegations - but failed to inform law enforcement authorities.
Another theme echoing through the case is the deferential treatment afforded NRP high-ups by the legal system. The initial police request to question the three rabbis languished on Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein's desk for months after it was made early last year. Rubinstein allowed Shapiro's interrogation to take place by correspondence, and let Zuckerman and Druckman be questioned in their homes. Explaining that decision, a Justice Ministry statement said that Shapiro and Zuckerman are both in their 80s, and cited "overall circumstances, including the nature of the investigation and the type of offenses." All three rabbis denied knowledge of Kopolovitch's alleged abuses. In late April, Rubinstein said the rabbis would not be indicted for failing to notify authorities. But indictments for this failure are being prepared against former rosh yeshivah Eliyahu Grossberg and Haim Zvi Rosenberg, the vice-principal. The three rabbis were not, explained Justice Ministry spokeswoman Orit Shemesh, "educational employees," and as such the requirement to report to the police under Section 368D/b did not apply. Shemesh declined comment when asked if the case didn't also come under Section 368D/a, which requires any citizen who has "reasonable basis" to believe that an offense has been committed against a minor by those responsible for him to report the case to the police or a social worker. Tellingly, a senior NRP official told The Report that the Justice Ministry quietly informed the party a month ago, before Druckman was put on the Knesset ticket, that the trio would not be indicted. "We knew they were off the hook back then," said the NRP official. Should the ministry be giving confidential information to a political party? The spokeswoman for the ministry would not comment. WHEN IT COMES TO SEX SCANdals, the modern Orthodox are as defensive and tight-lipped as the ultra-Orthodox. Yair Sheleg, an Orthodox journalist at the daily Ha'aretz, says that fits small, closed communities - that kibbutzim are "notoriously reluctant to come forward in reporting rapes."
Many Orthodox rabbis decline to talk about the case. Others have explanations for the tendency to cover things up. "Religious Zionists still haven't emerged from our ghetto," says Rabbi Yehudah Gilad, of the religious kibbutz movement's Yeshivat Ma'aleh Gilboa and a Knesset candidate from the moderate Orthodox Meimad party. "I think it's changing, but for the most part, we aren't mature or confident enough as a group to step forward and accept criticism. Some of the insecurity is a reaction to the culture war with the secular. Orthodox people know modesty is one of their emblems, and when a sexual scandal unravels, the thinking is, 'Why give the secular a rope to hang us. Let's deal with this internally.'" Asked how he'd confront a similar crisis, Gilad parses it out carefully. "My first concern," he says, "would be for the student's welfare. Next, I'd inquire what the law required me to do, and implement it." Shmuel Reiner, the rabbi of Kibbutz Tirat Zvi and dean at Yeshivat Ma'aleh Gilboa, says the Orthodox community is "paying a price for our emphasis on modesty, on not being forthcoming about sexuality. When something like this happens, we're unequipped to deal with it." Reiner says the Kopolovitch case has had two immediate effects: High school yeshivot, which insist that students board at the school, "have declined in popularity and I'm happy. The rabbis in these yeshivot have too much of a hold on kids' lives." And, Reiner says, he and colleagues have become increasingly careful about being alone with students or touching them, however innocently. "I travel all over the country seeing soldiers, but I'm sure never to be alone in my car with students."
ZE'EV KOPOLOVITCH WAS raised in an Orthodox Zionist family from Rehovot. His religious identity was blurred; he joined the Slonim hasidic sect and showed up for his first teaching job at a Bnei Akiva school in Pardes Hannah in the 70s, wearing an ultra-Orthodox hat and long coat. "His nickname was 'Crembo' (a popular chocolate-covered marshmallow treat), recalls one former student there. "Black on the outside, white on the inside. He was warm, physical, charismatic, pushing the idea of being more religious rather than being more right-wing politically. When I heard of the charges, I said it must be a misunderstanding. There was no hint of sexual impropriety back then." In 1982 Kopolovitch was asked to take over at Netiv Meir by Rabbi Aharon Bina, the yeshivah's founder. Opened in 1953, the school has always been at the center of a tug-of-war between nationalist and ultra-Orthodox factions. The appointment of Kopolovitch, who tried to accommodate the nationalists but leaned toward the ultra-Orthodox, created a furor among the more politically oriented faction. Still, the school flourished during his tenure.
Over the years, stories about his alleged sexual activities also flourished in the school. A Purim video made by a student reportedly was rife with innuendo; students complained to other teachers and rabbis but their complaints went unheeded.
His downfall came as a fluke. In 1994 it looked like Kopolovitch might simply fade away. After heart surgery, he retired. But a fight erupted over the future of the yeshivah, which went four months without a principal. Kopolovitch was persuaded to return. Then, in 1997, after a Jerusalem weekly referred to allegations about him in a larger story on the religious-nationalist power struggle in the yeshivah, Druckman, as head of the Bnei Akiva network, asked him to leave.
These days, Netiv Meir is a fossil of its former self. It used to take in 120 students a year and turn away hundreds more; for the 5760 academic year, only 49 new students have signed up. Kopolovitch is said to be a broken man. He is no longer allowed to pray in Jerusalem's Slonim shtiebl or other synagogues, and has taken refuge in the tiny Sokhotchover hasidic sect.
It remains to be seen whether the case will have any effect on the NRP's chances in the upcoming elections. One NRP source insisted "this story won't affect us politically. Druckman was cleared of any wrongdoing." Others disagree. One parent, whose son attended the school until the scandal broke, makes no bones about her feelings. "Kopolovitch," she says, "was sick. The rabbis who protected him were evil. They will never get my vote again."
Kopolevitch pleads not guiltyBy Dan Izenberg
The Jerusalem Post - June 11, 1999
Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch yesterday pleaded not guilty in the Jerusalem District Court to charges of having forced 19 students, many of them minors, to engage in homosexual relations with him.
Judges Ya'acov Zemach, Miriam Naor and Moussia Arad read out the indictment during yesterday's session, the first in the trial of the 51-year-old former head of Yeshivat Netiv Meir. The court agreed to a request by Kopolevitch's lawyer, Eyal Shomroni, to suspend the hearings until he has studied the evidence, and postponed the trial for three months. "There is so much material that it will take some time to cope with it," Shomroni said afterwards.
According to the indictment, Kopolevitch systematically selected a group of students from each year and gave them preferential treatment in and out of class. He tutored them privately early in the mornings, brought them to his home or met then in the school health clinic when it was empty.
"For seven years, in the period between 1991 and 1997, the accused committed sexual crimes against students studying at the yeshiva," the indictment reads. "These crimes involved various types of sexual conduct beginning with kisses (including in the mouth), fondling (including the chest area, the crotch and the sexual organ) and ending with masturbation through hand or body contact."
Plea bargain agreement reached in yeshiva molestation case
IsraelWire - Monday, October 11, 1999 16:36
(IsraelWire-10/11) The attorney for defendant Rabbi Ze'ev Kapelovich and the state have reached a plea bargain agreement in the case charging the former principal of the Netiv Meir Yeshiva with molesting many students during his employment.
The indictment against the rabbi was handed down about a half a year ago following a comprehensive police investigation, which uncovered that prominent rabbinical authorities affiliated with the National Religious Camp made efforts to cover up the rabbi's actions.
During the legal proceedings, many of the rabbi's former students testified as state witnesses. The Justice Ministry must now approve the deal.
Court convicts former yeshiva head of indecent acts against students
By Dan Izenberg
The Jerusalem Post - October 11, 1999
The Jerusalem Distict Court yesterday accepted a plea bargain arrangement and convicted Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch, the former head of Jerusalem's Yeshivat Netiv Meir, of indecent acts against 12 of his students.
The agreement between Kopolevitch and the state was controversial because the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office agreed to ask the court for a sentence of no more than three-and-a-half years in jail while giving Kopolevitch's lawyer, Eyal Shomroni-Cohen, the right to plead for a lighter sentence.
Indeed, Shomroni told the panel of three judges, Ya'acov Zemah, Miriam Naor and Moussia Arad, that he would ask them not to send his client to jail. Had Kopolevitch not reached a plea bargain agreement, he might have faced a much stiffer punishment. However, in accordance with the agreement, the state submitted a modified indictment which reduced the number of Kopolevitch's victims from 19 to 12. It also drastically reduced the number of charges carrying a maximum of seven years in jail according to the Sexual Crimes section of the Penal Code. Of the 12 charges included in the modified indictment, nine carried a maximum sentence of four years.
Jerusalem District Attorney prosecutor Drora Nahmani- Roth justified the state's consent to the agreement during a court hearing yesterday. "The State Attorney's Office seriously considered whether or not to agree to the plea bargain," she said. "It was not an easy thing given the nature and scope of the charges and the behavior of the defendant in each of the separate cases. We held meetings, examined previous cases and (found) that we are not significantly deviating from the appropriate punishment.
"We also believe that (Kopolevitch's) readiness to confess is very important for the plaintiffs. We are talking about youths who are the salt of the earth. Today, most of them are serving in army battlefront units. We did not want to remove them from the new system of relations they have established since their school days. We very much wanted to spare these 19 boys, who have all graduated from the yeshiva, from having to testify in court." Nahmani-Roth added that all of the original plaintiffs had consented to the plea bargain.
The State Attorney's Office announced yesterday that two other yeshiva officials face charges of complicity. They allegedly knew about Kopolevitch's crimes but did not report them to the authorities. Before deciding whether to submit the charges to court, the State Attorney's Office will hold a hearing for the two unnamed officials.
There have been reports that former chief Ashkenazi rabbi Avraham Shapiro, the head of Mercaz Harav Kook, and NRP MK Haim Drukman were among those who had received complaints about Kopolevitch's behavior and had done nothing about them.
May I Have a Word, Mr. Rubinstein?
by Naomi Ragen
Jerusalem Post - November 4, 1999
I am having difficulty understanding something about the Ministry you head, Mr. Rubinstein, and would really appreciate your help. It seems that in the last few weeks in at least two instances your Ministry seems to be working overtime to get sex offenders, pedophiles and rapists, as well as those who harbor and protect them, special light treatment under the law because they all happen to be rabbis.
First, there is the disgraceful case of the former headmaster Kopolevitch of Netiv Meir yeshiva high school who lived in a pedophile's heaven for the last fifteen years, abusing dozens, even hundreds of boys under his tutelage, boys whose complaints were apparently ignored by the Bnai Akiva yeshiva network's most respected spiritual leaders, Rabbi Druckman and Rabbi Shapira.
And then there is the rapist in Kabbalistic rabbi's clothing who is still wandering around the south teaching Torah to innocent children, when he should have long joined his comrades in the religious wing of Masiyahu Prison.
Mr. Rubinstein, what can your Ministry be thinking when it agrees to a plea bargain of four and half years for Rabbi Kopolevitch? When it dismisses charges against Rabbis Druckman and Shapira for allowing Kopolevitch to continue committing the most disgustingly immoral acts against young boys in their educational network, long after they apparently knew the facts? When it suspends proceedings against a Rabbi who raped a young woman under the guise of giving her kabbalistic help?
I am only a woman (and everyone knows with what great respect and interest the opinions of such people are held in the religious world) yet, I think that it behooves you to listen carefully to my opinion and my amazement at your Ministry's behavior.
A friend of mine who was visiting Israel from the States went on a tour of the Supreme Court building. She sat in on an actual case in which a religious man who had molested a child was serving seven years. The man expressed regret, but the judges, pointing out how terrible such a crime is, how destructive to the victim, denied his appeal to have his sentence shortened. How can it be, my friend asked , that this criminal got six years for abusing one child, and Kopolevitch, whose crime is a hundred-fold, will get only four and a half? And this criminal was just an ordinary fellow, unlike Kopolevitch who had perfected a system in which he exploited the full measure of his spiritual and educational authority to lure his victims and ensure their silence.
My friend, an Orthodox woman, daughter of a famous Rabbi who received rabbinical ordination from the Chafetz Chaim himself, was appalled.
And now we have the rapist who presented himself as a Rabbi versed in the mysteries of the kabbalah, a spiritual magic-worker, and wound up instructing a young woman who had come to him for help to undress and submit to his "magic" sexual demands. Exploiting a religious young woman's innocence, he used his tremendous spiritual power to desecrate not only her body, but her soul as well. Why does such a person deserve leniency? Why does he deserve to have the case against him suspended because "he isn't feeling well?" I would think such a person deserves to have the case against him pursued relentlessly; deserves to serve a prison sentence twice as harsh as anyone else's.
Because when a Rabbi abuses someone who looks up to him, he does it not only with his body, but with the full weight of everything the victim holds sacred, destroying the victim's innocence, faith, religious beliefs, connection to G-d, in a way that no ordinary hormone-crazed offender could ever do. The damage is much greater, because the victim's faith -- that which drew them to be students in Netiv Meir, or to the doorstep of a Kabbalistic mystic -- has been raped as well.
I appeal to you, Mr. Rubinstein, as a comrade, a fellow religious Jew, to whom the Torah is sacred. You sent your children to school with mine. We go to the same kind of synagogue. And I have to believe, that as a professed religious Jew, we both hold the Torah in the highest respect.
Would it not make more sense, therefore, to deal twice as harshly with such perpetrators as Kopolevitch and the rapist in "mekubal's" clothing, and to insist on calling to task those who harbor and employ them? Your apparent sympathy and kindness towards these people baffles me. More, it causes me endless shame.
Why, Mr. Rubinstein? In Heaven's name, why?
Former yeshiva head apologizes for molesting students
By Dan Izenberg
The Jerusalem Post - November 11, 1999, Thursday
Speaking softly, his hands trembling, the former head of Jerusalem's Yeshivat Netiv Meir Yeshiva apologized in court yesterday for the sexual assaults he committed on several of his students.
"I express regret," he told Jerusalem District Court Judges Ya'acov Zemah, Miriam Naor, and Moussia Arad. "I am sorry for all the students who were harmed and ask for the mercy of the court." The brief appeal came at the end of a three-hour session in which seven character witnesses, including the principal of the Horev Yeshiva High School, Mordechai Alon, the former secretary-general of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, and former students, attested to Kopolevitch's exceptional devotion to his students and school.
Kopolevitch, dressed in black suit and hat, sat alone, his head down, hands trembling, a wet handkerchief clutched in his hand, as he heard the testimonies to his educational qualities.
He is on trial for forcing 12 of his students, who belonged to a favored inner circle which he created, to conduct homosexual acts with him. The prosecution dropped charges involving seven other students after reaching a plea-bargain arrangement in which Kopolevitch confessed to having relations with the others.
"He was the yeshiva head who invested the most in his students, was ready to do anyone's bidding to an exceptional degree," said Ya'acov Lipshitz, the former head of Bnei Akiva. "He went to Bnei Akiva camps all over the country and was always received with great love and esteem. No other yeshiva head gave so much, with so much intensity. It was very unusual."
Avishai Grosser, who graduated from Netiv Meir in 1997, said that Kopolevitch remembered the name of every one of the 450 students in the school. "He always put his heart into it," he said. "He attended every Shabbat meal, almost always came to prayer services, and was always ready to hear our problems and help us."
Given the charges against Kopolevitch, including that he performed some of his acts on his students at his home late at night, some of the tributes were unintentionally ironic.
"He was dedicated to each student individually and would receive them in his home," said Netiv Meir graduate Asher Vodka. "His home was very close to the yeshiva. Any student could come for advice at any time of day or night."
Another student, Ehud Shraga, inadvertently damaged his credibility when, in his overeagerness to protect his teacher, he told the court that he does not believe Kopolevitch performed sexual acts and that the students who testified against him are liars.
Prosecutor Ruth Nahmani-Roth asked the court to sentence Kopolevitch to three-and-a-half years in jail, saying that this would be a moderate punishment that would take into account his heart problems.
Kopolevitch's lawyer, Eyal Shomroni-Cohen, asked the court to sentence his client to do community service in lieu of a jail sentence. He pleaded for leniency on the grounds that Kopolevitch has a serious heart problem, that the first and most severe incidents occurred almost 10 years ago, and that Kopolevitch had spared his students from testifying in public by agreeing to a plea bargain.
By Barbara Sofer
The Jerusalem Post, November 12, 1999
Vomiting out those who shame our community will not diminish our tradition. Our concern is fixing what isn't working within our ranks
Last Shabbat, after synagogue, one of my dearest friends praised me for not writing anything negative about Ze'ev Kopolevitch, the former head of Bnei Akiva's flagship yeshiva high school, Netiv Meir.
Kopolevitch, you may recall, was arrested for sexually molesting the young men entrusted to his care. Many of the boys and men in my synagogue attended that school, although - as one neighbor whose son graduated there sadly put it - they're not bragging about it anymore.
There's a rabbinical term, "shtika kehoda'a," meaning "silence is acquiescence." Lest my muteness be misunderstood, I join with the many who have already expressed their repugnance over his behavior and the abuse of his position. Who wouldn't be disgusted? Imagine what a tragedy this must have been for young men at the cusp of manhood. A dozen young men came forward with accusations. How many more were too ashamed to come forward?
I differ from my friend and co-columnist Naomi Ragen only in my reaction to the plea bargain. True, Kopolevitch got fewer years in prison than he might have in a regular trial. But his admission of guilt was imperative. Had he not confessed, the religious community in which I live might have found every reason not to believe the ugly truth.
In the many months since this hideous scandal became public, the accusations were waved away as everything from teenage misinterpretation of innocuous rabbinical affection, to a witch hunt, to a plot by the rabid leftist press panting to destroy religion at every opportunity.
Indeed, unbelievable as it sounds, even after his confession, I've heard testimonies as to what a fine educator Kopolevitch was. Had he not fessed up, we might have expected videotapes with catchy tunes documenting the travesty done to him.
Still, I can understand the reason my usually sagacious friend doesn't want anyone to write about this disgrace. We in the religious community hate to show our blemishes. Not only because we're personally embarrassed, but because we see ourselves in an ongoing , historical, daily struggle with forces that belittle and obliterate our beloved tradition.
This goes way beyond political concerns. We want others to embrace Judaism. If we ran into one of those three-wish-giving genies we would want her to wave a magic wand over the Jewish people and have them start observing Shabbat. We believe it would bring peace. We believe it will bring the messiah. In this context, highlighting our own imperfections seems counterproductive.
Then along comes a kippa-wearing debaucher of innocents, and our efforts to impart the real impressive standards of religion are made considerably more difficult. Even worse, this particular problem goes beyond one twisted figure, but to rabbis who were told of his repugnant abuses, who harbored him and still go unpunished.
WE often feel trapped against our will into being perpetual sales representatives for our chosen way of life. We needn't be. Vomiting out those who shame our community will not diminish our tradition. This isn't the whistle- blowing of previous centuries, when members of the Jewish community tattled on wayward Jews to the local magistrate or the Czar. Our concern is fixing what isn't working within our ranks.
Where to draw that line in finding fault within our community is a question raised indirectly by my fellow columnist Jonathan Rosenblum.
In last week's column "Are haredim lousy parents?" he criticized Naomi Ragen and another friend of mine, Tzvia Greenfield.He accused them of building their careers on attacking the haredi community, in particular because they were quoted in "Be Fruitful and Multiply," an article in Time magazine (October 25) equating large families with lack of responsibility. (If you missed the original article and want to see what the fuss is about, log on to the Time magazine Web site, and plug "Jewish women" into the magazine's search engine.)
Like Rosenblum, I found the article outrageous. It echoed old political credos advising poor people to learn to curb their family size. The article presented no hard evidence that showed children of conscientious parents in large families fared worse - i.e. in measures of self- esteem, health, or education - than those in small families. Nor could I imagine Time running such a story about families in Bangladesh or Ethiopia.
Family size is ultimately the most personal - to use a loaded word - choice. Most women I know wish they had more, not fewer, children.
Nonetheless, the voices of concern sounded by influential women living inside or close to the community are legitimate. If they believe that families are indeed living under appalling, unnecessary stress, and that women are helpless against social coercion to reproduce, they are obligated to speak up. We all are. Shtika kehoda'a.
Light, even from an unflattering spotlight, can be ultimately healing. We who cover our heads - men and women both - simply have to make extra sure that no shadow falls over our eyes - or our minds.
Kopolevitch gets 3 1/2 years
Bt Tamar Hausman
The Jerusalem Post - November 19, 1999
The Jerusalem District Court yesterday sentenced Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch to three-and-a-half years in prison for sexually assaulting several students during his time as principal of Yeshivat Netiv Meir in Jerusalem.
Kopolevitch admitted his guilt as part of a plea bargain to reduce his sentence from the original five-year term. The judges were initially angered by the deal but, after a lengthy deliberation, decided to let it stand. Kopolevitch was convicted of violating a dozen students - nine under the age of 14 - between 1991 and 1997. He organized meetings with the students in his office, the yeshiva's infirmary, and outside the school after class hours, forcing them to engage in sexual acts with him by telling them that their compliance was a condition for retaining a good relationship with him and receiving good grades.
Last week, Kopolevitch apologized for his actions, saying: "I am sorry for all the students who were harmed and ask for the mercy of the court."
Lawyers on both sides agreed to the shorter sentence in order to end the drawn-out trial, which, the prosecution argued, caused additional harm to Kopolevitch's victims. The defense pleaded for leniency on the grounds that Kopolevitch suffers from serious heart problems.
Even after the deal was reached, defense attorney Eyal Shomroni-Cohen had asked the court to reduce the sentence to community service, while prosecutor Ruth Nahmani-Roth asked the court to give Kopolevitch the maximum five-year sentence.
Judges Ya'acov Zemah, Miriam Naor, and Moussia Arad wrote in their final ruling that "the defendant made his students into sexual objects - objects that are easily accessible and easy to abuse. He took advantage of the honor young boys feel toward their rabbi for the sake of performing vile acts."
"He trapped naive boys and gave them no room to escape. If they didn't comply, their studies would suffer; if they did, it would be their souls and their youth that would be damaged. He performed rude sexual acts during an impressionable, emotional period in their lives, as they were entering adulthood."
Decries Light Penalty
By Doron Blau - Netanya
The Jerusalem Post - November 28, 1999
Sir, - It is common practice in many countries to sentence a convicted criminal to concurrent jail sentences for several offenses. On this basis, the sentence of 3 1/2 years (42 months) for 12 cases of child abuse means that the value of punishment for this unspeakable crime to innocent children, who were placed in their tender years in the hands of "an honorable rabbi," is 3 1/2 months per child. I am disgusted at the gall of the Israeli judicial system that gives us the feeling that a punishment of 3 1/2 months in jail (not considering time off for "good behavior") is the value placed on our children.
My children are worth more than that. Aren't yours?
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Dedicated TeacherBy M. G. Steinhart - Jerusalem
The Jerusalem Post - February 6, 1998
Sir, - As a parent who has had five sons study at the Nativ Meir school over the past 10 years, I have been privileged to know Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch. I can state unequivocally that he was at all times a caring, dedicated headmaster who was concerned for the welfare and the well-being of his students above all else. All my children have nothing but praise for him concerning his dealings with students. Whenever any sort of problem arose, he would give of his time and spare no effort in trying to help.
To suggest that such a man could be guilty of child molestation is so totally ridiculous as to be unworthy of response. To subject a man to a police inquiry with all the attendant publicity on the basis of the comments of a few disgruntled individuals - without a shred of proof - is a tragic comment on the society in which we live.
When his innocence has been proved, as I am sure it will be, how will his good reputation be reinstated by those who now seek to condemn?
By Batsheva Tsur
The Jerusalem Post - February 2, 1998
Police mull rabbi's detention for abusing boys
Police representatives met with State Attorney Edna Arbel yesterday to discuss whether to detain Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch, former head of Jerusalem's Netiv Meir yeshiva high-school, who is suspected of committing indecent acts on his former students.
Justice Ministry spokeswoman Etty Eshed refused to reveal whether any decision was taken, saying merely that the investigation was continuing, but Israel Radio reported Kopolevitch would be questioned but not detained. She also refused to comment on reports that former chief rabbi Avraham Shapira and former MK Rabbi Haim Druckman would be questioned under caution on suspicion of refraining from reporting the alleged indecent acts. Batsheva Tsur
Police seek to question Shapira, Druckman in connection with yeshiva sex scandal case
By Jerusalem Post Staff
The Jerusalem Post - January 30, 1998
The police have asked State Attorney Edna Arbel's permission to question Rabbis Avraham Shapira and Haim Druckman under caution on suspicion that they did not report a string of indecent acts an influential yeshiva head allegedly committed on his students over a number of years, Israel Radio reported yesterday.
The rabbi suspected of improper sexual behavior is Ze'ev Kopolevitch, formerly head of Jerusalem's Yeshivat Netiv Meir, the flagship of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot.
Kopolevitch allegedly kissed and fondled dozens of students at the yeshiva over a number of years. He has denied the allegations, which first appeared in the local Jerusalem press a few months ago.
The intention to question Shapira, a former Ashkenazi chief rabbi, and Druckman has raised the ire of the National Religious Party.
"Everybody in the country has to obey the laws of the land," Acting Education Minister Yitzhak Levy said on Israel Radio yesterday.
"I am sure that if the police need to investigate, they will investigate," he said.
"I am also sure that there is nothing to this. I am only saying that this has harmed the privacy of public leaders, in that everyone, including their students, now knows that they will be investigated under caution, even though the police have not called them in for questioning."
These developments follow the investigation this week of another prominent educator.
Gary Bilu, head of the Beit Zvi drama school in Tel Aviv, is also under investigation for allegedly improper sexual conduct with male students.
Two of Kopolevitch's former students, interviewed anonymously on Israel Radio yesterday, said that Kopolevitch had kissed them, and there were rumors that he fondled other students.
A parent, who would only identified himself as Eli, said that Kopolevitch suddenly left the yeshiva three years ago, apparently because of sexual misconduct, but was reinstated a year later.
He reportedly was suspended again six months ago.
Yehuda Glick, today the spokesman for the Absorption Ministry, came to Kopolevitch's defense.
He said he does not know how he would have coped with the problems of adolescence "without the caring relation of the rabbi, including kisses and hugs, that were in my eyes the kisses and hugs of a rabbi who loves his students."
Glick said that rumors surrounding Kopolevitch are nothing new, and that they are the result of the jealousy of "haredi rabbis" in the yeshiva who could not tolerate a man with a haredi appearance, like Kopolevitch, being open to modernity and Zionism.
By Tamar Hausman
Jerusalem Post - Wednesday, March 8 2000 (1 Adar I 5760)
(March 8) - Jerusalem police yesterday recommended that Rabbi Ze'ev Sultanovich, a lecturer at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva who allegedly sexually abused a number of students between 1994 and 1996, be indicted.
An investigation into the matter was launched in early January, several weeks after police received complaints from three men, now in their 20s, who studied at the yeshiva in their teens and said they had been sexually molested by Sultanovich. Sultanovich has denied the charges.
Police also recommended that Rabbi Menahem Burstein, a teacher at the yeshiva, and eight students, be indicted for trying to prevent the three men who filed the complaint from providing evidence in the investigation.
Burstein had allegedly written a letter to the parents of the three requesting that they drop the matter. Police also said that the eight students, friends of Sultanovich, came to the house of one of the complainants on Monday night and threatened him to stop the complaints to police or else they would spread stories about him and the two others.
Police now believe that Sultanovich, who is about 40, also sexually molested several other students. But those students have not yet come forward, and police are trying to determine whether they are being prevented from doing so by other students or by Burstein.
Police have turned the case over to the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office.
The head of the yeshiva, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira, was alerted to the complaints about six months ago in an anonymous letter and soon after in an anonymous phone call. He asked Burstein to look into the accusations, and Burstein found them to be false following a three-month investigation.
Shapira sent several verbal messages via other students and teachers for the accusers to speak to him personally, but no one came forward.
Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, a teacher at Mercaz Harav, said that Sultanovich, who was once a student there, often lectures on an informal basis, is friendly with some of the students, and comes to pray. Magnes confirmed Burstein's letter to parents and said that he also "may have spoken directly to the boys to try to prevent them from talking."
Magnes responded to the police recommendation by saying, "There doesn't seem to be such a strong case. It seems a bit shaky. But we'll wait and see."
Shapira was also previously suspected of trying to prevent a police inquiry into the improprieties of a yeshiva teacher. Last year, he received a warning letter from Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein after he was said to have tried to cover up the illegal sexual behavior of Ze'ev Kopolevitch, formerly head of Jerusalem's Netiv Meir yeshiva, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
By Tamar Hausman And David Zev Harris
Jerusalem Post - January 12, 2000
JERUSALEM (January 12) - Police three weeks ago launched an investigation into alleged sexual abuse by a teacher at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav yeshiva 14 years ago.
Officials at the yeshiva, however, said the man under investigation never taught there, but was a student about 20 years ago and that he still comes there on occasion to pray.
In mid-December, police were alerted to accusations by three men - now in their late 20s - who studied at the yeshiva in their teenage years and said they were sexually molested by the man. Police then began investigations into other men who reportedly were also sexually abused, but did not come forward. The head of the yeshiva, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira, was alerted to the complaints several months ago in an anonymous letter and soon after in an anonymous phone call, said Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, a teacher at Mercaz Harav. Shapira asked Rabbi Menahem Burstein to look into the accusations, and he found them to be false following a three-month investigation.
Magnes also said that Shapira sent several verbal messages via other students and teachers for the accusers to speak to him personally, and that no one came forward.
"It's possible that something like this could happen, but if it were something illegal and we knew about it, we would have dealt with it immediately, because it would hurt the yeshiva," said Magnes.
"But the media have found him guilty already, at the first stages of the investigation. If it's true, then he deserves all of this, but if it's not, then, really, the damage has already been done."
Israel Radio reported that the suspect once told his students that if Yigal Amir hadn't killed prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, he would have.
Senior National Religious Party figures, meanwhile, reacted to reports that Shapira attempted to silence those who made the allegations of sexual misconduct.
"If this is really true, we must condemn the deeds with full force," said one NRP leader. "The idea of covering up is grotesque and unacceptable."
There is a growing feeling in the party that should the police find that Shapira warned the victims and their families not to go public, that the time has come to place a gap between themselves and the aging rabbi.
This is not the first time that Shapira has been suspected of trying to prevent a police inquiry into the improprieties of yeshiva teachers. Last year, he received a warning letter from Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein after he was said to have tried to cover up the illegal sexual behavior of Ze'ev Kopolevitch, formerly head of Jerusalem's Netiv Meir Yeshiva, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. Party leader Yitzhak Levy told reporters victims of such attacks must not be afraid to go straight to the police. However, he fell short of criticizing Shapira.
It is impossible to prevent the symbiosis between rabbis and the party, said one senior NRP figure. "However, what we can do is cooperate intelligently with them and perhaps not work according to their commands."
Another senior party member said it is wrong for the party's leaders to consult rabbis on serious political issues, in particular regarding the Golan. Last week, a group of rabbis led by Shapira issued a halachic edict banning a withdrawal from the Heights, stating they are a part of the Land of Israel. "I fear that such a halachic ruling is not a beneficial intervention on the part of the rabbis," said the party member.
Nowhere to Cry For Help
By Jacob Solomon
The Jerusalem Report - January 31, 2000
THE JERUSALEM DISTRICT COURT'S CONVICTION of Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolovitch last November for sexually molesting 19 of his students at the all-male Netiv Meir yeshivah high school sent shock waves through national-religious circles - and well beyond. Netiv Meir is considered the flagship of the B'nei Akiva yeshivah network, and Rabbi Kopolovitch, its 52-year-old principal, had committed the offenses over a six-year period. The consternation was all the greater because Israel's religious citizens identify themselves, to a large degree, by their adherence to the precepts of sexual modesty. The hallmarks of religious communities in Israel include a strict dress code, the segregation of men and women at social and cultural events, and a prohibition against women teaching even secular subjects in yeshivah high schools like Netiv Meir.
Still, however stringent a society may be, it cannot altogether suppress human nature. Men and women from all backgrounds and all walks of life have fantasies - and some of them are patently bizarre. Most people keep their wanton urges under control, and certainly keep them secret. They may well lead worthy lives, give of themselves, and serve the community with imagination and integrity. But for a small minority, such thoughts become obsessions that, when self-control is lacking, may get in the way of responsible behavior.
Where can such troubled people - and especially public figures grappling with this kind of problem - turn for help? The question is a difficult one given that Israel is a small and intimate society. It's all the more onerous in Israel's even smaller and more intimate religious community, in which a stigma is often attached to those who avail themselves of psychotherapeutic counseling, and anonymity can never be taken for granted.
Could Rabbi Kopolovitch have confided in a skilled professional his strong urge for physical intimacy with his students and still feel assured that his right to privacy would be rigorously respected? Could he have received counseling in tune with his background and beliefs?
The answer to both these questions is most probably "no." Rabbi Kopolovitch was undoubtedly a prisoner of his public position. The very act of consulting a mental-health professional, had it become known, would have exposed him to the risk of having a black mark placed on his record and perhaps even losing his position as a yeshivah principal. So how could Rabbi Kopolovitch - and other Orthodox people with similar problems - have been helped? And what can now be done to prevent ugly and destructive incidents of this sort from recurring?
The way forward is to train many more therapists with roots in the modern- and ultra-Orthodox communities. No doubt some therapists suitably trained to work with religious patients already exist. But few in the community know of them. What's more, under the health-fund system, in order to receive psychological counseling as part of the "basket of services," a patient must obtain a referral from his family doctor. The inevitable questions from non-specialists and clerks would likely deter many a needy but embarrassed person from seeking help. And failing recourse to health-fund doctors and therapists, one's only choice is to pay the high fees of private consultations.
Provision should therefore be made for certified therapists to advertise themselves, however discreetly, through the press (which is currently illegal). They should be directly accessible by phone, obviating the need to face a line of clerks and their awkward questions. And they should be able to establish their practices in places that will ensure their patients' privacy. Finally, as many potential religious clients have low incomes and high family responsibilities, such counseling should be subsidized by the taxpayer and/or private donations. This would be a small price to pay for preventing a recurrence of such appalling incidents.
Had a system like this been in place when Rabbi Kopolovitch became aware of his aberrant drives, he would have been able to turn to a qualified therapist without fear of exposure. Certainly it is society's duty to protect innocent youngsters from the perversions of their elders. But it is equally a duty not only to provide necessary social services to all sectors of society but to tailor them to the needs of special groups, where necessary. Just because the religious public is not clamoring for the conditions described above does not mean that it doesn't desire or deserve them.
Jacob Solomon lectures on economics at Touro College and heads the humanities faculty at the Anglican International School in Jerusalem.
Rabbis who go off the rails
By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester
Jewish Chronical (London) - July 6, 2006
Is it wrong to shop a straying rabbi to the authorities? And should he be treated as an outcast if he falls from grace? Rabbi Gideon Sylvester on how to cope with errant clerics
Rabbinical scandals are rare, but the religious world has been shaken in recent years by the conviction or impending trials of several high-profile rabbis on charges of sexual abuse. When a community learns that the person who taught them Torah, shared their joyous moments and comforted them through their crises stands accused of immoral conduct, they face difficult dilemmas.
Should they give credence to stories that could destroy his life or dismiss the accusations, risking further assaults and causing pain to those who came forward to report the misdemeanours? If the rabbi is found guilty, then the trauma for his followers is magnified as they find themselves re-evaluating every moment that he spent with them, sifting the genuine from the sham, and trying to understand what it means to have their spiritual leader exposed as a criminal.
Although the Talmud openly discusses the mishaps of rabbis who occasionally yielded to temptation, our sources reveal little precedent for recent falls from grace. The closest we come is the conduct of the first-century scholar, Rabbi Elisha ben Abuya — a brilliant man who became a bitter heretic and found horrific ways to vent his anger.
Once Elisha ben Abuya lost his faith, he would visit schools and disrupt lessons, using his charismatic personality to persuade pupils to abandon their studies and seek work elsewhere. On one trip, Elisha invited students to recite biblical verses. One by one, they related passages declaring that there was no hope for the wicked. For Elisha, these citations sent a clear, personal message; he could never repent and would never return to the fold. Frustrated by his situation and exasperated by the innocence of the children sitting before him, he knifed a young boy and carved his body into pieces.
While other versions of the story suggest that he only threatened, but did not carry out, these gruesome acts, the Jerusalem Talmud amplifies his guilt, stating that he murdered several promising students. Whichever version is correct, Elisha had become a cruel, manipulative man with a malign effect on the community.
Once they had dealt with the trial and punishment of Elisha, the rabbis faced a dilemma. Elisha ben Abuya had been their teacher and their inspiration. Now that he had been exposed as a dangerous criminal, how were they to view the Torah he had taught them? Should they discard all his ideas as the misguided thoughts of a dangerous heretic, or could something be salvaged from his teachings?
Sensitive to those who had based their faith on this man, the rabbis responded that the words of a scholar could be compared to a nut which fell in the mud: its shell was tarnished, but its contents uncontaminated. Though a scholar may sin, his Torah remained pristine.
At the same time, the rabbis issued clear instructions about choosing a teacher. Analysing a verse which describes a priest as an angel of the Lord, they advised: if your teacher is like an angel, then learn from him, but if he is not, then don't make him your mentor. Jewish study is not purely academic and we have a right to demand that our rabbis and teachers live according to the highest standards of morality and religious observance.
But if you think that your rabbi is up to mischief, is it right to report him to the police? The biblical command, "Do not to stand idly by your brother's blood" (Leviticus 19:16), means that, if we see someone who is being viciously attacked, we must use all possible means to save them (Talmud Sanhedrin 73a).
Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, a leading authority on the beth din of Jerusalem, wrote an extensive responsum on child abuse. Basing his opinion on this verse, he ruled that it would include our obligation to protect people from sexual abuse. Although historically, Jewish law was reticent about handing over Jewish criminals to the non-Jewish courts, where they might suffer injustice and antisemitism, in a country with a fair and effective judicial system, one must report all such crimes to the police.
Preserving human dignity and honouring scholars are important religious principles. But Jewish tradition is clear that even concern for the status of rabbis cannot override our duty to deal with outrages and shield the innocent. Where a crime is committed, religion is brought into disrepute: all concern for the honour of scholars must be put aside.
The story of Elisha ben Abuya reminds us that the Torah recognises human fallibility. Even biblical heroes and outstanding scholars are susceptible to temptation and to mental illness, which can twist and pervert their minds. No one is exempt from the dangers. That is why the rabbis warned all of us: "Do not be complacent about yourself until your dying day."
When there are indications that someone working for the community has succumbed to his worst instincts and poses a public danger, it is the duty of all who are aware to make appropriate inquiries and contact the authorities. This does not create a carte blanche for gossip, but it does mean we must do whatever necessary to ensure that potential victims are protected.
By dealing openly with the few cases of rogue rabbis, we can have confidence that the overwhelming majority of our teachers remain righteous, upstanding spokespeople of the Torah.
Roll of dishonour
n Rabbi Baruch Lanner, dynamic head of America's National Council of Synagogue Youth, was sentenced to seven years in 2002 for molesting girls in his school. He was initially released after five days, pending appeal, but was sent back to prison in 2005.
n Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) Gafni left the Bayit Chadash Synagogue in Tel Aviv this May in the wake of allegations by several women of sexual misconduct. He returned to the USA, admitting he had a "sickness."
n Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolevitch, principal of the prestigious Netiv Meir Yeshivah High School in Jerusalem, was jailed for three-and-a-half years in 1999 for molesting boys.
Gideon Sylvester is an adviser on diaspora affairs in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office
FAIR USE NOTICE
Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.
We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead