Throughout the entire saga of the Weberman story it has become increasingly difficult to grasp onto something to feel certain about.
We, the Jewish public, whom like any public crave most of all to digest a story that is complete, somehow felt robbed of that satisfaction. Though the trial ended with certainty; guilty on all counts, there’s been a lack of hard evidence and only rumors of other victims put forth by blogs and individuals.
This has led to accusations that Satmar was really the one on trial and while the verdict in this case returned guilty-according to the accusations a guilty Satmar, because they found the witness so credible, does this mean that NW got a fair trial?
Here’s that feeling again of any potential lesson to be learned here just slipping through our grasp like so much sand.
I’ve thought a lot about this and have concluded that any certainty we can find here is in fact more likely to pertain to our community at large and NOT exclusively to the guilt or innocence of a single individual.
Why do I say that? Well suppose hypothetically, NW were to have a change of heart (supposing of course he is guilty as charged) suppose he were to issue a public statement of admission ALA Lance Armstrong, would Der Yid and Der Blott publish full page ads of apology, would they then organize a fundraiser to help this poor family recover from their terrible “misfortune”. Yes I can see it now, the Satmar Rebbe himself (whichever one is applicable) making a personal appearance at the now married couples home to affix their Mazzuzos’ and to wish them “an emmesa beis neman”.
I think we can safely agree here that there is virtually no chance of that happening. Not the admission, that is at least conceivable rather it is the response that hasn’t a snowballs chance in the proverbial well.
Well you might say, this is already Achar Hameisah, sure it would be a big deal for them to back off now and admit that there are circumstances that would justify a frum yid and a community Asken, being locked up for the remainder of his natural life. But who’s to say if they didn’t have compelling evidence at the beginning that they wouldn’t have dropped support for him at the beginning,-not supporting isn’t the same as condoning, and this is all a hypothesis anyway so why give it serious thought.
I think this itself is the point. At the critical beginning stage when people were first hearing the story and evaluating which side to come out on, both personally and politically, I think the evidence that was evaluated focused mainly on the he said she said aspect of it. On the one side a trusted community Asken, on the other a marginalized girl from a marginalized family. Not a fair fight from that point of view. At least in our minds.
In fact the defenses strategy seemed overtly focused on this he said she said narrative. what is particularly telling is that the defense failed miserably to convince a Jury of 12 American "Goyim".
I think that one of the things that can be said for sure about this case is that the defense failed spectacularly. Whatever you think about what actually happened in NW’s therapy room, we should be able to comment impartially about what we think of a defense’s strategy, don’t you think?
What could have been some other things we all could have focused on? For one thing, you have to find the process by which this kid ended up being seen by NW to be highly disconcerting. Everybody involved here was intimately intertwined with each other. The Minahel of the Girls’ school is NW's first cousin. NW did business with the girl's father. Still, all this did not deter the principle from forcibly “recommending” NW as the child’s “therapist”, on the threat of being expelled from school. NW had no problem charging this family 15 thousand dollars upfront for his services, as if the parents ever had a choice. Who knows, perhaps this fee was really in some way related to his business dealings with the father, perhaps he figured the father owed him for some other reason entirely.
We may never be able to unravel this complex labyrinth of interconnected relationships, but notice one word that never comes up throughout.
You mean to tell me that no one ever stopped to say hey you think that maybe these people are not best positioned to build a trusted relationship with an adult much less a distrusting rebellious teenager?
No they figured the best way to handle this would be the so called “Hemishe” way.
The truth is that such conflicts are rife in our community, and by community I mean the broader Jewish community of anyone that would feel comfortable being described in insular terms such as Heimish, Yeshivesh etc, rather than external terms such as “Orthodox, or Modern Orthodox. We even use the terms Heimish and Yeshivish in mocking terms sometimes to be synonymous with “incompetent or cheap”. Why is that?
For reasons that perhaps only made sense when our communities were really small,(a bygone era) there’s often a misplaced or misguided trust that is given to someone, just because they are viewed as “one of us”. People rationalize (erroneously), because I know your mothers’ uncles’ neighbors’ sister, that means I can trust you. In many cases it is just the very opposite. If the principal of a school does business with your competitor and now he’s giving you a hard time because he says your kid doesn’t dress tzniousdik enough, that is a conflict.
We are so full of conflicts that we’ve become blind to them, what choice do we have? We are such an interconnected community that If we were to view everybody’s intentions as stemming from an interest we wouldn’t be able to trust anybody, far easier to be trusting and to “turn off” off that natural sense of mistrust that we have as a matter of survival.
But it is time that we paid attention to them, at least in areas that count the most. We should identify the “points of power” that exist in our community as areas that conflicts are unacceptable. A prime example is the process of admissions to chedorim and yeshivos, a hemishe/yeshivishe process if there ever was one.
We know these are areas that the powerful exert a tremendously disproportionate amount of influence.
In the Weberman case there was the threat of getting thrown out of school, and this family felt that they wouldn’t get accepted to other schools in their city because once you’re thrown out of one school, nobody else wants to take you. They may not want to listen to the possible reasons you are actually thrown out of school A, I.E ulterior motives. If they at least had money…..if they at least had more influence….if they at least were more respected….If they had at least one of these things than perhaps the threats wouldn't have been as credible, but alas, they were.
It was the community that over time, built up this power structure that unduly favors the powerful and popular to the disparagement of the weak and the powerless. It was all these unseen communal forces that eventually forced a disillusioned young girl into the private offices of a questionable male therapist.
What a power trip it must have been for him. He’s got this girl fully prepaid for a year, and no single person to be accountable to. Just him, Hashem and a 15 year old girl. Even Hilchos yichod only goes so far. As Henry Kissinger famously said, “Power is the greatest aphrodisiac”. Maybe NW abused many other girls besides this one, Maybe just this one, Maybe no one. But one thing we can be certain, he had absolute power to do with her as he pleased. Even if he was an ehrleche person before going into this, is not the temptation fueled by his sense of power and entitlement greater than that of an average person?
There’s a Gemarra that quotes the story of “Noorah debei amram”. Amram was known as the most pious saint in his town. It was for that reason that he above all was chosen to watch the beautiful captives, towards whom there was obviously great temptation. One wonders what could have been the source of this temptation. Yes, they were unusually attractive, but perhaps it was the “captive” status that heightened their temptation to an extra ordinary level. These women were already rendered powerless, they were accustomed to and thought of themselves incapable of defending themselves against the advances of their captors. How easy it is to take advantage of such a person, how great is the temptation.
For those who have a need to visualize it, power perhaps can be viewed like a blanket, there’s only so much of it to go around. There are those that get too much of it and some get some of it. Then there are those that get none of it. Those are the ones that are truly and righteously plucked. They have everything taken from them and cannot do a thing about it. If this girl was abused, it may have been one person that physically did it, but it was the unchecked power behind that person that gave him the force of an entire community with which to do it.