The Dweck affair has exposed one of the haredi community’s most squalid secrets. At its root was the question of, what behaviour makes a Rabbi unfit to do his job. For that community, the answer was clear; sermons showing compassion and support to gay people and showing leniency on Halachic issues were damning. On conduct, however, they were not so sure. When a Rabbi in that community was accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour by thirty different women that was not sufficient. I must make it clear that he has been accused but not charged let alone convicted of any wrongdoing. The issue is not the community’s attitude to this Rabbi but their attitude to the activities of which he was accused; these were regarded as insufficient even to merit a proper investigation let alone dismissal.
But what one may ask about the police? We live after all in a law governed society and what was alleged against the Rabbi was undoubtedly criminal with multiple claimants. No one ever claimed that such acts were legal under British laws or that Rabbis are exempt from them. The answer was that all these thirty women were prepared to give affidavits regarding the events in question but not one of them was prepared to press charges. It has never been suggested that they didn’t regard the charges as serious or that they thought the Rabbi in question should be left alone. Instead they were persuaded that it would be best for all concerned if they did not testify.
We know how they were persuaded. Reports abound ,of conversations where women were warned about their standing in the community being affected, and their children’s marriage prospects being blighted. What woman would be immune to the argument that, whatever the pain and humiliation she had suffered at the hands of a serial sexual predator, it did not justify her damaging her own children’s prospects as a consequence. These arguments are an attempt (successfully) to pervert the course of justice. In plain English they are blackmail
This leads to a question of a hierarchy of guilt. Who is worse the Rabbi in question who as we have already stated has not even been charged let alone convicted? or the people who, acting on his behalf, or on behalf of the community, procured by blackmail the silence of all the alleged victims? At least the Rabbi, if guilty, was acting for his own gratification under the force of a powerful instinct which, as we all know has destroyed many people’s lives. The blackmailers have no such plea in mitigation. They carried out their activities, not to satisfy a physical urge, and presumably with little sense of guilt, but in the conviction that the interests of their community required it. But what kind of community needs criminal enforcers to preserve social control? Their indifference to female victims parallels the indifference to the feelings of gay people shown by some of those who attacked Rabbi Dweck.
There are decent rabbis in the charedi community who believe that the law of the land is there to be obeyed. It is time for them to give a lead so that this should be appreciated. It is time for the rest of us, the non-charedi observant community to stop kowtowing to them and to recognise that it is a community which has lost its moral compass. The charedim need to learn that we are living in 21st Century Britain not 17th Century Poland, that even great Torah scholars are not above the criminal law and that even women and gay people are entitled to dignity and respect.