With Golders Green reeling from allegations – they are, at this stage, just that – of sexual abuse against one of its foremost Orthodox rabbis, the only thing that surprises me is that anyone is surprised at all.
Going to see your rov for marital problems is, if he is not also a trained counsellor, akin to seeing a psychologist for lack of belief in God. And for a married woman to do so, and repeatedly, on her own would be as wise as consulting Norman Bates about your troubled relationship with your late mother. Tzores is certainly not all it is asking for . . .
Extending Al Pacino’s famous monologue (aren’t those Italians marvellous: first The Godfather, then The Sopranos, now this), “Hath not a rabbi a shmekel?” And finding himself in intimate situations with members of the opposite sex (in some cases, with members even of his own), the “Little Fella” has been known to entice all but the most proper and resolute of proprietors into doing all manner of things forbidden.
And, no, this is not a defence of pervy rabbonim. Even ignoring the filth who rally with anti-Semites (parading as anti-Zionists) on the streets of London and who have embraced the malevolent runt in Tehran, as well as the disgraceful shenanigans of the charedim over here, my experience of all too many Orthodox rabbis – from the assorted misfits and lunatics at Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys to those in the ever so shady world of “outreach” – has not been especially positive.
Standing over the ruins of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a rabbi of one such kiruv organisation – with a clear talent for clairvoyance and no less modest than his new, 7-storey, Old City HQ, replete with Dale Chihuly glass chandelier and Kirk (“Married Out Twice”) Douglas Theater – informed our group, at its most vulnerable, that the (solemn, respectful) German teenagers we had just encountered by the mound of children’s shoes were just “sorry that their grandparents hadn’t finished the job.”
“Why have you got so much rachmones for the Germans, Michael?” he responded, with trademark superciliousness, when I tackled him over what I saw as a horrible abuse of power.
Growing up on the fringes of the more Orthodox world, all I ever heard from friends in it was of the unbelievable small-mindedness, idiocy even, of their supposed leaders: from the prohibition on husbands kissing their wives after shul to the outlawing of patent shoes that might allow a sly glimpse of some M&S undies (mmm…) in the kiddush.
In my community, at least, I was privileged to know rabbis who were first and foremost human beings, one of whom – through application of humanity and commonsense (an advantage, perhaps, of the United Synagogue?) rather than the letter of cruel, antiquated law – allowed my late brother to be buried in the main part of the cemetery. We will always remember him for that kindness.
If frummer-than-thou co-religionists, however, choose to follow leaders who instruct them – in addition to other assorted nonsense – that Hashem doesn’t want them using the Eruv on Shabbos, should it come as any surprise that they also trust in them to save their marriages?
Sadly, the title “rabbi” does not confer or guarantee moral rectitude any more than that of “lawyer” or “policeman” (or, for that matter, “yodelling, peroxide-blond, medallion-man TV presenter”). And the culture of unquestioning deference and soft-headed sycophancy that has been constructed around them, in the ultra-Orthodox world especially, has laid fertile ground for consequent misdemeanour and scandal.