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Another Lanner?

Word on the street is that the Forward is preparing to expose an abusive rabbi this week.

August 15, 2004 in Jew | Permalink

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I heard about this last week. If it is who I've been told, this is very big. And it is a rabbi who has been in the forefront of women's rights in the Orthodox world (and who is quite unpopular among other rabbis).

Posted by: gaon | Aug 16, 2004 1:29:25 PM

Are they finally going to deal with Rabbi Mordechai T.?

Posted by: me | Aug 16, 2004 6:55:32 PM

That is what I heard.

So this is well known in the community?

Posted by: gaon | Aug 17, 2004 6:21:56 AM

So what's the deal? I have heard unsubstantiated stories about MT for months, and none of them has panned out into anything other than speculation. If anyone has real info, e-mail me, please.

Posted by: mike da kike | Aug 17, 2004 7:32:50 AM

>So what's the deal? I have heard
>unsubstantiated stories about MT for
>months, and none of them has panned
>out into anything other than speculation.

It's been common knowledge in certrain Rabbinical circles, amongst certain Orthodox Jewish groups (that deal with the most vulnerable of women) and reporters in the Jewish press.

Instead of protecting Jewish women they've been protecting MT for years. It's time for that to change.

I will confirm that there has been a professional investigation and that there are a large number of substantiated stories at this point.

see:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=8856

http://protocols.blogspot.com/2003_12_07_protocols_archive.html

Posted by: me | Aug 17, 2004 12:03:42 PM

Common knowledge? What is going on in this world? How can people keep this quiet when vulnerable women are being taken advantage of by a prominent rabbi? A psychiatrist can lose his license for this but when people know about a rabbi doing it they keep quiet?

Wait a minute. How serious is the proof? Or is this just another smear-the-rabbi campaign? I guess the best proof that it is true is that Gary Rosenblatt was sitting on the story. But we all need to reserve judgment until the facts are out there. A man's reputation - that to him is his life - is on the line here.


(At least YU is in the clear this time, because they kicked him out last year.)

Posted by: gaon | Aug 17, 2004 2:45:59 PM

>Common knowledge?

Yes.

>What is going on in this world? How
>can people keep this quiet when
>vulnerable women are being taken
>advantage of by a prominent rabbi?

Once the information on Mordechai T. becomes public it will be time again to take a hard look at our community leaders. A lot of them need to go. That includes a number of leaders in the Agunot movement as well.

After Lanner, there was talk of a real shakeup. It never happened. That's part of the reason these things are tolerated. At the end of the day the enablers of abuse know they will be free and clear. Without accountabilty things will not improve.


>A psychiatrist can lose his license for
>this but when people know about a rabbi
>doing it they keep quiet?

Unfortunately, sexually exploiting vulnerable women as a professional (rabbi, counsellor etc.)is not a crime in all states. The Rabbanute's track record (all denominations) has been pretty bad. Even where it is a crime, it isn't being sufficiently enforced and the bad Rabbis just get new pulpits:

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/9417894.htm
Ginsburg to lead Skokie synagogue
Pioneer Press (subscription), MN
St. Paul rabbi who has served Highland
Park's Temple of Aaron congregation for
17 years has been hired as senior rabbi
at a suburban Chicago synagogue. ...

>Wait a minute. How serious is the proof?

Serious. Private investigators and a risk-management company were hired by a well-known Rabbinical body.

>Or is this just another smear-the-rabbi
>campaign?

Another? The campaigns I've seen are all smear- the-victims campaigns.

>I guess the best proof that it is true
>is that Gary Rosenblatt was sitting on
>the story. But we all need to reserve
>judgment until the facts are out there.
>A man's reputation - that to him is
>his life - is on the line here.

All true, but when it comes out I implore everyone to speak out for a real change in our community leadership. More people than just Rabbi Mordechai T. need to be held accountable for this chilul. Too many knew and enabled his victimization of women for years.

Posted by: me | Aug 17, 2004 4:15:06 PM

But beware of unfairly squashing the good people who have dedicated their lives to serving Klal Yisrael. As it is, there is a shortage of qualified young pulpit rabbis. Let's not get rid of the good ones we have by allowing every baseless charge to be taken as gospel.

It seems like the proper step was taken here: hiring a private investigator to verify the charges. I'm just not sure what happens next.

Posted by: gaon | Aug 18, 2004 6:43:24 AM

Well? Did the Forward publish??

Posted by: dope | Aug 18, 2004 7:04:08 AM

>But beware of unfairly squashing the
>good people who have dedicated their
>lives to serving Klal Yisrael.

Good people do good things, they don't enable the abuse of vulnerable Jewish women through promotion of their abuser or through the silence which allows their abuser to thrive and victimize.

>As it is, there is a shortage of
>qualified young pulpit rabbis.

I'd rather have quality than quantity. If at the end of the day there is only Yehosua and Calev, that's fine with me.

>Let's not get rid of the good ones we
>have by allowing every baseless charge
>to be taken as gospel.

Again, this is not baseless as we shall soon see regardless of whether the Forward prints the article (late today or tommorrow) or not.

Posted by: me | Aug 18, 2004 7:14:15 AM

I know (or think) that THIS CHARGE is not baseless. And I am outraged that people knew about this and did nothing. But there is a fine line between being justly suspicious and going on a witch hunt. If we are constantly aware of that then we have more of a chance of not crossing it.

Posted by: gaon | Aug 18, 2004 12:35:08 PM

It appears the Forward article may be delayed for a short time as community leaders are asking for time to address the situation.

>I know (or think) that THIS CHARGE is
>not baseless. And I am outraged that
>people knew about this and did nothing.

100%

>But there is a fine line between being
>justly suspicious and going on a witch
>hunt. If we are constantly aware of that
>then we have more of a chance of not
>crossing it.

It's a matter of hearing the cries of Jewish women and children and instead of turning one's back and saying "ani lo mikabel" actually listening and making inquiries and where necessary taking action. I think people have forgotten that "Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh l'zeh".

And getting community leaders that actually have a moral center and guts.

Posted by: me | Aug 18, 2004 2:14:45 PM

I'm not convinced that delaying this article is a good thing. The most important thing is to prevent women from becoming victims. The longer the delay, the more opportunity for abuse.

Posted by: gaon | Aug 18, 2004 5:59:44 PM

A cynic would wonder if the delay was due to the fact that they already had a pretty good headline this week with Golan, & the story can get them another one next week.

Posted by: anon | Aug 19, 2004 8:54:07 AM

I have a question, then: What do we do? Whom can we trust? Where is there a leader, rabbinical or otherwise, who practices what he preaches? I say there aren't any. Time for fffffriggin' anarchy.

On a side note, I heard some allegations against MT from one firsthand source, who, upon investigation, turned out to be unreliable and mentally unstable. That's why I'm skeptical. But I'm also hearing that YU and the Monsey beis din have distanced themselves from him. Is any of this traceable or verifiable?

Posted by: Mike Da Kike | Aug 24, 2004 1:14:05 PM

I have a question, then: What do we do? Whom can we trust? Where is there a leader, rabbinical or otherwise, who practices what he preaches? I say there aren't any. Time for fffffriggin' anarchy.

On a side note, I heard some allegations against MT from one firsthand source, who, upon investigation, turned out to be unreliable and mentally unstable. That's why I'm skeptical. But I'm also hearing that YU and the Monsey beis din have distanced themselves from him. Is any of this traceable or verifiable?

Posted by: Mike Da Kike | Aug 24, 2004 1:14:10 PM

>I have a question, then: What do we do?

Stand up for what's right and speak out against evil.

>Whom can we trust?

Respect but suspect.

Only the rarest of leaders acts solely according to his own sense of justice, with no concern for his image and popularity ratings. We learn in Pirkei Avos to "love work and despise high position" (Mishna 1:10 ). Once a leader "wants" a high position in the community - to wield authority over others - he/she should automatically be suspect. We must always maintain a healthy suspicion towards our officials.

>Where is there a leader, rabbinical or
>otherwise, who practices what he preaches?

Unfortunately, these aren't the leaders our community promotes. A Moshe Rabbeinu would not have a place in today's leadership. There is no Avraham avienu today that would send away his own nephew Lot because he does not want to associate with someone who is not careful with gneivah.

Lot's shepherds let their animals graze
in all fields, while Avraham's shepherds
were careful to prevent any theft by their
animals and only let them graze in open
territory. Lot's shepherds contended that
the land had anyway been promised to
Avraham and because Lot would eventually
succeed him he should be able to graze his
animals anywhere. Avraham's shepherds saw
this as theft, and in response to this,
Avraham declared to his nephew:
"Please separate from me! If you go left,
I will go right, and if you go right, I
will go left".

Today's leadership has stood with too man gnavim and people of low character, Charles Kusher the most recent prominant example. Money over midot.

>I say there aren't any. Time for
>fffffriggin' anarchy.

There are leaders but the community doesn't support them. We all suffer as a result. Anarchy gets you the same results powerful, charismatic charlatons instead of decent people with midot.

>On a side note, I heard some allegations
>against MT from one firsthand source, who,
>upon investigation, turned out to be
>unreliable and mentally unstable.

1) Sexual predators tend to prey on the most vulnerable because of that vulnerability.
2) Every victim seems to be smeared with the same label. It's easy to attack the vulnerable.
3) There are a large number of substantiated stories at this point. By large, I'm not talking about one or two or three or even four or five allegations. I'm talking about many more victims than that coming forward. Investigators and a risk-management company have been hired by a Rabbinical group to investigate. These are very creadible allegations.

>That's why I'm skeptical.

Good.

>But I'm also hearing that YU and the
>Monsey beis din have distanced themselves
>from him. Is any of this traceable or
>verifiable?

Even parts of MT's family want nothing to do with him. Many elements of the Orthodox community have distanced themselves from MT in the past and others more recently. The more recent distancings are due to the sexual exploitation issues. The past distancings are more complicated. Beyond the issue of MT's sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and Halachic rulings that are seen by some elements as left of center, there is a side issue involving alleged alterations/editing of his maternal grandfather's tshuvot in subsequent printings (the real reason his grandfather's family and other Rabbonim have had nothing to do wih MT and are quite angry with him). Once you realize who MT's grandfather is, you'll realize why many Rabbonim have been so angered by his alterations/editing of these tshuvot. Even the slightest changes have great significance in the Orthodox world.

Posted by: me | Aug 25, 2004 6:23:24 AM

Okay - so which rabbinical group hired the risk management firm?

Also, I haven't mentioned this up till now, but I am a former congregant of MT and have known him for almost 20 years. That's why I'm curious about the evidence and the repercussions. I don't have an allegiance either way, mind you, and I'm not trying to defend him, but I'm not ready to accept baseless allegations yet, either.

I think the alleged editing of Igros Moshe is one of those baseless accusations, too. I have been in MT's office and been invited to peruse unpublished manuscripts of future volumes. I don't think he's altering the mesorah of his grandfather in the slightest. People don't remember that he was his grandfather's personal assistant for years and is very well-versed in his grandfather's positions - both in halacha and hashkafa.

Lastly, is it certain that his behavior was predatory and abusive, or simply adulterous?

Posted by: mike da kike | Aug 25, 2004 9:02:54 AM

>Okay - so which rabbinical group hired
>the risk management firm?

I'm not stealing the Forward's thunder. But they also represent a major non-Jewish religion that has had bad media on the topic of abuse.

>Also, I haven't mentioned this up till now, but
>I am a former congregant of MT and have known
>him for almost 20 years. That's why I'm curious
>about the evidence and the repercussions. I
>don't have an allegiance either way, mind you,
>and I'm not trying to defend him, but I'm not
>ready to accept baseless allegations yet, either.

Stay tuned to the Forward. Again, we're talking about a lot of victims.

>I think the alleged editing of Igros Moshe is
>one of those baseless accusations, too. I have
>been in MT's office and been invited to peruse
>unpublished manuscripts of future volumes. I
>don't think he's altering the mesorah of his
>grandfather in the slightest.

Many of his grandfather's family and followers disagree.


>People don't remember that he was his
>grandfather's personal assistant for years
>and is very well-versed in his grandfather's
>positions - both in halacha and hashkafa.

We are all well aware of that. But be aware that his grandfather's family and followers disagree as to his editing/alterations. Many have nothing to do with him as a result. I mentioned this to answer your questions regarding groups distancing themseves from MT.

>Lastly, is it certain that his behavior was
>predatory and abusive, or simply adulterous?

It is clear that it was predatory and abusive. He sexally exploited very vulnerable women that he was counselling.

Posted by: me | Aug 25, 2004 9:34:50 AM

Once the RCA investigation becomes public, this story will get worse. As there are many more victims who have come forward. They not talking to the press at this point.


Rabbinical Council Is Probing Claims of Sexual Harassment
By Rukhl Schaechter
The Forward New York
August 27, 2004

The main union of Modern Orthodox rabbis is investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the scion of a prominent rabbinic family, the Forward has learned.

Officials at the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization representing more than 1,000 Orthodox clergymen, confirmed that the organization is examining sexual harassment allegations against Rabbi Mordecai Tendler. He is a son of Yeshiva University professor Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a leading Orthodox arbiter of bioethical issues, and a grandson of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the Orthodox world's most respected religious arbiter for much of the 20th century.

A spokesman for the younger Tendler vehemently denied the allegations.
"Rabbi Tendler denies all of the allegations that are being made in their entirety," the spokesman wrote in a statement sent to the Forward. "No misconduct was committed by him."

Tendler has been hailed by some Orthodox feminists for his attempts to bolster the standing of women in the Orthodox community and for his efforts on behalf of agunot, or women who have been unable to secure a religious divorce decree from their husbands. A respected authority on his grandfather's writings and a part-time instructor at Yeshiva University, Tendler also has emerged as a leading defender of the increasingly beleaguered Modern Orthodox community of Monsey, N.Y., in its communal turf struggles against the dominant ultra-Orthodox majority.

Sources familiar with the situation say that the RCA has solicited the services of a private investigations firm from Texas to probe the allegations against Tendler.

"We take all these allegations very seriously and certainly don't want to whitewash it," said Rabbi Kenneth Auman, president of the RCA. "On the other hand, we also have to bear in mind the protection of the accused, and therefore I would prefer to wait with a statement, until we hear the final report."

Auman declined to discuss details of the allegations and would not divulge the name of the firm hired by the RCA to conduct the investigation.

In his statement to the Forward, Tendler's spokesman stated that "we are fully confident that the RCA will totally vindicate Rabbi Tendler after their investigation is finished." The spokesman also wrote: "We have asked the Forward, in the interest of fairness, not to publish this story until a full and complete investigation was completed by the Rabbinical Council of America. The pending RCA investigation, which was to be confidential, was unfairly revealed to the Forward before Rabbi Tendler was even interviewed by the RCA. We are saddened that the Forward decided to publish this story, and hope that Rabbi Tendler's excellent reputation will not be tarnished because of it."

Several sources have informed the Forward that a number of women have told friends and Jewish communal figures that Tendler, who is married with eight children, had propositioned them while serving in his role as either rabbinic counselor or religious arbiter.

Two of Tendler's accusers outlined their allegations in interviews with the Forward, but asked not to be identified. It does not appear that any woman has filed a criminal complaint against Tendler.

A source who has spoken to several of the alleged victims told the Forward that the women were afraid to come forth. In addition, several alleged victims have refused to air their claims publicly, for fear of committing sacrilege by shaming a prominent rabbi.

Tendler is the founder and religious leader of Kehillat New Hempstead, a Modern Orthodox congregation near Monsey. During his tenure there, he has earned praise from Orthodox feminist leaders for his open-minded approach to women's issues. He composed a popular prayer on behalf of agunot that is recited around the world.

"He is very sensitive to the agunah's plight," said Blu Greenberg, a well-known author and lecturer on feminist and Orthodox issues, in an interview with the Forward. "He spares no effort, and does an intensive investigation of each case, in order to find a halachic methodology that could render the agunah's marriage null and void, and thus release her from her status as an agunah."

Greenberg added: "I hope and pray that the allegations against him will be found in a court to be not true."

While Tendler has developed a positive reputation in some Orthodox circles, two prominent rabbis, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Forward that they first heard about complaints regarding Tendler several years ago.

Several women first brought their allegations to Rabbi Mark Dratch, a member of the RCA's executive board who specializes in religious questions regarding abuse against women and children. "After a while," Dratch said, "I decided, in the name of objectivity, to hand the issue over to the RCA." He did so in January. "I'm sure the conclusion will be considerate and sensitive to all sides concerned," Dratch said.

According to sources familiar with the situation, in June the RCA hired the Texas firm in an attempt to assure all parties that the investigation was impartial. Since then, a non-Jewish female detective from the firm has been interviewing the alleged victims.

According to two sources, Tendler reached a settlement with one woman who claims to have been seduced by the rabbi while seeing him for marriage counseling. When contacted by the Forward, the woman's lawyer declined to discuss the issue. Tendler's lawyer also refused to comment.

Around the time of the alleged settlement, according to a different woman who has complained to the RCA about Tendler, she and other members of the rabbi's synagogue, Kehillat New Hempstead, received an anonymous letter in the spring of 2003 warning "daughters, wives and other vulnerable women in the community" of the allegations against Tendler. The letter stated that the message was being sent by "a group of rabbis, mental health professionals and physicians from a wide range of religious observance within the Orthodox world."

Several weeks later, some of the women who have accused Tendler of wrongdoing received a letter dated August 4, 2003 from Bradley Rephen, a lawyer claiming to represent Tendler. In the letter, Rephen, then an active member of Kehillat New Hempstead, accused the alleged victims of writing the "maliciously fictionalized" letter, and advised them to immediately "cease any further slanderous conduct referencing Rabbi Tendler."

Tendler's spokesman described Rephen as "a well-meaning member of the community" who wrote the letter "on behalf of Rabbi Tendler."

Two months after Rephen's first letter, the women received a second letter dated October 20 from Rephen, stating that "this law firm no longer represents Rabbi Mordecai Tendler and Kehillat New Hempstead. All communications should be directed to Rabbi Tendler and/or the board of directors of Kehillat New Hempstead."

Rephen did not return calls for comment.

Batya Siegel, a 54-year-old clinical aesthetician who has met with the private investigator hired by the RCA, told the Forward that about 12 years ago Tendler propositioned her while he adjudicated her divorce and a rent dispute.

Tendler's spokesman denied the allegations.

Siegel first became Orthodox in 1976. Five years later, she said, she moved to Monsey with her new husband and her children from a previous marriage, in order to be part of a supportive Orthodox community and to seek spiritual guidance from Tendler. Several years after moving to Monsey, Siegel decided to divorce her husband. "So there I was, with 5 children, no job and no financial support," she said. "Some time later, I was evicted because I couldn't pay the rent. The landlord called me to a beis din [rabbinical court] in Rabbi Tendler's shul. Rabbi Tendler was also on the beis din for my get [divorce decree] which was still pending, but I figured it probably didn't matter if you had the same rabbi in two separate beis dins."

According to Siegel, who now goes by a different name, the three rabbis handling her rent dispute said she had another month or two to move out. As soon as the proceedings were over and everyone else had left, the woman alleged, she was about to leave too, when Tendler propositioned her.

"You can imagine my shock," Siegel told the Forward. "I ran out of there. He started calling me almost every day after that."

She added: "You have to understand, Rabbi Tendler had tremendous power over me then. He was on the beis din for my divorce, which was still not settled, so I couldn't tell him off the way I wanted to. I was afraid he'd use it against me and I'd never have my get. So I kept him at bay by answering: 'After the divorce, we'll talk about it.'"

As soon as the other rabbinic tribunal presented her with the get, Siegel said, she hurried out the door, but Tendler ran after her and said "You've got your get; remember what you promised." Siegel said that she turned around and responded "with some choice words" and drove off. Tendler, she said, never called her again.

The account offered by Siegel was challenged by her former landlord and by Tendler's spokesman.

"These allegations, recently made, supposedly are based on incidents that happened years ago," Tendler's spokesman said. "Ms. Siegel's alleged incident occurred nine years ago. This fact by itself makes [her] credibility suspect, and [her] allegations should be rejected out of hand."

Siegel's former landlord, Suri Horowitz, signed a letter last week denying that any beit din involving Tendler took place. Horowitz told the Forward that the letter was accurate and that she signed it at the request of Tendler's camp.

Siegel, meanwhile, stood by her original story, saying that Tendler had been involved in both rabbinic tribunals.

Posted by: me | Aug 25, 2004 7:47:19 PM

have to agree with Anon. This case is very weak. I thought the article would be packed with statements from dozens of corroborating witnesses -- not just one woman who was willing to go on the record. As I've mentioned to 'me' privately, I know all the parties in this case (including Batya Siegel and one of the unnamed accuser), and I'm not convinced. They all have agendas separate from 'victimhood,' and me's sounding more and more quixotic about his mythical quest for regime change.

Innocent until proven guilty, I say. And so does the court system, not to mention the Torah.

Posted by: Mike da kike | Aug 26, 2004 8:58:09 AM

Let's let the dust settle. Why persecute this man before we see the facts? I'm willing to wait. I believe the RCA has a job to do. Let them do it.

Posted by: teds | Aug 26, 2004 9:30:21 AM

"Gaon" reports (8/17) that the Rav was dismissed from Y.U. last year. Check the RIETS website. You will find that the Rav is giving two shiurim, one in Halacha and the other in Rabbinics, THIS TERM, Fall '04.

Posted by: Defender | Aug 26, 2004 10:26:58 AM

That is correct. But his true influence among students is in his Tuesday night shiur that was stopped.

Posted by: Gaon | Aug 26, 2004 11:33:05 AM

Gaon, you stated that "...he was kicked out last year." A simple reading suggests that the Rav, as of last year, is no longer affiliated with Y.U. Not only is this untrue, (as you have admitted), but is misleading to the point of insinuation. RIETS has obviously seen fit to trust the Rav to give shiur in both Hilchos Nidah and Rabbinics; your suggestion that the Tuesday evening shiur was the more influential is nothing more than your subjective opinion. Moreover, that you intentionally failed to mention the shiurim that the Rav IS giving, raises a presumption, (rebuttable, of course, which please do) of an agenda, not entirely consistent with justice. Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof...pursue justice through just means!

Posted by: Defender | Aug 26, 2004 12:07:48 PM