Belsky is 0 for 2 on the Kolkos and Yet He’s the OU’s Posek

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky has twice declared Kolkos innocent of sex abuse charges to then be proven wrong when they pled guilty in court. (Joel (Yehuda) Kolko  & Yosef Kolko)

Anyone can make a mistake. Any fool can keep making the same mistake. But Rabbi Belsky is no fool. He is a great lamdan (scholar of rabbinics).

He is a very smart man who makes it his business not to know the truth by refusing to talk to accusers. As he explained to an askan (community activist) ‘I talked to Yudi Kolko and I can tell he is innocent.’

This sort of arrogant assertion of discernment is damning enough in a layman. But Rabbi Belsky is a posek (adjudicator of questions of Jewish law). The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, better known as the Orthodox Union certifies the kosher status of a half a million products using its familiar logo, a U inside an O. The largest  kosher agency in the world relies on Rabbi Yisroel Belsky and Rabbi Hershel Schachter as their senior halachic poskim (Jewish law decisors).

I am not expert on kashrus and I don’t pretend to be a lamdan. But this much I know, you have no business being a posek if you don’t pay attention to the facts and you don’t listen to both sides. Someone told me that the Chazon Ish (Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz) believed most bad psak is not because of halachic ignorance, but inattention to the metzius (particulars of the case).

Not only is Belsky given to snap judgments on behalf of his favorites but he acts on them with a vengeance. Even in his teen years he was pugnacious and, at least in one instance, a pugilist. According to one rabbi who has tracked his career for decades, he is a “thug” who uses halachic tools recklessly.  His red hair has faded but not his fiery temperament.

Having decided to back Yosef Kolko, against the judgment of those rabbis in Lakewood who had investigated the facts and supported reporting him to legal authorities, he issued an astounding public psak (Hebrew, English translation).

My ears should have been spared hearing the horrific news that one of your fellow residents in town informed upon a fellow Jew to the hands of the secular authorities, may G-d spare us, for which the [Jewish] law is undisputed that one who commits such an act has no share in the world to come. (see: Choshen Mishpat 388:4)

After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R’ Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as clear to me that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].

Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.

Accordingly, as it is a great mitzvah to rescue the pursued from the hands of the evil‐to rescue a pure and righteous soul. Therefore, anyone who has the ability to rescue the righteous and does not do so is considered as if he is himself the pursuer. (See: Rambam – Laws Regarding Informing 1: 14)

Thus, all who have the ability to influence the informers that they should retract their terrible deeds should do so.

Kolko’s guilty plea reveals the many falsehoods in this letter. However, it is worth a careful reading to assess Yisroel Belsky’s qualifications as a posek. In this document we see that:

  • He falsely claimed he conducted a “thorough investigation.”
  • He slandered (motzi shem rah) a respected talmid chacham (.e.g., “the allegations they make against others are crimes themselves are in fact guilty of”).
  • He failed to recognize that in accordance with the rulings of Maran Rav Elyashiv, when there are plausible suspicions, one must report a molester for criminal prosecution and that this case qualified as a necessary action to protect potential future victims.
  • He called the father of the victim a rodef (pursuer). In Jewish law, a rodef can, if necessary, be murdered since it is considered self defense. Yigal Amir, the yeshiva student who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, based his actions on rabbinic proclamations that Rabin was a rodef. Belsky’s inflammatory language could have led to disastrous consequences. In August 2010,  Shaul Luban  (son of Yaakov Luban, OU Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of Kashrut Division)  to organize harassing phone calls for which he was arrested and pled guilty.

This horror show continues, even after the guilty plea, with Belsky still insisting that Kolko pled guilty even though he is innocent and “there is more than meets the eye.”

This is what I expected from Belsky since he is not one to let mere facts interfere with his opinions. But why is the Orthodox Union so complacent about Belsky’s outrages.

Belsky’s OU defenders claim he is not their spokesperson, just a hired hand. This is a ridiculous evasion of the issue. He is one of their most important poskim for their most important product, the OU hechsher. The hechsher generates the revenue that keeps the organization afloat. Their trademarked OU logo is their most valuable branding asset.  The value of their business will plummet into the penny stock trading segment if the buying public comes to associate the OU with the defense of molesters and reliance on a shoddy posek.

The Modern Orthodox world has an inferiority complex. They keep on looking over their right shoulder for  endorsements of their observance from the Haredi world. This is a futile endeavor but they persist, nay, over-persist.  They salivate with pride when Mishpachah or Ami magazine does a favorable profile of one of their leaders.

It should be the other way around. The Modern Orthodox world has higher ethical standards when it comes to disciplining rabbinical misconduct and dealing with child abuse.

When Rabbi Michael Broyde’s deceptions were exposed by Steven I Weiss, the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and the Beth Din of America (BDA) secured his resignation in a matter of days. This was necessary because a dayan must be cleaner than a hound’s tooth. The credibility of a beit din rests on the ethical rectitude of its members.

When Rabbi Mordechai Tendler was accused of misconduct with adult women, the RCA conducted an investigation and expelled him from the organization. They did that even though he was son of one of their most prominent members and the grandson of R. Moshe Feinstein zatzal.

The RCA also has a strong policy of reporting child molesters to the police and condemning the harassment of victims. The RCA affirmed its support for victims going to the police when Nechemya Weberman was convicted.  It followed up two days later with a statement urging strengthening of synagogue and school policies. At the same time the OU first posted this statement by the RCA, its “rabbinic arm” and then removed it, supposedly because of haredi pressure according to the Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt. The retraction may not be Belsky’s accomplishment, but it is certainly consistent with his contempt for the Modern Orthodox halachic commitment to fighting sex abuse of children.

Most consumers who rely on the OU do not understand the intricacies of halachah. In fact some of them are Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, vegetarians or people with lactose intolerance. Some of their customers are Conservative and Reform Jews who keep kosher homes but couldn’t care less about different shades of orthodoxy. Even hareidim who buy some OU items rely on the OU’s integrity.

The OU administration of kashruth is more disciplined and less corrupt than many of its heimish mehadrin competitors. All this has been accomplished independently, or even in spite, of Belsky who is a consultant, not an administrator.

Organizational reputations are as fragile as earthenware. If earthenware absorbs the taam (flavor) of a chazer (pork) there is no way to kosher it. Even Belsky himself could not come up with a heter (permissive ruling).

The OU is at a decision point. It must decide what’s more important, their reputation for integrity or their endorsement by a discredited Haredi posek. They can’t have it both ways. The price of hitching themselves to his reputation includes absorbing the stench of his rabbinical misconduct.

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About Yerachmiel Lopin

Frum Follies is blog is for those who fight Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in the Orthodox Jewish world where it is Purim all year. I fight corruption and denial by reporting, analyzing, satirizing, and organizing action.
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13 Responses to Belsky is 0 for 2 on the Kolkos and Yet He’s the OU’s Posek

  1. GAON says:

    I guess you will be the most qualified prosecutor in a court of law. Brilliant persuasive post.
    You should have been a lawyer (LOL), but you are clearly way too ethical for that.
    Where the heck does he get the hubris to continue on this path of self-destruction?

  2. Oy vey says:

    It is erev shabbos so I don’t have time to think through all the details and angles but….maybe there is a way to organize an Internet based boycott of the o.u until they react to this horrifying reality. Maybe we can use the Internet l’shaim shamayim and restore some credibility to the word “rabbi”. Maybe it is up to the kahal with brains to get something going…..thoughts?

  3. Belsky called Kolko’s act disgusting during an election in NY.

  4. ann says:

    do believe it would be in the best interest of the OU to completely remove any business with Rabbi Belsky. Though I am not Jewish, I do purchase many Kosher items (app 90 % ) to to a GI disorder. If it becomes apparent that there is no disassociation with the OU & Rabbi Belsky, I will not purchase any items with the symbol OU. There are many stores, businesses I will not patronize due to their supporters, etc.

  5. GAON says:

    Profession “Rabbi” should be banned, as are Sarsurs, sarsurim, Is there really a difference morality wise? well, i guess there are a tiny handful of Rabbis. but not sarsurinm how in the world does one identify a non rotten apple, and, if, b’sofo shel davar, the one you trusted turns out to be corrupt, one can always switch fro apikorus to mormon Let us start from ther4, and then worry about the OU, Is there anything that is not corrupt? how do we know? sooner or later, often sooner, it joins the long long list of atrocities, so no meat and no lettuce, g-d forbid, unless one has a super powered microscope, take B vitamin pills, I in fact am leaving for a far far better world. no more rants and i will be able to eat romaine to my heart’s content, OTD is an understatement, LETTUCE.

  6. How can I contact you?

  7. Kevin in Chicago says:

    “‘I talked to Yudi Kolko and I can tell he is innocent” = “I talked to the shochtim and I can tell that all the chickens are kosher.” Makes the job a lot easier.

    But forgive the lame joke. Precisely because an abused child cannot be compared to a treyf chicken, the OU should promptly end its association with Rav Belsky as a matter not of kashrus, but of yashrus.

  8. GAON says:

    An easier and more legitimate answer could have been obtained by asking the chickens themselves, on a LIFO, or is it FIFO basis.

  9. UOJ has reported in the past on Rabbi Belsky’s protection of Rabbi Lippa/Lipa/Lewis Brenner a now convicted and confessed pedophile:

    http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2006/08/haredi-rav-on-authentic-daas-torah-and.html


    Rabbi Belsky was present, although not as a Dayan, during testimony before a Bais Din panel in 1985 against Lipa Brenner, and heard the horrific testimony of numerous witnesses. Yet he chose to protect his friend Brenner and actively cover up the abuse of children in our community. When a devastated parent came crying to him several years later and informed Rabbi Belsky that his son was being molested by Brenner, Rabbi Belsky informed the parent in no uncertain terms that the boy was lying and that Brenner was innocent. After the parent was advised by friends to ignore Rabbi Belsky and to go to the police, a sting operation successfully caught Lipa Brenner. Lipa Brenner was charged with 14 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. The sexual contact was alleged to have been committed over a three-year period until October 1995 (over 10 years after Rabbi Belsky protected this pedophile from prosecution in 1985.) Brenner agreed to plead guilty to one count of sodomy in the third degree, a Class E felony, in exchange for a sentence of five years’ probation. Lipa Brenner is now a registered sex offender. Had Rabbi Belsky prevailed, Brenner would still be destroying children’s lives to this very day. Had Belsky not interfered in 1985, numerous children would have been spared a fate worse than death.

    • Thank you for reminding us about this story and this UOJ posting. You are a goldmine of historical knowledge not shared by those of us who came to this issue in recent years. I would love it if you were to start posting again.

  10. Chaim Green says:

    First of all, as someone in the legal field, I have followed Joel/Yudi Kolko’s case very carefully, from beginning until the end of his most recent case. Yudi Kolko has never admitted to any molestation and has only admitted to Reckless Abandonment. Obviously, the courts saw no reason to lock him up.

    Now, I am not advocating for the abusers, and if a person is found guilty, they most definitely should be punished for their crime. But, and this is a big but, until that happens, people should just stop talking lashon hora and trying to destroy a person’s life. What you people are doing, without knowing all the facts of the case (as you probably only read the New York Post), you are, in effect, killing a fellow Jew. Kolko was not found guilty by his peers, by the courts or by a beth din. He was found guilty by fellow Jews, who have nothing better to do with their lives than try to destroy other Jews, especially those who may have done them wrong.

    By the way, I am a former student at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, and personally disliked Rabbis Margulies & Kolko while there. Kolko did pick on me and ounish me for reasons that I thought he was wrong about, but still, the facts do not support this libel against him. The reason why more and more young students came out against him was because their parents were either poressured to say these things or they pressured and brainwashed their kids into believing these things occured.

    Again, I am not saying the Yudi Kolko is an angel, but who here is? Who here hasn’t done things they are ashamed of, hasn’t done the wrong things? I just don’t think that Kolko really did the worse case scenario stff he was accused of. Holding a first grade boy on his lap to comfort him when he scraped his knee or something like that, doesn’t make a child molester.

    • No one here is equating being nasty or comforting a child with sex abuse. We are talking about rubbing against a child till hotzoas zerah livatallah. Actually Yiddi Kolko pleaded guilty to child endangerment. However, as is clear from the current disputes in civil suits with torah temimah, the sexual nature of the endangerment is not in dispute, only the question of whether Torah Temimah knew and should have stopped it. His plea bargain created a scandal because it was an obvious sweatheart deal engineered on his behalf by DA Hynes who courts the orthodox block vote.

      See: http://nymag.com/news/features/17010/ & http://sfjny.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=301&Itemid=84 & http://rabbimatisyahusalomon.blogspot.com/

      there is no prohibition on loshon horah when there is a toeles such as protecting children from grave danger. Farkert, it is a chiyuv of lo saamod. Moreover, he is clearly in category of koiloi deloi poisek. Belsky is a yachid. Most rabbonim and frum therepasits have heard too many stories from victims, their relatives and their colleagues to be able to dan lekaf zchus.

  11. Chaim Green says:

    One last thing, I am only talking about Yudi Kolko. I haven’t been following the case against Yosef Kolko and know nothing about it, except that he pled guilty. My belief is, an innocent person does not plead guilty.

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