Guest post by Michael Lesher an orthodox Jew, a practicing attorney, and the author of numerous articles dealing with child sexual abuse and other topics including Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014)
Rabbi Mendel Epstein
Dear Ms. Hersko:
Last week, as Rabbi Mendel Epstein and several Orthodox Jewish co-defendants went on trial to face kidnapping and extortion charges, a letter percolated throughout the Orthodox community, purportedly written by you – Rabbi Epstein’s daughter – that urged all Orthodox Jews to pray fervently for the defendants. The letter did not mention the guilty pleas already entered by some of those charged, leaving the reader to assume that you seek acquittals for the accused regardless of whether they actually abducted and tortured men, as alleged by federal prosecutors, in order to force them to grant religious divorces to their wives.
I do not know you, and I do not know for certain that you actually wrote this letter. For my present purpose that is unimportant. In responding to the letter, I am not writing to you personally; instead, as an Orthodox Jew myself (and therefore one of the intended recipients of the appeal), I want to address some very troubling claims the letter makes.
I will not waste time on the charge that the federal prosecutors are crypto-Nazis, motivated by “pure evil,” whose true “end game is to arrest and imprison as many Orthodox Jews as they can.” That sort of thing is too childish to require a response; I mention it only because it was purportedly written by a practicing lawyer who boasts of being “very familiar with secular courts, witnesses, litigation, etc.” in criminal as well as civil matters. One can only marvel that you, a devoutly Orthodox Jew, have been able to work in that system for so many years without noticing (until now) that it houses a vast anti-Semitic conspiracy. For that matter, it’s pretty astonishing that someone who can write “we must not be quick to judge others” and “we must watch every word we say” can also insist, in the same letter, that Rabbi Epstein is being prosecuted by a gang of vicious bigots – without presenting the slightest evidence to support the charge. Continue reading