QOTD=Quote of the Day
The editor of the Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt drew attention to Rabbi Heshie Billet’s article about child sex abuse. Heshie Billet is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere and was President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest orthodox association of rabbis in the world with approximately one thousand members. According to Rosenblatt:
Rabbi Heshie Billet… wrote,… “Not Enough Progress By Rabbis, Leaders On Dealing With Sexual Abuse,” [which] described the role Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a major kashrut expert and halachic consultant to the OU [Orthodox Union], played in publicly defending a confessed sexual abuser, Rabbi Yosef Kolko, who taught youngsters at a Lakewood, N.J., yeshiva.
Further, Rabbi Belsky accused the parents of the victim of going to the police, and wrote that one who does so is guilty of being a moser, the rabbinic term for a Jew who informs on another Jew, and, wrote Rabbi Belsky, “has no share in the world to come.”
Under communal pressure, the boy’s parents moved away from the Lakewood community.
“The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky,” Rabbi Billet wrote, calling on the major Orthodox group to “publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU,” which say child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.
“Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities,” Rabbi Billet wrote.
I applaud Rabbi Billet for drawing attention to the OU’s unconscionable retetntion of Yisroel Belsky. I would add on that Belsky even had the chutzpah to accuse the father of Kolko’s victim of himself being the one who molested the boy, a fact that the previous president of the OU, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, denied in an exchange of messages with Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn.
Rosenblatt, a professional journalist, dutifully reports the OU’s side of the story:
Mayer Fertig, chief communications officer of the OU, told The Jewish Week that while the organization has “high regard” for Rabbi Belsky in terms of his kashrut expertise, it “profoundly disagrees with his conclusion and whatever actions he may have taken” regarding the Kolko case, and has told him so in private conversations. “In no way does Rabbi Belsky speak for the OU,” Fertig said.
I don’t envy Mayer Fertig, the OU spokesman who is a professional journalist and did a good job as editor of the the five towns Jewish Star. I believe he knows better but has the lousy job of defending the indefensible.
Belsky is worse than a spokesman for the OU; he is the guy who distorts the messages of others in the OU. When the RCA and the OU tried to issue a statement about the Kolko conviction (by guilty plea) they were trying to reconcile Belsky’s views with their own position and ended up with an absurd mishmash which claimed the RCA, the OU and Belsky agreed in principle but just differed in the case of Yosef Kolko. Their statement only makes sense if you understand they were bending over backwards not to offend Belsky. I couldn’t resist parodying their response with my post, PARODY- Vito Gambino Agrees with the RCA. (Don’t read my parody without first reading the RCA-OU-Belsky document first; otherwise it will seem silly and pointless).
Based on my read of the community, the OU is overestimating its ability to harbor a major protector of molesters as their posek. There are deep rumblings of anger in the community. If the OU does not dump Belsky (ceremoniously or otherwise) I anticipate demonstrations with media coverage and even selective boycotts.
The OU has spent almost a century building up its kosher certification brand reputation. Secular corporations don’t understand the intricacies of kosher. Many of them still think the “rabbi” is there to bless the food. But you don’t need to be ordained — or even need to be Jewish — to find the rape and molesting of children offensive and incompatible with a clean corporate image. The OU may be interested in extending its acceptability to ultra orthodox customers. But their bills are paid by secular corporations. If the OU continues to retain Belsky they are about to discover that their corporate customers care about Jewish children even if Belsky doesn’t.
I encourage all of you to contact Rabbi Billet and compliment him on the position he has taken. I would say contact the OU but I have concluded that is a waste of time. Instead I urge you to contact their customers who pay their bills and encourage them to switch to another kosher hashgachah.