Reflecting on his pilot training, Andrew B. McGee writes in today’s New York Times
In the 1960s and ’70s, several crashes were judged primarily a result of pilot error, some stemming from the hierarchical relationship between the captain and the co-pilot. Co-pilots were often afraid to challenge the captain’s decisions, and the results could be disastrous. In training, they played us a cockpit voice recording of a co-pilot timidly telling the captain they were running out of fuel; he didn’t mention it again before the engines flamed out……
My dad told me about a captain he flew with when he was a co-pilot. The guy was known to panic. A baggage truck backed into the plane while it was on the ground. It shook it only a little, but the captain yelled over the intercom, “Everyone evacuate!” Crew members blew the emergency slides, people fell off the wings trying to get out; there were injuries. It was a cautionary tale of how personality can inform a situation.
Oftentimes, there are early cues of misbehavior whether by pilots, sexual predators, or others abusing their authority. Training for safety has to include training to confront authority as necessary, whether it is the senior pilot, the boss, the teacher, the rabbi or the parent.
Authority is necessary for an orderly society but so too are limits on authority. In theory, if not in practice, soldiers and police officers are supposed to refuse to carry out unlawful orders. Mindful of WW II atrocities, Israel and the reconstituted German state made that an important part of the training of soldiers.
Perhaps it is time to consider the same sort of training for the orthodox world. I heard a story about the first Satmar Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum. He asked a boy what he would do if the Rebbe ordered him to violate shabbos. The boy said, “If the rebbe orders, I would do it.” The Rebbe whacked the boy and said, “If I order you to violate shabbos, you should hit me.” I don’t approve of the educational method, but the message is sound.
One of the great failings of orthodox education is the inability to even admit that authority figures can be totally wrong, dangerously wrong, even, immorally wrong.
Shannon Orand had the misfortune of relying on Leib Tropper as her conversion mentor. He sexually exploited her. Eventually she completed her conversion with different rabbis. According to the Jerusalem Post
During the conversion process, [Rabbis Dov] Lior, [Shmuel] Eliyahu and the third rabbi asked Orand if she was not totally disenchanted by the prospect of conversion after her negative experiences. “I told them that I come from Christianity, an idolatrous religious that worships a man as God. Judaism, in contrast, worships God directly. And no man can take that away from me. I am not worshiping a man anymore,” said Orand.
She got it right. We Jews do not and should not worship flesh and blood.
P.S. For an example of someone who knew better from the get-go, see The Convert in the Deli