This post comes from my February, 2010 archives where it appeared with the title, “Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, Why Are You Defending Yisroel Moshe Weingarten?” Weingarten in the article was serving a 30 year sentence based on his repeated rape of his teen daughter. Weissmandl is a prominent rabbi who was involved with many other Hasidic rabbis in supporting his appeals and insisting on his innocence. The popular Zev Brenner radio show ran an episode on the Weingarten case and Weissmandl chose Rabbi William/Hillel Handler to appear on the show defending Weingarten.
I have been doing a lot of research on Yisroel Moshe Weingarten (YMW). Every time I find something it leads to something else. I have learned about more boys and girls he is alleged to have molested. This week I spoke to people who alleged that he raped Jewish and gentile girls. I discovered this by asking a few questions and listening to sad stories. I am not a genius; I do not have an army of investigators; I don’t have access to the files of the FBI and the Mossad. I have not bribed anyone to get information.
Some of the rabbis who signed the kol koreh (proclamation)defending Yisroel Moshe knew things that should have made them pause long and hard. One of the more prominent signers of the pidyon shvuyim (prisoner redemption) kol koreh in the summer of 2009 was Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, Nitra Rav-Monsey, the youngest son of Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov (Michoel Ber) Weissmandl, ztz”l.
It gives me no pleasure to criticize Menachem Weissmandl for conduct that dishonors the name of his great father. The frum world has gone overboard in calling every Yankel Berel a tzadik. Michoel Ber of Nitra, Czechoslovakia was the real thing. He was the greatest frum hero of hatzalah (rescue) during the Churban Europa (holocaust). He was moser nefesh (sacrificed himself)to save Jewish lives. His heart was as big as his deeds and his deeds were bold. He saved thousands and tried to save millions. He struggled and felt for every Jewish life and mourned for each soul he could not save. Until his petirah (passing) in 1957 he suffered like an aveil (mourner) for the millions who could not be saved. In spite of all of this, he rebuilt the Nitra Yeshiva in Mount Kisco, NY.
Yisroel Moshe went to Nitra, the institution built on these sacrifices. He was kicked out around 1966. He committed acts of sexual violence at Nitra so shocking that the memory persists in Nitra to this very day. Leo Weingarten described some of them. People who were bochurim (lads) at the same time have told me about more.
Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, the Nitra Rav of Monsey, probably knew about those allegations decades ago. About ten years ago, someone he trusted told him many of the specific facts about Yisroel Moshe’s abuse of Leah. If by some wild chance he did not already know about YMW’s reputation in Nitra, he had many opportunities to check out the damning facts. Obviously, Menachem Weissmandl knew that YMW was convicted of grave charges in a Federal Court. If he was still not convinced of Yisroel Moshe’s guilt he had the standing to talk to prominent rabbis in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh (Israel), Antwerp, Gateshead (UK), Williamsburg (NY), Kiryas Joel (NY) and his hometown Monsey (NY). Living in Monsey, Weissmandl should have known that Rabbis Ben Zion Wosner, Chaim Leibish Rottenberg and Yechatzkel Gold were convinced that Yisroel Moshe was molesting his younger daughters.
According to someone I trust, Menachem Weissmandl encouraged others to sign the ban on Vos Iz Neias (Hebrew, English) as a way of suppressing Jewish media coverage of the Weingarten case (and allegations about problems with Weissmandl’s kosher supervision at Rubashkin’s Agriprocessor plant in Postville, Iowa). Instead of making it his business to know more, he worked to keep others ignorant.
Last week I learned that Menachem Weissmandl was in charge of selecting the rabbi who would argue the case for Weingarten’s innocence on the Zev Brenner show. The show ended up with Rabbi Hillel Handler, a Neturei Karta propagandist. He calls himself William Handler when he talks to Gentiles. On Saturday night Handler mixed lies, slander, and insults for the better part of two hours, . In some ways he was the perfect spokesperson for YMW who uses the same tactics while also posing as a tzadik.
Handler’s lies were hurtful. He made survivors of abuse feel as if they were again being raped. He ridiculed victims and denied their suffering. When survivors of Yisroel Moshe phoned in he was momentarily unnerved because he knew the audience could hear the pain radiating from their voices. So he laid it on more heavily, interrupted them more often, and sped up his delivery to drown out their message. The survivors were not overwhelmed; they got angry and angrier. He didn’t care. He just wanted to squelch open discussion.
Zev Brenner confronted Handler with evidence that the only rabbis who conducted actual investigations all found Weingarten guilty. He responded with the fiction that Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth, ztz’l of Antwerp conducted a beit din (religious court) and he was the most important rabbi to investigate Weingarten’s guilt. Kreiswirth’s own letter didn’t talk about convening a beit din or even suggest that he conducted any inquiry. Kreiswirth refused to let Leah tell him her version of the events. Rabbi Kreiswirth passed away in 2001 and could not possibly have considered the evidence that came to light in the last ten years. But these inconvenient facts did not deter Handler. He plunged ahead and insisted that anyone who disagreed with Kreiswirth was guilty of insulting torah scholars. Practically in the same breath he insulted respected talmidei chachamim such as the Gavad (head) of Satmar Antwerp, Chaim Yosef Dovid (Chida) Weiss, the Rav Hair of Gateshead, Bezalel Rakow ztz’l, and three Monsey rabbis who signed a letter to deny YMW custody of his children, Ben Zion Wosner, Chaim Leibish Rottenberg and Yechazkel Gold (former Satmar dayan of Monsey). According to Handler, the big maven of rabbonim, they are all “lightweights.”
As far as I’m concerned the better rabbi is the one who takes his job seriously enough to listen to the relevant witnesses, seek out other facts and reach a decision based on the facts. A competent rabbi must have the seichel (common sense) to know when to be skeptical of a source because they are nogeiah b’daver ( have a vested interest). Above all, a rabbi has to have the courage to defend the truth and fight criminals even if it is unpopular. By these criteria, the rabbis invoked by Handler were lightweights. They accepted Yisroel Moshe Weingarten’s account and closed their door on Leah and other witnesses who begged for a chance to share what they knew. Rabbi Moshe Green refused to listen to witnesses who traveled from England and Israel just to talk to him. Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger was rude and abusive to older Hasidic women the moment he realized that they wanted to talk to him about Weingarten’s misconduct.
Menachem Weissmandl, you are a smart man but you aligned himself with lightweights and turned yourself into one. Whether or not Handler was your choice, you and all the other rabbis who supported the pidyon shvuyim campaign bear responsibility for this awful event. It was bound to be awful because the case for Weingarten only makes sense when you drown out the truth.
In another and much more difficult time, your father, Rav Michoel Ber sought out the truth and quickly faced up to the danger facing Europe’s Jews. He warned everyone to flee years before the mass killings started. I know people who came out alive because they heeded his warnings, abandoned their property, and fled. He stayed behind and fought on; he saved thousands and tried to save millions.
Of this I am certain, your father was willing to die to protect Jewish children. Menachem, you cannot be any consolation to your father in heaven. You are promoting yourself by stomping on the bodies and souls of children and strangling their cries of anguish. Shame on you, Menachem Weissmandl! Shame on you!
Menachem Weissmandl, I beg you, please withdraw from this campaign. Be like your father and save Jewish bodies and souls. If you don’t care about your father’s honor I urge to you to save your own skin. Do yourself a favor and repudiate this campaign. In the end, when everything comes out, no one will trust your hashgachah.