Yesterday (6/6/19) an anonymous emailer writing on behalf of “Local South Monsey Area Women” sent a message to the rabbis and rebbetzins of four shuls and one minyan within a short walking distance of Rabbi Yaakov Bleich’s South Monsey (Airmont) residence asking why steps aren’t being taken to keep him out of all their shuls in light of serious allegations that he poses a danger to women.
They also addressed their message to the Executive Director of Agudath Israel of America (Agudah) Rabbi Leibish Becker who lives in the neighborhood. Finally they also emailed the Israeli muckraking blogger, Chaim Shaulson. All the addressees were in the “To” field and I have verified that all the email addresses were accurate and thus presumably reached the addressees.
Rabbi Yaakov Bleich is Chief Rabbi of Ukraine. But for some years now he has spent a lot of his time in the US, in recent years, living in Monsey. However, with the mounting clouds of scandal he has been spending more time in the Ukraine and has dramatically upped the visibility of his time in Kiev through Tweets, WhatsAp and other social media activity of him and his family, especially his daughters.
The message bases its allegations in part on the fact that the Conference of European Rabbis has forced his resignation as reported in an Israeli blog and on this blog. This happened in the aftermath of their investigation of allegations of sexual assault. Additionally, the letter references information about allegations moving inside their own networks and states: “Women talk, and I am sure you understand that the women feel very insecure knowing that the Rabbanim are not doing anything more to protect us.”
The email includes these pointed challenges to the rabbis:
- Why have you been quiet and not warning more people to stay away from his home?
- Why do you allow Rabbi Bleich to daven in our shul[s]?
- Rabbi Sholom Rokeach (Khal Birkas Sheish & Badatz Monsey] told some men that the allegations against Rabbi Bleich are not true. We, however, know the truth and cannot fathom how Rabbi Rokeach would stick up for such a monster! Does he not know the facts or is he protecting Bleich?
While no one is ever prepared to deal with a such a situation, which we understand, we believe that a coordinated public response is appropriate, or perhaps a public meeting where the concerns can be presented and the Rabbanim can justify their position. Rabbi Rokeach must be confronted and account for his foolish position.
We are sending this email anonymously for obvious reasons, including that we are afraid to confront the Rabbanim with our distrust of their position, and we are powerless.
While you only heard from others, we know the victim(s), and WE ARE THE POTENTIAL VICTIMS! WHY DON’T YOU CARE?
We are Local South Monsey area women.
The intent of this letter is clearly to challenge Rabbi Rokeach to stop defending Bleich and to get the other rabbis to take some public collective action such as publicly and officially banning him from all their synagogues and issuing some sort of warning that he is dangerous.
The inclusion of Becker of Agudath Israel along with the others may also be to serve notice so if more details come out, Agudah will not be able to say we did not get notice and only just learned about the issue. They are upping the ante in a twilight zone between Bleich’s deplorable reputation and publicly presented smoking guns.
It is interesting that they are locally focused and they do not challenge the Conference of European Rabbis to move from just allowing Bleich to resign to outright stating the reasons. This may be because their focus is local. It may also be because the norms of the ultra orthodox world are to handle even removals for sexual misconduct with very subtle (even practically deniable) wording. So even the most subtle of messages is considered a victory and even subtle messages carry a lot of weight to those who know how to read between the lines.
The saddest thing about this email is the statement: “We are sending this email anonymously for obvious reasons, including that we are afraid to confront the Rabbanim with our distrust of their position, and we are powerless.”
For all of the talk about increasing protections, the women behind this know that on the whole it is not safe to raise such issues and there are risks of retaliation. As long things stay that way, the Haredi world will continue to be a safe harbor for abusers.
If any of you involved in writing this email wish to contact me, leave a message for me in a comment on this post with a valid email address. I will then contact you without disclosing your identity to anyone else. All my comments are moderated, so you can used them to privately message me. Ask that I keep them private in the message and I will keep them private.
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Click here for all other Frum Follies posts about Yaakov Bleich. They will appear in reverse chronological order.