Being wrong is lousy; being publicly wrong is lousier. I have had some real bloopers in my 1,200+ posts over almost seven years. In every one of those five instances, I swallowed hard and issued unambiguous public apologies. I did not bury my corrections in my comments and I did not equivocate. It is good for the soul and one’s character to do such things. After every such apology I thought long and hard about how I made the mistake and I developed a visceral alert system that spared me from repeating it. While some of my enemies tried very hard to rag on me about my mistakes, most of my readers respected me for it. It made them more trusting of other things I write.
I am painfully aware that I am a solo blogger, my own editor, fact checker, and ethical cop. I do my best and I consult with others when in doubt. I also pay attention to comments on my posts and make smaller corrections as warranted. Yet ultimately, my public is dependent on my integrity without full supervision, transparency or accountability.
This isn’t just my problem. It shows up in many areas of anti-abuse activism in the orthodox Jewish world for a simple reason. Most activism is undertaken without pay or support and therefore without controls. I do not see that changing in the foreseeable future, especially for those of us who are determined not to lavish praise on the existing system or to play by its rules that regularly yield cover-ups.
The orthodox world’s activism against abuse is a loose network of survivors, friends and relatives who support them,bloggers, other sorts of organizations, and a larger hidden world of secret supporters. My success depends on working well with others. I try hard to avoid needless fights. I despise some fights that are really just turf wars disguised as principled battles.
Nevertheless some disagreements are necessary as a matter of establishing the truth about a case or clarifying the problems with a particular policy or even an individual or an organization. In 2010 I forcefully attacked one activist, Kal Holczler, who was exploiting survivors. It was painful because some of my supporters had been helped by Kal and were angry at me. But just as we try to collaborate well, we also have to accept the price of telling the truth, even when the anger comes from survivors and other supporters of our efforts.
A controversy has now erupted about Yehuda Pogrow. He deserves credit for how he responded when his brother, Meir Pogrow, was publicly denounced as an abuser of females. Yehuda, who is in no way implicated in his brother’s conduct, went public to join in the condemnation and to reveal the ways in which his brother also abused him. Yehuda has also shared ways in which he was sexually abused by his mother and physically abused at school. That is courage which few show, let alone on short notice.
Yehuda also wants to be a leader in the effort to overcome the abuse cover-ups of the frum world. I have advised him not to undertake that role, and I am now urging survivors not to seek him out. Unlike Kal, I am not accusing Yehuda of assaults or anything like that. But based on my impressions of his writing and actions, I find him too inexperienced, impulsive, and short on knowledge and sensitivity to others. His intentions are for the good, but his judgment and temperament do not match his intentions. I believe that he is likely to hurt the best interests of some survivors who depend on him. Continue reading
This morning’s (7/4/16) Times of Israel has a post, “A plea from the brother and victim of a predator” by Yehuda Pogrow. Born approximately nine years after Meir, Yehuda reports:
I identify with my brother’s victims, because I was – perhaps – his first. He first abused me approximately 30 years ago… Over a period of roughly 10 years, he subjected me to severe physical, verbal and emotional abuse. He is short, but he was strong. He would lift me above his head, my whole body parallel to the floor, just let go, and walk away as I crashed to the floor.
I was 17 the last time my brother physically abused me. I had finally grown strong enough to defend myself. He chased me and tried to hit me, but I deflected him. When I thought he had quit trying to hurt me, I dropped my guard. He then stared me in the eyes with a gruesome expression. My arms were at my sides when he punched me, breaking my nose and giving me a concussion. The next day he told me – gleefully — that he broke my nose intentionally. He also explained that I deserved it, because I did not spend enough time studying Torah during my time off from Yeshiva.
Yehuda also provides some evidence that Meir Pogrow’s previous employers should have taken action to blackball Meir in the orthodox educational arena because of his cultish and sexually improper talk with students. For example, at the Yeshiva University- Los Angeles (YULA) high school, one woman says “I do clearly remember discussing my discomfort about him to another teacher, possibly the principal after a discussion that he instigated about masturbation” and “I clearly remember no one taking us seriously.” Continue reading
Shayna Goldberg describes what is obviously Pogrow in a Times of Israel post.
Rabbi Meir Pogrow
I knew this rabbi. 18 years ago, I came to Israel for the year to study Torah in a seminary [Michlalah] where he taught. He lived on campus with his young family in the apartment right beneath mine. From the first time I met him, my overwhelming gut instinct was to stay away. There was something creepy about the way he knew all of our SAT scores by heart, even before we arrived. The way he knew exactly who was registered for an Ivy League college.
The way he pursued and initiated chavrutot with very specific girls. Never the weak ones. Only the “best and the brightest.” It felt like a kind of game for him. A challenge. Could he crack the toughest ones? Break them down and then rebuild them? By some, it was considered flattering if he chose you. And there were girls who were hurt and devastated because they didn’t make the cut. Continue reading
With the help of Heaven
Tuesday, Parshas Behaalosecha (Naso in the Diaspora), 8 Sivan, 5776 [6/14/16]
- Rabbi Menachem Mendel HaKohen Shafran, Bnei Brak [Israel]
- Rabbi Gershon ben R’ Avraham Yehudah HaLevi Bess, California
- Rabbi Chaim Zev HaLevi Malinowitz, Jerusalem & Beit Shemesh
RE: Meir Pogrow ID: xxxxxxxx
After many rabbis and activists approached us about the devious behavior of the aforementioned [Meir Pogrow] over the course of years, and after we heard his version, and after we clarified what we clarified, we are issuing the following ruling.
1.It is forbidden for Meir Pogrow to have any dealings with women by any method; directly or indirectly, by speech or in writing, utilizing any electronic method of communication. This includes communication for the purposes of giving advice, training in learning or other matters, words of encouragement, rulings on halachic questions, and any type of contact whether for spiritual or mundane matters. “Women”, includes girls, unmarried or married, of any age, whether one-on-one or even with many women together.
An Israeli rabbinical court issued a ruling (6/14/16; 8 Sivan 5776) denouncing 46-year-old Rabbi Meir Pogrow for sexual misconduct with women (see image below). The court ruling which I
hope to translate [translated] in full was signed by Rabbis Menachem Mendel Shafran (Bnei Brak, Israel; a Hasidic posek on the Bais Din of R. Karelitz), Chaim Zev Malinowitz (Beit Shemesh, Israel; the dominant Yeshivish rav in Beit Shemesh), and Gershon Bess (Los Angeles, CA; a product of the Lakewood BMG constellation of yeshivas). The ruling was written as a set of directives to Meir Pogrow about restrictions the Beit Din is imposing on him.
The ruling was followed by a Public Danger Warning with a synopsis of the ruling in Hebrew and English telling the public to avoid Pogrow in all sorts of roles. The advisory to females focused on any sort of interaction. The advisory section addressed to males spoke of not using his website or learning from him. He was explicitly called a rasha (evil person), a status with halachic implications. For example, one does not console a rasha in mourning.
The danger warning is undated but was in circulation by 6/20/16, within about a week of the original ruling.The warning was signed by two members of the rabbinical court (Rabbis Malinowitz and Bess) and three additional signers:
- Rabbi Mordechai Willig (a prominent member of the faculty of the RIETS rabbinical seminary of Yeshiva University),
- Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits (Sanhedria, Jerusalem and Previously with Aish Hatorah as Rosh Kollel), and,
- Rabbi Elimelech Kornfeld (Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, the son-in-law of the Ner Israel Rosh Yeshiva, R. Aaron Feldman).
Below is the English text of the summary and warning. Items in rectangular brackets were inserted by Yerachmiel Lopin for clarification or annotation.
Public Danger Warning
Upon issuance of the decision of the Bais Din [rabbinical court] that determined with absolute certainty and established by reliable and credible witnesses and other proofs (all conducted in a manner which leaves no room for doubt), regarding the most severe sins involving issues of [sexual] immorality and the like,
Heaven protect us by Meir Pogrow (of Beit Shemesh and America) and hearing about the damages that he inflicted on women (including single, married, Jewish and otherwise) who were under his influence (many of whose lives he destroyed) [but] due to modesty, we are unable to describe his actions in detail [though] the details are held in confidence under seal by the Bais Din;
After the Bais Din heard his (Pogrow’s) responses;
It is our obligation to notify and warn women and girls in the strongest and most urgent terms to distance themselves from any interaction from this individual as well as from his presentations [through Master Torah, etc.] or from any sphere of his influence in any possible manner.
It is our opinion that men who listen to his lectures and/or follow his learning program, are absolutely obligated to cut off all personal interaction with him, as our rabbis warned us: “Do not associate with an evil person.”
His supporters must understand that they are enabling Pogrow to continue his above-referenced activities.
May Hashem [G-d] protect his nation from breaches of morality and the men and women of Israel from stumbling due to individuals (such as Pogrow) of whom it is stated: “Torah when studied improperly becomes a deadly poison.”
What Was Left Unsaid
For those not in the know, the shidduch crisis is a state of the art term in the Ultra Orthodox world for the fact that there are a number of old maids (over 22 years of age) who cannot find suitable mates. The ideal suitable mate is a male immersed in torah learning, and willing to let himself be supported by all and sundry. These prize catches prefer younger women (e.g, less than 22, preferably 18-19). If they had their way they would also get the taller women shortened because it turns out yeshiva men honor the Torah by not letting woman tower above them. In fact it is an unstated piece of yeshiva lore that eye-to-eye is an indecent position between husband and wife. They also feel entitled to wealthier women with distinguished lineages (which pretty much precludes a convert or a baalat tshuvah).
The great rabbis of this world have declared this a crisis. They have proclaimed days of prayer, urged greater modesty, told women to be less picky, and of course promoted the cure-all, learning. However, they are not content to rest on their laurels because, alas, the problem persists.
Eureka! The New York Post has revealed their latest initiative in its article, irreverently titled, Dreidel Robbers. A directive has been issued to matchmakers to not let younger girls hitch up with older guys. Their ways are discreet. Sixty of them signed and it was privately distributed. Who could have known that Yenta the matchmaker would betray them. But we now have a copy of the text. Continue reading