Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Sexual Abuse by Rabbis - Lilith Magazine

A letter to the New York Times
Lilith Magazine - October 18, 2000
In response to articles on allegations of sexual and other physical abuse against a well-liked youth leader of the Orthodox Union's NCSY program, Rabbi Baruch Lanner, Lilith sent the following letter to The New York Times. 

To the editor: 

The story in New York's Jewish Week on Rabbi Baruch Lanner's alleged misconduct was eerily, creepily familiar to us: charges of sexual, physical and psychological abuse against a popular rabbi widely acknowledged but never acted upon. The story about Rabbi Lanner's alleged misdeeds in working with children is important and courageous. It is also discouraging. How many times will this story have to be told before those in positions of authority in Jewish institutions start to take responsibility for stopping religious leaders who violated ethical and legal boundaries and who hurt their followers? 

The denials and cover-ups by religious authorities in the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner closely parallel a report Lilith Magazine has published, investigating accusations of sexual misconduct by the rabbi and popular singer Shlomo Carlebach. Lilith, the independent Jewish women's magazine, exposed "The Paradoxical Legacy" of the late Rabbi Carlebach, known around the world for his neo-Chassidic spirituality, his charm and his music. Like Lanner's, Carlebach's alleged sexual misconduct was denied, ignored and covered up by his partisans. And like the Jewish Week's editor, Lilith's staff was beseeched not to publish, for fear that the allegations brought against Carlebach would undo all the ostensible good he had done. The power and charisma of men like Lanner and Carlebach make it that much more difficult--and that much more important--to bring such allegations to light. The accusers in both cases felt violate twice: once by the sexual advances they say were made to them by a revered spiritual figure, and again by the silence that greeted them when they did come forward. 

And let us remember that in all the worry about "malicious gossip" and the hand-wringing about not making trouble for the rabbi, defensive members of these religious communities are missing the real point: If the allegations against Rabbi Lanner are proven true, he is not only in violation of ethics. He is in violation of the law. 

Susan Weidman Schneider

Sarah Blustain
Associate Editor
Lilith Magazine

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