The War Against the Haredim II
The following article is satire, and is in response to these two articles written by Moshe Krakowski
By: Shimon McCrooksy
In late 2014, I met Nati Foster, a bright charismatic graduate student at Hunter College who grew up in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community. (Notice how I called him “bright and charismatic” so that when I try to assassinate his character later in this piece you won’t even notice.) He was interested in studying perceptions of harm resulting from sexual abuse in Yeshivas, an area I research, write about, and most importantly, enable.
I gave him the best guidance I could on how to write a survey. (My experience has never been with actually studying how parents feel about their children being abused in Yeshiva, but I gave him advice nonetheless! That’s how nice I was to him!)
I eventually realized that his aim was not mere data collection! Just a month later, he told the New York Times that he was abused in Yeshiva and that he’s seeking to ensure other kids don’t get abused. What a liar! I mean he presented himself as interested in researching this issue, but it turns out he was personally affected by it and that he was actively advocating for others to not be abused as well. (I, on the other hand, am completely neutral! I am just telling you what my research found. I also speak at legislative breakfasts where pro-abuse advocates bring me to influence elected officials. But it’s different. I’m a researcher, and I need to speak to policymakers, elected officials, and lobbyists to make sure they understand my research and don’t listen to Mr. Foster. I also write in County Journal, Backward, and Criss Crossers to ensure that no one listens to Mr. Foster.)
Anyway, over the last 5 years, Foster’s organization Young Advocates For the Prevention of Abuse of Children (YAFPAC), has put into motion multiple lawsuits and counter lawsuits, media coverage, new guidelines and regulations and so forth.
His organization and his supporters claim that the government should ensure that children are not abused, especially when specific complaints are made. But Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox opponents represented by Yeshiva Leaders in Support of Abuse of Children (YLSAC) argue that any intrusion by the government is an unprecedented assault on their religious way of life.
Considering that 170,000 students currently enrolled in Jewish private schools in New York- 110,000 in Hasidic schools — this issue carries major repercussions for both the Jewish community and the city of New York more broadly. If schools can’t allow abuse to happen, then that calls into question the very idea of “private” education in the United States.
Moreover, this conflict has unfolded amid a growing strain of antisemitism in New York City and its suburbs. Is that unrelated to the policy in question? Perhaps, but I will nevertheless drop this tidbit here to frighten you by cleverly tying the efforts of advocates to end abuse in Yeshivas to the rise in anti-semitism, which we all agree is horrible.
I have spent my academic career trying to understand how abuse in Yeshivas, if it exists in any meaningful way, actually helps shape American Haredi communities. (My research in the past, before YLSAC co-opted me, actually highlighted the high rates of abuse in Yeshivas, but I now focus on trying to highlight that the abuse is actually outweighed by the delicious meals offered in the schools).
So here’s the thing: Some ex-Haredim and especially ex-Hasidim (like Nati Foster) have left their communities after significant trauma in their lives. Why am I including this absurd and irrelevant claim? Good question. It’s because I am trying to undermine the credibility of those advocates and cast them as misfits and losers, without a policy argument to be considered seriously and fairly.
The ex-Hasidim go out there and feel the need to tell the whole world about their lives in the Hasidic community. They are also the subject of many books and articles, and streaming services. I don’t know why. As a neutral researcher, I would guess it’s driven by animus toward the Haredi world. I have never seen another community in which its exiters have such a desperate need to tell the world about the dysfunction in their communities. Maybe my future research will ponder that. I will inevitably conclude that they are just a bunch of liars.
Anyway, until now, elected officials and education officials had no insight into the community whatsoever. They had no Jewish liaisons and no relationships with community groups like Agudath Israel, BPJCC, UJO, PEARLS, and their many lobbyists in City Hall and Albany. None. City and State officials were like clean slates waiting to be exploited and persuaded that abuse in Hasidic Yeshivas is rampant by YAFPAC, an organization with no political connection or block vote or money.
In 2015, YAFPAC sent a letter to the city of New York listing 39 Yeshivas that it allowed alleged rampant abuse of their students by the school leaders and administration. Truth is, the state doesn’t clearly define what abuse is, so filing a complaint that there’s abuse happening is pretty ridiculous. Still, YAFPAC’s complaint alleged that the abuse is severe and rampant.
The city should have been skeptical of YAFPAC’s allegations because, get this, after a short 4 & ½ year investigation in which they promised Yeshivas to go “gentle” on them, and in which Yeshivas repeatedly stonewalled the city officials, they narrowed the scope of the investigation to just 28 Yeshivas. In fact, one of the 39 “Yeshivas” listed in YAFPAC’s complaint turned out to be the offices of a network of Hasidic Yeshivas, but beneath those offices, there was a butcher shop! Not a Yeshiva! And of the remaining 28 Yeshivas, the rampant abuse only took place in 26 of them!!! So why did the city take these morons seriously?!
Since then the State Education Department has released new guidelines for abuse prevention. None of those regulations take into account how great the lunch is in the school, which totally balances out the harm resulting from the abuse.
The New York City Chancellor Richard Carranza, in his report to the State Education Department, noted that the investigation consisted of surveys of the schools, visits at the schools, communication with school leaders, and interviews with complainants representing 11 of the schools. Aha! So there are only 11 schools! Not 28! (If at this point I seem obviously desperate to chip away at YAFPAC’s credibility, that’s because I am.)
Even where the 11 schools are concerned, accepting the claims of ex-Hasidim regarding their former schools is like relying on a divorcé for information about his ex-wife!
I have personally visited some of Yeshivas named in YAFPAC’s complaint. And while I was there, children were not being abused before me. In fact, the teachers told me they are completely open to new ideas to stop the continued abuse from happening. One teacher even showed me a book a parent sent him entitled “stop abusing my child” and the teacher was showing it off to me proudly, clearly receptive of it (though he had not gotten around to reading it).
YAFPAC talks a lot about the long term harm resulting from the abuse, but that assumes the harm is actually a result of the abuse. But when we compare the success of graduates who were abused and those who weren’t, we only see a small increase in suicide and self-harm among those who had been abused. And that little increase can hardly be attributed to the abuse they suffered in Yeshiva.
Additionally, there are so many successful survivors of abuse who do quite well later in life and show no public signs at all of having been abused. In fact, some managed to use their resilience to propel them in careers and employment that their counterparts who didn’t suffer abuse can only dream of. Foster himself now holds an MSW and earns a decent living running YAFPAC and advocating for children who are currently being abused.
I can go on and on. But instead, I will save some more of my screed to publish it in Criss Crossers, and maybe in the Backward at a later time.