Friday, January 19, 2007

Tendler Family - Keeping Up Appearances

I find the following article to be an extremely strange response to the JTA series "Reining in Abuse".

Towards the bottom of the article they are quoting rabbi Moshe Tendler as an expert in the orthodox dating scene. Remember rabbi Moshe Tendler has two sons who have been accused of clergy sexual abuse (rabbis Aron Baurch Tendler and Mordecai Tendler). Was Avi Frier attempting to give credibility back to the Tendler family? or trying to bring attention back to these two cases? But then again this is the same paper that published articles from the infamaous trash paper called "Susan's Voice and Opinion". A tool used by the Tendler camp in their attempts to discredit the Tendler survivors and those who advocated for them.

I strongly suggest everyone write a letter to the editor of the Florida Jewish News.

Keeping Up Appearances
ContactWritten by Avi Frier
Florida Jewish News
Friday, 19 January 2007

After the first installment of the JTA investigative series on sexual abuse in the Jewish community appeared in last week’s Florida Jewish News, I heard comments on the subject from numerous people, most of whom commended me for running the story.

One reader, however, had this to say: "You know, there was an important reason left out of the article as to why [in Orthodox circles] sexual abuse tends to get swept under the rug. It’s because people are afraid that if it is discovered that their child was sexually abused, it would ruin their chances of finding a shidduch
(marriage partner)."

A quick explanation for our non-Orthodox readers: Orthodoxy is by no means a homogenous movement within Judaism, especially with regard to how one searches for a mate. Modern Orthodox Jews date in a similar manner to the rest of Western society (with the exception that society’s acceptance of pre-marital cohabitation is not accepted in any Orthodox circles). In more right-wing circles (oft referred to as "black hat" or "Yeshivish"), although arranged marriages (a-la "Fiddler on the Roof") are pretty much a thing of the past, the process till utilizes the services of a matchmaker. Today, the role of the matchmaker is to "check out" each prospective mate on behalf of the other, and to serve as a go-between from before their first meeting until the couple is ready to get engaged. The word shidduch refers to the match; in Yeshivish circles, the question "How did you two meet?" would be replaced with, "So, who made the shidduch?"

Upon hearing the reader’s comment, my mind immediately began playing the game, "How Many Things Are Wrong With That?"

It’s not that the comment was misguided or without merit. The most unfortunate thing about it is that the reader was dead on. People really
do cover up their family’s ills for fear that come marriageable age, skeletons in the closet might hurt their children’s perceived value in the shidduch market.

The questions frequently asked by matchmakers on behalf of prospective suitors turn my stomach. We have become so hung up on appearances that the viability of shidduchim can hinge on questions like:

• What kind of tablecloth does her mother use on Friday night?
Because if she doesn’t have enough respect for Shabbos to use fine linen, what kind of miserable daughter could she possibly have raised?

• What color shirt does his father wear on Sunday?
Of course he wears a white shirt on Shabbos when he goes to shul and everyone’s looking, but what about Sunday when he’s lounging around the house or going to a baseball game? If he’s not wearing the official Yeshivish uniform seven days a week, how can I allow his degenerate son to be the father of my kids?

And my personal favorite:
• Does he wear loafers or lace-up shoes?
If he wastes so much time tying his shoes in the morning, think about the time lost from Torah study! Personally, I wonder if the mere name "loafers" might imply something completely different...

And of course there are the stories of the boys who won’t go on a second date with a girl because she acted immodestly on the first date (i.e. she wore her seat belt without putting the shoulder restraint behind her back, thereby accentuating her breasts).

Examples like these, even if they don’t represent the majority, seem to indicate that in the shidduch world, appearances are thought of as more valuable than life itself. Which brings me back to the original comment.

To some misguided souls, it’s more important to make sure that Shloimy finds a nice wife ten years from now than it is to expose the offender, make sure he never hurts another child, and get Shloimy some help.

It’s common knowledge that most sexual abusers were abused as children and never got the help they needed to confront the abuse and the abuser. So as long as Shloimy’s parents will eventually get a nice daughter-in-law who will give them 17 beautiful grandchildren, it’s okay that Shloimy will eventually either sexually abuse those beautiful grandchildren, or be taken away from them and thrown in jail for abusing someone else’s beautiful grandchildren.

So who (other than the abuser) is at fault here? The parents of the abused or the employers of the abuser (both of whom cover up the abuse to keep up appearances)? Or is it a "shidduch system" that allows such shallow questions to play a role in determining whether the young couple will be compatible?

Clearly, the system needs to change. Rabbi Moshe Tendler offers the following advice (quoted from "End The Madness"): "Don’t ask whether he wears shoelaces or loafers; or what kind of gefilte fish they eat; or what sort of tablecloths they use. The process can deteriorate to the point of stupid questions that are asked because no one knows what to look for anymore...The way someone dresses is not necessarily a statement about personal piety or religiosity. True, there exist certain halachic issues such as hair covering and wearing pants that ultimately have to be discussed; still, opinions—verbal or physical—expressed during a date are usually not the opinion of the person expressing them, but rather amount to a mouthing of something they heard or learned from their community. Young people are not yet the people they will become. Important decisions in life should not be dependent on externals that are constantly in flux and are likely to change."

Recently, I attended a wedding where the religious standards were such that men and women sat separately, not only at the ceremony but at the meal as well. The wedding was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many matches might be made if all these marriageable-age kids were allowed to socialize in this controlled religious environment instead of just peeking around the
mechitzah at each other. Imagine how we could cut through the bull if a couple could decide that they like each other in a healthy social environment before they even approach the question of what kind of tablecloth her mother puts on the Shabbos table, and whether or not they plan to do the same.

I can understand the logic behind separating high school kids by gender; raging teenage hormones in kids who are not ready to get married often lead to problems. But we’re talking about young adults who are currently seeking a mate, and who after a lifetime of attending single-sex schools are going to need to learn to socialize in the real world sooner or later anyway!

Some from the Yeshivish world might argue, "that’s just not the way we do things." Well, I’m sure they said the same thing when they did away with arranged marriages. Something wasn’t working then, so the change needed to be made. And once again, something’s not working.
It’s time to make a change.


Anonymous Avi Frier said...

I generally don't respond to posts such as these, because if I replied to everyone who had a problem with something I wrote I'd have no time to do much else. But after writing it you took the time to send it to me personally, so I will take a moment to respond.

I'm a little bewildered by your comments.

First, I don't see how accusations against Rabbi Moshe's Tendler's sons are relevant here. The accusations were made against them, not him, and have little bearing on his comments (which, by the way are completely unrelated to sexual abuse, and strictly refer to the inappropriateness of the questions some people ask when seeking a mate). Rabbi Moshe Tendler has never been accused of any type of abuse, and it is unfair to lump him together with his sons.

Second, nowhere in my article is Rabbi Tendler referred to as an expert in the orthodox dating scene or anything else for that matter. End The Madness, a group that is striving to improve the orthodox dating scene, included Rabbi Tendler in their forum, and I simply quoted from their transcript.

Third, I can't understand how it is relevant that I used one article over a year and a half ago from a publication that you disapprove of. You should know that before I printed the article, I edited it and checked every fact myself; I took nothing at face value, especially considering the gravity of the situation.

Finally, and most significantly, I am wondering which 'team' you think I'm on here. I'm pulling for positive change in the Jewish Community here, and your nitpicking about the mention of Rabbi Moshe Tendler is insulting.

January 19, 2007 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must agree here with Mr. Frier. Just because Moses Tendler happens to be the father of people who have been accused of sexual miconduct does not make his comments regarding Orthodox dating practices, nor the dangers of oral suction invalid. In fact, his outspokenness about the oral suction issue was laudable, and may save lives. These kinds of posts ultimately serve to undermine the excellent work you do with respect to sexual misconduct and abuse.

January 20, 2007 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with JS. With all of the various individuals that Avi Frier could have quoted regarding the dating scene it just seems odd he would pick Moshe Tendler.

Remember the JTA article named Mordecai Tendler. Wouldn't you think that at this time the rest of the Tendler klan would want to keep a low profile?

What's the odds of one father raising two sex offenders? With what we know about the statistics of those being offenders also being survivors of sexual abuse, one has to stop and ask the question -- was Mordecai and Aron Tendler sexually abused in thier childhood? If so by who?

January 20, 2007 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many Tendler family members who were involved in the cover of the crimes of the 2 sex offenders.

I also heard rumors that haven't personally verified that Mordechai Tendler is giving shiurim in Daddy Moshe's shul. If that's true, then daddy Tendler is going against the psak of batei din and rabbanim to keep Mordechai away from children.

This week's Jewish Press has a full page ad from Irgun shiurei Torah. Rabbi Shalom Tendler, who had to resign from Young Israel of Beverly Hills, is shown giving shiurim at Adas Torah in Pico-Robertson.

January 20, 2007 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My message at 6:17 pm was corrupted somehow. There are missing words that ruin the grammar & I meant to quote rabbonim as saying that Mordy Tendler must be kept away not just from children but also adult women.

January 20, 2007 10:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home