Burqa Babe Busted

Burqa BustedIt was all fun and games when it was a Purim joke but the Internets are all abuzz with the latest news that the leader of the Beit Shemesh Orthodox Burqa Brigade, Rabbanit Bruriah Keren, has been arrested amid allegations of serious child abuse and the failure to report multiple instances of incest.

It took police two hours to gain entry to the home, with the intervention of local rabbis. Officers and social workers soon uncovered brutal physical abuse of several of the children, including whippings with both belts and electric cables, according to a police officer’s court testimony…. The mother is also suspected of breaking one daughter’s nose with a rolling pin, leaving her children to sleep outside in a locked shed when they came home late, and preventing them from receiving medical treatment for their injuries. The mother said it was all part of their “education,” according to court documents… When the abuse was discovered last month, only two of the couple’s 12 children, who range in age from eight to 33, lived at home… The two clearly abused children, including a disabled teenager, have since been removed from the home by social workers, the police investigator told the court… When the children of the family were treated by social workers, it emerged that the teenagers had committed incest with each other, over a long period of time, the police officer said… The teenage boy who was removed from the house told social workers that he had had sexual relations with his 18-year-old sister, and that he had told his parents and his rabbis, and that the latter told him not to tell anybody else.

I am of course horrified. This whole burqa thing always struck me as verging on the insane and if these allegations pan out then, well… that would explain a few things. The allegations and rumors are coming from all over the place and this is truly as lurid a case as I have ever seen. I feel badly for the innocent children involved and I hope no one tries to make any political or ideological hay out of this tragedy. That having been said, I think it’s important to state that the Haredi Code of Silence (as Ruth Eglash put it) really needs to end, especially in cases of abuse.

Let me be really clear about this: my affiliation is with the Orthodox. That having been said, any Orthodox Rabbi, who by counseling silence in the face of allegations of abuse thus allowing the abuse to continue and permitting the abuser to go unpunished, ought to be stripped of his Smichah (Rabbinic ordination) and be subject to prosecution for enabling more abuse. There is nothing in Jewish law, nothing at all, that permits such a thing. This of course applies equally to anyone who by their silence allows the continued perpetuation of abuse against children.

Sure it may be embarrassing to acknowledge the existence of child abuse in your community. But I think it’s far more embarrassing and a much greater Chillul Hashem to know that this took place due to the willful blindness of community leaders who prefer to stick their heads in the ground rather than do something about a problem that clearly exists.

Thanks to Jameel, again, for the heads up.

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20 Comments

  1. yikes

    3/26/2008 at 9:05 pm

    the haredi-ist of the haredi sects, including satmar and toldos aharon, have been complaining and accusing this minor group of heresy and craziness for a very long time. this is well known and has been reported in the media – even today.

    why blame this on the charedim?

  2. gfh

    3/26/2008 at 9:11 pm

    this is sounding more like a cult then people practicing standard Orthodox Judaism…and probably shouldn’t be lumped in if that’s the case… but I agree with your post entirely.

  3. ck

    3/26/2008 at 9:14 pm

    I didn’t blame anything on any group. But there are allegations of incest that were apparently made known to a Rabbi who allegedly counseled silence. if that’s true, someone needs to be stripped of their status as a leader and punished appropriately. I never singled anyone out. And yes, the Eidah Charedit criticized these burqa wearing women in the strongest of terms and yet… the woman accused of sexually abusing her female students at that seminary in Australia is living free and easy amongst charedim somewhere in Israel. It’s one thing to criticize the wearing of burqas, it’s quite another thing to step up to the plate, admit that your community is not immune from child abuse and other social ills, and counsel your flock to not stand idly by while evil is being perpetrated in their midst.

  4. DigitaL

    3/26/2008 at 9:48 pm

    There are unforntunately mentally ill individuals in all circles. Besides putting a Burqua on themselves should be a telltale sign.

  5. HalfSours

    3/26/2008 at 10:56 pm

    Yowza! What a shonda! Do we have any word from her supporters? Any predictions as to whether or not this burqa zaniness will taper off?

  6. themiddle

    3/26/2008 at 11:59 pm

    I like Jameel, so no problem with the hat tip. You should know, though, that one of our commenters reported this yesterday in the burqa video discussion.

  7. Jameel @ The Muqata

    3/27/2008 at 12:12 am

    The Middle: Hey, I like you too :)

  8. themiddle

    3/27/2008 at 1:05 am

    We should get together and have hummus.

    Next time I’m in Israel that is…

  9. Ben-David

    3/27/2008 at 3:01 am

    This is not just in Israel – the haredi leadership in America has refused to act in of pediphilia in Yeshiva day schools, protecting the perpetrators.

  10. Chutzpah

    3/27/2008 at 7:32 am

    Domestic violence and child abuse goes on in mainstream and moderate Orthodox circles as well. The rabbis continually refuse to acknowledge it and even protect the perpetrators. Here in New Jersey, the Hatzaloh EMS is specifically utilized so that cases go unreported. Nevermind about the drug abuse amongst the High School boys, that is small potatoes compared to what the Rabbis know about what happens to wives and children on a daily basis.

  11. Chutzpah

    3/27/2008 at 7:39 am

    Looks like that burka came in handy for hiding from the papparazzi but they are going to make her take it off for her mug shot.

  12. Maven

    3/27/2008 at 9:26 am

    The Australian is ‘living the life’ at her parent’s home in Bnei Brak. The Israeli government has said they are powerless to do anything unless Australia makes a formal request.

    I think the woman in question holds Israeli citizenship; to bad she’s not a visitor or Israel could send her back to Australia after her 90 day visa expires.

  13. Stephanie again

    3/27/2008 at 1:56 pm

    The whole idea of not dealing with problems because of what will the goyim say is just reason #2,359 that I’m so glad my ancestors ran from that Orthodox thing and never looked back the moment they hit Ellis Island. Reform may have issues, but condoning sexual abuse out of fear of what others may think sure ain’t one of them.

  14. Tom Morrissey

    3/27/2008 at 2:43 pm

    Well, as a Catholic living at the epicenter of the sex abuse crisis in the church, we’ve seen this sad, sad movie before. Stephanie would’ve been right where the Catholic Church was concerned: the emphasis on not “scandalizing the faithful” was deemed enough to keep it quiet so it could be dealt with internally. Of course, it wasn’t dealt with; rather, enabled and abetted.

    It’s sad when believers of any stripe take respect for authority too far and defer reflexively to clerical leadership. Such leadership is all too human, and in this instance, the stakes are very high, especially given that these evildoers tend to be repeat offenders, with many, many victims.

  15. Y-LOVE

    3/27/2008 at 3:30 pm

    “The whole idea of not dealing with problems because of what will the goyim say is just reason #2,359 that I’m so glad my ancestors ran from that Orthodox thing…

    While not totally getting into how patronizing that statement is in this context, a key “bottom line” that I think CK is stressing is that this is not Orthodoxy in any sense of the term, this is a new-fangled sexism 2.0 that was invented by an emotionally disturbed person/group of people. This was being sustained by a Haredi code of silence which again is an invention of communities (individual ones at that, because the people who did this are probably not the same people involved in, say, Shomeret L’Sviva Tova, the haredi environmentalist org) and in no way reflects on the Torah or halacha.

    The sad thing is — Edah Charedit dissed this in the most certain of terms, true, but did it change anything? Did they listen to Bada”tz — or were they too frum to do so? And I guarantee these women are eating Bada”tz or some other hechsher affiliated with Bada”tz.

  16. josh

    3/27/2008 at 4:22 pm

    The thing about the secrecy is not really to hide embarrassing events from the public, other Jews, or goyim. That’s how outsiders see it. The real issue that the closed communities try to tackle is the benefit/damage of having news released publicly. It would seem that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The needs of the many being the continued protection from exposure to these disgusting types of incidents.

    For ex: long before the gay parades take place, there is already pressure building up to get them cancelled. While the national-religious crowd tries to get as much airtime as possible to cancel the parades in Jerusalem asap, the Haredi rabbis resist protesting publicly until the last minute in hope that the issue will get canceled by itself, rather than exposing their public to the issue in the first place. At all costs, to not have children ask their parents embarrassing questions like ‘ what is a homo? what is lying with males?’ before a certain age.

    The issue here is to resist painting as lunatics all Haredis/relgious Jews who might keep a stringincy or two.

  17. gfh

    3/27/2008 at 4:24 pm

    of course this is an issue in ALL denominations of Judaism…. and the message is an important one, that religious leaders can not turn a blind eye and sweep abuse under the carpet ….BUT….linking that message to a group of women who are obviously nutjobs only will cheapen your larger point. many haredi will separate themselves from these burqa women, and they would be right to do so…. they would however be wrong to detach themselves from the issue of abuse itself, so don’t give them that opportunity.

  18. urban gypsy

    3/27/2008 at 6:03 pm

    Stephanie: There are NO Orthodox Jews who condone sexual abuse. Just because you wear a beard & kippa or skirt (or in this case, a burqa) does not automatically render you Orthodox. You have to follow the Torah and quite obviously (but I’m spelling it out for you just in case) sexual abuse is not kosher.

    Josh: Very well said.

  19. Adam Hymann

    3/27/2008 at 9:24 pm

    More Jewish news from the week:

    abcnews.go.com...
    Look at the picture. Notice the two haredim with yamulkahs.

    nydailynews.co...
    Isaac Hersh’s father, Michael Hersh, is CEO of Hatzalah.

  20. froylein

    3/30/2008 at 5:03 pm

    Bear in mind, emotional neglect and certain patterns of behaviour (discouragement / barring from developing individual talents, ridiculing, chiding in front of peers etc.) also qualify as acts of (emotional) violence, and those are very common in all parts of society. The cases of child abuse we eventually get to hear about are only the tip of the iceberg. There probably is no crime more cruel than taking away a child’s opportunity to healthy physical and emotional development. I’ve had several students that were abused when younger, the symptoms being obvious (bruises, eating disorders, behavioural disorders etc.), but parents often ignored them, trying to convince themselves of being good parents. Those kids are messed up for the rest of their lives.
    As I said, the stats we get are only the tip of the iceberg, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in circles where people unfit for raising children are not only encouraged but also pushed to procreating the rates of both, physical and emotional abuse were higher than in other parts of society.

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