The Cancer Grows 

Editorial Board, The Jewish Press
March 15, 2006

Three weeks ago, in an editorial titled "An Anonymous Flier (Pashkevil) in Brooklyn," we took note of an anonymous flyer circulating in several Brooklyn neighborhoods and containing lurid accusations of improper conduct against a named individual and sharp words against his employer for not firing him.

As we noted, the flyer not only offered no substantiation of the charges themselves, which were denied, but also uncorroborated - and denied - comments from the employer. And we observed that there is great danger in giving the slightest credence to this sort of thing: "Anonymous accusers effectively destroying their targets' reputations, even before the truthfulness of the accusations is ascertained, cannot be the way of K'lal Yisrael. It will enable anyone to exercise devastating power at any time and under any circumstances simply by choosing to do so, for whatever reason."

Last week, the circulation of yet another anonymous flyer - this time centering on an economic dispute - indicated that our fears were well-founded.

This most recent flyer savages the respected operators of a food company, charging them with theft of several inheritances as well as elder abuse, and urges a boycott of the company. The flyer, although filling two sides of 8 1/2 x 14 paper with frantic rhetoric, contains no substantiation whatever of any of the claims or any direction to a resource for testing them.

We continue to believe that we are witnessing the birthpangs of a cottage industry of character assassination based on unproven charges. The sine qua non in Judaism has from time immemorial been that allegations against an individual must be brought to a bet din.

It is this concern that has motivated The Jewish Press to invest so much time and effort in the dispute between Rabbi Mordecai Tendler and the Rabbinical Council of America. Recently, of course, Rabbi Tendler has also been subjected to a packet of anonymous, unsubstantiated, lurid charges circulated throughout Monsey, New York. Yet, as we have been saying from the outset of this unfortunate matter, Rabbi Tendler's having been judged and expelled by an anonymous, internal board - which was not an independent bet din and which did not follow the procedures of a bet din - was an inappropriate process by which to reach conclusions about an individual that have had a devastating impact on his life and livelihood.

As readers of The Jewish Press are aware, the Jerusalem Bet Din of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has ruled this way, the Agudas Harabbanim of the United States and Canada has ruled this way, and, most recently, the Gadol Hador Rav Chaim Kanievski has expressed a similar view. In fact, the Jerusalem Bet Din has declared the RCA and several of its officers and members to be Lo Tsayis Dina - in contempt - for their continuing refusal to bring the matter to an independent bet din.

Indeed, the gravity of the concern has now been underscored by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's rejection of several conversions - deemed to be halachically infirm - that had been certified by one of the members of the RCA panel that expelled Rabbi Tendler and who gave the halachic sanction to the RCA to employ a secret, non-bet din process.

We continue to be dismayed by the unseemly spectacle of a heretofore respected rabbinic group refusing to proceed to a bet din and thereby feeding the growth of a process that will ineluctably undermine the bet din process here and in Israel.