≡ Menu

Why have the Rabbis been silent about Leib Tropper?

This interview which appeared in the Five Towns Jewish Times illustrates why the Rabbis have been silent, which is mostly because there is sex and women involves. It seems to me that the Rabbis are silent whenever the scandal involved sex, women or children. They are silent when it comes to giving gets, child molestation and domestic abuse. When it comes to money, they speak up, because it hurts them directly.

Monsey, NY – Rabbi Dovid Ribiat heads the Kollel Ohr Yaakov of Forshay in Monsey NY, and is regarded as a prominent Halachic authority across the US. He is also the author of several Seforim, including the world-renowned four-volume work on the 39 Melochos of Shabbos. On January 21, 10 he graciously consented to the following interview regarding the Rabbi Leib Tropper scandal:

Interviewer: Over the past several weeks there have been a lot of questions in the media over the silence of the Rabbis in the Ultra-orthodox community re. the Tropper scandal. Why has there been no condemnation of Tropper from the Rabbis?

RR: I can only speak as one of the Rabbis of Monsey. Firstly, you must understand that there is no single authoritative Rabbinic body in Monsey. The city is comprised of many different Orthodox segments and synagogues, each with its own Rabbinic leadership. Although the Rabbis do get together on issues affecting the entire community, this can take time, especially when the issues need a great deal of clarification. Even though Rabbi Tropper lives in Monsey, the scandal, based on a series of tapes (which Tropper claims are fraudulent), only came to our attention through media reports. The Rabbis had no prior knowledge of this scandal and had no way of confirming the reports without undertaking their own independent investigation. It has taken time to organize a focused investigation and begin the process of sorting out the claims and counter claims in the media in search of the objective truth. We cannot issue condemnations against an individual without due process or before verifying the facts. This is why you have not heard any statements from the rabbis as yet.

INT: Rabbi, these tapes have been available on the Internet for many weeks already; didn’t this leave a lot of time to come to some conclusion by now?

RR: There is no special Rabbinic “investigating agency” in Monsey with forensic experts responsible for investigating and reporting on scandals. This kind of embarrassing incident is not something that occurs, Heaven Forbid, on any regular basis; it is obviously not something that we ever anticipated.

INT: As you know, the EJF (Eternal Jewish Family) and Horizons, two major organizations that enjoy the broad support of the foremost Orthodox Rabbis today, were headed by Rabbi Leib Tropper. These well-funded organizations have distributed large sums to many Yeshivos and Rabbinical institutions. Tropper has resigned from EJF, but still remains in charge of Horizons, which is the parent organization, and has control over the money. Why hasn’t he been asked to step down, at least temporarily, until this scandal is investigated?

RR: I am not sure that EJF has the broad Rabbinic support that you describe. In any case, the information I have indicates that he has indeed stepped down from both organizations. Regardless, these organizations do not function principally in Monsey, and are not under our jurisdiction.

INT: But what about his Yeshivah in Monsey? Isn’t he still there?

RR: Yes, we understand that he is still in his Yeshivah. However, as I said, we cannot force him to resign before confirming the rumors about him while he continues to deny them.

INT: Why can’t he be told to step down at least temporarily?

RR: This too is not something that we can force without a hearing in Beis Din. The Rabbis did not want to proceed until their investigation was completed. Incidentally, there is a lot of outrage in the community here in Monsey, and I suspect that Rabbi Tropper has heard this message from others.

INT: Still, all of this does not explain why the most prominent Rabbis in the US and Israel have come out with statements in support of Tropper?

RR: I have not seen any of these alleged statements, but I do know that at least some of the claims of their support are not true.

INT: May I ask you to please explain?

RR: Well, for example, there were rumors being spread that Rabbi Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshivah of South Fallsburg Yeshivah and a major figure in the Torah community, was supporting Rabbi Tropper. However, when a delegation of Rabbis went to speak to him personally on this matter, Rabbi Wachtfogel made it very clear that this was absolutely not the case. On the other hand, he was unable to condemn Rabbi Tropper or to sanction any other action against him in the absence of evidence.

INT: But there are letters of support that have been signed by the leading Rabbis in Israel, including Rabbi Elyashiv and Rabbi Kanievsky. These can be shown to exist.

RR: As I said, I have not seen these statements. But even if they do exist, I doubt their accuracy.

INT: Do you mean to imply that those letters are forgeries?

RR: No, not necessarily, although this too could be the case. What I mean is, I have doubts about the accuracy of what is being deduced from them.

INT: But why would they sign a statement before being certain of its veracity?

RR: I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. You have to realize that these are truly great people, completely dedicated to the public. When a request for moral support is brought to them, especially in issues of possible slander, it is right and proper to lend a hand to the victim. A statement of moral support does not have the weight of a legal document and would have no effect on any of the proceedings or hearings in a Beis Din. On the other hand, helping one who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a perfectly plausible and proper thing to do, as there certainly have been cases of malicious slander destroying innocent people. Someone probably asked the Rabbis to save Tropper from slander, and they merely responded. They are not making a Halachically binding act of support.

INT: I will ask a blunt question that many are asking: There are claims in the media that Tropper is being protected because he has helped important and influential Rabbis, and that this is in fact the reason for the wall of silence in the Chareidi community. Can you please comment?

RR: These allegations sound like no more than pernicious gossip. As a Rabbi in Monsey, I can only say that once there is incontrovertible evidence, appropriate measures will be taken. However, no action will be taken before there is satisfactory evidence, regardless of any scurrilous reports or media pressures.

INT: Forgive me Rabbi, but do you mind if I ask if you or your organization have ever received money from Rabbi Tropper?

RR: No, I do not mind. Neither I nor my organization have ever received money from or through Rabbi Tropper.

INT: Why was there such swift and universal condemnation of Rabbi Nosson Slifkin and his books, while in the case of Tropper, who is guilty of blatantly immoral conduct, there is painstakingly slow and careful deliberation – only silence – before taking any action?

RR: Firstly, your question assumes Tropper’s guilt. As I said, until there is due process we are not Halachically permitted to issue condemnations against an individual, or to take any other action against him …

INT: … but where was the “due process” in the case of Rabbi Slifkin? Here was a brilliant young Rabbi who wrote many scholarly books on Torah subjects, yet his books were banned and he was roundly condemned and ostracized by the entire spectrum of Rabbis in the ultra-orthodox community, merely because his views, such as the age of the universe, are not in line with their “politically correct’ way of thinking. Why was he treated differently?

RR: Before I explain the difference, I must address your comment; This is not the forum for a discussion of Slifkin’s books, but to cavalierly describe the controversy merely as a fight over “political correctness” reveals not only a crass ignorance of the books’ content, but also of the basics of Jewish philosophy.

INT: I understand your point Rabbi, but still, you must admit that there seems to be a double standard here. On the one hand is a simple scholar who feels the swift, full brunt of Rabbinic condemnation for his books, while on the other hand is a powerful well-connected Chareidi-style Rabbi who is accused of grossly unethical and immoral conduct, abusing his Rabbinic position in the most objectionable manner, yet there is only deafening silence. Why?

RR: I was not involved with the Slifkin controversy and cannot speak for the Rabbis in that case. Nevertheless, there are some obvious differences between the case of Slifkin and that of Tropper. With Slifkin, the evidence was on black and white, and irrefutable – there were published books, and nothing to deny. Also, the books contained many views whose objectionability ran much deeper than merely such questions as the age of the universe. As it was, there were some Rabbis who did not feel that the condemnation was the best approach, even in that case. Either way, the evidence was not the issue, whereas in the case of Tropper, in the face of denials, the evidence is the first issue.

INT: Rabbi, do you care to make any final comments?

RR: I would like to remark that this terrible episode has brought great pain and embarrassment to the entire Torah community. If the allegations are proven to be false, those who perpetrated the slander owe a profound apology, not only to Rabbi Tropper, but also to the entire Orthodox community.

If, however, they are proven to be true, then we have discovered a venomous snake in our midst, an immoral individual who abused his rabbinical position and caused immeasurable Chillul Hashem [desecration to the Name], and shame to our community. We in the Torah community must collectively take swift measures to eradicate this abomination from our midst, and to do all in our power to search and root out any other potential charlatans before they can cause their great harm.

However, observers from outside our community must be fair-minded. They must not attempt to paint the entire community or its Rabbinic leadership with one ugly broad brush. Nor is it fair or constructive to jump to conclusions over the manner in which internal issues are dealt with by the Rabbis, especially outsiders who do not feel the pulse of the community. Those who do not reside in a community or who are not members of the Orthodox community should respect the fact that their understanding of the issues may be limited, and should be cautious before passing judgment. With attitudes of mutual respect and human sensitivity, problems can be solved and tragedies avoided.

INT: Thank you very much for your helpful insights and for granting us your precious time, Rabbi.

RR: You are welcome, and I thank you as well.

Also be sure to check out the Interview with Shannon Orand who recently completed her conversion in Israel – where she talks about the differences between the American and Israeli conversion processes and she tels us why she did what she did with Tropper.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Freddy January 27, 2010, 2:25 PM

    Stick to satire Heshy leave the scandals for others to handle, thanks.

    • Heshy Fried January 27, 2010, 2:32 PM

      Didn’t you read the tag line of my site? Scandals provide discussion and the goal of blogs is discussion – besides, when you put rabbis and sex together it’s always funny.

    • NewYorker January 27, 2010, 2:56 PM

      let heshy do whatever he wants “freddy”. bring on the scandals heshy, do one about the pos rabbi in baltimore who sold torah scroll for tens of thousands of dollars, claiming they came from places in Europe where mass killings of Jews took place during the Shoah. all lies of course.

  • raquelle January 27, 2010, 3:00 PM

    you are right to cover this, btw have seen the video tape it is him, plus he has already apologized for violating the laws of modesty , so there is no question of the veracity he admitted it, phone sex in yiddush on the audio tape is very funny

    • MadMaxInJerusalem January 28, 2010, 11:52 AM

      So if you saw the tapes, then how could the woman formerly known as S.O. claim that nothing physical happened?

  • Ostrich January 27, 2010, 4:06 PM

    it’s the most shocking scandal in recent history with alot of fodder for Heshy that he cannot resist. Can we blame him?

    I prefer the ostrich approach in these situations. A human failing on my part. But unfortunately it seems to be a collective community failing. and that’s where the problem begins….

  • E. January 27, 2010, 4:24 PM

    rabbi’s and sex…
    rabbi’s and money…
    so what else is new…?

  • OTD for a reason January 27, 2010, 6:33 PM

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Phil January 27, 2010, 6:45 PM

    Beth din doesn’t base judgement on circumstantial evidence, that’s why they’ve been slow in condemning him.

    It’s not like this guy is a child molester that’s putting more people in danger, that’s why they can afford to take their time to “investigate” the claims.

    What I would lke to know is how they are conducting the so called investigation.

    • Chris_B January 28, 2010, 10:39 PM

      That last line is exactly what I’m thinking. What exactly IS the procedure for things like this? Do today’s Beit Din have the capability to deal with cases which rely on media forensics as evidence? This isnt a back handed accusation but a real question. In the civil courts, expert witnesses are called upon, what about in a Beit Din? Aside from this point, if there actually is an investigation going on, why not clearly state that fact to put people’s minds at ease?

  • Michaltastik January 27, 2010, 7:21 PM

    This is old news that everyone else already blogged. YAWN!

  • William Dwek January 28, 2010, 11:20 AM

    The Swine Flu is common in PIGS.

    This is a clear indication that it is the Dayanim – ‘Judges’ – and ‘Rabbis’ of today who are the PIGS and swines.

    They twist and use the Torah for their own power and commercial benefit.

    They are corrupt. And they are interested in only one thing:

    MONEY.

    Not the Torah.

  • William Dwek January 28, 2010, 11:21 AM

    When ‘dayanim’ and ‘rabbis’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this is the behaviour of a swine i.e. a Pig.

    No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ – even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

    Therefore, the ‘rabbi’ and ‘dayan’ will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

    The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Am Yisrael can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.

  • William Dwek January 28, 2010, 11:22 AM

    1. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may use lies. They turn the innocent into the guilty, and the guilty, become the innocent. They will not hesitate to tell lies in the Synagogue.

    2. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may steal. They steal and siphon off money for themselves, from the community and individuals.

    3. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may commit murder. They may shame a Jew in public, even repeatedly. This is one of the most vile acts of murder in Jewish law – and they know this.

    4. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ will not hesitate to use Lashon Hara – the ‘Evil Tongue’ – to suit his own ends. Slander and gossip. This too, is one of the worst acts of murder in Jewish Law. Their slander is never challenged by the community, because they hold positions of power. And the slander may begin with the Rebbetzin herself.

    5. The ‘dayanim’ and ‘rabbis’ worship idols and other gods. Their only god is Money. Especially the ‘Dayanim’ – the ‘Judges’ who sit on a Beit Din. They only care about their high incomes and retirement packages. They have little or no love for the Torah or Hashem.

    In the case of Lubavitch/Chabad, all their rabbis are carrying out a form of Avodah Zarah – strange worship. They are using mediation and intercession. This is completely forbidden, and against the Torah. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem, directly ourselves.

    6. When the NAME of Hashem has been taken in Vain – repeatedly – by reshaim, the ‘rabbi’ will turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the

    CHILLUL HASHEM.

    This is the abhorrent behaviour of a Pig.
    This is an extremely severe and dangerous situation.
    There is NO forgiveness for this evil sin and aveirah.

    7. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may also offer large bribes, tell lies and bring False Witnesses – when he in fact has committed the crime. These are heinous acts of the most despicable kind. This is especially vile when the ‘dayan’ is sitting on a ‘Beit Din.’

    8. The ‘rabbi’ may commit adultery. And when he gets divorced, he may spread slander about his own ex-wife, blackening her name – when in fact he was at fault.

    9. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may also desecrate Shabbat – if it suits him. He will use physical violence to assault another Jew or Jewess at any time. This evil and venomous behaviour is 100% against the Torah.

    • MadMaxInJerusalem January 28, 2010, 11:55 AM

      Dude, shut up. You’re way out of line. You’re comments sound like they came out of the mouth of a member of the Israeli Shinui party, or an anti-Semite.

  • FrumGer January 28, 2010, 6:56 PM

    Hashem will always back his leadership – Moshe Rabbainu gave it to Yehoshua, so on and so forth till today. they are not always good leaders but they are leaders. and only Hashem can judge them, or work it out to set a beit din to cast judgement, but not common yidden, you nor I have the authority to say really anything… the man may be flawed, the man may not be worthy of respect. but the office of Rabbi commands respect . Tread lightly..

  • Eliyahoo William Dwek April 11, 2010, 8:14 AM

    A further word of advice regarding those who masquerade as a ‘dayan’ ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’:

    1. These men may knowingly and willingly, deliberately deceive a Jew or Jewess. e.g. in the area of shidduchim, or offering to perform a ‘pidyon nefesh’.

    This abhorrent and deceptive behaviour has caused tremendous harm to people who are innocent and trusting.

    2. Do not ever ‘kiss the hands’ of these men (which they might offer to you in public).

    3. And do not be duped into queuing and waiting, to see them for their ‘brachot’ (‘blessings’). They peddle ‘brachot’ purely for their own selfish gratification and ‘kavod’ (‘honour’).

    Their duplicitous behaviour is nothing short of deception and cunning. In short they are abhorant and causing so much harm to amm israel. They prey on the vulnerable, and those who are naďve, unsuspecting and trusting of these pedlars.

  • YisF April 22, 2010, 4:33 PM

    It is obvious that Rabbi Dovid Ribiat very eloquently explained the whole situation: in the face of this totally sick accusation that the Ultra religious rabbis do not care about these kinds of abuses, RR empathetically exclaimed that we certainly DO care very much about these problems and that we view such cases of sexual corruption as extremely, extremely terrible tragic incidents and that the people — and especially the people in leadership positions — who, very unfortunately, corrupted themselves certainly must be given the appropriate strictest discipline.

    What RR did explain though, was, despite the repeated insistence of the interviewer, that there is a basic principle of human civilization that a man is considered innocent until he has been proven that he is quilty!! I myself well remember how in elementary school we were taught: “in a democracy, a man is innocent until proven guilty; (by contrast) in a dictatorship, a man is guilty until proven innocent!”

    Of course though, in our (so-called) “enlightened” “liberal” society, we have totally thrown away this cumbersome rule, along with all the other standards of morality that we have deemed to be “old fashioned.” Yes, in our modern society, with the slightest accusing person and the decision of the holy, holy, holy media, a man is guilty and guilty and guilty!!

    I well remember — who could ever forget — the OJ Simpson case. When the story broke in the summer of 1994:

    “REMEMBER NICOLE BROWN AND RONALD GOLDMAN!!”

    WOW!! It was an explosion and a battle cry like Pearl Harbour!!

    Not to mention that its reporting in the news completely obliterated the coverage of almost all other major important news stories!

    That in the police chase to his arrest, one of the most major highway routes of the American nation, Interstate 405, was closed (for those of you who live in the Eastern US, shutting down I-405 in Los Angeles is like shutting down THE GARDEN STATE PARKWAY in New Jersey!) and was thus watched live by over 95 million television viewers worldwide:

    HAS THERE EVER BEEN ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY LIKE IT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD????

  • YisF April 22, 2010, 6:42 PM

    It definitely must be mentioned that the concerned rabbonim & Beis Din in Monsey DID actually find Rabbi Tropper — very tragically — guilty of some significant corruption. I saw it reported on the frum news web site Matzav.com on February 16, 2010 at http://matzav.com/tropper-issue-finally-put-to-rest.

    Of course, adhering to journalistic standards of tact and basic human decency, the article did not mention any details at all of what exactly were the crimes that Reb Leib committed. Evidently though, they were serious enough that the rabbonim & Beis Din realized that they had to take some pretty stiff action against him.

    Already in December, he had resigned from the Eternal Jewish Family organization. Now, they made him agree to have all previous letters of support for him withdrawn; they further made him sign and have notarized an official document that stated two things: 1.) That he was totally and absolutely and permanently relinquishing all positions and connections that he had had with Yeshiva Kol Yaakov 2.) That he would move out of the Monsey area, no latter than the summer of this year. (See the article for the exact text of the statement.)

  • YisF April 22, 2010, 8:14 PM

    Rabbi Dovid Ribiat very eloquently explained the whole situation: in the face of this totally sick accusation that the Ultra religious rabbis do not care about these kinds of abuses, RR empathetically exclaimed that the fact is the exact opposite: we certainly DO care very much about these problems and that we view such cases of sexual corruption as extremely, extremely terrible tragic incidents and that the people — and especially the people in leadership positions — who, very unfortunately, corrupted themselves certainly must be given the appropriate strictest discipline.

    What RR did explain though, was, despite the repeated insistence of the interviewer, that there is a basic principle of human civilization that a man is considered innocent until he has been proven that he is quilty!! I myself well remember how in elementary school we were taught: “in a democracy, a man is innocent until proven guilty; (by contrast) in a dictatorship, a man is guilty until proven innocent!”

    Of course though, in our (so-called) “enlightened” “liberal” society, we have totally thrown away this cumbersome rule, along with all the other standards of morality that we have deemed to be “old fashioned.” Yes, in our modern society, with the slightest accusing person and the decision of the holy, holy, holy media, a man is guilty and guilty and guilty!!

    I well remember — who could ever forget — the OJ Simpson case. When the story broke in the summer of 1994:

    “REMEMBER NICOLE BROWN AND RONALD GOLDMAN!!”

    WOW!! It was an explosion and a battle cry like Pearl Harbour!!

    Not to mention that its reporting in the news completely obliterated the coverage of almost all other major important news stories!

    That in the police chase to his arrest, one of the most major highway routes of the American nation, Interstate 405, was closed (for those of you who live in the Eastern US, shutting down I-405 in Los Angeles is like shutting down THE GARDEN STATE PARKWAY in New Jersey!) and was thus watched live by over 95 million television viewers worldwide:

    HAS THERE EVER BEEN ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY LIKE IT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD????

  • Eliyahoo William Dwek May 10, 2010, 8:11 AM

    Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:

    ‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

    ‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    “Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

    “Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

Leave a Comment