I've been following the Weberman Trial in the news and on Twitter the last few days and I must say, it's been quite... instructive, to learn about Mr. Weberman and his occupation, as well as what goes on in the Satmar community.
Just in case you're not familiar with the case, I'll present the basics here:
There was a girl in the local Satmar school was not conforming to the standards of behavior in the community. The principal of the school ordered her parents to have her see Nechemya Weberman, a local "counselor." They were also ordered to pay about $12,000 up front in fees to Mr. Weberman for his services. Failure to comply would result in her being expelled from the school.
The girl saw Mr. Weberman over the next three years, from ages 12 to 15. She alleges that, during that time, she was sexually abused by Mr. Weberman in locked-room sessions. Mr. Weberman denies all wrong-doing with regard to the issues of sexual abuse.
However, there are several facts that are not in dispute, which make me wonder about the goings on in the community and with Mr. Weberman in particular.
Let's start with the fact that he took his "client" on a 14-hour trip to Monsey. They took this trip alone and did not arrive back home until midnight. Granted, this is no proof that any abuse took place on the trip, but I've got to say, it certainly does not pass the stink test, *especially* for someone in a community where separation of the sexes is such a high priority and where they take every practical precaution against unmarried/unrelated men and women being together.
There is also the fact that, it came out in trial, that Mr. Weberman runs a non-profit organization. He admitted on the stand that he used funds from the non-profit to pay for yeshiva tuition for his kids. Prosecutors also showed that purchases from the non-profit went to purchase items at at least three lingerie shops.
It was also confirmed in trial that the Williamsburg Va'ad HaTznius (Modesty Committee) exists (despite one defense witness's attempt to deny the existence of such a body, another defense witness confirmed it) and that they engage in practices such as invading the rooms of girls to look for (and confiscate) contraband, such as cell phones.
In addition, there is also the fact that four men are now awaiting trial for witness tampering, bribing a witness and coercion, after they tried to pressure the girl into not pressing charges. It is also alleged that they wanted to pay her and her then-boyfriend $500,000 to leave the country and let the matter drop. There are also four other men who have now been charged with witness intimidation by taking photographs of her in court.
You could easily argue that there are simply some bad apples in the community. Yes, it's been shown that Mr. Weberman is not exactly what one would call a morally upright person. In addition, it's very obvious that there are others in the community who are willing to break the law and do whatever they feel is necessary to prevent the case from running it's course. But that doesn't speak to the entire community, of course.
But there is one point which can be made regarding the leadership of the community. It's something that I noted back when Shaul Spitzer was awaiting trial on arson charges for attempting to burn down a New Square house with its residents asleep in their beds. It speaks to what the true values are of the leadership of the community and where they truly stand on the moral compass.
9000 schoolboys in Satmar were given a prayer to say for Nechemya Weberman and instructed to say it. In short, they were asked to pray that this man, who has admitted to stealing charity money and who engages in 14-hour trips alone with an underage girl. Apparently, however, none of that matters to the leaders of the community, as they view him as an upstanding member of the community. However, had he done something such as owned a television, shaved his beard, espoused Zionist beliefs, or even been seen eating Hebrew National hot dogs, he'd likely be written off as a bum or a heretic and not someone who is worthy of the time to utter a prayer.
It's actions such as these that show the moral leadership of the community. In New Square, Aron Rottenberg found his daughters expelled from school for the "crime" of their father davening in another shul, yet Shaul Spitzer was welcome in the yeshiva following his arrest on arson charges. It's almost incomprehensible -- daven in another shul, you're a social outcast; attempt to burn down a house with people sleeping inside -- you're welcome back to the yeshiva with open arms. The moral values of the leadership of the community are so wrong that I'm just left to scratching my head in bewilderment.
The same thing applies here with regard to this case. You can steal from charity, you can do things that would otherwise shock the community and, as long as you had the endorsement of the leadership, you're a moral person worthy of the community's support. But if you were to do something such as shave your beard, wear the wrong clothing or even own a TV, you'd be an outcast and a social pariah.
The mind just boggles.