Credits Bruni For Column


I read with dismay Erica Brown’s “Open Letter To Frank Bruni” (Aug. 2, Back of the Book).

In his July 23 column in the New York Times, “The Faithful’s Failings,” Bruni
unflinchingly discussed sexual abuse among Orthodox Jews. The hurt and shame
we feel as Jews when reading his column is compounded because it was written
by someone outside our faith. But for that Bruni deserves our thanks,
not our criticism.

Brown tries to argue that when Orthodox rabbis sexually and physically
abuse children their actions are less worrisome than the abusive acts by
Catholic priests because Jews do not have a “centralized office.” In
what meaningful sense does she see a difference? In both cases a group of
empowered men abused children and attempted to frighten and silence their
victims. It is also no secret that the “strong patriarchy” in some
Orthodox communities believes that victims — even victims of sexual abuse — who turn to secular authorities have betrayed their faith. In what
meaningful sense is this any different from the Catholic Church’s abysmal
record of hindering investigations by secular authorities?

Brown’s praise for [former Yeshiva University president] Rabbi Norman Lamm’s purported apology upon his
retirement at the age of 85 is mind-boggling. She is doubtlessly referring
to the three vaguely worded paragraphs in which Rabbi Lamm excuses his failure to protect children at his school as
“ill-conceived” and praises himself for his “good” intentions. Nonsense. Rabbi Lamm decided that he, his
colleagues, and their power and prestige were more important than abused
children. That is how one maintains a “strong patriarchy.” If he feels
otherwise now, let him make amends.

At the end of her letter Brown asks that Bruni be “more subtle.”
That is a strange request. Subtlety is precisely the wrong response. When
the insular and patriarchal world of any religious community endangers
children and violates secular law, we need to expose it. Bruni’s
article was an important step in the right direction.