by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

Abuse by Rabbis, Revisited

This season, the Orthodox Union and the Reform Central Conference of American Rabbis were doing a lot of public hand-wringing over inappropriate rabbinical conduct. The OU case involves Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who resigned from his position at the New Jersey arm of the organization’s youth program after being accused of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of teenagers. Six months later, in December, Sheldon Zimmerman, one of the Reform movement’s most prominent rabbis, resigned from the presidency of Hebrew Union College after the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ seven-member ethics committee found him guilty of sexual misconduct, He has been suspended from the CCAR for two years. A special commission, appointed by the OU after The New York Jewish Week broke the story of Lanner’s abusive behavior, issued a report in December documenting what it called ‘”compelling evidence” of sexual misconduct over a period of many years. The Commission also faulted the organization’s leadership for turning a blind eye to Lanner’s abuses. It cited some members of OU’s leadership for “profound errors of judgment in their handling of Lanner throughout his career.” Numerous reports by teens and their parents had been dismissed as groundless.

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