The Rav Elon affair
Thursday 12 Cheshvan 5771
Announcement by Forum Takana
For the past two months, a document titled "Rabbi Motti Elon - The True Story" has been circulating on the Internet, signed by a man by the name of Yossi Greanfeld. Some of what was included in the document was also published in various media articles.
Let it be understood that the above document does not represent the true story. It is almost entirely false and attempts to undermine the credibility of Forum Takana and the credibility of the ten scholars, jurists and therapists who considered the Rabbi Elon case with all seriousness and responsibility, as stated in our previous announcements on the Forum website, from Adar 5770.
We would not have felt the need to answer the allegations of a single individual If we did not understand that the attack was timed by some of those close to Rabbi Elon and intended to mislead the public by spreading lies, both about members of the Forum and the complainants, thereby removing the responsibility from Rabbi Elon and returning him to the educational and public sphere as if nothing happened.
In principle, even after the publicizing of the Rabbi Elon case, Forum Takana is interested in disclosing as few details as possible, for reasons of human dignity, privacy, and preventing the suffering of those affected. However, in light of the current campaign to confuse and deceive the public, it is our duty to refute these false accusations and as such fulfill Forum Takana’s role as a forum for the prevention of sexual harassment in the religious society. As for the laws of defamation (Lashon Harah) - see Maimonides Hilchod Deot 6, 8, The Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 178, 20, the Chofetz Chaim, rule 4, 7-8, and Be'er Mayim Chaim, ibid. 30. [A comprehensive article written by Rabbi Yaakov Ariel about the halachic status of Forum Takana will be published at a suitable opportunity].
Herein is the true course of events:
In Tamuz 5765(July 2005), the Forum received a complaint about Rabbi Mordechai (Moti) Elon from a married man of about 30, who claimed that he and another person, were at a young age physically and indisputably sexually harassed by Rabbi Elon. In accordance with Forum regulations, a four-person task-force was established to examine the complaint: Rabbi Yaakov Ariel (Rabbi of Ramat Gan), Prof. Yedidya Stern (Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan), Mr. Benny Lehman (psychologist) and Ms. Yehudit Shilat, educational advisor and Forum director. Due to the severity of the accusation and the public status of the respondent, it was decided to include Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (head of Yeshivat Har Etzyon) who was updated on the details of the complaint and also met with the complainant. All five met with Rabbi Elon and heard his version. Rabbi Elon tried to reduce the scope of the allegations, but admitted to the fundamentals of the accusations. He expressed his regret and formally stated that he had not since repeated such an offence. In the decisions of the task-force was stated:
"We see the events with great severity... Two innocent young boys were harmed over a long period of time by an adult ... These events occurred during a time when the respondent was not in a position of authority, but we must ensure that the events have no bearing on his current activities... We demand Rabbi Elon take upon himself the following obligations: 1. Rabbi Elon must stand before the complainant and take responsibility for what happened, 2. Rabbi Elon will sign the attached commitment letter, according to which he will, without exception, observe the laws of Yichud when holding personal meetings in private with a male student. 3. Rabbi Elon testified before us that he has completely overcome the issues that led to his failure. Nevertheless, we propose that he seriously consider getting professional help”. The decision was handed over to Rabbi Elon, and he signed the commitment letter on 28 Elul 5765.
About a year later, in June 2006, the forum received a much more serious complaint about Rabbi Elon, who was involved in a physical relationship of a clear sexual nature with a man who had been a student of his in the past. This relationship, which according to the complaint went on for several years, even as Rabbi Elon declared to the Forum task-force that he had been rehabilitated, and after he had signed the commitment letter. The acts took place in various places, including educational institutions where Rabbi Elon taught, hotel rooms and more. Rabbi Elon was invited to give his version, and he appeared before the five members of the task-force on 26 Sivan 5766 (22 June 2006). He again admitted to the fundamentals of the case but claimed that he was trying to help the person who was in emotional distress, and the complainant was the one who dragged Rabbi Elon to the same actions. Together with his unequivocal admission to the acts in question, Rabbi Elon added in his defense that this was not sexual exploitation by an authority figure, as the complainant was not his student at that time, his patient or employee.
On 17 Tamuz 5766 (13 June 2006), Rabbi Elon was given the task-force’s written decision about this complaint. It described the entire course of events in great detail, and demanded that Rabbi Elon stop all educational and public activities for eight years, at which time the case would be revisited. In the decision:
"According to your own confession, your testimony before us during the investigation of the first complaint (according to which you had not repeated the acts in question thereafter) was false.
According to your own confession, you continued to have a sexual relationship with a man, contrary to your oral and written commitment to observe the laws of Yichud also in relation to men. "
The decision further states: "We deeply regret this affair ... We are also pained by your personal tragedy ... As public emissaries we bear the heavy responsibility to minimize the damage ... We are well aware of your many virtues ... However, we cannot but express our profound disgust at your actions ... Besides the severity of the acts against the Torah, they are also a grave breach of trust ... We cannot accept your claim to be the victim ... The responsibility rested entirely on your shoulders ... It is intolerable to think that a process which began with a boy turning to his rabbi for help ... Would end in the student over the years becoming a partner in a sexual relationship with the rabbi ... We all hope that, as you say, this is the only additional case throughout your years of educational activity, but we cannot deny our suspicion that there are other victims ... it is appropriate you should retire from all educational, religious and public roles ".
Unfortunately there were indeed other victims, as will be related below.
Shortly after the decision was made in Tamuz 5766, at his own behest, Rabbi Elon informed the "Yeshivat Hakotel" about the cessation of his work there, as well as requesting that “Bereshit” remove his name from any educational activity of the organization. During the year 5767, he moved with his family to live in Migdal on the shores of the Kinneret, without being asked to do so by the Forum. Needless to say, the Forum was careful to avoid publicizing the grounds for Rabbi Elon’s resignation, and indeed the absolute secrecy was maintained for years.
Since the move to Migdal, Rabbi Elon began to act in ways that continually interfered with the implementation of the task-force’s decision regarding the need to stop all educational and public activities. The task-force sent to Rabbi Elon written and oral warnings that he was not in compliance with the decisions made. In a letter to the task-force dated 2 Cheshvan 5768, Rabbi Elon wrote that he was indeed fulfilling the restrictions imposed upon him, and brought several examples. However, the classes he gave in MIgdal grew, as well as private consultation and meetings, etc.
The task-force felt it was unable to implement the decisions made and fulfill its commitment to the public. There were signs that there could again be opportunities for wrongful actions, such as had already occurred, and the Forum would bear the moral responsibility for not warning the public. Due to the heavy responsibility of publicizing the affair and the desire for additional perspective, the task-force decided to add six additional rabbis: Rabbi Eitan Eizman (Head of the Tzvia Institute), Rabbi Avraham Gisser (Rabbi of Ofra), Rabbi Elyakim Levanon (Rabbi and Head of the Yeshiva in Elon Moreh) , Rabbi Yitzhak Shilat (Rosh Metivta of the Ma'aleh Adumim Yeshiva), Rabbi Yuval Cherlow (Head of the Yeshiva of Petach Tikvah), and Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira (Head of the Yeshiva of Ramat Gan). In Nisan 5768 (April 2008), the expanded group met and heard a detailed report about the entire case. For almost two years, the expanded task-force occasionally held meetings on the topic in question, out of a desire to prevent publicity and pain to the complainants and the family of Rabbi Elon, and in the hopes that Rabbi Elon would truly internalize the Forum's decision and set out on a different path.
In the course of 5768, the original task-force (except for Mrs. Shilat) met again with Rabbi Elon, at his request, in order to hear his version again. On the second meeting, held on 24 Sivan 5768 (27 June 2008), Rabbi Elon repeated his testimony that at a certain point his relationship with the complainant became of a sexual nature. Rabbi Elon also appeared before the expanded task-force. He was asked about the accusations and did not deny them, but instead of answering questions about them and accepting the recommendations of the Forum, he hurled accusations at those present, and used excuses about his different activities that ostensibly do not contradict the Forum's decisions.
After this meeting, an additional meeting was held by the extended task-force, who unanimously and with deep regret, decided to publish the affair on the Forum Takana website in order to fulfill the Forum's public duty.
Since the publication, additional complaints against Rabbi Elon were brought before the Forum, some of which are extremely grave both religiously and morally. Only some of them include suspicions to acts of a criminal nature. In all these matters the Forum acted according to law, and reported to the Attorney General as required. Two of the complainants decided to file a complaint with the police, and are currently being assisted by law enforcement officials (the police and the State Prosecutor's Office).
It should be emphasized that the legal process, regardless of its results, does not change the position of the Forum and its warning to the public, as published in the first announcement dated 1 Adar 5770 (which is on this website), and as explained above.
Forum Takana will continue to be available to victims of sexual exploitation who have not found their place within the legal system.
An appendix for the honor of the Torah
A. We must make it clear that adding Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu of blessed memory to these proceedings has been done entirely falsely. The task-force that discussed the matter of Rabbi Elon never consented or committed to transferring the case to an outside party, and Rabbi Eliyahu never invited any member of the Forum to discuss the matter.
B. A few days before Rosh Hashanah 5771, a “public letter from the students of Rabbi Elon to Rabbi Lichtenstein” was published in Elon Shvut. The letter was rude and hurled insults at the head of Yeshivat Har Etzyon, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, in regards to the Rabbi Elon case. Forum Takana is shocked by the baseness of the publishers and rudeness towards one of the generations’ greatest Torah scholars, and protests this most vigorously. "Do not delay punishment on blasphemy."