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Should the Community be Concerned About YCT’s Berman Hiring?

Rabbi Saul Berman’s move to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as the director of rabbinic enrichment so soon after the revelations about Mordechai Gafni raises obvious questions about Berman’s suitability for the position. He defended Gafni not simply repeatedly and outspokenly, but on the offensive — attacking individuals trying to get Gafni removed from clergy positions, such as Rabbi Yosef Blau — and ultimately creating an environment in which Gafni was allowed to remain unchecked, where he has been found to have sexually exploited several women. In addition to that, the intimidation brought by Berman and others in the Gafni case served to assist other alleged abusers in their media campaigns, and must in some part be read as an element behind Blau’s choice to walk away from the anti-abuse battle.
Berman hasn’t made any significant apology for his conduct, and when I left repeated messages for him seeking comment on Gafni, he did not return my calls. If he’d made an effort to immediately and fully apologize for his conduct after the recent Gafni revelations, and had made a full accounting of where he’d gone wrong and how he’d hope to avoid such missteps in the future, one could argue that this episode shouldn’t factor into an assessment of his ability to “enrich” dozens of future rabbis, but that simply hasn’t happened. At this point, the question for those concerned about clergy abuse is more about why Berman should be allowed in this position than why he shouldn’t be.

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