One of Yeshiva University’s leading rabbinic scholars is in trouble — again — after using a derogatory term to refer to African Americans and questioning whether child sex abuse allegations should be brought directly to police.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter, regarded as one of America’s most influential Modern Orthodox rabbis, previously provoked ire for appearing to equate women with monkeys and for seeming to condone the killing of Israel’s prime minister.
This time, Schachter is in trouble for telling an audience of British rabbis that American state prisons are dangerous for Jews because they could be locked up “with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”
Schachter also suggested that Jewish communities set up panels of Torah scholars who are trained in psychology; this way, before children’s allegations of sex abuse claims are reported to the police, the panel can determine whether the allegations are legitimate. “It could be that the whole thing is a bubbe-mayse [tall tale],” Schachter said.
He also claimed that New York hospitals are covering up cases of ultra-Orthodox mohels transmitting herpes to infants during circumcision because the hospitals fear they will lose Haredi patients.
A recording of segments of the talk, which was delivered in London in February, was posted on FailedMessiah.com March 15 and independently verified by the Forward.
Schachter, one of the most respected faculty members of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, is called upon regularly to lecture and advise America’s leading Orthodox organizations, such as the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union.
“Hundreds of rabbis hang on [Schachter’s] every word and interpret his every utterance as binding Jewish law,” said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of Washington’s Ohev Sholom National Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox congregation. “Because of that, he has a tremendous responsibility to speak carefully.”