THE JBAC RESPONDS:
In response to the Agudah’s unfortunate position:
We can clearly see without a shadow of a doubt the fear running through the veins of the executive membership of the AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA AND TORAH UMESORAH - THE NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR HEBREW DAY SCHOOLS. WE had an amazing lobby day in Albany, and we can state without a shadow of a doubt that we had a very positive reception and response.
It was truly history in the making, a day that one could only hope for and yet with the help of the Almighty has finally come to fruition. We were a diverse group of ALL religions, ALL backgrounds, All organizations, ALL groups, ALL stories, ALL there for the same reason and the same cause standing in unison behind Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Senator Thomas Duane for one full hour at a press conference, and then breaking up into individual groups for the rest of the day walking through the Assembly and the Capital speaking to OUR state representatives face to face; human beings one to another speaking truth and honesty crossing ALL barriers of race, religion, bias, bigotry, class, finance, etc. Chasidim and misnagdim stood side by side with gentiles male and female, children, parents and grandparents; clergy and laymen. The playing field was leveled. We were all there for the same cause, either as victims, family of victims or advocates for victims and children.
We relayed certain information that they were previously unaware of and quite shocked to learn such as the non-public school system has no laws governing them as far as child safety is concerned. No mandatory finger-printing and background checks of staff, no teacher licensing, no mandatory reporting system on abuse or molestation. As the well known joke (unfortunate not funny) goes “if you’re a pedophile YOUR safe in our system”. Mrs. Engelman made a point of informing our legislatures that every male teacher that is charged with teaching Torah or religious subjects is referred to as Rabbi and it does not mean that they have studied in rabbinical seminary nor has received rabbinical ordination. So just because they bear the title it does not mean they deserve the title nor the respect and honor that goes with it.
It was truly a Kidush Hashem standing on the same platform with Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg and Rabbi Gershon Tanenbaum, the Director of the Igud Harabonim of America, author of the “My Machberes” column for the Jewish Press, along with the other Rabbonim he brought with him. Rabbi Tanenbaum’s words were inspirational to the crowd especially the victims. Joel Engelman was the first speaker after Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Senator Thomas Duane who clearly presented their reasons behind this bill. Joel spoke about how he was victimized at the tender age of 8 years old by Rabbi Avrhohom Reichman of the United Talmudical Academy, who as he spoke is still in front of a classroom of young children, basically a field of young and vulnerable prey and still no one has taken any type of precaution to protect the children by removing him or separating him from his evil and illegal inclinations. There were at least 5 other chassidishe men standing behind the speakers who had similar stories, and another 5 who were frum and not chassidishe. There were others in the audience who were no longer Frum but used to be. This of course in addition to victims from non-Jewish backgrounds. Obviously not everyone was brave enough to stand behind the speakers to be photographed for all to see. Kudos to all for stepping forward whether in front of the cameras or behind.
Note to the Agudah that is called bravery and Kidush Hashem, they are willing to come forward to “SAVE” the lives of other Yiddish neshomas. And WE all stood there for a full hour while everyone had a turn Jew and catholic, priest, nun, alter boy, and gemarah kup who was stripped of their faith by those who should have been encouraging and promoting their unique and individual connection and relationship with their maker.
And of course our own Frum Assemblyman Dov Hikind stood side by side with us and with the authors of the bills for all to see that he stands firm in his conviction of co-sponsoring this bill and supporting the passage of same. Why else would he stand there with all of us for the press conference and the photo opportunity? What message is he sending to you the Agudath Israel of America when he stands with the victims that he took testimony from, that he cried with, that he understood their betrayal because YOU did nothing to help them and aid them; you did nothing to protect them, to believe them, to stop their abusers from continuing their reign of terror and destroying other young children.
Marci Hamilton took the floor. Marci Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair of Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a widely-regarded scholar in constitutional law. She is an expert on and advocate for the U.S. Constitution's required separation of church and state. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University in 1979 then earned a Masters degree at Pennsylvania State University and a juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. She served as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the Supreme Court of the United States and Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Marci was very eloquent and very carefully vacated any misconceptions that the YOU the Agudah and others seem to use as a smoke screen for your positions. To paraphrase: the Markey bill is following the guidelines set forth in the open window legislation of the California and Delaware bills where no civil litigations were allowed to move forward without a “certificate of merit” from a qualified mental professional. This would absolutely disqualify your contention of “capricious litigation”. Furthermore, the “open window” bill produces extremely low numbers of false claims we repeat “proven false” claims but revealed a record breaking additional 360 previously unknown pedophiles that those states have now registered and citizens are now aware of and can protect themselves from.
There is a statistical study which revealed that every repeat offender known as a serial pedophile will in his/her lifetime commit 400 acts of abuse also appropriately referred to as violence in their lifespan. YOU, the Agudah are smart enough to run those numbers for yourselves but we can help you with that, an additional 360 x 400, that is 144,000 acts of violence against children that may be averted in the states of California and Delaware. Don’t you want to claim that you can do that for our children as well? And yet with the great Jewish population in the state of California we did not hear of even one Jewish institution that was forced to close or forced into bankruptcy due to this one year open window of opportunity. Would you care to explain that? Is it because no one sued them or because they had less Frum Jewish pedophiles than we do here? Either way it doesn’t show much cause for your position.
It is quite clear that when you speak of the “fundamental interest of our community” you speak of the “financial” interest of our community because basically that is ALL you are concerned with. No not actually you are also concerned with losing face for your organization and the Rabbinical members who themselves are “nogeah b’davar” because they are personally involved or because they are involved in the cover-up, either way a conflict of interest; absolutely not capable of making a proper or unbiased decision in this case. As you say “Our rabbinic and lay leaderships are acutely aware of the emotional trauma and damage caused by the perpetrators of such abuse.” They are aware, because they have always been aware and have chosen to do nothing, again, they are nogeah b’dovor and therefore not qualified to make an unbiased decision in this case. They should be respectfully exempt from this decision for obvious reasons and only those who have never been touched by this issue should be allowed to have a say in it.
Why is it that when Reb Elyashiv offers a psak everyone listens as if it came from Har Sinai itself, but in this case when his psak clearly states that perpetrators should be handed over to the authorities his words are ignored like poison? Had he followed his psak with “and their wives’ sheitels should be burnt”, maybe, maybe at least there would have been a bon fire. A valid question would be, did the executive members of the Agudah discuss this issue with the Gedolim of Eretz Yisroel and get some guidance from them before coming to this conclusion? Was Reb Elyashiv consulted?
Now lets look at your financial concern.
I am surprised that you do not have faith in the myriads of religious CPA’s and Attorneys who we are quite sure are already hard at work (just in case) closing old corporations and opening new ones to hide any assets that Yeshivas and other institutions have. In the event that, which is highly unlikely, anyone would actually go so far as to sue and receive an award from same, there would never be any money, any building, any asset left in the name of the institution that would have been in business at the time of the event. Come on, we are all Yiddish Kep here, we know how the game is played. It is an insult to the intelligence of the K’lal that you think we are fooled by this smoke screen. And WE also know that YOU know that 95% of all victims are not interested in monetary compensation. All they are interested in is putting their abusers out of business and making sure they never ever have access to innocent children again.
So what really is your motivation behind this?
We know, you are still protecting the pedophiles and their protectors. YOU still don’t want to come clean. You still wish to honor them and not disgrace them by allowing their names to become public. You are still more concerned with their reputation than with allowing the victims of their crimes to have the opportunity to start healing and finding some closure to their misery.
SHAME ON YOU!
If you recall back in the 1960’s Emile Zola coined the phrase J’ACCUSE against the French government in reference to the Dreyfus case. I am going to say those words to you here and now.
For putting the honor of the Jewish religious pedophiles first and foremost before the welfare of their victims. “the burden of litigation expense or legal liability for ancient claims would fall squarely on an entirely innocent group - the current parent body”. That is a complete and utter fallacy and you are trying to misguide the public because they have total faith and trust in you as we once did. The current financial body should hire representation to absolutely REFUSE to defend the institution and the pedophiles they harbor. THEY should demand the immediate dismissal of said pedophile and any administrator who was connected to the case and absolutely forbid any tuition funds or any other funds to be used in defense of either. As stated before, the corporation at the time of abuse would no longer be current if the CPA’s and attorneys are doing their jobs for cases that happened way in the past. Cases that happened in the past 10-12 years would be covered under their insurance policies which have sexual abuse riders. So again, YOU the Agudah are trying to SCARE and frighten the Olam to fall into line behind you.
“Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah have taken a number of concrete steps to help ensure that Jewish schools, extra-curricular youth programs and summer camps implement policies and procedures designed to protect children against such abuse. Our organizations have also supported legislative efforts to furnish such protection, including the recently enacted legislation in New York authorizing nonpublic schools to screen all prospective employees through the state's fingerprint checking system. ”
What exactly have you done and how has it helped? Yes you have supported the legislation with lip service, but what have you done to implement it, basically nothing.
YOU who have implemented TAKANOS not suggestions, on how many guests one can invite to their own Simcha, limiting the parnasah a caterer makes, how many musicians a person can hire for their own simcha, limiting the parnasah a musician makes, but did nothing to implement the fingerprinting and background checks in all Yeshivos! YOU did not make that mandatory! You just supported the bill and allowed for those who wanted to comply. Where were the TAKANOS to prevent child abuse and molestation of our precious children?
YOU could have saved thousands, upon thousands of young innocent neshomas but you didn’t.
For the good things that the Agudath Israel has done for K’lal Yisroel you have neglected on a tremendously large scale the biggest responsibility any Jewish organization of such magnitude has and that is to protect our innocent neshomas!
You have a great big chelek in the pain and suffering of thousands of yiddishe kinderlach and their families for tearing their lives apart and for pushing and shoving them off the derech.
And now instead of showing them and all the children, the future of K’lal Yisroel that YOU stand for honesty and integrity, exactly what we teach and expect from our children YOU want to absolve ALL the guilty parties of their responsibility and accountability? Is this the hypocrisy that you choose to continue to role model for our children?
YOU had and still have an opportunity of teshuva and of helping to allow the healing to begin but you refuse to step up to the plate.
WE can’t force you to do the right thing; we can only ask you to. But whether you do or don’t, the bill will go forth and it will pass because every day it gains support, and with each day’s gain, those who approve and support the bill continue to garner more and more support, and it is growing like a wildfire because it is the right thing to do. Hashem will help us uncover the truth and reveal the identities of all the dangerous individuals who hide amongst us, who are not ashamed to defile our youth within the walls of mekomos kedoshim like yeshivas, mikvaot and shuls. The health and welfare of our children far outweighs the financial concerns of institutions real or imagined.
These institutions know how to protect themselves but children don’t and that is why WE have to find ways to help them, as Margaret Markey, Thomas Duane, and the fine states of California and Delaware have. So with you or without you WE know right from wrong, WE understand good from evil, WE know the good guys from the bad guys, WE know who to honor and respect and who to turn away from. Hashem has given us strict guidelines in the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach. Those who cross those lines, do not deserve the honor and respect you insist on bestowing upon them. Anyone with an ounce of seichel Hashem has given them will see through your smoke screen and contact their Legislative representatives to throw their support behind this bill.
Mrs. Sherree Belsky Director Kids Count Foundation (For Reference: Sherree Belsky – Maiden name Gottesman -second Generation Holocaust survivor – Auschwitz death camps; Belsky (Bielski – Bielski Brothers- Jewish partisans saved 1,200 Jews in the Russian and polish forests in the Holocaust)
Rabbi Dr. Asher Lipner Ph.D Vice President Jewish Board of Advocates for Children
Elie Hiller Jewish Educator West Orange, NJ
Mrs. Pearl Engelman Mother of Joel Engelman Brooklyn, N.Y.
The RCA Statement On The Markey Bill
March 20, 2009
Dear Ms. Markey:
The Rabbinical Council of America represents more than 1,000 modern and centrist orthodox rabbis. We are the rabbinic arm of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
We support Bill No. A.02596, sponsored by you, which would extend the civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sex abuse victims.
Child sex abuse is a horrendous crime. Victims often bear the scars for entire lifetimes. They are at higher risk for clinical depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
Many victims are overcome by feelings of confusion, shame, and embarrassment. As children and teens, they are psychologically and emotionally unable to deal with the court system. Only later, as adults, and often with therapy, do they feel comfortable in working with the judicial system. Unfortunately, arbitrary statutes of limitations stand in their way.
Jewish law and tradition recognize the need for our justice system to protect the most vulnerable among us. Lowering the statute of limitations bar for child sex abuse victims would serve that purpose. Sexual predators are often recidivists and need to be incarcerated, and classified as convicted sex offenders, in order to assure public safety. Sex abuse victims deserve to be fairly compensated for their grievous injuries. Your bill will assure these laudatory goals.
Rabbi Basil Herring