Sunday, October 31, 2010

He struggled with depression, had nightmares and tried to kill himself twice.


Violent Turn in Abuse Case More Than 3 Decades Old
Published: October 30, 2010

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — William Lynch’s life has spiraled out of control in the 35 years since he says he and his brother were molested by a Jesuit priest. He struggled with depression, had nightmares and tried to kill himself twice.

The authorities say they believe that the anger and pain erupted last spring when the Rev. Jerold Lindner was lured to the lobby of his Jesuit retirement home and then beat severely in front of shocked witnesses.

Mr. Lynch, 43, was arrested Friday and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in the May 10 attack. He posted $25,000 bail and will plead not guilty at an arraignment next month, said his lawyer, Pat Harris.

During a confrontation at the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos, Calif., Mr. Lynch repeatedly punched Father Lindner in the face and body after the priest said he did not recognize him, said Sgt. Rick Sung, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits of the California Province, a Roman Catholic religious order, for $625,000 in 1998 after accusing Father Lindner of abusing them in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Mr. Harris said the boys, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were raped and forced to have oral sex with each other while Father Lindner watched.

Father Lindner, 65, has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his sister and nieces and nephews.

Investigators connected Mr. Lynch to the attack using phone records, Sergeant Sung said. A half-hour before the episode, a caller identifying himself as Eric called the home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Father Lindner of a family member’s death.

Father Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital after the attack. He did not return a call left on his answering machine.

He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and has not been criminally charged. The abuse falls outside the statute of limitations.

Father Lindner was removed from the ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001.

He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cases were included in a $660 million settlement struck between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.

The Rev. John McGarry, the provincial, told The Associated Press that Father Lindner had recovered and resumed his work at the retirement home, where he helps care for 75 infirm priests. He is not allowed to leave the home unsupervised, he said.

“As you can imagine, it’s very emotionally distressing to go through something like this,” Father McGarry said. “He hasn’t spoken a lot about it. He’s living a quiet life of prayer and service within our community.”

Mr. Lynch declined an interview on Friday, but in a 2002 article in The Los Angeles Times, he said he had had nightmares for years, had battled depression and alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice.

“Many times I thought of driving down to L.A. and confronting Father Jerry,” Mr. Lynch said. “I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me. You can’t put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When The Patients Run The Asylum....


Attorneys for nearly 150 people who claim sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests released thousands of pages of previously sealed internal church documents Sunday that detail complaints against the clerics and include medical records and correspondence between priests and their superiors.

A retired San Diego Superior Court judge ruled late Friday that roughly 10,000 pages of internal records could be made public after a yearslong legal battle with the Diocese of San Diego. The records are from the personnel files of 48 priests who were either credibly accused or convicted of sexual abuse or were named in a civil lawsuit.

The 144 plaintiffs settled with the diocese in 2007 for nearly $200 million, but the agreement stipulated that an independent judge would review the priests' sealed personnel records and determine what could be made public.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said Sunday the files show how much the diocese knew about abusive priests, starting decades before any allegations became public, and that some church leaders shuffled priests from parish to parish or overseas despite credible complaints against them.

Donna Daly, a spokeswoman for the diocese, did not immediately return a call on Sunday.

The papers contain documents from the files of Rev. Anthony Rodrigue. In 1976, a group of parents at Rodrigue's parish in Heber, Calif., complained he had molested their children, according to court documents.

The priest was sent to a psychiatric facility in Massachusetts for treatment but was put back in ministry despite the recommendations of those who treated him.

Rodrigue later admitted he had molested up to six children a year over a span of about 25 years, said Irwin Zalkin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. About 30 people filed lawsuits against the diocese alleging sexual abuse against the priest, who died within the last year, he said.

"He was probably one of the most profilic abusers in this diocese. ... And they knew about this guy from his days in the seminary but kept him in ministry," Zalkin said.

Another case outlined in the files involves the Rev. Robert Nikliborc, who was sent to a psychiatric treatment facility after the diocese received complaints, then became director of a Roman Catholic residential facility for troubled boys called Boystown of the Desert in Banning, Calif.

Boys who lived there filed lawsuits against Nikliborc and were part of the 2007 settlement, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiffs attorney. The priest died while litigation was under way.

"It's just unfathomable how any person in a position of trust could ever think of assigning someone like Nikliborc to direct a facility of such vulnerable children," he said.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Protecting Our Children From Abusers!


In Honor of National Jewish Week For
The Prevention of Child Abuse


~ in cooperation with ~

J-Safe: The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment, Maimonides Medical Center, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Organizations, and the Vaad Horabonim of Flatbush

Presents a Community Seminar


Sunday, October 24, 2010
Congregation B'nai Israel of Linden Heights
4502 Ninth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Registration - 7:00 PM


Rabbi Pinchus Dovid Horowitz,
Chuster-Bostoner Rebbe, Founder of Nachas Health and Family Network

Hon. Dov Hikind, NYS Assemblyman

Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani, Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Elchanan

Rabbi Shea Hecht, Director, National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education

Rabbi Gershon Tennenbaum, Director, Rabbinical Alliance of America

Michael Salamon, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Board of Directors, The Awareness Center

Asher Lipner, Ph.D., School Psychologist and Executive Vice President, JBAC

Mark Weiss, Survivor of Abuse, Executive Committee, JBAC

Elliot B. Pasik, Esq., President, JBAC

Zvi Gluck, Community Activist

Pinny Taub, Survivor of Abuse

For more information, visit www.jewishadvocates.org or contact: admin@jewishadvocates.org.

Jewish Advocates for Children, Inc. (JBAC)
is a nonprofit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) corporation
52 East Olive Street, Long Beach, NY 11561


Elliot F. Pasik, Esq., President - efpasik@aol.com
Asher Lipner, Ph.D., Executive Vice President
- lipnera@gmail.com

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UOJ Chicago Reporter Reports - The Global Jewish Community Decides!

Jewish Sexual Abuse Awareness Week kicked off today in Chicago. A project of New York based Jewish Board for Advocacy for Children, was sponsored locally by the Assocaited Talmud Torahs of Chicago, and the Chicago Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Gedalyah Schwartz of the Rabbinic Council spoke about the horrific effects of sexual molestation on the psyche of the victims. He declared since victims may take the step of committing suicide as a result of the perverse actions done to them, it's a matter of 'pikuach nefesh', a Jewish term for guarding the soul.

Survivors of abuse Motty Weiss and Pinny Taub spoke next. They discussed the treatment by the Orthodox rabbinate and community after coming out about their being abused. Attendees were visibly moved by Mr. Taub's account.

Rabbi Mark Dratch, Dr. Vivian Skolnick, and Dr. Asher Lipner spoke about prevention and the importance of involving the police and prosecutors early in the process. The Illinois State Sex Crime Unit Head described law enforcement's involvement in the process and how every effort is made to reduce victim discomfort. Special attention was given to the protection of the family from intimidation or harrassment.

Following a suicide in lakewood, New Jersey - the molestation victim's house was burned down in an arson attack. Recently, a Lakewood, New Jersey rabbi was arrested for harassing the family of a sexual molestation victim who came forward with Rabbinic approval.

The highlight of the afternoon was Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik of Chicago who brought the house down with this line, "If your wife was raped, would you call a rabbi and ask him what to do? No, you would call the police. Why in the case of a child do people think they have to call the rabbi?

Enough of the rabbinic meetings, call the police first" he begged!

Attendance was estimated at 400. Organizers expressed disappointment that many rabbis boycotted this event. There will be a backlash against those rabbis and school principals who were not in attendance....

“I come from the school of thought that I should teach by example rather than by talking”


This Life
For a Child, God’s Back Story
Published: October 15, 2010 The New York Times

NOT long ago, Eden, one of my 5-year-old twin daughters, bounded into my lap at bedtime and asked me if I would read her a book, “Bagels From Benny.” I had never seen this book before, nor had my wife. (I learned later it was a gift from her grandmother.) In the story, written by Aubrey Davis, Benny adores his grandfather’s bagels so much he wants to thank God for them. He takes a bag of bagels to the synagogue, places them in the ark, and asks God to taste his bounty.

I had not read more than a few pages when Eden looked at me and asked, “Daddy, if I speak to God, will he listen?”

I froze. I was so completely unprepared for the question, she might as well have asked me, “What’s a ménage à trois?”

In my panic, I had three quick thoughts. First, Who told you about God? I certainly hadn’t initiated the conversation, and I thought I knew everything she had learned in school.

Second, I should be able to nail this question. I had spent a dozen years tracing biblical stories around the world and had written four books about God. Surely I had learned something. Third, and more important, I didn’t want to say anything that I would have to unsay later. In other words, I didn’t want to lie to her just because she was a child.

For all the brouhaha over religion in the United States the last few years, Americans’ views on God have remained remarkably stable.

A study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 69 percent of Americans are absolutely certain God exists, and another 17 percent are fairly certain. Only 6 percent said they did not believe in God, with another 5 percent saying they didn’t know or were not certain.

But in countless surveys in recent years, Americans have shown creeping anxieties about their faith. While 10 to 15 percent of believers define themselves as fundamentalist, a vast majority of believers also express doubts. A Pew study last year showed that half of American adults have changed their religious affiliation at least once.

When it comes to talking to children, fundamentalists (believers and nonbelievers alike) have it easy, I have observed. They can simply express their convictions. But what about the rest of us? Are we supposed to share our uncertainties with our children or pretend we know all the answers and let them discover their own ambiguities in due time?

Hey, Benny, since you seem to have strong opinions: How do you talk to kids about God in the Age of Doubt? To help answer that question, I called three figures who have written openly about their own crises of faith.

John Patrick Shanley won the Pulitzer Prize for his play “Doubt,” and later wrote and directed the film, which was nominated for five Academy Awards. Raised a Roman Catholic, he learned catechism from the Sisters of Charity and excelled at prescribed questions like “Where is God?”

“God is everywhere.”

Mr. Shanley said: “When we went through confirmation at 10 or 11, I answered so many of the questions I was not allowed to answer anymore. I just found it thrilling in the sense that it was a theatrical event.”

The single father of two 18-year-old adopted boys, Mr. Shanley employed a different style with his own children. “I come from the school of thought that I should teach by example rather than by talking,” he said. “I believe deeply in the power of paradox and contradiction.”

His sons, for instance, knew he knelt down to pray for them every night, but that he didn’t go to church. They knew he said grace when they were in the country but not while they were in the city. “Children watch your actions and see whether or not you’re a doddering fool. And they see that if you’re a reasonably effective person and you can embrace ambiguity as a positive thing, they say, ‘I want to be like that.’ ”

But aren’t young children too vulnerable to embrace contradiction? I asked.

He answered: “If the idea is that when children are young you should give them very definite answers that do not reflect your actual experience of life, then you’re lying to your children, and one day they’re going to realize that you were a hypocrite. And isn’t being true as much as possible in life the best kind of education you can give the young?”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles, the author of “Teaching Your Children About God,” agreed. He uses his own youthful bout with atheism to encourage children to embrace their own struggles. “When a child asks a question about God, they are not coming to you as a blank slate,” he said. “They already have thoughts. It’s more valuable to evoke what they think than it is to insert something and pre-empt their own thoughts.”

Rabbi Wolpe sees a parallel between parents’ approach to God and their approach to sex. In both cases, skittish parents are so frightened of saying the wrong thing they end up saying nothing at all, thereby forcing their children to seek answers from untrustworthy sources.

“If you want to share with your kids your deepest beliefs,” he said, “your deepest beliefs are not about shopping. They’re about what happens after you die, or what life is about. I can’t tell you how many times I do funerals, and ask the children, ‘Did you ask your parents what they thought would happen after they die?’ The answer in 80 percent of the cases is, ‘No,’ which I find shocking.”

Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of several best sellers, including “Misquoting Jesus,” believes that parents should prepare for a conversation about God in the same way that they prepare for other difficult conversations.

“The fact that parents are unsure of their own beliefs is no excuse for not talking to your kids,” he said. “It’s like saying you’re not sure what to do about the problem of joblessness, or hunger or homelessness. Just because you don’t have the solution doesn’t mean you don’t want to talk about it. The problem with our society is that everybody is interested only in the answers.”

Dr. Ehrman’s books explore his own path from a liberal Episcopalian childhood, to college years as a born-again Bible student, to an adult transformation that left him an agnostic. His own children were young during the years he was losing his faith.

“There is precedent for telling a child something you don’t really think is true,” he said. “Parents tell their children there’s a Santa Claus. But my view about religious things is that parents ought to be brutally honest. When I was transitioning, I was completely truthful with my kids and told them, ‘I don’t know’ quite often.”

I was heartened that all three of these men, from different denominations, agreed that children could handle the messy truth. In my case, after catching my breath in response to Eden’s question, I said, “Some people talk to God, and it brings them peace.” I gave myself a solid B for my inartful dodge. My answer was true, at least, and it did get me through the moment.

So I asked my impromptu spiritual gurus how they would have answered the question.

Mr. Shanley said he would tell a 5-year-old, “Yeah, God does listen when you talk to him.” Rabbi Wolpe said, “Yes, God listens, but not like people listen, and he doesn’t respond like people do, either.” Dr. Ehrman said: “You know what, Little Jimmy, I don’t believe in God. What do you think?” If Little Jimmy were Dr. Ehrman’s sister’s child, I asked, what would she think of that answer?

“She’s an evangelical,” he said. “So she would cream me.”

Bruce Feiler’s latest book, “America’s Prophet: How the Story of Moses Shapes America,” has just been released in paperback. His column appears monthly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kids under 5 are the bulk of the more than 100,000 Americans treated in emergency rooms yearly accidentally swallowing medication

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Children under age 5 make up the bulk of the more than 100,000 Americans treated in emergency rooms each year after accidentally swallowing medications. Most such poisonings occur in 1- and 2-year-olds — an age group whose curiosity and climbing skills often outstrip their judgment — according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

DEA: Clean out your medicine cabinet to keep kids safe

While 85% of children were treated and released from the ER, about 10% had more serious injuries and required hospital admission, the study says.

About 90% of child poisonings happen in the home, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Thanks partly to better caps and packaging, child poisoning deaths have fallen by 80% since 1972. More than 30 children a year now die from poisoning.

It's easy to see why toddlers and preschoolers get into trouble, says pediatrician Ari Brown, author of Expecting 411. Young children explore by putting things in their mouths.

But they don't really understand the dangers of medications until about age 6, says Marcel Casavant, a pediatrics professor at Ohio State University School of Medicine.

And most people don't store medications properly, says Lara McKenzie of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. When people are sick with colds, they often leave cough syrups and other drugs by the sink.

More and more people also now request "easy open" caps on bottles or day-of-the-week pill organizers, Casavant says. That can be especially dangerous when children get into a grandparent's open purse or begin exploring her house.

Experts offer these tips to keep children safe:

•Properly dispose of unneeded or expired medications, advises the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

•Don't take medications in front of children, which may inspire them to try to imitate you, Casavant says. Tell children never to take medication unless you give it to them.

•Never refer to pills as candy.

•Because children can sometimes open child-resistant caps, keep medications out of sight, out of reach and in a locked container, Casavant says.

•Keep the national poison control center number — 800-222-1222 — on or next to all of your phones.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



I Am the Liberal-Progressives Worst Nightmare.

I am an American.

I am a Master Mason and believe in God.

I believe in American products.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some Liberal governmental functionary be it Democratic or Republican!

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer, it makes you a smart American.

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, and does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, do it in English.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave, I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you!

So, shut up already.

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!

This is AMERICA. We like it the way it is!

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.

I want to know which church is it exactly where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution.

Can I get an AMEN on that one?

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what color you are.

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my drivers license.

I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on my money.

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause.

Get a job and do your part!

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents.

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.

I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA !

If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I'm a BAD American.

If you are a BAD American too, please forward this to everyone you know.

We want our country back!



Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Over a period of ten years, she had been sexually abused by an adult family member!"


October 03, 2010
Safety Net Failure: Preventing Child Abuse
By Joyce Schur

The saddest conversation I ever had took place a few years back with an out-of-town niece. She’d come to visit for a few precious days and at the end of our time together, she became quite pensive and withdrawn.

“You look like Atlas,” I suggested, “What is this weight of the world you seem to be carrying on such young shoulders?”

“I feel like Atlas,” she answered, “I made a difficult decision several weeks ago and I’m not sure it was the right choice”.

My niece, age 15 at the time, proceeded to tell me that her closest friend and classmate had come to her with a terrible confession: over a period of ten years, she had been sexually abused by an adult family member.

“She swore me to silence,” my niece went on, “but I realized it wasn’t a promise I could live with. I decided to speak with a responsible adult in my community, someone I respect and admire. Fortunately, this adult knew how to handle it. She reported it to a domestic crisis agency and the agency intervened. They contacted the family and reported that they’d been given reliable information from an anonymous source that their daughter was being abused.”

“The abuse stopped immediately,” my niece continued, “but the family has been torn apart as a result of trying to deal with it. I don’t know if I did the right thing. Do you think I did the right thing?”

“You did an incredibly brave thing,” I answered.

“But at what cost?” my niece responded.

“There are professional counselors who can give you a complete answer,” I suggested, “But one thing you ought to understand is this; it’s entirely likely that your friend was not the only victim involved in the past ten years. You’ve not only saved your friend, you’ve quite possibly saved others as well.”

But this was not the saddest part of our conversation. The saddest part came when I asked my niece why she had not chosen to turn to her parents or teachers. Her response was revealing.

“I didn’t know if the situation would have been believed. I get the feeling that most people in my community don’t think such things happen in good Orthodox Jewish families.”

With those words, my niece hinted at the gaping hole in the safety net of parenting that typically results when we teach our children about “stranger danger” and appropriate physical boundaries. What we neglect to reinforce is the idea that danger doesn’t always present itself in the form of strangers. The insidious nature of child abuse is this: trust is essential to the crime. According to national statistics, 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members.

In a long overdue and unprecedented attempt to address this problem, a broad range of community based organizations are coalescing to fight child abuse and create safety and protection for children by declaring October 17 -24 “National Jewish Child Abuse Prevention Week”. To promote National Week, The Jewish Board of Advocates (JBAC) is joined by the Orthodox Union and other co-sponsors including: the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the Rabbinical Alliance of America (Iggud HaRabbonim), the Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment (JSafe), the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC) and Associated Talmud Torah (ATT) of Chicago.

On Sunday, October 17th, Chicago will be hosting the initial seminar, “Protecting our Children from Molesters” with speakers scheduled to address the following issues:

- awareness of the incidents of molestation and their impact on individuals/community
- how to better recognize and report knowledge of such incidents
- first hand survivor accounts and what communities/parents need to do to support victims of abuse

To learn more or for additional information and resources, please visit www.jewishadvocates.org

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

You can help us win the war against child abuse by doing two things!


Dear Friends:

Our community has turned the corner. There is a consensus. We are committed to eradicating child abuse.

You can help us win the war against child abuse by doing two things.

First, sign our petition. Visit the web site of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children at: www.jewishadvocates.org. Our petition calls for new laws, such as, requiring our religious schools to fingerprint their employees, so we can avoid hiring registered sex offenders, and other dangerous persons with criminal histories; strengthening of our mandatory abuse-reporting laws; no corporal punishment; mandatory discipline of abusive employees; reform of our unfair statute of limitation laws.

New York State has the weakest laws in the country for protecting religious school children. It is no wonder that our religious schools have been afflicted with an abuse problem. This has to change.

Next, the week of October 17 through 24, 2010, has been declared, National Jewish Week for the Prevention of Child Abuse. The Week is endorsed by the Rabbinical Council of America, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Iggud HaRabbonim-Rabbinical Alliance of America, JSafe-Jewish Institute for an Abuse-Free Environment, Chicago Rabbinical Council, and Associated Talmud Torah of Chicago. Our web site proposes how synagogues, yeshivas, and all Jewish community institutions can participate through learning, speaking, listening, and doing. Please also visit the web site of the Orthodox Union, at ou.org, where the National Week is also promoted.

And please tell your friends!

Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Inc.

Board of Directors: Elliot Pasik, Esq., President; Dr. Asher Lipner, Exec. V.P.; Perry Schafler, MA, MSW, VP.

Executive Committee: Haim Dweck, Eli Greenwald, Moshe Fessel, Esq., Rivka Finkelstein, Bracha Goetz, MA, Dorron Katzin, CPA, Maury Kelman, Esq., Dr. Nachum Klafter, Brochie Neugarten, Chaim Shapiro, MEd, Dr. Jeffrey Singer, Dr. Vivian Skolnick, Mark Weiss, Leon Zacharowicz.

Rabbinical Committee: R' Yosef Blau, MS, R' Mark Dratch, R' Allen Schwartz, MA, R' Moshe Soloveichik, R' Chaim Wakslak, PhD.

Monday, October 04, 2010

At Risk From The Womb!


A UOJ Public Service Post - I've added a few thoughts of my own in italics:

Op-Ed Columnist - The New York Times
At Risk From the Womb
Published: October 2, 2010

Some people think we’re shaped primarily by genes. Others (like me - UOJ), believe that the environment we grow up in is most important. But now evidence is mounting that a third factor is also critical: our uterine environment before we’re even born.

Researchers are finding indications that obesity, diabetes and mental illness among adults are all related in part to what happened in the womb decades earlier.

One of the first careful studies in this field found that birth weight (a proxy for nutrition in the womb) helped predict whether an adult would suffer from heart disease half a century later. Scrawny babies were much more likely to suffer heart problems in middle age.

That study, published in 1989, provoked skepticism at first. But now an array of research confirms that the fetal period is a crucial stage of development that affects physiology decades later.

Perhaps the most striking finding is that a stressful uterine environment may be a mechanism that allows poverty to replicate itself generation after generation. Pregnant women in low-income (kollel) areas tend to be more exposed to anxiety, depression, chemicals and toxins from car exhaust to pesticides, and they’re more likely to drink or smoke and less likely to take vitamin supplements, eat healthy food and get meticulous pre-natal care. (Lakewood, New Jersey comes to mind)

The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.

“Given the odds stacked against poor women and their fetuses, the most effective antipoverty program might be one that starts before birth,” writes Annie Murphy Paul in a terrific and important new book called “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.”

Another groundbreaking and provocative book this year makes the same case: “More than Genes,” by Dan Agin, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago. Both offer a new window into the unexpected forces that shape us.

One study in this field, by a Columbia University economist, Douglas Almond, looked at children who were born after the great flu pandemic of 1918. The pandemic lasted only about five months and infected about a third of pregnant women in America, so Mr. Almond compared those who had been exposed to it while inside their mothers with others born just before or after.

Ms. Paul quotes Mr. Almond as concluding, “People who were in utero during the pandemic did worse, on average, on just about every socioeconomic outcome recorded.” They were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school, 15 percent more likely to be poor, and 20 percent more likely to have heart disease in old age.

Stress in mothers seems to have particularly strong effects on their offspring, perhaps through release of cortisol, a hormone released when a person is anxious. Studies show that children who were in utero during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 were more likely to have schizophrenia diagnosed as adults (That explains why so many Israeli 40-somethings have schizoid-type personalities, now I need to find an excuse for the rest of the population). And The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that Chinese born during the terrible famine from 1959 to 1961 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those born at other times.

As for obesity, Ms. Paul describes several British scientists who fed pregnant (could have been Jewish) rats junk food: doughnuts, marshmallows, potato chips and chocolate chip muffins - (OU Kosher). The offspring of those rats turned out to have a sweet tooth as well: they were more likely to choose junk food when it was offered and ended up 25 percent fatter than rats whose mothers were fed regular rodent chow.

This field of “fetal origins” is still in its infancy, but one implication is that we should be much more careful about exposing pregnant women to toxins, and much quicker to regulate chemicals that are now widely used even though they’ve never even been tested for safety. Professor Agin is particularly eloquent about the potential perils of lead, dioxins, PCBs, radiation and pesticides (He forgot kollel checks).

One study looked at Swedish children who were fetuses during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. The radiation exposure was very slight and did not seem to affect their physical health. But their cognitive abilities, especially in math, seemed affected, and they were one-third more likely to fail middle school.

The uncertainty in this field is enormous, but we have learned that a uterus is not a diving bell that insulates its occupant from the world’s perils. Chemicals like thalidomide and DES proved tragic for those exposed to them while in their mothers’ wombs.

And it’s now high time to take a closer look at unregulated chemicals that envelop us — and may be shaping our progeny for decades to come.