Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Truth About Ohel Children's Home and Family Services

Breaking the Silence about “Breaking the Silence”

by Dr. Asher Lipner

In the recent sequel to the hit movie Wall Street, the protagonist, Gordon Gekko, gets released from jail after completing an eight-year sentence for committing insider trading and stock fraud. The “reformed” con-artist makes an “only in America” comeback by writing and marketing a book warning people of financial trouble in the real estate bubble that has been created by the very philosophy Gekko promoted in the 80’s: greed is good.

In their new book, David Mandel, CEO of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services and his colleague, Dr. David Pelcovitz, Ph.D. similarly endeavor to lock the barn door after they have stolen the horses. The title, “Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community,” attempts to convey a courageous heroism, as if the editors are exposing an unknown crisis to the public. But in fact, our community has had scandalous headlines about sexual abuse and cover-up for over ten years. Like Gekko, the editors are engaging in a public relations campaign to cover their backsides and to maintain the silence about the fact that as leaders in the mental health community, they have helped create the system that got us into this mess.

Mandel attempts to establish his credentials as an expert in the field by repeatedly referring to “our experience at Ohel”, so the book really needs to be read in the context of Ohel’s notorious record. Since the 1980’s when Ohel failed to warn the community about its “consultant”, infamous child molester Avraham Mondrowitz, thereby enabling him to escape justice, until this day Ohel has repeatedly been involved in protecting molesters, not children.

Even on the book cover in the short list of safety goals, “reporting” to the authorities is glaringly missing. While Rabbi Dovid Cohen commits to writing for the first time that one is “allowed” to report sex crimes to the police, he hedges his bet by equivocating that the issues of “mesirah, lashon harah and chillul Hashem” are complex, and one should consult “a competent halachic authority” when in question.

Unfortunately, consulting rabbis is exactly what parents and survivors of abuse have been doing until now with catastrophic results, as almost all rabbis, out of ignorance or cowardice have breached halacha and advised protecting the abusers. Ohel’s own internal policy for staff is that no therapist is allowed to report child abuse without clearing it with Rabbi Cohen, a policy that is in breach of mandated reporting laws.

Ohel’s misguided philosophy on dealing with abusers is due to the book’s stated belief in a “diversity of values and ends” that can create conflict among “reasonably rational, well intentioned persons…involved with sex offenders.” The “relevant stakeholders” that in Ohel’s opinion can “reasonably disagree on the ordering of priorities”, seem to include (based on Ohel’s history) the molester whose concern and legal right to confidentiality is constantly trumpeted by Ohel, the molester’s family, the community whose image is tarnished by revelations of criminality and deviancy, and the institutions that harbor molesters who want to protect their reputations and finances from lawsuits. This ideology of complex, relative moral values completely flies in the face of both Jewish and secular law that give simple, straightforward and unequivocal directives that protection of the past and future victims must be the primary value and consideration.

In their chapter on “treating” sexual predators, the authors ignore the experts who advocate that courts and probation departments play a particularly important role both as a motivating force, and an integral part of therapy. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers treatment guidelines also insist that “supervision agencies work closely with victim advocacy organizations to ensure that their policies do not re-traumatize victims of sexual assault,” an idea that is neither recommended in this book, nor practiced by Ohel.

One example of a policy that certainly re-traumatized victims of abuse is that instead of joining virtually all child advocates groups in supporting the Child Victim’s Act, (aka the “Markey Bill”) Ohel advocated for a “compromise” bill giving legal amnesty to abusers.[1] Furthermore, not a single of the recent pedophiles arrested in Brooklyn were brought to the attention of the authorities by Ohel, nor has Ohel given any support to the victims of abuse who courageously came forward to warn the public.

The book also continues to support the “Ohelian” idea that a rabbinic Beit Din should be utilized to address cases of child molestation. Refusing to learn from the fiasco of the Catholic Church’s shameful system of sheltering pedophile priests, or the doomed-to-failure attempts of the Batei Din of Yeshiva University, Lakewood, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Chicago to play “Law and Order” without the police, the editors and some of the authors are proud to help set up yet another rabbinical group to “deal with” (read: cover up for) sex crimes in Rockland County.[2]

In the chapter on “Prevention and Intervention Programs,” highly trained professionals give dangerously bad advice to parents. They state that although there is no halachic problem of reporting abuse to the authorities, it is “understandable” that orthodox professionals who are mandated reporters nevertheless feel hindered by cultural taboo from doing so. Even more shocking is that parents are admonished not to tell other parents in their child’s school if molestation occurs, because it is a “private matter.”

Silence is not always golden

Psychologists and crime prevention professionals have long known that in communication, one can often learn more about the speaker’s thoughts from that which is not said than from that which is. While claiming to “break the silence,” Ohel’s book continues to censor important information that the community needs to know. The most glaring omission is the voice of a survivor of abuse. While the disclosures that were taken from therapy sessions and edited letters are educational, sorely missing is a first-hand account of an adult survivor about the real life experience of surviving abuse in our community. Survivors of abuse will certainly feel that yet another opportunity was missed to finally give them a voice, and they have once again been shut out of the discussion. By comparison, in the recently published scholarly book, “Daas Torah: Child and Domestic Abuse,” edited by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn and Baruch Shulem, Ph.D. (to which this writer also contributed) two powerful autobiographical chapters are included, allowing the reader to hear what survivors really think and feel, unedited and uncensored.

Furthermore, “Breaking the Silence” can break one’s eardrums with its silence about the history of scandalous communal cover-ups. It is utterly ludicrous to discuss abuse in the community without addressing the real betrayal experienced by survivors whose victimhood has been denied, minimized, and silenced by our establishment leaders for so long with threats and intimidation. Most survivors of abuse agree that the community response to child sexual abuse is often a worse trauma than the abuse. The parents who have had their children thrown out of yeshivas for the “crime” of disclosing abuse, the families that were literally run out of town, the children who were slapped in the face for daring to name their molester, will all read this book and think “Here we go again.” The reasons for this betrayal are not unknown, as Dr. Michael Salamon explains in his new book, “Abuse: How Extremist Views Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims.”

On a bright note, David Mandel’s own chapter does provide some comic relief. Although he admits that the rabbis, adult survivors and child advocates who brought this issue to the awareness of the community deserve recognition, he declines to name them with the excuse that he does not want to get them into trouble. As if survivors like Mark Weiss, David Framowitz, and Joel Engleman, Esther Malka Reich, Sara Rosenberg, advocates like Vicki Polin, Ben Hirsh, Michael Salamon, Mark Appel, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, rabbis like Nochem Rosenberg, Yosef Blau, Daniel Eidenshohn, and Yitzchak Eisenman or bloggers like Paul Mendlowitz of UOJ, or Shmarya Rosenberg of FailedMessiah fear backlash in standing up for child safety. Dr. Freud would surely interpret this notion as Mr. Mandel “projecting” his own fear of bringing attention to these individuals who have, almost to a person, been harshly critical of his record (in UOJ’s words) of “letting no cover-up go uncovered.”

[1] Mandel, D. (April 29, 2009) Sexual Abuse Legislation: A Proposed Strategy for Reform. Five Towns Jewish Times

[2] Orbach, M. (April 23, 2010) New Square appoints Vaad to deal with sexual abuse. The Jewish Star


Anonymous said...

yasher koach!
Is this an exclusive UOJ post by Dr. Lipner, or was it published elsewhere?

Q said...

Sadly, the only thing that made Ohel change their tune, and this includes Mandel and Cohen, was the Leiby Kletzky murder. People were reeling in shock; the Rabbonim they had so blindly trusted seemed to have forsaken the child and almost have allowed Aron to dismember him in the gruesome fashion that he did.
Aguda and Ohel brought about this bogus, sly 'Raglayim Ledovor' theory that makes people happy but keeps Rabbonim as the ones who decide who and what should be reported.
For Shame!

Anonymous said...

UOJ, he doesn't seem to really get into Pelcovitz. What do you hold of him?

Anonymous said...

by the way the rabbis in south florida have a few issues REGARDING CHILD MOLESTERS




Battered Billionaires said...

It was not a good omen for Orthodox Jewish billionaires, nor for the world's economy, when the Canadian Reichman's global "Olympia & York" real estate/property empire collapsed in the early 1990s: In Canada, The Fall Of Olympia & York Is More Than A Business (Chicago Tribune). It did not bode well for the Haredim and not for the rest of the world.

Since then the world itself has been in a downward economic spiral and many types of billionaires have been badly battered.

What does it mean that in the late 1990s brash Lubavitcher prospector Joseph Gutnick was caught red-handed over-reaching in Australia and humiliated: Miners found to have illegally restructured company (ABC Australia) and lost out on billions of dollars?

What does it mean when after cornering the vast profitable USA multi-billion kosher meat market, its head, Sholom Rubashkin, for "Rubashkin’s Crimes" (Forward), gets a life-sentence for fraud?

What does it mean when an ambitious real estate tycoon Chabad banker Shaya Boymelgreen's U.S. bank seized by regulators (Haaretz) with "the dubious distinction of being the first bank to be shuttered by U.S. authorities in New York in 11 years" by early 2010?

What does it mean when up and coming young supporter of all sorts of Jewish philanthropic causes when Jerusalem - Court Orders Guma Aguiar To Psychiatric Hospital (VIN) in early 2010?

What does it mean that ultra-Agudists in America Abe Fruchthandler and partner Ruby Schron face billion dollar losses in real estate when they are supposed to be "kings" of this field: Setback for Historic Warehouse: Developer Defaults... (WSJ) and $305Mln CMBS Loan on Long Island Industrial Portfolio Sours (CRE News) on a scale humiliating for both them and the many who depend on them?

There are many more like this, both in the Jewish world and in the world at large, and they mount in number in all sectors and in all spheres as national economies crumble and financial fortunes tumble and disintegrate beyond repair.

This is not a good time to be a billionaire or a dictator and often times the lines between them are very blurred!

Anonymous said...

BTW, what is the REAL reason Asher Lipner left Ohel? I realize he has a PHD, but what are his Rabbinical qualifications / accreditation? If he wants to be considered an authority in the "black-hat/ Yeshivish" community, why doesn't he have any of the mainstream members of the community on his side, all he has is Nochum Rosenberg - whose reputation is very tarnished in that community!

worrying for our children said...

what will be with Toras Eliyahu in ramat beit shemesh?

Akiva kagan must not have access to children!

Asher Lipner, Ph.D. said...

The real reason I left Ohel is because David Mandel and I had very incompatible views on how best to protect the community from child sexual abuse, and what the role of a social service organization should be in this regard. You may have noticed this from my critique of his book. I enjoyed working there treating patients including many victims and survivors of sexual abuse, and many of the people who work there are still my friends. There are many, many professionals at Ohel who are honest, decent and dedicated. I am grateful to Ohel for giving me the opportunity to work with these people. The problems (which cannot be overstated) start and end at the top, with management and the communal policies that it has adopted.

As for my rabbinic credentials, I do not use the title Rabbi. I happen to have learned in Ner Yisroel, Mir Yerushalayim and Lakewood and have smicha from Reb Malkiel Kotler, but I do not ascribe to the Daas Torah Hashkafa. My own personal Rabbi is Rabbi Yosef Blau, the Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshiva University.

The reason that almost no Charedi rabbis have as of yet given support to my advocacy work is that almost all of them are still on the side of covering up child sexual abuse. However, I have been zoche to have been helped on different child safety programs I have been involved with from Rabbi Yitzchak Eisenman, Rabbi Yehoshua Kaganoff, Rabbi Doniel Eidensohn, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Gedalia Dov Shwartz. There are other rabbanim who have given me support behind the scenes.

As for Reb Nochum Rosenberg, the reason his name has been tarnished is only because he is trying to do the right thing, and many communal leaders, both Rabbanim and Askanim have banded together to try to stop him. When you think of the list of people who have been "banned" or "tarnished" by our community, from Rabbi Slifkin, to UOJ, to Rabbi Rosenberg, to Vosizneias, to Rabbi Harry Maryles, it is clear that anybody who speaks the truth will eventually be attacked.

I am still looking forward to my official ban from the Gedolim for writing the truth, as that will show that I have truly earned the right to call myself an advocate for Jewish children.

Asher Lipner

uh oh said...


Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me that no one mentions that Ohel keeps molesters in the community through a special "offender program" they run. Instead of jail time, these molesters are given to the care of Ohel to "monitor". One girl who was raped preteen years would go to Ohel for therapy and meet in the hallways her very own predator who had abused her -- he was out of jail cuz Ohel was "monitoring" him.

Needs to Know said...

"what will be with Toras Eliyahu in ramat beit shemesh?

Akiva kagan must not have access to children"

Do you know something new about this monster?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Rabbi Lippner

I am quite posotive you are checking the comments daily,please educate me.

Is it your contention that Ohel knew that Mondrowitz was molesting his patients while the monster was employed at Ohel?

do you think Ohel should close up shop?

Regarding Rabbi Dovid Cohen shlita. Do you beleive he protects molesters?


Asher Lipner, Ph.D. said...

Rabbi Blau and others have reported hearing from eye witnesses that Ohel contracted with Mondrowitz. He was not employed. When they found out the orphans and foster care kids they were sending to him for "services" were getting "serviced" the wrong way, they simply stopped sending kids to him.

What they did not do is to alert the community and save other children from being abused. Why not? Because they were afraid that they could get in trouble for having sent kids to him in the first place especially since he was not licensed to practice psychotherapy.

Of course I do not believe Ohel should close up shop. I strongly believe they should clean up house.

Reb Dovid Cohen tells some victims of abuse to call the cops. However, he himself has not yet performed this mitzvah himself. He sometimes covers up for molesters depending on the situation. As he writes in the "sefer", he feels it is a complex question of mesira and lashon hara and chillul hashem, so one should always ask a rov before reporting.

He knows full well that asking a rov means that it will be covered up %99.9 of the time. Is that what he wants?


Anonymous said...

I worked in an Ohel residence as direct care counselor.
When I informed managent that a client spoke about being sexually molested as a child, I was told "We don't focus on that." Some time later a second client revealed to me that she had been molested by a family relative and one such attempt had recently occurred.
She had told a now departed social worker of this but asked the worker to not tell anyone, and her request was granted. When she reported the abuse to me, I convinced her to let me tell my supervisor. When my supervisor relayed the confidence to the department manager the response was 1. Tis history did not appear in the client's log book 2. the incidents, even the most recent, did not take place on Ohel premises so it unnecessary to address it. I also reported that the man in question had a bad temper and owned a gun, which he occasionally displayed, just for show. The social worker said that lots of people in the neighborhood had guns--for protection, assumed. She did report my information.
The next, and last time I spoke of this with my supervisor, she relayed that the department manager wated me to forget about this matter and not bring it up again. This response puzzled me as Ohel has a department with psychologists who specialize in these issues.


Dear Mr. Lipner,

My husband and I raised a foster child, from the age of 18 months to 5 1/2 years old. Her biological mother has munchausen by proxy and the father recently found to be a molester. We had to give up this child, the child of my heart because the courts decided to have the biological mother have unsupervised visits. We related many incidents of recent horrors this woman did to the child even while having supervised visits and no one listened. We could not continue to be advocates for this child as no one cared what we said anymore. So with Daas Torah, we had to give her up.
My little girl is now in another foster home where the foster parent is allowing this sweet sweet girl to be humiliated in ways I dont want to mention here.
It breaks my heart. My husband's heart. Her Mamma and Her Abba.
We don't know who to turn to. All we see is continued corruption.
When we spoke to the 'higher ups' what they said again and again - is that the image of Ohel has to be upheld.
I pray for my little girl.

Please tell me if there is anything my husband and I can do or if there is anyone we can reach out to.

Thank you.
You can respond to my email address: mannrosie1@gmail.com

I dont want this child, this treasure to ch'v end up as a statistic. Please respond as soon as possible.