Thursday, May 31, 2012

David Zwiebel's Buddy - Taking Disgusting to a New High!

 In Milwaukee Post, Cardinal Authorized Paying Abusers
Zwiebel is the guy without the cross
 Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”

But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.

“It was a way to provide an incentive to go the voluntary route and make it happen quickly, and ultimately cost less,” said Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese. “Their cooperation made the process a lot more expeditious.”

Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the national bishops’ conference and fast becoming the nation’s most high-profile Roman Catholic cleric, did not respond to several requests for comment.

A victims advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent a letter of protest to the current archbishop of Milwaukee on Wednesday asking,

“In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”

Experts in the Catholic Church’s response to sexual abuse say that payouts to dismissed priests are not uncommon. When a man becomes a priest, the church is expected to care for his needs for a lifetime.

The newly revealed document is the minutes of a meeting of the finance council of the Milwaukee archdiocese from March 7, 2003, which Cardinal Dolan attended. The archdiocese was facing a flood of potential lawsuits by people claiming abuse, and the church’s insurance company was refusing to cover the costs because it said the church had been negligent. The minutes noted that “unassignable priests” — those suspected of abuse — were still receiving full salaries.

The minutes say that those at the meeting discussed a proposal to “offer $20,000 for laicization ($10,000 at the start and $10,000 at the completion the process).” Instead of salary, they would receive a $1,250 monthly pension benefit, and, until they found another job, health insurance.

The first known payment in Milwaukee was to Franklyn Becker, a former priest with many victims. Cardinal Dolan said in response to a reporter’s question at the time that the payment was “an act of charity,” so that Mr. Becker could pay for health insurance.

According to church documents, Mr. Becker was accused of abusing at least 10 minors, and given a diagnosis of pedophilia in 1983. The church paid more than $16 million to settle lawsuits involving him and one other priest.

And.....Talking about lying, deceitful criminals:

Last week, The Times reported:

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies. The same day Gallup released a poll that found that an astonishing 82 percent of American Catholics find birth control to be morally acceptable.


From The UOJ Archives: CLICK LINK BELOW - GREAT READ: http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/search?q=dolan+to+Zweibel


"These victims don't believe they have anywhere else to turn. They live in this community, they want to continue to live in this community, and they want to live at peace. And they're not allowed to live at peace because no one gives a damn about victims. All they care about is protecting the abuser," Hynes said.

Hynes called the effort of the community to protect possible abusers "relentless".

 READ: "Brooklyn DA: Intimidation in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sex Abuse Cases Worse Than Mob Cases - CLICK: http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2012/may/30/brooklyn-da-says-victim-intimidation-orthodox-jewish-sex-abuse-cases-worse-mob-cases/

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Etan's disappearance revealed that the systems in place were inadequate to deal with missing children.

David Framowitz as a youngster

There were no systems in place to protect children in Jewish schools, and no talk of putting any system in place, until David Framowitz stepped forward. David, he should live and be well and see nachas from his family, must never be left out of the conversation when we talk about child sex-abuse in the Jewish community. Etan Patz's unfortunate fate led law enforcement to view "missing children" as not your typical crime. In fact, any crime against children, is so horrific and so beyond the pale, that part of being human, is to be able to understand that! Therefore any state legislature that does not pass laws to protect its most vulnerable, should be voted out of office and the media should focus on covering these stories -- and publicize public servants' names who vote against such legislation. Any member of any clergy that gets in the way of passing such laws, are just as guilty as the people committing these heinous crimes against children, regardless of their hiding behind some "religious" doctrine they pulled out of their "you know where".  No one should or will forget Etan's story, and no one should forget David Framowitz's story. Different tragedies; but never forget the vile and criminal element in all communities, "religious" or otherwise. The Jewish community unfortunately, is not to be excluded as a people not capable of committing great crimes against children. No one knows this better than David Framowitz.

CLICK: http://nymag.com/news/features/17010/

"Our children are smarter and better educated and more worldly" than previous generations about the dangers, but Lowery agrees there has been a trade-off. Knowing the brutality out there "instilled a sense of vulnerability in all of us ... it changes us as a society ... We're not as trusting as we used to be, but we need to be educated of the dangers out there." And, he adds, what the case of Etan shows to parents and victims is that no one forgets. "We're going to continue to look for children."

May 25 is National Missing Children's Day. Etan Patz, its poster child, remains missing.

After 33 years, a man has stepped forward to confess to strangling Patz. Proof will be another matter, as the former grocery store worker has not been able to provide the body nor has he given a motive. As for the confession's timing, a realtor who rented the suspect his apartment told the Star Ledger that maintenance people heard he was battling cancer, but nothing more has been substantiated.

When Etan vanished May 25, 1979, he was said to be the first missing child featured on a milk carton; his father Stan Patz, a professional photographer, supplied the photo. Etan's face was the first to appear on a Times Square electronic billboard six years later. In an era of highly publicized kidnappings — among them Adam Walsh, whose 1981 disappearance prompted his father to host "America's Most Wanted" — the campaign convinced President Ronald Reagan to call May 25 National Missing Children's Day. A year later, Congress set up the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

How Etan changed the nation's laws: Before this case, how law enforcement dealt with the missing varied.

Etan's disappearance revealed that the systems in place were inadequate to deal with missing children. Schools did not alert parents if children did not show up. Depending on the jurisdiction, a police response could take as long as 24 to 72 hours after a child's disappearance. According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in 76% of missing cases where the child is abducted by a non-family member and killed, the murder occurs within the first three hours of the kidnapping. Furthermore, there was little communication between police departments; if a child was taken over city or state lines, the trail was often lost. (April 28, The Economist)

The wrenching horror of a missing or murdered child fueled other changes: The 1989 kidnapping of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling led to the federal sex offender registry, although these days many know such legislation as Megan's Law, in honor of Megan Kanka, killed by her neighbor in 1994. (Wetterling remains missing.)

The 1996 murder of 9-year-old Texas girl Amber Hagerman triggered the AMBER alerts. Her case remains unsolved, but the alerts have improved clearance rates of finding children to 97% — in 1984, the odds had been 62%.

 The numbers: Stranger abductions are high-profile partly because they're extremely rare: About 110-200 are snatched, out of 600,000-800,000 children that go missing each year.

The statistic of a child murder happening within three hours of an abduction can be a panicking, but misleading one, that comes from a 1993 Washington project. Of 600 murders studied, 76% had been killed within three hours. "It suggests if we don't find them in the first 24 hours, we should give up hope," NCMEC executive director Bob Lowery tells Yahoo!, but points out that cases like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart clearly offer hope.

What that timeline should do is instill a sense of urgency and the importance of alerting police immediately.

In nearly 60 percent of the cases studied, more than two hours passed between the time someone realized the child was missing and the time police were notified (2006 Child Abduction Study, Washington State Office of the Attorney).

In the case of California teen Sierra LaMar, the high school didn't notify the parents of her absenteeism until 11 hours later — typical procedure even in the high-tech San Francisco Bay Area. (The school has since
changed that policy.)

Child ID app, FBI.com

 How to protect your children and how your children can protect themselves: In an age where stolen iPhones deliver their own locations, it's tempting to look to technology — from smart phones and GPS tracking devices to social media — as a precaution. NCMEC doesn't recommend gadgets, but Lowery says, "One key piece is a current image of the child. The FBI has an iPhone app for parents that we do endorse." The Child ID app helps parents keep current data, including a photograph. (No information is shared with the government unless parents enable permission.)

The most effective tool, Lowery says, is the spirit of the kids themselves. "Children who are more assertive and willing to bring attention, who are willing to say 'no' to an adult figure, are the ones less likely to be successfully abducted." More ways to protect minors and report abuse:

•Missing children hotline: NCMEC 24-hour hotline (800-THE-LOST or 800-843-5678). The site also has an online Push to Talk system.

•Cybertipline receives tips on sexually exploited minors (1-800-843-5678)

 Parents do worry about the flipside, that generations have grown up overprotected and fearful. That milk-carton campaign partly ended because it scared kids.

Missing children appeals showed up on milk cartons across the nation throughout the '80s, but by the end of the decade, the program began to fade out, primarily due to concerns over its efficacy and complaints by pediatricians that the photos frightened young children. "People weren't really paying attention to the images on the milk cartons," the center's Bob Lowery told the San Jose Mercury News. "The only ones paying attention were younger children enjoying their cereal." (April 20, Time)

"Our children are smarter and better educated and more worldly" than previous generations about the dangers, but Lowery agrees there has been a trade-off. Knowing the brutality out there "instilled a sense of vulnerability in all of us ... it changes us as a society ... We're not as trusting as we used to be, but we need to be educated of the dangers out there." And, he adds, what the case of Etan shows to parents and victims is that no one forgets. "We're going to continue to look for children."


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prosecutor Seeks to Force Rabbis to Report on Abuse

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, said Wednesday that he would push for state legislation to add rabbis and other religious leaders to the list of professionals required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities.

The move comes as Mr. Hynes, the city’s longest-serving district attorney, has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of sexual abuse cases in the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. A recent article in The New York Times showed that Mr. Hynes did not object when Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing various Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox factions, told him last summer that it was instructing adherent Jews to get permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of sexual abuse to the authorities.

Brooklyn is home to the largest concentration of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. The issue of child sexual abuse has divided the community in recent years, and Mr. Hynes has become a central figure in the drama. Victims’ advocates accuse him of bending to the will of the rabbis, many of whom have long insisted that crimes like sexual abuse be handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their findings to the police or prosecutors.

Criticism has continued to mount even as prosecutions by Mr. Hynes’s office have grown sharply in the last three years, a spike he and his aides credit to a program he began in 2009 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish victims to report abuse. His office says the program, called Kol Tzedek, has helped lead to more than 95 indictments. Requiring clergy to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities would give Mr. Hynes’s office a new tool to go after rabbis who advise their followers against reporting.

“This thing has become a very, very important issue, and the question is, how do you deal with it?” Mr. Hynes said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

As of 2010, 26 states required clergy to report sexual abuse. Bills that would do the same in New York have languished in the Legislature since 2003. Some religious organizations, including the Roman Catholic Church and Agudath Israel, have opposed previous bills because they would also have required religious organizations to go into their files and turn over allegations of past abuse.

Assemblyman John J. McEneny, an Albany Democrat, first introduced such legislation in 2003 and has a current bill that would not require the reporting of past allegations. Catholic Church and Agudath officials said on Wednesday that they could support a bill of that type.

Mr. Hynes, who said he was unaware of Mr. McEneny’s bill, said he would discuss the measure with him. Mr. Hynes, who said he would work with the New York State district attorneys association to fashion a measure, said he favored a bill modeled after similar laws in New Hampshire and West Virginia, which do not require clergy to report allegations told to them in confession. Mr. Hynes is also creating a task force to crack down on witness intimidation in child sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and has had a memorandum of understanding with the bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese since 2003 requiring Catholic priests to report allegations of abuse to his office.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What the Jews Need to Learn from this Catholic!

 by: Thomas J. Reese, SJ, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Georgetown and former editor in chief of America has sent his keynote address to the Clergy Abuse Conference in Santa Clara University:

I am not an expert on the crisis, but rather a journalist, commentator and priest. Perhaps my contribution can be first to congratulate and thank Kathleen and Tom and all of the contributors to the book, Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis 2002-2012 (Praeger, 2012). The book makes a genuine contribution to a better understanding of the crisis. The church should be very grateful for your work.

For the rest of my talk, I would like to concentrate on what I think is the unfinished work of responding to the sexual abuse crisis. Needless to say, I cannot list all of the unfinished work, but the items I will highlight strike me as being important.

First, I think the church—and by church I mean both the clergy and the people of God—needs to re-envision its attitude toward the survivors of sexual abuse. In Latin America, liberation theologians developed the concept of the preferential option for the poor.

The American Catholic Church needs to embrace a preferential option for the survivors of sexual abuse.

Nor should we look at the victims of abuse simply as clients or problems to be dealt with.

 Just as people in the church have learned not to look on the poor as a problem to be solved, but to recognize their contribution to the church, so too we need to see the survivors of abuse as persons who can teach us what it means to be Christians, what it means to be church. No one who listens to their stories can fail to be touched by them.

This means that we cannot respond to every new victim who comes forward with “O God, not another one.” Rather we have to see them as integral to our community, persons who must be welcomed. Such an attitude would encourage the church to reach out to the thousands of victims of sexual abuse who have not come forward. We want them to come forward; the church needs them.

Second, we need a better system for investigating accusations of sexual abuse. Obviously, all accusations must be reported to the police, but if the statute of limitations precludes prosecution, the police will not investigate. Or the prosecutor may judge there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. Under these circumstances, the church still has an obligation to investigate and determine whether a priest is guilty or innocent, whether he must be permanently removed from ministry or returned to ministry.

The charter calls for an investigation of the allegations, but there is no standard operating procedure. Each diocese is on its own, with the result that some do better than others. The American criminal justice system sometimes fails even though it has police, prosecutors, grand juries, judges and juries. The church has not had anything like this since the inquisition. Not surprisingly, the church has a hard time getting this right.

It is essential that the church get this right. The victims deserve justice and children must be protected from future abuse. Innocent priests also deserve justice and a way to clear their names. And the process must have credibility to the public at large.

We need more research on this topic. We need to find out what are best practices and help dioceses to adopt them. We don’t even know how many priests are suspended or how long their suspensions last. Many priests fear that if they are falsely accused they will be suspended indefinitely because the bishop is afraid to return them to ministry.

In too many instances the investigative process appears suspect because it is under the control of the bishop. Episcopal credibility here is nil. The process will only have credibility to the extent that it is seen as truly independent of the bishop. Only an independent process will have the credibility to say that, “Yes, this priest can return to ministry.”

Third, we still do not have a system for bringing bishops to account. It is a disgrace that only one bishop (Cardinal Law) resigned because of his failure to deal with the sexual abuse crisis. The church would be in a much better place today if 30 or more bishops had stood up, acknowledged their mistakes, taken full responsibility, apologized and resigned. A shepherd is supposed to lay down his life for his sheep; these men were unwilling to lay down their croziers for the good of the church.

The bishops also have to step up and supervise their own. I know, “only the pope can judge a bishop under canon law,” but there are lots of things the bishops can do anyway. First, they must speak out and publicly criticize those bishops that are not observing the charter or are failing in their responsibilities. Bishops, including the president of the bishops conference, need to say, “Shame on you bishop, get your house in order.” This is not a canonical judgment; this is fraternal correction.

The Vatican also needs to do its job. It appears to have no problem investigating nuns and theologians, but investigating mismanagement by a bishop is not a priority. A bishop can be quickly removed in Australia for hinting that women and married priests might need to be discussed, but bishops who failed children are not removed. Only in Ireland were a few bishops removed because of their failure to protect children, and that took a brave archbishop and the full force of the Prime Minister and the government.

Even when a bishop is indicted, no one has the sense to tell him to take a leave of absence until the case is over.

Finally, the sexual abuse crisis has to be seen in the context of clerical culture in the church. I agree with those who say that celibacy did not cause the sexual abuse crisis, but when a group of men sit around a table discussing what to do with one of their colleagues who abused a child, it makes a big difference whether the men at the table have children. The first question in a parent’s mind is “How would I feel if my child was abused?” The inability of celibate men to ask that question blinded them to the consequences of their decisions. They focused on the priest, not the victim.

A culture of fear and dependency also contributed to the crisis. I don’t know whether Monsignor Lynn broke the laws of Pennsylvania, but he was certainly no hero. Too few priests stood up to those in authority and said, “No, you can’t do that.” Speaking truth to power is not welcomed in the Catholic Church. Diocesan priests are totally dependent on the good will of their bishop for assignments and promotions. If a 60 year old bishop is appointed to your diocese, he is going to be your boss for the next 15 years. In practice, there is no appealing his decisions toward you nor can you escape by moving to another diocese. You are stuck.

In this corporate culture, few are going to tell the bishop “no.” The one pastor in Philadelphia, who refused to accept an abusive priest, got reprimanded and punished for challenging the archbishop. This is what happens when you speak truth to power in the Catholic Church.

The problem in the Catholic Church today is that the hierarchy has so focused on obedience and control that it has lost its ability to be a self-correcting institution. Creative theologians are attacked, sisters are investigated, Catholic publications are censored and loyalty is the most important virtue. These actions are defended by the hierarchy because of fears of “scandalizing the faithful,” when in fact it is the hierarchy who have scandalized the faithful.

Is there any hope?

The data in the John Jay report shows that the cases of abuse fell dramatically during the 1980’s. The problem of abuse is probably worse in other parts of American society than it is in the church, but that is still damning with faint praise. It can never be an excuse for doing less than is required. But I dream of the day when the church becomes part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We are not there yet. But hopefully someday what we learn about the detection, prevention and healing of abuse in the church may be of help in responding to abuse in American society.

--Thomas J. Reese, SJ


Monday, May 21, 2012

I arose and walked out of the stadium with my head held high!

 For the last few weeks we all have been hearing about last night’s ‘The Asifa’ in Citified. It has been promulgated and disseminated throughout the Jewish world with letters and requests for all Jews to come and be part of sanctifying the name of Hashem.

The event was billed as one to bring about togetherness and unity among Jews and to combat those forces which are causing us harm.

Therefore, for the sake of unity and for my constant need for spiritual growth I, along with thousands and thousands, attended.

Indeed, the speakers spoke about the need to be holy and to be G-dly.

They spoke about the necessity to bring G-d into our lives.

They spoke about imitating the ways of our forefathers.

They mentioned the great traditions of Avrohom and of how we are all children of Avrohom.

They evoked the names of the great Chassidic masters and their legacies.

They quoted the names of the great one’s of our people and how they went against the tide and did not follow the masses in whatever event may have been the popular trend at the time.

They asked all of us to be brave and courageous; to have the inner strength to fight and stand up for what is right and for what is G-dly.

They insisted that notwithstanding the multitudes who gather in stadiums and have access to financial resources to promote their messages, we as G-dly, caring Jews; Jews who care about our children; should not just mimic the ways of the masses. Rather we have to keep focused and in spite of the masses and their frenzied and frenetic propaganda, we as G-d fearing, compassionate and caring Jews must think about the spiritual well being of each other; irrespective of who and how we outwardly appear.

As the speeches began to enter my heart, as I heard the legendary stories of the greats of our people who did everything and anything in their power to reach out and help those in need I felt the need to act.

As my heart awakened to the realization that there are people who are in need of compassion my body was inspired to act and not just listen.

I knew that I had to attempt to be G-dly and not just be a passive observer in the stadium munching on the free pretzels as most of the people sitting next to me were doing.

I decided to heed the call and attempt to imitate the ways of the Chofetz Chaim and of the Baal Shem Tov.

I left the arena filled with thousands and thousands of easily identifiable Jews who were sitting in comfort noshing on the free food provided and (many) checking their emails on their blackberries as speakers simultaneously made impassioned pleas to discard them.

I arose and walked out of the stadium with my head held high and my heart infused with the knowledge and want of being G-dly and of being called a child of Avrohom Avinu.

Despite being chilled and still under the weakening effect of a lingering virus, I recalled the stories of our leaders and of their actions and this inspired me to keep seeking and walking.

I recalled the story of Rav Yisroel Salant and how he arrived at Shul late for Yom Kippur davening as he heard the cries of an unattended Jewish child. When asked how he was able to keep the masses waiting and why did he not join the crowd, Rav Yisroel responded, “A Jew who does not hear the cry of a Jewish child in need is in need of much more than of being in Shul in Yom Kippur; he needs an entire spiritual fixing.”

I know neither the source nor of the authenticity of the story. However, I do know that it entered my heart and to me it was always what was a true ‘Gadol’ is.

Is not feeling the pain of those in pain true G-dliness? As we say in davening every Motzei Shabbos: “Wherever you find the greatness of Holy One, Blessed be He. There you will find His humility…..For Hashem….the Master of masters….a great and mighty G-d. (Hashem says): I abide …in holiness, but (I) am with the broken and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to give life to those who are broken” (Yeshaya 57:15)

I knew what the message for me was; my destination was clear.

I looked and I searched.

The counterprotest.

Up the block and down the block; a phone call here and a phone call there; a request from a policeman here and an usher there; however, finally my search was not in vain and I found them.

Barricaded and secluded, confined and segregated, quarantined and concealed behind the police barricades they stood.

The hurt and pained, the broken hearted.

The ones about who Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim are the true ‘korbonos’ (sacrifices): The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart. (Tehillim 51:19).

These were the people I had to be with.

They came not to hurt and not to cause pain.

They came not to disrupt and not to attack.

They came because they are in pain and they know there are so many others as well.

They came because there is a hidden pain which the thousands inside yearning for inspiration and information were not being told and they hoped to correct that.

They came to help Jewish children and to tell everyone that other problems irrespective of the internet have to be tackled s well.

And they came because they are in pain.

When I was a little boy my Rebbe told me that when Pharaoh asked his three advisors, Bilaam, Iyov and Yisro for advice on what to do with the Jews this is what they said:

Bilaam who wanted to annihilate the Jews was himself killed.

Yisro who stood up for the Jews was rewarded by Hashem with his daughter marrying Moshe.

Iyov was silent and was punished with afflictions and pain.

My rebbe told me that we see from here that even when you cannot help someone or something, at least try to feel their pain, at least cry out in empathy.

I approached the group; the ‘counter Asifa’.

The men were not wearing black hats and women were present.

They had no fancy stadium seats and they sat on the cold, hard pavement.

They were not famous leaders with titles and huge yeshivas behind them.

They were simple broken hearted pained Jews and with this group I felt solace.

With this group I chose to stand; for nothing more than to say “I love you and I feel your pain.”

Some of the group eyed the Chareidi dressed rabbi with the long coat suspiciously; however, I could not help feeling that Rav Yisroel Salant and the Chofetz Chaim and the Baal Shem Tov walked with me.

I secretly hoped that all of the greats who were just a few hundred yards away would do those legendary acts which our greats are known by.

I hoped they would act as Rav Yisroel would have done by standing up for the pained and broken; those injured through no fault of their own, and that they would cross the street and embrace these sacrifices of God (that) are a broken spirit.

Suddenly, as I stood with Hashem’s beloved and pained children one of the women in our group called out, “Chevra (friends) I think the Asifa may be ending, people should be coming out. Let’s go out and engage them.”

I and entire group looked towards the throngs gathered across the street who were there to be come more like Avrohom Avinu who cared even for Arab wayfarers and brought them into his house.

We looked towards the thousands who heard speaker after speaker arouse the audience to emulate the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l who was known to care for the broken and crushed of his generation.

We hoped and awaited the multitudes that were now encouraged to be more G-dly and caring of the well being of our fellow Jews.

I looked at the woman who made the announcement.

Her eyes were full of hope and anticipation; her whole being felt that perhaps now finally the masses were approaching.

Perhaps the masses had been reawakened and informed about those who are in pain; perhaps a miraculous change in attitude had occurred.

However, as she and all of us looked toward the parking lot, no one looked our way; no one even said hello; they just kept walking as if nobody was there.

The woman lowered her face in disappointment and despair.

A man across the street stopped, turned for a moment to see who was across the street behind the barricades. He quickly looked away and without too much thought began speaking on his cell phone as he walked the steps up to the number 7 line.

The woman, forlorn and forsaken sat back on the pavement; no miracle would occur tonight. She sat down in silence, once again alone .

And I walked on wondering who I am.

Rav Yitzchok Eisenman is a noted Charedi Rabbi and leads Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, NJ. Rabbi Eisenman is a sought after speaker and scholar in residence in many communities throughout the metropolitan area.

Update From CitiField!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The definition of a 40,000 people Chillul Hashem!

by Judy Brown, Author of "Hush"

This is why the Internet Asifa is important for K’lal Yisroel: because a wholesome lie is better than any broken truth; because denial must be protected at all costs; because ignorance is sacred in a world whose existence depends on it.

And this is why it is important that we be there on Sunday: because we hold the broken truth, the one we experienced firsthand when our rebbis, teachers, and leaders ripped their own lie piece by piece, life by life, in front of our eyes, and then intimidated, threatened, brutalized and suppressed any victim or witness who dared speak out, warning that they would destroy us and our broken truth if we did not accept their lie.

The Internet is an enormous threat to the ultra-orthodox world for the same reason it is a threat in Syria , Iran and Russia; a population that is aware is a population difficult to control. They say that they must fight the Internet for it brings moral decay. What they do not say, even to themselves, is that they must fight the Internet so they can conceal moral decay. That the only thing they fear more than the outside corruption the Internet brought inside, is the inside corruption the Internet has revealed to the outside.

The Internet is terrifying to the rabbanim perhaps because of porn, perhaps because it exposes youth to foreign ideas, but even more importantly, because it enables open dialogue and an honesty they cannot afford if they are to survive as a community, the community they insist they are; pure, innocent, and above their own frailties. And if a few children must be sacrificed for this wholesome lie, then so be it. It is better than any broken truth.

In the last few years, the Internet has served as a crucial tool for victims of sexual abuse. It is through blogs and online discussions that many victims first realized they are not alone, that this is a communal problem. The silence that has kept victims in such utter isolation, unable to connect with others, has been broken by the anonymity and connectivity of the Internet. It was there victims could finally speak honestly without fear. It was there they could hear of so many similar experiences, and reach out to other victims. The Internet played a large role in tapping at the wall of denial, and for the communal authorities this was a dangerous thing.

Denial is a terrible thing to lose. We know. For many victims it takes years to face their own traumas, to break away from the security and warmth of a well taught lie. But no one knows like we do that it is never technology that corrupts man, but man that corrupts technology. Because decades before there was Internet or computers, there was sexual molestation and the worst forms of moral decay. We were there when it happened, when men who did not have access to the Internet turned into beasts, groping, fondling, and raping boys and girls half their size and strength, then terrorizing them into silence.

Today we will stand outside Citifield with our cardboard signs. There will be thousands of Orthodox men walking past us. Some will look quickly away, some will laugh in pity, some will wish they were standing with us. We’ll stand for the first time as a united voice, in public, telling them that we are no longer afraid; that we, who have seen the darkest parts of their world, will never be silenced again; that we will make as big a ‘Chillul Hashem’ as we need to, and for as long as we need to, because there are basic morals and there are cultural traditions and for too long the ultra-orthodox world has confused one for the other.

The Citifield rally is so important to the community because it is another form of denial, another excuse they can point to. It allows them to avoid confronting the most dangerous enemy of all: themselves. The Internet does not molest, only people do; they always have. But if they can just persist on blaming internal problems on evil outside forces they can continue to remain blind to what they refuse to see: themselves. And that is why we will be there, because this is the broken truth.

At amazon.com for less than $10 new and used!

New Focus on Agudath Israel's Child Sex Abuse Stance!

Criticism even from within of its ‘fox guarding henhouse’ approach!

For several years, at least, Agudath Israel of America, the organizational arm of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, has demanded that allegations of child abuse be vetted by rabbis rather than directly reported to police. Increasingly, that position is coming in for harsh criticism. Much of that criticism is coming from within the ultra-Orthodox community itself, where advocates of victims of child molestation accuse their own rabbinic leadership of covering up the crimes of molesters, many of whom continued to prey on children for decades.

Agudah’s position is at odds with laws in New York and New Jersey that mandate reporting of child abuse in many circumstances.

It also is a position that is rejected by the Modern Orthodox-leaning Rabbinic Council of America, which ruled unequivocally that “those with reasonable suspicion or first-hand knowledge of abuse or endangerment have a religious obligation to report that abuse to the secular legal authorities without delay.” Virtually all Orthodox synagogues in northern New Jersey are aligned with the RCA rather than Agudath Israel, whose New Jersey strongholds are in Passaic and Lakewood.

In recent months, two modern Orthodox educational institutions have dealt with allegations of illegal sexual behavior by faculty members.

In December, the Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) notified the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office after a student at the all-boys high school in Teaneck reported having had inappropriate sexual contact with a female teacher the previous year.

Earlier this month, a sixth-grade teacher at Yeshivat Noam in Paramus was arrested in his New York apartment by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with possessing child pornography. The teacher, Even Zauder, previously served as youth director at Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun.

As for Chabad-Lubavitch institutions, the Crown Heights Rabbinical Board ruled some years ago “that in any case of suspected child abuse, one must go immediately to the police and not attempt to deal with it internally.”

The issue has come to the forefront following a pair of articles last week in The New York Times on pressures within the ultra-Orthodox community not to report child sexual abuse, and accusations that Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes has sided with politically powerful Brooklyn rabbis who wish to downplay reporting of child molestation.

The New York Times reporting built upon (although did not acknowledge) reporting on the topic by The New York Jewish Week, The Forward, and such blogs as Failed Messiah and Unorthodox Jew.

Agudath Israel declined to directly respond to questions on the topic submitted by The Jewish Standard.

Instead, its spokesman, Rabbi Avi Shafran, sent the organization’s July 2011 policy statement on reporting child abuse, as well as 40 pages of Hebrew-language halachic discussions of the topic by leading Israeli ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

In its policy statement, Agudah said that while reasonable suspicions of child abuse or molestation should be reported to the authorities, “the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment” to determine whether a suspicion is reasonable.

“Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who is expert in halachah and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation — someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations, and the urgent need to protect children,” said the Agudah statement.

Of course, this raises a question, say the statement’s critics: How does one reconcile the claim that rabbis are qualified to decide this, with the claims that rabbis had been informed of specific child molesters, and failed to stop them for decades?

That was one of the several questions Shafran failed to answer.

Avi Shafran - Agudath Israel's Pathetic Mouthpiece
At the same time, Agudah has not followed all of the advice of its sages.

Rabbi Yehuda Silman, a senior rabbinical court judge in the Israeli town of B’nei B’rak, ruled that those believed to have molested children should be reported to secular authorities if they would not otherwise stop their crimes.

He said the determination of whether to report should be made by rabbis, because “it is certainly impossible to give the matter [of determination] to each and every individual, because most people don’t have the Torah and/or professional knowledge to determine if in a given case there is even reasonable suspicion.”

Silman, however, also suggested that “a rabbinic judge or court be designated that would decide” on allegations of molestation.

Shafran said that while he has heard of such courts in some cities — he mentioned Chicago and Los Angeles — the variegated nature of New York’s ultra-Orthodox community precludes a central court from being set up there.

In none of the responsa reviewed by this newspaper was there any sense that the secular authorities — be they in Israel or America — could be trusted to investigate allegations on their own, or for that matter that the authorities had investigative powers at all.

The case which most responsa supplied to The Standard by Agudah concerned the second century Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Shimon who, according to the Talmud, handed Jewish thieves over to the Roman authorities for execution.

When asked by a colleague “how long will you deliver people of the Lord for slaying?” he answered, “I weed the thorns of the vineyard.”

The halachic opinions also pointed to medieval rulings that thieves and other criminals could be handed to secular authorities for punishment for the good of the community.

In permitting the handing over of molesters to secular authorities, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis highlighted the fact that where the Romans executed their thieves — a disproportionate punishment by Torah standards — contemporary punishments are not similarly problematic.

They do not acknowledge that in America and Israel, however, ultra-Orthodox are equal citizens, and that the police represent them, too. Say the policy’s critics, it is this refusal to acknowledge that the Middle Ages have ended that constitutes one of the sharpest demarcations between the ultra-Orthodox and the modern Orthodox.

In online discussions, among the lay people supporting Agudah’s position are those who argue that police authorities in the United States are anti-Semitic and waiting for an excuse to start a pogrom.

Does Agudath Israel share this view, Rabbi Shafran was asked.

He did not answer that, either.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Jewish Child Molester Talking Points!

Toward the end of last week, the New York Times published an expose on the Ultra-Orthodox community for ignoring a child molestation problem and for, in some instances, actually shunning and ostracizing the victims instead of seeking justice for them. How is this happening? Well, the Hasidic community reasons that by delivering the suspected pedophile over to the police for investigation, you are therefore transgressing Jewish law as a moser, or an informer. A moser cannot turn his fellow Jew in to a secular non-Jewish authority as derived by Maimonides’ extrapolation of ha’poresh mi’darchei tzibbur, or one who actively separates himself from the rest of the community. While I doubt that our great sage Rambam meant to protect the the lowest of the low, some Hasidic communities are nevertheless manipulating the learnings of our elders and in turn, sheltering these deviant monsters.

While I’m not entirely surprised that this sickening predatory activity is plaguing some shtetls (after all, there was even a Law & Order episode about it), I am saddened and shocked by the various reactions. And I don’t mean the delusional justifications and rationalizations of the Hasidic community leaders–I mean, the Jews living outside of the Williamsburgs and the Borough Parks. Based on the conversations I have had over the weekend since these necessary articles appeared, I would like to suggest some potential responses to our collective propensity to sweep shamefulness under the rug.

1. “The New York Times likes to pick on the Jews.”

This is a complaint I hear whenever the Times covers Israel, Jews, Israeli Jews, the banks, and/or brisket. And in truth, it may have some validity to it. The New York Times known for its liberal slant can oft portray Israel as oppressor, even when it’s not warranted. But that’s neither here nor there, and it’s also something you and I can never prove. Yet when I discussed the two aforementioned articles on the Hasidic community written by Ray Rivera and Sharon Otterman with someone I knew well, he said something along the lines of, “Well, of course, when it comes to the Jews it’s a big story. But what about the Church? Why don’t they talk about abuse in the Church?”

If you do a search for the words “abuse” and “church” on the nytimes.com, you will find 431,000 results. If you were to however limit it down from the last 150 years to the last seven days, you will still get 19 results. Deflecting the attention from ourselves to another fundamentally flawed and troubled religious system will by no means make our problems go away. Child abuse is a problem regardless of the house of worship, and kudos to the New York Times for bringing this to light even if, according to many, the daily paper still may hate Israel.

2. “It’s not worth ruining someone’s reputation especially if the accusations aren’t true.”

First and foremost, shame on Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, for having a response similar to this. And this is coming from a media outlet that once photographed Roseanne dressed as Hitler. Zwiebel, along with his extremely influential and powerful Orthodox organization, determined last year that Orthodox Jews should not report allegations to the police unless a Rabbi has given permission to do so. He also said that “you can destroy a person’s life with a false report.” Incidentally, you can also destroy a person’s life by putting your hand down his pants without permission. Zwiebel also added that “you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind,” which implies that after an incident, it is important that you first consult with a rabbi so he may convince you that it was not molesting, but just tickling.

3. “I understand the secrecy. After all, if could ruin the shidduch (impending marriage proposals).”

It’s hard to believe but this was actually said to me, but it was. And it wasn’t said in an effort to implicitly justify the cover-up attempts–the person who had this reaction was simply channeling the Hasidic community’s emphasis on yichus, or legacy. If, hypothetically, someone’s brother or sister had been accused of being a child molester, this would affect the siblings’ chances of getting married. It’s sadly accurate in a community that weighs worthiness on, for example, what kind of China they set the Shabbos table with.

I think in an ideal world everyone would agree that one should not be held responsible for his or her family member’s actions. However, that is very much the case in the Ultra-Orthodox world. Families have and always will go to extreme measures in maintaining an uncontaminated facade like hiding their televisions in cabinets, keeping diseases or sicknesses obsessively secret, and in some cases, even protecting the identity of a pedophile. Maybe, though, once it would be known that someone’s brother was forcibly abusing children and as a result, his sister went years without a suitor, the community would only then react with less tolerance.

What I’m suggesting here is that if there had an old maid problem in Williamsburg, the rabbis would then maybe speak out against child molesting.

4. “We should be able to handle this within our own community. No need to get the police involved.”

In March, the Times notes, Satmar Hasidic authorities in Williamsburg posted a Yiddish posters in synagogues warning adults and children to stay away from a community member who they said was molesting boys. But the sign didn’t recommend calling the police: “With great pain we must, according to the request of the brilliant rabbis (may they live long and good lives), inform you that the young man,” who was named, “is, unfortunately, an injurious person and he is a great danger to our community.” This is a step in the right direction, but sadly, it is not very effective.

I know of one definitive example in which a serial child molester–I’m speaking of at least two-dozen individual accusations–left the country, rebuilt his life in Israel, and currently works with children. You would think for this not to be the case, considering the small Jewish geography we occupy, but it’s incredibly easy for a violator to re-root his life in another Jewish community and pick up exactly where they left off with a trail of unvindicated victims in his wake.

5. “It’s not as bad as “they” make it out to be.”

When it comes to harming young children, there should be a zero tolerance policy. I don’t care if it only happened once or twice. However, according to journalists Sharon Otterman and Ray Riveria “in recent months, a new program called Kol Tzedek, the Voice of Justice, has contributed to an effective crackdown on child sexual abuse among ultra-Orthodox Jews, saying it had led to 95 arrests involving more than 120 victims.” 95 arrests. 120 victims. Williamsburg, we have a problem.

6. “The rabbis understand things we cannot so we must accept it.”

The overwhelming response to the reposting of the Times articles on Orthodox Jewish blogs is that the notion of moser should never apply in regards to abuse especially when considering “dina d’malchusoh dina,” that we are obligated to follow the laws of the land we occupy. These commenters and readers are for the most part observent G-d fearing people, yet allowing the police to intervene seems obvious to them. This shouldn’t be seen as a contradiction.

If, in eventuality, the rabbis’ devotees, the frequent shul goers, and the check-writing participants speak out and demand a zero tolerance policy, maybe the molesting business wouldn’t be so good. But by the communal passivity, rabbis remaining silent, and the continued blind eye, they are ostensibly supporting the continuation of it. And it may come to a point when the crying of our children gets too difficult to ignore even as the words of some rabbis try to drown them out.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reporting Child Molestation in the Orthodox Jewish Community

13 pages of documents below - click on the NYT link, related to ultra-Orthodox child sex abuse allegations, show the difficult road victims and their families must tread as they seek justice through the secular court system, even as some parts of their community begin to loosen restrictions on reporting abuse.

  This letter was sent to the district attorney's office seven months after Meir Dascalowitz, a Williamsburg man, was arrested and charged with molesting Mr. Jungreis's son. Mr. Jungreis was concerned that Mr. Dascalowitz might be allowed to make a plea deal with prosecutors. DOCUMENTS :http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/05/10/nyregion/20120510-Orthodox-Documents.html?ref=nyregion

Failure of Leadership on Child Sex Abuse

Jews Should be Ashamed of Community's Culture of Silence

Shame for All: When leaders fail to expose wrongdoing, they bring shame on our entire community. As galling as the crimes themselves are the efforts to punish those who bravely try to report them.

 On a recent Sunday morning, I glanced at my newspaper and had another “cringe” moment. The story on the front page of The New York Times, like the Sholom Rubashkin, Bernie Madoff and Baruch Goldstein stories before it, exposed an underworld of evil with Jews at the center. This time, the papers focused on child abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community and on the failure of Brooklyn’s district attorney to aggressively pursue the perpetrators. But what bothered me most was that the community’s own leaders seemed more intent on punishing the whistleblowers than on protecting the children.

The clinical psychologist in me says child abuse can happen anywhere; no community is immune. To pretend otherwise is psychologically understandable but morally untenable. That it happens is sadly no surprise, even in religious communities. But when I take off the psychologist’s mantle, it’s harder for me to simply see this situation in relative terms.

The impact on the victims is of most concern, but, ironically, not what makes my insides churn. It’s broader questions that trouble me. Where are the real leaders? Where is the courage that should characterize Jewish leadership?

Leaders cover up these kinds of problems to protect a community from shame, but in so doing they actually have become arbiters of shame. They incite the very suspicions that they try to hide, and they lose credibility and trust in other areas as a result of their territoriality. We, as Jews, all look bad as a result.

I don’t want someone else’s moral crime to make me feel bad about myself, but on some level it can’t be helped. If it is true that “kol Yisrael areivim ze ba zeh” — that we are all responsible for the behavior of other Jews — much as we might want to deny the connections and disassociate ourselves from the problem, we cannot. We must bear some responsibility and exert some pressure. We cannot let problems like this go undiscussed just because we are not members of a specific sect or denomination. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s the peoplehood test at its most sensitive.

And if this is true for those of us on the outside of the ultra-Orthodox community, it is all the more true for members of that community. Their leaders betrayed an elemental Jewish value. They failed to act with responsibility and, as a result, put their own members at risk. Those most vulnerable became even more vulnerable, and even those of us distant from the problem suffer as members of the same religion.

This is a profound failure of leadership. People looking up to their rabbinic leaders for guidance need to see exemplars of bravery and moral clarity. And for those among us who care most about Jewish law, cases like this push the law to its uncomfortable limits. Open up the book of Leviticus, and behaviors like this are condemned with the strongest language of prohibition.

It’s all well and good to maintain traditions of life as they were in 18th-century Eastern Europe, but if the uses of cell phones and antibiotics are regarded as permissible advances, so should be the case with protecting children from abuse. Hiding the evil in our midst was once a way to protect us from non-Jews who might make us suffer more as a result. But today, the evil is often within. The same mechanisms we used then to protect ourselves in village shtetl life are now obstructing healthy, functional community infrastructures now.

Denial, repression and projection are defense mechanisms used to deal with anxiety. Sometimes these mechanisms are successful in managing anxiety generated by inner conflict. But they are never successful in defending against the ultimate reality. In his 2001 corporate best-seller, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins wrote about “facing brutal facts“ and the necessity to do so in order to achieve effective leadership. It’s time for ultra-Orthodox leaders to face some brutal facts about their own authority and start to lead. When they don’t, we all pay the price.

Misha Galperin, a former clinical psychologist, is CEO of the Jewish Agency International Development and author of the forthcoming book “Reimagining Leadership” (Jewish Lights).


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Family in Kolko civil suit subjected to psychological pressure to drop abuse case against Flatbush yeshiva.

 As Pressure On Hynes Builds, New Revelations Of Rabbis’ Intimidation

 by Hella Winston Special To The Jewish Week

The already distraught mother had reached the end of her rope.

She and her husband, parents of a now 13-year-old boy who they allege was sexually molested by his Brooklyn yeshiva teacher, were doing the unthinkable in the borough’s ultra-Orthodox community: bucking a system stacked heavily against them and pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Flatbush school that employed the teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko.

The system was pushing back, with a vengeance.

A prominent Brooklyn rabbi and Yaakov Applegrad, an administrator at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, the school parents were suing, asked the parents to a meeting — without their lawyer. After pleading with the couple to drop the suit, Applegrad and the rabbi turned up the heat and played the card they hoped would resonate powerfully with religious Jews: they compared the parents to Nazis for attempting to “bankrupt” the yeshiva. The Nazis, they said, destroyed the yeshiva in Europe built before the war by the father of Rabbi Lipa Margulies, Torah Temimah’s founder and dean. Now, the two suggested, the parents were doing the same with their lawsuit. (It is not clear that Rabbi Margulies’ father actually had a yeshiva in Europe).

The tactic worked. At a second meeting five days later, the husband, feeling “agitated … outnumbered and overwhelmed with terrible emotions,” and with his wife in tears, signed “under great duress” a document to end the lawsuit.

The couple quickly withdrew their agreement, and their lawsuit is going forward. But this episode — and others described by a second family suing the same yeshiva — highlights the particular perils facing haredi families who would attempt to hold yeshivas or other institutions civilly responsible for child molestation.

These revelations, recounted in a sworn affidavit submitted last year to the Brooklyn district attorney, come amid growing public pressure on the DA, Charles Hynes, to crack down on the intimidation of sex abuse victims by rabbis and other, often powerful, members of the community. A New York Times editorial Sunday chastised Hynes for helping to perpetuate a culture that protects abusers, not victims.

And the revelations come as calls mount from politicians, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch, for Hynes to end his special treatment of Orthodox sex offenders and to prosecute rabbis who obstruct justice. Koch, in an opinion piece he wrote on Newsmax.com, went so far as to call on the governor to appoint a special prosecutor to handle these cases if Hynes fails to change his approach. Hynes, who refuses to make public the names of indicted or convicted Orthodox molesters, has argued that releasing these names could potentially identify abuse victims because of what he has characterized as the “unique” nature of the “tight-knit” Orthodox community.

The DA did not file any charges regarding the pressure on the family — something the family’s attorney at the time, Michael Dowd, acknowledged would have been unlikely, given that these actions, within the context of a civil suit, do not rise to the level of a crime. However, the DA was given this information, according to Dowd, “to just show the kind of atmosphere in the community that makes it so difficult for [haredi abuse victims and their families]” to seek justice and redress for their children.

Fordham law professor James A. Cohen, an expert in witness tampering, agrees with Dowd in this case, noting, however, that if there were any actual threats made to the family, the conduct would have been criminal. Nonetheless, Cohen added, “I think it’s inexcusable that Jews behave like this.”

In 2008, Rabbi Kolko, who was facing felony charges of touching two first graders in their genital areas, was allowed to plead to the reduced charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. Rabbi Kolko was sentenced to three years’ probation. The two families who brought the criminal charges are suing Yeshiva Torah Temimah, where the abuse allegedly occurred.

To date, these have been the only viable civil suits brought by members of the haredi community in connection with child sexual abuse allegations. Ultimately, the father in the above case rejected the yeshiva’s settlement offer — the terms of which are not disclosed in the affidavit — because he “believed [the school] had knowingly allowed a dangerous pedophile to teach little children for decades and … had caused irreparable harm to my son.” He thus wanted to “take this case to trial and let the court decide what was right.”

The Jewish Week’s calls to Torah Temimah’s Applegrad and the other rabbi involved were not returned.

Allegations of abuse have dogged Rabbi Kolko for decades, and a letter issued in 2006 by the late Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg and posted exclusively in March on the blog FailedMessiah.com, indicates that Rabbi Kolko was investigated for these allegations by rabbis in 1985 and found innocent. At least four other alleged victims of Rabbi Kolko have come forward since 2005, but their alleged abuse took place after both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations had passed.

The two intense meetings described above were not the only instances in which the families of these boys, and those connected to them, have been subjected to psychological pressure, intimidation and threats.

As the New York Post first reported in February, the DA was also made aware that members of the other family suing Torah Temimah had been plagued by threatening anonymous phones calls urging them to drop the suit.

In an affidavit provided to the DA, the father of this victim recounts receiving a phone call in which “an unidentified male voice said, ‘You better back off or you’ll suffer the consequences.’” When he checked the Caller ID on his phone and called the number, a “phone system answered the call automatically and identified the location as Yeshivah Torah Temimah.”

The father also describes a “barrage of harassing and threatening phone calls” by unidentified callers “requesting that I drop this lawsuit” and threatening to “publicly humiliate and name” his son and shun him at his “neighborhood’s synagogues.”

The father also writes that the lawyer for Torah Temimah, Avi Moskowitz, asked his son’s therapist to persuade him and his wife to “drop this case” so as not to bankrupt the yeshiva. The details of this are recounted in a separate affidavit signed by the therapist......


Yeshiva Torah Temimah - Brooklyn, New York

Child Abuse in the Jewish Community & the D.A.'s Office

 by Ed Koch - Former Mayor of New York

The crime of sexually abusing a child, including adolescents and teens, is so heinous that the public is immediately shocked and angered. For a number of years, we have read of sex acts involving Catholic clergy with adolescents and seminarians taking place in a number of countries, including the U.S. The New York Times, to its credit, has been relentless in keeping this situation under examination by its reporters over the years with front page stories devoted to exposing the abuses.

The Times is now examining the sexual abuses taking place in the Jewish ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, primarily in Brooklyn, and the response of the Brooklyn District Attorney, Joe Hynes. The Hasidim started in eastern Europe several hundred years ago. Each Hasidic sect often takes the name of the village where their rabbi once lived. The Hasidic community is close knit, somewhat like the Amish. It maintains a lot of control over its members, with its rabbis and religious courts often being the arbiters of disputes. The Hassids, as they are known, prefer not to use secular governmental institutions, such as the police and courts. Those not abiding by community rules are often shunned and sometimes even assaulted.

In Brooklyn, the major communities where Hasidic groups live — the largest being Satmar and Lubavitch — are Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Borough Park. Different Hasidic groups contend with one another and other ethnic communities for space – their housing needs are enormous because they typically have very large families of eight or more children – and occasionally philosophical differences have led to physical attacks. In Brooklyn, many Hasidic groups have been very supportive of the Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, who is Irish and Catholic. The Times articles provide us with one major reason why the support. He apparently has treated them preferentially, particularly in child abuse cases.

The ultra-orthodox Jewish community, like all other communities, is ashamed of the fact that child sexual molestation exists in their community. However, the Hasidic community was apparently outraged when one of their members reported to civil authorities that his son had been sexually molested in a ritual bathhouse. As reported in a May 11 New York Times article authored by Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera: “The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested. Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg. Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment. Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew. And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis’s mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she ‘did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?’”

The Times article of May 11 also reported the statement of one of the most influential of all of the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel, stating, “‘You can destroy a person’s life with a false report,’ said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, which last year said that observant Jews should not report allegations to the police unless permitted to do so by a rabbi. Rabbinic authorities ‘recommend you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind,’ Rabbi Zwiebel said.”

The Times article cites a number of cases of sexual abuse of children and the threats parents received from rabbis and others in the community if they alerted the police. The article reported on the shunning by the community of a rabbi who urged victims of sexual molestation to call the police, reporting, “Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg of Williamsburg, for example, has been shunned by communal authorities because he maintains a telephone number that features his impassioned lectures in Yiddish, Hebrew and English imploring victims to call 911 and accusing rabbis of silencing cases. He also shows up at court hearings and provides victims’ families with advice. His call-in line gets nearly 3,000 listeners a day. In 2008, fliers were posted around Williamsburg denouncing him. One depicted a coiled snake, with Mr. Rosenberg’s face superimposed on its head. ‘Nuchem Snake Rosenberg: Leave Tainted One!’ it said in Hebrew. The local Satmar Hasidic authorities banned him from their synagogues, and a wider group of 32 prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and religious judges signed an order, published in a community newspaper, formally ostracizing him.”

Times writers Ray Rivera and Sharon Otterman reported in their article of May 10, “An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined  that the suspicions were credible. The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority. But the district attorney ‘expressed no opposition or objection,’ the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled.”

If in fact, Hynes assented to this procedure, in my opinion, he was blessing the obstruction of justice. The law requires certain categories of employees, e.g., teachers, social workers, etc., to immediately report to the government any information they gain concerning a case of child abuse.

 For a rabbi to counsel otherwise, I believe, is a criminal act to be pursued by the District Attorney rather than countenanced.

To the credit of the Lubavitch community, the article reports, “In Crown Heights, where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has its headquarters, there has been more significant change. In July 2011, a religious court declared that the traditional prohibition against mesirah [being an informer against a fellow Jew] did not apply in cases with evidence of abuse. ‘One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,’ said the ruling, signed by two of the court’s three judges.”

District Attorney Hynes is also accused of, and admits to, the charge that he has “taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program [protecting ultra-orthodox Jews for engaging in sexual abuse of children]— even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.”

Last week I was asked by Azi Paybarah of Capital New York for my views on this aspect of Hynes’ official acts. My response, quoted on the Capital New York blog published on May 11, was as follows: “This community does not deserve to have any preferential treatment” and “he should treat them exactly as he would anyone else.” Koch, who is Jewish, said Hynes should prosecute the rabbis who interfered with victims reporting accusations of abuse. ‘We’re all equal under the law and they have to subscribe to the law without getting preferential treatment,‘ Koch said. ‘It’s just dead wrong. And there’s no explanation to make it right in any way.’”

At this point, unless District Attorney Hynes announces that he will release the names of all defendants, including those of ultra orthodox Jews charged with child abuse, sexual or otherwise, and will pursue criminally anyone who engages in obstruction of justice, advising someone not to assist the police in their investigation of a child abuse incident, the Governor should supersede him in these cases and appoint a special prosecutor to handle them.


Monday, May 14, 2012

....But even Heaven is not above the law!

by Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO — The New York Times has now published an article that carefully chronicles a disquieting, alarming social reality brimming inside the fundamentalist Jewish community of Brooklyn: adult members of the enclave who have reported the sexual abuse of youngsters on the part of rabbis, teachers, and other professionals are being shunned and excoriated by others in the area.

This kind of medieval syndrome, a sad blend of paranoia and sanctimony, is condemning innocent children and protecting evil people who need to be condemned. It rehabilitates no one in need of serious clinical intervention and perpetuates the stranglehold of power-hungry old men that have no concept of ecclesiastic privilege and responsibility. It is locking kids into a spiritual ghetto that has nothing to do with either American or Jewish enlightenment.

There isn’t much of a distance between the perpetrators of such heinous acts and those who are effectively complicit by actually ostracizing their informants. No amount of Torah-waving, self-righteousness, or pious rationalization can possibly whitewash the fact that this trend, this hypocrisy, is scandalous, immoral, and quite possibly criminal.

There is certainly nothing in the Jewish textual tradition that supports this shameless practice; it is simply an outgrowth of the growing fiefdom of hardline rabbis whose power is viewed by their devotees as unyielding, boundless, and which even flouts the laws of the state. A number of journalists are looking into the comfortable relationship that seems to exist among the rabbis in Brooklyn and other heavily Hasidic towns and boroughs and the local or regional district attorneys. The sages are steeped in prayer and in electoral privilege—this writer will leave it to others to figure out whether it’s about money or reverence.

In any category, it is horrifying and needs to be addressed. I learned a long time ago, while preparing for the rabbinate, that Israel is often compared to a lamb. When any part of the creature is hurting, even its paw, the whole being is affected. This aphorism is Talmudic, as is the signal declaration by Rabbi Hillel: “In a place where are no human beings, you strive to be human.” In other words, the insular, detrimental, reactionary mindset of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who regard state laws as somehow incidental to rabbinic edicts, who incredulously condemn their neighbors who have the integrity and courage to report sexual criminals to the authorities (so as to protect the community reputation) have turned their backs on Jewish values, on biblical ideals—and on their own molested children.

Brooklyn is an eclectic, vibrant, and increasingly diverse city. Two hundred fifty thousand fundamentalist Jews live there—they are as thick as blackberries in the streets and parks and storefronts. They study texts and sing psalms as old as God. They publish great books and maintain sacred traditions and they look to the heavens for their inspiration. But even Heaven is not above the law.

Ben Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Who Speaks for the Children?


For decades, Brooklyn prosecutors pursuing child molesters netted few complaints or convictions in the borough’s cloistered, politically powerful community of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Rabbinical authorities banned relatives of the abused from reporting the crimes to non-Jewish authorities; those few who spoke out were shunned — expelled from synagogues, their children expelled from schools — or pressured into dropping their cases.

As Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera reported in The Times this week, this intolerable situation has slowly begun to change, as some community members have dared to speak up for the victims, no matter the personal cost. While some religious leaders now say that molesters should be turned over to the police, too many still insist on covering up these crimes.

Instead of protecting their community, they are doing enormous, shameful damage.

Brooklyn’s district attorney, Charles Hynes, who has received considerable political support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, has been accused by victim advocates of not doing enough to face the problem. His office denies this, noting he roiled the community in 1999 in accusing a prominent rabbi of witness-tampering in a child abuse case and three years ago set up a hot line for child abuse complaints in the community.

He needs to do a lot more to help the victims and demonstrate his independence. Mr. Hynes can start by ending his policy of refusing to announce the names of accused molesters from the ultra-Orthodox community. He does not shield the names of other defendants, and no other city district attorney employs such a selective policy, according to The Times.

Mr. Hynes’s insistence that victims might hesitate to come forward if defendants were identified is absurd. The clear message to the victims is that the system is intent on protecting abusers.

Studies find that the problem of child abuse in the Brooklyn community is no greater than elsewhere. What is needed is far more of the candor and initiative displayed last summer by a religious court in Brooklyn’s Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic neighborhood. The court ruled the traditional prohibition against mesirah — turning in of a Jew to non-Jewish authorities — did not apply in cases of sexually abused children. “One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,” it declared. Everyone who cares about children should listen.


Bloomberg Among Critics of Prosecutor in Brooklyn

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Friday sharply criticized the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, over his handling of child sexual abuse cases among the borough’s large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Mr. Bloomberg said through a spokesman that he “completely disagrees” with Mr. Hynes’s decision to not object to the position of an influential ultra-Orthodox advocacy group on reporting allegations of child sexual abuse. The group announced last year that adherent Jews must obtain permission from a rabbi before reporting such allegations to district attorneys or the police.

The group’s position could conflict with a state law that requires teachers, counselors and others to report allegations immediately to the authorities.

“Any abuse allegations should be brought to law enforcement, who are trained to assess their accuracy and act appropriately,” said a spokesman for the mayor, Marc LaVorgna.

The mayor was responding to an article in The New York Times on Friday that examined Mr. Hynes’s record on these cases and his relations with ultra-Orthodox leaders in neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Borough Park.

District attorneys in New York are elected, and the mayor has no authority over Mr. Hynes’s conduct. But the mayor was adding his voice to growing criticism of Mr. Hynes’s record on child sexual abuse cases involving the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Victims’ groups have accused Mr. Hynes of being too accommodating to politically powerful rabbis who have often sought to resolve allegations of sexual abuse quietly through rabbinical panels.

Mr. Hynes has also adopted a policy of not publicizing accusations of child sexual abuse involving ultra-Orthodox Jews, even as he has continued to publicize the names of other defendants accused of sex crimes. Mr. Hynes’s aides said Mr. Hynes was not publicizing the accusations to avoid revealing the identities of victims in the highly insular community.

Asked on Friday about Mr. Bloomberg’s criticism, Mr. Hynes’s spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer, declined to comment.

Last summer, Mr. Hynes met with a top official of Agudath Israel of America, the ultra-Orthodox advocacy group, who informed him about the group’s position that allegations could be reported to the authorities only if a rabbi first determined that they were credible. Mr. Hynes’s aides said Mr. Hynes told the official, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, that he “wouldn’t interfere with someone’s decision to consult with his or her rabbi about allegations of sexual abuse, but would expect that these allegations of criminal conduct be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.”

In an interview, Rabbi Zwiebel said the need to consult a rabbi first outranks even New York’s mandatory reporting law. Even a teacher, he said, should go to a rabbi if a child says he or she is being abused before the teacher reports it.

“The rabbis’ consensus is go to a rabbi, because of the stringency of the matter on both sides of the equation, both the Jewish legal implications and because you can destroy a person’s life with a false report,” Rabbi Zwiebel said.

On Friday, the leading Democratic mayoral candidates also took issue with the ultra-Orthodox policy on reporting abuse allegations. “Our first concern is with victims of crime, especially potential victims of child abuse, and the first call should be to the appropriate law enforcement authorities,” Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, said.

Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said, “Law enforcement must focus all its attention on protecting victims, not on shielding abusers.”

The public advocate, Bill de Blasio, said, “There should be one standard of justice for the whole city.”

Tom Allon, a community newspaper publisher who is also a candidate, compared the issue to those involving the Roman Catholic Church “and what happened at Penn State....”