Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stopping The Silence

Trailblazing the continent on foot, raising awareness of child sex abuse
CBeebies actor Matthew McVarish, himself the victim of an abusive uncle, is taking a 16,000km trek to raise awareness of the problem
Actor Matthew McVarish, who is known to millions as one of the stars of CBeebies series ‘Me Too!’, won’t stop walking until he has stopped the silence (Photo: Peter Stanners)
Scottish actor Matthew McVarish has decided to take a very long walk – a 16,000km walk in fact.

He walks up to 50km each day, sometimes through sun and often through rain, but always with the same mission: to raise awareness about child sex abuse.

Between this past May and February 2015, McVarish will visit 31 European capitals as part of a project called ‘Road to Change’, which endeavours to prevent sex abuse cases by encouraging past victims to speak out. As part of his journey, McVarish stopped in Copenhagen last week after walking from Berlin.

A star of the BBC children’s programme ‘Me Too!’, McVarish also works as the European ambassador for the non-profit organisation Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse. He said he views his trip around Europe as one of the responsibilities of the position.

“I decided to visit all of the European capitals, but I decided to walk because that way people would be more interested,” he explained. “If I had just flown here, I don’t think the cause would get as much attention.”

Connected to the cause

For McVarish, the project has a particularly personal significance. The youngest of seven siblings, McVarish and three of his older brothers were all sexually abused by their uncle as children.

“As quite often happens, we didn’t talk about it,” he said. “About five years ago, three of my brothers were very depressed and struggling. I was looking for some help, and I found Stop the Silence.”

Inspired by the organisation, McVarish went on to write a play, ‘To Kill a Kelpie’, about two brothers discussing their experiences with sex abuse. The production motivated his own brothers to speak out themselves, and the four later pressed charges against their uncle, who is now in prison.

“I think when my brothers saw the misery they were experiencing on stage, they realised how important it was that we do something,” he said.

McVarish pointed out, however, that his intentions weren’t to drag out the past for him or for anyone he meets on the road. Instead, he hopes to help prevent cases of abuse in the future by encouraging victims to speak up.

“I’ve spoken to thousands of survivors on my walk, and I ask them if they’ve ever talked to the police. Many say that they don’t feel strong enough to stand in the same courtroom as the person who abused them,” he said.

“I completely understand that, because it’s very difficult,” he went on. “But I ask them: ‘Do you think you’re stronger as an adult than the child that same person might abuse tonight, or tomorrow, or next week?’ It’s not about seeking revenge or compensation, it’s about child protection right now.”

Stopping the silence

In each city he visits, McVarish meets with public officials to encourage policy change, particularly in regards to the respective country’s statute of limitations for reporting cases of child sex abuse. While no statute exists in McVarish’s home country, it is currently set at ten years in Denmark and varies throughout Europe.

“There will always be cases just outside of the bracket, no matter the amount of time,” McVarish said. “And the person who abused them could still be out walking the streets.”

But the main focus of his walk, McVarish pointed out, is to facilitate open discussions about abuse in communities where the topic is seldom addressed.

“There are an estimated 100 million abuse survivors in Europe, many of them in rural areas. So for their local paper to have a guy on the front page talking about sex abuse not as a scandal, but just trying to deal with it, can be very valuable.”

“People in smaller countries often find it more difficult to report because everyone in the community knows each other,” he went on. “Nobody wants to speak out against their neighbour.”

On the road

After a week-long stay, McVarish departed Copenhagen on the morning of Saturday, September 7 and headed towards Helsingør, accompanied for a short leg by the British ambassador, Vivien Life. He will next stop in Stockholm on September 28.

While issues like weather or a low mobile battery have occasionally made the trip uncomfortable, the road has been relatively smooth thus far.

“I was walking through a national park recently and walked right past a wild boar,” he chuckled. “Otherwise, I’ve seen lots of snakes, but none were a threat, and I’ve had no trouble with people.”

“Once a day while I’ve been walking through Denmark, someone would stop me on the highway and offer to give me a lift, but I always said: ‘No thanks’. They’d ask where I was headed and I’d say: ‘Copenhagen’. That inspired some strange looks.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Future Of Our Kids Depends On It!"

EDITORIAL: For the sake of our children, truth must emerge from Royal Comission into institutional child sex abuse    

In that time the Commission has heard hundreds of stories, both horrifying and heartbreaking.

More than a thousand survivors are yet to give their own evidence.

As Commissioner Peter McClellan recently said, the personal accounts confirm the devastating effects of abuse, and prove any exploitation has "catastrophic consequences" for survivors who are then likely to lead "a life which is seriously compromised from what it might otherwise have been".

Tragically, abuse robs not just the child but also the woman or man who grows from that point.

Allegations of child abuse in institutional settings have long plagued organisations, some with proud histories.

Yet, until this Commission's first public hearings in April this year, no systematic review of these accusations had been undertaken in Australia.

For too long any number of churches (synagogues), community organisations and state care facilities have been under a cloud as to what did or did not happen to the children under their watch, and what those institutions did about it.

Some ugly truths will inevitably be peeled back, but the Commission's brief is not just to hear survivors' stories, or just to bring their perpetrators to justice.

These are, of course, critical developments that will assist victims in moving on with their lives.

Arguably the Commission's most vital role is to understand how institutions have dealt with child abuse allegations in the past so that a more transparent and dependable framework to prevent and report abuse in the future can be set up for all community bodies involving children.

But to get to that point, some brutally frank questions must be asked.

What, for example, did these institutions know about the child abuse perpetrated? How quickly was such abuse reported? Were incidents covered up and offenders protected in the name of public relations?

These questions will undoubtedly reveal even more heart-wrenching stories, yet they must be told.

Some of those terrible stories came out last week when the Commission resumed its public hearings in Sydney.

It was then that we heard how such bodies as Scouts Australia and the Department of Community Services dealt with allegations that the former head of Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services, Steven Larkins, had abused children in his care.

The fact that such esteemed institutions as Scouts Australia, as well as the various churches, should be asked such questions will, again, prove painful for countless Australians who boast a long and happy association with these bodies.

It will be humbling to many and painful for most, but it's an agony that must be endured if the truth is to emerge and if children are to be protected in the future.

More pain will inevitably be felt next month when the Commission examines the role of the police and the YMCA, with more distress in November when the Anglican diocese of Grafton comes under the spotlight. Yet the truth must come out and wrongdoers must be held to account.

The impatient may baulk at Justice McClellan's early warning that the Commission is unlikely to meet its deadline of an interim report by next June, and that he and his five co-commissioners may well need to investigate beyond the tentative end date of 2015.

But meticulous scrutiny cannot be rushed, nor should it be when the safety and wellbeing of children is at stake.

Australians must feel they can trust our national institutions' care of children, and trust can only come if the Commission can demonstrate diligence.

The future of our kids depends on it.

* * *

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"No Community Is Immune"

Taskforce keeps people safe

 Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence chairperson Deborah Wiener runs a call service to help people in the jewish community. Picture: Derrick den Hollander Source: News Limited          
FOR about 20 years the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence has been breaking down barriers and creating awareness to keep people safe.
The taskforce's Sheiny New said there had been scepticism in parts of the Jewish community about whether abuse happened.

"No community is immune, not the Jewish community either," she said.

The taskforce runs a safe and confidential support line, trains rabbis about how to approach issues such as family violence and child sexual abuse, and runs information sessions for schools and the community.

Ms New said they'd trained 30 rabbis from ultra-orthodox to secular communities to respond to issues of abuse over the past six years.

They have published the book Will my Rabbi Believe Me? Will He Understand about how vital a rabbi's response was to healing of victims.

"No matter how someone identifies themselvse on the Jewish religious spectrum, to them it was very important the rabbis understand," she said.

The taskforce also tackles child sexual abuse.

"If there is a child who is a victim of sexual assault, every procedure has to be put in place to make sure the safety of the child is provided," she said.

They notify police, and professionals and run education programs with schools.

"We teach (children) how to wear a seatbelt, or put fences around schools, creating awareness of child sexual assault is no different as a safety precaution," she said.

"That they have the right to feel safe... they have the right to say, 'no, stop that'... and a parent to have the understanding of the issues, how to recognise the red flags."


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

'Unfathomable' prior abuse was not known to Principal Rabbi ???


David Samuel Cyprys convicted of child sexual abuse at Melbourne's Yeshiva College

A second man has been convicted of sexually abusing children at a Melbourne Jewish school.
David Samuel Cyprys, 45, admitted interfering with nine children at Yeshiva College, Jewish youth camps and ritual spiritual baths from the 1980s to the early 90s.

He is the second paedophile to be convicted of abusing students at Yeshivah and in both instances, evidence tendered in court suggests those in charge were given ample warning but chose to do nothing.

Cyprys' abuse of young boys began when Cyprys himself was only 14 and involved nine victims who Cyprus variously raped, molested and coerced into performing sex acts with himself and with each other.

He was convicted last month of five counts of rape and has now pleaded guilty to further charges including indecent assault and gross indecency.

Cyprys' lawyer today told the County Court he wants his client to read the victim impact statements of the boys he abused before he is psychologically assessed for sentencing.

The case has been adjourned to November 8 for a pre-sentence hearing.

Abuse made victim question his faith

One of those boys Cyprys abused is Victim M.
"It's all still so fresh and raw," M told the ABC.
"It's a feeling of relief; I feel vindicated for the public campaign.
"I do feel that this (conviction) is going to assist many victims in the Jewish community who will now see that you can get justice.

"Even though this may have happened decades ago, it's never too late."

Cyprys worked variously as a security guard, locksmith, martial arts instructor and school camp leader at St Kilda's Yeshivah College.

"Even though this may have happened decades ago, it's never too late," Said Victim M

 He used those roles to coerce his victims into exposing themselves to him and performing sexual acts on him and on one another under various guises, telling them the acts were punishments, martial arts training or religious.

Victim M was molested in spiritual baths connected to the school and says the experience has left an indelible mark on his faith.

"My whole belief in God has been something that I've been struggling with for decades, essentially since that time when I was abused," M said.

"So, from my perspective it has shaken myself - and many of the other victims I've been in contact with - to the core.

"They're not sure where they stand, what religion means to them."

He says that is because he and other victims were made to feel like they had done the wrong thing when they tried to report Cyprys' abuse while it was happening.

'Unfathomable' prior abuse was not known to Principal Rabbi... ?

In July, Rabbi David Kramer was jailed for abusing four boys at Yeshivah in the early 1990s.

Victoria Police criticised the school for helping Kramer escape to the US.

The magistrate who committed Cyprys to stand trial described as "unfathomable" the assertion of then principal Rabbi Yitzcock Dovid Groner that he had no knowledge of the allegations at the time, despite two parents testifying they had told him Cyprys had interfered with their children.

Victim M says: "How could they, some of the Yeshivah leadership, really be concerned much more about the welfare of the perpetrator than they were with the welfare of the victims?"

He said compensation is "something we are seriously considering".

Yeshivah College has told the ABC it cannot comment because Principal Rabbi Smukler is on leave.

Last week, however, Australia's most senior orthodox rabbi Moshe Gutnick spoke to the ABC about a letter he sent to every synagogue in Australia, admitting the Jewry's failings in dealing with sexual abuse.

"It acknowledges a culture of cover up," he said.

"In other words, I'm not talking about any specific incident or case, I'm talking about this feeling that it should be kept in house and quiet and not shame the community, and that again was completely wrong."


Monday, September 16, 2013

“We have more of an understanding today that a teacher, a mentor, needs a firm, clear-cut, rigid standard about what is permissible and that to take advantage of one’s position will lead to pain and suffering for a lot of kids.”

Claims of child sex abuse handled more openly now

Advocates urge stricter laws, detailed rules about adult behavior

Fresh scandals continue to revive the same issues in different communities. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, for instance, have received unprecedented scrutiny in recent years for covering up abuse and even harassing victims.
Sep. 14, 2013   |  
The forceful, full-body hugs from a former teacher that she didn’t want and that lasted too long, Ann Hunkins said, started when she was 14 and a freshman at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge in 1980.

He’d appear as she sat at the bus stop or walked across campus and put his arm around her. Or he’d corner her in an alcove under a staircase, pinning her against his body in a long, awkward embrace as she struggled to get free, she said.

In her fear and confusion, the teen never notified authorities. She convinced her mother not to tell the school because she worried she wouldn’t be believed.

At the time, other students and staff seemed to think the behavior was acceptable, Hunkins, 47, told The Journal News in an interview Tuesday.

“I wish I had heard somebody say, ‘Oh, he’s a real letch,’ because then I would have just realized maybe this isn’t something that should be happening, maybe my feeling that it’s not OK is correct,” she said.

Hunkins was motivated to open up about her past for the first time by Green Meadow’s aggressive response when similar allegations implicating the same teacher were revealed this summer in a memoir by a former student, author Kate Christensen. Within weeks of the book’s publication, the school identified the teacher, banned him from campus and launched an investigation — a sharp departure from how institutions usually handled allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago.
 “To heal something, you have to look at it square. You have to look at it openly and honestly,” said Green Meadow co-administrator Eric Silber. “I think we, as a school, can look at our past and learn from it and grow and make sure that this will never happen again.”
Public awareness of sexual abuse — and how institutions deal with allegations — has fundamentally changed since the Catholic Church’s crisis erupted in 2002. Since then, numerous religious and other groups have faced public accusations of abuse and have had to quickly decide how open to be about ugly episodes from the past.

Ongoing revelations about the abuse of minors, both from recent years and the distant past, have rocked the Boy Scouts of America, Pennsylvania State University, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, several Catholic dioceses, the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, the Horace Mann School in Riverdale in the Bronx, pockets of public schools and others.

The Waldorf School’s decisive response to Christensen’s memoir may represent changing social attitudes about sexual misconduct. Experts say that while there have been high-profile cases of organizations resisting change, many groups have revamped their thinking and policies regarding the seriousness of abuse.

“When I talk to people, the big question they ask is ‘Are we responding quickly enough?’ ” said Patrick Boyle, the author of a book about sex abuse in the Boy Scouts. As spokesman for the Forum for Youth Investment in Washington, he talks to youth groups about their policies for investigating abuse.

Boyle said that many groups, including the Boy Scouts, generally respond to allegations much faster than a decade ago.

“The pendulum has swung on how these things are handled, largely because of the publicity and lawsuits,” Boyle said. “Even though you have the Horace Mann case and the Orthodox Jewish groups, most larger groups are erring on the side of caution, to cover themselves. But you can’t say that everyone within an organization responds the right way or that the problem is solved.”
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said that many institutions are now run by people with modern attitudes about the effects of abuse who are not afraid to confront painful issues that were once hushed up.

“Having more women in leadership makes a difference, as they may be more sensitive in handling these episodes, supporting the victims and encouraging other people to come forward,” he said.

Finkelhor noted that the outspoken scientist Richard Dawkins, who says he was abused by a priest when he was a boy, maintained in a recent interview that he wouldn’t condemn “mild pedophilia” from earlier eras.

“Dawkins is 72 and that’s an older-generation, male take on this whole thing,” Finkelhor said. “We have more of an understanding today that a teacher, a mentor, needs a firm, clear-cut, rigid standard about what is permissible and that to take advantage of one’s position will lead to pain and suffering for a lot of kids.”

Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan and one of the nation’s foremost critics of how religious groups handle abuse, said many states are reforming their statutes of limitations to give victims new opportunities to sue abusers and the institutions that protected them. Minnesota and California passed legislation this year and New York is among several states where bills are pending.

“Change is happening, but also the pace of change is quickening,” Hamilton said. “State legislators are more educated. The public is more knowledgeable.”

Fresh scandals continue to revive the same issues in different communities. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, for instance, have received unprecedented scrutiny in recent years for covering up abuse and even harassing victims.

Many observers say that longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes was defeated Tuesday, in part, because of his reluctant handling of abuse cases in Orthodox communities.

Shmarya Rosenberg, who tracks Orthodox news on his blog, Failed Messiah, said Ultra-Orthodox communities have not faced the need to confront sexual abuse.

“School administrations and Haredi community activists and leaders still cover up sexual and physical abuse — and they also persecute the victims and their families if those victims and families report the abuse to police,” he said. “But as bad as this problem is, it is made far worse by district attorneys who are beholden to Haredi bloc votes.”
Twitter: @lohudeducation and @MareesaNicosia

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Communal Confession



A Communal Confession by 5TJT Editorial Staff

viduijpgאשמנו  - We have been guilty.  We have cared more for our reputations than we have for the victims of molesters in our midst.
בגדנו  - We have betrayed the innocent and the weak among us.  We have ignored the pleas of those who have been victimized.
גזלנו  - We have stolen. We have stolen the childhood and the innocence of victims by not acting to remove people from positions of authority where they can continue abusing.
דברנו דופי  -We have spoken falsely.  We have said that those who make such accusations are liars – when we either knew that this was not the case, or where we were unsure. We have misused the notion of Chezkas Kashrus to ignore our obligation to protect our charges.
העוינו  - We have caused others to sin.  By allowing redifus to be swept under the table, we have allowed other molesters to further sin.
והרשענו  - We have caused others to do evil. By not acting upon what we had known we have caused others to pursue the victims and their supporters and to label them mosrim.
זדנו  - We have had evil hearts.  We have planned revenge against victims of molestation and their supporters by excluding them from the communal institutions that we control.  We have vilified them in our papers and publications.
חמסנו  - We have become violent.  We have yelled at victims and their supporters and have fought against them.
טפלנו שקר  - We have attached lies.  We have attached ourselves to sinners.  We have allowed molesters to continue operating and have actively supported them.
יעצנו רע  - We have advised evil.  We have told people who have molested others what to do to avoid being caught.
כזבנו  - We have lied. We have done so in crafty ways where we have taught ourselves to be deceptive people.
לצנו  - We have scoffed.  We have made fun of those who have pointed out the fundamentally wrong issues of not cleaning up our act.  We have labeled them mosrim, anti-Semites, and self-hating Jews who try to destroy our Torah Mosdos.
מרדנו  - We have rebelled against the noble principles of the Torah in allowing this shameful behavior to continue.
ניאצנו  - We have been scornful – causing Hashem to be angry at us.  We have not cared to ascertain the truth or to protet Hashem’s nation from a grave internal danger.
סרנו  - We have turned from the path of the Torah’s truthful ideals and have created a Chilul Hashem.
עוינו  - We have intentionally allowed Chilul Hashem to continue by making Klal Yisroel look like they defend child molesters and that we do not protect the victims.
פשענו  - We have sinned/ rebelled.  We have entirely ignored the psak din of Gedolim who have said that when there is clear Raglayim ladavar to molestation we must involve authorities
צררנו  - We have persecuted members of Klal Yisroel by only getting rid of the known molester from our school, but allowing him to move to other communities and continue.
קשינו עורף  - We have been stiff-necked and stubborn in this matter and still have not learned important lessons.
רשענו  - We have been lawless and wicked.  We have created an environment where those who stand up for victims are looked at as troublemakers.
שיחתנו  - We have corrupted our communities with the incorrect notion that it is forbidden to protect victims from their oppressors.
תעינו  - We have strayed.  We have strayed far from the ideals of Torah in supporting oppressors and even in saying, “We have other things to worry about first.”
תיעבנו  - We have done abominations.  Our support for those who victimize others is a complete abomination in the eyes of Hashem.
תיעתענו  - We have allowed ourselves to be led astray.  Because of this issue we have ceased our role in becoming a light unto the nations and are off-track.
וסרנו ממצותיך וממשפטיך הטובים ולא שוה לנו ואתה צדיק על כל הבא עלינו כי אמת עשית ואנחנו הרשענו – We have turned away from your Mitzvos and chosen something unworthy of us.         And You Hashem are Righteous in all that is brought upon us for You have done Truth and we have wrought evil.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Cultural Cover-Up"


Rabbi Moshe Gutnick apologises for child sex abuse in Jewish community

Updated Wed 11 Sep 2013, 5:03pm AEST
Australia's most senior orthodox rabbi, Moshe Gutnick, has formally apologised for child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
In a written apology on the eve of Yom Kippur, he said the issue has been handled inappropriately with a culture of covering up abuse.

Rabbi Gutnick asked victims of abuse for forgiveness and urged them to come forward to ensure police can prosecute the perpetrators.

"We need to empower ourselves and victims to help to bring this scourge to an end," he said.

Talking to reporters, the rabbi addressed what he called a "cultural cover-up" with those inside the church refusing to contact the proper authorities in the belief sexual assault was a church issue, not a criminal one.

"I'm not talking about any specific incident or case. I'm talking about there was this idea of keeping the problem in house," he said.

"For something that was part of much of our thought processes and that again was completely wrong and we have to now be very open about what takes place."

He also acknowledged how a case he handled in 1987 has remained with him over the decades since.

"I received an anonymous phone call from a very young person telling me that they had been sexually abused," he said.

"At the time I reported it to the people involved but I didn't take it very seriously."

Rabbi Gutnick said he now regrets not taking action at the the time to catch and punish the perpetrator.

"If I would have done more, if I would have followed it up, if the perpetrator would have then been identified and caught, then there are many victims after that that would have been saved," he said.

In addition to the apology, the letter also addressed the behaviour of those inside the church, calling upon the majority of rabbi's to adopt a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Tzedek, a group advocating for Jewish victims of child sexual abuse, has welcomed the letter, describing it as a ground breaking milestone for the Jewish community.

The founder and chief of Tzedek, Manny Weks, says an apology is an important step in the healing process for victims.

"I don't necessarily think that it is all of a sudden going to change overnight," he said.

"But it certainly does send out a very strong message that the peak body of the rabbinate and the orthodox community in Australia has taken an unequivocal position on this matter.

"It leaves no ambiguity on how they need to respond to this issue."


Monday, September 09, 2013

The New Science of (The Diseased) Mind

Sholom Tendler
Yisroel Belsky

Yehuda Kolko

"ANY discussion of the biological basis of psychiatric disorders must include genetics. And, indeed, we are beginning to fit new pieces into the puzzle of how genetic mutations influence brain development. ........Our understanding of the biology of mental disorders has been slow in coming, but recent advances like these have shown us that mental disorders are biological in nature, that people are not responsible for having schizophrenia or depression, and that individual biology and genetics make significant contributions........"

READ ENTIRE ARTICE: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/opinion/sunday/the-new-science-of-mind.html?pagewanted=1&src=recg

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Yisroel Belsky's Vile Self-Interest Will Have Serious Consequences For Kolko!

Yosef Kolko, former Lakewood yeshiva counselor, seeks to nullify plea in molestation case


 In Part: "Parents of a boy in Lakewood, NJ pressed charges of sexual molestation against Rabbi Yosef Kolko. Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the Orthodox Union’s halachic authority for kashrut, publicly accused those parents of “mesirah,” the crime of turning a Jew over to secular authorities.

As a result, the complainants were driven out of Lakewood. A few months ago Rabbi Kolko confessed to his crimes. Nevertheless, Rabbi Belsky continues to condemn the complainants as “mosrim.” (And the lowlife, menuvel, degenerate Belsky accused the father of the child of being the real molester of his own child and not Kolko -- all this to cover for Kolko.  There's not a greater twisted, evil person in the entire Jewish community than Belsky. How shameful that Yeshiva Torah Vodaath let's him walk in the building, never mind keeps him as the Rosh Yeshiva) --- UOJ)  His position is contrary to the OU's position and that of its rabbinic arm, the Rabbinical Council of America, that child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

The OU (and Yeshiva Torah Vodaath - I'm talking to you Chaim Leshkowitz - UOJ) has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky.

 It is time that the OU.... publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU. Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities. The existence of the Takanah Forum in Israel is refreshing. Nothing like it exists yet in the United States, though still our community has made some progress in recent years.

But the fact that communal leaders in these two cases are protecting and enabling abusers, or condemning legitimate accusers, underscores that our community still has a long way to go. And given the high stakes of life and death and mental health of our children, we can’t afford to wait.  Things will only change if our community loudly and articulately demands it."

Rabbi Heshie Billet, a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, is spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Woodmere. 

 ENTIRE ARTICLE BY RABBI BILLET: http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2013/08/not-enough-progress-by-rabbis-leaders.html

The Face Of Evil

Yosef Kolko's Mugshot

TOMS RIVER — The lawyer representing a former yeshiva camp counselor in a Lakewood sexual abuse case wants to have his client’s guilty plea nullified, claiming the defendant was pressured by the community into admitting guilt in the case.
Alan L. Zegas, a Chatham attorney representing Yosef Kolko, filed a motion to withdraw his client’s guilty plea.

Kolko, 39, of Geffen Drive in Lakewood, had been scheduled to be sentenced in the child sex-abuse case on Wednesday, but Zegas’ motion prompted its postponement.

When reached by telephone and asked for the reasons why Kolko should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, Zegas responded, “He was significantly pressured to pleaded (guilty). There are other reasons as well that interfered with his ability to make a voluntary, willing decision.

“Even when the plea was taken, there was reference to him feeling pressure from the community,” Zegas said of his client.

When specifically asked from whom the pressure came, Zegas responded, “From many sources. That will be explained in the brief.”

Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson gave Zegas until Sept. 30 to file a brief outlining the reasons why he should consider allowing the guilty plea to be withdrawn.

Hodgson scheduled a hearing on the motion for Oct. 17. If Zegas doesn’t convince the judge to allow his client to withdraw his guilty plea, Hodgson will proceed to sentence Kolko that day, according to court officials.

The defendant could face up to 40 years in prison, although Hodgson, when accepting Kolko’s guilty plea, told him he would consider capping any prison term at 15 years.

Kolko pleaded guilty May 13 to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, a boy who was 11 and 12 years old when the abuse occurred in 2008 and 2009.

Kolko was the boy’s camp counselor at Yachad, a summer camp that is run by the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood. He also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood.

Kolko admitted performing various acts of molestation on the child only after Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro told the judge that two more potential victims of Kolko’s had come forward to authorities. Pierro said the state would not bring further charges against Kolko related to the other victims, in exchange for his guilty plea.

Zegas said some of the factors a judge would consider in deciding whether a guilty plea can be withdrawn are whether the plea agreement was entered into voluntarily and knowingly and whether the defendant had a full understanding of the consequences of his plea.

Zegas replaced Michael F. Bachner, who was Kolko’s attorney during the trial and guilty plea.
Kathleen Hopkins: 732-643-4202; khopkins@ njpressmedia.com


Monday, September 02, 2013

Light Unto Nations?

So it turns out that Y.U. is just one more religious institution among many in America in which young people were abused by people with authority, which failed to protect those whom it was responsible to protect and which now is doing the best it can to acknowledge its wrongdoing while protecting itself. No ohr lagoyim — light unto nations — here, just an administration and a board that is k’chol hagoyim: just like everyone else.

On August 26, the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, hired by Yeshiva University to look into allegations of past abuse at the university’s High School for Boys, finally concluded its eight-month investigation and released a report detailing its findings. As one of the high school students abused in the early 1970s and as one of the more than 145 people interviewed in the investigation — though not party to the impending multi-party lawsuit against Y.U., now $380 million — I am disappointed, though not surprised, by the report. Eight months, 6,300 hours of investigation, more than 145 interviews and the best that Y.U.’s administration and board could come up with was three paragraphs that said many people were abused at many Y.U. institutions but they could not give any details because of “pending litigation.” Of course some people are happy with this and some people are angry.

Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer for the group of students that filed the lawsuit, called the report, as one would expect, “a gross disappointment,” while those abused students, willing to be quoted, were justifiably “shocked.” As someone who spent more than two hours being interviewed and rehashing what was so locked away that I never even mentioned it to my wife of 30 years, nor to my brother, who also attended the Y.U. high school and unbeknown to me was similarly abused — I can attest that it is shocking to have your traumatic experience summarized in a few legally cool paragraphs.

Y.U. President Richard Joel expressed in an equally expected way the school’s “deepest and heartfelt remorse,” and his hope that this “recognition” brings “comfort and closure.” This was an appropriately lawyerly response, with a concluding flourish referring to Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days season and forgiveness — as if this process has been anything like Maimonides’s wrenching prescription for genuine teshuvah, repentance.

There we have it — a report that offers nothing we don’t already know. (Though I want to make clear that the lawyer who interviewed me was thorough, extremely professional, compassionate and honest.) The report confirms that a part of Y.U.’s high school (and university) culture was predatory and that until 2001, the school’s administration simply did not do what any decent and morally evolved authorities are supposed to do: protect and ensure the safety of its students. No surprises here, and actually quite sad.

It seems the adversarial nature of our legal system is set up to ensure that truth and justice, let alone repentance and repair, are not really the issues. So we now have victims who are understandably suing for millions of dollars, though one wonders what amount of money can actually make up for the loss of innocence and the life-long trauma of being abused by one’s rebbe. And we have a leading Jewish institution that now must go into protection mode. No doubt for solid legal reasons it refuses to release the full report, will offer what I am sure are heartfelt but rote admissions of shame and then request forgiveness, in soulful, pretty Jewish language, for acts committed long ago.

What won’t we have? We will have no serious ethical or spiritual reflection about the relationship between patriarchal all-male adolescent communities and sexual predators. We will not have any conversation about the relationship between highly hierarchical religious cultures in which idealization and transference are common psychological features and lead to abuse of power. We will have no collective thinking about possible common causes for such abuse shared with other religious communities that have been guilty of similar crimes. And of course we will have no public conversation — by a religious and spiritual institution, no less — about the difference between legal categories of civil liability and the psycho-spiritual and psycho-social category of healing and teshuvah.

So it turns out that Y.U. is just one more religious institution among many in America in which young people were abused by people with authority, which failed to protect those whom it was responsible to protect and which now is doing the best it can to acknowledge its wrongdoing while protecting itself. No ohr lagoyim — light unto nations — here, just an administration and a board that is k’chol hagoyim: just like everyone else.



A sex-abuse trial sheds light on why institutions from the Catholic Church to Penn State ostracize victims and protect the accused

By / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS                                                                                                         


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Nechemya Weberman Was Sentenced in January


Last November, Nechemya Weberman, pillar of his community and unlicensed counselor of wayward children, swore to a standing-room-only Brooklyn courtroom that he had only been trying to save the life of the girl who’d once called him “Daddy,” who was now accusing him of raping her for years, beginning when she was 12 years old and in sixth grade.

Many observers thought he looked smug as he testified, and why wouldn’t he? With the vehement backing of most of the tightly knit, deeply insular Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg, the 54-year-old former driver for its spiritual leader, the Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, felt he could get away with anything.

After all, he always had.

Members of the Satmar collective, who consider themselves members of one of the world’s holiest communities, closed ranks to defend an accused child molester from the secular world — and cast out the girl who’d accused him.

She wasn’t their concern. She’d gone outside of the family.

Mirroring groups from the Catholic church to Penn staters, Satmars attacked the victim, more concerned with protecting itself from the outside world than with the evil within.

Some of Weberman’s supporters conceded that he may have sexually abused children, but were nonetheless more concerned with the indignity of one of their own facing a jury they saw not as peers but as a collection of anti-Semites and (some irony here) sexual deviants, and the prospect of one of their own ending up in a state prison, cut off from the community.

Because its members vote in blocs, as their spiritual leaders instruct, the group has outsized sway in election years — and could prove crucial in the current races for mayor and Brooklyn district attorney. Despite keeping the outside world at arm’s length, with a separate language, culture and dress code, their votes have helped convince elected officials to subsidize separate services, from ambulances to patrol groups to schools. Even criminal matters among Satmars are often adjudicated by rabbis rather than the state.

See, Satmar is a family — of parents, daughters, sons, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, each belonging to the whole. Descending from Hungarian and Romanian Jews who fled their villages mostly during and after the Holocaust, they now live as a group in Brooklyn, close by but culturally cut off from their Latino, African American, Caribbean and hipster neighbors in Williamsburg. (A second Satmar community lives upstate in Kiryas Joel, the village with America’s highest poverty rate.) ..............