Thursday, February 27, 2014

American Hebrew Theological University

Rabbi Mendlowitz passed away in 1948 - had he lived, he would have seen the university to fruition. The 2 year college application was eventually withdrawn, I'm assuming he saw no purpose for a community college in terms of long term benefits to the graduates, and perhaps finances were an issue. The 4 year program application was not withdrawn.


Monday, February 24, 2014


Written Originally August 29, 2006 - One Hand And 3 Thumbs Ago!

The major advances in medicine, science, electronic technology, information technology and the judgment of history will prove over the next decade or two that fanaticism without intellect can not persevere in Judaism. The utter self destruction of the Arabs by themselves is cause for us to be reflective on the eventual Haredi self-destruction. Ultimately the only ingredient of a suicide bombers' makeup is faith in a myth. Not life, not reality, but belief in their insane leaders and their violent rhetoric, and martyrdom for the greater good or their cause.

If Haredi Judaism can only exist and sustain itself through blind faith and trust in their fanatical leaders, Haredism will collapse over the coming decades. I believe we can expect to see over the next decades the following:

Metziza B'peh will have caused untold amount of deaths and illness in babies subjected to this practice.

Technology will have permeated nearly every home and business via the telephones, computers, radios and other forms of mass communication unimaginable today.

Science will confirm convincingly that the planet Earth is billions of years old and "man" lived 100,000 plus years ago.

History will once again have demonstrated that appeasement of the enemy will put Israel on the brink of destruction. The only option for Israel to survive as a viable Jewish state is to destroy their enemies that threaten their existence.

In order for Judaism to survive it will have to have created a viable Yiddishkeit through yirah m'ahava the love of God through love not fear of a bogeyman, that will punish you for every real, imagined or manufactured sin. As the unequivocal truth of an old universe seeps in to the Haredi mainstream, as the medical evidence will certainly demonstrate that metziza b'peh is a potential danger to the child if the mohel is infected; the Haredi created Judaism, the one that befuddles the truths, the myth of the incompatibility of Torah and science and medicine (selectively), will be exposed as the fraud that it has become.

When very old men or men without any knowledge of the facts, or men who make a very ruthless calculated decision, that it's OK to lose some babies to metziza, than have a government capable of monitoring their rituals, the destruction of emunah to the masses will be geometric. The narrow minded, and the wicked and ignorant will be responsible, only then will it be too late.

Judging by the thousands of e-mails I have received since the Torah Temimah sanctioned molestation of children; who chose viciously to rather hush it up by the Scheinbergs and the Belskys than deal with it, thousands have strayed from the emunah pshuta, that our rabbonim are anshe emes, men of God. Add to the fact that nobody is presently dealing with the problem other than Rabbis Blau and Dratch in a meaningful way, the outrage is explosive! If this keeps up, which it very well may, Haredi Judaism will evaporate as a meaningful form of Judaism as Chabad is disintegrating into the global soup kitchen it has become.

The fascination with UOJ has become unreal. The anger, love, hate......is good, it has made most people passionate. The issues are on the table for the seeing person to see. There are hundreds of Jewish sites, maybe thousands, why come here? Why the dastardly attempt to destroy UOJ? Why permit lashon hara and motzei shem ra, when you're willing to cover for a molester by using a corrupt and evil person and a bogus bais din to issue a hazmana to a person accused of spreading rumors? How evil does one get under the disguise of halacha? How corrupt does one have to be for it to become so transparent that he should be physically removed from his position if necessary? I'm not condoning violence, I'm asking a simple question. HOW CORRUPT IS CORRUPT FOR YOU TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

The sad answer is that present Haredi Judaism can not pass self scrutiny. It can survive ONLY in ghettos and Bin-Laden style caves. The doctrine of gedolim infallibility is paramount, no matter how bizarre; that they are willing to destroy you, me, anyone and everyone that does not buy into that notion of incredible stupidity. Even my greatest critics on the historical fact that R' Elchonon chose death over the fear of the treifena medina America, will concede that he did make a mistake. Infallible? Hardly!

So what I've attempted to do, often times in a rude and crude manner, is to make the Torah and the rabbonim transparent. I intentionally write in a manner to create controversy and passion, no regrets whatsoever. How else was I going to capture the attention of hundreds of thousands of comatose Jews. Ani maamin b'emunah shleima, I believe with full faith, that Torah and science is reconcilable, that medicine and ritual practice can be compatible, that the Internet can be used for good and bad, just like money can. Did anyone recently attend an asifa banning the use of money? Yes, we can believe all this and not be an Apikorus!

The untoward facts are that truly observant Jews are decreasing in numbers. Poverty, ignorance, nonsensical and deadly dogma, corrupt leadership, are all contributing factors. Regardless of how many babies are being produced, children and adults DO NOT want to be impoverished intellectually or financially.

The rabbinical terrorists and their suicide bombers plan to destroy your way of life. Do you have the brains and the guts to fight them now or are you willing to see Yiddishkeit self-destruct under the falsehoods and voodoo Judaism led by these Jewish Fascists in beards and black clothing?

Choose life as Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandel zt"l did...Judaism is life, the living Torah, not the poisonous distortions of Pinchos Scheinberg and Yisroel Belsky and their gang of Torah perverters!



Sunday, February 23, 2014

When Words Utterly Fail!

Years back I had a neighbor, we'll call him Mr. Klein, not his real name, who was the only person, from his extremely large chassidic family, to survive Hitler's death camps. He seemed like a nice enough guy; on Shabbos, if we bumped into each other, he'd always respectfully say good Shabbos.

He was not observant in any way, but was not in your face about it. I always nodded back and wished him Shabbat shalom. I tried many times to get to say good Shabbos first, but he always beat me to it. I invited him over many times, with the promise of "no proselytizing", and he always politely refused.

It was on a summertime Friday night on my way back from shul, when I saw him get out of his car, that I waited to bid him good Shabbos. He was somehow taken aback by the gesture, why, I am not certain. We shmoozed for a bit then he asked me if I'd like to see a photo of his family pre-war, I responded, "absolutely!"

He took his wallet out of his rear pocket, we moved under a fluorescent lamppost, there were 14 people in his handsome family. His father was a man with a black hat with a well-trimmed black beard and bulging peyos. His mother was an aristocratic woman with the traditional chassidic headgear. He was a middle child, about 12 years old at the time of the photo, he beamed with pride at his long peyos and big black yarmulke, and went on to tell me all the names of his siblings (I still remember every name). The baby, he said was 4 months old, and could have been a model for Gerber; a cherubic-like beautiful baby girl, the likes of are indeed rare.

And then he broke down!

"How could He let this happen"? What did Rivkele do at 4 months old to be tossed into an oven alive? He sobbed uncontrollably! What to say? What do you say to a person who has a question with no good answers? I cried unashamedly. "How can people blame me for not believing in God - how could they" - he cried, barely able to catch his breath?

He sat down on the sidewalk, I sat there right along side him holding his shoulder.

I told him finally, not thinking I was capable of any consoling words; "the question is how could anyone believe in God after what you saw, and not the other way around. "You understand?" -- Of course I do, I always did. I told him that every thinking person of faith struggles with their belief system; certainly someone who went through the hell that he experienced.

It resonated with him; by that time I was sweating bullets, the emotions and the humid New York night almost caused me to faint. We lifted each other up off the sidewalk, we bid each other good Shabbos, and we went to our homes.

Back to Mr. Klein later.

We are watching the collapse of meaningful institutional Yiddishkeit. Not because the Agudath Israel is a fraud. But because there is NOT one single Orthodox institution that is not tainted with criminal activity, be it legal or moral.

Organizations like EJF, run by the ghastly ill psychopath Leib Tropper sprung up, because everyone involved in vocally supporting that criminal enterprise was being paid off.

The ramifications are telling! Everyone permitted phony conversions in a typical pay for play scheme. From rabbis Hershel Schechter, Shlomo Miller, Avrohom Union - to the Reform Movement -- there is a commonality that they all share --- look aside, get paid, and let every drek, scoundrel, thief, prostitute, adulterer, become a member of what was once an exclusive club, the Jewish Nation. We have more than enough of our own scum, without admitting members from the outside. (No offense please to the blessed sincere Converts - factually they are however in the minority)

The Israeli Rabbinate discovered that an astounding 97.2 per cent of converts between 1996 and 2008 had not kept mitzvot — and as a result, their conversions could be invalidated retroactively, and if they married, no Get would be required.

Mishneh Torah, Book of Holiness, Laws of Forbidden Relations, 13:8
Maimonides wrote that gerim do not have a very high success rate: Most trip over some event along the way that alienates them from the Jewish people. But most drop out -- and some of them have even become vicious enemies.

And then you have Leib Tropper creating a new conversion ritual; sleeping with the convert - and his "rebbetzin" -- and a few Satmar chassidim added for aroma and ambiance.

Kashruth is no better now, than when my grandfather zt"l ranted about it in the 1920s - 1940s. The certifying rabbis were criminals then, as they are now. At the top of that list is Yisroel Belsky - the titular head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath -- a dirty trick the Ribbono Shel Olam played on my grandfather's memory. I always did think that HKBH has a weird sense of humor.

And the Yeshiva Movement that my zeide built, brick by figurative brick, has child molesters and their enablers under many a yeshiva's desks, in every other administrator's office and in every Orthodox organization. But no, we don't want legislation to rip out the metastasized cancer from our ill bodies, we want to do it ourselves, just like our honorable Catholic cousins. Lest we forget, the administrator of Torah Umesorah's "Torah Online" program for children, did time in a federal prison for possession of kiddie porn. Another rotten trick on my zeide's holy memory and legacy.

So what's left?

A group of crafty Jewish investors, including the Satmar goniff Hertz Frankel, get together and create a new glossy magazine. They know what trash will sell in their neighborhoods. Their "centerfold" is every bit as pornographic as Hefner's, Flynt and the rest of these perverters of every sacred thing on this planet. But now we put on display, in full color, our own dear struggling brothers. You know, the ones that have every reason in the world to struggle with their faith - BECAUSE - of the self-proclaimed holy representatives of our God, here on Earth, who uncannily aborted every logical reason to believe in Hashem, from our stout bellies.

Worse than Planned Parenthood, at least you know their murderous agenda. It is no longer just a leap of faith to have emunah, now it is just about - how can you have emunah?, just like my aforementioned neighbor Mr. Klein. Call these good, honest people "sick" or "emotionally ill?" Our babies and ourselves are being tossed into ovens of lies, distortions, criminal behavior and negligence, and being gassed by Bans, chumras and insane proclamations - by these so-called representatives of our Mesorah. We are "railroaded" to a spiritual death, by the very gangsters that have created the environment of disgust that permeates our communities.

They preach poverty as a way of life, and own millions of dollars of real estate and other holdings. Not one dime of these holdings belong to them, but go try and take it away. Did anyone hear of Lipa Margulies? You know the menuvel that owns almost a square block on Ocean Parkway! Do you know why the Kotlers from Lakewood wanted Corzine elected over Governor Christie? Because Corzine allegedly promised them huge government grants for their same-sex dormitories, as part of government grants allotted to the Gay and Lesbian community. How come they're all still there? They get caught or are involved in one illegal scheme or another, and throw parties if they somehow make a deal with Charlie Hynes, or get out on bail?


We survived every inquisition, crusade, pogrom, holocaust... because whatever was left of our broken bodies, our moral compass was untouchable, unscathed and fully intact. But now that's gone, and they blame the Internet and Bloggers?

Did Dwek, Balkany, Margulies, Kolko, Lebovitz, Hertz Frankel, Jack Perlow, Mondrowitz, Rubashkin, Belsky, Sholom Tendler, Mordecai Tendler, Aron Tendler, Spinka and hundreds more - blog? Did they become corrupt because of the Internet? Did they molest children because of the Internet? Did they enable and embolden hordes of child rapists because of cyberspace?


And our brothers are struggling with their emunah; AND THEY ARE SICK AND EMOTIONALLY ILL? You want to blackball them for seeing what we now all see - and we can't take it anymore - and you blame the collective we? Do you know the trauma that these sincere people may have gone through to lose their faith? Perhaps it's a temporary state of mind? Or is it just simpler to write these people off!


On a recent trip, a yungerman comes over to me at the airport; "excuse me, aren't you UOJ?" I nodded! He asked if he could introduce his family to me. He pointed to his large beautiful family. I walked over to the seating area with him and met his rebbetzin. After his way too kind introduction, he and his wife thanked me for my work, introduced me to their children name by name, and asked the boys to give me sholom aleichem. I counted 9 children, the boys in velvet yarmulkes and peyos, and the girls in traditional chassidic dress.

He told me his zeide, who was davening Mincha in a wheelchair in the corner, was a survivor of the Nazis. His zeide supported them almost exclusively he volunteered, he was a rosh yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and his wife had a full time job raising the children. He could not possibly live without his zeide's generosity to him, his family, and to his yeshiva.

I looked at the man in the wheelchair; he had a white flowing beard, bulging neat peyos tucked behind his ears, and dressed in chassidic garb. I immediately recognized my former neighbor, Mr. Klein.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fifty years ago there were none of the opportunities that exist today to report abusers and find ways to deal with them.

Do you think this happened 50 years ago?

Just this morning someone asked me “Do you think this happened 50 years ago?” He was referring to the alarming accounts of sexual predators that are increasingly being followed in the media and perhaps being publicized even more so by word of mouth. Several shocking situations are currently being discussed in some local communities and even some pulpit rabbis are openly detailing colleagues or community members who should be spurned and avoided. Just look at the uproar caused when Moti Elon was called to the Torah and the controversy that created not just in that local synagogue in Katamon but globally when reports of his honorific and the reaction to it went viral. As a convicted abuser, albeit with a too light sentence, he should not have gotten the privilege.

 When he did receive the honor local protest was so loud it was heard internationally. Elon is not alone in the display of negative public reaction to him as an abuser there are others throughout Israel, in the United States, Australia and elsewhere. So the question, “Do you think this happened 50 years ago?” is a good one. But the question needs to be clarified.

Do I think there were predators 50 years ago? Certainly! I treated a women in her mid-80’s for Post-traumatic stress due to having been abused when she was a youngster. In brief she recounted that a leader of her community in Europe used to invite her over to his home for candy every Shabbat afternoon. She recounted many months of molestation. I asked her what she did about it. She gave the classic response. “I could not tell because he said he would kill me and my parents if I did tell.” I asked when it stopped. “When I started to develop he lost interest in me.” She never told anyone until starting therapy all those years later.

Did it exist 50 years ago? Not only did sexual predators exist in Eastern Europe 50 plus years ago they existed in Babylonia two thousand years ago. There are Talmudic discussions of a rabbi being exiled from his teaching position for illicit actions. So the answer to that part of the question is a definite yes.

The other component of the question, “Did you think this happened 50 years ago?” raises a completely different issue with a slightly better outcome. Fifty years ago and more there was no forum for dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse. That is one reason why it was almost never discussed. And, as a result, it was not believed.

 Even if it was believed, in many circles it was simply seen as a transitional phase that many just had to endure on their way to adulthood. In countless instances if a child or even an adult came forward to complain of being sexually abused they were at best not believed or worse, shunned.

This sort of tacit acceptance still exists in some communities. High school age boys in dormitories or younger children in poorly supervised summer camps still report that they are abused and for some, it is something that is to be expected. The good news is that there are many more opportunities to report abuse and deal with predators than ever before.
Unfortunately there are still some people, powerful people, who wish to continue to sweep reports of the problem under the rug. But they are being confronted not just by the media or by their constituents but by reports of their respected colleagues who have themselves been predators for decades and are now being ‘found out’, disciplined, stripped of responsibility and shunned. So the answer to this part of the question – Did you think this happened 50 years ago? Is a definite no.
Fifty years ago there were none of the opportunities that exist today to report abusers and find ways to deal with them.
 One more aspect to the question is how it is being dealt with professionally. Fifty years ago there were no professionally trained experts to deal with the traumas caused by sexual predators. Today there are. Unfortunately, there are too many individuals, some well-intentioned, others less so, with little or no training who market themselves as trauma specialists. Going forward it is important to see to it that the answer to the question, if asked 50 years from now is that a great deal of progress has been made not just in believing the abused, but also in reporting abusers to the proper authorities so that they are removed from society and that proper treatment for those needing it is available.

Read more: Do you think this happened 50 years ago? | Michael J. Salamon | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/do-you-think-this-happened-50-years-ago/#ixzz2tgvxaO1q

Monday, February 17, 2014

So, who are the psychopaths in our family?

 ...There are several well-known ones. The sex predators who, from their positions of power as clergy members or as CEO’s or administrators of schools choose victims to manipulate into sexual servitude.... 

 Street Corner Crazy - Sruli Belsky - One Of The Most Dangerous Ones For Sure!

The psychopath in our family

February 17, 2014, 4:17 am                                    

Health professionals have a diagnostic system that allows them to categorize certain individuals that they may refer to as having an Antisocial Personality disorder. People with this disorder are exploitative, repeatedly break the law, and show no signs of guilt or remorse. They are charming and witty, disregard the safety and well-being of others, lie and steal, are at turns angry and arrogant and may have substance abuse problems. Many people believe that the Antisocial Personality disorder category is interchangeable with the term psychopathy. Some believe that psychopaths are actually worse, if that is even possible. If they are indeed worse, it is because they have a complete lack of gratitude, sincerity, a general poverty of emotions; they can be vulgar and rude and have no clear positive plans for their future; in their pathological minds, there is no reason for such plans. They actually believe that they can get by on their charm, wit, and manipulative abilities. They never accept blame and they use these skills to get whatever their impulsive wants drive them toward. It could be money, sex or public attention or a combination.

 According to Eric Barker, an interactive marketing specialist, psychopaths are most likely to have jobs in the following professions: CEO, work on Wall Street, lawyer, media/television, sales, surgeon, journalism, police, and clergy. Psychopaths are most often in these particular jobs because they can get by with their lack of emotions and manipulate others from their professional positions. The professions least likely to have psychopaths are, not surprisingly, the more caring ones such as nurse, beautician, charity workers, teachers, doctors, accountants, and therapists.

Famous psychopaths are often serial murderers but most psychopaths do not kill, they simply use people and discard them when they are finished mistreating them. They are predators who know what they are doing, truly believe that they can and should continue their activities, and justify their abuse of others by blaming everyone but themselves.

 Even after they are caught and confronted, they absolutely refuse to accept responsibility for their misdeeds and are so good at their deception that others may believe them at the expense of the people that have been exploited. Moreover, the psychopath gets additional pleasure from knowing that others are further harming their victims by disbelieving them.
So, who are the psychopaths in our family? There are several well-known ones. The sex predators who, from their positions of power as clergy members or as CEO’s or administrators of schools choose victims to manipulate into sexual servitude. There are also several psychopaths who have made the news as embezzlers, stealing money from charities, the government, and individuals. They all deny their guilt placing blame on others, charging them with absurd actions in an attempt to distract everyone from their own sins. The problem is that too many people fall for it. That is why so much is swept under the rug. We too often buy the psychopaths stories.

 After all, they are often people in a position of power – and do not forget just how charming they can be.
Our family attempts to deal with these individuals by giving them the benefit of the doubt repeatedly, for years, even decades. We find it too hard to believe that they may use their own family tragedies as an excuse to raise money for their own selfish needs or seek out confused and needy teen girls (or women that come to them for counsel) to abuse. Until finally someone says enough and reports the individual to the authorities psychopaths will simply continue to employ their destructive trade.

This is where we continue to fail ourselves.

If we do not report psychopaths as soon as there is an indication of the harm they cause, if we continue to excuse their manipulations, if we continue to allow them to make excuses for the harm they are causing, we are in fact giving license to them and others who wish to emulate them the ability to harm our family.
Read more: The psychopath in our family | Michael J. Salamon | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-psychopath-in-our-family/#ixzz2tcwweZ7M

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Religion: The slippery-slope argument

A long-time UOJ reader sent this in:

I have noticed a trend in several atheistic books and documentaries, notably Root of all Evil and Religulous, where religion is portrayed as being dangerous because every practitioner of religion is part of the entire body that has at the extreme end a violent tendency. This is a slippery-slope argument, and I have come to be generally very skeptical of such arguments applied to other subject matters. Violent video games do not lead to violent behavior, gay marriage does not lead to the breakdown of the family, and universal health care does not lead to socialism. I would submit that religious behavior does not lead necessarily to violence.

There are many instances that can be cited where religious people performed violent acts in the name of religion. The crusades, witch hunts, 9/11, jihads, ethnic cleansing, etc. However, we could also point to the destructive behavior of Stalin, who was not religious, as an example where violence came from a non-religious source. When reviewed carefully, I think that the majority of violent acts can be traced to a non-religious source, but often have religion as a front. It is an easy way to cover bigoted behavior and backwards ideals. Racism, homophobia, and chauvinism can easily exist outside of religion, but if you say "gay people shouldn't marry because it makes me uncomfortable and scared," you have no argument. If you say "gay people shouldn't marry because my religion is against it," you are able to accomplish what you want.

I am contending that religion acts as a smokescreen for what people think, or perhaps as a capsule that allows a large number of ideas to be transmitted in a short period of time. I do not, however, think that religion is always bad. While many bad ideas are transmitted, I don't see how it is any different than patriotism or clannish ideas. There are many good aspects to religion. While there are awful acts that have happened in the name of god, there are also humanitarian acts that would not have happened if the believers had not believed. In many places, the church serves as a community center that allows people in an area to stay connected. In rural areas, the only source of entertainment is often the church. Activities like Vacation Bible School allow kids to use their imaginations and envision that they are in a far away place that they may never get to visit in reality.

To say that a person is enabling violence by being part of a religion that has fundamentalist extremists is small minded. This slippery-slope argument has no merit. Religion attracts a large number of people of varying levels of intelligence. If someone uses religion to cover for xenophobia or nationalism and bring a group together in a violent way, this does not equate to religion being the source of violence.

And to clarify, I am not a very religious person. I just don't think it is right for skeptical people to be advocating such a ridiculous argument. I wouldn't mind if religion disappeared, but I would like to be arguing from a reason that makes sense.

The Counter-Argument:

The argument is more like this-- if you believe that faith is the key to salvation, then you are willing to do anything that anyone can convince you god wants you to do in order to earn that salvation.

There is no way to tell a real god's directive from a fake one-- all religions think they have "the divine truth"--the infallible leader-- the right interpretation of the write text or teachings.

Atheism is just a lack of belief in gods. It is the same as a lack of belief in Scientology or a lack of belief in demons or reincarnation or astrology. People who lack these beliefs might have beliefs that influence them, but people are not driven by the myriad of superstitions they do not believe in.

Atheists cannot be made to do things they normally wouldn't do to "prove their faith" to a supposed "divine entity". Doing what you wouldn't normally do is truly the only way you can "prove" you have faith, right? They might be coerced into doing bad things -- but nothing motivates quite like the belief that your eternity depends on you doing so.

If religion was show to positively affect morality or to keep people from doing cruel things, then perhaps it would be "dangerous" not to have it -- but this has not been demonstrated to be the case... and secular democracies are repeatedly shown to be healthier and more functional than their religious counterparts.

Religion tends to encourage a kind of primitive magical thinking, where liars are seen as holders of "higher truths" and science is denigrated as not being privy to such due to "arrogance".

And if faith is good and the "key to salvation", then extreme faith is better -- an insurance policy! It's too bad that people don't agree on what god wants. Plus, to see faith as something good or a "gift", you must find fault with those who lack it -- even if you have to make stuff up to confirm your biases. The faithful must ever be spinning so that they don't realize that their faith is as questionable as all those other faiths they dismiss.

Either there are divine truths or there are not.

 Those who imagine themselves having them have quite the vested interest in keeping this delusion alive -- and it requires a society-wide deference towards faith. If all faiths were as private as they wished Scientologists to be, then I don't think anyone would care what magical things people believe in.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As long as the children are silent, there is no way to help them and stop the attacks on them. In addition, we must listen to children seriously and especially believe in them, believe them and give them the real feeling that we will come to their aid,”

Pass The Popcorn!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Orthodox Jewish communities all over the world continue to struggle with the wave of child sexual abuse accusations coming forth.


Orthodoxy and child sexual abuse

Read on for article
Orthodox communities all over the world continue to struggle with the wave of child sexual abuse accusations coming forth.
While there are certainly challenges with any close-knit community dealing with the fallout from public accusations, one would think that once the courts have ruled, the matter would be settled. Yet in the case of Rabbi Mordechai Elon, we see plenty of recalcitrance in spite of (and perhaps in contempt of) a court verdict.

While Rabbi Elon did not receive a custodial sentence, there are many cases of Jewish white-collar criminals serving sentences in prisons, to the extent that kosher food is provided and a halachic guide for Jewish prisoners has been published. We seem to have come to grips with one category of crimes committed by Jews, but not another.

Without minimising the severity of sex abuse crimes compared to white-collar crimes, comparing our attitudes to these two categories is a useful thought experiment that can help us understand why people behave in a certain way. More importantly, it can help drill down to how we must change to reach a more appropriate approach to child sexual abuse in our communities.

Here are four distinct yet overlapping themes that can explain some of the prevalent attitudes.

1. Separation of the Tablets.

 The Ten Commandments were given as two tablets – one with laws between man and God, and the other with laws between man and man. Our Rabbis explain that the reason the tablets were equal-sized is to teach us that we must give equal weight to each category of commandments. But sadly, we don’t, and there are all too many examples of people who behave in a very pious manner toward God, but have no ethics when it comes to business. This hypocritical attitude makes it easier for people who commit crimes against others to retain their standing in the community.

2. Jews as complainants against other Jews.

 The more common white-collar crimes are fraud committed against the government or theft/embezzlement. But the complainants in child sex abuse cases are most often our own. Despite proclamations from many Rabbis that the prohibition of mesirah does not apply in these cases, there remains a cultural reluctance and discomfort when one Jew accuses another of a crime. What is often overlooked is that reporting is made even harder by the power imbalance in cases of sexual abuse – implicit in any accusation is a challenge to the authority and standing of the accused.

3. Shattering of stereotypes.

 It’s relatively easy to mitigate the risk of a white-collar criminal in the community. Firstly, people in their own community may not be a target for their criminal activities. Secondly, we can choose not to do business with them. But the crime of child sexual abuse is qualitatively so much greater as it involves such a serious breach of trust, and the victims do not have the choice to stay or walk away. It is often perpetrated by someone in a position of authority – like a parent or a teacher – relative to an innocent and vulnerable victim.

In an Orthodox community setting, where such people are highly regarded, the crime of abuse shatters the stereotype like nothing else. As mentioned, our culture is able to rationalise the pious and charitable congregant who has ripped off the government for millions of dollars – he can just be ‘a good person who does bad things’. But the notion that a teacher – who may have inspired so many students during a long career – simultaneously carries a dark side that betrays and takes advantage of the very students who trust him casts into doubt all the good he has ever done.

4. The risks of false accusations.

 The justice system moves very slowly, and is unable to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle which feeds our thirst for immediate information and immediate results and immediate judgements about the people around us.

You can blame the justice system, or you can blame the media and the blogosphere, but that won’t change anything.

This means that in between an accusation and a verdict, a community is in limbo. We’ve not debated how to treat – in a community context –people who have been accused, have been accused but not yet charged, have been charged and are awaiting trial, do not end up being charged despite accusations, or have had charges either dismissed or found not guilty at trial (which is not the same as being declared ‘innocent’). The stains of these remain within a community, and affect not just the accused but their family and friends. Clichés like ‘innocent until proven guilty’ are true in the courts, but not in the community.

The community damage that the accusation and judicial process itself does (irrespective of the outcome) is a further impediment to the reporting of these crimes.

The purpose of articulating these themes is not to make excuses; it’s to help Orthodox communities understand for themselves the path from where we are now to where we ought to be – leading the way in child protection.

 Overcoming these barriers requires leadership, open and challenging debate (including with the wider community), and change. It is not an easy path, but it is a necessary one.


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Fragile Boundary Between Religion and Child Abuse!

Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
Posted on May 8, 2011 by Valerie Tarico

Valerie Tarico interviews Janet Heimlich, author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. During eight years working for NPR, Heimlich never shied away from controversial topics. She won nine journalism awards, in part by doggedly exposing injustices in the death penalty and prison systems. Most recently she made her way behind another set of locked doors, into the inner sanctums of authoritarian religious communities.

Tarico: What got you focused on such a hot potato of a topic?

Heimlich: I came upon the idea rather gradually. As a first-time mother at the age of 41, I first simply became focused on children’s issues, such as compassionate parenting. I then started to notice high-profile stories in the news, such as the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. One week in 2008 was particularly poignant: The pope came to the U.S. and spoke publicly about the scandal for the first time; meanwhile, authorities raided a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon group in west Texas, based on concerns that members were conducting marriages between men and underage girls. So, in some ways, my discovering the issue of religious child maltreatment was a personal venture, but, in other ways, it was very similar to how I come upon any story as a journalist.

Tarico: Some people would say that religion prevents child abuse – that a supportive spiritual community or a personal relationship with a higher power, or a strong moral core is the antidote to maltreatment.

Heimlich: As I state in the book, families generally benefit from participating in religious activities. Still, we are only beginning to understand how children are harmed in certain religious communities. In my research, I found that, in these problematic cultures, the good of the faith community as a whole takes priority over members’ individual needs, and this is particularly true with how those communities view children. I should also point out that, while many people of faith point to scriptural passages that appear to glorify children, those passages are few and far between. The Bible actually says very little about children being important people—for example, children are basically ignored in the Ten Commandments—and when children are discussed in the Bible, they are often portrayed as victims of violence.

Tarico: How did you go about your research?

Heimlich: Basically, I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the mistreatment of children in religious environments. I plowed through hundreds of news articles and studies. I also interviewed dozens of adults who had been victims, as well as the few experts who have studied and written about the issue. I’m still trying to keep abreast of it all. I’d like to believe that religious child maltreatment is not as bad today as it was years ago—and to some extent, I feel that that’s true—yet new cases continue to shock me on a weekly basis.

Tarico: What was the most heartbreaking story you encountered?

Heimlich: When I was still mulling over the idea of writing this book, I kept playing devil’s advocate with myself, questioning whether religious child maltreatment was, in fact, a serious problem today. One day, I noticed a brief news blurb in the New York Times that settled the matter for me. The article explained that a little boy, a toddler, had been starved to death by a small cult in Baltimore for failing to say “amen” at mealtimes. What was particularly shocking to me was that this was not just the work of one deranged person—four adults were implicated in the crime, including the boy’s mother. Later, I would learn just how persuasive cult thinking can be; I’ve since gotten to know the dead boy’s grandmother who has gone through much heartache.

The other case involved a man named David Yoder who grew up in a conservative Amish community and today works to try to reduce child abuse in Amish communities. The first time we spoke, David told me how, when they were boys, he and a friend were mercilessly beaten by their fathers at the same time for being disobedient. The “crime” was fighting, although the boys had done no more than toss a piece of wood at each other. (This was reported by their teacher, and David’s father never got his son’s side of the story.) Again, the violence these boys endured was not delivered by a sadistic or mentally ill individual—both adults colluded to whip the boys until they apparently were close to death. But it’s not only important to call attention to child abuse in religious communities. In each case, my book examines how the belief system of those communities leads to the abuse.

Tarico: At this point, how would you describe the relationship between child abuse and religion?

Heimlich: I think the most important message of my book is this: Religion can provide children with a wonderful upbringing, but it is naïve and irresponsible to see religion only as a force for good. We’ve all seen how religion can lead people to go to war and wage terror on others. In the same way, religion can be a source for child abuse and neglect. As I often say, religion can bring children great comfort, but it can also turn their lives into a living hell. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can hope to reduce child suffering.

Tarico: Are some kinds of religious communities more prone to maltreatment than others? What are the patterns?

Heimlich: In writing Breaking Their Will, I felt it was imperative not to simply expose problems but answer the question: What makes religious experiences healthy and unhealthy for children? I came to the conclusion that children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they live in religious authoritarian cultures. There are three perfect-storm factors that identify a religious culture or community as authoritarian: one, the culture has a strict, social hierarchy. Two, the culture is fearful. And three, the culture is separatist. The more intense these three factors are—the more authoritarian the culture is—the more likely children will be harmed. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the community is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; whether people worship a deity called “God,” “Allah,” or “Jehovah”; or whether they read from the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon. Any religious culture has the potential to subscribe, and be subjected, to authoritarian “rule.”

Tarico: Is child maltreatment one of those areas where faith has “gotten a free pass?” – Can people can do things in the name of faith that would be considered unacceptable otherwise?

Heimlich: I can name many examples where child abuse in religious communities is more or less accepted, while the same maltreatment would never be tolerated in secular communities. Often, apologists for this abuse—even though these individuals would never call what is going on abuse—defend the actions of the faithful in the name of religious freedom. In other words, they claim that critics who advocate that children should be treated better are really attacking people’s right to practice their faith. A perfect example is faith-healing-related child deaths, where adults believe that they have a right not to take a sick child to the doctor based on their religious beliefs.

Tarico: What can people of faith do to address these problems?

Heimlich: In Breaking Their Will, I discuss a number of solutions that could help reduce religious child maltreatment. Real change is only going to come when faith communities face some truths that, traditionally, they have not faced. And it starts with recognizing that faith can both help and hurt children. I compare religion to cars, guns, and fire: They all have the potential to greatly help people, but they can also be extremely dangerous when precautions are not met. All that said, some religious leaders and other members of faith communities have taken bold stands against child maltreatment, including that which is motivated by religious belief. For example, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have traditionally opposed the corporal punishment of children; some religious leaders have turned in to authorities adults who have been accused of abusing children; and many others try to educate their communities about the need to take the problem of child abuse seriously.

Tarico: Should secular authorities engage as well – or will that only result in “circling the wagons?”

Heimlich: Children in religious authoritarian cultures greatly need the help that is offered by secular agencies, such as law enforcement and child protective services. But, for a host of reasons, adults living in those cultures are unlikely to reach out to those agencies. Many mistrust anything related to government. Some even believe such agencies work for the devil. Therefore, it is imperative for police, social workers, and government officials to reach out to faith communities that they suspect are abusing children to try to bridge what has been a very big gap of mistrust and miscommunication. I interviewed two state attorneys general who are doing just that, and they have seen improvement. One is Utah’s Mark Shurtleff who decided that fundamentalist Mormon groups would no longer be prosecuted just for practicing polygamy, unless they stand accused of abusing children. Shurtleff has also offered these groups psychological counseling. One of the counselors told me that there have been reports of child abuse, whereas before, no one would have reported abuse. Also, Oregon’s John Foote has tried to make inroads with a sect that was allowing children to get very sick and die because of members’ zealous beliefs in faith healing. Foote told me how one member of the group, a father, even called Foote to get advice on what he should do if his children got sick. Of course, Foote told the man, who did not give his name, that he should call a doctor.

Tarico: Has your book aroused detractors?

Heimlich: It’s too early to tell, since the book has just become available. (The release date is June 1.) But as I was doing my research and telling people about the subject of the book, I found that liberal believers strongly agreed that religious child maltreatment is real and a serious problem. I can’t tell you how many people have expressed relief that I wrote this book. On the other hand, conservative believers have tended to reject the notion that anything bad could come from religion. Rather, they want to only blame individuals rather than seeing the systemic problems that plague communities, generation after generation. Many apologists say that people who abuse children in a religious context are not “true” believers, so we should ignore religion as an influencing factor. My feeling is, many of those naysayers are rather ignorant about what is contained in religious texts and doctrines, as some seem to condone authoritarian parenting if not abuse. But, more importantly, is anyone truly qualified to determine what makes a “true” Christian, a “real” Jew, or a perfectly devout Muslim? I think we’d be a lot better off if we focused less on judging people’s religiosity and focused more on whether children’s needs are being met in religious environments.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

High-profile cases such as the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and "faith healing" deaths in certain fundamentalist Christian congregations have made the public aware that religion can sometimes mask deviant and harmful behavior. But the extent of the problem is far greater than most people realize. This revealing, disturbing, and thoroughly researched book exposes a dark side of faith that most Americans do not know exists or have ignored for a long time—religious child maltreatment. After speaking with dozens of victims, perpetrators, and experts, and reviewing a myriad of court cases and studies, the author explains how religious child maltreatment happens. She then takes an in-depth look at the many forms of child maltreatment found in religious contexts, including biblically-prescribed corporal punishment and beliefs about the necessity of "breaking the wills" of children; scaring kids into faith and other types of emotional maltreatment such as spurning, isolating, and withholding love; pedophilic abuse by religious authorities and the failure of religious organizations to support the victims and punish the perpetrators; and religiously-motivated medical neglect in cases of serious health problems. In a concluding chapter, Heimlich raises questions about children’s rights and proposes changes in societal attitudes and improved legislation to protect children from harm. While fully acknowledging that religion can be a source of great comfort, strength, and inspiration to many young people, Heimlich makes a compelling case that, regardless of one’s religious or secular orientation, maltreatment of children under the cloak of religion can never be justified and should not be tolerated.