Thursday, January 31, 2019

If indeed, as the OU-RCA statement claims, “Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts,” why does it suggest a paragraph later that “everyone should consult with his or her religious, medical and legal advisors in determining what actions to take”? What role might these religious leaders have, if we were just told that Jewish law should defer to medical opinion?

Vaccines, Hysteria, and Rabbinic Responsibility: A Plea from the Trenches

Anti-vaccination hysteria
We are living in the midst of a wave of hysteria in which the need for childhood vaccinations is questioned or denied.[1] This is not the first such wave. There have been cases of mass hysteria in virtually every country and every society, from Malaysia to Kosovo and London to Mexico City.[2] In 1962 in Tanzania it was an outbreak of laughing;[3] in 1983 in the West Bank it was an outbreak of fainting.[4] In the late seventeenth century in colonial Massachusetts there were the Salem witch hunts; two-hundred people – the vast majority women – were accused of serving the devil. Before it was over, nineteen were hanged, and one was stoned to death.[5] In the mid-twentieth century a wave of anti-communist hysteria swept this country, culminating in the McCarthy Senate hearings.[6]

Like any complex sociological phenomenon, there are many factors that created what has become a de facto anti-vaccine movement.[7] These include a perceived lack of knowledge of the severity of the illness, fear of needles or the pain of vaccination, a distrust of the information produced by governments, and a belief that vaccines are not effective or have dangerous side effects.[8] Since it first began in the 1990s, it has swept across the US, Europe, and the Middle East. In France over 40% of the population believe that vaccines are not safe.[9] A quarter of Greeks and Ukrainians are hostile. And characteristics of the deniers vary between countries: women in Hungary are more likely than males to believe that vaccines are effective, but in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Italy the reverse is true.[10]

Anti-vaccination hysteria is also present among a small but vocal number of Orthodox Jews.[11] Among the most widely reported anti-vaccination declarations is that of Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Talmudical Academy of Philadelphia. “I see vaccinations as the problem” said Rabbi Kamenetzky, who is a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah,[12] the rabbinical board of Agudath Israel. “It’s a hoax. Even the Salk vaccine [against polio] is a hoax. It is just big business.”[13] In November 2018 the Rosh Yeshiva’s wife, Temi, led a teleconference in which she compared the German company that produces the MMR vaccine to Amalek, the ancient foe of the Jewish people.[14] An anonymous group in Lakewood has distributed an eighteen-page color brochure encouraging parents to refrain from vaccinating their children.[15] More recently, and in a far more subtle and nuanced way, the Orthodox Union issued a hesitant statement about the importance of childhood vaccinations. We will return to that later.

As a first step to combating this hysteria, rabbis of every synagogue and heads of every Jewish school must issue an unambiguous and unequivocal statement, declaring that only children who are vaccinated will be allowed to attend.[16] The lives of our children depend on it.

The death rates from common infectious diseases
At the beginning of this century measles killed over 550,000 children worldwide. That number has dropped by 84%. In the US there were about 500 measles deaths each year before the introduction of the vaccine. There hasn’t been a reported death from the disease since 2015.[17] But in 2018 almost every region in the world experienced an increase in cases of measles. In Europe the number of confirmed cases rose by over 60% compared with the previous year.[18] In the US this year, the number of confirmed cases almost doubled; so far there have been 15 measles outbreaks. Parts of Seattle now have lower vaccination rates than Rwanda.[19] In Europe measles killed at least 37 people in the first six month of this year. And in Israel the incidence of measles (per million population) increased from 1.3 to over 62, and the number of actual cases increased from 15 last year to at least 526 this year.[20] This year in Jerusalem an unvaccinated toddler died of measles. Hers was the first measles death there in 15 years.

Anti-vaccination and conspiratorial thinking
Why is this happening? One clue is from a recently published paper from an Australian group which examined the psychological roots of anti-vaccination attitudes among over 5,000 respondents in twenty-four countries.[21] Its results highlight the correlation between (among other things) conspiratorial thinking and holding an anti-vaccination position. Perhaps that is no surprise, but most alarming is the finding that levels of education had no such correlation. “The particularly strong role of conspiratorial beliefs” conclude the authors, “helps contextualize why corrective information and myth-busting about vaccinations has tended to be either ineffective or counterproductive.” It doesn’t matter what you say, what evidence you provide. Paradoxically, presenting facts to those who are anti-vaccine is actually counterproductive. Because it was never about the facts.[22]

As the statements of Rabbi Kamenetzky and his wife demonstrate, conspiratorial thinking also plays a significant role within the Ultra-Orthodox community. But research in Israel has shown that there are other factors at play. These include having more than six children, the mother’s level of education, a belief that Judaism forbids vaccination, a perception that the risk of vaccine preventable diseases is low, and mistrust of the health authorities.[23]

How are we to frame our thinking about this wave of anti-vaccine hysteria? How might we learn about a response from our rich Jewish intellectual heritage? Perhaps by turning to a small sefer written by a long-forgotten rabbi and published in London over two-hundred and thirty years ago.

 Aleh Terufah – the first halakhic work on vaccination
In 1785 Abraham ben Solomon of Hamburg published Aleh Terufah (Leaf of Healing).[24] It was a short book which discussed the urgent need to inoculate people against smallpox. We know very little of Abraham’s biography, and what we do know comes from the book’s introduction. He was born in Nancy in north-eastern France, spent some sixteen years in the Hague under the patronage of a Jewish banker there, and later moved to London where he was again supported by a member of the Jewish community. There is no evidence that he obtained rabbinic ordination, nor that he had undergone an apprenticeship in medicine. “Abraham was clearly not a prominent figure in either the rabbinic or medical word” wrote the historian David Ruderman, “so… his publication is all the more unusual, and the book’s contents were “a rich mixture of rabbinical opinion, medical information and common sense.”[25]

Aleh Terufah was written in the most tragic of circumstances. Abraham had lost two children to smallpox and was determined to inform other Jews that it was possible to inoculate against the disease. Some medical history is needed to put this book into context. Smallpox was a highly contagious disease with a fatality rate of 30%. In 1980, after an intense international vaccination campaign, it was completely eliminated. For centuries it had been known that a degree of protection from the disease could be obtained through what later became known as inoculation. In this process, a pustule from the skin of a person infected with smallpox would be opened. Some material was then extracted and placed into a small incision made in the forearm of the recipients, usually a child. There was inevitably a local reaction, accompanied perhaps with fever and malaise, but these symptoms soon resolved, and the child would then become immune to smallpox. The method was widely practiced and had been brought to England at the start of the eighteenth century (though with little enthusiasm from physicians, who found the idea too unconventional for their liking). Although it was Edward Jenner who was credited with introducing the process, it had in fact been used for decades. In 1798 he published a now classic paper on a variation of the vaccination process, but as we learn from the publication of Aleh Terufah thirteen years earlier, he neither discovered nor was the only champion of the procedure.[26],[27]
As Abraham ben Solomon noted, there were many physicians opposed to the procedure. It’s not hard to understand why. Neither Jenner nor anyone else had any idea what caused smallpox or why the vaccine worked. Parents were being asked to allow their healthy child to be deliberately inoculated with the pus of smallpox victim. It was a leap of faith that I imagine many of us would have refused to take. And among Jews there was the question of whether Jewish law permitted it at all.

Abraham did not include a rabbinic approbation to his work, so often published in similar books of Jewish law. As he explained in the introduction, he had chosen to do so for two reasons. First, he considered himself “as a student who teaches in the presence of his rabbi.” He claimed that he was engaged only in a theoretical discussion and never intended his book to provide a definitive ruling about the permissibility of the smallpox vaccine. Despite this commitment, Aleh Terufah is far from a work of theoretical Halakhah. This is most evident with Abraham’s instruction to the reader that should he wish to avoid excessive pilpul, he should skip certain pages. Evidently Abraham wanted his readers to read his conclusions, rather than join him on a journey of exegesis. But he knew exactly what he was really doing. Despite his proclaimed modesty, “sometimes” he wrote “there is a slip of the pen” and writes, “it appears to me to rule leniently, or something similar.”

The second reason for publishing without an approbation was this: Abraham was not interested in making money from his book. He believed that rabbinic haskamot usually served only to remind others of the issues of copyright. But Abraham never intended for his book to be a commercial success. “I give full permission” he wrote, “to whomever wishes, to publish this book at the end of the year 5545 [1785]” – the very year in which the book was published. The goal was not sales: it was saving lives.

Abraham’s book was meant to persuade his readers that although inoculation carried a small risk, it was a far better option than opening up the possibility of catching smallpox.[28] Writing before an understanding of the germ theory of disease, he cited the opinion of a Jewish physician by the name of Jacob Zahalon of Rome who identified impure menstrual blood as the cause of smallpox. Zahalon was of course wrong – but no more wrong than anyone else, writing some two centuries before Pasteur’s experiments which demonstrated the correctness of the germ theory.[29] But it didn’t much matter what caused smallpox; what mattered was the success of the vaccination program. Abraham focused on the issue of doubt and certainty and cases where there may be an element of tiny risk (s’feik s’feikah). He cited the Talmud (Hullin 9), the Shulkhan Arukh and its commentaries (Yoreh De’ah 110), and examples from Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. He was working, he acknowledged, in uncharted territory; inoculation had not previously been discussed anywhere in the responsa literature.[30] There was no precedent to be found in the Talmud or the Gaonim, but basing himself on what sources might have been germane, he ruled that any healthy child who had not yet caught smallpox was to be considered already sick. Halakhah therefore required that the vaccine be given, even if it carried, as it did, a risk of serious complications and even death.

Abraham branched out into a discussion of the effectiveness of the vaccination compared with blood-letting or laxatives.[31] Both of these well-established procedures had complications that included death. “Should we” he asked rhetorically “prohibit bloodletting or laxatives because of this?” And then this prescient sentence: “there is no medical intervention that is entirely free of risk. The question was never about being certain that an intervention is completely safe, because there is no such thing as a completely safe medical intervention. After a further discussion on the irrelevance of relying on God to heal the sick, Abraham concludes with this poetic declaration:

After considering all of this, I sit in judgement before my teachers and rabbis who are expert adjudicators. In my humble opinion this medical intervention has been proved effective and is now widely used.

There were four arguments in support of vaccination in Aleh Terufah. First, experience had already demonstrated that the vaccine worked. Second, it was important to act quickly to save the lives of children. Third, any medical procedure carries risk, but the risk specific to vaccination was no greater than that associated with other widely accepted therapies of the time. Vaccines today pose nothing of the risk that Abraham was discussing of course. They are medicines, so of course they have side effects. The most common of these are allergic reactions, and there is no link whatsoever between vaccination and autism. Finally, Abraham wrote of the deaths of two of his four children from smallpox to emphasize the risks of not vaccinating. He made his story personal. But it was the fact that he took a position at all that makes Abraham’s book so worthy of study. It was an example of leadership at a time of crisis. Which brings us to the Orthodox Union.[32]

The OU-RCA statement on vaccinations
In November 2018 the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America issued a “Joint Statement on Vaccinations.” They “strongly urge[d] all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician.” “Jewish law” they wrote, “defers to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to illness and prevention.” And then this: “…the consensus of major poskim (halachic decisors) supports the vaccination of children to protect them from disease, to eradicate illness from the larger community through so-called herd immunity, and thus to protect others who may be vulnerable.”

What sounds like laudable support for a critical and life-saving program raises several questions on a second read. “The consensus” of course, means that there are those who disagree. And that term “so-called” is laden with meaning. What would you mean if you called someone a “so-called rabbi”? What would you be trying to communicate if you called someone a “so-called expert”? You would mean of course, they are anything but rabbis, and nothing like real experts. That’s at least how we use the term – and how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary helpfully defines the term: falsely or improperly so named. Or better yet the Oxford Dictionary, which informs us that the phrase is used “to express one’s view that such a name or term is inappropriate.”

Anyone with a modicum of scientific background would know that herd immunity is as real as innate immunity or acquired immunity. It is not an object but a concept, and one that carries a great deal of importance in our fight against devastating infectious diseases. Herd (or group) immunity occurs when a sufficiently large number of members develop immunity to an infectious disease, due either to vaccinations or the development of natural immunity after an infection. In this setting, a bacteria or virus has so few hosts that it fails to penetrate the group that its ability to infect non-immune members is drastically reduced. The presence of immune individuals provides indirect protection to the non-immune.[33] But the OU-RCA statement questions the very existence of herd immunity.

If indeed, as the OU-RCA statement claims, “Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts,” why does it suggest a paragraph later that “everyone should consult with his or her religious, medical and legal advisors in determining what actions to take”? What role might these religious leaders have, if we were just told that Jewish law should defer to medical opinion? Why the need to include this disclaimer at all? Abraham argued in his book that Jewish law required every parent to vaccinate their child. The OU could have looked to earlier works – like Aleh Terufah – for a model of rabbinic responsibility. The OU statement prevaricated when it should have been crystal clear. [34]

Prayer and action
The Talmud relates that Reish Lakish, the great amora of the third century, and his secretary Yehudah bar Nahmeni went to comfort Rav Hiyyah bar Abba, who was mourning the death of his child.[35] Yehudah bar Nahmeni offered some intended words of comfort, but they were nothing of the sort; they were words of rebuke. “In a generation in which fathers abhor the Holy One, Blessed be He, He gets angry at their sons and their daughters, and they die when they are young.” Reish Lakish, hearing Yehudah’s insensitivity, told him to change track. Here is the last of the four blessings with which Yehudah replied.

Master of the worlds, redeem and save, deliver and help your nation Israel from pestilence, and from the sword, and from plundering, from the plagues of wind blast and mildew [that destroy the crops], and from all types of misfortunes that may break out and come into the world. Before we call, you answer. Blessed are You, who ends the plague.

Blessed are You who ends the plague. Once, all that could be done when little children died was to pray for God to intervene and end the plague. It’s an understandable response to the tragedy caused by infectious disease, when all you can do is watch the children die.

A quite different blessing is made before undergoing a medical procedure. It was originally said prior to bloodletting (now mercifully a thing of the past). But it should be said by any patient before and after undergoing any medical intervention, and it is (or should be) part of normative Jewish practice to this day, as ruled by the Shulchan Arukh, which states:[36]

“May it be your will Lord my God, that this procedure will heal me, for you are an unconditional healer.” And when it is finished, he says: “Blessed are you God, healer of the sick.”

In the fight against infectious diseases, we now have more than just the option of praying for a plague to end. We can vaccinate our children and offer a prayer to God asking that that the vaccine perform its job. That is the message we need to tell, in every shul, in every Jewish day school, and in every religious organization in the country.

Jeremy Brown is Director of the Office of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health. He trained as an emergency physician in Boston, and prior to joining the NIH he worked in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the George Washington University in Washington DC. He is the author New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought published by Oxford University Press. His most recent book is Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History, published last month by Simon and Schuster.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

UOJ Reporters Tracked Down Rabbi Shea Fishman, Formerly From Torah UMesorah On Protecting Children --- "The Climate is Just Not Right"


ALBANY — For more than a decade, victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York have asked lawmakers here for the chance to seek justice — only to be blocked by powerful interests including insurance companies, private schools and leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish communities. “We know that child sexual abuse happens, sadly, in every venue, whether it’s a yeshiva or someone’s home....

New York lawmakers pass Child Victims Act: 'This bill is about survivors'


ALBANY – Michael F. Whalen Jr. hadn’t even heard of the Child Victims Act last February, when he told reporters in Buffalo that the Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits had sexually abused him as a teenager nearly four decades ago.

But on Monday, Whalen traveled by train to Albany to be recognized for his role in getting the controversial legislation adopted by New York State lawmakers.

“For me, personally, if I helped it along in any way possible by stepping forward almost a year ago, then yeah, I’m so glad to see it,” Whalen said. “I’m sad to see it’s taken 12 years for it to happen.”

Whalen’s news conference across the street from the Buffalo Diocese’s headquarters led to Orsolits’ admission to The Buffalo News later the same day that he had molested probably dozens of boys.

The Child Victims Act, which unanimously passed the Senate Monday afternoon and later passed the Assembly by a vote of 131-2, extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting child molesters.

It also provides victims like Whalen – time-barred from filing civil suits – a one-year window to sue private and public institutions, like churches and schools, over abuse that may have occurred decades ago.

Republican Assembly member Andy Goodell of Jamestown was one of two state lawmakers who voted against the measure.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was expected to sign into law the bill that changes the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions over childhood sexual abuse from age 23 to 55 and 28, respectively.

Whalen joined other survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the Senate gallery to watch the bill pass, the culmination of a generation of pleading, cajoling and protesting.

New York's Catholic bishops and Agudath Israel of America successfully lobbied for more than 12 years to keep versions of the Child Victims Act bottled up in the Republican-controlled State Senate. The GOP leaders did not allow the bill to come to a floor vote although the Assembly had passed the measure. 

After Democrats took control of the Senate majority this month, they pledged that passing the Child Victims Act would be among their top priorities.

“You will be able to name your abuser, the institution that harbored them and moved them to other institutions so they could harm other children," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and sponsor of the bill in the 150-member Democratic-run chamber.

“We have come to the day where justice will prevail," she said.

The Child Victims Act includes provisions to:

  • Expand the statute of limitations so that victims, prospectively, can bring civil cases up until their 55th birthday. It’s now age 23.
  • Increase the statute of limitations for criminal cases until, in the case of felonies, the 28th birthday of the victim, up from age 23 now.
  • Opens a one-year look-back period, which will start six months after the law takes effect, in which victims of any age can bring civil lawsuits against individuals or public and private institutions – from churches to public school districts – for abuse that may have occurred many decades ago.
The Senate GOP had long blocked the Child Victims Act, in part over concerns the look-back period would open litigation floodgates and bankrupt some dioceses, schools or other institutions.

Victims celebrate bill's passage


Groups at the Capitol Monday cited a wave of high-profile cases in the past decade, from Penn State to USA Gymnastics to the coverup of alleged clergy molestation cases over several decades in the Buffalo Diocese.

"It became harder and harder for the narrative to be, ‘You should have come out sooner or you should have told somebody sooner.’ There’s been a greater recognition that there’s a lot of reasons why somebody might not be able to do so," said Michael Polenberg of Safe Horizon, which provides support and advocacy for abuse victims.

Opposition in the past focused in part on potential costs of civil litigation for institutions with clergy or employees or volunteers who may be long dead and can’t be a part of defending sexual abuse cases. But Polenberg said sexual abuse cases will not get any preferential treatment in courts.

“This bill is about survivors. This bill is about somebody who’s been grievously harmed to go to court to seek criminal or civil damages. This is not a bill about bankrupting institutions," Polenberg said.

During floor speeches, five legislators noted they were victims of sexual abuse.

Melanie Blow, one of the child abuse survivors at the Capitol to witness the passage of the legislation, grew up in Wyoming County. She said she was raped as a teenager by a man who has since been suspected of abusing another child. By the time she brought the case to police, Blow was 24 – beyond the statute of limitations.

Blow now lives in Monroe County and works with the Stop Abuse Campaign to prevent child abuse through education and public policy efforts.

“I’m certainly going to investigate suing my abuser and to making (the case) public. Most of us are not looking to get money from this. We’re looking to get a day in court. We’re looking to get a name made public," she said.

Michael Eames who was abused by Rev. Donald W. Becker in 1975 in Java Center, looks on during a press conference to discuss the passage of the Child Victims Act in the New York State Legislature in a conference room at Hogan Willig Attorneys At Law in Amherst, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019

Michael Eames, of Hamburg, said he was looking forward to his day in court to force the Buffalo Diocese to reveal what it knew about the Rev. Donald W. Becker, the priest he and several other men have accused of sexually abusing them when they were children.

Eames alleged Becker molested him at a cabin in Java Center in 1975. Becker was associate pastor of SS. Peter & Paul Church in Hamburg at the time.

“They had to know. They just had to know. When they moved him, they knew there was a problem at St. Pete’s in Hamburg and they just moved him to a new area," said Eames. "And I knew people that were abused by Father Becker in the new area that he was moved to. So this is just a trail of destruction he’s left in his path."

Eames said he applied to the diocese's Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program but received an offer that "was not good, not good at all." The program gives abuse victims a monetary settlement if they give up their rights to sue the diocese. The Buffalo Diocese already has offered more than $8.2 million to 50 victims, The News has learned through interviews with victims and lawyers.

Eames said he didn't anticipate state lawmakers ever passing a law that would allow him to seek justice.

“I was totally amazed that this has turned around, and it’s still hard to believe,” said Eames.
Niagara Falls attorney Paul K. Barr also said he was rejecting a $45,000 offer from the diocese so that he can take his case to court.

Barr alleged he was sexually abused by the Rev. Michael R. Freeman in 1980 in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church in Niagara Falls.

"I want to go through the discovery process. I want to be able to confront the representatives of the diocese," said Barr. "I'm willing to forgo the money they offered so I can look somebody in the eye who represents the diocese."

Barr said all survivors of abuse will finally have the opportunity for a full accounting of what the diocese did or didn't do.

"It's a matter of vindication in the sense that everyone will know that I reported Mike Freeman and they didn't do anything to protect the other kids Mike Freeman abused. I was ignored," he said.
Victims were not the only ones watching the proceedings Monday.

“It’s a long time coming," said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.

The county’s chief prosecutor noted how he’s had to tell abuse victims there is little his office can do, via criminal courts, about abuse that occurred decades ago.

“At least having five more years on the statute of limitations gives victims five more years to come forward. It’s an additional tool in my toolbox and hopefully we can provide justice to someone going forward," Flynn said.

Lawmakers and advocates for childhood sexual abuse victims gather at the New York State Capitol in Albany on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Tom Precious/Buffalo News)

The final bill enacted Monday made clearer that the look-back period of one year for victims of any age to bring civil action affects both private and public institutions. The Catholic Church raised concerns that just private groups – like churches and Boy Scouts – would be covered by the one-year look-back lawsuit period. Lawmakers changed the bill’s language last week to provide that certainty.

“No one can say this legislation unfairly targets one group over the other," said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the Child Victims Act in the Senate.

“We know that child sexual abuse happens, sadly, in every venue, whether it’s a yeshiva or someone’s home, whether it’s the gym teacher or the Boy Scouts, whether it’s your church or your youth group. It does not discriminate against its survivors," Hoylman said.

While Senate Republicans killed the bill in past years, GOP lawmakers Monday said the new measure does not go far enough. The Senate GOP offered amendments – rejected along party lines – to boost the criminal statute of limitations higher than 28 years old and to let many victims tap into a special fund.

Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican, said the bill is of no help to what she called the vast majority of victims, abused by family members, neighbors or baby sitters, for instance, and whose abusers don’t have deep financial pockets and there can be no suits brought against an institution. She said an asset forfeiture fund run by the Manhattan district attorney – flush with at least $700 million – could be tapped to pay victims who can’t sue an institution.

“People should stand up for all victims and that’s not happening today," Young said.

Republicans also criticized that the bill does not force members of the clergy to report to authorities instances in which they believe there is abuse occurring by fellow priests. Such a reporting requirement exists for schools.

Hoylman called it “rich” that Republicans were critical of the bill as not being strong enough, after years of killing it.

“What took you so long?" Hoylman said on the floor to Republicans – all of whom voted for the final bill – after the debate ended.

Cuomo's harsh words for Catholic Church


In a news conference at the Capitol, Cuomo had two chief targets for his criticism of why the Child Victims Act took so long to get passed: Senate Republicans who controlled the Senate until their majority party defeat in the November elections and the state’s Catholic Church leaders.

“I don’t think I’m against the Catholic Church. I’m with the pope. I think the bishops may have a different position than the pope," Cuomo, a Catholic, said of Pope Francis, whose comments on child sexual abuse by priests have grown increasingly strong since 2013.

“It’s not a pleasant position to have the Catholic Church criticize you but Pope Francis gives me comfort on this issue. The abuse of minors is so brutal the church cannot remain indifferent to this," the governor added, saying that the church “would like us to legislate their opinion” on social and other matters. “I don’t think denial by the Catholic Church is going to work here," Cuomo said of church-related cases.

The New York State Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the bishops in the state, pushed back against Cuomo.

“It’s truly unfortunate that Governor Cuomo continues to portray the societal issue of child sexual abuse as a Catholic-only problem," said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for bishops across the state.

“Thankfully, the Legislature and victim advocates understand this is not the case."

He said the church did not oppose the bill’s final version because it states the special litigation period applies to cases brought against all institutions, which could be entities owned by the state or localities.

“We hope this legislation gives all survivors the opportunity to be heard and compensated, wherever they were abused," Poust said.

Whalen said he was surprised the Buffalo clergy sex abuse scandal erupted after he held his news conference in February.

"I had no idea that it would explode to this magnitude," he said.

The Child Victims Act will help past victims and prevent future abuse, Whalen said.

"I'm glad that they'll have that opportunity to confront their abuser," he said. "It takes a while for some survivors to come out and admit what happened. They've got some time now."

Whalen said he plans to take advantage of the new law by filing a lawsuit against the diocese.

"Most definitely," he said.


New York lawmakers approve Child Victims Act, allowing sexual abuse victims to sue


Monday, January 28, 2019

The Catholic Church dropped all opposition to the bill Thursday night! --- Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the bill and has said he will sign it into law. “Whoever abuses a child should be held liable,” Cuomo said Friday. “I don’t care if you’re rich, I don’t care if you’re powerful, I don’t care if you’re a rabbi, a priest or a shoemaker. Whoever abuses a child should be liable.”

Child Victims Act Due For Vote Monday - Today!

Jan 25, 2019
The Child Victims Act is scheduled to be approved in the New York Legislature this week. Sponsors say they have fixed a perceived flaw in the legislation that opponents said could provide a loophole for public schools in sexual abuse cases.

The Catholic Church recently pulled back on its long standing opposition to provisions of the Child Victims Act that end the statute of limitations for survivors to bring suits against their abusers.

 But church leaders said the measure, as written, might shield public schools and other institutions, like hospitals, because it did not change a law that says anyone filing suit against a public entity must file a notice of claim by 90 days after the incident.

State Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman says he believes the measure supersedes that rule and would treat private and public institutions equally. But he says he and the Assembly sponsor, Linda Rosenthal, are adding clarifying language to the bill, to end any doubts.

“We’ll do everything we can to make it as explicit as possible,” Hoylman said. “That the bill is even-handed in its application to both public and private institutions.”

The Catholic Church dropped all opposition to the bill Thursday night.

Assemblywoman Rosenthal in a statement said, “The horrific sins of past abuse can never be absolved, but the passage of the Child Victims Act will deliver an opportunity for accountability and redress that survivors in New York have never before had.”

Senator Hoylman says passing the law would give survivors some justice, and would also prevent future victims because the court actions would “out” alleged perpetrators  and remove them from situations where they interact with children.

“There’s a very important public safely component,” Hoylman said. “Through the rules of evidence and normal discovery, it helps point out the fact that some predators may still be working in schools or have contact with children because they’ve never been identified as such.”

The bill is on the legislative calendar for Monday.

Previous major opposition to the Child Victims Act came from the Catholic Diocese, who says they now support the bill after language that covers all public entities, including schools, was added. NYS Catholic Conference Communications Director Dennis Poust issued this statement to Spectrum News:

"We are pleased the sponsors have amended the Child Victims Act to include all survivors of abuse wherever it occurred. We have therefore removed our previous opposition and pray that survivors find the healing they so desperately deserve. We have long supported strengthening the legislation to include additional measures such as removal of criminal statutes of limitation completely, funding for safe environment training for public and private institutions, and compensation programs for those who prefer it to litigation. We will continue to advocate for those measures in future legislation." 

The CVA vote is expected to pass both the Assembly and the Senate, and then be immediately signed into law by Cuomo on Monday. The law will take effect immediately.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Finally! ---- The latest draft obtained by the Daily News would raise the top age that a child sex abuse survivor can bring a civil lawsuit to 55, up from the current 23.


EXCLUSIVE: Revised, tougher Child Victims Act set to be introduced in NYS Legislature

EXCLUSIVE: Revised, tougher Child Victims Act set to be introduced in NYS Legislature
Supporters of the Child Victims Act march across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 4, 2017.
ALBANY – State lawmakers will soon introduce a revised, tougher bill designed to make it easier for victims of child victims abuse to seek justice as adults, the Daily News has learned.

The latest draft obtained by the Daily News would raise the top age that a child sex abuse survivor can bring a civil lawsuit to 55, up from the current 23.

Gov. Cuomo last week and a previous version of the bill in the Legislature had sought to raise the age to 50.

A criminal case involving child sex abuse would be able to be brought until the survivor’s 28th birthday if it’s a felony and 25th if it’s a misdemeanor, which matches the governor’s legislation and previous legislative bills that passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly but died in the Senate that until January was run by the Republicans.

Going forward, the bill also does away with a requirement that a minor abused at a public institution like a school must file within 90 days of the attack of an intent to sue. Under the latest draft, someone sexually assaulted at a public institution would be able to bring a civil lawsuit up to his or her 55th birthday.

But with research showing that many survivors don’t begin dealing with what happened to them until later in life, lawmakers ultimately decided giving them even more time to bring a civil lawsuit would be appropriate, Senate bill sponsor Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) explained.

A criminal case involving child sex abuse would be able to be brought until the survivor’s 28th birthday if it’s a felony and 25th if it’s a misdemeanor, which matches the governor’s legislation and previous legislative bills that passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly but died in the Senate that until January was run by the Republicans.Going forward, the bill also does away with a requirement that a minor abused at a public institution like a school must file within 90 days of the attack of an intent to sue. Under the latest draft, someone sexually assaulted at a public institution would be able to bring a civil lawsuit up to his or her 55th birthday. The draft also includes a one-year lookback window to revive old cases that under current law cannot be filed.
The latest draft includes language designed to ensure that window will be open to those abused at both private and public institutions.

Child sex abuse survivor Fred Marigliano holds a sign supporting the CVA at a rally near City Hall in June 2017. The new bill would reportedly raise the top age that a child sex abuse survivor can bring a civil lawsuit to 55, up from the current 23.
Child sex abuse survivor Fred Marigliano holds a sign supporting the CVA at a rally near City Hall in June 2017. The new bill would reportedly raise the top age that a child sex abuse survivor can bring a civil lawsuit to 55, up from the current 23
Timothy Cardinal Dolan had groused that the Child Victims Act language introduced in the governor’s budget proposal last week was vague as to whether it would treat public and private institutions the same.

Though Cuomo and the legislative bill sponsors had denied that was the case, the Legislature’s emerging legislation would specify that those abused at a school or other public institution could revive an old case even if they had failed to file a 90-day notice of claim.

After more than a decade-and-a-half of intense lobbying—and the Democrats now controlling both houses of the Legislature--survivors and advocates could see a vote on the Child Victims Act within a week or two, insiders say.

“It is a watershed moment for adult survivors of child sex abuse,” Hoylman said. “It’s been a long slog.”

Assembly sponsor Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) added that “I think everybody will be pleased because we will be providing a path to justice in court and with a look-back window to revive old cases.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rabbi Fish noted that first letters of each of Rabbi Kanievsky’s Hebrew names can be rearranged to spell “Moshiach.”

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most prominent rabbis of this generation, made a shocking statement, claiming that the Messiah will precede the upcoming Israeli elections. Several rabbis noted that the writing is on the wall and the signs that the process leading up to the Messiah has already begun…for those who have the eyes to see it.

Rabbi Yekutiel Fish, an expert in Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) gave a lesson this week in which he discussed how the Messiah was imminent. Rabbi Fish cited Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most prominent Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis of this generation, who began foretelling the arrival of the Messiah just a few years ago. 

“It is written that in the days leading up to the Messiah, tzaddikim (righteous men) will begin to announce his arrival but some people, those who have not prepared for His arrival, will laugh at the righteous and the learned,” Rabbi Fish said, warning that it is forbidden to mock the righteous.

Rabbi Kanievsky’s full given-name is Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim ben (the son of) Miriam. Rabbi Fish noted that first letters of each of Rabbi Kanievsky’s Hebrew names can be rearranged to spell “Moshiach.”
Fish emphasized that Kanievsky was especially suited for presaging the arrival of the Messiah. Not only is Rabbi Kanievsky one of the most learned and righteous Jews alive today, there is another indication of his connection to the Moshiach (Messiah). Rabbi Kanievsky’s full given-name is Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim ben (the son of) Miriam. Rabbi Fish noted that first letters of each of Rabbi Kanievsky’s Hebrew names can be rearranged to spell “Moshiach.” 

Rabbi Fish related a story that is just now being told within Haredi circles in Israel. A young Torah scholar from outside of Israel was hosted for the Sabbath a few weeks ago at the house of a follower of Rabbi Kanievsky. The young man visited Kanievsky during the Sabbath. He asked the rabbi if he should apply for Israeli citizenship in order to vote for the Haredi party in the Israeli elections being held on April 9. 

“There is no need,” Rabbi Kanievsky answered. “The  Messiah will already be here before the elections.”

The young man was unsure that he had heard the rabbi correctly so after he departed from the house, he asked Kanievsky’s grandson, a venerated rabbi in his own right, to confirm the answer. The grandson entered the rabbi’s chamber and asked again: ‘Should the young man apply for citizenship before the elections?’

Rabbi Kanievsky responded, “I already told him that there is no need. The Messiah will be here before the elections.”

Rabbi Kanievsky’s statement was also discussed by Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson, an expert in Torah codes, in a recent video. Using a Torah program that searches for equidistant letter sequences in the Bible, Rabbi Glazerson did a search for relevant expressions concerning Kanievsky’s announcement. 

He noted that the term “יבוא משיח” (the Messiah will come) appears once in Leviticus 23 adjacent to the letters “תשעט” signifying the current Hebrew year, 5779. 

The rabbi also noted that included in the table was the word “מפורים” (from Purim). The holiday of Purim will fall on March 21 this year, three and a half weeks before the Israeli elections.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Druckman Tosses Elon Overboard (only) After Donor freezes funding to Bnei Akiva over Rabbi Druckman’s silence on Elon...

Disgraced rabbi convicted of sexual assault to be de-ordained


Rabbi accused of sexual assault years after conviction for the same offense could lose his title as a rabbi.

Rabbi Elon
Moti Elon

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel began the process of revoking the title of rabbi from Moti Elon following the new allegations against him.

Elon was convicted of performing an indecent act with a minor while taking advantage of being in a position of authority in 2013. He was given a sentence of jail time and fined NIS 10,000.

According to the report of Akiva Weiss in Kan 11, the legal adviser of the rabbinate sent a letter to Rabbi Elon in which the legal adviser wrote that he has three weeks to present his position before the meeting of the disciplinary committee of the Chief Rabbinate.

Many of those who supported Elon in 2013 changed their positions in light of the most recent allegations against him. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, one of the leading religious Zionist rabbis in Israel, called on Elon to cease teaching and avoid all contact with students.

Last week, Rabbi Drickman wrote: "As soon as I received the information, and after conferring with other rabbis, I delivered an order that Rabbi Elon should not be allowed to deliver lectures or host any other public activities for the greater public, and that he should not have any private meetings with youth."

"Obviously, following our obligation to fulfill the commandment, “V’haya machanecha kadosh, and your camps shall be holy,” we must take every necessary action in order to create a safe, protective and respectful environment for everyone."


Monday, January 21, 2019

Many studies had concluded that some victims are unable to come to grips with and understand what happened to them until years after the fact....


NYS Bill Could Bankrupt Yeshivas - (The Ones That Harbored Child Rapists, and Covered Up For Them - They Should Go Bankrupt and the Criminals Locked Up) - The Idiots at The Jewish Press Weigh In!


Now that the Democrats have a clear majority in the New York State Senate, they have moved fast to pass many socially progressive bills that had long stalled in the legislature while the Republicans were in control. On Tuesday, the legislature passed both the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and a bill banning conversion therapy (see the Dispatch From The Culture War Front column on page 21).

Likewise, it is likely that there are now enough votes to pass the Child Victims Act, legislation extending the statue of limitations for legal actions based upon allegations of childhood sex abuse.

Under the current law in New York, both criminal and civil sex abuse cases cannot be brought after age 23. Some versions of the legislation that may be passed would generally set age 28 as the cut off to press criminal charges and age 50 for bringing civil cases.

The bill would also open up a one-year window for all past victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil claim, no matter how long ago it was.

Proposals for such legislation have been around for at least a decade and were drafted to deal with the special problem of repression that often face sexual abuse victims. Many studies had concluded that some victims are unable to come to grips with and understand what happened to them until years after the fact. Yet the legislation languished because of evidentiary concerns: memories fade, what exactly occurred, if anything, could not be clear in the accuser’s mind. Moreover, the ability of an accused to defend himself and gather evidence would obviously be undermined.

Thus, if the bill passes, anyone can bring a lawsuit, even an unfounded one. But the mechanisms of the court systems are such that an accused must defend against allegations. That, of course, requires a lawyer, which is generally quite expensive for these kinds of cases, or the defendant would effectively be deemed guilty. Without insurance to fight this, which most institutions don’t have, yeshivas would be financially destroyed, regardless of the outcome of the case. Attorneys for plaintiffs would likely take on such cases on a contingency basis, counting on schools to cave early on, and accept a quick settlement, even after simply receiving a lawyer’s letter.

Nobody condones abusing children – and we mean nobody. Whenever it happens – to any child, Jewish or not – it is a deplorable and horrific affront to everything we as a Torah-abiding community hold sacred. And community members must do everything in their power to prevent sexual, physical and psychological abuse of children, no matter who the perpetrator is. People should go to the secular authorities so they can prosecute those who dare harm our littlest ones.

We can and do advocate for a dozen sensible things to do to help victims of sexual abuse. And we would be happy for legislators to seek input from community leaders as to how the legislation can be improved. But we cannot endorse the Child Victims Act as it is currently being drafted. It puts the survival of our entire educational enterprise at existential risk.


Friday, January 18, 2019

“We failed to protect those students, and we feel their pain,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “This is a sin for which there is no forgiveness. Thousands more [students] were treated right, but that is no consolation. Each child is of infinite value, so this is an infinite failure.”

Editorial: The Need For Soul Searching By Our Jewish Institutions

One of the most powerful elements of the Yom Kippur service is the “Al Chet” prayer as congregants beat their breasts and recite a long litany of declarations that begins, “For the sin which we have committed … .”

In Jewish tradition, we can’t be forgiven for a sin unless and until we acknowledge it and seek forgiveness. And each of us knows how difficult it can be to own up to a wrongdoing, especially in public.

That’s why it is worth noting when the leaders of a communal institution have the collective courage to come forward and take responsibility for a past grievance. Two such instances occurred this past week.

Hillel International has completed its six-month investigation into “claims by staff members of sexual harassment by donors,” according to a statement intended only for staff and lay leaders but obtained by The Jewish Week. Hillel found that “the complaints were justified, and that the individuals had been subjected to inappropriate comments and/or suggestions by one or more of our donors.” One of those donors was philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, who issued an apology. (See story here.)

On Hillel probe: Mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, above, responded to The Jewish Week that he was “sorry and deeply regret[s] causing any embarrassment, discomfort or pain, which was never my intention.”

Noting that in one of those cases Hillel’s response “was not timely, thereby causing additional harm,” the statement said: “It pains us greatly that anyone in the Hillel movement could be subjected to any form of harassment. We have apologized to these respected professionals.”
 The statement will not be made public and did not name the donors, as some in the community would have preferred. (Sources close to the investigation said it was “a very small number.”) But the fact that Hillel voluntarily initiated the lengthy, costly and painful process of an internal investigation, through an outside law firm, is admirable.

Shira Berkovits, the founder and CEO of Sacred Spaces, an organization that seeks to prevent institutional abuse in the Jewish community and was engaged by Hillel 10 months ago, told us it is all too rare for organizations facing allegations of this nature to undertake an investigation into their own handling of a case. More often, she said, organizations act in the face of media exposure or a lawsuit. To act “prior to any such public exposure is a form of cheshbon hanefesh, or soul searching, for which Hillel should be commended.”

Last Saturday night, SAR Academy of Riverdale marked its 50th anniversary with a range of remembrances, videos, performances by the student choir and a dinner with many hundreds of attendees. Amidst the celebratory mood and praise for the visionaries who merged three struggling day schools — Salanter, Akiba and Riverdale — and created one innovative and vibrant success, Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, one of the founders and honorees, struck a sober note.

SAR Academy in Riverdale, NY. 
“For all this excellence, I must acknowledge a tragic failure,” he told the hushed crowd. He noted that an investigation this year found that “four decades ago we had a faculty member who abused students … and was not held accountable for his actions,” referring to the case of Stanley Rosenfeld, who spent years teaching at SAR, The Ramaz School and Westchester Day School and was alleged to have abused scores of students. In 2001, he plead no contest to two counts of sexual molestation.

“We failed to protect those students, and we feel their pain,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “This is a sin for which there is no forgiveness. Thousands more [students] were treated right, but that is no consolation. Each child is of infinite value, so this is an infinite failure.”

It was a powerful statement, along with a pledge to “keep this painful memory before us constantly” and an assurance that “strong steps” have been taken to prevent further occurrences.

Apologies and new policies, however vital, do not take away the pain for those who have suffered. But they are important starting points for Hillel and SAR, and a model, however flawed and delayed, for other institutions in our community to look inward honestly and have the courage to assess themselves and pledge to do better.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

The "Jew Lover" With "Jewish Grandkids"...

Report: Trump peace plan will divide Jerusalem


Peace plan will reportedly include establishment of Palestinian state in 90% of Judea and Samaria, with part of eastern J'lem its capital.


Will the “Deal of the Century” peace plan of the Trump administration demand far-reaching concessions from Israel?

Hadashot 13 reported that the peace plan formulated by the White House and which President Trump is interested in presenting in the coming months includes the establishment of a Palestinian state in about 90 percent of Judea and Samaria, with at least part of eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

The report, which was quoted from an American source, said that the Americans would demand that isolated settlements outside the blocs not be expanded and outposts considered illegal by Israeli law be evacuated.

The source claimed that the Palestinian state would be built on more than twice the total area of Areas ​​A and B under the control of the Palestinian Authority today.

He added that Trump would seek to divide Jerusalem from a sovereign perspective into two capitals - Israel's in the west of the city and parts of eastern Jerusalem, and the Palestinian one in the Arab neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem.

Under the plan, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives would reportedly remain under Israeli sovereignty, but with full administrative partnership with the Palestinians.

Trump peace plan: divide Jerusalem, Palestinian state on 85-90% of W.Bank 


The report, based on a source who took part in a briefing in Washington on the plan, said it calls for the annexation of the large settlements and the evacuation of some settlement outposts. 


May 2017 - UOJ Opinion

 "Living proof of evolution. A hump short of a camel. Mentally qualified for handicapped parking. So dumb, blondes tell jokes about him. So stupid, mind readers charge him half price. A "crackpot" without the cholent" Takes him 1.5 hours to watch "60 Minutes".

The system can deal with a crooked president. But not a crazy one.