Friday, August 30, 2013

He was offered $100,000 to keep quiet about the situation, which he refused.

 TV News 12
Sex abuse victim from New Square speaks exclusively to News 12

In an exclusive TV News 12 by Tara Rosenblum, Yossi tells how he was sexually abused by Rabbi Herschel Taubenfeld, a teacher in New York's Rockland County Hasidic community of New Square (home of the Skver sect).
Yossi asked for help from the head rabbis of New Square who maintain their own communal sex crimes unit called the VAAD. The agency told him to see a therapist. Two months later, Yossi reported the abuse to the Ramapo police. Yossi recounts how he was offered  $100,000 to keep quiet about the situation, which he refused. Taubenfeld admitted to the crimes, but religious leaders in the community sent Taubenfeld to Israel to obtain an honorary rabbinical ordination. 
Taubenfeld was charged with 30 counts of forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child and third-degree sex abuse yet avoided jail time in exchange for six years probation. 
In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." 
Established halacha (Jewish Law) places a child molester in the category of rodef (an imminent threat), in part due to a recidivism rate well in excess of 50-percent. In his 2004 psak (ruling) on this issue, the late Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv writes that one should report those who sexually abuse children directly to the police and that doing so is of benefit to society.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Every 10 Seconds in the United States, a Call is Made About a Child Being Abused"

Michael Reagan: How I Overcame Child Sexual Abuse

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 03:22 PM
By Sandy Fitzgerald and Kathleen Walter
                                                                                                                                                          Every 10 seconds in the United States, a call is made about a child being abused, but the laws "always seem to be helping the adults," — a trend Michael Reagan hopes to change.

Reagan, himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and child pornography, along with Childhelp, a national child abuse hotline, have declared a call to action to stop children from being victimized.

Reagan, the adopted son of the late President Ronald Reagan and the president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation, has spent the past 25 years raising awareness about the scourge of child abuse, after detailing his own experiences in 1987 through his book "On the Outside Looking In."

Story continues below.

"So many people really have no concept about how many kids are abused every single year," Reagan told Newsmax.TV. "Just to give you an idea, every 10 seconds, there is a call made about a child being abused. Five children die every single day because of child abuse, and 400,000 children will be taken out of their homes this year because of neglect and abuse. It is discouraged in America and it's the least talked about issue in America. We talk about always helping the children but we always seem to be helping the adults."

Reagan and Childhelp are pushing for all states to adopt Erin’s Law, a mandate to teach prevention education in every school in America. In addition, they want to implement Childhelps' "Speak Up Be Safe" program and to make the country aware of key resources available on Americans' smartphones and by encouraging them to call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. (1-800-422-4453).

Childhelp is a non-profit organization that works to meet the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of abused, neglected, and at-risk children. The organization is not affiliated with Child Protective Services or any government agency, political party, religious denomination, or other entities.

"Childhelp has a back to school program, a Be Safe initiative calling on Erin's Law to be passed in every state in this country that would require in fact the curriculum in schools to in fact teach kids about being safe," said Reagan, who was abused by a day camp counselor in the 1950s, when he was only eight years old.

"Don Havlik was the name," he said. "He died about seven years ago, and he had taken naked photographs of me as an 8-year-old child, and had me in fact develop the photographs when I was almost turning nine. [He] put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'wouldn't your mother like a copy of this?'"

Reagan said his life "absolutely ended" that day.

"I thought I was going to Hell, and I didn't know if people would see me as gay or heterosexual," he said. "My dad ran for governor, my dad ran for president, and I knew there were photographs out there."

Reagan kept his secret for the next 30 years, finally revealing to his father and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1987 what had happened.

Reagan said his father reacted by saying "I'll go out and kick the guy's butt," and Nancy Reagan responded, "Honey, I don't think he has a butt anymore."

But, he told Newsmax, parents also need to be aware about what could be happening to their own children.

"As parents, we're so busy we've forgotten to raise our own children and somehow we're wanting to trust all those who we put our children in their care," he said. "Sometimes we need to be careful."

Havlik died at 83 about seven years ago, and his sister-in-law told Reagan the photographs had finally been destroyed.

"Now think about that, photographs taken in 1953, 1954 were not destroyed until seven years ago because these people use them as trading cards in their lives," said Reagan.

Reagan also said he disagrees with recent New Jersey legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie that bars therapists from helping children overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, including minors whose attractions come from childhood sexual abuse.

"There's a lot of children who are in the homosexual community that are there because it's a safe haven for them having been sexually abused," said Reagan, "They're the ones who truly, in fact, need to have some help. So to opt them out of the situation is not the right thing to do."

Reagan also accused lawmakers of being a "bunch of old fogies sitting on Capitol Hill that really don't get it."

Sex trafficking is a $12 billion per year industry, said Reagan, and there are few places in the United States to help children who have been recruited into the trade.

"It's like America doesn't want to talk about it, because to talk about means we have to accept it," said Reagan. "But just to give you an idea, within 48 hours of your child running away from home, whatever the reason is – they're being sexually abused. Congress talks a lot about it but doesn't do very much about it."


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Orthodox Groups Under Fire From Within For Inaction On Defender Of Pedophile

 Gary Rosenblatt       
Editor and Publisher       

Two prominent Orthodox rabbis — one a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) — spoke out forcefully this past week on the need for transparency and justice on sexual abuse in the community, and criticized the Orthodox Union (OU) and the RCA for not taking a stronger stand against a well-known rabbinic authority on kashrut who defended a confessed pedophile.

Rabbi Heshie Billet, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Woodmere and a former president of the RCA, wrote an Opinion column on The Jewish Week website. The piece, “Not Enough Progress By Rabbis, Leaders On Dealing With Sexual Abuse,” described the role Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a major kashrut expert and halachic consultant to the OU, played in publicly defending a confessed sexual abuser, Rabbi Yosef Kolko, who taught youngsters at a Lakewood, N.J., yeshiva.

Further, Rabbi Belsky accused the parents of the victim of going to the police, and wrote that one who does so is guilty of being a moser, the rabbinic term for a Jew who informs on another Jew, and, wrote Rabbi Belsky, “has no share in the world to come.”

Under communal pressure, the boy’s parents moved away from the Lakewood community.

“The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky,” Rabbi Billet wrote, calling on the major Orthodox group to “publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU,” which say child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

“Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities,” Rabbi Billet wrote.

Mayer Fertig, chief communications officer of the OU, told The Jewish Week that while the organization has “high regard” for Rabbi Belsky in terms of his kashrut expertise, it “profoundly disagrees with his conclusion and whatever actions he may have taken” regarding the Kolko case, and has told him so in private conversations.

“In no way does Rabbi Belsky speak for the OU,” Fertig said.

Several sources say OU officials were embarrassed and angered when Rabbi Belsky publicly came to the defense of Rabbi Kolko several months ago in a letter distributed in Hebrew in Lakewood. But insiders acknowledge that no action was taken against him because his kashrut expertise is highly respected in the haredi community, a major market, and there is concern that if he were to be terminated or publicly called out, some haredim would look elsewhere for kosher supervision.

“You can make a strong argument that principle should trump all,” one OU source noted, “but it’s not a simple issue here, and the pragmatists want to keep it quiet.”

The OU is by far the world leader in the field of kashrut supervision.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, spiritual leader of the Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida, in his weekly column to congregants, referred to the Belsky incident without mentioning names.

Among other cases cited he wrote: “When a major Jewish organization retains a rabbi who continues to defend a pedophile who pled guilty in court, and continues to defend a letter he wrote stating that the victim who reported the pedophile is a moser who has no portion in the world to come, it is on the wrong side of this issue.

“We, the rabbinic community and the leadership of the Modern Orthodox establishment,” Rabbi Goldberg wrote, “are in profound need of collective teshuva [repentance].”

Similarly, Rabbi Billet wrote that “the fact that communal leaders … are protecting and enabling abusers, or condemning legitimate accusers, underscores that our community still has a long way to go.”



"He Keeps a Machete by the Nightstand".........

On Marrying a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Dealing with misinformation, feeling powerless, and slowly getting better together

I thought the article would validate my husband’s experience. That’s why I emailed him the link to the decade-old New York magazine article about his alma mater, the American Boychoir School for vocal prodigies, where alumni from as late as the 1990s estimate that one in five boys were molested. Boys like Travis.

“It used to feel like an isolated incident that affected just me," Trav said.

It was the end of my workday on an October afternoon; I had just set my keys on the kitchen table. My coat was still buttoned.

“Now I know I spent nearly three years of my childhood at a boarding school not just with random pedophiles, but in a culture that allowed it.”

As his wife, how do I respond? That he survived? That he’s brave? That he’s a hero for letting me talk about it? That I will stand beside him with a personal mission and public vow that nobody will ever hurt him, physically or emotionally, again, the way they did during his 30 months as a choirboy from 1988 to 1990?.

Trav deflects these statements. He understands my protective instincts, but it makes him feel weak and uncomfortable when I say the words with such elevated drama. He is not brave, he says. Not a survivor, and certainly no hero. It doesn’t matter anymore, he says, so I suck in my breath and nod.
Mostly, I listen. I listen, and I do not laugh when my husband needs to secure the perimeter of our home each night. He keeps a machete by the nightstand. A long pillow divides our bed.

Trav believes his story is too familiar to be interesting. “I’m just another kid who got molested.” This breaks my heart to hear, but he’s not wrong about his story not being unique: The generally accepted estimate is that one in six men are sexually abused as children.
When high profile cases dominate the news, I feel for the victims, but I also scan for images of their partners and wonder how they deal with it. I want to ask what’s inside their medicine cabinets and if their husbands sometimes wince when touched, too.
I want my husband to sleep at night, and if it takes a machete in the bedroom, I‘ve learned not to mind.

Search for Americana singers in our state, and ................



What Can Be Done About Pedophilia?


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Devil of Williamsburgh - Part Two

Content Section

How One Sex Abuse Case Tore Apart the Williamsburg Hasidim

The story of how the repeated sexual abuse of one Hasidic girl by a prominent man shook up her community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and tore apart their world. An excerpt from Allison Yarrow’s The Devil of Williamsburg.
Nestled within modern-day Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster capital of the world, is an ultra-Orthodox community that claims to be the world’s largest sect of Hasidic Jews. In Satmar Williamsburg, there is no president, no Internet. Just God. Religious laws govern life. All of it. What you eat, what you wear, what you say, what you do. Many of these laws—strict laws—lord over relationships between women and men. So many laws that 12-year-old Rayna (the victim's name has been changed in this piece—her identity is sealed by the court as she was a minor when the abuses took place) could hardly keep track. She knew that socializing, dating, kissing, or even being alone in a room with a man who was not a family member were all forbidden. She knew that when women walk down the street, Orthodox men avert their eyes.
Orthodox Therapist Abuse
Nechemya Weberman attends a fundraiser in Brooklyn, where his supporters contributed to a legal defense fund for his trial on charges of sexually abusing a girl he was supposed to be counseling. (AP)

In a building not far from Williamsburg’s trendy clubs and local food stores, Rayna, her father, and a stranger are parsing her future on this day in 2007. Her father had brought her to Nechemya Weberman’s fifth-floor home office after school. Rayna had been seeing a boy, her first crush, and they were regularly texting and talking on the phone. The boy had approached Rayna. He made her feel giddy and shy at the same time. He was unlike the other boys she knew.

Rayna’s parents were distraught. Their daughter didn’t understand the gravity of what she was doing, they thought. Her mother, Emily, grew increasingly distressed as she listened in on her daughter’s calls with the boy. She and her husband feared this illicit relationship would threaten Rayna’s marriage prospects. After all, Rayna wasn’t like other girls. She was pretty and sweet. And she was a Satmar, a member of one of the world’s largest, most powerful groups of Hasidic Jews.

In Williamsburg, Nechemya Weberman was a revered leader and a counselor to wayward youth. Rayna’s parents respected him, and had entrusted him with advising Rayna’s older siblings before they left the nest.

Rayna’s strict yeshiva school had learned of her illicit behavior, and they too promoted Weberman as a therapist. The yeshiva would later threaten to end her education if she refused appointments with Weberman. Her parents were desperate. Their daughter’s future in the Satmar community was at stake.

That afternoon, Weberman sat in front of father and daughter at his table with his back to the windows. The men spoke to each other in Yiddish, the tongue Satmar Hasidim use in work, worship, and family life. When the men finished discussing business, all were quiet for a long time. Weberman sensed that the girl was upset, that she didn’t want to talk to him, but having counseled many before her, he believed he could get her to talk to him, to open up.

Rayna was upset. She and the boy were young and maybe even in love. They were doing nothing wrong, but no one understood. She sat silently and stared straight ahead. Her eyes landed on a computer, an uncommon sight in a Satmar home, because religious leaders forbid them.

The “outcome of abuse is in a way far worse than murder,” Rayna later wrote. “With murder, the person is dead and it is final. By abuse the victim experiences death over and over, again and again.”

Weberman asked her father to leave. An attempt at further defiance, Rayna didn’t even watch as he stood and walked out the door. Weberman told Rayna that her father would wait for her downstairs in the car, but that was not true. He tried to coax the distraught girl out of silence, inquiring about her school and family life, but her replies were clipped. She was furious—at her father for bringing her here, at this man who knew nothing of her struggles or her life. Rage boiled inside her thin frame. Sitting face to face with a Satmar man schooling her in atavistic Satmar rules was the last place she wanted to be.

“Why should I talk to you? You look like a Hasidic fuck. You look like my father,” Rayna said.

“I’m not like your father,” Weberman said. “You can choose whether you talk to me or not.”

They sat silently, for longer now. Rayna eyed the older man, with his salt-and-pepper beard and peyos dangling in front of his ears. They all looked the same to her, the gods and kings and kingmakers of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her whole life and being were dominated by these men—men who thought they were the holiest on earth. They wore the same hair, hats, and coats. Some spent all day praying in Satmar synagogues, or studying texts in Satmar yeshivas. Others were shopkeepers, bus drivers, or landlords. A regal few were spiritual counselors, like Weberman, bringing wayward kids and teens back from the brink of ruined lives.

“Why do you want to talk to a guy?” Weberman asked her, inching closer.

“I don’t know,” she said, but that was a lie. She had seen romantic love in the banned movies and magazines she devoured in secret. She dreamed of what she saw, handholding and kissing, the kind of love that might lift her out of the suffocating box she lived in.

She spent four hours at Weberman’s that night. He told her she was a beautiful girl, special and smart, and that he had watched her grow up. He said he would continue to watch and help if she would let him. Weberman said she would become even more beautiful, and strong, and one day she would be queen of a Satmar home all her own, loved like the great women of the Bible—Esther and Miriam and Rachel. This fantasy appealed to her, and as she listened, she softened.

He asked her questions, one after another, more than she could remember ever being asked before. How is your school? Do you have friends? Is your home a happy place? It seemed he cared for her, the way he asked the questions, his voice lilting up and his dark eyes on hers as he waited for her answers. So when he began to touch her, she thought he was trying to help her.

She yielded to his hands on her body, over her clothes first, then beneath them. He touched her breasts and her stomach, her neck and face, continuing to talk to her about the boy she was seeing, asking his name, what he was like, why she was drawn to him. Reminding her that young Satmar boys were dangerous, that they could jeopardize her path to becoming a prosperous Satmar wife and mother. Rayna knew this touching was out of her control, but what she didn’t know was how very wrong it was. She was not even a teenager. This man made her nervous, this friend of her father and counselor to her siblings, but he also validated her belief in romantic love, and listened to her as if he cared a great deal about her life.

After the appointment was over, it was dark outside.

“You’ll come see me again,” Weberman said. “We share a destiny.” He watched the beauty mark on her cheek as she nodded.

Rayna walked the 25 minutes home alone. The streets were bustling with Satmar night owls, who stroll Lee Avenue until the early morning hours. She would make this walk hundreds of times over the next three years, often not returning home until after midnight or one in the morning. Not only did her parents not seem to mind, they barely noticed. They had already raised her older siblings and married them off. Rayna often felt left behind and small in her large family. Here was a prominent man in the community who predicted a special destiny for her.
'The Devil of Williamsburg' by Allison Yarrow. 47 pp. Amazon Kindle Single. $2.

Nearly four years later, when Chani Segall heard of these late-night visits, and of Rayna walking home alone after them, she was shocked. “As a mother, where the heck were you and how did you let this happen?” asked the administrator at a religious girls school in Midwood, Brooklyn, where Rayna would later find a new family.

Rayna’s mother, Emily, claims she had no idea what her daughter had endured over those years.

“She never told me face to face until this got out. She never told me, she never told us. I couldn’t stop crying. I had vases of tears filled,” she said.

What began with the community elder hugging, touching, and kissing the girl he was hired to counsel grew bolder with progressive sessions until he was raping her regularly.

Rayna’s face reddens and she fills with tears recalling the specifics: Weberman forcing her to perform oral sex on him. Surprising her at her house and raping her in her own bed. Burning her with candle wax and matches, which left gruesome scars. Making her copy acts in the pornographic films he showed her behind a triple-locked door.

The “outcome of abuse is in a way far worse than murder,”  Rayna later wrote. “With murder, the person is dead and it is final. By abuse the victim experiences death over and over, again and again.”

• • •

In December 2012, more than five years after the abuse of Rayna began, 54-year-old Nechemya Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual assault of a minor after an exhausting two-week trial. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who had long been criticized for reluctance to prosecute ultra-Orthodox sex abuse cases, now nabbed a victory with Weberman’s conviction within a year of Hynes’s reelection bid. The powerful Weberman’s 103-year sentence was a record for a Hasidic man convicted in a Brooklyn courtroom.

While past complaints of sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community centered on old men and young boys, this time the victim was a young, beautiful, and charismatic girl. Still, Rayna’s family was defamed and intimidated in their own community because she went public. The life of the man she married, Hershey, was threatened, and his business was destroyed. The intimidation, a legal fees fundraiser for Weberman, and the trial itself made national headlines. In past trials of Orthodox sex cases, court benches brimmed with the accused’s supporters, never the victim’s, but Rayna drew more supporters than victims before her. A community that once denied that sexual abuse festered within its ranks now had factions acknowledging it, combating it, and beginning to heal. Rayna changed everything.

An excerpt from Allison Yarrow’s Amazon Kindle Single The Devil of Williamsburg.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not Enough Progress By Rabbis, Leaders On Dealing With Sexual Abuse

by Rabbi Heshie Billet

The time for serious vigilance of child abuse in the (Modern) Orthodox Jewish community is long overdue. It is time that lay and religious communal leaders have zero tolerance for child abusers and cease to cover up, enable, or protect them.
In recent years, both in Israel and in America, our community has learned many painful lessons on this topic, and institutions that have owned up to mistakes made in the past and seek ways to create policies that would avoid repeating these mistakes have made some progress.

 But we have not done enough. The progress made has been insufficient.

The most severe consequence of sexual abuse of children (and of enabling abuse by protecting offenders) is suicide. Tragically this has occurred in the Orthodox Jewish community. That makes it a form of murder. It is time that parents learn to overcome the taboo of reporting abusers to the authorities. Therapists tell me that it is in the best mental health interest of their children to do so. Parents who don’t report abuse often say they are trying to protect their children by allowing the incident to quietly blow over, lest their children become publicly shamed or stigmatized.

 But in fact the opposite is true. Children are harmed much more when incidents are not reported and dealt with.

There can be no mercy for abusers.

 If they are not stopped they will abuse other people’s children. In a sense, a failure to report (or to enable) makes one an indirect accessory to future crimes. And far worse than those who fail to report are those communal leaders who use their authority (or their synagogues, schools, or organizations) in ways that either directly or indirectly promote further abuse. This is done by refusing to take abuse seriously and maintaining abusers in settings where they have continued access to children, such that further abuse will surely occur.

Abuse is also indirectly promoted by leaders who discourage or disparage parents or others who are doing the right thing by reporting abuse to the authorities. I offer here one example of each type of promotion of abuse, not from the past, but now – one in Israel and one in America.

The religious Zionist community in Israel established the Takanah Forum about a decade ago as a reaction to tragic incidents of sexual abuse that occurred in both boys' and girls' schools. A large panel of leading roshei yeshiva [rabbinic heads of yeshivas], male and female educators, rabbis, therapists, and jurists was formed to respond to complaints of sexual abuse not subject to the jurisdiction of the criminal legal system in Israel. Wherever possible, complainants are encouraged to go to the authorities.

Their most famous and tragic case related to allegations that Rabbi Mordechai Elon, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKotel and charismatic rabbi to many young men and families, who was found guilty of inappropriate physical behavior with a number of boys/young men (http://takana.org.il/en/the-alon-case/). The charges were made public in February 2010, after Rabbi Elon refused to cease his educational activities and refused to stop meeting young men privately, as Takanah had urged him to do.

The panel reviewing the Rabbi Elon case included such prominent figures as Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel and Bar Ilan law professor Yedidia Stern.

Since then, Rabbi Elon has refused to comply and has relocated to Migdal in the north where he has a Beit Midrash, and he still lectures around the country. Many of his followers remain staunch believers in him despite the prestigious ethical members of the Takanah panel and despite his conviction in court earlier this month on two charges of sexually assaulting a minor. He is due to be sentenced in October.

The Takanah Forum declared that the charges for which Rabbi Elon was tried pale before the allegations presented to the Forum which were not subject to criminal prosecution. But Rabbi Elon continues to claim innocence, teach and lecture, and lash out against the Takanah Forum, which he publicly called a kangaroo court.

In defiance of Takanah's warnings, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva (YBA), the network of Bnei Akiva yeshivas in Israel, engaged Rabbi Elon to teach in his boys' yeshiva, Ohr Etzion, and rehired him after Rabbi Elon's conviction.

Psychologist and others have observed that this case highlights the danger of charismatic figures, and a failure of the Israeli rabbinate. Followers caught in the allure of such individuals surrender their freedom of choice. We call groups like this a cult. Furthermore, besides the broader Takanah panel, most of the Israeli rabbinate has chosen to remain silent on this case. Rabbi Druckman has gone a step further by enabling Rabbi Elon to teach in a boys’ school, which could potentially have tragic consequences.

Rabbi Druckman did the same thing in the 1990s, allowing Rabbi Ze'ev Kopolovich, rosh yeshiva of YBA's flagship high school, Netiv Meir, to continue teaching there even after Rabbi Kopolovich had been alleged to have sexually assaulted 10 students. This went on until the rabbi was arrested and jailed.

YBA must insist that Rabbi Druckman retract the Rav Elon appointment. If he refuses, the organization must override his decision.

In the U.S., parents of a boy in Lakewood, NJ pressed charges of sexual molestation against Rabbi Yosef Kolko. Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the Orthodox Union’s halachic authority for kashrut, publicly accused those parents of “mesirah,” the crime of turning a Jew over to secular authorities. As a result, the complainants were driven out of Lakewood. A few months ago Rabbi Kolko confessed to his crimes. Nevertheless, Rabbi Belsky continues to condemn the complainants as “mosrim.” (And the lowlife, menuvel, degenerate Belsky accused the father of the child of being the real molester of his own child and not Kolko -- all this to cover for Kolko.  There's not a greater twisted, evil person in the entire Jewish community than Belsky. How shameful that Yeshiva Torah Vodaath let's him walk in the building, never mind keeps him as the Rosh Yeshiva) --- UOJ)  His position is contrary to the OU's position and that of its rabbinic arm, the Rabbinical Council of America, that child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Orthodox Jewish sex abuse victim calls for rabbis to confront abuse in communities

Yehudis Goldsobel. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Yehudis Goldsobel. Picture: Nigel Sutton.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
12:00 PM

As a young girl, Yehudis Goldsobel felt powerless to stop the sex abuse she suffered at the hands of a family friend.


In June this year, almost 15 years after the abuse first began, the 27-year-old saw some of her power restored as her abuser Menachem Levy, 41, a Golders Green father-of-six, was jailed for three years for his crimes.
Waiving her right to lifelong anonymity, Ms Goldsobel has now taken the decision to speak out about her experience in order to tackle the challenges facing victims of abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities.

She said: “We don’t have sex education and we are not taught about abuse. Rabbis don’t want to know the word abuse, they don’t want to think it exists. Ignorance is bliss.
“They don’t want to admit that Jews could do this because Jews are supposed to live a life of goodness.

“I feel until the day the rabbis stand up publicly and say, ‘We will support victims of abuse in our communities and not the perpetrators’, it will continue to go the way it is.”
In her bid to change the “way it is” for Jewish victims of abuse, Ms Goldsobel started charity Migdal Emunah two years ago, offering therapy and advice sessions for victims of childhood abuse and their families across north London.

Having recently graduated with a degree in psychology, she is now working on an educational programme to roll out in Orthodox Jewish communities to inform children of the dangers and better equip rabbis and community leaders with the skills needed to deal with the issue of abuse.
“I’ve met people who were beaten on a daily basis as children but didn’t realise what was happening,” said Ms Goldsobel.

“Whether emotional, physical or sexual abuse, it all needs to be dealt with. Knowledge, as they say, is power. So if a child is aware of certain things they can protect themselves.”
From the age of 13, Ms Goldsobel was abused by Levy, of Princes Park Avenue, Golders Green, over a six-year period.

The court heard the abuse took place in his car, at his home and even during visits, as a close family friend, to Ms Goldsobel’s childhood home in Stamford Hill.

“He would continually follow me until he got what he wanted,” she said.

“So sometimes it would be easier to give him what he wanted so he wouldn’t torment me.

“He put me in a box. He kept telling me that it was my fault and that there was something wrong with me and that I was making him do these things.”

It wasn’t until some years later, as an adult, that Ms Goldsobel felt able to tell her parents about the abuse she suffered.

She began receiving therapy and, to avoid being labelled a “snitch”, sought assistance in dealing with Levy from local rabbis, rather than going outside of the community to the police.

“I went to see rabbis and they said, ‘We don’t know how to deal with this’,” explained Ms Goldsobel.
“After months of dealing with the rabbis, I got really fed up and so I walked into the police station in May 2011.”

Ms Goldsobel’s decision was met with disdain from friends within the community, many of whom stopped speaking to her for taking her grievances to the police without a rabbi’s blessing and accused her of bringing shame upon her family.

It is an experience she says has left her feeling “disillusioned” with the community she grew up in yet determined to bring change.

“I keep talking to rabbis. Some will talk to me and some will not. Some of them are slowly coming around to what I am saying,” she said.

“Our communities are very secluded. We build walls very high to protect the community but when you’ve got a rotten apple inside, how do you get rid of it if the walls are too high?”

For more information about Ms Goldsobel’s charity, visit www.migdalemunah.com

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nechemya Weberman




One of the most shocking child sex scandals in recent memory unfolded in an insular community in the hipster capital of the world, where a prominent hasidic counselor sexually abused a teenage girl...and the community largely turned on the girl.....


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Torah and child sexual abuse

Rabbi Simon Jacobson
Rabbi Simon Jacobson
Everything we build and teach our children, all our investments and dedication to good, all our moral standards, our entire education system, can be wiped out in one fell swoop when we or our children are violated.

The first of all ethical and Torah axioms must be stated at the outset: No one has a right to in any way violate in any way the body or soul of another human being.

 Indeed, we don’t even have the right to mutilate our own bodies, because your body does not belong to you; it is “Divine property.”

No crime is worse that assaulting another’s dignity — which is compared to the dignity of G-d Himself, being that every person was created in the Divine Image. Even a hanged murderer must not be defiled and his body not left to hang overnight because it reflects the Divine Image. How much more so — infinitely more so — regarding a live person and innocent child.

Abuse, in any form or shape, physical, psychological, verbal, emotional or sexual, is above all a violent crime — a terrible crime. Abusing another (even if it’s intangible) is no different than taking a weapon and beating someone to a pulp. And because of its terrible long-term effects, the crime is that much worse.

The next question is this: What are our obligations as parents, teachers, writers, Web site editors or just plain adult citizens when it comes to abuse?

On one hand, we are talking about protecting innocent people from criminal predators, which clearly is a major obligation and a priority concern. On the other hand, we do have laws prohibiting embarrassing people (even criminals) in public, always hopeful, allowing people to correct their ways. We have laws about avoiding gossip and speaking ill about others (lashon harah), and not feeding into the base instinct of “talking about others” or “mob mentality” witch-hunting expeditions.

We have several obligations when we see or know about a crime, as well as obligations to prevent further crimes:

1) A witness to a crime who does not testify “must bear his guilt” (Leviticus 5:1).

2) “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14), which includes the obligation to warn someone from a danger we are aware of. If you see someone walking down the street and you know that farther down the block there is an uncovered pit in the ground or a man with a gun, you are obligated to warn him. If we are aware of a predator, we must do everything possible to protect people from him.

3) “Do not stand still over your neighbor’s blood (when your neighbor’s life is in danger)” (Leviticus 19:16). It’s interesting to note that this commandment follows (in the same verse) “do not go around as a gossiper among your people,” suggesting that gossip is an issue only when no life is in danger. But if a life is in danger, then “do not stand still” even if means speaking about it in public.

4) “You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17). If one does not admonish, then he is responsible for the other’s sin (Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive 205; see Shabbat 54b. 119b). Although at the outset rebuke must be done “in private, kindly and gently,” not to embarrass him publicly (Arkhin 16b; Sefer HaMitzvot, Negative 305), but if it doesn’t help, the obligation is to admonish him in public (Rambam Deos 6:8. Shulchan Aruch HaRav Hilchos Onaah v’Gneivas Daas 30).

This is true even about a crime that does not affect other people. All the care taken about public shame is because the crime does not affect the public. And even then, there are situations where the admonishment must be done publicly. By contrast, in our discussion about abuse, which affects others, all these restrictions do not apply: Embarrassment of a criminal is never an excuse or a reason to put anyone else in potential danger.

Based on the above, I would submit the following criteria to determine whether to publish and publicize the name of a molester:

1) The abuse must be established without a shred of (reasonable) doubt. Because just as we must protect the potential victims of abuse, we also are obligated to protect the reputations of the innocent, and not wrongly accuse anyone without evidence or witnesses.

 2) Publicizing the fact will serve as a deterrent or even possible deterrent of further crimes, or will warn and protect possible future victims. If that is true, then lashon harah does not apply. It would be the equivalent of saying that it is lashon harah to warn someone of a weapon-wielding criminal who may cause harm.

3) Even if a name is not available to be publicized, the issue of abuse itself must be addressed for the same reasons stated: to make the public aware of the dangers, to protect innocent children.

The argument that publicity will give the community a “bad name” and “why wash our dirty laundry in public?” does not supersede the obligation to protect the innocent from being hurt.
Anyone who suggests that abuse must be overlooked, because (as one person told me) it “happens all the time” and “by many people, including our leaders,” or for any other reasons — is not different from ignoring any other crime, and is in itself a grave crime.

One could even argue that the greatest “kiddush HaShem” (sanctifying God’s name) is when a Torah-based community demonstrates that it doesn’t just mechanically follow the laws or isn’t merely concerned with reputations, but that it sets and demands the highest standard of accountability among its citizens, and invests the greatest possible measures to protect its children from predators, create trust and absolutely will not tolerate any breach or abuse. That the greatest sin of all is ignoring or minimizing crimes being perpetrated against our most innocent and vulnerable members: our children.

In conclusion: The bottom line in all matters regarding abuse is one and only one thing: protecting the innocent. Not the reputation of an individual, not the reputation of the community, not anything but the welfare of our children. In every given case, whether to publicize, whether to take any other action, the question that must be asked is this: What is best for the victims? Will or can this action help prevent someone from being hurt or not? If the answer is yes or even maybe yes, then the action should be taken.

The crisis has reached a boiling point where it must be addressed and brought to the attention of the public to make everyone aware of the dangers, the long-term consequences and the zero-tolerance policy that needs to be applied to every form of abuse.

Anything less would be irresponsible, immoral and, yes, in some way complicit.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling book “Toward a Meaningful Life.” He heads The Meaningful Life Center (meaningfullife.com), in Manhattan, N.Y., which bridges the secular and the spiritual through a wide variety of live and on-line programming.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Expert: Child sex abuse an ‘epidemic’


BELVIDERE — Last week’s arrest of a Belvidere North High School teacher charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual assault shined light on a crime often referred to as “the silent epidemic.”

The crime is silent, in part, because nearly three out of four children or 73 percent of the victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least one year, while many never say anything at all, said Darkness to Light President and CEO Jolie Logan.

It’s also an epidemic in part because child sexual abuse ranks second to homicide as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where immediate and long-term costs exceed $35 billion annually, according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse & Neglect. The study is a congressionally mandated periodic research to assess the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the United States.

Cathy Townsend of Darkness to Light said educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse is the mission of the Charleston, S.C.-based non-profit.

 Darkness to Light has provided training to more than 30,000 of South Carolina’s 54,000 teachers. School districts in the state are recognized as some of the country’s most progressive in preventing child sex abuse.

Jenee A. Blackert, 30, of Poplar Grove was charged Thursday with four counts of criminal sexual assault. It marks the second time in six years a Belvidere School District teacher has been charged with a sexual crime involving a student.

School District Superintendent Michael Houselog said all complaints of sexual abuse are taken seriously and investigated by school officials and, if necessary, law enforcement.

“Our students have not been bashful in reporting,” he said. “When kids are made to feel uncomfortable, we follow up on it.”

Townsend said one of the best steps a school district can take to prevent child abuse by a teacher is eliminate the opportunity for it by limiting one-on-one encounters.

She said a code of conduct should specify where and when a teacher can touch a child.
“A pat on the shoulder, a high-five? Fine. A pat on the butt? No.”

She also said a child should never ride alone with a teacher.

Red flags or precursors to child sex abuse include signs of “grooming.”

“Showing increasing affection to a child, patting and then hugging, gift giving. The child loses sense of where the boundaries lie,” Townsend said. “When the offender makes their move, the student often thinks, ‘Oh. I owe it to him.’”

Townsend said families also can be groomed.

“The teacher will baby-sit a child, take the child to a ball game. Parents are often honored that a teacher is taking extra time and attention with their child.”

While parents are left feeling betrayed upon learning their child was abused by a teacher, Townsend said the short- and long-term effects on the child can include changes in behavior, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school and alcoholism.

According to Darkness to Light, in 95 percent of all child sexual abuse cases, the offender is someone the child knows and trusts.

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Dangers Of "Willful Blindness"!

"Willful blindness is a legal concept which means, if there's information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you're willfully blind. You have chosen not to know. There's a lot of willful blindness around these days. You can see willful blindness in banks, when thousands of people sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford them. You could see them in banks when interest rates were manipulated and everyone around knew what was going on, but everyone studiously ignored it. You can see willful blindness in the Catholic Church, where decades of child abuse went ignored. You could see willful blindness in the run-up to the Iraq War. Willful blindness exists on epic scales like those, and it also exists on very small scales, in people's families, in people's homes and communities, and particularly in organizations and institutions.

 Companies that have been studied for willful blindness can be asked questions like, "Are there issues at work that people are afraid to raise?" And when academics have done studies like this of corporations in the United States, what they find is 85 percent of people say yes. Eighty-five percent of people know there's a problem, but they won't say anything. And when I duplicated the research in Europe, asking all the same questions, I found exactly the same number. Eighty-five percent. That's a lot of silence. It's a lot of blindness. And what's really interesting is that when I go to companies in Switzerland, they tell me, "This is a uniquely Swiss problem." And when I go to Germany, they say, "Oh yes, this is the German disease." And when I go to companies in England, they say, "Oh, yeah, the British are really bad at this." And the truth is, this is a human problem. We're all, under certain circumstances, willfully blind.

What the research shows is that some people are blind out of fear. They're afraid of retaliation. And some people are blind because they think, well, seeing anything is just futile. Nothing's ever going to change. If we make a protest, if we protest against the Iraq War, nothing changes, so why bother? Better not to see this stuff at all.

And the recurrent theme that I encounter all the time is people say, "Well, you know, the people who do see, they're whistleblowers, and we all know what happens to them." So there's this profound mythology around whistleblowers which says, first of all, they're all crazy. But what I've found going around the world and talking to whistleblowers is, actually, they're very loyal and quite often very conservative people. They're hugely dedicated to the institutions that they work for, and the reason that they speak up, the reason they insist on seeing, is because they care so much about the institution and want to keep it healthy."

Gayla Benefield was just doing her job -- until she uncovered an awful secret about her hometown that meant its mortality rate was 80 times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. But when she tried to tell people about it, she learned an even more shocking truth: People didn’t want to know. In a talk that’s part history lesson, part call-to-action, Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of "willful blindness" and praises ordinary people like Benefield who are willing to speak up.