Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"In the early 2000s, through my job as a social worker, I came across a pattern, a persistent issue that accompanied clients who had initially arrived with other, seemingly unrelated, stories. The unexpected problem, the crucial pattern that underpinned so many of my clients’ stories, was child sexual abuse..."

 Missing voices: Women and the Jewish community’s response to child sexual abuse

By Vivien Resofsky, Social Worker

This essay is an account of my decade-long battle with the issue of child sexual abuse in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community and the significant lack of female representation in this field.

Specifically, I am concerned with the missing voices of both female victims and advocates, two groups of women who should be at the forefront of the fight against child sexual abuse, yet were nowhere to be found during the time of the Royal Commission Hearing in 2015.

I aim to explore possible reasons for this absence, as well as the fraught way in which those females who do participate respond to their community’s needs.....

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Recent Agudath Israel Convention In Photos

Compliments in part to the CBC

The divining of the "older pedophiles" at the evening prayers by the Moetzes Guardian Council - Subprime Leaders -************ Assembly of Experts!


The Marge Markey Baby Rockettes - showing off their stuff in support of the Markey Bill! (volume up)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"We can create a world where there's a real deterrent to violating the rights of another human being"... Jewish kids included!

We don't have to live in a world where 99 percent of rapists get away with it, says TED Fellow Jessica Ladd. With Callisto, a new platform for college students to confidentially report sexual assault, Ladd is helping survivors get the support and justice they deserve while respecting their privacy concerns. "We can create a world where there's a real deterrent to violating the rights of another human being," she says.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Israel has become a safe haven for Jewish pedophiles from around the world, a leading advocate for child sexual abuse victims warned Monday at a Knesset committee pre-hearing on pedophilia in the ultra-Orthodox community....

Israel Becoming a 'Refuge for Pedophiles,' Warns Advocate for Child Sex Abuse Victims

The Most Notorious of American Pedophiles, Avrohom Mondrowitz, Living Free In Israel

Israel has become a safe haven for Jewish pedophiles from around the world, a leading advocate for child sexual abuse victims warned Monday at a Knesset committee pre-hearing on pedophilia in the ultra-Orthodox community.

“Sex offenders tend to move from country to country to avoid jail, but what makes Israel unique is the Law of Return, which essentially grants unhindered access to anyone who is Jewish to come here without any real screening,” said  the chief executive officer of Kol v’Oz, a newly formed nonprofit that aims to prevent child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community.

The Law of Return grants automatic citizenship in Israel to those who meet its definition of a Jew.

He was raised in Melbourne, Australia where he attended Yeshiva Centre, a school run by the Chabad movement.  Years later, he reported that he had been sexually abused by two members of the staff there. Waks and his family, who have since been featured in several Australian documentaries, were ostracized by the local Chabad community for coming out publicly with their story. 

Along with representatives of several other groups active in preventing child abuse in the Jewish community, he met today with MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, chair of the Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child.

The full committee is expected to convene for a special session on the topic after the Passover break.

Among those accused of sexual abuse who have fled to Israel, he cited the prominent case of Malka Leifer, the former principal of a religious girls’ school in Melbourne, who allegedly assaulted eight of her charges. She is now under house arrest, and the Australian authorities are seeking her extradition.

He noted several other cases of pedophiles and alleged pedophiles from the United States, Britain and the Netherland who had fled to Israel either after being charged or to avoid being charged. Some have already been extradited back to their home countries where they are serving jail sentences.

“It seems to us Israel is increasingly becoming a refuge for pedophiles and alleged pedophiles,” said Waks. “It’s an easy get-out-of-jail card for them.” Waks, who is married with three children, recently moved back to Israel, where he was born and served in the army.

According to research data he cited, one in five children in Israel experiences sexual abuse.

“There’s a range of factors that suggest there may be a significantly higher proportion within the ultra-Orthodox community” . “I think any closed community would have increased cases, because these cases are silenced. They’re swept under the carpet. Not only that, but in the Haredi community, they don’t even talk about sex, so how can they talk about sexual abuse?”

His new organization, he said, will be lobbying the Knesset to change the statute of limitations so that victims of sexual crimes can have more time to file complaints.

Yitzhak Kadman, the executive director of the National Council for the Child, said he had noticed signs of “the beginnings of a revolution” in attitudes toward child sex offenders in the Haredi world. “I was actually astonished by the amount of openness I’ve seen recently,” he said at the meeting.

Israel may be a preferred destination for Jewish sex offenders, said Kadman, but it has also become a place of refuge for their victims. “We are seeing many of them leave their home countries and come to Israel, perhaps because they are looking for a way to get a fresh start,” he said.

Israel has become a safe haven for Jewish pedophiles from around the world, a leading advocate for child sexual abuse victims warned Monday at a Knesset committee pre-hearing on pedophilia in the ultra-Orthodox community.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Our tradition treats the crimes of Amalek with utmost severity and there are therefore three separate commandments relating to Amalek; their actions must never be forgotten, their actions must be remembered and their memory must be wiped out. The offences that Elon was convicted of embody this same immorality. The victims, students of Elon’s, had come to him in times of personal crisis, weak and defenseless. They looked to him for help and guidance and he took advantage of them. How can a man who commits such crimes so antithetical to Jewish morality return to be a spiritual leader in any Jewish community?

Mordechai Elon, we will not be silent

This past Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, I had one of the most meaningful and memorable Seudat Shlishit that I have had in a long time.  After Mincha I went with a group of close friends and stood outside the Heichal Rachamim Shul in Givat Shmuel where dozens of other Gabash residents had already gathered. Men, women and children of all ages had all come to spend their Seudat Shlishit here in protest of the appearance at a communal event of Mordechai Elon, a formerly prominent rabbi in the religious Zionist community. Elon, who was once considered a rising rabbinic star in the community, was convicted of two counts of sexual assault against a minor in 2013. Takana Forum, which is a council of religious Zionist communal and rabbinic leaders, has described Elon as a threat to the public and has demanded that he refrain from taking rabbinical, teaching and communal positions.

Nevertheless, Elon continues to be honored at communal events and continues to teach.

Three and a half years before his conviction, Takana Forum had stated publicly that they had received incontrovertible evidence that Elon had sexually exploited a number of his students. The Takana Forum received evidence of Elon’s misconduct years earlier and confronted him about it.  Elon agreed to take upon himself a number of restrictions in order to avoid further misconduct.  The Forum only publicly released the evidence after receiving reports that Elon had committed even more severe offences and had violated the restrictions he had agreed to follow. The chairman of Takana Forum has since stated that the charges that were ultimately brought against Elon in court are small fry compared to the far more serious abuses that they had been presented evidence of.  Although Elon is said to have confessed in front of the Takana Forum he has never publicly admitted or expressed any remorse for his actions. 

A few days before Shabbat Zachor notices began to appear around Givat Shmuel inviting the public to participate in a series of events over the course of the Shabbat featuring Mordechai Elon as the honored guest and speaker. Quickly word spread throughout the community and a number of people began organizing a protest to take place outside the shul’s event hall where a seudat shlishit with Elon speaking was to be held. As a member of the Bar Ilan University chapter of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah student organization I created a Facebook event and invited fellow students to participate in the protest. In the end the turnout was estimated to be over a hundred people. Drinks and food were passed around and the crowd joined together beautifully singing Shabbat songs while holding signs saying “Mordechai Elon, we will not be silent”.

I felt that it was particularly meaningful to stand up against this particular form of injustice on Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat that religious Jews fulfill the various commandments relating to the crimes committed against us by Amelek. I was always taught that the crimes of Amalek represent a particularly heinous form of immorality. Amalek attacked, without provocation, the defenseless Israelites from behind, where the weak and exhausted people were. The immorality exhibited by Amalek in their attack on the weak and defenseless represents the antithesis of Jewish morality which is so concerned with protecting the weak and defenseless.

 Our tradition treats the crimes of Amalek with utmost severity and there are therefore three separate commandments relating to Amalek; their actions must never be forgotten, their actions must be remembered and their memory must be wiped out. The offences that Elon was convicted of embody this same immorality. The victims, students of Elon’s, had come to him in times of personal crisis, weak and defenseless. They looked to him for help and guidance and he took advantage of them. How can a man who commits such crimes so antithetical to Jewish morality return to be a spiritual leader in any Jewish community?

I do not believe that Mordechai Elon should be treated as if we was a member of Amalek. However, a community can not justifiably allow a man, who has committed such gravely immoral abuses of power, to return to a position of spiritual leadership. By allowing someone, who so flagrantly violates the Torah’s moral demands, teach that very same Torah, the Torah is effectively emptied of all its moral content. I am proud that my community stood up to him and I hope that if he continues to make public appearances in other communities they too will rise in protest. We must not be silent.

Benzion Sanders is an American-Israeli student of Philosophy and the Middle East and a former IDF special forces soldier.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Survivors of sexual abuse and survivor advocacy groups will meet in front of Oholei Torah, a yeshiva on Eastern Parkway, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, according to a press release. The protest is timed to take place during an annual fundraising gala for the boys’ yeshiva, attended by roughly 2,000 students....


Newsweek Story on Alleged Hasidic Child Abuse Sparks Brooklyn Yeshiva Protest



Hundreds of people are expected to attend a protest in Brooklyn on Sunday following a Newsweek exposé on the alleged sexual and physical abuse of students by rabbis at a Crown Heights school.

Survivors of sexual abuse and survivor advocacy groups will meet in front of Oholei Torah, a yeshiva on Eastern Parkway, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, according to a press release. The protest is timed to take place during an annual fundraising gala for the boys’ yeshiva, attended by roughly 2,000 students.


“For too long, teachers and principals in this school have ignored children being abused physically and sexually. There is evidence to suggest that in most of these cases the school knew about these crimes and chose not to act,” reads a statement on the Facebook page for the protest, which is being organized by Chaim Levin, whose story of abuse at Oholei Torah was chronicled in the Newsweek article.“Furthermore, three of the people mentioned in the Newsweek article, people who either abused children themselves or oversaw it, are still employed by the school,” the statement said.
Protesters say they are marching to demand an end to child abuse, the replacement of abusive staff and apologies to victims of childhood sexual abuse. Organizers of the protest also want victims to be paid compensation “for the damage caused by abuse,” they said in a press release.

"This raid, if the suspicions are confirmed, would show that they were willing to screw over American taxpayers, not just the people in their communities."

FBI Raids Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schools in New York Suspected of Defrauding Government Tech Program

For years now, ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in New York have been receiving tens of millions of dollars in funding from the federal government as part of a program called E-rate, which The Jewish Week explained “subsidizes telecommunications services and infrastructure for schools and libraries.”

There’s a story to be written about why private religious schools should be receiving taxpayer funding at all, but the bigger story right now is that ultra-Orthodox Jews essentially forbid their community from using the Internet. (After all, knowledge might pop their bubble.) Which means they’re getting a lot of money to increase their technological capabilities… even though the students aren’t allowed to use it.


Yesterday, the FBI raided dozens of Jewish schools and local vendors in the city of Ramapo to investigate what appears to be widespread fraud:
… [FBI agents and investigators were] demanding that vendors and yeshivas provide records and account for equipment allegedly bought by religious schools with millions in federal education technology dollars.

The FBI-led raids, which involved 22 separate search warrants in Ramapo, are part of an investigation into whether local yeshivas properly spent money obtained through the federal government’s E-Rate program

In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said: “Today, the FBI, working with our office, conducted searches in connection with an ongoing fraud investigation. If and when charges are filed, they will eventually become public. This remains an ongoing matter, and we are unable to provide any additional information at this time.”
Needless to say, this doesn’t appear to surprise people familiar with the districts involved. I’m legally obligated to link to the excellent episode of This American Life discussing one of the public school districts in East Ramapo that was taken over by ultra-Orthodox Jews who were frustrated that they had to pay property taxes for the schools when their children didn’t even attend. By winning a majority of board seats, they were able to decimate the system for everyone else.

This raid, if the suspicions are confirmed, would show that they were willing to screw over American taxpayers, not just the people in their communities.



FBI Raids Rockland Firms As Part Of Yeshiva Fraud Probe

Feds demanding for proof that ultra-Orthodox schools used federal technology funds for intended purpose. 

 In a potentially related development, The Journal News reported Wednesday that the FBI had used an Orthodox Jewish radio program and a haredi Orthodox informant in a sting operation that led to the conviction of several Rockland County officials in a corruption scandal.

The 2013 Jewish Week report found that haredi Orthodox schools that publicly eschew the Internet were awarded millions of dollars for tech equipment and Internet wiring.

In 2011, for example, Jewish schools — the vast majority of them haredi Orthodox — were awarded 22 percent of the E-rate funds in New York State, even though they enroll only 4 percent of the state’s students.
That year, of the $30 million approved for E-rate purchases at almost 300 New York Jewish schools participating in the program, nearly $9 million went to 10 schools — all but one Hasidic. Those schools, among them United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg, which was reportedly raided Wednesday, were collectively awarded nearly $9 million in E-rate-funded services.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jewish Felons: The Problem of Criminality in Observant Communities

The UOJ Archives - August 2006

By Joel Cohen

As a prosecutor and, more recently, a white-collar defense attorney in New York, I have witnessed a disturbing rise in crime among Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. When I broach the subject with Jewish friends, they say that writing about this subject will be “a disgrace to the name of God,” viewing the writing on the issue as the disgrace and ignoring the underlying conduct. They see Jews, particularly observant Jews, as a community that outsiders focus on in search of scandal and feel that exposing the problem will add fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism. I feel that this reasoning is wrongheaded: To ignore crime within our ranks does us a great disservice, both because it weakens us as a community and because tolerating it suggests to the outside world that Judaism does not promote a righteous moral compass.

A Growing Problem

There is no shortage of high-profile Jewish crime. Take the infamous New Square scandal, in which four Hassidim were convicted for defrauding the government of $11 million by setting up a fictitious yeshiva to receive federal student aid money. Or the case in Williamsburg, New York, in which the rabbi of a Jewish day school [Hertz Frankel of Satmar] stole 6 million dollars from the Board of Education over several years by falsely identifying more than eighty individuals as school employees.

The problem in the observant community, however, is not merely occasional, nor does it often make headlines. Daily, in metropolises around the country, yarmulka-wearing criminal defendants appear before the bar of justice. In the early 1970s, a particularly imaginative criminal defense lawyer in New York City successfully sued the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to provide kosher food for one or two of his incarcerated clients. The sad truth is that these days, kosher food has become as commonplace in many penal institutions as it is on airlines.

Today, every day in the minimum-security camp at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Rockland County, New York, there are sizeable minyanim, three times daily. A full-time rabbi attends to the congregation’s spiritual and religious needs. Daily religious classes are offered. Shabbat and holiday meals are provided. There are so many observant inmates—inmates who were ostensibly observant at the time of their arrest, not those who “found God” after they broke the law, thereby increasing the numbers—that such provisions are now available at a number of other federal penal institutions. Anyone practicing in the justice system of a large urban metropolis with a significant Jewish population—New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, for example—has seen a similar trend.

These observant defendants are not typically charged with street crime or narcotics trafficking. The most common charge is fraud: against businessmen and run-of-the-mill citizens alike, most frequently involving victims outside of the Jewish community; against the government; against insurance carriers; against banking institutions; health care fraud; money laundering; and stock swindling.

Perhaps most disturbing is a new breed of fraud involving observant community leaders, sometimes rabbis themselves, and intended to benefit the community itself, such as fraud against government spending programs for education and health care. The perpetrators in these cases don’t typically profit personally, but the government and the intended recipients of these government programs are no less defrauded of funds designated for a particular use. And more often than not, the community, including its lay and religious leaders, stands up for the perpetrators by defending, or at least excusing, their behavior. For example, following the convictions of four Hassidim in the New Square scandal, Hassidic leaders defended President Clinton’s pardon of these individuals on the grounds that the stolen funds were funneled back into their community rather than into their own pockets.

The Key Question

Why is fraud so common in the Orthodox and Hasidic communities? Perhaps Judaism itself concentrates too heavily on technical observances designed to honor the Kingdom of God and not enough on a code of conduct honoring and respecting each other. Maybe the religion, as taught, isn’t sufficiently concerned with ethical precepts particularly with regard to faceless government bodies or individuals outside the fold. Even more disturbing, perhaps criminal, or merely unethical, behavior is simply not inconsistent with religious observance.

Whatever the reason, the ultimate question is simple: Do the religious obligations of Orthodox and Hasidic communities require their members to behave ethically in their everyday behavior, including in their dealings with everyone of every faith? Several responses to this key question will invariably invoke talmudic niceties, such as, “What do you mean by ethical behavior?” Responses of this nature highlight a root problem: talmudic exercises that can be used to rationalize misbehavior. Yet, these rationalizations find little support in the teachings of the Torah itself. Indeed, the Torah contains an explicit injunction against maintaining two weights, one large and one small—the biblical equivalent of two sets of books—declaring it an “abomination to God” to act with such weights corruptly (Deut. 25:13-16). How did we stray so far from such a clear anti-fraud philosophy of the Torah to the present-day efforts by some to defend fraudulent behavior with hyper-technical talmudic logic?

Consider this example: Money laundering did not violate American law until 20 years ago. Nor did it violate any specific biblical law, or post-biblical law, ever. But it now violates American law and is a very serious offense. Some, however, argue that even a serious violation of American law, such as money laundering, that is not also criminalized by the Torah does not require the observant community’s condemnation (e.g., “Our Higher Authority doesn’t itself forbid it”). Without question, a whole category of secular laws criminalizes conduct not proscribed by the Torah. And, in many instances, the proscribed conduct would not violate the morality of the Jewish religion or, for that matter, the state. Indeed, many are so-called victimless crimes.

It may even be that particular criminal statutes are discriminatory in their enforcement or affirmatively harm certain segments of society. This is not true, it is worth noting, of money laundering, insider trading, or criminal tax laws, which may be onerous in the extreme and sometimes unfair in their application, but not discriminatory, e.g., they were not enacted to “get” Jews.

There are certainly times when we are justified in disobeying the law. To invoke the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, there may be times when “if there is nothing worth dying for, there is nothing worth living for.” Some laws imposed by a secular government are so inappropriate—indeed, perhaps, although rarely, anti-Semitic—that the good citizen’s duty is to take the consequences and civilly disobey them in protest. Such laws are rare in post-World War II America. But engaging in civil disobedience to protest the repugnant law is not the same as simply breaking the law for monetary gain. If a law-abiding Jew disobeys a law to protest its unfairness, fully recognizing the consequences of his protest, one can argue that he remains an observant Jew.

Still, civil disobedience aside, if a statute exists on the books, there is a halachic consequence to violating it, however victimless or onerous it may be. This is true, however, even if the law is seen as designed to protect the financially entrenched against the outsider, and thus is itself immoral. Some observant communities have argued, for example, that the education finance regimes do not fairly address the financial needs of Jewish parochial schools, thus requiring extralegal machinations to level the playing field. “Extralegal,” here, though, really means illegal.

Jewish law, handed down through the generations through Maimonides, pronounces that “the law of the land is the law.” In other words, an act criminalized by a secular government is also prohibited by the Torah simply by virtue of existing under the secular law of the society in which we live. If we truly believe in that fundamental concept—for observant Jewry it should be as binding as a law appearing verbatim in written Scripture—it hardly matters that the particular law is not ethically based, does not violate a specific precept of the Torah, or may even be of questionable social value. If the Jewish or observant Jewish community believes that the law was enacted largely because that community does not have an adequate voice in government, it should get out the vote—not defy the law.

Finally, some may suggest that certain Jewish groups who emigrated from Eastern Europe were victimized there by anti-Semitic regimes, which makes their disrespect for secular rule of law understandable. This argument raises a bizarre affirmative action defense that seeks immunity from the laws of the United States for wrongs that the United States had nothing to do with. Regardless, the previously victimized community should take no solace in such an explanation, as there is simply no comparison between Poland in 1939 and America in 2004.

The Community’s Response

It is astonishing, sometimes, how the observant and Hasidic communities react to criminal charges by a superficially observant defendant. Often, those communities assume that anti-Semitism is the driving force behind an unfounded prosecution or that the defendant is being prosecuted (or persecuted) more severely because he is Jewish. Even after a guilty verdict or plea (which should remove any lingering doubt about guilt, as well as any claim of a frame-up), his community will frequently write supportive letters to a sentencing judge suggesting that this is simply aberrant behavior for “an otherwise observant Jew.” And that may be true—sometimes. For some, psychological or compelling financial reasons may induce one-time criminal episodes, contrary to how the individuals conduct otherwise exemplary lives.

But what about the habitual offender who leads an otherwise pious life? He is a regular attendant at minyan; he is meticulous in his kashrut observance; he joyfully sanctifies the Sabbath; he gives charity generously. He also, because it is simply the right thing to do, treats his employees well and is a dedicated and respected leader of the community. Nevertheless, he engages in fraudulent business practices, over and over—but he only cheats the government, non-observers, or non-Jews. Should the religious community that he comes from still stand behind this individual as an observant Jew or “an otherwise observant Jew”?

To be sure, this man deserves the emotional support of his family, friends, and even his community when he is in trouble with the law. We are a people proud of the traditions of forgiveness and repentance. Clearly, the members of his religious community, if they have something favorable to say to a judge about him, should come forward and not abandon him when he has fallen on hard times for his waywardness—especially if he demonstrates true acceptance of responsibility and contrition.

But his community also deserves something in these cases. It deserves the outspoken and unequivocal condemnation of the conduct as being contrary to religious observance. And for this condemnation to have any real impact on that community, it must come from lay and religious leaders within the community itself, who must acknowledge that religious observance is flatly incompatible with fraudulent behavior. Only with the open denouncement of wrongdoing from within the particular observant community can the community hope to demonstrate and protect the Torah’s commitment to honesty in one’s interpersonal dealings as being at least equal to, if not greater than, its commitment to technical observance of mitzvot. Indeed, frequently, the community and its rabbis stand behind the seemingly flexible rule that Jews may not testify against other Jews in a secular court, notwithstanding the seriousness of the offense—hardly a position calculated to encourage the denouncement of wrongdoing or scandal.

Thus, advocating leniency for an observant felon precisely because of his so-called piety as an “observant Jew” harms both the religion and the observant community by suggesting that religion allows for a divergence between piety and morality. Indeed, if this same yarmulka-wearing man were a completely honest businessman whose aberrant conduct was, instead, a weakness for shrimp, would the observant community refer to this man as an observant Jew or an otherwise observant Jew? Surely not! Is kashrut a more fundamental observance in Judaism than basic honesty?

Presiding over a case involving a Hasidic Jew who had pleaded guilty to burning down unoccupied buildings for insurance, Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser turned to the large number of Hasidim who had come to court in support of their fellow Hasid and said:

Some persons might characterize [your presence here] as being a chilul hashem [a disgrace to the name of God].… Sometimes one wonders whether … more emphasis is placed on form and not enough on substance….[T]he words that you recite three times a day and the code and the laws that you study should be thought of in terms of what those words mean and what they are intended to move us to do in terms of the kind of life we lead.

For a secular judge to have used the term chilul hashem in an American court suggests that he is speaking to the defendant as both judge and fellow Jew. His are words that we should all heed.

No matter how we try to justify it—whether as victimless crime, the result of past persecution, something that only affects “outsiders” while helping the Jewish community, a just response to unjust policy, or irrelevant missteps by the otherwise pious—criminal behavior simply cannot be condoned in observant Jewish communities. It undermines the foundations of what we believe, as well as damaging us in the eyes of the outside world. The disgrace of Jewish fraud is not only a disgrace against God, but also a disgrace to ourselves and each other. The Torah and Jewish teaching will give us guidance on how to live ethically, even in our complicated modern society, if we only listen to its truths. At day’s end, the burden lies with all of us. In the words of Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

Joel Cohen, a former prosecutor, practices white-collar criminal defense law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York. He is the author of Moses: A Memoir.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

“There was a time,” Ms. Kane said, “when the Catholic Church put a lot of pressure on prosecutors. A prosecutor didn’t want to be seen as going against the church or going against God. Times have changed.” Attorney: Hiding Sexual Abuse Is Over...




Pennsylvania Charges Ex-Leaders of Catholic Order With Aiding Sexual Predator

Attorney: Hiding Sexual Abuse Is Over


Kathleen G. Kane, Pennsylvania's attorney general, spoke after three former Franciscan leaders were charged with allowing a known sexual predator to take jobs that allowed him to molest scores of children.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date March 15, 2016. Photo by Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com, via Associated Press. Watch in Times Video »

Three former leaders of a Franciscan religious order in Pennsylvania were charged with felonies on Tuesday for allowing a friar who was a known sexual predator to repeatedly work with children, including as a high school athletic trainer who massaged students naked, and pull some out of class for what a grand jury report called “private physical therapy sessions.”

Tuesday’s complaint was the first time members of a Roman Catholic religious order have been charged with aiding an abuser. While the church has faced thousands of lawsuits over sexual abuse by members of the clergy in the past decade, criminal prosecutions of the supervisors accused of covering up for abusers have been rare.

The complaint, filed by the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, charged three leaders of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars — Giles A. Schinelli, 73, Robert J. D’Aversa, 69, and Anthony M. Criscitelli, 61 — with conspiracy to endanger children.

The three are accused of knowing about accusations of abuse against the friar, Brother Stephen Baker, but of not reporting him to the police or removing him from positions where he had access to children. In one, he was an athletic trainer for nearly a decade at a school where he regularly told students to undress for massages.

“They were more concerned with protecting the image of the order and more concerned with being in touch with lawyers than with the flock that they served,” Ms. Kane said at a news conference Tuesday.

Lawyers and victims groups said the prosecutions were a stark warning to the church that covering up abuse could lead to jail time.

“This is the missing piece,” said David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “For years, there have been pledges of reform, but we still see the same deceitful practices because those who stay silent or lie to cover up have not been held accountable.”
Brother Baker, who is accused of assaulting more than 100 children, stabbed himself to death in 2013, leaving a note apologizing for his actions.

Continue reading the main story

Document: Grand Jury Findings Against Franciscan Order in Pennsylvania

The charges against his supervisors came two weeks after the attorney general released a scathing report by a grand jury, which found at least 50 priests and other church employees molested hundreds of children in a small Roman Catholic diocese in central Pennsylvania over four decades. In many cases, the report said, their superiors, prosecutors and the police knew of the abuses but did not act.
Brother Baker joined the order in the early 1970s and was a teacher, coach and athletic trainer in Roman Catholic schools in Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio before coming to Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa., in 1992.

Father Schinelli, the minister provincial there from 1986 to 1994, was notified of past accusations of sexual abuse against Brother Baker in Ohio, and recommendations to keep him away from children, but assigned him to the high school anyway, the grand jury found.

“They knew who he was, and yet they put him in a place where he was like a kid in a candy store,” said Richard M. Serbin, a lawyer who has represented 88 victims of Brother Baker’s abuse.

The next minister provincial, Father D’Aversa, removed Brother Baker from the school in 2000 after new allegations, the report said, but did not notify school officials or law enforcement.
Father Criscitelli took over in 2002. He allowed Brother Baker to hold overnight retreats at a local college even though, the complaint said, the supervisor knew Brother Baker was to have no contact with children.

The province issued a brief statement on Tuesday apologizing to the victims. The three accused live out of state, and investigators expect their preliminary arraignments to be scheduled in the coming days. The current minister provincial and a lawyer for the province did not respond to interview requests.

For decades, prosecutors in Pennsylvania were hesitant to go after sexual abusers and their abettors in the church, longtime lawyers in the field say. In 2012, however, the state convicted Msgr. William J. Lynn, a high-ranking official in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, of child endangerment for covering up a priest sexual abuse case.

Monsignor Lynn appealed the conviction to the State Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 2015, broadening the definition of child endangerment in a ruling last April to include even officials who had no direct supervision. That case opened the door for the grand jury to bring charges in this case, said Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

“There was a time,” Ms. Kane said, “when the Catholic Church put a lot of pressure on prosecutors. A prosecutor didn’t want to be seen as going against the church or going against God. Times have changed.”



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

“It takes a community to stop abuse."

Jewish community, day schools unite to prevent sexual abuse 


  • What You Need to Know

    • "Stranger danger” is no longer an adequate approach to child safety, given that 90 percent of sexual abuse is by someone the child knows, and in many cases someone the child – and parents – love and trust.
    • Molesters don’t usually order a child to take his or her shirt off on day one but instead earn their trust before abusing them.
    • Parents need to be watchful – and trust their gut.
    • Make clear to children that they will be listened to – and believed.
    • "It’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to."

    Cleveland has made a lot of “best of” lists recently, whether for best food or as a best place to travel.

  • Courtney Evenchik, school psychologist at Yeshiva Derech HaTorah for the last 11 years, praised Cleveland for something a little more under-the-radar but no less important – the way its Jewish day schools have fought back against sexual abuse.

    The Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood and Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike are the latest to take on Magen Yeladim Child Safety Institute programming, a Jewish model based on the work of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

    The national initiative arose, according to Evenchik, after a number of sex abuse cases in California that caused local rabbis to say, “This has to stop.” They looked at The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s model and asked, “How do we take it and make it Jewish?”

    Magen Yeladim Child Safety Institute programming is distinctly Jewish, featuring rabbis and talk about how to avoid sexual abuse everywhere, including at shul. The programming is geared in several directions, teaching schools safe hiring practices, teaching children how to be in control of their own bodies and teaching parents how to spot signs of abuse and how to react to reports of abuse if worst comes to worst.

    Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in Cleveland Heights and Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood are in their third year of the program, while Yeshiva Derech HaTorah in Cleveland Heights is in its second year, and Gross Schechter and Mandel JDS are entering their first.

    “It takes a community to stop abuse,” Evenchik said. “I’m so proud of Cleveland right now.”

  • Mandel JDS Head of School Jerry Isaak-Shapiro was one of about 25 people who attended Evenchik’s March 7 talk at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Mandel Building in Beachwood. As for why Mandel JDS is adding Magen Yeladim Child Safety Institute programming, Isaak-Shapiro pointed out that before math, history and science, “safety and security are the most important” items a school can offer.

    “For us, it’s a win-win,” Isaak-Shapiro said. “When it’s framed within the Jewish context and within the Jewish community, I think it’s even stronger.”

    Evenchik started her talk with a video fighting back against the perception that sexual abuse couldn’t happen in “my community” through statistics (about one child molester exists per square mile) and the voices of the abused. One man spoke of being molested by his overnight camp’s nature director after davening. That was one example of how abuse was framed in a Jewish context.

  • Evenchik said “stranger danger” is no longer an adequate approach to child safety, given that 90 percent of sexual abuse is by someone the child knows, and in many cases someone the child – and parents – love and trust.

    “There’s really no profile,” Evenchik said. “It can be anybody.”

    But if there isn’t someone to look out for, there are some things to look out for.

    Evenchik told the audience about grooming – how molesters don’t usually order a child to take his or her shirt off on day one but instead earn their trust before abusing them. She talked about what molesters look for, often a kid who wants attention; how they seek a child and family’s trust, showering a child with gifts and eventually gaining emotional dependence; and how they slowly start to sexualize the relationship, perhaps with a mere lingering shoulder touch or back rub to start.

  • She also talked about signs a child might have been abused – the sudden behavioral changes, an inability to fall asleep or the pleas not to be taken to a certain place.

    This is where parents need to be watchful – and trust their gut.

    “If something doesn’t feel right, know that and trust that,” Evenchik said.

    And make clear to children that they will be listened to – and believed.

    Many children don’t tell because “they don’t think anyone will believe them,” Evenchik said. Or they were threatened. Or they don’t want to upset their parents.

    That’s why parents need to let their children know that there are no secrets – that children can and should tell them anything.

    “The most powerful tool is your communication with your kids,” Evenchik said.

    And if abuse happens, children may carefully hint at it, afraid of full disclosure. Evenchik told attendees to listen and “remain calm,” so as not to scare the child.

    “It’s the hardest thing in the world,” Evenchik said. “They need to see you calm.”

    Children in Greater Cleveland’s five Jewish day schools are now getting some of that education in the schoolhouse, but as Evenchik emphasized, some of the most important prevention takes place in the actual home.

    And prevention starts with communication, education and preparation, as evidenced by a quote from an actual perpetrator that Evenchik shared:

    “Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this – it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”


Friday, March 04, 2016

Child Abuse Allegations Plague the Hasidic Community!

“I think there is little doubt that the extent and seriousness of abuse in society at large was underappreciated for decades until relatively recently,” says Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella organization that provides leadership to Haredi communities. “Unfortunately, the Orthodox community was likewise unaware of the degree and severity of the problem in its own midst. That, though, has changed.”

However, “knowing” is a murky term here. In 2012, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said mesirah meant community members should turn to rabbinical authorities to “ascertain that the suspicion meets a certain threshold of credibility” before reporting child abuse to the authorities. Scroll through the comments section of any of the muckraking websites that track abuses in the Haredi world—Unorthodox-Jew, FailedMessiah.com—and it quickly becomes clear how deferential this community is to religious authority.

Paul Mendlowitz "Once we could say we didn’t know. Now we know." Borrowing from David Zwiebel's "confession" -- David, we now know as well, you and your organization, Agudath Israel, are pitifully corrupt and morally inept, nobody should be trusting any important life and death issue to you and your cohorts! And that's believing for a brief moment that in fact you now know because you really know or because you were "forced" to know, rather than choose to know. In either case, evidence of sexual child-abuse in Orthodox Jewish schools and camps has been festering out there for some fifty years, including in your own summer camp and in hundreds of your directly affiliated schools, and yet you did nothing to protect these violated children, and did everything to protect the vile child sex-abusers and the criminal, despicable rabbis that protected them....
  By Elijah Wolfson- NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE

Mint-colored city buses and sherbet mid-rise apartment complexes with undulating facades. Women in polka-dot bikinis and men in wide-lapelled shirts unbuttoned halfway down their chests. Postcard-perfect white sand beaches and cocaine-addled nights that throbbed to a mix of brassy disco and tropical Cuban beats. It was 1981, and the 19-square-mile barrier island known as Miami Beach was on the verge of bursting into one of the most hedonistic scenes committed to the history books.

Somehow, in the midst of this Caribbean decadence, a very different community also thrived. Just a few blocks from the scantily dressed beachgoers and the drug lords in Armani silk were men in ill-fitting black suits and heavy beards, and women in thick wigs and long woolen skirts all year long, even as the wet heat of the Atlantic swept across the peninsula. The ranks of Miami’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, Hasidim, were swelling. They were insular and defiantly anti-secular, clinging to traditions that may have protected their community in a medieval world but in modern America would lead to tragic consequences for many of their youngest, most vulnerable members.

Twelve-year-old Ozer Simon hadn’t grown up Hasidic, but after his parents divorced, his mom became a baal teshuva, a secular Jew who has “returned” to religious ways, and enrolled him at a yeshiva. He immediately fell behind because the other kids had been studying Hebrew since they were toddlers, so when Rabbi Joseph Reizes, a new teacher recently arrived from Brooklyn, offered to tutor the child, his mother jumped at the opportunity.

 But when she asked Simon how his first lesson went, she could tell “something was really wrong.” Simon told her the rabbi hadn’t taught him anything; instead, he’d asked the boy to lie down and take a nap. When he did, the older man lay down on top of him. The next school day, Simon’s mother went to Rabbi Avrohom Korf, principal of the boy’s school, and told him what had happened. “I said to him, ‘If Reizes continues to teach here, I’m going to go to the newspaper. Or whatever it takes,’” she recalls. “The next thing I know, the guy is gone.”


  Ozer Simon, now in his 40s, says he was molested by a rabbi working as a teacher in his school in Miami in the 1980s. The rabbi fled to Brooklyn after being accused of abuse. There, he worked as a teacher for another decade, until he was fired after another kid came forward with allegations that the rabbi had molested him. Edu Bayer for Newsweek 
Korf says he confronted Reizes with Simon’s mother’s complaint and that the teacher fled back to Brooklyn of his own volition. Soon after, Reizes was hired to teach elementary school at Oholei Torah, a yeshiva in Crown Heights. No official complaint against him was ever filed in Miami, and Simon’s school never alerted Oholei Torah about the incident that had prompted Reizes’s quick return to Brooklyn.

Fifteen years later, Reizes was fired from Oholei Torah after allegations of sexual abuse arose yet again. A parent “informed a principal that his son was inappropriately touched during a private tutoring session with Reices [sic], after school hours and off school premises,” Oholei Torah’s director, Rabbi Sholom Rosenfeld, tells Newsweek via email.

When contacted by Newsweek, the child whose parents brought the complaint to the school in 1996 didn’t want to speak about it publicly, but other students from that class say Reizes long had a reputation for inappropriate behavior. Bibi Morozow, 31 years old and now living in Florida, says a relative was molested by Reizes while attending Oholei Torah in the 1990s. (When reached by Newsweek on the phone, the relative declined to be interviewed.) “Reizes was always touchy; he’d put kids in his lap,” says one student who asked to remain anonymous because he feared being shunned by his community.

But no complaints were ever registered about the rabbi, nor were any criminal charges filed—in fact, a Freedom of Information Act request to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office turned up no evidence of his name ever appearing in its records. By now, the statute of limitations for most, if not all, of Reizes’s alleged crimes has expired, and the survivors are grown men, some with young boys in the Hasidic school system. Most are afraid to go public because they fear ruining the lives of their children. Reizes, now retired and in his 60s, lives across the street from the school where he used to teach.

While there is no evidence that child abuse is any more likely to occur in ultra-Orthodox schools than in public or secular institutions, stories like Reizes’s—an alleged abuser sheltered and victims unwilling to talk for fear of losing the only way of life they know—are common in the Hasidic school system. The many former students, advocates, sociologists, social workers and survivors interviewed by Newsweek , along with recordings, documents, public filings and personal emails that Newsweek obtained , place the blame on a confluence of factors: widespread sexual repression, a strong resistance to the secular world, and, most important, a power structure designed to keep people from speaking up about abuse.

Introduced to Forbidden Knowledge


  Set on a leafy stretch of Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Oholei Torah is one of the most important institutions in the Chabad movement’s global yeshiva network and one of the largest of the dozens of Chabad schools in Brooklyn, with nearly 2,000 students at any given time. But stop any middle-school-age kid in the school’s hallways, and he—there are no female students—will likely know nothing of world history, won’t be able to do long division and will speak only rudimentary English—even though he’s growing up in the biggest city in the United States.

Oholei Torah conducts its seven-plus daily hours of religious lessons mostly in Yiddish. According to more than a dozen former students across three decades, it provides almost no lessons in science, math, English grammar or history. (The school did not respond to queries about its curriculum.) Many of these students go home to an apartment with no television, no Internet, no newspapers and no books except religious texts. Many will not gain the basic knowledge of how to navigate the world until they are married off around age 18, like how to write a check, how to order General Tso’s chicken or even what sex is. When you’re a child in this environment, you don’t question the fact that you can’t identify your own state on a map. And when you are molested, you don’t ask questions about that either.

In the ultra-Orthodox world, sexuality is simultaneously denied and monitored to the point of obsession. Starting in childhood, boys and girls are separated; the opposite gender remains a mystery until it’s time to marry, usually in an arranged pairing. Boys are taught to avoid looking at girls, while girls are taught that they are a source of sex and transgression, say former members of the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish, community.

If children aren’t taught by their parents and teachers about appropriate sexual behavior, they have no way to sense when touching turns into something that is wrong. “You don’t even know what your body is,” says Lynn Davidman, a professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Kansas who grew up in a religious Jewish family. “And you are not supposed to touch or know, and then all of a sudden you are introduced to forbidden knowledge in a most abusive way.” The abused have no way to make sense of what’s going on, to stop it or to tell anybody about it.

When Manny Vogel was in seventh grade at Oholei Torah, a student a few years older, high school age, wouldn’t let him alone—he’d follow Vogel in the hallways, into study halls and in the lunchroom. Then, Vogel recalls, the boy asked for a favor. “He claimed he wanted to try karate moves on me.” But karate was simply a pretense to touch the younger boy in ways he would later come to recognize as inappropriate. One time, Vogel says, the classmate paid him $5 to let him touch Vogel’s genitals over his pants. Vogel never said anything to his teachers, principal or parents. “He took advantage of me. I didn’t know any better.”

According to Vogel and other students, this older student had a reputation for touching younger kids—and teachers and administrators knew it. There were rumors he offered a classmate $175 for a “karate practice session.” Students believed the kid used the money he raised from selling bagels—eaten at school, after morning prayers—to fund his perversion.

Manny Vogel, a survivor of abuse, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 25. Pearl Gabel for Newsweek

Eventually, Vogel says, school administrators prohibited the student from selling bagels. (The school denies any knowledge of this. The student could not be reached for comment.) But the boy wasn’t punished, much less formally charged with any crime, and fellow students say the abuse continued until he graduated. Recently, the alleged abuser, now grown, was invited back to Oholei Torah to be a shaliach —Hebrew for “messenger,” a sort of missionary in Chabad who mentors the young and newly arrived to the community—and he remains a fixture in the Haredi community.

Not long ago, Vogel’s brother got married; the alleged abuser, Vogel says, showed up at the ceremony. “We were dancing, in a circle, and he was just staring and staring at me,” says Vogel. “I was traumatized.”

After graduating from Oholei Torah, Vogel went to study at Yeshiva Brunoy, a prominent Chabad school in the suburbs of Paris. There, he was befriended by a shaliach, a man in his early 20s who would take Vogel into a private room and get him drunk. That wasn’t unusual; it was a custom at the school for older mentors to farbreng with younger students—sit together and discuss Hasidism while drinking hard liquor deep into the night. But unlike the other farbrengen, these didn’t take place on the first-floor classrooms and were not open to others.

One hazy, liquored-up evening, the shaliach allegedly kissed and groped Vogel. When he sobered up the next day, Vogel was distraught. For days, the memory ate at him as he struggled with the decision to tell or not. Finally, he called his stepfather in Brooklyn, who in turn called several senior educators and administrators at the school. The rabbis batted around the problem—no one wanted this toxic ball in his court. A week later, Vogel says, Rabbi Zalman Segal, director of the school’s Higher Section for the oldest students, told him they would send the alleged abuser away to a yeshiva in another country.

Angry and confused, Vogel returned to New York. Not long after, he got a conciliatory email from the alleged abuser—and the numbers for two debit cards, with a dollar amount for each: $2,000 and $3,000. “He said, ‘This is all the money I have. Take it and do what you want with it. But do me a favor, do not say anything—not for my sake, but for my family’s sake.” Vogel didn't take the money but decided to say nothing.

Two years later, I spoke to Vogel on a rainy summer evening in a Crown Heights bar not far from where he grew up. Just a few days before, he says, he had seen something that had shaken him: Segal and the man Vogel says had sexually abused him strolling together, chatting amiably. “They gave me such terrible flashbacks,” Vogel says. Later, he found out that his alleged abuser had spent only a few weeks outside of France and was allowed back into Yeshiva Brunoy once Vogel was gone. And this past summer, he says, the man found work at a Chabad summer camp, where he was responsible for the welfare of 300 kids and teenagers.

The school insists it responded adequately to Vogel’s complaint: An email signed “Yeshiva Administration” says, “No sexual abuse was reported at the time of the incident, yet we took the concern of such or any abuse very seriously and sought professional guidance.” The email adds that the school has worked closely with mental health professionals since then but can’t share any details about what that entails.

Newsweek’s direct inquiries to Segal were ignored. Vogel asked that Newsweek not contact or name the older student because, he says, the fault really lies with Brunoy for “mishandling the situation”—for allowing his alleged abuser to return to a mentorship role at the yeshiva.

“I think there is little doubt that the extent and seriousness of abuse in society at large was underappreciated for decades until relatively recently,” says Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella organization that provides leadership to Haredi communities. “Unfortunately, the Orthodox community was likewise unaware of the degree and severity of the problem in its own midst. That, though, has changed.”

Oholei Torah’s Rosenfeld tells Newsweek much the same, via email, adding, “I am proud to say that our school’s guidelines have often been ahead of the law’s mandates.”

Medieval Laws in America


There are many institutional barriers to stopping child abuse in the Haredi world. For example, there’s widespread belief that reporting abuse to secular authorities constitutes heresy. Traditional religious law prohibits mesirah, or “handing over”—a Jew may not snitch on another Jew to a secular government. Mesirah arose in the Middle Ages, when a European Jew charged with a crime would not get a fair trial—it was a prohibition designed, essentially, to protect against institutionalized anti-Semitism.

Today, in North American Haredi communities, there is debate over how the mesirah prohibition should be applied. In 2011, the Crown Heights Beis Din (the rabbinical court that handles internal religious disputes) ruled that mesirah “do[es] not apply in cases where there is evidence of abuse” and that “one is forbidden to remain silent in such situations.” And earlier this year, 107 Hasidic rabbis signed a kol koreh, or “public pronouncement,” stating that there is a religious obligation to notify secular law enforcement when it knows of child abuse.

However, “knowing” is a murky term here. In 2012, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said mesirah meant community members should turn to rabbinical authorities to “ascertain that the suspicion meets a certain threshold of credibility” before reporting child abuse to the authorities. Scroll through the comments section of any of the muckraking websites that track abuses in the Haredi world—Unorthodox-Jew, FailedMessiah.com—and it quickly becomes clear how deferential this community is to religious authority.

 At the bottom of news coverage of sexual abuse trials are seething comments claiming the reporters are acting above their pay grade. “Stop speaking loshon harah and chillul Hashem ”—evil speech and the desecration of God’s name—“and let the Rabbis sort it out,” they have written.

The problem, though, is that this puts the decision to report on individuals who are usually not qualified to recognize signs of abuse—and who, many say, have a vested interest in keeping secular eyes away. Furthermore, while New York state law says all school officials are required to disclose any child abuse, physical or sexual, they see or hear about to Child Protective Services—religious clergy are not. And when school officials are also religious officials—all yeshiva teachers are rabbis—there are dangerous legal loopholes.

Chaim Levin, who grew up in Crown Heights and went to Oholei Torah, says his older cousin, Sholom Eichler, sexually molested him throughout his childhood. “I was a 9-year-old boy, and he sodomized me with a pen,” says Levin. “That’s not two kids playing around.” He didn’t tell anyone for years, but in 2003, when Levin was 14, he finally confided in a former counselor at summer camp, who consulted with his father-in-law, Rabbi Hershel Lustig, and then told Levin he should talk to the rabbi.

Chaim Levin, an abuse survivor and current activist, at his home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 25, 2016. Pearl Gabel for Newsweek

 Lustig has worked for Oholei Torah for over 40 years. He’s an impeccably dressed, well-spoken man deeply beloved by the community. In 2003, he was the dean of Oholei Torah’s elementary school, a position he still holds.

Levin met with Lustig and told him about the abuse. The rabbi tried to be comforting: He told Levin not to worry, that he would still be considered a virgin and that his chances of successful shidduch, matchmaking, hadn’t been harmed. He also offered to tell Levin’s parents, but added, “We shouldn’t tell your parents who did it. It’s not relevant.

For years, the abuse stayed buried, and everyone acted like nothing had happened: There is no public record that Lustig reported the incident to the police or to Child Protective Services. Lustig did not respond to Newsweek’s queries about the episode.

In 2007, Eichler worked at Gan Israel Montreal, a religious summer camp where he was responsible for the well-being of children all day and all night. A few years later, when Eichler got married, Levin’s family went to the wedding, but he stayed home. Finally, in 2012, he decided to speak out—one of the first and still one of the few members of the Brooklyn Hasidic community to go public about sexual abuse.

He knew it was too late to press criminal charges, but he could still take Eichler to civil court, so Levin sued his cousin for damages. When Levin tried to get Lustig to sign a declaration saying Levin had told the rabbi about the abuse a decade earlier, Lustig refused, saying it was against religious law.

Even without that evidence, the court ordered Eichler to pay Levin $3.5 million. Levin has yet to collect, however. He says his cousin left the country soon after the court’s decision and is in Israel, outside the reach of extradition. “It started with what the trusted religious adviser, who lives down the street, told my parents to do,” Levin says. “And my abuser got away with it.”

‘He Started Working Me’


After his distressing experience with Reizes in Miami Beach, Ozer Simon was sent to a boarding school in Brooklyn in 1983. Chanoch Lena’ar, he says, was a “dumping ground” for kids having problems in religious school—a place for all the misfits. Simon was flailing in school when the principal, Rabbi Jacob Bryski, offered to help with his studies. “Come by my office after lights out,” he told the 14-year-old.

At first, Simon sat across the table from the principal during tutoring sessions, but when Bryski asked him to come closer, to sit next to him, Simon did. Then “he got his hands in my pants. I didn’t say anything.” That was just the first step. “He would take me to his house, to his basement, for a ‘sleepover,’” says Simon. “He would feed me dinner, a good meal—I’m in a dorm with crappy food, and I had no money.” After dinner, Simon says, Bryski would sexually molest him. “Whatever your mind can think of,” he says of what was done to him. “It was a nightmare.”

But Simon never told anybody. Bryski came from a highly respected and influential Hasidic family; one of his brothers is a multimillionaire in New York, and another is an important rabbi in California. Their father, Mordechai Meir Bryski, was a rabbi and real estate mogul, and a key figure in the establishment of the Hasidic school system in Brooklyn in the 1950s and ’60s.

 Simon, meanwhile, was a troubled out-of-towner who wasn’t even born Hasidic. Who would believe his word against Bryski’s? After all, as Mordy Gluckowsky, an Oholei student in the 1990s, says, “when we tell the parents or the teachers [about abuse], they say, ‘Nobody did anything.’ They say, ‘What did you do to make him touch you?’”

About a decade later, in 1993, Simon filed a verified civil complaint against Bryski and Chanoch Lena’ar in Brooklyn, asking for $50 million in damages for the abuse he allegedly suffered. Simon claimed in his suit that Bryski, “at frequent times beginning in 1983 and ending in/or about 1985,” engaged in “forcible sexual contact” with Simon and “otherwise assaulted” him at Bryski’s residence and the yeshiva.

Bryski denied these claims in his publicly filed response and submitted a counterclaim, arguing that Simon had falsely defamed his good name and asking for $10 million in damages. Five years later, the case was dismissed; the abuse Simon had alleged was no longer within the statute of limitations.

Bryski acknowledges, both in court documents obtained by Newsweek and today, that he let Simon stay at his house—because the child “had chicken pox for a few days, and it was catchy.” He also says he never molested the boy. “He got kicked out of the school, so because of that he spread this libel against me. This is totally slander. I’m a father of 10 children. I am a respected person in the community.”

By the 2010s, Simon was back in Miami, with a wife, young kids and a good job. He was in Chicago on business, driving through the city, when he got a call from a close friend. “Pull over,” the friend said, then told Simon to bring up a website on his phone. When Simon called up JewishCommunityWatch.org, he was shocked to see a photo of Bryski on the site’s “Wall of Shame” of alleged child abusers.

JCW is a grass-roots organization dedicated to exposing child predators and educating the public on how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The “Wall of Shame” is purportedly based on investigations, performed by the local nonprofit, of individuals who may not have been previously arrested, charged or convicted of any wrongdoing. Through JCW, Simon soon met another Bryski survivor, 12 years his junior.

Schneur Borenstein was 13 when he moved into Bryski’s home in 2000. He had run away from his home in upstate New York and was living more or less on the streets of Brooklyn until a friend introduced him to Bryski. “He started working me,” Borenstein tells Newsweek. “I was 13 and didn't have a place to stay. He took me into his home and provided me shelter and food. He gave me money to buy cigarettes.” Even though the boy was unnerved by the fact that the grown man would creep into his bedroom at night and touch his penis, he kept his mouth shut. But after six months of abuse, Borenstein finally left.


As a troubled adolescent, Schneur Borenstein was taken in by a rabbi who ran a prominent school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Borenstein says the rabbi sexually molested him for the months he lived in his house. Edu Bayer for Newsweek 
Bryski says he kicked Borenstein out: “He drove us crazy in this house. In the end, I had no choice but to throw him out of the house. He got angry with me, [and afterward] he spread lies about me.”
“Bryski picked his targets,” says Simon, explaining that each school year, the principal would choose one student from his gang of misfits and prey on him. “I was an outcast,” says Borenstein. “I was at a weak point in my life.”

It’s widely accepted by child abuse experts and advocates that some kids are particularly vulnerable. Usually, they are disadvantaged in some way—family problems, rejection by their peer group—that perpetrators can exploit, particularly if they are teachers who also happen to be religious authorities.

Many years after fleeing Bryski’s home, Borenstein moved to Florida, where, with the encouragement of people like former Miami prosecutor Sara Shulevitz and Mark Meyer Appel, founder of Voice of Justice, a child advocacy group, he began to speak out. Borenstein published his story on a personal blog and talked to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office about his legal options. But according to a district attorney’s memorandum (which also provided Borenstein’s account of Bryski’s alleged abuse), prosecutors decided the statute of limitations had run out and chose not to pursue the case.

So Borenstein and his father, along with an attorney, traveled to Brooklyn and arranged a meeting with Bryski. During that conversation, which they taped, Bryski confessed to the sexual abuse, and they cut a deal. The Borensteins said they’d keep quiet about it under three conditions: Bryski would pay for Schneur Borenstein’s therapy, get professional help and—most important—stay away from children.

At first, Bryski stuck to the agreement. Chanoch Lena’ar didn’t reopen the next school year. But in 2012, Crown Heights community blogs began reporting Bryski was opening up a new school, in the same location, under a different name. Despite Bryski’s prominence, Borenstein and Simon—now working together—were undaunted.

They tracked down a list of the new school’s board of directors. Simon’s mother started making calls, alerting them to the allegations. The school never reopened.

Bryski says he shut down the school after the New York City Department of Buildings said “he had some problems because a lot of work was done in the building without permits. [The inspector] must have been an anti-Semitic guy; he wrote up violations like crazy.” (Bryski did send Newsweek a sample of violation notices from 2011 to 2013.)

Bryski still lives in Crown Heights, and though he has never been charged with or convicted of a crime, he is no longer a prominent community figure—after years of running widely respected schools, his career in education appears to be over. He says Simon and Borenstein ruined him: “Two people and that’s the end of my life. They took what I worked for for 35 years. My family suffered for no reason. I have seven married children and five I have to marry off.”

‘I’m Supposed to Call the Police’


Like many grade-school kids, Mendy Raymond acted up every now and then and occasionally got detention. When he was in fourth grade at Oholei Torah, for example, he was teasing a classmate. Normal kid stuff. His teacher told him to stop, but he didn’t. He says the teacher, infuriated, charged the desk and him so hard that he fell to the ground and “nearly fractured” his arm. He was then sent to the detention teacher, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Zalmanov, who locked away Raymond’s coat and bag and told him to sit down.

Now in his 20s, Raymond doesn’t remember what he did that set off Zalmanov—though he does remember being upset about his throbbing arm—but the next thing he knew, the teacher had hit him across the face so hard that he went flying into a closet, slamming his head into the hardwood. As the young child held his head in his hands, Zalmanov pulled him up by his shirt and threw him out of the class, closing the door behind him. Raymond ran out of the building, down the street and then home in the dead of winter, with no coat.

When his mother returned home that evening, the baby sitter was distraught. When Raymond had walked in the door, “he was shivering so uncontrollable it took a half-hour with blankets and hot drinks to warm him up,” the baby sitter told his mother. Raymond’s parents took their son to the family physician, a religious man respected in the community who, when he heard the story, called Lustig. He was blunt: “I have to stop seeing these kids with bruises coming from your school. You need to get a grip on what’s happening.” Lustig agreed to meet with Raymond, his father, mother and Zalmanov later that week. Meanwhile, Raymond would be suspended from the school, Lustig said.

“It was supposed to be a meeting where they would apologize to us,” says Raymond’s mother. “We got there expecting remorse and contrition, and it turned into a farce. They badmouthed Mendy and said he got what he deserved. I was in tears when they left.” When they asked Zalmanov about his behavior, he was blunt, according to Raymond’s mother: “For chutzpah [impudence], I patsh [smack].”

This wasn’t the first time Zalmanov had allegedly harmed a student. Raymond’s older brother Nachum says he’s seen Zalmanov slap kids and even beat them up. “He was a known abuser,” says Mendy Alexander, a former Oholei Torah student, now a 25-year-old studying pre-med at Brooklyn College. “I’ve seen him hit kids multiple times.”


  Mendy Alexander, whose younger brother committed suicide years after being abused in their Hasidic Crown Heights community, photographed in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 24. Pearl Gabel for Newsweek 
At the close of that meeting, Raymond’s mother says, Lustig “seemed quite appalled.” But when she and her husband asked Lustig to transfer Raymond to another teacher’s class, the principal said there was no room for him. And neither Raymond’s teacher nor Zalmanov was ever disciplined.

There was little the family could do. “It was traumatic,” Raymond’s mother says. “You feel helpless. You open up your mouth, and you get ostracized.”

It was widely known that if you ratted out someone in the community for abuse, the community would turn its back on you. Gena Diacomanolis is the senior director of Safe Horizon’s Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center, where, over the past decade, she says, they have made tremendous strides in the Haredi communities. But the biggest barrier remains the pressure the community puts on individuals who want to come forward with stories of abuse.

“I can tell you tons of stories where they were so fearful of going forward,” she says. “I had one dad who said his son was sexually abused at school.” He decided not to press charges, Diacomanolis recalls. “He said, ‘I don't want you to think I don't love my child, but if I go forward, I won't find a marriage for my daughter.’”

Diacomanolis also says families are often harassed when they come forward. One client who charged her husband with abusing their child “left her house, and the whole block was papered with things saying terrible things about her.”

One mother who found out her son had been sexually abused by a teacher at United Lubavitcher Yeshiva Ocean Parkway (another Hasidic school in Brooklyn) says when she complained to the yeshiva’s principal, she was shunned. “I got thrown out of the community,” she says. “You can’t imagine what was said to me. The phone calls I got. I was an outcast. I was threatened.” Eventually, she left Crown Heights and then the state—yet she still insists on anonymity for fear of retribution from the community. (The current principal of ULYOP, Moshe Leiblich says he brought in a whole new staff when he started working there 11 years ago. “We definitely do not condone those kinds of behaviors,” he says. “We have video cameras up in the rooms and take all measures. We are very careful.”)

Raymond’s parents transferred him and his brothers out of Oholei Torah at the end of that school year. The authorities were never brought in, and Zalmanov, who was never charged with a crime, is still employed at Oholei Torah as a teacher’s assistant; he did not respond to Newsweek’s requests for comment. “This is the kind of thing where people pick up the phone and go to The New York Times or call the cops,” says Raymond’s mother. “But nothing happened to those teachers.”

While sex abuse grabs all the headlines, experts say physical abuse is far more pervasive and has a similarly insidious and long-lasting impact on victims. And condoning a light tap on the wrist (as most ultra-Orthodox yeshivas do) can sometimes provide teachers a margin of safety to dole out much more violent penalties—which is why corporal punishment is illegal in New York public schools.

However, there are no such restrictions in private schools (although, according to Rosenfeld, Oholei Torah has a “no corporal punishment rule”) and little motivation for them to change, unless there’s a very public scandal. “Catholic schools used to use a lot of corporal punishment too,” says David Finkelhor, head of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. “They’ve stopped, and I don’t think it was because they got convinced it wasn’t something they wanted to do.”

Protecting the Predators


Chabad has a global network of synagogues, schools and other facilities that is often used to shelter abusers on the run. When rumors of abuse begin to bubble up, teachers are shuttled from school to school, city to city—like Reizes, shipped from Brooklyn to Miami and then back. In March 2008, eight students accused Malka Leifer, principal of the Adass Israel school for girls in Elsternwick, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, of sexual abuse. Just days later, she hopped on a plane and fled to Israel. In September 2015, Australia’s Supreme Court awarded over $1 million in compensation to a 28-year-old abused by Leifer from 2003 to 2006.

According to court documents, it was discovered during the course of the trial that there was a concerted effort by the community to protect Leifer: The school’s president at the time, Yitzhok Benedikt, and board member Mark Ernst played key roles in arranging her escape to Israel. The two men are facing criminal charges; Leifer was arrested in Israel last year and is now fighting extradition to Australia.

In recent years, Australia has emerged as the country most willing to confront child abuse in the Hasidic world. In 2013, the government formed the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and in early 2015 it began a large investigation into the Hasidic community. Weeks of hearings led to a report detailing alleged abuses—and how yeshivas and rabbinical leadership cover up that abuse and systematically ostracize survivors and their families.


Back in the U.S., in 2013, two days before Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year on the Jewish calendar, a 7-year-old boy came home from school seriously injured. “He was traumatized—he couldn’t speak,” says “Shmuel,” an adult family member who asked that Newsweek not print his name or that of anyone in his family. Eventually, the child told his parents the injury was caused by his teacher, Rabbi Velvel Karp, an Oholei Torah veteran.

Karp’s name came up constantly during Newsweek ’s conversations with former students, with stories dating back to the 1990s. Five young men said they witnessed him routinely hit students hard across the face and, as a way to scare them into submission, hang children by their shirt out an open window of his fourth-floor classroom—until the school moved him to a basement room. “I know personally of one kid that he hung out the window,” says former student Mendy Alexander. “He’s a friend of mine. He’s still under community pressure and doesn’t want to speak. But there were 28 students in the class, and everyone saw what happened. It’s not a secret.”

“The guy was completely abusive,” says Mendy Pape, another former Oholei Torah student, now in his 20s. “When you walked into his classroom, children were afraid to move.”

As their neighbors were preparing for the holiday, the child’s family took him to the doctor, where they say he was diagnosed with a concussion. “Karp lifted him in the air and tossed him into a glass door or window—we’re not sure,” says Shmuel. The following week, the family told the school what had happened. Karp soon paid a visit to the family and begged for forgiveness, according to Shmuel, and a week later the school moved the child out of Karp’s class. Meanwhile, the child’s mother “begged the school to transfer Karp to an administration job,” Shmuel says. “The school said they’d call her back, and they never did. That was two years ago.”

Rumors reached the Brooklyn district attorney and were in turn passed along to a local detective who had been working the precinct. The detective investigated, despite the fact that there was no complainant. “No one wanted to cooperate,” says the detective, who is retired now and asked to remain anonymous to protect her post-retirement livelihood. Oholei Torah, on the other hand, wrote in an email that it cooperated fully with the investigation and that both the police and the district attorney’s office cleared Karp of any wrongdoing.

The detective confirms that nothing indicating criminality was uncovered during the course of the investigation: “After conducting a thorough investigation, I had no basis to proceed. An extensive investigation was conducted, but no one wanted to talk.” Karp, who was never charged with or convicted of a crime, did not respond to Newsweek’s requests for comment.

Shmuel says there’s a good reason the police investigation died: The child’s family “didn’t want to talk because they’re scared. [His mom] is afraid they’ll get kicked out of the school.” Others who know the family say they’ve been able to send their kids to Oholei Torah only with the help of scholarships and reduced tuition that they now fear losing.

Oholei Torah, after all, is one of the most prestigious Chabad schools in Brooklyn. It has been praised by national luminaries like Joe Lieberman, the former U.S. senator from Connecticut, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. And it continues to have widespread support. On December 30, 2015, Oholei Torah launched a 24-hour crowdfunding campaign on Charidy.com, with the goal of raising $2 million, in honor of its 60th anniversary. The school blew by the target, reaching $2.7 million by day’s end.

Knowing You Are Sick 


Despite all the physical, sexual and emotional abuse they have witnessed or endured, most of the former Hasidic yeshiva students Newsweek spoke to insist that what people outside their community really need to be alarmed about is the dismal education offered by these schools. They are angry that when they reached 18 and finally moved out of their parents’ home, they realized for the first time that they hadn’t been given the tools needed to navigate the real world. (The New York City Department of Education is investigating at least three dozen yeshivas to determine if they are providing adequate secular education.)

Perhaps this issue drives survivors because it is the one thing they can fix. After leaving the Orthodox world, many spend their early 20s regaining control of their lives and getting a real education. It’s preposterously difficult for them because they are so far behind, but some do it. They earn GEDs, go to community college and then become doctors, artists, businessmen and social justice advocates. They focus on the future—because their efforts to stop the predators have been futile.

In New York, survivors of most cases of child molestation have five years after they turn 18 to get the district attorney to prosecute. (In cases of sexual misconduct, legal proceedings must begin within two years after the offense was committed, regardless of the child’s age at the time of the alleged crime.) Many child abuse experts say that window is not nearly big enough for young men just starting to understand what happened to them. It’s no surprise that most of the abuse Newsweek uncovered happened long ago—no 10-year-old has the wherewithal to talk to the press about his abusive teacher. It takes a 25-year-old who has finally received a proper education to understand what was done to him 15 years ago.

For almost a decade, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, from Queens, has been trying to pass a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil cases of sex crimes against children. But she has faced fierce opposition from two political powerhouses: the New York State Catholic Conference and Agudath Israel of America.

The Hasidic world is starting to take allegations of abuse more seriously, and many of the individuals who talked on the record with Newsweek for this story say they finally feel comfortable speaking publicly about their personal histories with abuse because of the community support that has emerged in recent years. Schneur Borenstein’s parents, for example, are prominent members of the Hasidic community of Poughkeepsie, New York, where his father is the rabbi of the local Chabad synagogue, and they say the Hasidic public has been fully on their side.

There are also organizations like Jewish Community Watch punching holes in a formerly impenetrable wall. Though JCW has faced criticism for a lack of transparency on the process it uses to obtain confessions and the evidence used to determine who ends up on its “Wall of Shame,” the organization has never been sued for libel or defamation, and it has published a clear process on its website. Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has praised JCW and given it an award for “exposing child predators” and “creating change in the tight-knit Hasidic community in Brooklyn.”

JCW’s focus, it says, is to work with the community to improve transparency and protect children from abuse. “It is our sincere hope that the rebbe's institutions will follow [his] guidance by fostering openness and accountability,” a JCW spokesperson says. “If wrongdoing has occurred, it should not be covered up but rather exposed and dealt with immediately. The foundation of our mission is to protect children. This can only happen when leadership is open and honest. Transparency leads to the protection of our children.”

But others say that despite the lip service paid to cleaning up the Hasidic school system, nothing has changed. In 2015, Manny Waks, one of the key whistleblowers in the Australian royal commission inquiry, visited Crown Heights as part of an ABC television special. Chabad’s international leadership “rolled out the red carpet,” Waks says, even inviting him to meet with Rabbi Mendy Sharfstein, Chabad director of operations, to discuss ways to improve the community’s response to abuse allegations.

Waks left the meeting feeling they had listened and were genuinely considering his proposals. However, in the months following, they went radio silent, ignoring his emails and calls. The meeting, Waks says, “was all smoke and mirrors. It was a PR exercise.”


Manny Waks, sits in a small bakery and cafe in Ramat HaSharon's city center, February 24. As the victim of sexual abuse, Waks was a key witness in the recent Australian Royal Commission investigation that found all sorts of malfeasance among the Hasidic leadership when it came to abuse and cover up. Jonas Opperskalski for Newsweek 
Consider the high-profile case of Sam Kellner, who took allegations of his son’s sexual abuse to the police in 2008 and worked with authorities to gather enough evidence to help convict Baruch Lebovits of child abuse in 2010. Lebovits was imprisoned and began to serve what was meant to be a sentence of 10 and a half to 32 years—until the conviction was overturned on appeal in 2012, on the basis of a prosecutorial error, and Lebovits was released.

Meanwhile, in 2011, Kellner was indicted on charges of bribing a man to falsely testify against Lebovits in order to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Lebovits family. Those charges against Kellner were dropped in 2014 because the witnesses— members of the Lebovits family, as well as their friends and employees— “lacked credibility to such a degree that their testimony cannot be trusted,” according to Kevin O’Donnell, an assistant district attorney at the time. The key witness—the man supposedly bribed by Kellner—was found to have been paid off by Lebovits’s associate. At that point, in June 2014, Lebovits took a plea deal for two years. But because he had already served 13 months prior to his successful 2012 appeal, and thanks to a reduced sentence for good behavior, he was released in September 2014.

Meanwhile, Kellner nearly lost everything, and the community turned him into a pariah. Almost every other member of the Hasidic community who has come forward with allegations of abuse has suffered a similar fate; when Chaim Levin accused his cousin of molesting him, he was publicly called a liar over and over. “I was the villain for ‘misleading’ the public,” Levin says. “From the age of 14, I was bounced around from yeshiva to yeshiva and was treated like a criminal because I had the audacity to speak up.”

There were also dozens of additional stories of abuse Newsweek was unable to print because the victims could not give their names or corroborating evidence for fear of losing their homes, families and livelihoods. The reality is that before the community learns to trust victims and consider alleged abusers—even rabbis—with skepticism, there will be many more Chaim Levins, and many more Sam Kellners, Ozer Simons, Manny Vogels and Schneur Borensteins.


  Chaim Levin, right, and Manny Vogel outside the Oholei Torah Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 25, 2016. Both men attended the school as children. Pearl Gabel for Newsweek 
“I’m very proud of Schneur,” says his mother, Hindy. “I am very proud that these things were not swept under the rug and were dealt with openly.” She prays that her family’s story will set an example for not only its community but also others around the world. “In Judaism,” she says, “we have an expression: Yediat machala, chetzi refuah—Knowing that you are sick is half the cure.”