Thursday, June 30, 2016

"This study is therefore timely and particularly significant if we are to understand the future of Orthodoxy and American Jewry.”

First Large-Scale Survey Explores Motives and Experiences of Formerly Orthodox

Photo JFN site visit in Israel; eJP archives

Thousands of people have ventured from the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) and Modern Orthodox worlds and constructed new identities in the larger society. Often ostracized by their parents, spouses, children and communities for having gone “OTD” (off the derech – off the path), they face challenges in dealing with their families, community and, ultimately, their relationship to their Judaism. A new survey by Connecticut-based Nishma Research, of 885 formerly Orthodox U.S.
Jews, is the first large-scale survey done among this fledgling Jewish community segment.

As Mark Trencher, Nishma president and the study’s lead researcher, commented: “The goal of this survey was to give this group a voice. We wanted to better understand the experiences of those who have transitioned away from their Orthodox community of origin, or who are grappling with the related issues. The response was very enthusiastic, and many respondents provided deeply personal and poignant insights into their journey, practices, beliefs, identity, community and relationships.”

Professor Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, who served on the study’s advisory committee (comprised of Jewish world academics, researchers and providers of services to the OTD), noted: “We live in an age of enormous religious fluidity. Among Jews, the Haredi population is booming, and several studies have been done of ba’alei teshuva – Jews who move from non-Orthodox to Orthodoxy. But there is little research, if any, on Jews who have left Orthodoxy. This study is therefore timely and particularly significant if we are to understand the future of Orthodoxy and American Jewry.”
Among the study findings:
  • More people feel they have beenPUSHED Off the Derech,” rather thanPULLED Off the Derech.” Asked why they left, more people cited internal conditions – such as the status of women, perceptions of hypocrisy – that pushed them out, than cited reasons related to the lure of the outside world.
  • It’s hard to keep the outside world at bay; but the internet is not cited as a significant factor. Outside knowledge – obtained by reading, personal interactions or otherwise learning things (science, philosophy, Biblical criticism, etc.) that contradicted prior beliefs – has been influential. And while the Haredi community is fearful of the danger of the internet, only 2% named it as a factor in why they left.
  • The status of women is a significant factor. The status of women was among the most widely cited reasons for leaving Orthodoxy. It was the top reason among Modern Orthodox and the top reason among all women. Indeed, among Modern Orthodox women, 37% cited this as a reason why they left Orthodoxy.
  • Weak secular education is not a major reason for leaving. While there has been some criticism of the weak secular education in Haredi communities, only 2% mentioned it as a reason why they left.
  • Almost all remain Jewishas they define it. 95% view themselves as Jewish, with the majority (60%) labeling themselves as culturally Jewish, traditional, secular/humanist Jewish or “just Jewish.” Very few labeled themselves as belonging to any of the typical Jewish world denominations.
  • But are they Jewish in practice? While few (21%) said they believe in God, the percentages that said they keep kosher (31%), light Sabbath candles (53%), have a sense of belonging to the Jewish people (61%) or an attachment to Israel (66%) are comparable to the percentages among all U.S. Jews.
  • The formerly Modern Orthodox retain more traditional practices and beliefs than the formerly Haredi. For example, 78% of the formerly Modern Orthodox said being Jewish is important to them, compared to 57% of the formerly Haredi, and this discrepancy appeared across a range of practices and beliefs.
  • While there is widespread rejection by families, there is also some growing acceptance over time. Respondents stated that most of their families do not understand their decisions in leaving Orthodoxy. But the percentage of family that understands grew from 15% when they left, to over 40% after 10 years.
  • With their families, women have it worse. Leaving the community is tougher on women. There is a 15 percentage point difference between men and women in terms of having a positive relationship with parents and siblings after they leave, with women at the short end of the stick.
  • Community connections are weak. Fewer than half feel connected to any type of Jewish community, and a majority (54%) says they feel something is missing from their community connections.
  • The biggest needs are in areas of socializing. Those leaving their communities face challenges. The most often cited needs are in socializing (43%), dating and relationships (24%), and employment (21%).
  • What about theDouble-Lifers? One-third (33%) of respondents said they had left their Orthodox community in terms of their beliefs and private behaviors but have done so covertly. Still residing in the community, they are sometimes referred to as “double-lifers.” They are not ready to emerge publicly and may never do so – although 39% said it is likely they will leave the community in the future.
  • How many Haredi OTD’ers are there? There are no hard data points here. While some have speculated there are 4,000 Haredi OTD’ers in the Greater NY area, it may well be much higher. For example, our 655 Haredi respondents indicated they knew an average of 9.2 of their close peers who have gone OTD or are likely to do so. Thus, we’re already talking about many thousands of people, and this is just from our respondents. Lacking hard data, we feel comfortable estimating the segment as likely well into the “5-digits” (10,000+).
Lani Santo, Executive Director of Footsteps (which has provided support to 1,200 people who have left ultra-Orthodoxy over the past decade), noted: “This survey provides concrete evidence that people transitioning out of ultra-Orthodox communities desire understanding and support. They are telling us that they want to develop their identities, build new community and lead self-determined lives, and our goal is to provide them with the space and resources they need.”

The complete summary report, “Starting a Conversation: A Pioneering Survey of Those Who Have Left the Orthodox Community” is available here.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Snake Oil Salesmens' Grip Slip-Sliding Away...

More ultra-Orthodox Men Choose to Work Rather Than Study Torah

As of 2015, only 50% of Haredi men were registered with the Education Ministry as full-time students, down from 61% in 2010.

The percentage of ultra-Orthodox men who are devoting their lives to full-time religious studies instead of work has dropped over the past five years, according to a report by the nonprofit organization Hiddush.

Only 50% of Haredi men were registered with the Education Ministry as full-time students as of 2015, down from 61% five years earlier.

The number of Haredi men studying had previously been on an upward trend.

“This was a significant achievement, but the road is still long and difficult,” said the head of Hiddush, Rabbi Ori Regev. “It’s good to see that the multi-year campaign to integrate Haredi men into the army and the workforce is starting to bear fruit.”

The organization, which works toward freedom of religion and equality, would like to see most Haredi men working, and hopes that those who choose to be full-time students are doing so based on their own desires, not because they’re blindly following the community leaders, he added. Full-time study should be only for elite Haredi students, he said.

As of 2015, the number of ultra-Orthodox men who were studying full-time totaled 70,000. These men receive financial assistance from the Education Ministry.

Despite the improvement, “having 50% of Haredi men in yeshivas and not serving the country or working is still foreboding disaster for Israel’s future and economy,” said Regev.

Between 2005 and 2010 the number of Haredi men studying had expanded by 51%. If this pace had continued through 2016, there would have been 104,000 full-time students being funded by the Education Ministry as of this year, he noted.

Hiddush’s report is based on Education Ministry figures received under the Freedom of Information Act.

Many ultra-Orthodox men choose to study full-time in yeshivas instead of working. The community has a high rate of poverty.

Moti Bassok

Haaretz Contributor

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

After 10 long years of merciless beatings...Happy to report "The Bloggers/Leitzonei Hador" got rabbi to open his mouth...

Call to Action


The Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, issued a call for action in response to the festering scourge of child abuse and molestation. As a result of his seminal address at the recent Torah Umesorah convention, several groundbreaking initiatives have been launched to ensure that our children are safe at all times.

Torah Umesorah is preparing to train hundreds of principals, rabbeim and mechanchos across the country. This training will provide them with tools not only to prevent instances of child abuse and molestation from occurring within their schools, but also to recognize symptoms among students indicating that they may have been molested outside the school setting. (Statistics show that perpetrators are rarely strangers; generally, they are people the child knows and trusts.) The training program is slated to begin this fall.

In addition, a training program for thousands of summer-camp counselors is now being rolled out. The program, endorsed by Rav Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva, Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, will consist of short, animated video lessons, followed by quizzes. The quizzes will enable camp directors to ascertain that all counselors understand the dos and don’ts of relating to and protecting their charges, and that they are able to identify warning signs and respond appropriately. The counselor training program, endorsed also by Dr. David Pelcowitz and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, will make summer camp the special, cherished experience that it should be. As Rabbi Perlow stated at the convention, “We must ensure that predators are not able to disturb our children; we have no sympathy for the perpetrators.”

These and other initiatives will generate increased awareness of the problem and greater sensitivity to warning symptoms, and will likely result in more people contacting trusted community organizations that specialize in addressing child abuse and molestation. “We are deeply sympathetic to the victims,” Rabbi Perlow said at the convention. Gedolei Yisroel are making this issue the highest priority.

“Our staff are already reporting a sharp increase in calls from community members looking for guidance and assistance,” said Rabbi Zvi Gluck, director of Amudim Community Resources. “We are now in the process of setting up a crisis line. The days of looking away, pretending that these problems don’t exist, or pushing them to the side, are behind us; we have to take a strong, positive stance to protect and empower our children.”

To assist victims of abuse and molestation, a group of concerned donors established a fund to subsidize trauma therapy. The fund, named ASAP, is currently assisting 250 victims, with new applications arriving daily.

With one out of every five children in our community likely to be victimized, this serious threat to our families has the potential to destroy generations. More initiatives are on the way, as the Torah community unites to combat this intolerable situation.

Public Beware


Monday, June 27, 2016

If you haven’t read (or heard of) the Newsweek expose on abuse coverups in the Orthodox community, it’s time you climbed out from under that cozy rock and joined the rest of us in facing this disturbing reality. Sexual abuse is no longer a secret, and the religious world needs to pick up the pace...

Sexual Abuse & Where the Torah Stands

Why won’t the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) require rabbis to ban child sex offenders from Orthodox institutions?
As global psychological sophistication moves ever forward, the religious Jewish world is one small step behind — carefully weighing Torah values, always desperately trying to reconcile halacha with the current ideals of Western culture. Orthodoxy is currently in the lime-light for a very specific issue, one that is causing a storm in even the most insular religious communities. If you haven’t read (or heard of) the Newsweek expose on abuse coverups in the Orthodox community, it’s time you climbed out from under that cozy rock and joined the rest of us in facing this disturbing reality. Sexual abuse is no longer a secret, and the religious world needs to pick up the pace.

I’d like to give a round of applause for… The Internet. Despite “kosher” phones and filters, even the Chareidi world is an active participant in public opinion, and is much more influenced by Western culture. Aish.com has upped their voice in social media, black hats frequent Facebook, and Chabad blogs are available on every topic you could imagine. 

We are starting to see case after case emerging from these communities, with organizations and advocates rising at an equally remarkable speed. The shift has been nothing short of miraculous — bringing justice and long-awaited validation to the countless victims of abuse within the religious world. And yet, the resistance that advocates have to face, seems unimaginable. Ask any advocate in the world of sexual abuse, and they will tell you about hate mail, threats, or even worse, complete apathy and disdain from various individuals in the religious world.

Over the last few years we watched Meyer Seewald and the Jewish Community Watch take the religious community by storm, destroying the webs of lies and abuse that sexual predators had carefully woven, using the Orthodox system, thinking that they were unbreakable. We watched Manny Waks bring down the Chabad Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne, forcing them to take public responsibility for their horrendous role in the abuse of dozens of children. The rise of TzedekMagen, the Israeli Lo Lishtok (Don’t Be Silent), and many others, has made a huge statement that many in the religious world are ready to take a stand against sexual abuse.

Last week, a huge case was exposed, and this time not by Newsweek, but by a Chareidi Beis Din in Ramat Bet Shemesh. “Rabbi” Meir Pogrow was labeled a “rasha” in a psak from the Beis Din, signed by extremely renowned and universally respected Rabbis of the Chareidi community. His prestige and power as a “brilliant” Torah scholar brought him no refuge, and his community has now completely shunned him, going so far as to “forbid” members from communicating with him in any way.

Here comes the “but.”

There is a force that is quiet, but still effective, rearing its ugly head in the face of this incredible progress. They are the naysayers, the doubters, and the defenders. They are covering their ears and closing their eyes. They are busy worrying about Loshon Hora and halachic technicalities that may or may not indicate the guilt of a said-predator. There is always backlash when the religious community embraces a value or a movement that is seen as “goyish,” and this is not an exception. There could not be a more important reason for us to unite and clarify that sexual abuse is against the Torah — there is no gray area, this is black and white. Pun intended.

The more involved that I become in this cause, the more evil I am exposed to, which in turn fuels my growing passion for it. Why was Malka Leifer, wanted by Australian police for 74 counts of child-sex offenses, helped to flee to Israel by the very community that she betrayed? And why has our Israeli court system allowed her to evade the justice of standing trial by acquitting the request for her extradition? Why did it take Pogrow’s community years to publicly denounce him, when victims had painstakingly come forward so much earlier? Why won’t the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) require rabbis to ban child sex offenders from Orthodox institutions?

There is a blogger who claims to be the “Chareidi Response,” who has described in meticulous detail, why technically Malka Leifer wasn’t breaking halacha “even if” she is guilty of her alleged crimes. The resistance to change in the religious world is bad enough, but to try to use Torah to justify abuse, is too much to bear. This is personal. This is our Torah. These are our children. It doesn’t matter which denomination we are, or how “observant” we are, because if we believe that our core values are rooted in Torah, then we can’t watch it be distorted and twisted in order to defend horrific behavior.

My wish and plea is for all Jews to pick a side. The right side. The side that says “NO” to abusers and “YES” to victims. Our loyalty should lie unequivocally with the abused, with no hesitation, and certainly no justification for the abuser. I was feeling rather hopeless, seeing the steady stream of accusatory questions and doubts in the Chareidi world about sexual abuse. My hope was restored by a Facebook comment. Genendy Radoff, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, in response to the blog defending Malka Leifer wrote:

This blog is important as it gives insight into how someone who is an intelligent talmid chacham can molest a child without remorse. The blog writer says many times, he ‘thinks like a Jew.’ The sad truth is, the author of this blog thinks like a Jewish child molester. My grandfather, who was a Rosh Yeshiva and molested me, was also a respected talmid chacham. I imagine his rationalizations were similar to the ones on this blog. A close chareidi friend recently reported her husband for molesting their daughter. He insisted he didn’t do anything against Halacha so it wasn’t so bad. Hashem created man on the sixth day and Shabbos only after that to teach us something very important. You must be a whole person first in order to absorb Torah in the way it was intended. Learning Torah can not make an emotionally and psychologically limited person healthy and whole. The person has to come first. First man. Then Shabbos.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

"The more strongly people endorsed binding values, the more strongly they considered any victim to be contaminated — regardless of the nature of the crime."

Who Blames the Victim?

IF you are mugged on a midnight stroll through the park, some people will feel compassion for you, while others will admonish you for being there in the first place. If you are raped by an acquaintance after getting drunk at a party, some will be moved by your misfortune, while others will ask why you put yourself in such a situation.

What determines whether someone feels sympathy or scorn for the victim of a crime? Is it a function of political affiliation? Of gender? Of the nature of the crime?

In a recent series of studies, we found that the critical factor lies in a particular set of moral values. Our findings, published on Thursday in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, show that the more strongly you privilege loyalty, obedience and purity — as opposed to values such as care and fairness the more likely you are to blame the victim.

 In my article entitled Political Divide, I introduced Jonathon Haidt’s work and the theoretical framework that attempts to explain the current pervasive and seemingly intractable political acrimony within the United States. Haidt and his colleagues offer the Moral Foundations Theory, the implications of which, suggest that this divide is a result of a moral relativism of sorts – whereas one’s moral composition essentially drives one’s political affiliation. Despite the perspective from each of the polar extremes, individuals in the opposite group are not in fact amoral, instead, Haidt et al., (2009) claim that they have different valuations of five universal morals. According to Haidt, the five universal morals include: (a) harm/care (strong empathy for those that are suffering and care for the most vulnerable); (b) fairness/reciprocity (life liberty and justice for all); (c) ingroup/loyalty – (tribalism, patriotism, nationalism); (d) authority/respect (“mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates” Haidt, 2008); and (e) purity/sanctity (“related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble” Haidt, 2008)."

These two sets of values have been the object of much scholarly attention. Psychologists have found that when it comes to morality, some people privilege promoting the care of others and preventing unfair behaviors. These are “individualizing values,” as they can apply to any individual. Other people privilege loyalty, obedience and purity. These are “binding values,” as they promote the cohesion of your particular group or clan.

Binding and individualizing values are not mutually exclusive, and people have varying degrees of both. But psychologists have discovered that the extent to which you favor one relative to the other predicts various things about you. For example, the more strongly you identify with individualizing values, the more likely you are to be politically progressive; the more strongly you identify with binding values, the more likely you are to be politically conservative.

Our animating insight was that these two clusters of values entail different conceptions of victims. Proponents of individualizing values tend to see a dyad of victim and perpetrator (a victim is hurt, a perpetrator does the hurting). Proponents of binding values, however, may see behaviors as immoral even when there is no obvious victim — for example, the “impure” act of premarital sex or the “disloyal” act of flag burning — and may even feel that doing the right thing sometimes requires hurting others (as with honor killings, to pick an extreme example). So we hypothesized that support for binding values would correlate with a greater tendency to blame victims.

We conducted several studies, involving 994 research participants. First we examined how their moral values related to their tendency to stigmatize victims versus to see victims as injured. We provided minimal descriptions of victims of various crimes — rape and molestation, stabbing and strangling — and asked the participants how much they considered the victims as “injured” or “contaminated.”

While we expected that all participants would be more likely to view sexual-crime victims than non-sexual-crime victims as contaminated (which is indeed what we found), we also found, surprisingly, that the more strongly people endorsed binding values, the more strongly they considered any victim to be contaminated — regardless of the nature of the crime.

Furthermore, the more people saw a victim as contaminated, the less they saw that victim as injured. Throughout, we controlled for other variables and found that it was moral values — binding values, in particular — and not political orientation, gender or religiosity that determined the results.

In another study, participants read descriptions of specific cases of rape and robbery and rated both the victim and the perpetrator on how “responsible” they were for the outcome, as well as how much a change in their actions could have changed things. We found that the more strongly people endorsed binding values, the more they strongly they attributed responsibility to victims and the more they saw victims’ behaviors as influencing the outcome. We found the opposite pattern for people endorsing individualizing values.

Can anything be done to change people’s perceptions of victims and perpetrators? In another study, we explored whether nudging people to focus on perpetrators versus victims could affect people’s moral judgments. We did so by placing either the perpetrator or the victim in the subject position in a majority of sentences in descriptions of sexual assault (e.g., “Lisa was forced by Dan” versus “Dan forced Lisa”). We then asked the participants to assign percentages of blame to the victim and perpetrator.

Consistent with our previous findings, the more participants endorsed binding values, the more blame they assigned to victims and the less blame they assigned to perpetrators. But we also found that focusing their attention on the perpetrator led to reduced ratings of victim blame, victim responsibility and references to victims’ actions, whereas a focus on victims led to greater victim blaming. This was surprising: You might assume that focusing on victims elicits more sympathy for them, but our results suggest that it may have the opposite effect.

Victim blaming appears to be deep-seated, rooted in core moral values, but also somewhat malleable, susceptible to subtle changes in language. For those looking to increase sympathy for victims, a practical first step may be to change how we talk: Focusing less on victims and more on perpetrators — “Why did he think he had license to rape?” rather than “Imagine what she must be going through” — may be a more effective way of serving justice.

Laura Niemi is a postdoctoral associate in psychology at Harvard. Liane Young is an associate professor of psychology at Boston College.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Why do so many Orthodox Jews choose to leave Orthodoxy?

 The formerly Orthodox American Jews: The stricter they were, the farther away they run 

885 formerly Orthodox Jews responded to a survey published today by Nishma Research.

It is not a scientific sample of the formerly Orthodox. But it is still the best available survey of such people, one from which we can learn a little bit about their lives and decisions. It is still a somewhat melancholic read – not because it is better to be Orthodox and hence sad that people choose to leave Orthodoxy, but rather because leaving something is often a sign of crisis and a generator of more crisis. Thus, the people who participated in this survey are ones who had to face a crisis, or are still in a state of crisis.

Take, for example, the relationships between the formerly Orthodox and their still Orthodox families. The study highlights the fact that “respondents’ relationships with their family were more positive than negative, especially with children and younger siblings.” Yet the reality for many of these formerly Orthodox men and women is still complex. 57% of respondents say that their relationships with their fathers are very positive or somewhat positive, but 19% say “mixed,” 11% “somewhat negative,” and 13% “very negative.” Relationships with their mothers are slightly better. 62% define them as “very” or “somewhat” positive.

But these definitions are the average of many types of Orthodox people. It’s the average of the combined group of the formerly modern-Orthodox, the formerly Yeshivish-Orthodox, and the formerly Chasidic-Orthodox. This average doesn’t reveal the fact that for a formerly-Chasidic Orthodox it is apparently much less likely to have good relations with her father (49% “very” or “somewhat” positive). It doesn’t reveal the much easier path of the formerly modern-Orthodox, whose relations with their families seem to be less complicated – 69% have positive relations with their fathers, 74% with their mothers.

The easier path means a lesser crisis for the formerly Modern-Orthodox. 65% of them feel that their families “accept them as they are,” compared to 53% of former-Yeshivish, 55% of former-Chabad, and 41% of former-Chasidic. A lesser crisis means less alienation and hence, the survey reveals an irony: the stricter the group from which the “former” Jew emerges, the less the “former” is inclined to keep some Orthodoxy in his or her life.

Only 29% of former-Chasidic keep Kosher after they choose to leave. Of the former Modern-Orthodox, 36% keep Kosher. Asked whether “it would upset them if a child of theirs intermarried,” 46% of former Modern-Orthodox said yes, compared to 32% of former Yeshivish and 26% of former Chasidic. The more insular you were, the farther away you wish to travel. 17% of former modern-Orthodox still say they are “traditional,” compared to just 6% and 7% of former Chasidic and Yeshivish. 78% of former Modern Orthodox say that being Jewish is important for them, compared to 56% of former-Yeshivish and 49% of former-Chasidic.

The Pew study of American Jews from three years ago showed that there is “a high rate of attrition from Orthodox Judaism, especially among older cohorts.” In other words: many Orthodox Jews become formerly Orthodox along the way, which makes studying their ways important. According to Pew, “among those 65 and older who were raised as Orthodox Jews, just 22% are still Orthodox Jews by religion. And among those ages 50-64 who were raised Orthodox, just 41% are still Orthodox Jews by religion. In stark contrast, 83% of Jewish adults under 30 who were raised Orthodox are still Orthodox.”

Why do so many Orthodox Jews choose to leave Orthodoxy? The new study gives us more detailed clues than previous, more general studies of American Jews. For the former-Chasidic and former-Yeshivish, the top reason for leaving was “influence of outside knowledge, such as reading or learning things that contradicted what had been believed.” 15% of the former-Chasidic had “doubts” and “lose faith.” Former-Chabad complain about the lack of secular education as a reason for leaving (10%), about doubts (10%) and about “wanting more control in life” (12%). The former Modern-Orthodox are different: their top reason is “the role and status of women” in Orthodoxy. Theirs – and this is also generally the reason given by women who choose to quit Orthodoxy.

Men say they left because of new knowledge they acquired and because of intellectual doubts (37% combined). Their motivations – or the motivations they share with the researchers – were grounded in thought. Women say they left because of societal reservations: because of the role of women, because of judgmentalism, and because of community hypocrisy (20%, 9%, 12%).

The research argues that “more people feel they have been “pushed off” rather than “pulled off.” Namely, they cite internal conditions – such as the status of women, perceptions of hypocrisy – that pushed them out, rather than cite reasons related to the lure of the outside world. I wonder what this means: it could mean that Orthodoxy is not attuned enough to the needs of its members, or that those who left feel more comfortable saying that it was Orthodoxy’s “fault” and not their “fault” that they ended up leaving.

As they leave Orthodoxy, they tend to also leave the community (70%), and they need support (the Haredis more than the Modern Orthodox). They wish for additional support (67%). They are – as we have said – transitioning and going through a crisis. That is, except for those who choose to live a double life: “Those who are no longer ‘believers’ but still live in the community are an interesting group.” the study says. An interesting group indeed – and to some degree one that evokes even more sympathy than the other groups. 33% of respondents to the survey, who no longer feel a part of Orthodoxy, have yet to completely sever their ties with the Orthodox community. Most of them think that they will never leave (61%).

They have higher levels of participation in visible practices – for obvious reasons. More of them, compared to other groups, still say they “believe in God” (37%). Their “relationships with their family are virtually the same as those of all others.” This probably means that their families know who they really are. Not just the group is interesting – the decision to give them a voice in a study about the formerly Orthodox is interesting too. It raises the possibility that the researchers – much like formerly Orthodox men do, but not like formerly Orthodox women – see Orthodoxy as an intellectual state of mind more than as a social situation. A perception worthy of debate.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The sad story of the charismatic Rabbi Meir Pogrow who is alleged to have preyed on young women for about two decades brings to light once again the power and danger of a charismatic personality....

I was informed Meir Pogrow, allegedly, was a sexual predator many years ago, and asked to post about him...The issue was, at the time, I could not get written and signed testimony from at least 2 women/girls that were willing to put their names on the allegations. I did all I could do in private communications with various people to stop Pogrow from remaining a teacher.  I believed them, people do not make these things up. I am happy that they found the strength to come forward with their stories. I wish them all the very best in their healing process and the best life has to offer.
Paul Mendlowitz
by Rabbi Heshie Billet

The Danger of Charismatic Personalities

Meir Pogrow

The Founder of Master Torah
From his website:

Rav PogrowRabbi Meir Pogrow is the founder of the unique Master Torah learning system. Currently, Rav Pogrow offers over 6000 shiurim on the mastertorah.com website, and new shiurim are added daily!

Besides several prestigious Semichot (rabbinical ordinations), including from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and from the Institute of Science and Halacha, Rav Pogrow has a Ksav Dayanus as a Religious Judge (Dayan) from the Religious Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Israel.

For 5 years Rav Pogrow also served as the Rosh Kollel (head of intensive post-graduate Torah-study fellowship) of Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem. He has taught Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Jewish Law, Psychology, and Philosophy at a variety of institutions ranging from elementary schools to his own Kollelim, in Israel and the USA.

Rav Pogrow has been a featured speaker at many events and conferences worldwide. He frequently travels abroad to help schools maximize their curricula, and to offer his unique resources. 

Additionally, he meets and coaches new and existing Torah study groups worldwide, both "online" and conventional. Even during his extensive travels, Rav Pogrow keeps pace with many of his shiurim via interactive video conferencing. All of Rav Pogrow's programs and shiurim are ongoing 12 months a year.

Rav Pogrow and his family have lived for the past 17 years in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

The sad story of the charismatic Rabbi Meir Pogrow who is alleged to have preyed on young women for about two decades brings to light once again the power and danger of a charismatic personality.

Of course, there are many fine and upstanding people of charisma. But there are some who take themselves too seriously. If in addition, they are emotionally ill or have a personality disorder, then they are dangerous.

Too often, we have seen such men (too often Rabbis, teachers of Torah) use their position and charm to take advantage of vulnerable women. The Pogrow story is such an instance.The Pogrow story afflicted the Orthodox community across the hashkafic divisions. The Meisels affair was in the charaidi community. The Berland story is in the Chassidic community. They are not the first and I fear, not the last.

It is not only women who fall victim to such people. There was the Alon case about a superstar in the religious zionist community who was alleged to have preyed on young men under his spell. He was convicted in an Israeli court.

This is not a hashkafic matter. It is a problem of the human condition. Charisma sometimes leads to avoda zara. When a person surrenders their freedom of choice to the charms of a human being, that is a form of idol worship, literally and figuratively.

Parents, Rabbis, and educators must train our children in the art of protecting their bodies and souls from such people. Out of line comments and advances should be signs to run away and not come closer to the person who is grooming his/her next victim.

All contact with such people must be immediately severed. The event or remarks should be reported to parents and administrators and Rabbis. If indeed the alleged behavior is deviant, then they must be reported to the police. School administrations must, of course, be responsible. But they should not dismiss or penalize a victim or someone who feels like a victim.

If we do not take decisive action, these stories will repeat themselves over and over again. The perpetrators and the victims will have different names. But the script will tell the same horrific story.


Young Israel of Woodmere
859 Peninsula Blvd
Woodmere, NY 11598
Phone: (516) 295-0950
Fax: (Monday to Thursday): (516) 295-4212
E-mail: yiw_office@yiwoodmere.org

Rabbi Hershel Billet


Another scandal; let’s not miss the point this time around

Another scandal. Another rabbi/educator accused of all kinds of outrageous, inappropriate behavior with female students. This time it is severe enough that rabbis who live across the world, in Israel, New York and Los Angeles, and who span the Modern Orthodox-Chareidi-Chasiddishe spectrum, have come together to sign a letter warning the public to stay away. This time the person involved is thought to have performed hundreds (!) of indecent acts and to have ruined countless lives.

And yet with all the talking, I feel that the real issue is not being spoken about at all. And therefore, despite my deep reluctance to write publicly about any person or place, I want to tell another part of this story. 

I knew this rabbi. Eighteen years ago, I came to Israel for the year to study Torah in a seminary where he taught. He lived on campus with his young family in the apartment right beneath mine. From the first time I met him, my overwhelming gut instinct was to stay away. There was something creepy about the way he knew all of our SAT scores by heart, even before we arrived. The way he knew exactly who was registered for an Ivy League college. The way he pursued and initiated chavrutot (study sessions) with very specific girls. Never the weak ones. Only the “best and the brightest.” It felt like a kind of game for him. A challenge. Could he crack the toughest ones? Break them down and then rebuild them? By some, it was considered flattering if he chose you. And there were girls who were hurt and devastated because they didn’t make the cut.

Once he forged that connection, he was manipulative, he played mind games, and he fostered dependence and hero worship. He was sarcastic, biting, and cynical, and he used his sharp mind and his Torah knowledge in cunning ways. He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He knew Torah by heart, and, of course, his way of looking at things was always “right.” You could never really challenge his read or his understanding because he was held up by everyone as the ultimate talmid chacham (scholar). He had mastered Torah. And he was only 27.

I stayed far away, and yet the experience of coming into even limited contact with him was incredibly painful. There were a couple of times that he threw out such nasty lines to me that I was left crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. And then there were the difficult feelings of confusion and abandonment that arise when you try to raise concerns with friends and teachers and, instead of taking you seriously, they make you doubt yourself.

This is the real issue that has plagued my mind for so long. The fact that this man was never, ever fit to be an educator. The fact that knowing all the Torah in the world does not on its own make you trustworthy enough to be given a classroom’s worth of young, impressionable souls. The fact that long before anyone suspected inappropriate sexual behavior, it was glaringly clear that this person employed all kinds of unhealthy teaching methods in order to cultivate relationships with students. And the fact that no one but a few innocent teenage girls seemed to notice.

And so I want to talk about it. I want to talk about teachers who use fear and guilt frequently and indiscriminately in order to motivate and inspire. Teachers who deliberately try to alienate their students from everything they come from — their parents, families, homes, previous schools, communities, shuls, and even shul rabbis. Teachers who break students down so that they can recreate them in their own images. Teachers who cultivate groupies and are dependent on their students for self-esteem. Teachers who lack real relationships with their own peers because they are “so devoted” to their students. Teachers who teach students not to trust themselves, not to rely on their instincts, and not to listen to their inner voices.

Unfortunately, teachers like this are not uncommon, and we don’t talk enough about the damage that they do. About the fact that the rapid growth and change that they foster usually doesn’t last or, if it does, comes at a heavy price. About the fact that their students, years later, often find themselves empty and lost. About the guilty feelings that can stay with a person forever. About the relationships that are ruined in the process. And about the dependence that has been formed.

We don’t talk about it because, in the moment, the picture is so rosy. The teacher is charismatic, “his” classes are well attended, “she” is so devoted to her students, and the growth seems so exciting and real.

There are healthy and positive ways to educate and to inspire growth, whether the trajectory in mind is chareidi, “modern,” or something else. These ways are usually rooted in respect, humility, responsibility and trust.

Deeply respecting our students means wanting to understand and appreciate where they come from and who they are. It means valuing their relationships with family and friends and encouraging positive interactions as much as possible. It means wanting growth to be organic and slow, to follow a continuum and to not demand a total break with the past.

Humility includes being able to admit our own failings and limitations. It is the ability to tell our students when we don’t know something. Humility also means realizing that our way is not the only way, and that sometimes someone else might know more, or know better, or simply have a different take on things. Humility means understanding that each person is an individual; that it is important for students to cultivate and develop that individuality and not suppress it; and that the goal is not to create miniature versions of ourselves.

Responsibility is required with regard to the teaching methods that are employed. Fear and guilt work effectively for inspiring quick change, but, in the long run, they often lead to self-doubt, resentment, and depression. Responsibility means being honest about the ups and downs of life. It means describing hard moments that might arise and preparing students to deal with them. It means letting our students know that we also have challenges, questions, struggles and doubts. Teaching with responsibility means having patience, because real growth is a process that takes a long time. It means understanding that in order for something to be truly internalized, a student needs to work hard to make it that way.

Finally, we should educate our students to develop trust in themselves. Trust in their ability to think, to weigh things, and to make good decisions. Trust to pay attention to their gut and to notice when something doesn’t feel right. We should trust that our students are good at heart and want to do the right thing. And we should not betray their trust when they come forward with a concern, but should listen very, very closely to what they are telling us.

Even if we want to disagree about what exactly constitutes a healthy education, let’s at least agree on what does not.

I hope that in the wake of this scandal, we don’t just talk about one outed, sick educator and then move on as if everything were okay. Let us not get so distracted by the outrageous details that we forget what was so grossly inexcusable about his conduct as a teacher, even had he never touched anyone.

People like this are facilitated by an educational culture that celebrates and rewards brilliant and charismatic figures, despite the fact that they are often highly problematic and leave silent trails of ruin in the shadows of their successes.

As a community, we can be aware of this and do a lot to change it. Our schools, administrators, and lay leaders can think, and think again, about our educational goals and about the healthy ways in which to help our students reach them. And, in the event that there are staff members whose behavior is wholly inconsistent with our conclusions, then it’s time that we put our children’s well-being first.

Let’s talk about that.

Shayna Goldberg Shayna Goldberg teaches both Israeli and American students in the Beit Midrash l'Nashim-Migdal Oz which Is part of Yeshivat Har [More]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A program aimed at helping abused and neglected children and their families is improving outcomes for kids and providing children with stable home environments as their cases move through the courts...

Psychiatric help for families prevents continuing child abuse, neglect

Kids whose families received psychiatric support have better-than-expected outcomes

Aimed at helping abused and neglected children and their families, a program is improving outcomes for kids. The program is run by child psychiatry researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

A program aimed at helping abused and neglected children and their families is improving outcomes for kids and providing children with stable home environments as their cases move through the courts.

The five-year-old program is for children and families whose cases ended up in St. Louis County Family Court. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that kids whose families received psychiatric help and educational support during the years since the program began have better-than-expected outcomes compared with kids who faced comparable levels of risk and whose cases went through the court system before the program was launched.

The findings are published in the June issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Abuse and neglect are linked to some of the worst outcomes in life,” said Washington University child psychiatrist John N. Constantino, MD, who authored the publication and oversees the program. “But if the abuse is halted and addressed after a first incident, the children, on average, aren’t at significantly greater risk than anyone else for poor outcomes later in life. We began this program to help kids who are in protective custody as a result of abuse to ensure they aren’t abused again and to improve the odds that their families will stay on a safe and healthy path.”

One in eight children in the United States will be a victim of abuse or neglect, increasing the risk for psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, suicide, becoming an abusive adult and a host of other negative outcomes, especially if there are multiple incidents of reported maltreatment.

To help prevent further episodes of childhood abuse and neglect, Constantino and his colleagues in the Division of Child Psychiatry — Neha Navasaria, and Mini Tandon, DO — have been working with St. Louis County Family Court since 2011 to provide two-generation psychiatric care and parenting education to families involved in maltreatment cases. The team found that children who participated in the project are at lower risk of future abuse and neglect and that they make greater progress emotionally and developmentally than expected, and more progress than children who were involved in the court system before the project was initiated.

“Through this collaboration, we have been able to provide educational and psychiatric services that would not have been available to the families otherwise,” said Constantino, the Blanche F. Ittelson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. “And those services have had a profound impact.”

The program, called the SYNCHRONY Project (Strengthening Young Children by Optimizing Family Support in Infancy), is based on a similar program created several years ago by a child psychiatry group at Tulane University, and is funded by the St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund, a sales-tax fund.

The Washington University psychiatrists followed 119 children from 106 families. The kids’ ages ranged from only a few months to 5 years. All had been placed in protective custody due to substantiated cases of abuse or neglect.

If the court determined there were unmet mental health needs the system couldn’t address, or if it recognized the need for parent training and education, such cases were referred to Constantino’s team.

The project addresses the unmet mental health needs of both generations of a young family, by assessing not only the children, but their parents, as well as the relationship between children and parents. The goal is to implement an approach to intervention that fully encompasses all of the components that can contribute to child abuse and neglect. In more traditional models of care, these different aspects of intervention tend to be fragmented and rarely available as a comprehensive package for struggling families.

Examples of referrals include a case involving a 3-year-old girl who witnessed her father in a protracted episode of rage. After the girl was removed from her home, clinicians identified and successfully treated a psychiatric condition that had affected father for years but had never been addressed, and the family later was reunited.

In another case, the team provided family therapy to a couple whose 2-year-old girl had been sent to live with an aunt due to problems related to severely dysfunctional communication between members of the household. That family later was reunited as well.

Another case involved a 5-year-old boy with anxiety that was precipitated by psychiatric symptoms a parent was experiencing but concealing. Constantino’s team worked toward ensuring the child’s safety, clarifying the magnitude of the parent’s symptoms and creating an opportunity for intervention for the parent, who never had received treatment.

Constantino (Photo: Robert Boston/School of Medicine)

Using standard assessments of psychiatric health and emotional development, the research team found that children in the program experienced significant improvements in the months after referral. The children experienced steady improvement in behavior and adaptive functioning from the time they were enrolled in the project, sometimes months or even years after having been placed in protective custody by the courts.

“These types of gains are one of the most important markers of well-being,” said Constantino, who also directs the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “The program is identifying unmet needs and allowing kids to get to a better place, either by virtue of improved functioning of their birth parents, careful decision-making about when a home environment is safe, or more appropriate therapeutic or environmental interventions for the children to help them achieve higher levels of behavior and functioning.”

Constantino JN, Ben-David V, Navsaria N, Spiegel E, Glowinski AL, Rogers CE, Jonson-Reed M. Two-generation psychiatric intervention in the prevention of early childhood maltreatment recidivism. The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 173 (6), pp. 566-573, June, 2016. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15070944
This work was supported by the St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund and an anonymous gift to Washington University School of Medicine.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Originally published by the School of Medicine


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

..."I'll tell you why: the Church and Agudah (Agudath Israel of America) are lies. They lied to you, hiding behind their pious long white beards, while claiming they are Gd's representatives to you. They opposed it, because they don't support the cause or the issue. They believe that predators are fine and that you are the problem. It's time to stop supporting them in return."

There are 3 considerations when discussing a change to Statutes of Limitations.

1) Criminal - change to the age for when a victim may press charges

2) Civil - same as above, but for lawsuits. Affects the perpetrator and potentially the assisting institutions.

3) Retroactive Civil - allowing suits that have lapsed the Statute to retroactively proceed.

For years, NY has had the most egregious of Statues for sex crimes. For years, everyone in the "know" was aware that the reason for this was powerful lobby groups that included the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel. 

When recently pressed, leadership from Agudah claimed that they wouldn't be opposed to a changed in the criminal statute, but they were worried about bankrupting Jewish institutions for long-passed acts of negligence.

Putting aside the sheer insensitivity of institutional protectionism vs victim assistance and rehabilitation, it requires many factors to hold an institution responsible, including that the act occur at the institution, be a result of the institutions failures, be done by someone working for or allowed onto the institutional premises, etc.

Nevertheless, despite the claim of outward support for a Criminal Statute change, the NYS Legislature failed to act and pass it.

I ask you, if victims and victim advocacy groups support it (non-stop lobbying officials and making numerous public entreaties), news media supported it, regular folks supported it, AND on top of all that, the 2 primary historical opposers claimed they supported it, why didn't it pass?

Why would an elected official ignore every relevant group on an issue and oppose a change in the criminal statute? Do they want to commit career suicide?

I'll tell you why: the Church and Agudah are lies.

They lied to you, hiding behind their pious long white beards, while claiming they are Gd's representatives to you. They opposed it, because they don't support the cause or the issue. They believe that predators are fine and that you are the problem. 

It's time to stop supporting them in return.



ALBANY — In the end, state lawmakers protected the predators.

The state Legislature ended the 2016 legislative session about 5 a.m. Saturday without acting on legislation to help survivors of child sex abuse.

An all-night session to wrap up up the legislative year did not lead to a last-minute miracle that victims and advocates were hoping for.

"The survivors were thrown a tattered raft in this stormy session," said Kathryn Robb, an advocate and sexual abuse survivor.....



Friday, June 17, 2016

And Now We Have Elly Kleinman's Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law! The List of Jewish Midgets $upporting This Menuvel!

Breaking Ground And Sharing Memories At Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center 

On a brisk and sunny Sunday afternoon two weeks before Pesach, the weather was perfect for the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center’s groundbreaking ceremony. But despite the cloudless skies, it felt as though a pall had descended upon our community. Less than a dozen blocks away, preparations were under way for the funerals of the seven Sassoon children killed in a horrific fire the day before, and the unspeakable tragedy weighed heavily on everyone’s mind. Nevertheless, throngs of people converged on 50th Street between 15th and 16th Avenues in Boro Park for the event marking the beginning of construction of the KFHEC’s new building, which will eventually transform the Agudath Israel shul building there into a modern five-story facility.

At Sunday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the KFHEC in Boro Park
At Sunday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the KFHEC in Boro Park

The Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center is the first of its kind: a Holocaust institution that is much more than a museum. As the name indicates, it is first and foremost an education center, where the story of the Holocaust will be told from a frum perspective. To many survivors and their families, Sunday was a tremendous step forward in breaking ground for shared memories.

Members of the Kleinman family
Members of the Kleinman family

The director and CEO of the KFHEC, Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, introduced Mr. Shlomo Werdiger, chairman of the groundbreaking event and a KFHEC board member. The program began with recital of Tehillim, which took on new meaning as Mr. Werdiger asked the assemblage to daven for the mother and daughter who survived the blaze the day before but were still in critical condition and in need of prayers for a refuah sheleimah.

Popular singers Eli and Rivie Schwebel, along with the Mezamrim Choir, performed two heartfelt songs—“In a Vinkele” and “Acheinu Kol Bais Yisrael.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was in Boston for a conference, sent a recorded video in which he spoke about the rampant anti-Semitism taking place today around the world and stressed the necessity of studying history. The mayor went on to congratulate KFHEC founder and president Elly Kleinman and predicted that in a city that has always been a home to so many immigrant groups, KFHEC will play an important role in serving the community and the city.

This was clearly a momentous occasion for Mr. Kleinman, who has nurtured and supported this project for more than seven years. He thanked Shlomo Chaimovitz, KFHEC’s vice-president, for shouldering the burden with him to make the KFHEC a reality. He praised Rabbi Eliezer Horowitz and the members of Agudath Israel Zichron Moshe for their vision in incorporating a Holocaust education center into their shul’s building. He acknowledged Rabbi Friedmann’s directorship of the KFHEC and thanked the organization’s talented staff.

In his remarks, Mr. Kleinman cited a chilling halachic question posed to Rav Ephraim Oshry, z’l, by a 12-year-old boy in the Kovno Ghetto who wanted to begin putting on tefillin even before his bar mitzvah. He then spoke about the KFHEC’s international projects already in development that will have a worldwide impact. Mr. Kleinman became visibly moved when speaking about his family’s Holocaust experiences and about his mother, Mrs. Ethel Kleinman, who survived Auschwitz and was in attendance at the groundbreaking event. Elaborating on the responsibility of educating our children and grandchildren about the Holocaust, he stated, “It’s not enough to say ‘Never again’—we must also never give up.”

Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, referring to the tragedy of the previous day, linked the seven young “korbanos” to the six million kedoshim killed by the Nazis. It was a “mini-Holocaust,” he said, giving us just a tiny glimpse of what happened to our nation 75 years ago. He was followed by Rav Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, who stressed the importance of feeling another Jew’s pain.

At the close of the event, Kaddish was recited by Mr. Benny Fishoff, a Holocaust survivor and major KFHEC benefactor. Mr. Fishoff has explained his dedication to the KFHEC project by saying, “I waited all these years to be able to tell my story so that it will be remembered not just by my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but by Klal Yisrael.” Three generations of Fishoff family members and four generations of Kleinman family members attended the event. Finally, Abish Brodt sang “Ani Ma’amin” in his inimitable fashion.

In addition to Rabbi Kotler and Rabbi Perlow, the list of distinguished speakers also included Rav Mechel Steinmetz, the Skverer Dayan, and NYC Councilman David Greenfield. The front section designated for VIPs was graced by a number of other rabbanim and admorim, including Rabbis Yaakov Bender (rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah), Yitzchok Isaak Friedman (Tenker Rav of Flatbush), Aryeh Zev Ginzberg (rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center), Chaim Meir Hager (rav of Vizhnitz Bnei Brak in Boro Park), Eliezer Horowitz (rav of Agudas Yisroel Zichron Moshe), Mordechai Zev Jungreis (Nikolsburg Rebbe of Boro Park), Amram Klein (Ungvar Rav), Shmuel Yaakov Klein (of Torah U’Mesorah), Moshe Tuvia Lieff (rav of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin), Dovid Schustal (rosh yeshiva at Beth Medrash Govoha), Yosef Ungar (son of the Bobov-45 Rebbe and rav of Apirion Shel Shlome), and others.

Government officials in attendance included Members of Congress Yvette Clarke and Jerry Nadler; NY State Senator Simcha Felder; NYS Assembly Members Joseph Borelli and David Weprin; NYC Councilmen Chaim Deutsch (the son of a Holocaust survivor), Mathieu Eugene, David Greenfield, Brad Lander, and Jumaane Williams; Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan; Deputy Chief of Police Steven M. Powers, CO for Brooklyn Borough South; and Community Board 12 chairman Yidel Perlstein and district manager Barry Spitzer.

As Mr. Kleinman said in his speech, this event was only the beginning. (More Mexican kids on the way). Those who witnessed this groundbreaking are surely awaiting the next phase, when KFHEC iy’H opens its doors next year.

Fernando Maria Kleinman


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Standing in solidarity with Muslims after Orlando makes as much sense as standing in solidarity with Klansmen after the Charleston massacre. No one should be standing in solidarity with hate groups. Omar wasn’t radicalized by the “internet”. He got his ideas from Islamic clerics who got their ideas from Islam. He was “radicalized” by the holiest texts of Islam. Just like every other Muslim terrorist. His actions weren’t “senseless” or “nihilistic”, he was acting out the Muslim privilege of a bigoted ideology.

Muslim Privilege Killed 49 People in Orlando

Islamophobia kills… non-Muslims.

The deadliest mass shooting in American history happened because of Islamophobia.

Islamophobia killed 49 people in Orlando. It didn’t kill 49 Muslims. Instead it allowed Omar Mateen, a Muslim terrorist, to kill 49 people in the name of his Islamic ideology and the Islamic State.

Omar, like so many other Muslim killers, could have been stopped. He talked about killing people when he worked at G4S Security, a Federal contractor that provided services to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. But, according to one of the co-workers he stalked, a former police officer, his employers refused to do anything about it because he was a Muslim.

The FBI conducted an investigation of Omar Mateen. They put him on a watch list and sent informants. They interviewed him and concluded that his claims of Al Qaeda ties and terrorist threats were reactions to “being marginalized because of his Muslim faith.” Omar told the agents that he said those things because “his co-workers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.”

And they believed him.

Poor Omar wasn’t a potential terrorist. He was just a victim of Islamophobia.

Omar got away with homophobic comments that would have gotten Americans fired because he was Muslim. He weathered an “extensive” FBI investigation because he was Muslim.

Anyone who says that there is no such thing as Muslim Privilege ought to look at Omar Mateen.

There is a direct line between Omar’s Muslim privilege and the Pulse massacre. Omar Mateen’s Muslim privilege protected him from consequences. While the media studiously paints the image of a beleaguered population of American Muslims suffering the stigma of constant suspicion, Omar’s Muslim background actually served as a shield and excused behavior that would have been unacceptable for anyone else. Omar Mateen’s Muslim privilege shielded him until he was actually murdering non-Muslims.

And Omar’s case is not unique. The Fort Hood killer, Nidal Hasan, handed out business cards announcing that he was a Jihadist. He delivered a presentation justifying suicide bombings, but no action was taken. Like Omar, the FBI was aware of Hasan. It knew that he was talking to Al Qaeda bigwig Anwar Al-Awlaki, yet nothing was done. Instead of worrying about his future victims, the FBI was concerned that investigating him and interviewing him would “harm Hasan’s career”.

One of his classmates later said that the military authorities, “Don't want to say anything because it would be considered questioning somebody's religious belief, or they're afraid of an equal opportunity lawsuit.”

Would the FBI have been as sensitive if Nidal Hasan had been named Frank Wright? No more than Omar Mateen would have kept his security job if his name had been Joe Johnson.
It’s an increasingly familiar story.

The neighbors of San Bernardino killers Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik noticed that something strange was going on, but they were afraid of profiling Muslims. If they had done the right thing, the 14 victims of the two Muslim killers would still be alive. If the FBI had done the right thing with Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood victims would still be alive and whole. If the FBI had done the right thing with Omar Mateen, his 49 victims would still be alive and those he wounded would still be whole.

We have some basic choices to make. We can empathize with Muslims or with their victims.

We cannot however do both.

After 9/11, Muslims somehow became the biggest victim group in America. And even if you contend that most Muslims are not responsible for the actions of Islamic fundamentalist groups, even if you believe that most Muslims are being wrongly blamed for the actions of a smaller group of radicals, the pernicious myth of Muslim victimhood has become a distorting force that protects terrorists.

Muslim victimhood has elevated Islamist groups such as CAIR to the front row of political discourse alongside legitimate civil rights organizations, despite their terror links and history of obstructing law enforcement efforts to fight Islamic terrorism, while mainstreaming their Islamist agendas.

Muslim victimhood has silenced the victims of Muslim terrorism. Every Muslim terror attack is swiftly diverted to the inevitable “backlash” narrative in which the media turns away from the bodies in the latest terror attack to bring us the stories of the real Muslim victims who fear being blamed for it.

This obscene act of media distraction silences the victims of Muslim terrorism and rewards the enablers and accomplices of Muslim terrorism instead. It is every bit as terrible as claiming that the real victims of a serial killer are his family members who are being blamed for not turning him in, instead of the people he killed and the loved ones they left behind.

Muslim victimhood protects Muslim terrorists like Omar Mateen. It shields them from scrutiny. It invents excuses for them. While Omar made his preparations, while the FBI investigation of him was botched, the media leaped nimbly from a thousand petty claims of Muslim victimhood. And the worst of them may have been Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim woman who claimed she was discriminated against when a flight attendant poured her soda in a cup instead of being given a can. This insane nonsense received days of media coverage. That’s more airtime than any American victim of Islamic terrorism has received.

The media will wait as short a period as it can and turn away from Orlando to some manufactured viral media claim of Muslim discrimination that will be unbearably petty. Meanwhile the next Omar Mateen will be plotting his next act of terror.

It’s time to tell the truth.

Islamic terrorism is caused by Muslim privilege. These acts of violence are motivated by racism and supremacism in Islam. Allahu Akbar, the Islamic battle cry often associated with acts of terror and ethnic cleansing since its origin in Mohammed’s persecution of the Jews, is a statement of Muslim superiority to non-Muslims.

Muslim terrorism is not the groan of an oppressed minority. Its roots run back to racist and supremacist Islamic societies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt where non-Muslims have few if any civil rights. Muslims are a global majority. Islamic terrorism is their way of imposing their religious system on everyone.

Standing in solidarity with Muslims after Orlando makes as much sense as standing in solidarity with Klansmen after the Charleston massacre. No one should be standing in solidarity with hate groups.

Omar wasn’t radicalized by the “internet”. He got his ideas from Islamic clerics who got their ideas from Islam. He was “radicalized” by the holiest texts of Islam. Just like every other Muslim terrorist. His actions weren’t “senseless” or “nihilistic”, he was acting out the Muslim privilege of a bigoted ideology.

Even in this country, the majority of hate crimes are not directed at Muslims. Instead Muslims have disproportionately contributed to persecuting various minority groups. Orlando is only the latest example of this trend. In Europe, Jews are fleeing Sweden and France because of Muslim persecution. In Germany, gay refugees have to be housed separately from Muslim migrants. So do Christian refugees.

This isn’t the behavior of victims. These are the actions of oppressors.

Muslims are not part of the coalition of the oppressed, but of the oppressors. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can deal stop Islamic terrorism and protect the victims of Muslim terrorists.
Muslim privilege killed 49 people in Orlando. How many people will it kill next week or next month? How many will it kill in the next decade or the next century?

The Muslim genocide of non-Muslims is already happening in Syria and Iraq. Islam has a long genocidal history. And if we continue to confuse the oppressors and the oppressed, the next genocide we fail to stop may be our own.