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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Beit Shemesh’

Beit Shemesh Agency Tackles Sexual Abuse One Case at a Time

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

By Maayan Jaffe

Sexual abuse of minors has for many years been among the most controversial and suppressed issues in the Jewish community. An inaugural conference in Israel next month will, at the very least, contribute to the conversation on that issue.

“The mere fact that we are talking with each other is crucial,” said Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, director of the Jerusalem-based Haruv Institute, whose stated mission is “to become an international center of excellence contributing to the reduction of child maltreatment.”
The First International Congress for Child Protection Organizations in the Jewish Community takes place from March 3-5 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sponsored by Haruv and Magen LeYeladim U’Lemishpachot, the conference will draw representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, South Africa, and Israel to talk about how to deal with sexual abuse of minors, particularly in the Orthodox Jewish community. Attendees will strategically review the participating organizations and their programs, and collaboratively generate a code of best practices.

“Ultra-Orthodox communities around the world are similar and share communal characteristics,” Ben-Arieh told JNS.org. “We also learned that… in many cases, perpetrators are ‘shipped’ to different communities instead of being dealt with.”
Magen, a Hebrew word meaning “protector,” is the catalyst for the conference as well as for bringing the topic of sexual abuse of minors to light among Israel’s Orthodox community.

In 2010, Magen was founded by David Morris to serve the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh. Three years later, the three-person operation is becoming well known across the Jewish state, as its efforts have resulted in sweeping change for the 98,000-person community.

Underreporting of sexual abuse is a global problem. According to Israel’s National Council for the Child, only about 1 in 10 cases of abuse reach the authorities. But in Beit Shemesh, it was an epidemic. In 2010, according to Beit Shemesh resident and non-profit consultant Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, Beit Shemesh reporting was only one third of the national average. That equates to one in 30, the lowest rate in Israel.

“We want to think it won’t happen. We want to think it doesn’t happen. But it does,” wrote Jaskoll in an op-ed for the Times of Israel.

Morris came to know this all too well. He told JNS.org that Magen was started after he tried fruitlessly to gain assistance for a boy who was molested at school.

“A mother approached me for help when her son, after refusal to go to school and [demonstrating] peculiar behavior, confessed that his rebbe had touched him [inappropriately] and regularly for months. I turned to a community rabbi who was in a position to protect the family,” Morris said. “But instead of advising them to call the police, which is required by law, he referred them to the Modesty Patrol” in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, he said.

Morris said it became increasingly clear that for victims of abuse and their families, there was no professional and responsible recourse or assistance within the community. Thus, he opened Magen. Since then, the organization has handled upwards of 250 cases, and reports to Magen are doubling each year. Furthermore, reporting of sexual abuse in Beit Shemesh has increased by more than 50 percent.

Magen works on four fronts. First, it educates. Professional or volunteer representatives are out in the community offering lectures and seminars to help parents and child educators understand the threat of sexual predators and how to protect their children against them.

Second, Magen offers a hotline and informational service, which can be contacted anonymously (Hotline@MagenProtects.org or +972-2-999-9678). Third is case management.

“An allegation or a case of child abuse is a trauma, much like bereavement. People really don’t know what to do,” Morris explained. “So we hand-hold, we support the family through the process.”

Finally, Magen helps with the management of alleged perpetrators in the community. Even if a case goes through the correct legal procedure—to the police, to the courts—and the even if the perpetrator gets sentencing, at some point he will return to Beit Shemesh.

“This is a community issue. What should a community do to safeguard its children?” said Morris.

All four components of Magen’s role are essential and necessary for the successful reduction of sexual abuse of minors in a community, explained Helise Pollack, a therapist in private practice in Beit Shemesh. She has been working with victims of childhood sexual abuse for 26 years.

“It is important for families to receive support and for children [victims] to receive intervention and treatment for dealing with their feelings of humiliation, anger, hurt and pain. If they cannot talk about it and understand it wasn’t their fault, then they carry this pain inside them and at some point it comes through,” Pollack said. She noted that victims who have kept the abuse a secret often become anxious teenagers, use drugs or alcohol, act out violently, or hurt themselves/become suicidal. Many leave religion. Others become perpetrators themselves.

Rabbi Yaakov Haber, rabbi of Kehillat Shivtei Yeshurun in Ramat Beit Shemesh, has been supportive of Magen. He said the organization has given potential perpetrators a fear they did not have before.

“It took away their safe haven,” he told JNS.org, explaining that a perpetrator might now think twice before acting on his inclination for fear of public and legal repercussions.

The rabbi also made clear that he does not think there is more abuse in the haredi community than in any other community, but rather, there are additional complications members of the haredi community consider before reporting such a crime. For one, he said, most Orthodox communities are close-knit, which means everyone knows and/or is related to everyone else.

“Once you run to the police and report this man… all of a sudden his [seven] kids are having difficulty in school, the wife is struggling—it is just a tremendous amount of pain,” said Haber. “This is really the fault of the poor choice of the abuser, but you can understand … how it will affect every single aspect of a very large family—even cousins.”

Additionally, he said there is a perception—especially in Israel, where “everything is so politicized”—that the press will jump on any report of abuse and make it a bigger issue than it might be.

Nonetheless, Haber advocates for turning to the police. So do most parents of victims, when they know what their options are and how cases will be handled. At a recent Magen event titled “Who are the people in our neighborhood,” dramatic presentations of three real Magen cases, written by local parents of children who were sexually abused, were read to the audience by volunteers. One boy was molested by the teenage son of a well-known community rabbi.

“We all assumed the perpetrator was some drifter from outside the community. We never imagined it could be a boy from a successful family within our own community,” said Parent A, who remained anonymous. “This boy was not some kid off the derech [non-religious kid]. His family was the derech we all admired and aspired to achieve.”

Parent A was told not to work through Magen, and not to work with the police by some area rabbis. But he worked with Magen anyway. Shortly thereafter, similar stories began to surface. With people aware and looking for the perpetrator, one afternoon he was caught shortly after he abused another victim.

“The boy was arrested. He has been placed under the supervision of the courts. … My 8-year-old’s cry for help and our full disclosure has led to other boys being saved,” said Parent A.

In another case, two young girls were molested by their 70-year-old grandfather. Parent B filed a report, and the grandfather and the young girls are getting the help they need.

“Sometimes doing the right thing will not make everyone happy,” said Parent B. “But it has to be done.”

“The more we speak about [sexual abuse], the more we write about it, the more we stand against it, the greater chance we have of preventing it,” Jaskoll said.

Maayan Jaffe is a freelance writer in Overland Park, Kan.

Corruption-Riddled Beit Shemesh Gets New Elections

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the appeals by Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol and mayoral candidate Meir Balayish – and so municipal elections will be held again in Beit Shemesh on 11th March. The incumbent’s most serious challenger is the Religious Zionist candidate Eli Cohen.

In a statement, the three judge court, comprising Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis, Elyakim Rubinstein, and Uzi Fogelman, announced that:

“The picture which emerges from the District Court Ruling, regarding the manner in which the elections took place in the town of Beit Shemesh, is alarming and disturbing. Residents of the city of Beit Shemesh, and the election process to express their democratic wishes, fell victims to an organized large-scale and systematic violation of law which aimed at diverting the election for mayor and City Council. In light of the extensive scope of the phenomenon, and the systematic organization of those involved, the District Court found that there is a real possibility that this serious conspiracy affected the election results, and therefore ordered cancellation of the previous elections and the holding of new elections.”

The new election date of March 11 was announced by the Ministry of Interior.

This decision by the Regional Court, now confirmed by the Supreme Court, is a legal precedent in defense of the democratic process.

One hopes that the new election campaigns will be considerably less corrupt than during the previous election in October – and that this time everyone will keep to both the letter and spirit of free and open elections.

Visit Tzedek-Tzedek.

Haredi Leaders Call Ruling for New Beit Shemesh Vote ‘Corrupt’

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Haredi political leaders across the board called a court ruling for new elections in Beit Shemesh” corrupt,” “racist” and a sign of “dictatorship,” among other less than complimentary adjectives.

The court accepted a petition by Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein that documented corruption in the voting October 22 as ground for voiding the election results, which gave  incumbent Shas Mayor Moshe Abutbul a 956-vote victory over Jewish Home challenger Eli Cohen.

The real corruption is the court decision itself, according to Haredi Knesset Member Menachem Eliezer Moses of the United Torah Judaism party.

Not only was it corrupt to invalidate a proven corrupt election, it also was “racist,” he said. Any time a court rules against Haredim, it is “racist.” If it rules in favor of Haredim, it is proof of God’s will.

Shas Party chairman Aryeh Deri was much more polite and limited his disgust at the decision by stating that the judges surrendered to a “media campaign” to cancel a democratic decision. Perhaps he thinks corruption is democratic.

The booby prize for idiotic reactions goes to United Torah Judaism Knesset Member Yisrael Eichler, who stated that the decision “proves there is no difference between dictatorships in the Egyptian and Israeli judiciaries.”

He suggested that Israel’s secular court might declare Haredim illegal, just like the Egyptian courts ruled against Muslim Brotherhood, which now is an official terrorist organization.

He opened his mouth too wide by lumping  the Brotherhood, the mother of Hamas, with Haredim.

Court Orders New Elections in Beit Shemesh

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

The Jewish Home party won its day in court on Thursday with an administration court ruling that the October 22 elections for the Beit Shemesh mayor and city council are invalid because of suspected fraud. The court ordered a new vote.

Jewish Home mayoral candidate lost the election by 956 votes to Shas party incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul.

Shortly before the voting, police raid several homes and found identification cards that were in the hands of impersonators, and investigators said there is evidence of widespread fraud and suspicion of possible organized crime behind the forgeries.

Amazingly, Mayor Abutbul’s attorney told the court that, sure, there were some forgeries, but “you have to prove that all of the votes [separating Abutbul and Cohen] were invalid in order to cancel the elections. This is simple math. The police raided several homes and caught 120 identification cards, 36 of which were used to vote illegally. These are the facts, and the rest is speculation.”

Nice try, but no go, said the court. It is not just speculation; it is evidence that the foul play“went to the roots of the elections,” the court’s judges wrote in their ruling. It noted that “public trust collapsed.”

Shas is not known for clean politics. Neither is the Likud, but Shas’ problem is that it gets caught more often. It does not have the finesse of the Ashkenazi elite to be crooked and get away with it.

Just ask Aryeh Deri, who has returned to head the party after time ran out on his not being able to hold public office by virtue of his conviction and prison sentence for bribery, which politicians, religious and secular, think is not illegal if is a mitzvah.

Thursday’s decision was victory for the Jewish Home party, which already tastes an electoral victory in the re-run of the votes. A date has not yet been announced, but Beit Shemesh residents are anxious to vote again.

The city has been severely divided over religion. A radical Haredi cult has made life miserable for many national religious families. Many secular residents are furious over the increasing Haredi influence, let alone the radicals who want separate sidewalks for men and women.

A relatively large number of Americans live in Beit Shemesh, located a few miles west of Jerusalem. One of them is Dov Lipman, who now is a Knesset Member for the Yesh Atid party.

Haredi Voters in Beit Shemesh Admit They Gave ID Cards to Others

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Several Haredi residents in Beit Shemesh have confessed to police investigators that they gave the identification cards to others to vote in their place, Israel radio reported.

On Election Day, police confiscated approximately 200 identification cards and disguises. Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein appealed to the courts to violate the recent elections in Beit Shemesh, and he judges asked for more proof.  The identification card fraud pointed to an “intentional and systematic attempt to alter the election’s results,” Weinstein told the court.

The false voters disguised themselves while in a nearby apartment so they would not be recognized and then arrived at polling stations.

If a new election is held, the Jewish Home party is expecting their candidate, Eli Cohen, will win. Shas incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul beat Cohen by only 956 votes.

Storm over ‘Haredim Are Cancer’ Comment

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

“Is the Haredi population’s blood permitted?” begins an article in Kikar Hashabbat following the Tuesday Channel 2 report on the Jerusalem District Court session regarding the AG allegations of Beit Shemesh voter fraud.

While AG Yehuda Weinstein was telling the court about the organized, criminal conspiracy to steal votes in the recent municipal elections in the city of Beit Shemesh, a few miles west of Jerusalem, Amalia Buchbut, a resident of Beit Shemesh standing outside the court house, told Channel 2 the Haredim were a “cancer.”

Speaking to the cameras, Buchbut, whose sleepy city has become a focal point in the struggle between militant Haredim and modern Orthodox and non-religious Israelis, Buchbut compared the Haredim to “a spreading cancer, with metastases in every single city.”

Ouch. Say what you will about Haredi attacks on non-Haredim, and they’ve been numerous and vicious, I don’t recall anyone going in the C-word direction.

Back in 2012, Likud MK Miri Regev, formerly the Deputy IDF Spokesperson, told a rally in south Tel Aviv that “the Sudanese are a cancer in our body – we’ll do whatever it takes to send them back where they came from.”

Regev tried to respond to the pile-on of condemnations from everyone with a microphone and/or a keyboard in Israel by explaining that she meant the good cancer, or, rather that she only referred to the fact that those Sudanese were spreading everywhere, but not like cancer cells. That she meant well, in short, and didn’t intend to equate war-ravaged illegal migrant workers with anything that sucks the vitality of the body and brings about a tortured and inevitable death.

It was something to watch, especially if you’re into blood sports.

Amalia Buchbut is not a politician (although in Israel she may be running for Chair of the Labor party in no time—everybody else seems to). She does not have a team of advisers guiding everything she says and does. But she does watch television, like most Israelis, and it just so happens that she said the cancer thing directly following a show on Channel 2 titled: “Battle for the Home,” which many, especially Haredim, considered to be nothing short of a hate and fear propaganda campaign against the bearded folks moving next door.

In Israel, as in America, television channels are licensed by the public, and so they must keep within the limits of good taste and journalistic standards. The Channel 2 state-appointed board of governors will likely meet to discuss just how awful that anti-Haredi attack has been—and I’m lead to understand it crossed all the red lines.

That’s what Yossi Elituv, a member of the board, told Kikar Hashabbat: that it crossed all the red lines.

Essentially, the program showed in disturbing details the depth of the Haredi housing crisis, which drives many to leave their natural home turf and wander into formerly secular environments.

The thing is, Haredim don’t move about stealthily. Wherever they go, they’re noticed, and wherever they go they evoke predictable sets of prejudices. They’re the Ostjuden of Israel.

The program, which was just launched on Channel 2, with host Mickey Chaimovich, who used to anchor the channel’s news, is right on the numbers: each year some 7,000 Haredi couples get married in Israel (some say 8,000-9,000) and they require 7,000 apartments.

Over the past few years only 5 settlements for Haredim have been established, and the need far outweighs the supply. And so they spread out into secular cities, like Beit Shemesh, and the rest is very unappealing history.

Here’s another figure: There are 800,000 Haredim living in Israel today. And the host states plainly: These stories could be your story, too, in your neighborhood, in your home.

AG: Police Found Well Organized, Criminal Vote Scam in Beit Shemesh

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Jerusalem District Court will discuss on Tuesday appeals of the municipal elections results in Beit Shemesh. The appeals have been submitted by AG Yehuda Weinstein and the losing mayoral candidate Eli Cohen.

In his appeal, the AG cited the police investigation of alleged vote fraud in the city which is split among Haredi, Modern Orthodox and Secular residents. The picture presented by police, the AG wrote, is of serious, systematic and organized criminal activity, intended to influence the election results.

The AG’s appeal suggests the fraud operation was planned well in advance of election day, and included cajoling legal voters to hand over their ID cards to Haredi party operatives. The cards were collected from voters’ homes and in synagogues. Those cards were used on election day by impostors.

Police raided apartments where they discovered 120 ID cards and passports, as well as notes with voting station numbers. Police also found handkerchiefs, hats, wigs and glasses, possibly for use in altering the appearance of impostors so they could vote more than once.

In addition, a car belonging to a major Haredi political figure was found to contain some 40 ID cards. The driver told police he was part of a network that recruited imposter voters.

According to Weinstein, the small gap—956 votes, 2.7%—between the winning candidate, incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul, who is associated with the Haredim in Beit Shemesh, and the challenger, Eli Cohen, associated with Jewish Home, suggests that Cohen’s victory may have been reached entirely through fraudulent voting.

Abutbul’s attorneys will ask the court to dismiss the appeals, or at least to move it to a civil court, which would enable them to cross examine police witnesses who were used in compiling the damning report.

Haredi newspapers on Monday called on their readers to pray for the success of Mayor Abutbul—Moshe ben Varda—who may have to face a repeat election.

For his part, Abutbul took the high road, warning his citizens against a “civil war” (the term in Hebrew is “brotherly war” – milchemet achim).

“It’s a shame that some political entities who refuse to accept the voter’s decision and are dragging Beit Shemesh towards a civil war,” he said. However, he added that he intends “to obey whatever decision the court reaches.”

Mayor Abutbul is a member of Shas. His deputy-mayor, Shmuel Greenberg, is a member of United Torah Judaism (UTJ). In the previous elections, Abutbul was able to attract moderate Orthodox voters by promising: “Beit Shemesh is not a Haredi city and will not be one.” Haredi parties won 10 out of the 21-seat municipal councilin 2009.

The modern city of Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem’s neighbor to the west, was established in 1952, by immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Romania, Morocco and Iraqi Kurdistan. In the 1990s, the city experienced an influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and from North America, the UK, South Africa and Australia.

In 2011 Haredim made up 40% of the population, according to the municipality, and 63% of the city’s schoolchildren in 2010 were Haredim.

Disputes between Haredi and Modern Orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh have been capturing headlines for at least a decade, with a general sense that Haredi militants have been increasing their influence in this once sleepy city.

According to Ha’aretz, the population of Beit Shemesh is expected to reach 150,000 in 2020.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ag-police-found-well-organized-criminal-vote-scam-in-beit-shemesh/2013/12/10/

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