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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘child abuse’

A Plea for Victims of Child Abuse

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

By Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger

The recent guilty plea of an Orthodox Rabbi to molestation charges in New Jersey as well as the District Attorney’s expressed hope that this case will encourage other parents of abused children from the Orthodox community to come forward to report crimes, beg the questions that have bothered me for years : Why is there such a reticence on the part of Orthodox Jews to put these perpetrators behind bars? Why are threats of retribution aimed at the victims and their families if they report these crimes, when logic dictates that our wrath should be aimed at the abuser and not at the abused?

I recently read an article in the L.A. Times about Phil Jackson’s new book, and what he says in it about Kobe Bryant. Jackson writes that he harbored a deep underlying hatred for Bryant the year that he was accused of sexual assault, because Jackson’s daughter was a victim of a similar assault years earlier. That episode, therefore, hit Jackson close to home. It struck me clearly that the mere fact that Jackson had a daughter wasn’t enough to affect him deeply. The basic feelings of empathy and compassion that dictate revulsion at the mere mention of such a heinous crime were apparently beyond even beyond Phil Jackson’s capabilities.

I am not here to criticize Jackson, but could it be that we the chosen people, are mired in the same place? Do we hear the words “abuse” and “molestation,” shake our heads and move on? Do we, Heaven forbid have to feel the pain personally before we react the way a parent of a victim would? Let me make a suggestion: let us rename these people “murderers” instead of molesters. From a religious point of view, that is exactly what they are. Killing one’s souls, in Jewish law, is at least as destructive as killing one physically.

In addition when a Rabbi or other religious authority figure invades a child’s world with abuse, he shatters the positive association with Torah that so significantly contributes to the child’s spirituality. When we compound the tragedy with intimation and cover-up, we bear the guilt of both pushing the knife into the hearts of the victims, and becoming accessories to the future murders of innocent neshamos.

I am not being overly dramatic. Listen to the mental health professionals and hear how much of a struggle it is to rebuild theses victims’ self- esteem and trust. Can a Jew come to love Torah when its representative has so ravaged his inner peace and self-worth?

The Torah commands us not to stand by idly as our fellow Jew’s blood is being spilled. This Halacha clearly encompasses more than actual blood: one’s mental and spiritual health are within its purview as well. Factoring in the intimacy issues that abuse raises later in life, the damaged caused is incalculable. Arguably, there is no greater single threat to a chid’s emerging Ruchnius than suffering the pain of sexual abuse. So let’s stop focusing on the sterling reputations of perpetrators and their family members, who inevitably rally to the molesters side. Let’s stop nonsensically pretending that we are turning innocent people over to the KGB or the Gestapo. Let’s stop listening to the empty promises that it won’t happen again. Instead, let’s start looking into these children’s hearts and let us cry at the agony that we see. Let’s look honestly at the fact that today as an Orthodox community we cannot manage our own house, and cannot promise that there will be no more victims. We don’t have the power. We don’t have the authority. And sadly, I fear that we don’t have the empathy.

Rabbi Stulberger has been dean of Valley Torah high school for 27 years. He serves as the president of the Yeshiva Principals council of LA and has served on the Halachic Advisory Board of Aleinu Jewish Family Services for over a decade.

The Kolko Case: A Stain on Lakewood

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The trial of Yosef Kolko is about to begin. Rabbi Kolko has been accused of child molestation. According to Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, “Kolko has already confessed to the social worker who will be required to testify.” The social worker was hired at the behest of the Lakewood rabbis investigating the charges. This fellow allegedly committed sex crimes multiple times on a young boy in his charge while in a religious summer camp.

Rabbi Kolko has plead not guilty. Not sure how he can do that now if a social worker will indeed testify in court that he admitted the abuse actually took place. Rabbi Kolko faces up to 60 years in prison if found guilty.

Lakewood’s rabbinic leadership has responded to this by coming out full force in defense of Rabbi Kolko – insisting on his innocence and claiming to have proof that he did not do this. They have made all kinds of threats to his accuser using the Shulchan Aruch’s language about mesirah (informing) as a hammer. Language that says that informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities means losing your chelek in olam habah – your place in the world to come! (Although many Poskim say that Mesirah does not apply in a country like ours that has a fair system of justice.)

They have enlisted the aid of two rabbinic figures of great stature – one in Israel and one here – to weigh in on this matter. Based on what these leaders were told, they have come out with very harsh condemnations of the victim’s father… claiming that he violated Halachah by not dealing with this “in-house.” They said he should have gone to a beis din (religious court). They are the ones who are equipped to handle these things Halachicly.

It’s nice that these rabbinic leaders have so much compassion for the accused. But what about the victim? And how have they expressed their compassion to his father- the accuser?

The victim’s his father is not your average ba’al habos. I don’t know his identity. But I am told by people who do, that if his identity were made known to me, I would recognize the name since he is originally from Chicago.

According to my sources the father is a major talmid hacham (Torah scholar)who until this happened was a respected figure in the Lakewood community. No one can say that he has no ne’emanus (faith) and dismiss the case out of hand. He has also secured the support of another posek (jurist of Jewish law) outside of the Lakewood community that has much respect in the Haredi world. It is also not clear to me whether he did not attempt to go to a beis din first. There are conflicting stories about that depending on which source you believe.

It is particularly galling to me is how this has been handled. Everything I have read about it tells me that Lakewood’s rabbinic establishment has no concern for the victim at all. And that they do not believe him or his father. They are concerned only for the welfare of the accused. The war waged against the victim’s father is relentless and harsh. Here is just one example written in a letter written by a prominent Rav which has been made public:

After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R’ Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as clear to me that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].

Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.

There have been equally harsh words published by anonymous “askanim” (dealers) in Lakewood along these lines. Not to mention the letter from a respected rabbinic leader in Israel saying that what the accuser was doing is forbidden by Torah law and that he should bring the matter first to a religious court.

YU Must Do the Right Thing

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

After thinking long and hard about the sex abuse scandal at Yeshiva University’s high school, I have come to the conclusion that more needs to be done.

A lot of mistakes were made that resulted in many young students being subjected to sex abuse. This is certainly not a happy episode for Y.U. A lot of people share culpability for the overlooking or ignoring what allegedly happened during the employ by Y.U. of Macy Gordon and George Finkelstein.

Some of the people who need to answer for their mistakes are people I respect. Some are icons. I am not going to go into specifics of why I so admire and respect those people. Those who read this blog regularly will for instance know how much Dr. Lamm has influenced my own Hashkafos. I still honor him for that. I don’t think I would be who I am today without reading some of his works.
To the best of my understanding, his level of culpability is allegedly as follows. As president of Yeshiva University he was allegedly informed of abuse by the above two individuals. Instead of reporting them to the police and firing them immediately, he allegedly let them go quietly… and did not feel the need to inform other communities about them.

If I recall correctly – his explanation for this was that he did not want to hurt them professionally since he had no hard evidence for their abusive behavior. He also felt that it was the obligation of those who in the future would employ them to check them out… and not his obligation to warn them. That was pretty much the thinking in those days – wrong though it was.

We all know by now that predators when “kicked out” from one community will set up shop in another. It is also true that the victims of Macy and Finkelstein were not properly dealt with. If I am not mistaken they were basically told to just keep quiet, get over it, and get on with their lives.

We also now know that it doesn’t work like that. There are lifelong residual effects suffered by sex abuse victims that stay with them for the rest of their lives. Some handle it better than others. But it is no secret that in many cases abuse victims suffer lifelong depression if untreated – leading to suicides in some cases. There is ample evidence of that.

I do not think Dr. Lamm is a bad person. Quite the contrary. But I do think he made a mistake and should say so publicly.

One can say with a certain amount of legitimacy that as president of a university that was in such financial trouble when he took over that his time was consumed with turning things around. He set about to literally save the school. Which he did. With such a heavy responsibility he could have well just seen the ‘goings on’ at the affiliated high school that he was not directly involved with was an intrusion into his primary function as the head of the university – charged with literally saving it from closing down.

This of course is no excuse. But it is a fact and should in my view be taken into consideration. It is equally true that his busy schedule did not diminish his responsibility to the individual student. It did not diminish the pain suffered by students who were victims. It should not have been a back burner issue.

It is now my view that Y.U. needs to do the right thing and come clean. They need to admit that mistakes were made by leaders both past and present. What happened ought to be fully investigated and all results made public. To the extent that mistakes were made, they ought to be fully recognized and apologized for.

I also agree with Stacy Klein who said in a Forward article that Y.U. should indeed set up a fund for victims in order to help pay for any therapy needed by the victims of Gordon and Finkelstein.

However, I do not agree that at age 85, Dr. Lamm should be fired from his position – as she suggests. His intent was not malicious. Just mistaken. And his contributions to Judaism are immense. I think a sincere apology admitting his mistakes – along with that therapy fund – would go a long way towards helping to heal the victims. I do not see anyone gaining from his being fired.

After discovery of all the facts Y.U. needs to not only make them public and officially apologize – it needs to take concrete steps to make sure it never happens again. And to try and make things right for the victims via funding their path to healing.

I hope that victims of Macy and Gordon will agree with this approach.

Once Y.U. does all this it can get on with its holy mission of teaching Torah U’Mada to future generations of Jews. Y.U. has a great legacy. But it is not perfect. Once it does the right thing here – their reputation can be restored and their legacy will continue well into the future.

Unlike the typical yeshiva – there is only one Yeshiva University. Mistakes were made. But it ought not lead to its downfall. Mistakes can be corrected. That’s what needs to happen here.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Credible Suspicion

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: Yet again I am going to dispense with my usual pre Yom Tov D’var Torah and cross post this important message from Rabbi Yakov Horowtiz’s website. I’m sorry to have to post on such a sad subject on the eve of one of our most joyous holidays. But the urgency of this matter compels me to do so.

Rabbi Necheyia Weberman is about to begin his trial on charges of sexually abusing of a young girl. One may recall the massive fundraising event held on Rabbi Weberman’s behalf. One may also recall that that some of his supporters were caught by authorities trying to bribe the chief witness (the victim) in this case to drop the charges. I think we can be sure that his community will continue to do everything they can to get him acquitted.

To put it the way Rabbi Horowitz did, Rabbi Nechemia Weberman deserves his day in court. Let us do what we can to make sure that on that “day” justice will indeed be served. His words follow:

After many delays and much legal wrangling, Nechemia Weberman will finally stand trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on October 30th for allegedly abusing a young girl in the Williamsburg community over a period of three years — beginning when she was 12-years old.

Mr. Weberman is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Having said that, quoting the Halachic terms employed in the Teshuva of Rav Elyashiv zt”l, there is clearly far more than raglayim l’davar (credible suspicion) in this case. In fact, all indications point to the inescapable conclusion that something is very, very wrong here.

What Parents Need to Know

One of the most important things frum parents – especially those in the “heimish” community – ought to be developing is a deep understanding of the norms and accepted practice in the mental health profession. Gaining this would allow devoted and caring parents the ability to obtain suitable professional help for their children who need it, and avoid the trauma associated with following the recommendations made by untrained, well-meaning folks (unfortunately, an all too frequent occurrence, one which sometimes creates horrific results).

Moreover, it would help undo the denial and cognitive dissonance of those who defend Weberman — by pointing out how disturbing were the circumstances of his “treatment” of the young girls referred to him.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Think of it this way. Wouldn’t alarm bells go off in your mind if a doctor performed an invasive procedure without using latex gloves or if he/she picked up a used syringe to give you an injection? Wouldn’t you think it strange if you were a single mother and were requested to meet with your son’s Rebbe or principal at 9 p.m. one evening in a deserted Yeshiva building to discuss your son’s progress?

What Went Wrong

Well, those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public that Weberman:

(1) Had unregulated access to many girls over a number of years in his inappropriate and illegal role as their unlicensed “therapist.”

(2) Had these young girls referred to him for counseling by very Chassidish schools, whose general level of gender separation far exceeds those of the typical “Bais Yakov” (and it would be exceedingly rare for non-Chassidish girls’ schools to regularly refer their Talmidos to a male therapist)

(3) Engaged in private, unsupervised counseling sessions with young girls — often in an office/apartment that contained a working bedroom — violating all norms of yichud and tzniyus.

In addition to all these disturbing facts, it has become clear that these serious allegations are in fact not isolated ones. In fact, since Mr. Weberman’s arrest, I was personally contacted by immediate family members of four additional alleged victims of his who are afraid to come forward, and those of us close to the community have heard similar reports from others as well.

All the victims – none of whom know each other and all of whom are terrified to go to the authorities because of fear of backlash from the community – report striking similarities in the MO of Weberman (his manner of working), fueling suspicion that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

What is most chilling is that each and every one of his victims who came to us is currently married; meaning that (1) this has been going on for a very long time and (2) if there are current victims who are single, they are even more terrified than the married women of coming forward, for fear that going public will ruin their chances of doing a decent shidduch.

Weberman’s case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of this courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did. Unbearable pressure is being brought to bear against her and her family to drop the case, which is one of the reasons that a show of support is so important.

Now That You Know

Those of us who work with abuse survivors respectfully implore you to please, please stand with this victim on October 30th and with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching this case unfold very carefully and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.

Please pass this on to your friends and family members and I hope to see you at the trial, heeding the timeless charge of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) (1:16) to “Seek justice [and] strengthen the victim.”

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

PA Child Terror Leader Sentenced, Released

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

An Israeli military court Tuesday sentenced  Bassem al-Tamimi, a 45 year old Palestinian man who encourages Palestinian youth to attack Israeli soldiers with projectiles, was sentenced to 13 months in jail.

Al-Tamimi, who garnered the support of the European Union, which criticized Israel for imprisoning him, was released after the trial, having served all 13 months while awaiting trial.

Al-Tamimi’s tactics have been called child abuse by some, who accuse him of manipulating children to endanger themselves and others in a street war against Israel.  Amnesty International called al-Tamimi a “prisoner of conscience,’’ and celebrated him as a protest leader.

My Machberes

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

(L-R) Mark Meyer Appel, Rabbi Yosef Blau, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum at model Seder.

Voice Of Justice Model Seder: Event With A Message

On Thursday evening, March 29 a model Seder was held at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park. The special event was conducted by the Voice of Justice, directed by Mark Meyer Appel. The organization gives moral, psychological, financial and safety support to victims of child abuse. Attendees at the event included victims, advocates, and supporters.

Chaim Kiss Singing at the Seder.

Chaim Kiss, renowned chazzan and singer, filled the air with a mood of celebration. Delicious foods were served, and the atmosphere reflected the Pesach mood of liberation and freedom. Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan, and this writer, as rav of the host shul and Igud director, sat at the dais. Dr. Asher Lipner, a psychologist and leader in the fight against child abuse, read aloud a proclamation from the Assembly of the State of New York extolling the event and its sponsors, which included Met Council (Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty), The Jewish Press, Maimonides Medical Center, the Vos Iz Neias website, Zev Brenner and TalkLine Communications, the Rabbinical Alliance of America-Igud Horabbonim, and the Coalition of Jewish Advocates for Children.

Spirited dancing and camaraderie.

The camaraderie and singing reached emotional heights and the participants, swaying with the music, rose from their seats and joined in communal dancing. Young men, some in modern garb and others in chassidishe attire, rhythmically ran back and forth. A feeling of freedom and security permeated, as though massive burdens were lifted off the shoulders of a newly freed people.

Just a few years ago, reports of child abuse were routinely covered up. No one wanted to even think about it, much less discuss or report it. If the authorities investigated or arrested someone from our community for child abuse, the authorities were condemned for, in effect, embarrassing the entire community.

Today, we are light years beyond that Neanderthal way of thinking. Today, there are shouts condemning the authorities for not doing enough to keep molesters off the streets and our children safe. Books are published for children, on their level of understanding, concerning what to watch out for and how to act in threatening circumstances at home or outside. Today, our leading organizations have child safety on their agendas. Meetings on how our institutions must protect children are held behind both closed and open doors and fully reported. Of course, more has to be done. One case of abuse is one case too much.

The Voice of Justice Model Seder was another step in the effort to combat child abuse. It followed last year’s Seder, as well as numerous conferences held throughout the five boroughs of New York City and in cities with observant communities across the United States.

The list of names of those who have given of themselves in this successful battle is too long for this space. The names will be published and honored in future columns. As the battle continues, we must focus on winning the war, something that is within our grasp. That day, we all pray, will be very soon.

Kol Koreh Against Handmade Matzahs

One would assume that a kol koreh proclamation that storms against, of all things, handmade matzahs, must have some explosive reasoning. What could be more genuinely representative of our Jewish heritage? Handmade matzahs, everyone readily agrees, were eaten by our ancestors as they fled Egypt and slavery. Handmade matzahs are what our forefathers ate at family Seders throughout the millennia.

One might think the posters against handmade matzahs focused on the method of grinding the wheat kernels. The members of our observant communities that are ultra-meticulous in preserving traditions and in having their matzahs handmade actually require that the wheat be ground manually. This takes much effort and envelops those in the process in clouds of wheat dust. Matzahs made by hand from wheat that is manually ground, needless to say, are labor intensive and quite expensive.

However, this declaration focuses on the method of manufacturing the handmade matzahs. Actually, those matzahs targeted by the broadsides are not handmade at all. They are manufactured by machine. The matzahs in discussion are machine made “hand-made,” which of course is an oxymoron. Actually, machine made “hand-made” matzahs amount to a consumer fraud if the mode of manufacture is not fully disclosed.

Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, revered author of Shevet Levi and universally accepted posek, traveled to the establishment of production and confirmed that the machines being used are the very same type used in regular square machine matzahs. However, the machines were reconfigured to produce imperfect roundish matzahs that have the appearance of being made by hand. Rabbi Wosner confirms that the machines are, in principle, exactly the same.

New Group Combating Child Molestation in Ultra Orthodox Enclave

Monday, March 5th, 2012

“Magen” is a new Child Protection Agency operating in Ramat Beit Shemesh, two miles south of the city of Beit Shemesh, whose Haredi vs. National Religious and Secular clamorous encounters made headlines a month or so ago. But Magen deals with a quieter, more sinister aspect of life in this area. Founded two years ago, Magen’s website now reports the presence of at least 36 suspected child abusers in the community of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Two weeks ago, on 20th February, the new organization sent out this message to the Beit Shemesh community by email:

WARNING

It has come to our attention that there is a man operating in  Ramat Bet Shemesh who has reportedly lured and attacked young girls.

His modus operandi is reportedly that he approaches a young girl and invites her to “help him” in darkened or secluded areas (storage areas, car parks, etc) and then he attacks the girl. (This method may change – so it is better not to be too specific when discussing this with your children).

Anyone who notices anything strange of this nature should immediately call the police and if possible take photos.

If one sees a child being lured or led into such a dark or secluded area, or into a vehicle, one should certainly intervene, without placing oneself in danger, for instance by asking the child if the man is her or his father. Please note any identifying information, such as location of incident, description of the person and what he is wearing, ethnicity, age, unusual facial characteristics, smells and any other details, even if they seem inconsequential at the time.

For victims, it’s essential that the police are informed and that they be able to interview any children involved (which is done exclusively by highly trained experts), so that they may investigate and arrest this person, and also so the child receive professional assistance if required.

Please contact the Police and Magen if you have any information or you need assistance in coping with this problem.

Yorkshire, England born Magen Executive Director David Morris, is a young looking father of six who says he is affiliated with the National Religious and is an entrepreneur in the field of electro-optics. Some 10 years ago, he founded a charity organization called Lema’an Achai (For my Brothers) in the then fledgling Ramat Beit Shemesh, applying innovative methods to empowering poor residents.

As part of his function as head of the charity organization, David Morris started hearing more and more reports of child abuse from clients, and began to look for ways of resolving each one.

In spite of strong support from much of the community and rabbinical leadership for improving child safety, he began to encounter resistance within the community, and his endeavor was at risk. All closed communities are anxious about revelations of corruption in their midst, and their natural tendency is often to circle the wagons.

David Morris decided to pick his battles, and so, instead of courting confrontation, he decided to separate his charity work from his dealing with child abuse cases, and launched Magen, a completely independent organization dealing strictly with complaints of child abuse in Beit Shemesh.

That was two years ago. Today Magen has identified four areas of activity in child protection against abuse in this orthodox enclave.

1. Raising awareness through education 2. Hotline, email for questions and reports 3. Support and help for victims and their families 4. Management of alleged perpetrators in the community.

A few months ago, Morris reported to the Nefesh Mental Health Conference in Jerusalem that in the first 18 months of the new agency’s involvement in the community, 40 men have been reported to Magen as having abused children. The organization is aware of 109 children who have allegedly been abused. That makes it one alleged perpetrator to three alleged victims.

According to Morris, 90% of the cases reported to Magen were from the community of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

“Magen is now well known in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and this probably explains much of the frequency and quantity of abuse reports we are seeing in that community. As our activities increase in other communities in Bet Shemesh, we would expect some evening-out,” Morris says.

Of the reported offenses, 78% were sex crimes against children. This compared to 10-15% nationally, as reported by the Child Protection Association of Israel.

Magen also reports that 72% of the alleged victims are boys – which reflects the trend in Jerusalem, where, according to the Child Protection Center of Jerusalem, a majority of child sex-abuse victims are also now male.

“Families have traditionally been primarily worried about their daughters being potentially abused,” Morris confirms. He urges local families, while continuing to guard and educate their daughters in this area, not to forget the risks to their sons.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/new-group-combating-child-molestation-in-ultra-orthodox-enclave/2012/03/05/

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