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

Posts Tagged ‘David Mandel’

A Call To Action

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Ten years ago, If you had asked a victim of sexual abuse what he or she wanted most, the answer would have been, “I want my abuser to apologize, to acknowledge that it was his fault and not mine.” Today, if asked that same question, the victim would speak of prosecution and justice.

Years ago, victims struggled in an uphill battle to be believed and validated. They were victimized and then felt re-victimized by the community. Victims felt that just as perpetrators had the upper hand when they abused, they maintained that upper hand even after victims disclosed. These many years later, victims remain frustrated by the continued lack of communal support.

Just recently, the attorney for former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky castigated his client’s victims, saying they were motivated by money. Make no mistake, while some of the victims at this point may be interested in money, all were motivated by justice. And justice they received.

There are countless ways our community has led by example – chesed, tzedakah, services to the disadvantaged – helping untold thousands lead a better life. These similar efforts must be expended to demonstrate support to victims of sexual abuse.

For every story we read in newspapers or see on television of an Orthodox Jewish victim or perpetrator, we can multiply that by the hundreds more we don’t hear about.

It is widely believed that one in four girls and one in seven boys in the general population are victims of some form of sexual abuse. These are not isolated incidents nor are they unique to any one neighborhood. In the absence of any conclusive comparative data in the Orthodox Jewish community, these are the figures that are often cited. It may be uncomfortable for us to think in such stark terms but, thankfully, of late there is growing awareness of the magnitude of this issue. This realization should translate into a greater collective response.

OHEL has been at the forefront in educating the Jewish community on prevention and response to sexual abuse by speaking out through seminars and consultations, articles and radio programs, the publication of books and informational DVD’s, training mental health professionals and educators, and participating in conferences throughout the United States and overseas. There are many others in our community who have similarly worked tirelessly in this mission.

To accomplish a systemic behavioral change in our community’s gestalt on sexual abuse, we must take action that goes far beyond any achievements to date.

1. All people should be mandated reporters as is the law in eighteen states. Mandated reporters in New York are limited to select professionals including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and educators. The law should require all people to report to child welfare authorities or the police thus removing any ambiguity.

2. Eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse have described their experience as the killing of the soul. Just as there is no statute of limitations on the killing of the body, so too, there should be no statute of limitations on the killing of the soul. The scars that sexual abuse can leave on a person can be equally permanent. Many victims disclose their abuse years later, as such, there should be no restrictions for prosecutors to pursue such crimes.

3. We need to more actively support victims who disclose and report to police. As far back as October 1999, I wrote in The Jewish Press of the imperative to report abuse to police, to prosecute child molesters, and for the community to support the victim. How can our community justify organizing a high profile fund raising event for an alleged abuser but not yet come out in greater support of victims whose primary reason for not disclosing is their feelings of personal shame and the resulting stigma. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has championed the need for an outpouring of support for victims. We must all add our voice to the cause.

4. We should require fingerprinting of all employees in yeshivas and private schools. This legislation has long been championed by attorney Elliot Pasik, president of Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. Admittedly, this may take years to yield significant results – until many more child molesters are reported, prosecuted, convicted and registered. But the longer we delay implementation, the more such people can unwittingly be hired.

Sexual Abuse: Prevent, Police, Prosecute

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

We play the odds all the time, don’t we? We may not consciously think about it as such, but in effect we do. Hashem rules the world and controls the odds; we have to do our hishtadlus. We get behind the wheel of a car, board a plane, or cross the street knowing there are risks such as car accidents, plane crashes and pedestrian injuries.

This is not meant to be morose; it is just a fact. Still, the laws of probability work in our favor. We go about our daily lives and while we are not oblivious to these statistics, we do not obsess over them. We feel bad that people inevitably will be hurt or, God forbid, die, but anonymity and distance enables us to continue our normal patterns of behavior and routine.

But would you play the same odds with your son or daughter? Do their safety and well being follow the same set of rules?

Tens of thousands of children attend yeshivas and day schools. They are taught by thousands of self-sacrificing rebbeim and teachers. We rely on the schools to recruit and hire the most talented, motivated people to teach and lead our children. Advertisement

Typically a school administrator or principal will complete an extensive reference check prior to hiring. This is all good. But there is one important missing piece of information – a criminal background check on the potential employee.

In every large group there may be a very small number of individuals who engage or might engage in unacceptable behavior. So the question becomes, how do we identify such individuals and prevent them from entering our schools?

Social service organizations have for many years been required to fingerprint and complete a criminal background check on all employees. It can take from several days to a week to get results of a fingerprint check. Every now and then a hit comes back on a prospective new hire showing a criminal record. The system also sends information to employers of any new criminal proceedings against a person already in their employ.

Which brings us to the point of Prevent, Police, Prosecute.

There are several ways we can work to prevent the sexual abuse of our children. Parents must speak to their children at several different stages in the child’s life, while schools must adopt a strong program to educate students, faculty and parents as well as monitor and adhere to mandated reporting protocols.

Another important factor whose time has come is the fingerprinting of all people employed in yeshivas and day schools, as is currently required in public schools. A detailed proposal by Elliot Pasik, Esq., and other advocates is a sound template urging the state legislature to enact laws requiring fingerprinting in private schools.

Why is this important? It comes down to playing the odds. It’s only a matter of time before a hit will come back on an employee of some yeshiva or day school who has a criminal record and possibly a history of sexual abuse.

There are very few individuals in our community who have been convicted of crimes related to child sexual abuse, and even fewer on Megan’s List. It may be a long shot, but we always want the odds to be in favor of our children.

Years ago in an article for The Jewish Press, I urged parents who had reason to believe their child had been or was being sexually abused to report it to the police. “The concept of protecting one child (from shame and stigma) by not reporting this to the police,” I wrote, “virtually assures that other children will be hurt in shul, in yeshiva or in the neighborhood park.”

In a dozen subsequent articles in newspapers and magazines I emphasized the importance of working with police and district attorney staff to prosecute child molesters. Only by pushing abusers into the criminal justice system can we prevent them from harming other children. Moreover, once child molesters are prosecuted and have a criminal record, we will know who they are, and through fingerprint checks can keep them from jobs that provide access to children.

In Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community, a book I edited with Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rav Dovid Cohen, Ohel’s mara d’asra for 41 years, describes the imperative of adhering to mandated reporting laws including contacting the police when sexual abuse takes place.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

Potatoes
 
   In “Survivor: A Meditation on Remembering the Shoah” (front-page essay, July 7), David Mandel, challenging us to view ourselves as bnei haShoah (children of the Shoah), writes: “The image I want to leave with readers is that of a potato. A common, everyday potato.”
 
   So many Jews survived on potatoes or just potato peels. For the last six months of World War II, my father, a rabbi and a member, along with my mother, of the French Resistance, had to leave France for Switzerland after being warned that he was on the hit list of the Gestapo.
 
   My mother and my oldest sister remained in France. My mother had previously secured a safe place should the need arise to hide. When that day came, she was turned away, told it was too dangerous. She had nowhere to go until she found refuge in a Catholic convent. My mother and my sister survived on water and potatoes.
 
   In our family, we never forgot those potatoes.
 

Dr. Elie Feuerwerker

Highland Park, NJ

 
Superheroes
   I really enjoyed Rabbi Simcha Weinstein’s “Jewperheroes!” (front-page essay, June 30). As a comic book aficionado and student of Jewish history, I’d long been aware of the dominant role played by Jews in the invention of the comic book superheroes. Rabbi Weinstein ably brought together the various strands of that underappreciated story in a most readable manner.
 

Avraham Bloch

(Via E-Mail)

 
Pedagogy
   Reader Zalman Bloom (Letters, June 23) wrote an excellent rebuttal to Rabbi Pinchas Rosenthal’s views on pedagogical methodology. Although Rabbi Rosenthal has good intentions (“Shortchanging Our Children By Teaching Midrashim Literally,” op-ed, June 2), he offers generalizations without focusing on the proper grade level of his students. In addition, he assumes his extremely intellectual approach would meet the needs of all students.
 
   The discussion of pshat and drush is rather advanced and complicated. (It is an important subject, but it could easily turn off many students who are not ready for such an academic approach.) It should certainly be mentioned in response to students who ask probing questions in that regard. It is not clear whether Rabbi Rosenthal is talking about Tanach or Mishna or Gemara. Perhaps he means hashkafa.
 
   One other point. While sharpening the minds of our students is generally a sound educational principle, such an objective should not be the exclusive focus of a Torah education. Dialectic argumentation would seem to be inappropriate for Chumash, Midrash, Mishna. Rather, the development of moral excellence should be given priority. The aforementioned classic texts do emphasize the proper development of character. Of course, such decisions have to be made by dedicated educators who should strive to develop a curriculum that would be appropriate for their students. There is no one correct method.
 

Rabbi Joseph Bernstein

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Fundamentalism
 
   Unfortunately, Rabbi Simcha and Chaya Feuerman attack religious people who say: “It rains because God wills it.” Apparently, they are perturbed that such people do not speak about the scientific principles of rainfall. (Of course, there is nothing wrong with science; there is nothing, however, wrong with pure faith.) Even Feuermans concede that the laws of nature are Hashem’s creation. Why are these social workers so disgruntled?
 
   Inexplicably, they bash religion. They call it fundamentalism, which they say is on the rise in our community. What are they talking about? This type of liberalism, which posits moral equivalence, cannot be accepted by normal people. (I thought the problem was in the Islamic world. Isn’t that where violence is preached and practiced? Hey, Jews and Christians aren’t doing it – the violence is coming from Islamic countries that have been hijacked by radical hatemongers and murderers.)
 
   The Feuermans make a sweeping generalization: “History appears to be telling us” that society goes down the tubes because of fundamentalism – whatever that means. I am not going to discuss the history of the world, but Jewish history shows that Jewish society declines when we start to idolize secular thinking as opposed to the lessons of pure faith taught in Hashem’s Torah.
 
   We do not need the pseudo-science of psychology. We need to return to our pure faith by placing our trust in Hashem.
 

Shimon Helfman

(Via E-Mail)
 
 
   Rabbi Simcha and Chaya Feuerman Respond: Our series on exploring psychological components and Torah ideas regarding the yetzer hara and yetzer hatov utililizes scientific observations about the nature of the world to enhance our appreciation and hakaros hatov to the Creator. This is an approach espoused by the Rambam in Hilchos Yesode Hatorah (the end of chapter four).
 
   The Rambam states: “When a person reflects upon these things [in the previous chapters he described various scientific observations about the wonders of nature, the elements, and the planets]…and he sees the wisdom of the Creator … it increases his love for the Omnipresent and induces his body and soul to yearn for Him.”
 

   It is regrettable that Mr. Helfman derived another message. We suggest that anyone with similar concerns read the entire series carefully and in context, so that they may judge for themselves. The series is available by request via e-mail at Simcha_Chaya@excite.com.

 

  

 

Evolution: The Never-Ending Debate

 

Time Scale

 

      In trying to reconcile evolution’s age of earth with our Torah’s age of earth being close to 6,000 years, many people seem to be missing some crucial points.
 
      Our Sages say that the first woman, Eve, conceived and gave birth in one day. Vegetation that takes days, weeks or months today, grew in a matter of hours or days then. Adam lived close to a thousand years. The people of the Flood were of such immense physical size that they (erroneously) thought they could stop the Flood waters. Years later, our Matriarch Rivkah was presented for marriage at age 3.
 
      Obviously, nature was different then. Birth in one day versus nine months is an increase of roughly 270 times what we call natural today. At that rate, a mere 2,000 years may appear to be 54,000 years. This means that bones and artifacts found from only 5,000 years ago could very well appear to be more than 50,000 years old.
 
      Scientists’ time scale for the past is nothing more than an extrapolation of nature as we know it today. As they have no evidence of the nature described by our Sages, scientists have no reason to believe other aspects of nature (radioactive decay, for example) may have proceeded at a faster rate, in sync with the rest of nature at that time.
 
      Inasmuch as Creation itself may be steeped in mystery (and we’re not sure what’s literal and what’s allegorical), I believe the time frame from Adam on, as described by our sages, must be literal. So if you believe in the truth of the Torah – and I’m assuming the majority of people reading this do – we’re actually privy to knowledge of ancient phenomena that scientists are not.
 

      No, we don’t need to reconcile absolutely everything scientists say with the Torah.

      While scientists’ extrapolation methods may be correct, their depiction of earth’s history could conceivably be very wrong.
 

David Balsam

Brooklyn, NY

 
Radioactive Dating
      I’m not sure what Rabbi Harry Maryles meant by “… radioactive dating methods … have been demonstrated to be remarkably consistent” (response to readers, Letters, July 7). Consistent with what?
 
      The fact is, radioactive concentrations in the atmosphere, the cornerstone of radioactive dating, have been proven to fluctuate. A bristlecone pine tree believed to be over 4,000 years old was cut down for scientific research. Comparing the radiocarbon readings within the tree’s year by year rings showed that radioactivity in the atmosphere does fluctuate. This could conceivably make something only thousands of years old seem like millions of years old.
 
      Furthermore, the results of a dating system that analyzes the structural changes in a body’s amino acids after death was used in comparison to the results of the radioactive method – they showed discrepancies of between 39,000 and 59,000 years. These are serious inconsistencies.
 
      Radioactive dating doesn’t even seem consistent with what scientists themselves believe about the earth. The evolution of the earth and its atmosphere have undergone such drastic changes since the earth’s formation, according to scientists, it’s hard to image that atmospheric bombardment remained consistent throughout these years.
 
      Besides, for anyone who seriously believes in the story of the Flood, there is absolutely no way of telling what the Flood’s laundering effects were on the traces of radioactive elements in the bones of the annihilated life forms. It could very conceivably have accelerated the radioactive decay process, again, possibly making an age of thousands of years seem like millions.
 

Josh Greenberger

Brooklyn, NY

 

Recommended Reading
      In response to a request for sources, I’m surprised Rabbi Maryles did not mention the excellent read Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (KTAV Publishers). It contains essays by Rabbi Kaplan on the topics in the title, including his analysis of Tiferes Yisroel and Sefer HaTemunah. The volume also contains the entire text of the Derush Or Hachaim by the Tiferes Yisroel.
 

Boruch Yonah Lipton

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Prematurely Aged
 
      There have been many non-pshat attempts to reconcile the Torah with the 13.7 billion years claimed by evolutionists. They will all fail, however, because even if you can find justification for not accepting pshat in the first chapter of Bereishis, you will run into other problems later on in Bereishis with the Mabul, Tower of Bavel, and the principle that all people are related to Adam.
 
      Ideas have serious consequences. Hundreds of Aborigines were killed, stuffed and displayed in museums by Darwinians as examples of the “missing link.” This was even justified by theistic evolutionists because the Aborigines were considered to be merely soulless pre-Adamites.
 
   T he key to reconciling the Torah to the data is to realize that scientific theories are based on the assumption of uniformitarianism – that the present is the key to the past. We believe the Torah is the key to the past, so what does the Torah say? The Torah says that everything was created complete and ready made.
 
      We find eleven places in Tanach that speak of Hashem stretching out the heavens. So we should expect astronomical distortion. After Adam’s sin, the Torah says the earth was cursed. Next, we see that people used to live to be around 900 years before the Mabul, and after the Mabul we see a gradual decline until it stabilized at a maximum lifespan of around 120. Ramban states that this was due to changes in the post-flood environment.
 
      So we see that while the world is young, it aged prematurely. But because science rules out these major changes and decay, it comes to the false conclusion that the world is older than it really is.
 

Ari Haviv

Flushing, NY

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-145/2006/07/12/

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