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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Changing Course in Dealing with Sex Abuse

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah}

Something remarkable happened at the recent Torah U’Mesorah convention.

I have always had tremendous respect for my 12th grade Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, who now heads the Agudah Moetzes. I have never doubted Rabbi Perlow’s concern for every Jew – including those that have been victims of sex abuse.  Those that have accused him of not caring – have never met him. And they have drawn unfair conclusions about his motives and those of his colleagues. Which are completely false. While I have disagreed with some of their decisions in the past, I have never questioned their intent.

What Rabbi Perlow said at the recent convention is a sea change in how the Charedi world dealt with sex abuse in the past. From the Yated, here is part of it:

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 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…

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.

I am very happy to see this. I believe that this new attitude and the programs generated by it will make a difference.

There are certainly issues that are yet to be resolved. Like the idea of reporting abuse immediately to the police instead of going to rabbis first.  Rabbi Perlow touched on this subject. He clearly stated that if there is  Raglayim L’davar (legitimate suspicions of sex abuse) one should report it to the police. But he hedged on it indicating that it is rabbis that should be the ones to determine whether such evidence rises to the level of Reglayim L’Davar.

I still believe that going to rabbis first is at best an unnecessary step that will delay – if not deny justice to be served. But at least rabbis will now be better trained to determine what is and isn’t legitimate suspicion – if I understand this program correctly.

I am nevertheless still strongly opposed to having rabbis vet suspicions since there will be an inherent if unintentional bias that might favor an accused abuser. Especially if he is otherwise a respected upstanding member of the community. Which is often the case.  They fear that an unjust accusation will ruin the man’s life as well as that of his family. But that fear is outweighed by the statistical rarity that a child would accuse someone of sexually abusing him that didn’t actually do so.

The police have no such bias and should be trusted to do their job. That an innocent person might be falsely accused and suffer is indeed unfair. But statistically we have no choice but to err on the side of our children who will suffer even more if a delay will enable an abuser to continue his abusive behavior on more victims.

Another issue is about whether to extend the statue of limitations on lawsuits filed by victims against their abusers and enablers that Rabbi Perlow alluded to. There too I disagree with him. A survivor has a right to justice and time should not be a factor.

But to castigate an opposing view that seeks to protect institutions from lawsuits flied after the original faculty and administration has left and the new people having had no clue about any abuse that ever took place there – is unfair. I understand Rabbi Perlow’s fear. He worries about the entire educational system collapsing by lawsuits filed decades after the abuse happened. That is a fair concern. Even if we don’t agree with him, to attribute nefarious motives is just plain wrong.

I don’t believe that removing the statute of limitation will destroy Jewish education. Because where it has been implemented (I believe in California) the system was not hurt. Precedent tells me that we have little to fear in that department. Justice will be better served if victims are not denied the ability to sue because of time restraints

So we have a serious difference of opinion. But in no way do I attribute nefarious motives to the members of the Agudah Moetzes.

Bottom line here is that this is a huge – if belated – step in the right direction. It follows a declaration made not long ago by a different group of respected Charedi Rabbis who came out with an independent public statement about the obligation to report sex abuse directly to the police. When I encountered one of the signatories and complimented him on his courage in doing so he said, ‘We were living the dark ages’.  I think Rabbi Perlow may have said the same thing in his own way. Paraphrasing him slightly, we have come a long way from the days of sweeping sex abuse under the rug. That’s quite a mea culpa if you think about it.

In the video below he is strongly critical of bloggers that have accused him and his colleagues of not caring sex abuse or about survivors  and attributing all kinds of nefarious motives to them.  He calls them the Letzonei HaDor – the scoffers of our generation. I don’t know about that.

But he is right about how these bloggers have been treating them. Even if their motivation is sincere and just, it was wrong to castigate so severely good people whose motivations have always been to do what they perceived to be in the best interests of Klal Yisroel.

I am 100% convinced that the motivation of the Agudah Moetzes was always L’Shem Shamayim even as I sometimes strongly disagreed with them. And that their original approach to sex abuse was based on a view that did indeed belong in the dark ages. But I have never ridiculed them with extremely disparaging remarks. Those that do so are frankly quite disgusting in my eyes.  And I protest it.

 

At the same time I have to believe that they played  a positive role in bringing this issue to the attention of the Orthodox world and contributed to putting it in on the front burner. Had they not made such loud and constant noise about it, who knows where we would be.  For that we should thank them even while condemning – as I do – their way of doing it.

Harry Maryles

5,000-Year-Old Seal in Galilee May Depict First Known Music Scene

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

The most ancient music scene known in the research of Israel appears on a rare 5,000 year old cylinder seal impression from the Early Bronze Age, according to Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists Dr. Yitzchak Paz, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov.

They will present their new findings in a symposium entitled “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” on behalf of IAA and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The impression, which was found in the 1970s at the Bet Ha-Emek antiquities site during an archaeological survey conducted in the Western Galilee by Dr. Rafi Frankel, was made using a cylinder seal rolled along the surface of the clay before it was fired, forming a series of repeating designs. The scene depicted on the seal impression includes three female figures, two standing and one sitting. The seated figure is playing an instrument that appears to be a lyre – a musical instrument known from the ancient world.

The researchers said:

It seems that the rare seal impression, which appeared on a fragment of a large storage vessel (pithos), sheds light on the symbolic-ritualistic world of the Early Bronze Age inhabitants in Israel. The importance of the scene lies in the possible symbolic context, it being part of a complex ritual known in Mesopotamia as the ‘sacred marriage’. In this ceremony a symbolic union took place between the king and a goddess (actually represented by a priestess).

The ceremony included several rites: music and dancing, a banquet, a meeting between the king and the goddess and an act of sexual congress between them. Recently, Professor Pierre de Miroschedji of the CNRS suggested that many of the seal impressions from the Early Bronze Age portray the sacred marriage rite.

The seal impression presented reflects the musical part connected to this ceremony.

“This is the first time it is definitely possible to identify a figure playing an instrument on a seal impression from the third millennium BCE,” the researchers added.” This is when most of the ‘cultic’ impressions from Israel depict dancing figures or the feasting scene in which the female and male figures are shown facing each other, in the rite just before their sexual encounter.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Uproar over Jewish Candidate’s Refusal to Shake Hands with Women

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

An Orthodox Jewish candidate for the European Parliament has caused an uproar in Britain by refusing to shake women’s hands.

Shneur Odze told the members of the right-wing populist UK Independence Party, or UKIP, that he will not shake women’s hands due to his religious beliefs, which proscribe physical contact with any woman other than his wife. Some party activists told the Times of London that they are offended by Odze’s stance and say it will alienate half the electorate.

Senior party officials have called the activists “rude” and “wrong” for not respecting Odze’s beliefs.

Ozde, 31, is fourth on the UKIP’s candidate’s list for member of the European Parliament from the North West of England. The Europe-wide election to the parliament is scheduled for late May.

A party regional organizer, Fred McGlade, resigned from his position with the party to protest the decision to include Odze on the list. He warned Crowther that he would stand down if Odze was chosen by the party because of his attitude towards women

That is how an ignorant person, Jewish or not, judges an Orthodox Jew. He assumes that a Jew thinks women are second-class citizens since a religious man won’t shake her hand. Jews, especially those whose understanding of Jewish law is not even on the level, so to speak, of Reform Judaism, often think the same of Orthodox Jews for not praying together with women.

The nose-in-the-air Jews like to think that when a Jewish man thanks God that he was not created a woman, the man couldn’t possibly be thinking of all the mitzvahs he would not be able to perform if he were a women. He obviously is a sexist who considers women to be the scum of the earth.

If that is the way the snobs look at others, perhaps it is they are sexist for even thinking like that.

Perhaps they are the sexists for not having marital relations according to Jewish law, which protects the woman from lust. Consult your synagogue’s Code of Jewish Law for details.

Perhaps it is the better-than-thou men, and women, who seem to think that “equality” means “sameness.” God must have made a mistake by not allowing men to give birth. On the other hand, as most wives know, if men were to give birth, the world would have ended after the first birth because he wouldn’t go through the pains of labor a second time around.

And it’s the same crowd of people who, when visiting a mosque, are the first to wear proper dress and take off their shoes, but wouldn’t dare cover their shorts in order to respect the customs of Haredi orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

If Ozde does get elected, it certainly won’t be with vote of those who encourage the Women of the Wall to practice secular coercion on the majority Orthodox Jewish population at the Wall.

But there are some, hopefully a majority, in Britain who are not so ignorant. UKIP chairman Steve Crowther told the London newspaper, “We have a policy of tolerance for and acceptance of people’s own religious observance. We do not consider it grounds for complaint. It harms no one.”

In a tweet on Monday, Ozde said, “Thanks for all the supportive emails, calls, texts, its been rather heartwarming Recon it’s had the reverse effect?”

A supporter also tweeted, referring to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Pretty standard among very Orthodox Jews. The Chief Rabbi didn’t shake Queen’s hand when he became a Lord.”

The Queen seems to have gotten over it.

JTA contributed to this report.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Reading the Mind of God

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

I am beginning to believe that reading the mind of God is a predilection of Haredi  rabbis. At least a certain type of Haredi rabbi indigenous to the holy land. Increasingly it seems that tragedies are attributed to ‘the evil of the day’. Which almost always is connected to sex.  Which makes me wonder about the Gemarah’s s statement ‘Avira D’Ara Machkim’ – that the mere air in the land of Israel makes one wise.

Here is the latest one from a letter in Hamodia republished in Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel. It was signed by Rav Shmuel Littman.  I have no clue who that is. But it seems obvious to me by what he writes that he a Haredi Rav. Although certainly not a moderate.

His problem? Mixed seating on buses. He has determined that mixed seating on buses is the cause of their being bombed by suicide bombers.

Rav Littman can now confidently join the ranks of all those others that blame every tragedy on their myopic biases of what plagues the Jewish community. They ‘know’ that that the biggest tragedy facing Klal Yisroel is the lack of a ‘proper approach’ to sex. No matter what the tragedy, some element of that is pointed to as the reason God found it necessary to send us a message. In Rav Littman’s case he is telling us that God found it necessary to tell us about the importance of segregating buses by blowing up a few of them killing and maiming all the innocent people aboard.

How did he determine this great piece of ‘wisdom and insight’? Isn’t it obvious? There hasn’t been a suicide bombing ever since Mehadrin buses were implemented in the Haredi neighborhoods. Here is how he put it:

As soon as these chariots of kedusha started running, the suicide bombers stopped.

That is what is protecting us. Why does he bring this up now? He is worried.  Israel’s supreme court has made Mehadrin buses illegal.  Although segregating the sexes may still be done on a voluntary basis – no one has the right to tell a passenger to change their seat.  So if a woman sits in the front of the bus in the so called (unofficial) men’s section, no one is allowed to ask her to get up and move to the rear – even if they do so politely. This – says Rav Littman ‘compromise(s) the safety of our nation’.

Rav Littman almost begs people to take heed, arguing that even married couples should not object to sitting apart for the ‘short’ bus ride. They need to talk? – he asks? They can do it when they get home, for Pete’s sake!

Of course an elderly couple where one of them needs the support of the other because of health or medical issues does not occur to him to be an issue. Maybe he thinks that Tznius issues require that an elderly couple like that simply stay home. What if they need to see a doctor? Well I suppose they can just take a more expensive cab.  That they live on a fixed income is certainly no issue when it comes to the Kedusha that is generated by those who worship the concept of the Mehadrin bus.

Like the Kedusha of those valiant Haredi Kannaoim who beat women up that violate said Kedusha by sitting in the men’s section of a relatively empty bus.  Or the dozens of other similar incidents were women were subjected to all manner of violence and/or  humiliation for doing that.

If this attitude weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. How anyone could claim to know the mind of God and thereby imply that the victims who were so brutally and suddenly murdered in bus bombings because buses in general were not sex segregated. How can anyone know – or believe so strongly he feels the need to warn us – that God’s wrath will descend upon us and start blowing up innocent people again if we don’t all adhere to Mehadrin bus rules voluntarily.

Need I add that the lack of ‘Kedusha’ that happens when a woman is occasionally found in the ‘men’s section’ of a bus is minuscule (if it exists at all) compared to the lack of Kedusha in the way the many rabbinic  leaders handle sex abuse?

Harry Maryles

Bar Refaeli’s Vulgar Super Bowl Ad

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I don’t want to come across as a prude and less so do I want to judge. So how do I say this delicately?

For those of us who always hoped that Israel would stand for just a little bit more than some of the values of the rest of the world, GoDaddy.com’s Super Bowl ad with Bar Refaeli was a disappointment.

For many decades in the United States we have fought a rearguard action to sustain the dignity of women, especially in how they are portrayed in the media and in advertising. I dedicated an entire book to this theme entitled, Hating Women. In it I demonstrated the gradual evolution of, say, the female recording industry which had once focused primarily, as it should, on a woman’s voice and musical talent, but later came to focus, with artists like Madonna and Britney Spears, on salaciousness and sex.

This battle has been mostly lost. It is now a given that a woman who does not show a lot of leg and a lot more cleavage will probably never reach the highest echelons of musical stardom, although the careers of superstars like Adele, who does not flaunt her body and Susan Boyle, who does not fit the stereotype, still gives us some hope. Surely, Beyoncé’s amazing performance at the Super Bowl demonstrates that seductiveness is essential to female musical entertainment. One cannot separate her sexiness from the high-energy rendition which impressed millions. To attempt to criticize that would now be seen as retrograde and primitive.

And yet our culture still believes there are things that cross a line. The classic example is another Super Bowl incident, this time in 2004, when Janet Jackson had her famous wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake. Showing a breast on TV was something that deeply upset most Americans because their children were watching.

Fast forward now to the GoDaddy.com commercial with Bar Refaeli. GoDaddy has been the worst offender in the exploitation and degradation of women via Super Bowl advertisements for a number of years now. Many of their ads straddle the line of soft porn which they then invite you to see a lot more of if you go online. What the connection between a woman’s body and online storage might be is something that many of us might will find mystifying.

But the Bar Refaeli commercial transcended even that. Here was a woman having  a tongue-to-tongue kiss with a man on a program that is watched by millions of children. I know my children were watching and I felt uncomfortable. It was my seven-year-old’s birthday. He was watching the Super Bowl with my four-year-old and with our other children. Every year they wait for our family’s Super Bowl party. Was this what they had to see? It’s a football game, for heaven’s sake. If you watch the uncensored version, which was available on the Internet, it’s much worse. They might say it’s just a kiss. But if it were just that GoDaddy would not have wasted millions of dollars airing it. It was meant to shock, and it achieved its intent.

Why did it have to be Israel’s supermodel in the ad?

I get it. We are all susceptible to the vagaries of celebrity, and at times we may allow ourselves to be compromised in its pursuit. This is especially true, I can imagine, when something like this probably involves a very large payday as well. That’s why I say I don’t want to judge. But surely, one’s image can also benefit from wholesomeness. As one of the world’s most beautiful women – with the exception of my wife (now can I buy that case of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, honey?) – Refaeli could have won over tens of millions of viewers, especially Moms, who would have equated her image with feminine dignity and self-esteem.

To be sure, Bar Refaeli was controversial long before the GoDaddy ad because she did not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Fair enough. There are many religious Jewish girls who don’t serve in the IDF either. But they do enlist in national service. Refaeli’s explanation, however, was something that, as a father of a young woman who is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces for two years, I found equally disappointing. She is quoted as saying, “I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/bar-refaelis-vulgar-super-bowl-ad/2013/02/11/

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