web analytics
November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

YU Sex Abuse Extended beyond Boys High School

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Incidents of physical and sexual abuse at Yeshiva University were not limited to its high school for boys, an investigation has found.

The investigation commissioned by the university and carried out by the New York-based law firm Sullivan & Cromwell followed reports of sexual abuse by two faculty members at Y.U.’s high school for boys in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The report produced by investigators and released Monday confirmed that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” at the high school, perpetrated by individuals in positions of authority and continuing even after administration members had been made aware of the problem. The probe also found sexual abuse at other divisions of the university but, citing pending litigation, did not describe them in any detail or specify where they took place.

“Up until 2001, there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all,” the report said. “This lack of an appropriate response by the University caused victims to believe that their complaints fell on deaf ears or were simply not believed by the University’s administration.”

While the report noted that Y.U.’s responses to allegations of abuse after 2001 improved significantly, it issued detailed recommendations for new policies at the school to prevent and report sexual or physical abuse or harassment. The report did not go into detail on the past instances of sexual abuse.

“There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution,” Y.U. President Richard Joel said in a statement released Monday. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire University community, I express my deepest and most heartfelt remorse, and truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims.

“Although we cannot change the past, we remain committed to making confidential counseling services available to those individual victims in the hope they can achieve a more peaceful future.”

The investigation was prompted by a Dec. 13, 2012 article in the Forward newspaper titled “Student Claims of Abuse not Reported by Yeshiva U.” that focused on abuse allegations against two Y.U. faculty members: Rabbi George Finkelstein, an administrator and faculty member from 1963 to 1995, and Rabbi Macy Gordon, a teacher from 1956 to 1983.

Finkelstein was accused of groping students and rubbing up against them, often under the guise of wrestling, at school and in his home. Gordon was accused of sodomizing boys, including in at least one instance with a toothbrush. Both men have denied the allegations.

A group of former students filed a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University in early July, just days after Y.U.’s longtime chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. The lawsuit has since added plaintiffs and grown to $680 million.

After Y.U. hired Sullivan & Cromwell to conduct an investigation, the school’s board of trustees appointed a special committee to manage the relationship and receive periodic reports. The investigation was led by Karen Patton Seymour, a former criminal prosecutor, and carried out with the help of T&M Protection Services, a firm specializing in preventing sex abuse.

Some 6,300 hours were spent on the investigation, including interviews with 145 people, according to the report. Investigators sought to interview the former students named in the lawsuit, but their lawyers declined to make them available, the report said. According to the report, 70 people who were contacted either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for interviews.

Most of the report was taken up with a new set of anti-harassment guidelines recommended by T&M Protection Services, which Joel said YU will implement fully.

The recommendations include setting clear boundaries for appropriate contact between faculty and students, educating them about the rules, screening new hires, establishing clear avenues for reporting allegations and putting in place policies for investigating allegations.

Rabbinical Council of America Issues Guidelines on Sexual Abuse

Monday, July 15th, 2013

The Rabbinical Council of America, the main professional association for Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, — has put out a statement calling “upon all synagogues and schools to adopt policies geared towards preventing sexual abuse.”

Among the recommendations are training staff to prevent sexual abuse; using sex registries to warn communities when a convicted sex offender moves to town; running background checks on all employees; not allowing an adult and child to be alone together; and clarifying what kind of physical contact is unacceptable.

The RCA’s resolution on the guidelines acknowledged that “the Orthodox community has experienced cases of sexual abuse committed by rabbis, counselors, leaders, and other Jewish professionals [and that] such abuse causes immeasurable harm to the victims and can destroy lives.”

The organization of rabbis urged that current staff members as well as new employees undergo periodic retraining on preventing sexual abuse.

Concerning a sex registry it noted, “The entire community need not know about this person’s history, but the rabbi or principal and some professionals will be aware and will monitor the person’s compliance with specially instituted safeguards.”

When there is a need for a private conversation, the RCA suggested that it take place in a situation where others can easily see what is happening.

It added that physical contact between an adult and a child could state that “high fives” or  a pat on the shoulder are acceptable but that “wrestling, kissing, or sitting on laps are not.“

The Rabbinical Council warned that safety for children should be promoted but that there should not be an atmosphere in which “any adult who smiles at a child is immediately accused of sexual abuse.”

Jewish Camp Counselor Admits Sexual Abuse

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A former counselor at a summer camp run by Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School in Lakewood, N.J., pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment, and state Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson revoked his $125,000 bail.

Yosef Kolko, 39, made the admission on Monday after two more victims, a male and a female, came forward, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro said she was contacted late Friday afternoon by a young woman who claimed she was victimized by Kolko, and the attorney for a young man who also claimed to be a victim. Pierro said she met with the additional victims and would have sought to admit their testimony, had the trial proceeded.

Sheriff’s officers handcuffed Kolko and took him to the County Jail.

Kolko was on trial for sexually abusing a boy, now 16, when he was 11 and 12, in 2008 and 2009. He was calm and unemotional when he admitted committing a variety of sexual acts on the boy.

In exchange for Kolko’s guilty plea, the state would not proceed with additional charges related to the additional victims, ADA Pierro said.

Kolko’s attorney, Michael Bachner, said his client was “extremely remorseful,” apologizes to the victim and hopes after treatment “to return to society as a benefit to it,” The Associated Press reported.

Kolko, who also worked as a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood, could receive up to 40 years in prison, but Judge Hodgson has said he would consider no more than 15 years, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Before sentencing, Kolko will be evaluated at the state Corrections Department’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge to determine if he is a repetitive and compulsive sexual offender, according to the newspaper.

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.

A Time for Zero Tolerance and a Time for Tolerance

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I have never been sexually abused. I therefore have no real way of identifying with the pain suffered by victims of abuse. All I can do is take the word of the victim about the pain they suffer. And of course observe the tragic consequences when the depression a victim falls into as a result of both the abuse the reaction to them by their community. Those consequences are sometimes so severe that they end up in suicide for the victim.

Recent events here in Chicago have once again resulted in a resurfacing of this issue. I am not going to name names. Full disclosure requires me to say that I know and admire some of the people involved. But I am not in a position to interview them. Nor am I in a position to judge them since I do not know all the details of the case. But based on what has surfaced so far in the public square I feel the need to speak out so as to be consistent in my approach to sex abuse.

Here is what I know so far.

An 18 year old female victim who is a student at a religious school here in Chicago posted on her Facebook page about the sex abuse she suffered. When officials at the school discovered this, they asked her in a very insensitive way to remove it as that violated the school’s code for use of social media. She was severely reprimanded for this violation and unless she removed the ‘offensive’ content from her Facebook page she faced a possible expulsion.

The outrage from some in the “victims’ advocates” community against officials of the school came fast and furious… defending the victim’s right to express her pain in any way she saw fit. They condemned the official response of the school. Some are even asking heads to roll. That is the way some see it – calling it a no tolerance policy. I call it ‘slash and burn’ policy.

I completely understand a no tolerance policy when it comes to sex abuse and fully support it. The question arises when such a policy is extended to secondary concerns – important though they may be.

Should there be a slash and burn policy in every case where an official errs in how they handle the pain of a victim? Should the welfare of a fine institution with exceptional leaders be destroyed because someone made a mistake? Should the career and good name of someone who has contributed so much – and many decades of service – be instantly destroyed because of a few poorly chosen words – hurtful though they may have been?

I don’t think that’s right.

Personally, I do not think the response was appropriate. There is little doubt that victim was hurt beyond anyone’s imagination by the abuse she received. And she was once again hurt here. Based on what is public knowledge about this case – this should not have been done. The response seemed cruel to me.

In defense of the institution, they have every right to set a policy for the use of social media and demand that it be followed. And I fully support a school’s right to carry out whatever consequences they spell out in their literature for violations of that policy.

On the other very legitimate hand, doing so in this case – especially the way in which it was done – was using very poor judgment in my view. A school’s right to carry out its policies does not mean they can’t use discretion when it is warranted. When it comes to victims of abuse, there is no better time to use that discretion. What was warranted here was compassion.

I do not fault the school for telling the victim that she should not have used social media to express her pain. This does not stifle her from expressing it. All it does is limit who will have access to it. No matter how much pain a victim suffers, it does not give them the right to use a shotgun approach to disseminating it to the world. There are other – far better ways to do that. Like speaking with parents; or counselors who are experienced in these issues; or a sympathetic teacher; of even a group of intimate friends.

The Conundrum of Dealing with Sexual Abuse

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

One of the reasons that the sex abuse issue is so difficult to overcome is that abusers are often great people in every other way. I know that is a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a sex abuser and a great person. But bear with me.

The case of Rabbi Motti Elon is one such case, currently on trial for sexually harassing two 17 year old students when he was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Elon is a Religious Zionist Rabbi who was respected even beyond his own religious Zionist community. I recall the reaction of one young Charedi Rav in Israel who practically worshiped the ground he walked on. When he first heard about the accusations, he was incredulous. This was a man who mentored him. A man he confided in. A wise and gentle man who truly cared about his students. A man you could turn to in times of crisis. The idea that such a man could be accused of such a heinous crime was simply unthinkable… impossible!

This was not only the view of this Charedi individual; it was the view of just about everyone who came in contact with him. With the exception of course of the two people who have accused him of sexual molestation.

Although Rabbi Elon still maintained his innocence (which he still does), the young Charedi Rav believed it, and felt betrayed.It has been 2 years since this story broke. The evidence of sexual harassment was so strong that he was removed from his position at the Yeshiva and from having any contact with young people. Takana, the organization that investigated this case, determined the veracity of the accusations, and made the decision to remove him from his position consisted of some of the biggest rabbinic names in Israel – including Rav Aharon Lichtenstein.

Here is what Rav Lichtenstein said at the time:

In an emotional lecture to his students, often breaking into tears, R’ Aharon Lichtenstein announced that he has received death threats by a student of R’ Motti Elon in retaliation for his participating in the Takana forum which labeled R’ Motti as a “dangerous person.” For his courage in making this condemnation, Rav Lichtenstein was threatened with violence!

Which brings me to the current article in the Times of Israel. It appears that one of the two students who were sexually harassed is not going to testify. According to the subheadline of this article, he was pressured not to do it. Which means that prosecutors will have to drop half their charges.

I suspect that’s probably what happened. If Rav Lichtenstein can be threatened with violence, it should be no surprise that a victim can be threatened into not testifying in the same way.

I suspect that the reason Rabbi Elon gets this kind of support from his ‘fans’ is the same reason that someone like Weberman gets support from his fans; and Charedi magazines like Ami. They know these people by their reputations. Reputations they earned by actaully doing good deeds and being good people in every other way. They work hard at building their name. They do a lot kindnesses for many people. I’m sure that’s true for both Weberman and Elon.

But their abnormal desires are kept hidden from their public. They may even try and fight those desires. But as Woody Alan once said about his adopted daughter that he later married, “The heart wants what it wants.”

When your sex drive is normal the heart can be satisfied in socially acceptable ways. But when those desires are abnormal one must do so clandestinely. The libido is a very strong force that is very hard to overcome. Certainly on a constant basis. Eventually such an individual will find a way to satisfy those abnormal urges.

They might actually believe that they are doing nothing more than expressing love to their victims – so self deluded are they. They will merely say that society does not really understand. This is what they tell their victims while they sexually abuse them. They tell their victims not to tell anyone of the great “love” they are showing to them because people will not understand. Sometimes I think that these people actually believe that. At least at first.

Paris Jewish School Rabbi Indicted for not Reporting Sex Abuse

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

The principal of a Jewish school in Paris was indicted for failing to report the sexual abuse of minors.

The television network RILL reported that a Paris magistrate indicted the principal, identified by RILL as Rabbi Benjamin M., 55, on Feb. 21 for “non-reporting of sexual abuse of minors under 15 years.”

Victims’ parents told the principal about the alleged fondling committed by a supervisor at the Chabad-Lubavitch Beth Hanna elementary school for boys last summer, according to RILL.

The supervisor was indicted in November after parents of the alleged victims filed complaints, the French news agency AFP reported, but the principal failed to also file a complaint as he was required by law.

The online edition of Le Nouvel Observateur, a French weekly, reported that the principal also is suspected of trying to dissuade parents from complaining to police — a claim denied by Chaim Nisenbaum, a spokesman for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in France.

“Legally speaking, he [the principal] committed an error,” Nisenbaum is quoted as saying, but “there was no attempt to conceal anything.” Nisenbaum said the school, which is Orthodox, views the actions of the supervisor as “extremely serious.”

JForum, a French-Jewish news site, reported that the principal confronted the supervisor but deemed it unnecessary to file a complaint because he knew the parents had already done so.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/paris-jewish-school-rabbi-indicted-for-not-reporting-sex-abuse/2013/02/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: