Ban Carlebach Now

[Hat tip Fendi]

There is a new definition of moral hypocrisy. This is (especially an egalitarian neo orthodox minyan) a Shule, Minyan, Temple or women’s service that still utilises Shlomo Carlebach’s tunes.

His daughter clearly knows of her fathers misdeeds and suffered herself as a victim.

See Here for the story.

His tunes are stained and belong in oblivion. They cannot conjure spirituality. The analog of a person dipping in a Mikva while holding something impure, readily comes to mind.

There is no defence.

Carlebach #metoo long overdue

While everyone talks about the positives after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo hash tag, we need to wake up to a reality that cannot be ignored.

Shlomo Carlebach is the love child of postmodernist left and right wing Jews. A brilliant man with oodles of charisma, his only defence against potent and cogent #metoo is that the dead can’t defend themselves.

The cloud over his activities though has been ignored by the sanctimonious left #metoo for whom his songs appear to be the ‘holy of Holies’

It is hard for me to understand how the egalitarian ones at Shira Chadasha and the Open Orthodox types still continue to regale in his production. How dare they preach while they choose to ignore #metoo #rebshlomo

The Lubavitcher Rebbe z’l clearly said that Carlebach material should not be used in any Chabad Shule and, when Shlomo was still alive, he said efforts to bring him to Repentance should take place, but not within Chabad.

Another link in this old chain was published in the forward.

It’s time to call out the tree huggers and right wingers who cleave to his music as if it is the pinnacle of ‘spirituality’.

Is Carlebach beyond #metoo?

If so, why so?


More child abuse … in Israel

I don’t know how much of this is true; it may all well be true, and not all of it be found guilty. I’m not being judge. But, where there is smoke there is fire. These stories and accusations do not just come into existence יש מאין, ex nihilo. This report is from Yediot and made me feel ill.

Teachers at Hasidic school accused of sexually abusing students

Six teachers from a Talmud Torah school (“Cheder”) belonging to the Belz Hasidic dynasty were indicted on Tuesday for the abuse and assault of minors, with the main defendant accused of many cases of sodomy with minors, indecent assault, and extortion.
According to the indictments, the offenses were allegedly committed over the course of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 against 22 complainants aged 3-10, who were taught by the defendants. During that time, the defendants committed daily physical and emotional violence against the students, which was characterized by cruelty, humiliation, and intimidation.

According to the indictments, the students called the school “Bergen-Belsen,” referring to the Nazi concentration camp, while the main defendant, 49-year-old Avraham Mordechai Rosenfeld, was dubbed “Rosenazi.” Rosenfeld, the indictment states, brought students to a lounge at the school that contained beds and a closet in which he kept sweets, some of which he confiscated from the students. He allegedly ordered the students to come with him into the room, where he sexually assaulted them. After they stopped crying, he gave them sweets and sent them on their way. In many of the cases, Rosenfeld beat the students using wooden sticks or planks that he ordered the students to gather during recess. The indictment also details some instances in which Rosenfeld tied the students to chairs or desks using ropes or cable ties and had them stand in class with their hands and feet bound. While tied, he force-fed them a spoonful of black pepper or soap and forbade them from washing their mouths after. In other cases, he forbade students from going to the bathroom, or otherwise forced them to relieve themselves in their pants while sitting in class. Rosenfeld is also charged with animal abuse. In one instance, when a cat entered the classroom in which Rosenfeld was teaching, he beat it in front of the students with an umbrella or wooden sticks, and eventually shoved it out of the window, killing the cat. Additionally, Rosenfeld is suspected of terrorizing his wife and children at home. He allegedly subjected one of his children to abuse for years until the child left home. His wife claimed he threatened to keep her from their children, threatened to divorce her, and controlled the food in the house. The other five defendants are Yisrael Haim Shapira, 65, Haim Fishgrond, 69, Moshe Hirsch, 39, Menachem Alberstein, 63, and Avraham Pinchas Deytsch, 53. The six defendants denied the offenses attributed to them, with each providing explanations and interpretations of the incidents, claiming they did not intend to harm the minors. Some admitted to some of the less serious incidents, while presenting them as mere jokes. Apart from Rosenfeld, the other five teachers were released from detention under restrictive conditions. Zion Amir, who also represented former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav, now represents some of the defendants. “Some of the people I represent completely deny the allegations against them,” he said. “There is going to be a long trial that will acquit whoever needs to be acquitted from this important community.” Rosenfeld’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, claimed that “the acts described in the indictment are exaggerated. Regarding his family, the accusations are completely made up by those seeking to get between him and his wife.”

The Israeli court system is to blame for Malka Leifer?

Watch this. I do not understand how the Israeli secular court system has done anything wrong except uphold the law of Israel. In this case it has conflicting evidence of Leifer’s alleged mental condition and is now seeking a court-based independent assessment before extradition. Is that not proper? Will the psychiatrist be considered biased if he/she concludes that Leifer is some sort of unfit mental maniac?

Video below from the ABC. It took a long time till victims came forward, and it takes a long bow to allege that Israel is dragging its feet on this and to say so on television. The case is proceeding as it should, and my expectation is that she will be found to be fit and extradited for trial. If it wasn’t a  Jew who made this claim about the Israeli Court System, some might call the comments anti-semitic. There are processes, and they must be followed. Prime Ministers and Presidents are put in prison in Israel.

It takes time.

The law isn’t the fastest runner on the block and these are weighty issues.

People need to choose their words more carefully.


Sometimes victims of crime behave in strange ways

I have always had sympathy for victims of crime, with a special emphasis on the horrid crime of pedophilia as it has been in the news for long, with history now being revealed, and now we have the Pell fiasco. My blog stands testimony to my revulsion. Recently, I had a victim come to my house and share an entire bottle of whisky (and herring) with me. I did not even know he was a victim. In fact, I had only met him once overseas for a very short moment and he just seemed like a nice bloke. He reached out to me for some reason and said he needed to drink. It was in the mid-morning, after davening, but I can’t say no if someone reaches out to me in that way. He cried and cried in the middle of our chit-chat in our backyard (the whisky must have caused him to let his guard down) and I felt great pain and empathy for him. What could I do? I could only offer moral support, and keep him happy with a drink and excellent herring (thanks to my wonderful wife who was on hand to replenish).

I was reading the papers, and I’m on record on my blog (right from the beginning) as being someone who demanded long ago that Malka Leifer be brought to answer the court. (Believe me, I got lots of hate comments from fake names when I did that, with some personal and disgusting comments).

I noticed some people have the view that they found it bizarre that Leifer could get anxious before going to a court. I re-thought this, and realised that unless people are being misquoted (and yes, they are welcome to correct the record)  I find the thought itself bizarre. I can not get my head around someone not understanding that even a criminal does get anxious and could even suffer an attack of severe anxiety when they face a court/police and the like. Even if someone was completely innocent (which I’m not implying at all in this case) they would have to be a really detached person, or have a mental condition to not be severely anxious.

I’m aware that one such convicted criminal was seemingly detached. I find that bizarre and worrying. It means he hasn’t yet understood what he did. That is a starting point. Him saying Tehillim, as he purportedly did is sheerly cruel and beyond me.  I still can’t begin to understand that person’s disease  and believe me, I faced up to him nose to nose on these issues and made enemies for having the guts to do so.

There is medication to help someone overcome their anxiety short-term during such  proceedings, and ultimately, the Israeli court Psychiatrist will decide if Laufer is mad or normal and just a terribly afraid person. Given her cloistered world I’d imagine she’d be terrified. However, to say that it is bizarre that she is anxious is itself bizarre in the extreme! I would like to see her face the music, and if she has to be calmed to not get frazzled, so be it. Do it! Give her prescribed Benzodiazepines and she should be okay for that period of her trial. Humans, even some criminals, do get frazzled when under pressure. It’s human nature, no?

This is also a sad side effect of these types of events. Those who have been wronged sometimes can err and also say bizarre things, or act in bizarre ways. Alas, there probably isn’t a quick pill they can take to “fix” the damage. I just pray that they regularly see professionals who will help them renormalise their lives so that their scars don’t manifest themselves by making bizarre statements (or acting in a bizarre fashion … which I am not saying about anyone in particular).

Victims deserve great Rachmonus from God, to heal them immediately from the after effects of what was a horrid experience. I sincerely hope each victim does see skilled professionals regularly, and doesn’t just try to heal themselves through home-brewed approaches or life-long vengeance that won’t ever be quelled even when the perpetrator is behind bars and compensation is paid and apologies made.

This is serious stuff and requires skilled psychiatrists or (when no medication is needed) psychologists. And please, forget dubious counsellors. They are not the right people for these things. They don’t have a formal association or a code of conduct, let alone the proper level of training. Moishe Kapoyer can become a counsellor just because he thinks he is. Sadly, I know some very dubious counsellors in Melbourne, and some good ones. Unfortunately, many people are taken in by dubious counsellors who themselves need help.

Let’s hope that victims seek the best medical attention regularly. Statements that Malka Laufer should not be expected to be panicked are not edifying in the least and probably do more harm than good.

George Pell and his band of merry men

This editorial is well worth reading. The fact that the papacy apparently praised his appearance is astounding. The criminals need to be locked up. The title is irrelevant. We don’t stop going to doctors because some are crooks and have perpetrated horrible crimes including rape and fondling. This is about people. Some don’t seem to understand the difference between crooked and sick people and philosophies that are absolutely above-board and to be lauded. I’m sure there are lots of really good Roman Catholics. I hope they aren’t tarnished by the sins of some of their pathetic colleagues.

A cardinal grapples with ‘the indefensible’
ON THE same day Hollywood conferred its most prestigious prize on “Spotlight,” the newsroom drama about the Boston Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church’s complicity in the sexual abuse of children by priests, a related drama was unfolding near the Vatican itself. For hours, Cardinal George Pell, the Holy See’s treasurer and one of its top-ranking clerics, answered questions posed by an Australian commission that quizzed the cardinal on the extent of his knowledge about pedophile priests he knew decades ago.

Cardinal Pell, the most senior Australian Catholic, stayed mainly on message, the message from the Vatican for years having been one of carefully couched contrition in the face of incontrovertible evidence that the church enabled and covered up for sex abuse by clergy. “I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” said the cardinal.

But under polite and sustained grilling, the 74-year-old cardinal, who testified in Rome by video link to Australia, stumbled on several occasions, revealing the shortcomings in the church’s response to revelations of misconduct.

He referred to having heard rumors, during his years as a young clergyman, of “eccentricities” among priests teaching at Australian Catholic schools, a case of whitewash by euphemism. He pleaded a “senior moment” to explain away his failure to recall various allegations and the church’s response. While discussing a notorious priest who was widely known as a serial abuser by the early 1990s, when Cardinal Pell was a high-ranking church official in Melbourne, he said: “I didn’t know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t. It’s a sad story and [the extent to which it was known publicly] wasn’t of much interest to me.”

The cardinal went on to say he was kept in the dark on the wrongdoing by a lower-ranking cleric and that “There’s tendency to evil in the Catholic Church too and sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse but for good or for ill the Church follows the patterns of the societies in which it lives.”

That formulation, often heard from church officials, seeks obliquely to airbrush the church’s staggering lapses and reflects the Vatican’s ongoing failure to come fully to terms with the pattern of abuse. The fact is that the church was institutionally complicit in allowing men in positions of authority, in hundreds of dioceses worldwide, to abuse children, thereby damaging or wrecking their lives.

Even now, the church’s foot-dragging continues. While hundreds of priests have been defrocked and disciplined, bishops — the princes of the Catholic Church, sovereign in their dioceses — have only rarely been held to account, despite constant demands by victims’ groups and reformers.

Mindful of that criticism, the Vatican last summer announced that Pope Francis would establish a tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or turned a blind eye to pedophile priests. But nothing has been heard from the tribunal since, and the impunity of all but a handful of bishops remains a fact.[my emphasis]

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka pope francis) needs to get his act together … yesterday.

Jewish Care Responds to Article Published in The Age Feb 10 2016

Bill Appleby, Jewish Care CEO formally responds to an article that has been published in The Age newspaper on February 10, 2016 entitled Yeshivah Centre Abuse Victims Fear Bullying, Intimidation:

Last December, we announced that we would assist the Yeshivah Centre in the operation of their Redress Scheme which was established to offer assistance to victims of child sexual abuse.
Jewish Care agreed to operate a confidential 1800 number and email address for abuse victims. In addition, our President Mike Debinski was engaged in a personal and separate capacity to oversee the operation of the Scheme.
Our Board agreed to assist Yeshivah because we felt that we were uniquely and appropriately placed to offer assistance to the victims and that we have the relevant expertise in the area to most effectively respond to survivors of abuse; ensuring a caring and empathetic initial response to what is no doubt a traumatic disclosure.
The Board and I are extremely disappointed with the article as it contains a number of serious factual errors. Unfortunately, Jewish Care has been mentioned in The Age article as having breached a victim’s trust after an email sent to the Board of Jewish Care was sent to a member of the Committee of Management at the Yeshivah Centre.
It is absolutely vital to understand that the author of the email mentioned in the article did not identify as a victim, nor did the email contain any victim information. The content of the email only raised an issue of perceived governance concerns. Those concerns have been clarified by the Board with the assistance of independent legal advice.
The article also stated that Jewish Care is the administrator of the new sexual abuse Redress Scheme. This is incorrect. Jewish Care is not the administrator of the Yeshivah Redress Scheme. The Scheme is administered independently of Jewish Care and I have previously described our limited role above.
We believe the implication that Jewish Care Directors released information about a victim to another body is defamatory and formally requested The Age newspaper on the 9th February to immediately retract these inaccuracies.

In closing, I want to give our community, clients, residents, staff and volunteers absolute confidence that we respect and keep confidential all client information in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. This is as you would expect.
As we have done for 168 years, we continue to serve the community professionally, providing vital support for those who are most in need.We remain ready to assist and continue with our efforts on behalf of all those in the Victorian Jewish community who need our assistance.

We believe the implication that Jewish Care Directors released information about a victim to another body is defamatory and formally requested The Age newspaper on the 9th February to immediately retract these inaccuracies.
In closing, I want to give our community, clients, residents, staff and volunteers absolute confidence that we respect and keep confidential all client information in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. This is as you would expect.

But what about “counsellors?”

[Hat tip BA]

From the Herald Sun.

CHURCHES and religious organisations would lose millions of dollars in tax breaks, concessions and hand outs under a radical plan to force priests, rabbis and imams to sign up to a national faith register.
Under the bold proposal clergy would for the first time be forced to undergo government-specified training and security checks and would be monitored by a national body, or risk losing government funding.
Former premier Ted Baillieu has backed the plan that has been put to federal and state leaders including the Prime Minister’s office, and Premier Daniel Andrews.
It is understood a number of high-profile politicians have also privately backed the proposed reforms saying ministers of religion should be subject to more stringent compliance.
The proposals have been tendered to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse amid concerns about the lack of scrutiny of some religious institutions.

The proposals would see clergy accredited in the same way as lawyers, doctors and teachers by an independent federal statutory body charged with registering all clergy for practice in Australia.
They would be subjected to government-specified training in Australian law, child sexual abuse, family violence, women’s rights, and children’s rights.
They would also be forced to renew a “licence” to practice annually, which would require meeting ongoing educational training requirements.
A complaint process through an independent third party would be setup for any complaints against any minister of religion.
Only accredited ministers would be entitled to current special tax benefits and exemptions afforded to religious practitioners.
And religious institutions would be required to employ only registered ministers or lose government funding.
Mr Baillieu, who launched a parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse while Premier, said a national code of conduct could also be introduced.
“I think there’s a strong case for ministers of religion to be regulated in the same way as workers in other professions,” Mr Baillieu said.
The plan also has the backing of leaders from Melbourne’s religious community.
Leading Melbourne Rabbi James Kennard said greater professionalism for clergy would bring great benefit to both the priests, rabbis, imams and others and to the congregations they serve.
“A key element of such a strategy would be for an independent and external body to grant registration to members of the clergy conditional on their adhering to a set of professional standards,” he said.
“To make the current tax benefits for clergy dependent on such registration is an idea that has much merit.”
A Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman said the church would have no trouble complying with a national faith register.
He said Catholic schools were already regulated, priests received seven years of training, and child protection education was non negotiable.

Bit of a silly comment from the Catholic Archdiocese. So you had seven years of training when you were 21 and that means that non yearly professional development is unnecessary. I think the wake up call for clergy all around the country, with the exception of Muslims and marriage of minors, has been well and truly brought into the spot light, and I can only see things getting better, both in educational terms and in terms of vigilance. We need to now look into Family Abuse and the things this can cause. That’s on our front pages, daily.

More importantly we have a band of merry men and women, who act as COUNSELLORS and I dare say some of them are recidivist abusers of varying nature. They do not come under any umbrella, and are in the perfect position to groom people who are not in the know and are vulnerable. It’s time for there to be a formal association for which counsellors have to answer questions of their own alleged abuse. Is it not?

The sordid affair(s) of Malka Leifer

Removed immediately at the request of the poor girl who had to suffer this HELL

I was SO incensed by the lies revealed by the judge from so called frum yidden, that I initially just cut and pasted. That was a mistake; poor judgement due to my disgust at the “Klei Kodesh” and the “Askonim” and then forgetting there was a name in there as well. If Rabbi Telsner resigned, there are PLENTY at Adass/Beis HaTalmud who should also resign immediately. They won’t, is my bet. To think there are schools who have “teachers” who aren’t registered with VIT is outrageous. This is not the 1700’s and neither are the kids from that era. Get your qualifications and THEN teach. There is more to it than translating Chumash and Rashi. If you don’t like it, go to Israel, the country you love to hate. And how do they get around דינא דמלכותא דינא here in Australia? Through lies and games?

Thanks to those who noted what I had missed in my haste and alerting me.

I’m not getting into the latest abomination any further

It’s become a horribly repetitive and deflating refrain. Children abused, abused unfairly treated and often ostracised, all sorts of Askonim and Rabonim are accused and shown to have done the wrong thing. Papers such as the AJN have a field day.

Some get away with it, others are punished accordingly. Psychologically, the Chillul Hashem is all too heavy to carry at the minute. I feel embarrassed to be a Jew in רשות הרבים when it’s pasted all over the Sun and AJN.

One thing though: if anyone even remotely tries to pressure the courageous girl who came forward and lifted the lid on probably the most closed community in Melbourne, they should be sent לעזאזל with due legislated gusto.

I’m not taking comments on this post. The matter is before the courts and will be decided appropriately.

This article from the age concerning Malka Leifer upset me

I can’t say how low I felt about reading this article. All I can pray is that people wake up finally that this is an area where there can be no compromise and where someone even appears to have offended, we don’t cover up. Go straight to the police and let them sort out guilt or otherwise.

This is most upsetting to read. Again, I wonder if Mrs Leifer teaches at all at Immanuel in Israel or has contact with kids. Even if it’s not proven (yet) can someone please assure me that this is not the case and the community leaves her in the kitchen baking challahs

Another Shande and Charpe.

My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

This advice is shocking!

I cannot believe that female surgeons are giving other female internees this advice. Are males (still) that bad with sexism? I must be living in a fool’s paradise. The following is from the Age newspaper in Australia. Probably her intention was to shock everyone into realising this problem has not disappeared and something radical had to change, but I don’t think her advice is acceptable, either.

A senior surgeon has fired back at criticism that she’s offering “appalling” advice to young surgical trainees by suggesting they’re better off staying silent if they’re sexually assaulted by a colleague.

Dr Gabrielle McMullin, a Sydney vascular surgeon, said sexism is so rife among surgeons in Australia that young women in the field should probably just accept unwanted sexual advances because coming forward could ruin their careers.

The comments, made in an ABC radio interview after she helped launch a book about gender equality at Parliament House in Sydney on Friday night, triggered angry reactions from sex abuse and domestic violence campaigners.

“It’s a sad indictment on us and the community when this is what women are being advised to do to benefit their career,” said Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack.

Centre Against Sexual Assault Victorian spokeswoman Carolyn Worth called the advice “appalling” and “irresponsible” because perpetrators thrive on not being challenged about their behaviour.

“I would have thought highly trained professionals would be able to operate a better system than that,” she said. “I actually don’t think that’s acceptable advice in this day and age.”

But Dr McMullin stood by her comments on Saturday, saying it was pragmatic advice which exposed the ugly reality of rampant sexism in male-dominated profession.

“I am so frustrated with what is going on that I really didn’t care, didn’t think what the reaction would be,” she said.

“All the phone calls that I have received since are from women saying, ‘Yes, thank you’. It’s been hidden and suppressed for so long and it’s only when it comes out in the open that you can do something about it. So, I guess this is my attempt to air it.”

Dr McMullin referred to the case of Dr Caroline Tan, who won a 2008 sexual harassment case against a surgeon while she was completing surgical training at a Melbourne hospital. Dr Tan was vilified and has been unable to find work at any public hospital in Australasia despite the legal victory, she said.

“Her career was ruined by this one guy asking for sex on this night. And, realistically, she would have been much better to have … ,” Dr McMullin said in the criticised ABC interview.

“What I tell my trainees is that, if you are approached for sex, probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request; the worst thing you can possibly do is to complain to the supervising body because then, as in Caroline’s position, you can be sure that you will never be appointed to a major public hospital.”

When asked about those comments, Dr McMullin said: “Unfortunately, that’s true.”

She said new laws were needed to reward women for reporting sexual harassment rather than the current system of cash payouts and moral victories.

“My main advice would be do not put yourself in that situation, treat everybody as a potential attacker, and that’s a terrible thing to have to do,” she said.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president Dr Tony Bartone said he strongly disagreed with Dr McMullin’s advice to young women.

“This old view of acceptance needs to be eradicated,” he said.

“Sexual assault is a crime and will not be tolerated by our society. The medical profession is not exempt from this maxim.”

He said all public hospitals had procedures in place to allow employees to safely report everything from bullying to sexual assault. “There should not be negative consequences for reporting.”

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons released a brief statement saying there were strict measures in place to deal with harassment and abuse of any kind.

“The College actively encourages Trainees and Fellows to come forward in confidence with any such allegations, which will be thoroughly investigated,” a spokesman said.

Dr Tan did not respond to requests for comment.


Important Community Event on Recovering from Trauma

I am very supportive of professional psychologists, as they have a board which oversees their activities. If they do the wrong thing, they can be disbarred. It seems that so-called counsellors have an optional board. I’d recommend people never to see a counsellor whose ethics and practices aren’t overseen by a board which they subscribe to. There are some rotten counsellors out there, even criminal ones: avoid them like the plague. In general, go to a psychologist (or psychiatrist if you will need medication) but only interact with counsellors if they are moral enough to subscribe to a board that is able to disbar them for misdeeds.

So, in that spirit, I fully support attendance at the following event

Community Debrief flyer 150315

“Caring for our community and ourselves: recovering from the effects of Trauma”

Panel: Dr George Halasz, Dr Rob Gordon, Dr Nicky Jacobs

Chair: Nina Bassat AM

Date: Sunday MARCH 15

Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Venue: St. Kilda Town Hall Auditorium, 99a Carlisle St, St. Kilda

Cost: (5$ to cover costs)

Contact: Fay Oberklaid FAPS,

This is very important. Many of us have been traumatised by recent events and Hashem has permission for professionals give advice and treat those in need.

Please spread the word

The AJN attack on Orthodox opinion

The AJN is perfectly entitled to have views. These are widely considered anti–religious for many years by many. In fact, each year we ask ourselves why we buy it.

Whatever the case may be, the AJN needs to acknowledge that nobody contends that homosexuality is an illness. It is a preference, call it a predilection. I don’t have it, so I can’t claim any expertise nor am I a therapist of any sort. The preference itself, as is well-known by the AJN is not considered sinful according to Torah Judaism (I don’t conclude man-made reformations of Judaism here as they are of minor interest if any). People are born with predilections. There is the nature vs nurture conundrum which is far from settled. Acting on the preference and performing the homosexual act is described as sinful by the Torah and Codifiers. There can be no argument about that fact in any form of Orthodoxy. Reformers have their own religion.

Now, many if not the vast majority of those professionals who see homosexuals professionally claim that the predilection is life long and cannot be altered. That may well be. There isn’t Science here, and extrapolation into the future is tenuous at best. Maimonides knew about predilections long ago.

The best counter case to nature, as quoted by arguably the most respected psychiatrist in the USA, Professor Abraham Twersky, and many others is the identical twin conundrum which has been studied extensively. All known biological markers were exactly the same, and yet one twin had a predilection and the other did not. There is currently no theory able to explain that. There is a minority view, and yes it is a minority (Dr Elon Karten comes to mind) that claims they have techniques which allow predilection change to materialise. Like Climate Skeptics they are attacked regularly. I’m not an expert, but as a Scientist, one would be a fool to think that in ten years time, our knowledge of these things will still be static. Accordingly, if Rabbi Telsner or anyone else subscribes to the view that predilection modification could occur, they do not deserve to be pilloried in the disrespectful tone of the AJN.

Pedophillia is also at least a predilection. Perhaps we will discover it is more likely a disease that is incurable except by using drastic means to make sure that those who seem to “enjoy” such things are simply incapable of (re)offending. In the meanwhile, one witnesses judges themselves releasing pedophiles back into the public after serving sentences, as if law makers believe they will be “safe” to society once  so released. Is that true? Evidence would suggest that re-offending is (too) common and perhaps techniques for rehabilitation are simply inadequate and not practical at this time.

Now, if Rabbi Telsner were to subscribe to an opinion that people with predilections can have them modified (and this could extend to those with life long fetishes), one can disagree, but one should not excoriate him in the way of the AJN, as a matter arising out of the Royal Commission.

Rav Schachter of the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University always said that a “stock” Rosh Yeshivah or Rosh Kollel in general should not be a Posek (decisor) of Halacha because they sit in a cloistered environment and are often/mostly oblivious to the nuances of science and other disciplines. This was certainly the case in Lithuania where most Rabbi’s were not Halachic Decisors. There were some exceptions such as the Vilna Gaon and the Chazon Ish, but the late and great Chacham Ovadya Yosef did not consider the Chazon Ish a Posek of repute, because he sat cloistered and didn’t face the people, so to speak.

Either Rabbi Telsner has read some minority opinions or has been informed of such by some of his constituents. This can mean that the AJN, seeing itself to present current knowledge on such topics can disagree with the minority opinion, but it does not give then a license to excoriate a Rabbi for agreeing to such a minority opinion.

The last time I looked there were no Nobel Prize winners writing for the AJN, and aside from the occasional community brouhaha most of the news is stale, and unenlightening. Indeed we may have also recently witnessed an alleged breach of journalistic ethics which has allegedly resulted in a staff member being suspended initially. The mere fact that we are exposed to the weekly whining letters of Messrs Burd and Herzog, and others is bad enough. One could almost write their letter before reading it. I think the AJN do good things but there is room for improvement in some of its approaches. Yes, I know it’s good for selling papers, but Oilom Goilom believes everything.

The “what do you think” section is statistically unsound, and really just a copy of journalistic practice in low-level papers, like the Herald Sun and others. Is it going to make one iota of a difference if I know what the local butcher thinks of Bibi’s chances?

I’m digressing.

Back to the issue at hand. The AJN may not have liked elements of evidence tendered. As such, it should carefully analyse such in a calm and sanguine way. The majority of Rabbis are traumatised by the Royal Commission, and my sense is that things will never return to the situation before in respect to how they react if they are God forbid confronted with such information. We aren’t Catholics, and don’t have a box where one admits their sins and the Priest, Lehavdil, absolves the sin, says a few hail mary’s sends the perpetrator on their way and will never breach confidence.

It’s also not about Chabad. Don’t people read the internet? Modern Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel has pleaded guilty to secretly videoing some 57 women at the Mikva with secret cameras. Is he sick? Undoubtedly. Can he be rehabilitated? I don’t know. He will serve jail time. Does this paint all Rabbis as fetish-laden? Of course not.

Contrast this issue to the one about the “interfaith dialogue” we graphically saw and where Rabbi Ralph Genende as usual gushed forward with platitudes about how useful they were. Let’s look at the evidence AJN. What has ever changed because of these meetings. They were forbidden according to the scion of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik for reasons which were absolutely sound then, and even more sound now. If it was a meeting to bring religions together to have a joint charity drive for the homeless,  or similar that’s fine. If it was about showing our religion to them and theirs to ours, what’s the point? Tolerance can be achieved without any interfaith dialogue as long as nobody considers us as monkeys behind trees that have to be killed. Was I blind, or did the AJN not notice that there was no muslim representative in the picture at that “feel good” meeting, or did I miss something.

Anyway, to make it clear, I usually do not agree with Rabbi Telsner but on some matters I don’t think he deserves the anti-religious excoriation meted out to him.

AJN and especially Rabbi Ralph Genende of the moderate left wing: check this out for a reality check while you read the Chazal quoted by Rashi הלכה עשיו שונה ליעקב. (Whiteout anyone?)

I’d love to hear the AJN and/or Rabbi Ralph’s commentary on this, or better still have his interfaith group muslim representative condemn this presentation from February 13th in Copenhagen as abominable in the extreme in the Western and Muslim Press.

A sensible start to Mikva reform

Dear Mispallelim,

Due to our concern for the safety of children, the Mikva will not be available for any children under 18 years old. This applies whether or not they are accompanied by an adult. Failure to adhere with this rule will result in the closure of our Mikva.

Mispalelim should remain cognizant of their responsibility to ensure their children’s safety. Parents are reminded to supervise and ensure the safety of their children while in our Chabad House

We would like to take this opportunity to again convey our unequivocal recommendation that anyone who has been abused, knows someone else who was abused or has concerns about inappropriate behaviour of an individual, should report it to the police immediately. If for any any reason, the individual is apprehensive about contacting the police directly, s/he may feel free to report it to myself or Rabbi Shmerling who will then pass on the information to the police, as we have indeed done recently.

With wishes for only good in the future,

Rabbi Y. Gutnick
Chabad House of Caulfield

I would say this is a proper position based on

  1. עת לעשות לה׳ הפירו תורתיך
  2. It’s a Middas Chassidus, which is outweighed by the scourge
  3. Some Poskim hold that a shower is a Mikva (for a male)
  4. They can get sound חינוך that they can’t go because of potential danger until they are older.
  5. It’s not a Chiyuv today anyway but a good הנהגה

Can you daven with a seriously accused criminal or criminal?

There was an interesting article which appeared in Tablet Magazine (c) by Joshua Berman. In it he essentially questioned the opening stanza before Kol Nidrei wherein we accept all sinners to join us in prayer to God.

I reproduce the article below. Some time ago, I had a related problem. An accused and charged criminal, who was waiting for his day in court, and was on strict bail conditions, appeared in our Shule to daven. My personal feelings were that of revulsion. In the end, I convinced myself that perhaps if they sat in a back corner of the Shule, came and went quickly, and didn’t make  themselves conspicuous that it was questionable. I rang my Rav, for his opinion, and he felt that it was no worse than a Cohen who transgresses but still has to perform Mitzvos Bircas Cohanim (the positive command remains), and it is commonly the case in many Shules that Cohanim who are less than committed to Halacha, Duchen. There is a special law in respect of Bircas Cohanim but that depends on the particular kehilla. In essence then= this person shouldn’t be denied davening with a minyan. He stipulated however that if that person “extended his welcome”, then it would be better for him to Daven at home. With difficulty,  I accepted the Psak, and discussed it with the local Orthodox Rabbi, who agreed. Unfortunately, those who have been party to certain sinful proclivities rarely sit quietly minding their own business. It’s as if some מחלה has overtaken them and they are no longer in control of what we call common sensibility.

One day, I had a less than friendly interchange with said person, because I felt, as did others that he had exceeded his task thereby resulting in what might be called a less than quiet moment. He didn’t return after that. It’s a very difficult question from an emotional point of view, even for those who aren’t directly affected, and I was not one of these.

With the consent of the Almighty and with the consent of the congregation, in the assembly of the Heavenly Court and the assembly of the earthly court, we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.
I always took comfort in that line, the opening line of the prayers of Yom Kippur night. Despite my shortcomings — which seem to persist over time — the liturgy welcomed me to Yom Kippur. I was one of those “delinquents” with whom those around me could legitimately pray.

But this Yom Kippur eve, I’m experiencing that opening line of our liturgy in a more profound way. Friday night, I’ll be leading Kol Nidre services in my synagogue. Ask anyone who leads prayer services over the High Holidays what it’s like to prepare and they will report the same experience: When you rehearse the lines and the melodies in the days leading up to the service you commune with the rabbis, cantors and teachers who instructed or inspired you in the art of leading the service. You aren’t merely recalling a tune; you recall their voice, their passion, their expression. As you reach mid-age, these days of preparation can be more powerful than the actual synagogue service itself. Recalling the passion and personality of beloved teachers who have since passed on, you cherish the days of preparation as an opportunity to revel in their melodic presence in collective service of the Almighty.

In my mind’s choir I sing along with Rabbi Yehoshua Kreiser and Rabbi Avraham Weiser of blessed memory, the European born rabbis of the small congregation in which I grew up. And I sing along with my beloved Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehuda Amital of blessed memory, also of European birth. I sing and tear-up in disbelief that my children will probably never experience an old shtetl Jew leading the High Holiday services.

I also sing along with the cantor who prepared several hours of tapes for me when I first led services as a college student 30 years ago. Let’s call him Shlomo. Shlomo taught at the yeshiva day school I attended as a youngster. We were members of the same small congregation. Shlomo had a beautiful voice and everyone in the community felt it a treat when he lead the services.

As I communed this week with all the wonderful rabbis and teachers of my mind’s choir, I paused as I came to a particular bar of Kol Nidre that I identify as a “Shlomo” bar in my repertoire. I recalled the link an acquaintance sent me a few years back documenting that Shlomo had years later served time for sexually abusing young boys.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra boycotts the music of Wagner because of the role of his music in the rise of the Nazi regime. Should I now “boycott” the music, nay the high-holiday melodies, of a pedophile?

For me, Shlomo was a beloved teacher. In fact, the first time I ever experienced a full traditional Shabbat setting was in his home when I was 11. He had a bunch of boys over for Shabbat. Perhaps with today’s sensitivities such a gathering might never take place. But forty years ago, not much was thought of it. I still remember the chicken fricassee he prepared and the songs around the Shabbat table. But above all I remember his love for liturgy and his generosity in preparing hours of liturgy on tape cassette for me .

I have had no contact with Shlomo in several decades. I can’t imagine what such a meeting would feel like. Of course, I am sickened by the actions for which he has served time, and cannot begin to imagine the justified loathing felt toward him by his victims or by their parents. They were the victims of his darkest impulses. I was the fortunate recipient of his brightest. Shlomo gave me an exposure to Shabbat and a melodic path with which to relate to the Almighty on the High Holidays.

Thinking of Shlomo, the darkness of his personal struggles and the melodies he has passed on to me lead me to new insight into that opening line of the Yom Kippur evening service – “we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.” The liturgy does not say, “We sanction prayer in the company of sinners — chot’im. In Hebrew the word I’ve translated as “delinquent” is avaryanim, which is much stronger than just “sinners” — chot’im. Even in medieval rabbinic Hebrew, avaryanim comes much closer to its modern Hebrew meaning of “criminal.” And the term is even stronger, as it is paired here with the definite article, “the avaryanim, implying not merely those many who are imperfect, but those few guilty of the worst deeds.

On Yom Kippur there is no easy ethos of “forgive and forget.” The opening line of the liturgy affirms the functioning of a heavenly court and an earthly one. Each shall mute out justice in its respective realm. But that opening line speaks of a third body – that of the congregation. On Yom Kippur the congregation must find a way to include in its midst not only mere “sinners”, but indeed “the avaryanim.”

And it is in that spirit that through the inspiration of all my teachers I shall lead the services, confident in the knowledge that I ”have sanction to pray with the delinquent.”

The press are out to sell papers

Don’t forget it. They rarely care about morals and ethics. They don’t care. If it generates heat it sells papers. They often have empty guns and fire without bullets. I hope Rabbi Glick retains his demeanour and doesn’t allow those who can sometimes be caught up in their own misguided triumphalism.

The press protect their sources (sometimes) that’s their only ethic. The rest is just money, money, money.

Read this account for a perspective.

In the same way that perpetrators must be outed at all costs and victims identities never published and always be helped, the innocent caught in the inevitable crossfire of lies and hyperbole have a right to their well established and famous dignity.

Another Chilul Hashem?

This is from the New York Post. I’m waiting for Charedi condemnation and money collections on his behalf

Rabbi held for allegedly hiding monstrous sex crime record

Rabbi held for allegedly hiding monstrous sex crime record

An ultra-Orthodox rabbi from Israel is being held in New York without bail for allegedly hiding his monstrous sex crime record in order to get a US visa and come to New York.

Yakov Yitzchak Roth — a “rebbe” in the Hasidic group Shomrei Emunim — was arrested Tuesday in Borough Park by cops with the NYPD Special Victim’s Squad.

He had flown here from Tel Aviv in late August after swearing in a visa application that he had never been arrested or convicted, according to the federal complaint against him.

In reality, just six months earlier he had finished serving a 16-year sentence on his 1997 conviction in the District Court of Tel Aviv for raping, sodomizing and sexually assaulting a child relative, the complaint said.

Roth’s attorney, Shulamis Peltz, declined to comment on the case, except to say, “The current allegations are just allegations and have not been proven.”

Roth, whose father, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Roth, led a small congregation of 200 followers in Jerusalem before his death in August, 2012, is due back in Brooklyn Federal Court for a bail hearing on Monday.

Nice post from Boca Raton

This is worth reading.

I must say that I enjoyed the visits of Rabbi Brander and Dr Pelcowitz. I spoke to each of them and found them refreshingly genuine and “with it”.

Kudos to COSA for their work in bringing out Rabbi Brander, and to the Jewish Taskforce for bringing out Dr Pelcowitz. One can only hope that the apparent improvement in education and awareness continues to grow and that this scourge weakens to the extent that any child can be assured to be safe while participating in a Jewish organisation.

To move forward, we must not only improve education, but recognise the past; that goes without saying.


We, who have a holy moral investiture, must show the way. Our record hasn’t been good to say the least, and with more alleged perpetrators unmasked, shock and disbelief at the extent of horrid events and the criminal sickness of perpetrators continues to grow and make me feel low. I simply find it hard to fathom why “people” would do such things.

Tzedek shouldn’t be in the business of besmirching honourable people

Rabbi Kenneth Brander is beyond reproach. He has done probably 1000 times more for victims of abuse and beyond than our own Captains of Morality, and is well-known to be absolutely rock solid on moral issues, such as abuse. Yet, we have the Tzedek organisation, in a move which can only be described as approaching the level of the disgraced site run by Scott Rosenberg, expressing “concern”. To be sure, Rosenberg’s site, like Tzedek, performs some good; but it is an amoeba with an anti-Orthodox (especially Chabad) agenda. It isn’t at all dispassionate about fact finding, and is often twisting and sensationalising headlines like a desperate journalist trying to bring down organisations. Unlike Rosenberg, though, I would have expected Tzedek to have done its own solid research before they dare cast any real “concern” about Rabbi Brander. Tzedek have been tardy. If they have anything of substance, apart from discredited articles from the Forward and elsewhere which we can and have all read, then they should put up. Otherwise, let them shut up, and spend their time in the holy task of supporting victims and unmasking actual predators and their supporters.

Does Tzedek think the community are a pack of fools who need their imprimatur in order to determine moral issues? Do they think that the community and individual Shules haven’t seen the badly researched, journalistic hooey, flashing in neon lights? Rest assured, that members of this community involved in overseeing this visit include many people and Rabbis who are at least as moral, sensitive and aware as Tzedek, but perhaps less inclined to hang people on the basis of unproven innuendo or use over-inflammatory language. Yes, it is true, that some have not (thank God) been victims themselves, but you do not have to be a victim to loathe predators or support those who might come to you for help.

I have personally seen current correspondence from arguably the most respected professional experts in this arena, who are very well acquainted with a situation in which they support Rabbi Brander unequivocally based on personal knowledge of the facts.

Rabbi Brander is not only to be looked up to; he has demonstrated many times that he has zero tolerance for those who wish to sweep such issues under the carpet. He has demonstrated this many times in his career, well before it became de jure to do so. Tzedek would do a lot better to actually engage Rabbi Brander in an hour of private discussion. They would be most surprised, and less inclined to issue their “letters of concern”. I have every confidence that they will be most impressed and enthused.

Life isn’t that simple though, and forming a “connection” between Rabbi Brander and the current civil  proceedings over past issues at YU is, frankly, beneath contempt. Is everyone at the Yeshivah Center a supporter of predators because of past sins and ills? Of course not. If they are, then there are people who are directly or indirectly affiliated with Tzedek that can equally dubiously be accused of such “sins of association”.

Tzedek—many in this community do not consider you as our soul or sole moral compass, even though we admire many things you do. We do not consult you in respect of who we should and should not invite to our shores. We have our own access to facts and research, that you simply may not have, nor have discovered. As long as you sit on the outside and do not work within roof bodies all of whom equally abhor abuse, you are in danger of eventually becoming less relevant.

I urge anyone who can attend any and all of Rabbi Branders’ Shiurim and colloquia to do so, and this includes members of Tzedek. This is a unique opportunity.

Disclaimer: it was originally my idea to have the Centre for the Jewish Future  invited to Melbourne to aid Orthodox congregations and organisations in order to re-enfranchise ever increasing Jewishly unaffiliated youth to the holy covenant of Torah and Judaism.

This is how an honourable leader bows out

Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm has been a powerhouse. A true intellectual giant, whose books, learned articles,  shiurim and leadership at Yeshivah University will stand the test of time, Rabbi Lamm has now retired as Chancellor of YU. Amongst his words of farewell, this section stood out. It shows tremendous honesty and courage. It is a commentary of what was, but is also a statement of what needs to be.

Jacob’s blessing to his son Judah, Yehudah, attah yodukha achekha (Gen. 49:8) literally means “Judah, your brothers will recognize you (as their leader).” However, the word yodukha, they will recognize you, is etymologically related to the word vidui, confession and therefore teaches us that only those who can, like Judah, confess, are those who can be acknowledged as real leaders.

And it is to this I turn as I contemplate my response to allegations of abuse in the Yeshiva community. At the time that inappropriate actions by individuals at Yeshiva were brought to my attention, I acted in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived. I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up. You think you are helping, but you are not. You submit to momentary compassion in according individuals the benefit of the doubt by not fully recognizing what is before you, and in the process you lose the Promised Land. I recognize now that when we make decisions we risk, however inadvertently, the tragedy of receiving that calamitous report: tarof toraf Yosef, “Joseph is devoured,” all our work is in vain, all we have put into our children has the risk of being undone because of a few well intentioned, but incorrect moves. And when that happens—one must do teshuvah. So, I too must do teshuvah.

True character requires of me the courage to admit that, despite my best intentions then, I now recognize that I was wrong. I am not perfect; none of us is perfect. Each of us has failed, in one way or another, in greater or lesser measure, to live by the highest standards and ideals of our tradition — ethically, morally, halakhically. We must never be so committed to justifying our past that we thereby threaten to destroy our future. It is not an easy task. On the contrary, it is one of the greatest trials of all, for it means sacrificing our very egos, our reputations, even our identities. But we can and must do it. I must do it, and having done so, contribute to the creation of a future that is safer for innocents, and more ethically and halakhically correct.

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof

The report below by Jeane Macintosh,  from the New York Post, may result in an exoneration. If so, it will send shock waves throughout the (Jewish) world. I can’t get my head around it. While we must pursue each and every abuser and encourage the abused to speak up, it seems beyond belief that so many people would seemingly “gang up” to put someone away without any truth to the accusations. Everyone has rights, and at the same time, it is equally not acceptable to issue a guilty plea (bargain) if/when one knows they have been set up.

If someone knows more about this case and can explain to me what the heck happened, please let us know. It’s a potential shrek, really. Fourteen people?

‘Capturing the Friedmans’ convict Jesse Friedman awaits DA’s report that could expose wrongful conviction – 25 years later

Twenty-five years after his controversial Long Island child-molestation conviction, the subject of an Oscar-nominated movie about the controversial case may get an apology from prosecutors.

Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice will soon release a report that could exonerate Jesse Friedman, who spent 13 years in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to abusing 14 kids in his father’s home-computer class.

The case was chronicled in the 2003 documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.”

The convict has contended all along that he was railroaded into a bogus confession by overzealous cops and prosecutors, and nearly all of the alleged victims have backed him up.

“When we really win this thing, it will hopefully inspire a lot more people,” Friedman told The Village Voice in an interview posted online yesterday.

Friedman has been out of jail since 2001.

Rice ordered the review three years ago — after previously refusing to do so — because new evidence emerged.

Last month, another critical witness broke a quarter-century of silence, walked into Rice’s offices and recanted his accusations.

“I know how much exonerating evidence has been presented to the DA’s office,” Friedman said.

Friedman and his father, Arnold, who taught the classes from the family’s Great Neck home, were charged with the abuse after cops found that kiddie porn was delivered to Arnold at the house.

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley

What would her sentence have been if she had not pleaded guilty?

Consider the article below reprinted in the age newspaper. She has apparently shown contrition and has undergone extensive rehabilitation. Had she pleaded not guilty, I’d suggest she may have found herself behind bars? Given the evidence was apparently damning, at least she undertook some rehabilitative action.

Sex abuse teacher walks from court

A Melbourne teacher who sexually assaulted a teenage student after using shared religious beliefs to win her family’s trust has walked free from court.

Victorian County Court Judge Christopher Ryan said Yolanda Lyons had undertaken a long-running rehabilitation as she continued to teach in the years after her crimes, committed over a year in the 1980s.

Judge Ryan on Wednesday sentenced Lyons, 58, to three years in jail but suspended the sentence.

Lyons, of Rowville, pleaded guilty to two counts of gross indecency and two counts of indecent assault on a person under the age of 16.

Judge Ryan said the mother of two had manipulated and committed grave offences against a vulnerable victim.

“You breached the trust of the complainant, who was a child in your care,” he said.

“The harm done to the complainant by your offending is serious and long lasting.”

He said Lyons had exploited the religious beliefs she shared with the victim and her family to gain their trust and take the girl away on holiday with her own family, where she sexually abused her.

But he said Lyons had gone on to work as a dedicated teacher at a special school.

Lyons stood down from her role at the school when she was charged with the offences in 2011.

Judge Ryan said the school where Lyons had been teaching at the time of her offending was informed of the crimes but did not report them to police.

The victim contacted police in 2011.

Judge Ryan read character references from Lyons’ former colleagues who described her as an “exceptional educator” and “a person who put other people’s needs before her own”.

“Since the offences you have not only led a blameless life … but contributed greatly to the lives of others,” Judge Ryan told Lyons.

“By your work and care for others, you have undertaken a lengthy process of rehabilitation.”

Lyons’ three-year prison term was wholly suspended for 36 months.


Haredim addressing pedophilia issues

This interesting post is from the Jerusalem Post. [emphases are mine] by Melanie Lidman.

It is refreshing to hear about Rabbi Cohen, who seems to work diplomatically behind the scenes, and yet seemingly doing so effectively.

But there is a long way to go on other issues, especially the moronic mechalelei hashem who attack women and the low-life (who should get a real beating) who has avoided giving his wife a divorce.

Those of us who don’t consider ourselves as card carrying Haredim, also have a job to perform. Whenever possible, speak to them, don’t avoid them. Engage them respectfully and ask them what they are doing about issues. I think this is a very useful approach to take. I have been doing it of late, and have been astounded to find that so many are completely oblivious. When you tell them, they are in a state of shock.

It seems like a weekly occurrence – bold headlines splayed across the pages of newspapers: “Haredi man arrested for sexually abusing daughter”; “Haredi bus driver molested children for 6 years”; “Haredi community attempted to cover up serial pedophile.”

Despite the prevalence of these stories, Rabbi Avinoam Cohen, the director of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s Torah-Observant Prisoner Rehabilitation Program, believes the haredi community is doing a better job of dealing with the issue of pedophilia.

“Slowly they’re starting to understand, there’s a type of movement,” said Cohen, who deals with around 60 ultra- Orthodox prisoners at a time who have agreed to go through a personalized rehabilitation process. “It’s not like it was five or eight years ago. They’re not going to leave their children with someone like this [who is known to have a problem], or they will go to the police.”

While the more extreme sects, including Toldot Aharon or Natorei Karta, refuse to deal with police or any secular authorities, awareness of the issue and the proper response is getting better among mainstream haredim, said Cohen in a recent interview.

“The victims [of sexual abuse] caused this movement,” he said. “They feel it in their bones that it’s getting better. The awareness has increased because of the publicity about the incidents, and the children who are failing out of school and no one understands why.”

Cohen works to implement successful rehabilitation programs for pedophiles to ensure they don’t re-offend, a difficult struggle given the large numbers of unsupervised children in haredi neighborhoods.

T., 38, says he sexually abused over 20 children in Jerusalem during a six-year period. T., who has mild developmental disabilities, tried to tell his family what was going on, but they dismissed it as “total fantasy.” It was the same response they gave him when, as a nine-year-old boy, he told them that an older man from another haredi sect had tried to rape him on the way to an evening study session.

“[My father] said it’s my imagination. They never believed me at home. I had no one to talk to,” he said during an interview in Cohen’s Jerusalem office.

According to Cohen, more than 70 percent of men who sexually abuse children were victims of sexual assault themselves.

The haredi community’s refusal to deal with the problem in the past has created generations of victims.

T. said he had been confused after the attack, and had no guidance.

“If an older person is allowed to do this to me, then maybe I can do this to others,” he said.

“I didn’t know if it was forbidden or not. But someone did it to me, so I thought I could do it to someone else.”

Cohen, who was raised secular but has been haredi for over 20 years, explained that some haredi parents are so overwhelmed by the number of children they have that they can’t adequately deal with the needs of each one, especially if one requires special assistance following abuse.

Additionally the fact that a child has been sexually abused can sometimes harm the matchmaking chances of other siblings.

“People say, ‘Maybe the family isn’t modest, and this kid was doing something immodest, and that’s why this child was abused,’” Cohen explained.

But a trusted adult or parent ignoring a child who says they were sexually abused, or, as in T.’s case, trying to convince him it didn’t happen, “is worse than the original abuse,” the rabbi continued.

That attitude, at least among the less extremist haredi communities, is changing. Cohen spares no words in his anger over rabbis who allow known sex offenders to move to another community, rather than deal with police.

“They need to put rabbis who don’t go to police in prison,” he said. “I can think of at least 20 religious commandments that they’re breaking.”

Another remaining challenge is dealing with convicted offenders who have served jail time and then return to the community. Even if they don’t return to their own community, they will still likely be in a neighborhood with many children.

“Now I’ve been out [of prison] for a year, and I have supervision,” said Y., 43, who was convicted for abusing two girls over a number of months.

“Every day the struggle is renewed. Especially in the haredi areas, there’s small girls and teenage girls everywhere. You can’t get away from this. And you need to know how to be a human being and walk among the community,” he said.

“Sometimes I have no control over it – I’m going through an alleyway and suddenly a bus lets off, like, 100 girls,” he continued. “Every day is a test. Every hour of the morning and night. I have to deal with this all the time.”

Cohen explained that this was the part where a religious upbringing could actually assist offenders in their rehabilitation.

In halfway houses and private or group therapy, convicted sex offenders learn both tools to overcome their inclinations, and religious texts that promote the ideas of inner strength, not harming others, willpower and asking for forgiveness. Often, the former prisoners are able to relate strongly to the idea of text study, something with which they grew up, and find it the most influential part of their therapy.

Y., who lost custody of his five children after he was convicted, said that haredim also strongly subscribe to the idea of teshuva, or repentance and subsequent forgiveness.

“There’s compassion in our community, even for people who did things in the past,” he said.

Not all prisoners receive rehabilitation. Prison rabbis must recommend a prisoner as a good candidate for rehabilitation in the last third of their prison sentence. Cohen, along with another three staff members, is responsible for coordinating a personalized program for each prisoner, which can include stays in halfway houses, therapy or drugs – including monthly injections known as chemical castration, which work to remove any sexual inclinations. Most sexual offenders have regular supervision for a year, but afterward have no assistance.

Also, a limited budget from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry means that Cohen only has enough staff to deal with around 60 prisoners or ex-prisoners at a time – a small percentage of the number of people who could use the services.

Jerusalem police don’t keep statistics about haredi sex offenders versus non-haredi sex offenders. But in 2012, there were 823 complaints of sexual abuse across the capital – a 23.6% increase from 666 incidents in 2011. Part of the dramatic increase could be due to more people reporting incidents to the police that they would previously have hidden within their communities, though it is difficult to tell.

“There is an improvement with the reactions to the incidents,” said Cohen.

“They’re saying, ‘We won’t allow this here.’ It’s the start. We’re still far from breaking the cycle, but we’re starting to break it.”

The Modiin Illit mother was apparently lying

In this article, I asked how it was possible for a woman to fake claim that her 5-year-old was raped and then withdraw the charge. Complicating matters was the apparent refusal of Charedi Medical offices to cooperate.

It turns out now that the Police do believe that the woman was lying. One can only presume she has psychological problems herself and needs treatment. That being said, surely this is yet another reason the Charedi community should not fear police investigations, and makes a mockery of their decision to stay mum and not assist the police with their inquiries!

Another case of child abuse cover up?

Direct responsibility for not dealing with these issues is with the Rabbinate of Modiin Ilit. The scourge must be removed and all alleged perpetrators surrendered to police. It’s incomprehensible that there is a “better way”. There isn’t.

Police are investigating the alleged rape of a five-year-old girl in the haredi city of Modiin Ilit that occurred two weeks ago.

It is suspected that the girl was on her way to kindergarten, when a haredi youth grabbed her and took her to an unknown location close by, possibly a storage room or an empty communal building, where he raped and abused her.

He then release the girl who arrived at her kindergarten bruised an injured. The kindergarten teachers contacted the girl’s parents to collect their daughter and she was subsequently taken to hospital.

It appears that communal leaders have attempted to cover up the incident and have pressured anyone involved and the broader community not to cooperate with the police investigation; neither the parents nor anyone else involved in the incident reported it and residents are reluctant to speak to the police or media about it.

Army Radio, which first exposed the allegations, revealed that the incident was only finally reported last Friday by an anonymous tip off sent by SMS to an officer.

A police investigation is currently underway. Investigators went to the hospital where the child was treated but were not able to see her due to family objections.

Police officers from the Judea and Samaria District Police also went to the kindergarten in question but no-one was prepared to cooperate with the investigation.

A Modiin Ilit resident whose child attends the same kindergarten said on Channel 2 News that the kindergarten management was silencing the incident, specifically accusing the director of the kindergarten association.

The above article is from the Jerusalem Post by Jeremy Sharon.

Where Rabbi Manis Friedman got it wrong

There is a controversy regarding comments over the Rabbinic role in helping a victim of molestation, made in a lecture by Rabbi Manis.

I disagree with Rabbi Harry Maryles’s take as described in the above link. If you watch the video alone, without knowing what he said in the first audio recording linked there, I don’t think there is anything objectionable in the video per se (viewed alone). The audio of the first lecture is another thing, however.

It is true that the “role” of the Rabbi must be different to a psychologist. It is true that Rabbis should not assume the role of police or psychologist. The Rabbi (here I assume Friedman means the pulpit or town Rabbi, as opposed to the Rabbinic member of a Beis Din or a Rosh Yeshivah both of whom generally don’t deal with a particular community or its membership in this way) needs to deal with the victim vis-a-vis stressing and fortifying their status as a valued member of Klal Yisrael. The victim’s membership, under such circumstances is inviolate and axiologically grounded. The central issue to me is how you communicate this fact and serve to intercept the sense of possible alienation a victim may feel.

Rabbi Manis’s audio presentation does this in a crass and unrealistic manner. It assumes that a person will feel alienated more by the fact that they have been the victim of a crime whose perpetrator’s punishment is Kores as opposed to say Malkus. In my opinion, this is a nonsense and is a most unsophisticated metric for measuring such factors. The Chacham, wise person, has eyes in his head. He observes, tailors, and reacts according to what he sees. Surprisingly to me, Rabbi Manis is a Chabadnik. Of all people, they are expert in stressing the inherent holiness of the soul, asserting that it can be found in every Jew, and are experienced in helping remove the “layers” of baggage of many varieties which may cloud the vision and experiential manifestation of this soul. Instead, Rabbi Manis, in the audio version, sounds like an old-fashioned, fire and brimstone, B’aal Mussar. Sure, there was a time where you could scare or influence someone to repent based on the technical halachic severity of the sin. Sure, there may have been a time where you could convince a certain type of victim in a certain era that the technico/halachic punishment of what had been perpetrated wasn’t as “severe”, say, as a crime deserving of the death penalty.

No, the approach, ironically, ought to be to give strength by stressing the positive contribution that even continued orthopraxic practice can serve. Importantly, it may well also be beyond the Rabbi. A given community (Kehila) can quickly undo even the appropriate response and support of a Rabbi.

If I was Rabbi Manis, I would apologise, and stress that his words and argument were not formulated in an acceptable manner, and stick to the thoughts that he expressed in the video. Even if he isn’t an official spokesman for Chabad, he’s considered important enough to be ascribed such attention. If he apologised, he’d be no less a person. In fact, he’d come across as more human and thereby more equipped to help people using his undeniable God-given gifts.

We all make mistakes and express ourselves poorly. It seems it’s harder though to admit when we do.

Who is a therapist?

These are people with formal secular training who have degrees, and keep up with and understand the latest literature.. They can be psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and the like.

When they are frum, this helps in providing an insight into particular issues relating to frum people and directions that may be more palatable.

When qualified, they are answerable to a professional board. If there is a complaint of misconduct, they must face that board. They must be accredited and re-accredited.

What they cannot be, is people with either no degree, or people with a degree in geography or history or economics or whatever, who suddenly become “experts” in dealing with social issues and call themselves therapists. There are creeps out there who do this. They are silver-tongued and charismatic. Beware.

Admittedly, there is the occasional very good one (e.g. Rabbi Yanki Horowitz), but there are some deeply troubled and sinister ones, who are answerable (currently) to nobody, some of whom will face their day, sooner than later.

It remind me of the apocryphal story of the big maven who built a succa according to all the shittos. His Succa fell down and he came to complain to his Rav. The Rav, said “Nu, Tosphos asks the same question”.

Beware of fraudsters parading as therapists. Don’t go to them or give them a podium to speak. Let them get an education and be answerable to a board.

Once again, the OU and YU shows how it should be handled

[As always, my views are my own. Not that of my employer or any organisation I am affiliated with or a member of]

The action below, doesn’t conflict with the notion of innocent until proven guilty but at least it means that some people have the good sense to either remove themselves or allow themselves to be removed pending investigations. Compare and contrast this with the other unresolved example currently in the news.  It also is another example of the thinking of the ’80’s and before, when the world was a very different place. The problem is to drag some, kicking and screaming into the world of truth.

Below is the article from the forward.

By Paul Berger and Nathan Jeffay

Published December 16, 2012.

Rabbi George Finkelstein has resigned his position at the Great Jerusalem Synagogue after the Forward reported that he had sexually abused students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan during the 1970s and ‘80s.

“He sent us an email saying he’s resigning because he does not want to expose the Great Synagogue to embarrassment,” Zalli Jaffe, the synagogue’s vice president, said in an interview. Finkelstein had served as the institution’s executive director since 2001; last month, he began serving as its ritual director.

Jaffe said that the resignation was received on Thursday, “immediately following the publication” of the Forward’s investigation. The correspondence came from France, where Finkelstein is currently vacationing.

Around the same time as Finkelstein resigned, senior staff of the Orthodox Union in America and Jerusalem held a teleconference regarding the position of the other Y.U. high school staff member investigated by the Forward, Rabbi Macy Gordon. They decided to impose a “leave of absence” on Gordon’s teaching duties at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, where he gives a weekly class on the laws of the Sabbath, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive vice president emeritus, told the Forward on December 16.

He said that the unilaterally-imposed leave of absence will last until the OU can “clarify exactly what happened.” This is in spite of the fact that the OU has “to presume that he’s innocent until we find out more about it.”

Weinreb said: “When we became aware of the news article we felt we had to investigate ourselves to see what kind of credence to give [the claims].” He stressed that the allegations were dated to a time before Gordon started teaching at the OU.

He said of Gordon: “I know that he has no memory of the alleged incident whatsoever.”

The dramatic news came as five more men have stepped forward to say they were inappropriately touched and suffered emotional and sexual abuse at the high school.

In its investigation published online December 13, The Forward described the claims of three former students who said that they were abused by Finkelstein, who rose to become principal of the high school. Another former student said he was sodomized with a toothbrush by Gordon, a Talmud teacher.

Three of the former students said that their subsequent appeals to Y.U. to take action were ignored.

While denying that he knew about the severity of the allegations against the staff members, Norman Lamm, the chancellor of Y.U., told the Forward on December 7 that the school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere. Lamm was president of Y.U. from 1976 to 2003.

In particular, Lamm said that he did not report anything about the allegations against Finkelstein when he left after 27 years at the high school for a position at a Jewish school in Florida. Finkelstein was dean of the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, Fla. until moving to Israel.

Now, the Forward has heard from five more men who say they were harassed by Finkelstein and Gordon during the 1970s and ’80s.

The claims included description of how both men thrust their hands under boys’ shirts to check whether they were wearing tzitzit, the tasseled undershirts required under Orthodox Jewish law.

Finkelstein and Gordon, interviewed by the Forward in Israel where both men now live, denied the initial allegations. Efforts to reach them to respond to the latest allegations were unsuccessful.

“Macy Gordon was malevolence personified,” said Barry Singer, who graduated from Y.U.’s Manhattan High School for Boys in 1975, “whereas George Finkelstein was a more complicated, disturbed individual.”

“I fought these guys tooth and nail the entire time I was in school,” Singer added. “I had no idea that what was being done to me was sexual abuse or any abuse, I merely knew I didn’t want these guys touching me and I did my best to keep them away from me.”

Singer, now a New York City journalist and bookseller, recalled walking into a school stairwell one day and being grabbed by Finkelstein who thrust him over the railings and “groped me looking to see if I was wearing tzitzit.” “It went under the shirt to the skin and below the waistline,” Singer said. “Hanging over the stairwell I didn’t understand what was being done to me, I just knew I hated him for it.”

Singer said Gordon emotionally abused him. “I believe that Macy Gordon found a way to emotionally abuse and intimidate any student that ever crossed his path,” Singer said. “He conducted tzitzit checks under my shirt that made me very uncomfortable.”

Singer, along with two other former students, also described being wrestled by Finkelstein in his office. “I was 6 foot tall and a basketball player,” Singer said. “I didn’t know I was fighting someone off sexually, I just knew I was fighting someone off I didn’t want near me.”

Zack Belil, who graduated from Y.U. in the early 1980s, said that he was forced to wrestle with Finkelstein for four years, at his home or in an office at the high school. Often, Belil said, Finkelstein would initiate the wrestling by asking Belil a question he could not answer and then wrestle him as a form of punishment. “It was very rough for an adult and a child…You can feel an erection through someone’s pants rubbing up against you. That was the most horrifying part,” Belil told the Forward.

Belil, now a New York real estate developer, said that during school hours Finkelstein could appear at the classroom door at any time of day and pull him out of class. On one occasion, Belil said Finkelstein led him to a staircase behind a closed door and asked him a question that he knew Belil could not answer.

“[Finkelstein] slapped me,” Belil said, “And then he said, ‘Aren’t you going to slap me back?’

“What are you to do at that age when this man of authority says something like this to you?” Belil said he gave Finkelstein a light slap on the cheek hoping that it might make Finkelstein stop, but Finkelstein replied, “Harder!” Belil said.

Belil, like other Y.U. high school alumni, said Finkelstein often called him at home. “I think that my parents actually felt honored that he took such an interest,” Belil said.

A fourth man, aged 57, contacted the Forward to describe months of emotional abuse by Finkelstein that drove the man out of Y.U. high school and away from Judaism for more than a decade.

“As soon as I saw the picture [of Finkelstein in the Forward] I got nauseous,” the man said. “I wasn’t touched by him, but he emotionally almost destroyed me.”

The fifth man said Finkelstein and Gordon put their hands under his shirt to check for tzitzit. The man, who had been abused by a rabbi at his elementary school, said he did his best to give both men a wide berth. After the Forward submitted a list of questions to Y.U. on November 26, detailing allegations of abuse against Finkelstein and Gordon, the University said that it would look into the claims.

Asked how the investigation was progressing on December 14, a spokesman for Y.U. said: “I can’t offer you any update beyond the fact we are conducting an investigation and when we have something to share we will do so at the proper time.”

Asked who was leading the investigation, how many people were involved and how it was being conducted, the spokesman said: “I’m not the right person to speak to about that.”

In a statement released December 13 Y.U. President Richard Joel said the “inappropriate behavior and abuse alleged by The Forward…and described in statements attributed by The Forward to Dr. Lamm, are reprehensible.”

The statement continued: “The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology.”

Contact Paul Berger at or follow him on Twitter, @pdberger

The Weberman Trial: my prediction

The papers and internet are discussing the infamous Satmar Weberman Trial.

Satmar and their ilk are outraged that such an issue should go before a goyishe court. They contend it should only have been dealt with by a Beis Din. Be that what it may, you can bet that if the court will find Weberman guilty they will continue this line and scream that it’s a blood libel.

I believe that Weberman will be found innocent, or guilty of a minor misdemeanour because the onus of proof from the court will ironically be greater than that required by a Beis Din. Weberman’s attorney argued that there was no evidence, no DNA etc. He is right. DNA and body fluids are not required to prove guilt according to Halacha.

My prediction is that they will be hypocritical. They will claim that the court found him not guilty in the main, and they will use this as proof that he “did nothing”. Proof from a goyishe court? Yes, that’s acceptable, but only if they do not find you guilty.

A response to Vivian Resofsky

I came across a post where Ms Resofsky presented her views on how to deal better with the phenomenon of child abuse and invoke methods of protecting such children through education. I’m not at all critical of her contribution in the sense that she makes valid points and would appear to be academically and clinically qualified to make those points. However, I’m not at all in favour with the rather vicious pen that she points at the Jewish Taskforce against Family Violence. That aspect, in my view is uncalled for.

Ms Resofsky had written:

I have been attempting to engage The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault (The Taskforce) since 2006, both directly and in the pages of The Australian Jewish News because I am deeply worried by their approach – particularly by their assertion that children can and should be taught to protect themselves against adult predators. The truth is, they can’t.

I am so concerned that I have also submitted complaints to the JCCV, Jewish Care and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria about what I believe is The Taskforce’s dangerously misguided approach to a very complex issue; however, nothing has changed.

The best evidence indicates that we cannot leave children to protect themselves; however, The Taskforce refuses to acknowledge this. The Protecting our Vulnerable Children Inquiry Report (Feb 2012), weighed up all the worldwide research and evidence about the effectiveness of teaching children personal safety to prevent abuse. It accepted Finkelhor (2009 ),Smallbone et al. (2008) “There is little convincing evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for preventing sexual abuse.”

Ms Weiner, who has no degree or equivalent in any field related to child protection does not agree with the research. She states that, “Giving a child the tools to say NO denies the perpetrator the opportunity to abuse.”

Why would Ms Weiner advocate a position that goes against the best evidence? Unfortunately, Ms Weiner’s position is echoed by Mrs Balfour, head of The Early Learning Centre at Beth Rivkah, who believes The Taskforce – that schools do not need to educate parents, because children under the age of five can protect themselves!

Alongside Debbie Weiner, Taskforce board member, Sheiny New, also speaks publicly on behalf of the group and about child abuse. Ms New has spoken and written extensively about this issue, however, like Ms Weiner, she has no degree or equivalent in the area.

This information, however, is not available on The Taskforce website. In fact, much information about who comprises the Taskforce and their work with children is absent from their website. There is a serious lack of transparency that characterises the group. It is usual practice for a group that purports to protect children to articulate this and to clearly state it as part of their vision; however, the word, “child,” is hardly mentioned on The Taskforce site.

While The Taskforce has existed for 17 years, it only first acknowledged the issue of child abuse in 2006. It then moved to gain a monopoly on the protection of our children despite its lack of experience and the lack of qualifications of Taskforce volunteers.

In 2006, The Taskforce emailed Di Hirsh of the NCJW, strongly requesting that Ms Hirsh and her organisation withdraw their support from a community child protection awareness and education campaign. The Taskforce’s reasoning for this demand was that they wanted to present an efficient and unified communal response to such a sensitive subject in The Taskforce’s forthcoming forum.

In doing this, The Taskforce successfully removed support for a campaign that included child welfare professionals so that a group of volunteers could be the sole providers of communal education on child abuse.

It is important to remember that The Taskforce is a voluntary organisation whose members are not professionals in the area of child protection; however, The Taskforce have positioned themselves as the community’s authority on the matter.

Because they have worked for 17 years to raise awareness of family violence, they believe that qualifies them to advise on child abuse. Not only is this a logical problem, it also requires a real leap of faith because The Taskforce has only spoken out against child abuse in the last 6 years.

The Taskforce personnel also base their credibility on the training they receive from experts. Many of these experts are highly respected in their fields; however, educational seminars that last for a couple of hours, or at most, a couple of days, can not qualify people to do the work of trained professionals. The Taskforce should not therefore position itself as able to give advice on a par with professional advice.

The Taskforce’s lack of professional personnel leads it to offer poor advice (such as the idea that children can protect themselves). Ms New’s public statement that with the right treatment, victims of child sexual abuse will be, “just fine,” goes against research that demonstrates that only 1 in 10 cases of abuse is even reported. Many abused children cannot get help at all, because their abuse is unknown. Educating parents to spot signs of abuse can address this issue. This is not, however, what The Taskforce is doing.

This makes Ms Weiner’s claim that The Taskforce is, “tackling abuse head on,” difficult to believe. Ms Weiner’s and The Taskforce’s refusal to support parent-directed education is evidence that best practice is not in place. Parents need guidance to help them learn how to assess whether or not good child protection procedures are in place in schools and other institutions. They need to know what to look for. For example, does the organization train staff about child sexual abuse? Does the organization have a code of conduct for adults working with children? Does it outline clear expectations about boundaries between staff and children? How is staff misconduct handled?

It is difficult to understand why The Taskforce relies on extremely out of date ideas of child self protection. We used to think programs that teach children to identify and refuse inappropriate touch would prevent child sexual abuse. Personal safety programs for children have been in existence for over 25 years but experts now advise that children can’t fend off would-be abusers by themselves.

The Protecting our Vulnerable Inquiry 2012, weighed up all the worldwide research and evidence about the effectiveness of teaching children personal safety to prevent abuse. It agreed with Finkelhor 2009 and Smallbone et al. 2008: “There is little convincing evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for preventing sexual abuse.” (The Protecting our Vulnerable Children’s Inquiry Report 2012)

Telling parents that something will prevent abuse when it clearly will not puts children at unacceptable risk. Sexual abuse is most commonly a gradual process of desensitization, further complicated by the power imbalance between the victim and perpetrator. Would-be abusers use a grooming process to gain trust and acceptance.

Grooming can be described as a psychological process that breaks down a child’s resistance by using techniques such as gift giving, engaging the child in peer like activities, desensitizing the child to touch, isolating the child and then making the child feel responsible for the abuse. Grooming can take place over months or longer. Those who would offend try to get themselves into a situation where they are alone with a child who trusts them. The abused child is then caught in a web of confusion, guilt, deceit and mistrust and a child commonly feels overwhelmed and powerless to stop the abuse.

Ms New, however, advises that parents should educate themselves and then educate their children. The Child Protection Inquiry, however, does not expect parents to educate themselves. It recommends that efforts should focus on raising public awareness of child sexual abuse and providing parents of all school-aged children with education.

Parents need to become aware and even trained in the defence of their children. They can create a barrier between those who would abuse and their children. They need to discuss matters with their children in language that is not threatening and gives the child age-appropriate references. Parents can vet situations when they leave their children in the care of others and ensure that stringent screening, monitoring, training and reporting policies are in place. They need to know the steps they can take when they suspect something is not right. Schools should continue to teach children about personal safety, but the responsibility for protecting children should be placed on adults.

Finally, we must ask ourselves if it is appropriate for a single group to address matters of abuse in both the Ultra Orthodox and less religious communities. The differences in attitudes, values, and culture are enormous between the extremely religious and the less religious sub-groups in our community. Can and should a single group be charged with such a broad agenda?

According to Ms New there are “Jewish” specific factors that impact on why victims of child sexual abuse don’t report. When she refers to “Jewish” factors, are these applicable across the board or only to the Ultra-Orthodox community?

When The Taskforce makes statements like, “We consider ourselves to be a light unto other nations, and if we start talking about violence and abuse in what we consider a perfect Jewish family that light will be dimmed just a little bit and she (the victim) did not want to be the cause of more anti-Semitism…”
“Living in a host country we would prefer not to create anti Semitism.”
(referring to the Shidduch system)“…The first question asked is: “Is it a nice family?” sexual assault does not a nice family make. Don’t be judgemental. If your brother had to choose between two equally lovely girls but one had been raped 6 months ago which would you choose?”

Do any of these statements apply to non-religious Jews who are the vast majority in the community?

Why then have the JCCV and Jewish Care welcomed The Taskforce’s attempt to be the sole organisation dealing with abuse in the community? Many non-religious Jews are horrified by such attitudes and might wonder why The Taskforce is not doing more to combat them. Meanwhile Ms New asks us not to be judgmental of that belief system. Surely such a group cannot represent our entire community.

My response to Ms Resofsky is:

Dear Ms Resofsky,

Have you read Dr Pelcovitz’s book? Have you listened to his on-line lectures?
I have. No doubt Ms Polin has some concerns that you mention, however, the educated reader may want to make up their own mind by doing what I did (well before this came on the horizon).

Have you personally engaged Dr Pelcovitz with your concerns? I would suggest that a modicum of academic respect behooves you to do so. I would further suggest that you do this on the record so that Dr Pelcovitz can respond in kind on the record and isn’t interpreted or misunderstood.

In respect of your comments regarding Ms New (I know her as Sheiny, and she is a personal friend), let me say that you need to have a coffee with her. Your assessment based on a talk(s) that you attended simply doesn’t capture the approach that she has, which most definitely does include those aspects you believe she elides (out of supposed ignorance).

Having said that, the taskforce isn’t Sheiny, and Sheiny isn’t the task force. It is much bigger than that. I interact with them when I seek an opinion (in an informal way) and they have never pretended to be something they are not. They are a very determined group of people who seek to do much good, and have done much good, and will continue to do so. That being said, I have no doubt that they would welcome (and I don’t speak for them in anyway) volunteers—both professional like you and Talya, and others who are well meaning (and may have suffered directly or indirectly) to help them refine and progress what they are all about.

Perhaps you can let us know whether you have ever sought to meet with the group without the public/blogosphere headlights and passed on your thoughts? Have they rejected your ideas? Were they aware of what you were professing?

As to those who continue to denigrate the Task Force/and or Sheiny through simply because Sheiny is married to a member of the YC Board of Management, I find that beneath contempt. These women work hard and tirelessly for the community. By all means try and improve and enrich their approach and support their work, but this public castigation leaves me with a very sour taste.

I noticed that Ms Resofsky gives five points to prevent child sexual abuse:

1) Learn about it – you need knowledge about abuse before you can protect your children

2) Minimise risk – Know the adults and teens in your children’s lives.

3) Talk about it – Talk to your kids about personal safety rules.

4) Teach your children that these safety rules apply to everyone.

5) Start early with your children, in an age appropriate way.

Nobody can argue with these five points, however, it is important to note that (especially in certain groups which are secularly insular and/or ignorant) that the School and the Synagogue (via Rabbis) can be great contributors in fostering points 1 through 5.

I am reminded of an interesting question raised by Professor Marc Shapiro (who is certainly not an ultra-orthodox apologist, for those who are aware of his scholarly output). Marc asked why there seemed to be more abuse in ultra-orthodox circles. Why was it that a child who ate Treyf or broke the Shabbos was given more “attention” than a child who came home and accused their teacher of fondling? He answered, and I believe he is right, that these communities understand Treyf and they understand Shabbos. They simply have no understanding, let alone a sophisticated understanding, of what the effect of such abuse can be and why it ought to be considered with at least the same level of abhorrence as transgressions between Man and God. They (wrongly) think that this is something that will “go away” with time. They have not understood that this is a pattern, and that the perpetrator rarely if ever has just “one” victim.

The answer to that needs to start (especially in such communities) with those who are charged with imbuing education: the Rabbis and the Teachers. They must be educated. In such communities, you simply can’t call a meeting of parents as a first step, and “educate” them with seminars. They won’t come! They will think it has nothing to do with them, or their kids. Of course, they are wrong. But the one key, doesn’t fit every lock. Ms Resofsky certainly is correct to hone in on parental education, but I’d suggest (from a lay perspective) that the science of this approach needs to be implemented in a different manner for each group. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the awareness and understanding of a group of say Yavneh or Mt Scopus parents is at a similar level to that of Adass parents (who we know are, by choice cut off from the external world)?

Let’s be positive. I don’t like it when we “attack” those who are actually on the same side.

When has a purpose been served?

An event is advertised as follows:

What: On July 8 2011, Jewel Topsfield wrote a story naming prominent Community leader, Manny Waks as a victim of sexual abuse at a Melbourne Jewish school. The report gave a name and a face to the victims of the abuse, and was instrumental in enabling other victims to come forward with their stories. Inevitably the coverage also ignited debate about the way the Jewish Community handles sexual abuse and about Manny’s decision to take his story to the press.Shira is pleased to be hosting a forum with Manny

Waks and Jewel Topsfield where they will explain their roles in the breaking of the story and issues surrounding the treatment of child sexual abuse in the Jewish Community and the media. The session will be facilitated by Ashley Browne.When: Lunch will be held following the conclusion of Services at 12pm and the forum will begin at 12:30pm.—-
Manny Waks was born in Israel but raised mostly in Melbourne, Australia. He is the second oldest of 17 children in a Chabad family. Manny voluntarily served in an elite unit in the Israel Defence Forces and subsequently returned to Australia where he obtained a degree in international relations. In 2006 he was appointed Executive Officer at the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission. He commenced his current position in the Australian Government’s Office of Transport Security in 2009.Manny is Immediate Past President of the Canberra Jewish Community, former Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and former Governor of the New South Wales Jewish Communal Appeal Board of Governors. Manny is the Founder and President of the Capital Jewish Forum and a Director of the Online Hate Prevention Institute. He is also a member of the PresenTense 2012 Global Institute Committee, He is a public campaigner against child sexual abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community. Manny is married and has three children.Jewel Topsfield is the education editor at The Age. She has been a journalist at The Age since 2004, reporting on education, immigration, the environment and Indigenous affairs. She also spent three years in the Press Gallery in Canberra reporting on federal politics. Prior to The Age, Jewel worked as a journalist for Australian Associated Press, the Melbourne Times and various publications in South Australia.Ashley Browne has worked as a journalist and editor in newspapers, online media, books and magazines for more than twenty years. He was national editor of the Australian Jewish News from March 2007 until August 2009. Ashley is now a senior writer with AFL Media and is a teaching associate at the journalism school at Monash University’s Caulfield campus.

Now, I have some credibility on the issue of Jewish Abuse. Manny certainly is aware of my work behind the scenes in attempting to make sure that
  • (most importantly) children are safe(r)
  • perpetrators of abuse are brought to justice
  • all those in a supervisory position are (re)educated about the importance of immediately referring alleged abuse to the correct authorities
  • the community is desensitised to the stigma that is inevitably attached to both victims and those who are brave enough to refer perpetrators to the authorities
  • all support and encouragement is given to those who have been victims and indeed those (very few) who have been accused but cleared of wrongdoing

All those points aside, my opinion is simply just that; an opinion. You can take it or leave it, as always.

I am confident that our community has reached a cross-road. When I say, our community, I refer to all groups with the possible exception of two related Charedi sub-groups, in the sense that they have not yet been able to face the demons created by the despicable Malka Laufer. The word on the street is that the police are very much pursuing this woman, and one would hope that she is brought to justice soon(er).
I have witnessed incredible change within the Yeshivah Centre. Here I am not referring to issues of formal apologies and the disenfranchisement of people/families. Those issues are complex and most certainly will not be addressed or helped by such forums. As important as those issues are, my number one concern is that Schools, all schools, now have proper procedures in place, and that they educate and re-educate all their staff and students about dangers of potential child molestation. Having personally been privy to programs put in place by Rabbi Smukler, for example, I am confident that a new broom has been inaugurated, and as a parent (and soon grandparent) of children attending those Schools, a repeat of the type of incident currently before the courts is most unlikely to recur.
It’s important that we focus on the main issue. It isn’t just an issue with one perpetrator, as heinous as his alleged crimes would indicate. It’s about the future, and ensuring that those accused who have not been brought to justice, face their demons. Sadly, in the case before the courts, and of which Manny is one of the victims, the alleged perpetrator still lives in a fool’s paradise and still doesn’t realise the gravity of the allegations. His poor parents and wider family unnecessarily suffer because of his single-minded Akshanus. I’m no expert, but I wonder whether this is also part of his illness. The first step towards dealing with one’s sins is being able to give voice, formal voice, to the wrongs one has done. That is embodied in Hilchos T’Shuva in the Rambam, and as we have started blowing Shofar today on Rosh Chodesh Ellul, it is particularly timely and germane.
To be fair, there is a purpose to airing dirty linen. The purpose should be, in my view, to allow the aforementioned bullet points become a reality. When abuse remains hidden, many of those bullet points cannot adequately be addressed. Of course, it’s certainly not a “feature” of one group alone.
What about other types of dirty linen?
How many mothers and fathers have had extra-marital affairs which have resulted in the children of such marriages suffering for the rest of their lives because those marriages have decomposed? Will these forums also highlight the grave and current problem we have dealing with one of the ten commandments? I’m decidedly not saying that indirect abuse is the same as direct abuse, but such sexual encounters
  • cause life changing, and immeasurable pain
  • are a scourge that must be addressed

Will we see forums which encourage children whose lives have been subject to upheaval because one or both of their parents succumbed to moments of weakness resulting in the destruction of their previously safe, happy and nurturing family life? Will a set of men and women who have perpetrated such sins be named? Will their dirty linen be aired? I think not. Furthermore, I don’t think it would serve any positive purpose. Note: that’s not to say all forums don’t have a purpose, a useful purpose. I’m just asking whether in this particular instance, whether that purpose has been served many times over, in the press and on radio.

In a different way, I do not think forums like this, especially given the state of where we are at, will serve the most useful outcome. Education, education and more education: I mean formal programs. These are the challenges that we must now confront. Each School, each Shule, each youth movement, and of course each home must ensure that educators, children and leaders are empowered to “do the right thing” and if and when God forbid, some low life attempts to do harm, we have a well-oiled mechanism created by educational programs which will deal with the issue quickly and fairly.
Groups such as the Jewish Taskforce against Violence to Women (whose job encompasses education as a major mantra) are fantastic, and they should be praised for their hard and thankless work. It is these groups, and others like them, that ought to be our focus. Join them. Donate to them. Support them.
Our dirty linen has been aired. We now await justice. Justice from the courts will have an enormous impact, and our linen will be aired once more as a side effect.
FInally, be warned if you comment on this issue. I am unlikely to allow names to be mentioned. Be respectful.

Why is this alleged child abuser running free?

We live in a strange world. Sometimes, stupid laws get in the way of good sense. Here we have a so-called “Rabbi” and “Dr” who has been shown to be a fraud, and is accused of the heinous crime of sodomising children and young adults, and he lives in Nachlaot, Jerusalem, as if nothing has every happened, and he has nothing to account for. Nachlaot is not a religious bastion. It is overwhelmingly secular. This episode is a scar on the pursuit of Justice. The story appears here

If there’s any story inside the Jewish community that closely parallels the sexual abuse cover-up inside the Catholic Church, it’s the story of Avrohom Mondrowitz. Posing as both a rabbi and a therapist, Mondrowitz was accused of molesting several boys in his Brooklyn neighborhood in the mid-1980’s. The listed victims were all non-Jewish, mostly because Mondrowitz’s alleged Jewish victims, estimated to be between 100-300 never came forward. Mondrowitz was charged with eight counts of child abuse and five counts of sodomy. Hours before he was arrested he fled the country, first to Canada and then to Israel. He was rumored to have been tipped off about his pending arrests by local rabbis. He was not extradited since homosexual rape, strangely, was not an extraditable offense in Israel. When the extradition treaty was altered, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that too much time had elapsed for Mondrowitz to receive a fair trial. The New York Times, in a series of articles on the Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes’ cozy relationship with the Haredi establishment in his district, last week published the results of a FOIL request by activist Michael Lesher. Lesher has been attempting to find out what happened in the intervening years and whether Hynes did everything in his power to bring Mondrowitz to justice. The answer, according to the Times, seems to be, No. “There isn’t a single e-mail, a single letter, a single memo, either originating from the D.A.’s office or addressed to it, that so much as mentions any attempt by the D.A. to seek a change in the extradition treaty,” Lesher told the Times. “It’s just inconceivable that such important negotiation on such a detailed issue could have taken place and not left a trace in the documentary record.” Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA, told the Jewish Press: “Over all these years, we worked tirelessly with the US Department of Justice and the Israeli Ministry of Justice to get Mondrowitz extradited back to Brooklyn. We were prepared to prosecute him and it was only a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court which ordered that he would not be extradited.” Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the DA’s sex crime unit, claims that there are more documents that show the DA’s efforts, though the Times says that those were “mainly internal agency documents.” Schmetterer also acknowledged the 300 documents that were not turned over to Lesher. “It was always in the front of our minds and we made many many phone calls to the State Department about it,” he told the Jewish Press. “A local prosecutor does not have the power to get a treaty changed.” It is clear by now that Mondrowitz will not be brought to justice in the U.S. . In the last few years he was even involved in teaching children-at-risk. He lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and davens in a posh shul. Reportedly, his neighbors like him and are unaware or deny the allegations about his past. Despite some up-coming high profile cases inside the Haredi community, such as the arrest of four Haredi menfor allegedly offering a $500,000 bribe to a sexually abused teenager to get her to drop charges against a popular community counselor, or the case of Nechemya Weberman, a Haredi rabbi charged with molesting a 12-year old girl over three years, the legacy of the 77-year-old Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes will be one of enabling the tendency of some Haredim to blame the victim in sexual abuse cases, and failing, in the end, to bring Avrohom Mondrowitz to justice.

Just how bad is child abuse in Chassidic circles?

The following is from Harry’s blog:

I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I received an e-mail from a friend who is intimately familiar with the Chasidic world of hard-core Chasidus like Satmar, Ger and Sqvere. This letter came from the heart. This fellow is no spreader of LaShon Hara. He is a modest and gentle person; responsible and intelligent; a loving and caring Charedi Jew of impeccable integrity. He is as straight as they come.

He has always been reluctant to tell his story – the story of rampant sex abuse in the Chasidic world. But I guess keeping all that inside has gotten to him. So in a moment of extreme candor he spoke out in an e-mail.
After reading his letter, I was speechless. I found it impossible to believe. And yet he practically swears to me that it is so. If what he says is true, there is an incredible level of cruelty and inhumanity shown by Chasidic leaders who either allow or perhaps even encourage the intimidation of victims while tolerating abusers in their midst.
Apparently the rate of abuse among Chasidim is horrible beyond words. According to some of the mental health professionals who deal with them – estimates of child sex abuse and molestation among the hard-core Chasidim is as high as 33%!
I can only imagine the kind of “torture” used against the poor families who come forward. Why do they torture them? I guess because they feel they have no choice since all Hell will break loose if the truth comes out. There would be many hundreds of arrests.
Lest anyone think this description of their behavior is not true, I remind you of the case of accused serial molester Avreimal Mondrowitz. He is a Gerrer Chasid. His extradition from Israel to stand trial in the United States was successfully fought by the Ger Chasidic community there.  I would also remind you that nothing like this is ever done without the approval of the Gerrer Rebbe himself. He either explicitly or implicitly approved of it.  Mondrowitz currently roams the streets of Israel freely.
Just to give an example of another “Mondrowitz”- this one in Skvere. I have been told that a top Chasid of the Rebbe molested and raped hundreds and hundreds of children in 3 generations. And everyone there knew about it! He too has fled to Israel.
And then there is what is currently going on in the case of accused molester Rabbi Nechemia Weberman. The trial keeps being postponed because of witness intimidation according to my sources.
That intimidation tactics exist is not even a question. I direct you to the words of the Brooklyn DA, a man who has been accused of enabling abuse by being unduly influenced by this very same community:

 “I haven’t seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police-corruption cases”

 In other words, they are worse than the Mafia!
See the rest here

Abuse: Halachic and Ethical Dilemmas (2)

Thanks to all who commented on the first scenario. Consider, now, a new scenario.

Your daughter is showing signs of strain. She has not been herself for some time. You have tried all manner of parental approach: the stick and the carrot and you can’t seem to manage to cajole her to be on the same page as you and your husband. She is also not performing to her ability at school.

You become aware of rumours that a male associated with your daughter’s school has been exposing himself and may well have fondled or even forced himself on some girls. When you hear these rumours you are in a state of disbelief. You cannot imagine that this apparently fine and upstanding individual would do such things. If he did, then you conclude that he must be sick or have experienced some trauma that has scrambled his moral compass.

One day your daughter casually mentions that the said person approached her and attempted to interfere with her. You aren’t sure whether actual interference has taken place. On the other hand, this may well explain her unusual behaviour and lack of focus. Given the rumours, you run to the School and meet with the powers that be. They tell you that there have been issues with this person and that he is receiving treatment and the strong indications are that this earlier behaviour will no longer be manifest. It’s a close-knit school where each parent knows the other and shares strong common ideals. The school did not contact the police because they felt they were dealing with it internally through professionals. Their Rabbi forbade “Mesira” anyway and there was no mandatory reporting in place.

You are concerned. The said perpetrator is still “at large” in the sense that he is able to find ways to continue to interact with the children in the School. You are told he has done Teshuva. What do you do?

  1. Do you allow any of your children to continue to be enrolled in the School?
  2. Do you have a halachic responsibility to inform as many parents as possible about what happened to your daughter? (What about her shidduch chances and those of the siblings, given the close-knit community)
  3. Should you go to the press or post on a blog, even anonymously.
  4. If you fail to advise other parents and the police, and another child is interfered with are you halachically or ethically culpable?
  5. Did you transgress לפני עיוור לא תתן מכשול and/or לא תעמוד על דם רעך?
  6. Can parents now sue you for damages, both halachically and civilly?
  7. Can your children sue you if you didn’t remove them from the School?

“Reality looks much more obvious in hindsight than in foresight. People who experience hindsight bias misapply current hindsight to past foresight. They perceive events that occurred to have been more predictable before the fact than was actually the case”. Hersh Shefrin

Abuse: Halachic and Ethical Dilemmas

Consider this scenario

The family of a victim of sexual abuse approaches the abuser and their family. The family of the abused has not yet reported the said abuse to the police; instead they initially confront the abused and their family. The situation becomes complicated and lawyers are brought in. Lawyers for both sides settle on an agreement involving some “compensation.” In return the abuser agrees to plead guilty to a somewhat lesser offence without recording a conviction.

The lawyer of the abuser is under no doubt that her client is a dangerous pedophile. She had a choice. She could have refused to take the case. In the end, whether she was the lawyer who accepted the brief, or a lawyer who turned the case down, she is unable to remove thoughts from her head. She is convinced that the abuser is a dangerous person and that he may continue on his misadventure and sexually abuse others. She is bound by client confidentiality; we understand that. 

My question relates to the Halachic imperative. Is a lawyer/person in such a case permitted to remain silent? Is there not a real problem of contravening a Torah command:

לא תעמוד על דם רעך

Unfortunately, the abuser commits further crimes. Is the lawyer somehow responsible? If they are not directly responsible, are they indirectly culpable?  Later victims, upon learning that a lawyer knew about the abuse and stayed silent, decide to summons the lawyer to a בית דין. They seek at least financial compensation for the years of medical treatment and the lost opportunity that a victim must carry all their life.

  • Is the lawyer permitted to stay silent from a Jewish point of view?
  • If the lawyer isn’t culpable from a Western legal point of view, how should the family of the lawyer respond to their vilification by elements of the community who are disgusted that their mother didn’t pass on her very real fears to the authorities?

To report or not to report? There is no question.

Aguda has played with words on this issue for a long time. It seems they are all words and no action. The Law, however, has different and more transparent standards. See this article.

Another horrifying case of child abuse

The victims of this abuse have life-long sentences. That community must be one of the saddest and most troubled in a long time. I can’t see any other option but to disperse and live elsewhere; what a tragedy.

The next time somebody tries to sell you the line that ‘it happened years ago’ and that the criminal who did the abuse is ‘cured and gets respected professional psychological help’ ask yourself when the victims will be cured despite their own psychological treatment. Ask yourself whether the victims and their families will ever recover.

Next time someone expresses the view that the parents of an alleged abuser are nebachs and it’s no fault of theirs (which may well be the case in many instances, and sadly true) remind them to apportion at least as much, if not more pity on the parents and families of the VICTIMS of abuse.

Clarification of R’ Aviner’s פסקי הלכה on abuse

R’ Aviner posted the following פסקי הלכה

Based on the recent discussions by Rabbinic organization in the US and Canada
regarding reporting child abuse, we saw fit to reprint this article:
One’s Duty to Immediately Report Child Abuse, at all Costs

When children are battered, whether sexually or “just” physically, anyone who knows about it has to report it to the authorities. The child, after all, is helpless and has no defenses. According to Jewish law, the primary loyalty of anyone who knows what is happening must be to the battered child, and this duty is absolute. Allow me to add that from a legal standpoint, if the person who knows about it is a professional in an associated field, for example a social worker or psychologist, and he does not report it, he is liable to go to prison for half a year.

Cruelly hitting children is alien to the world of Jewish law. Our halachic authorities viewed the matter so gravely that Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that outside of Israel in the case of a battered child, one must assist the authorities to remove him from his home – even if the child will be moved to a non-Jewish family. The reason is that such treatment could threaten the child’s life (see Shut Tzitz Eliezer 19:52 who discusses abused children in Israel and considers the abuser a “Rodef – pursuer” who must be stopped).

The desire not to report it in order to spare the perpetrator may derive from sincere motives, but one must first take pity on the helpless child. His fate comes before all else. In the Crisis Center for Religious Women, it is reported that there are more children who suffer from beatings and sexual abuse among the religious public than among the secular public. This is not because the religious are more violent, but because more often the religious public avoids reporting such incidents, and they make reports only when the matter go to extremes. Until then, the battered child suffers terrible harm.

It is important to note that there is only one situation in which one is exempt from reporting. If the perpetrator is aware of his problem, is willing to go for appropriate treatment, steadfastly shows up for treatment sessions, and the responsible authorities supervise this process, then the perpetrator is doing what he would be ordered to do anyway. In all other instances, without exception, there is an obligation to report abuse, and quickly. The child’s fate depends on us.

I recall a story in which I was personally involved. Someone saw his neighbor kick his small daughter in the head when she was lying on the floor. The man hesitated about whether or not to report what had occurred, when it was clear that he would pay for his deed with a fight with the neighbor. I ruled that he was obligated to report it, and immediately. During the talk it became clear to me that the person asking the question was a social worker. I had trouble believing this and I asked him, “How can it be that you, as a social worker, would ask me such a question?”

He did report what he had seen, and as he feared, he got into a fight with his neighbor, as well as with much of the neighborhood in which he lived, since the violent father incited them against him. I heard about that and I talked to him. I told him, “It will all be worth it. Think about the fact that you saved a Jewish life.”

Subsequent to that Psak, I asked him a number of questions. I reproduce the questions and answers below. Q is me, A is R’ Aviner.

Q: On what basis does one assume that the process outlined above, is indeed the process required by the law? Which law? In Australia there is a law of mandatory reporting which requires that professionals and para professionals, including teachers and Rabbis report alleged abuse to the police. Is R’ Aviner saying that in the case of someone who has previously committed a crime and is now under the care of a psychologist, as above, that one should ignore the law of the land and not report them to the authorities?
A: Good point.  This is according to the law in Israel.  One should follow the law if it is other wise.
Q: If we report someone to the authorities and they are convicted, and we know that there is every chance that the the abuser will be assaulted in the prison by fellow inmates (because inmates tend to target those who have abused children) is there a problem with doing so?
A: No.  We do not allow a child to be abused to save the abuser!
Q: Does a Rabbi have any more knowledge/authority on deciding whether a person is likely to abuse again, despite having treatment, given that all the research shows that offenders offend and re-offend, despite knowing that what they did was wrong?
A: Rabbis are generally in contact with specialists who guide them.
Q: Is it permissible for a community to effectively send away an offender to another country, and “warn” people in the other country that the person has offended, in order to protect the offender from a local prison sentence?
A: No.  Same as number 2.

What makes a Rabbi an expert on matters of abuse?

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the chief posek for the Charedi non Chassidic community, especially in Israel, issued the following ruling in 2004 in Yeshurun. The translation below is from Rabbi Dr Asher Lipner. The original question and answer is here.

BS”D Fast of the Tenth (Month) 5764

To my friend etc. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Cohen etc.

I received his letter in its time and was unable to respond until “a day on which scholars take a holiday.” The essence of the letter: one knows that someone is sexually abusing a boy or a girl in a manner in which we are incapable of stopping him from continuing his evil deeds, is it permissible to report such a matter to a government official?

This is the language of the Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, Spain, 1235-1310, one of the foremost authorities in Jewish law) in his Responsa, III no. 393, “It appears to me that if the witnesses are believed by the selected judges, [these judges] are permitted to impose a monetary fine or corporal punishment, all in accord with their evaluation; and this maintains society. Because if you will adjudicate based only on the laws established by the Torah, society will be destroyed… And, therefore, those judges who did this, if they saw that the situation required [such action] for communal welfare, they acted legally, and certainly when they have been authorized by the government (to impose such punishment)…”

From the words of the Rashba we learn that in matters that concern societal welfare the Sages of Israel of every generation have the authority to make fences (to extend their authority and decide matters according to their best judgment) and to stand in the breach, even without government authorization. And concerning that which the Rashba wrote in his novel insights to Baba Metzia (84b) implies that this is (based on) governmental authority: “If they say to him ‘Arrest him,’ and we are dealing in a case in which there are no witnesses or forewarning and in which there is no Sanhedrin (Supreme Court that has the authority to impose capital punishment) [and therefore according to strict Jewish law a Jewish Court cannot convict such a person], this case is different because they (the members of the Jewish Court) are agents of the king (government) and the king’s law allows for capital punishment even without witnesses and forewarning, in order to discipline the world…” Accordingly, in matters of societal welfare it is not necessary to receive prior governmental approval.

The permission to report (an abuser) to the government is when one is certain that he transgressed, in this there is benefit to society. However, when there is no substance or foundation [to the allegation] but merely a dimyon (presumption), if we would allow (reports to the government) not only is this not for societal welfare, but this is societal destruction. It is possible that [a student may make false allegations] because of some bitterness that the student holds against the teacher or for some meaningless presumption that causes a person to think that his death is better than life—through no fault of [the teacher]. I do not see any permission in the matter.

Yosef  Shalom Elyashiv

Rav Elyashiv’s willingness to permit cooperation with authorities diminishes when it comes to parental abuse of children. This has to do with the concern that the child will be removed from the parental home and given to a foster family that is either xtian or secular. “There is no doubt that this would harm the soul of the child, even if for a short while,” in such a situation, R’ Elyashiv stated that qualified Rabbis must be consulted in each case of parental abuse.

None of the above is new. What is new, however,  is the recent Charedi Agudas Yisrael pronouncement:

But at a panel discussion titled “Molestation Issues and Reporting: Current Halachic Thinking,” the panel’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, cautioned that Elyashiv never explained what constitutes “reasonable suspicion.” To establish this, Gottesman said, a person should consult a rabbi “who has experience in these issues” before going to secular authorities.

“If [the rabbi] thinks reasonable suspicion has been met, then you would be allowed to overcome mesirah and report,” said Gottesman, a board member of Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president, told the conference that even mandated reporters — teachers, social workers and people in certain other professions who are required by law to promptly report any suspected cases of sexual abuse — should consult a rabbi before going to the police.

This qualification by Agudas Yisrael brings us back to square one! In fact, it might be worse because even they acknowledge that nobody knows who the so-called qualified Rabbis are, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshivah University, who was originally involved in the ill-fated case involving the guilty Baruch Lanner stated:

“There is no decent justification why anybody in their right mind should think rabbis are qualified to make that judgment”

Indeed, check out this recent farcical case in Lakewood, where the Beis Din had to call a social worker to make the detemination and wasn’t even available to later hear what the social worker had unearthed!

Agudas Yisrael’s pronouncement has caused justifiable consternation (see also here).

Melbourne has its share of alleged predators, some of whom walk around in our community with impunity. Yes, it is true that in most cases victims will not formally go to a court of law and press charges. I am not here to judge them. However, I do have the following question, which is bothering me.

If I am a Rabbi, and I have undergone specialist training on abuse  and I have seen victims who have testified to me about crimes a Melbourne predator has allegedly committed, and I believe those victims but I cannot convince the victims to go to the police, would I do everything in my power to make sure that those alleged predators

  • are not given opportunities to address youth in our community
  • are not able to sit on boards of community organisations

Sadly, in our own Melbourne community, there are alleged predators who continue to speak to our youth in both formal and informal manners presenting as some sort of “expert” as well as alleged predators who continue to sit on the boards of community organisations. Should those people be encouraged to remove themselves from such positions? The predators need to seek help. They need to admit what they have done and be under a supervised treatment regimen. We must protect society in whatever way we can. Some of these predators masquerade as if they never perpetrated any crime.

Surely, if we can’t get victims to press charges, removing alleged predators from positions of power or influence is the least we can do to protect the vulnerable ones in society?

Rabbi Mark Dratch of JSafe is a source of inspiration.

as is Dr Asher Lipner

Perhaps it’s time to open up a Melbourne Chapter of JSafe?

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