Sunday, 19 October 2014

Voyeurism - Ancient Sin, New Crime



The charges against Rabbi Barry Freundel, a highly respected senior rabbi based in Washington DC, have resulted in shock throughout the Jewish world, and have also been widely reported in the regular non-Jewish media.

Rabbi Freundel is accused of voyeurism, specifically, videoing women in the showers of  a mikve located next door to his synagogue.

Voyeurism is an ancient sin, and a recent crime.

Peeping Tom was the boy who watched the legendary Lady Godiva ride naked on her horse through the streets of Coventry - and his name has entered the English language as a descriptive term for anyone who watches unwitting people for sexual gratification.  

Some voyeuristic behaviour is included as a mental disorder, paraphilia, under The American Psychiatric Association DSM-4 codification.

Voyeurism, as a practice rather than an illness, is reportedly incredibly common among the general population, with close to half of males admitting to having viewed non-consenting parties for their own gratification.

As far as the law is concerned, legislation defining voyeurism as a crime is generally very recent and, as crimes go, fairly minor. It is often considered as a public nuisance, rather than a sexual assault.    

In the UK, it was criminalized in 2004; only 9 Status in the USA currently list video voyeurism as an offense; in Canada, legislation against voyeurs was passed in 2005.

The defining case in the UK was R vs Turner (2006), and is parallel to the Rabbi Freundel charges. Mr Turner ran a sports club, where he placed hidden cameras in the showers. He viewed them himself, but did not distribute the imagery further. Turner was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.

Given all of the above, it may seem surprising that the Freundel cases has attracted so much media attention and public disgust.

If the Rabbi had been found to be, say, watching pornography (ie the other party was consensual), then he may have been highly embarrassed, perhaps even lost his job. However, there would have been no public outcry.

The shock is the combination of the fact that it was a women's mikva, a most private and sacred location and ritual, and Rabbi Freundel's position as a senior rabbi, including governing and conducting conversions to Judaism, of which immersion in the mikva is the defining moment of the conversion itself.

In the post-Tropper era, the combination of conversion into Judaism, and the sexual exploitation (in this case, voyeurism) of converting and therefore vulnerable women, is particularly harrowing, traumatic and shameful.

That the rabbi was allegedly cynically exploiting these most private, intimate and spiritual moments for his personal gratification, was a violation not solely of his rabbinic status, but of the mikve and all it symbolises - and a violation of Jewishness itself.

And most of all, it was an alleged violation of those unsuspecting, trusting women.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Aish Hatorah vs Yaakov Fetman - Good Causes Also Need Vigilance


Aish Hatorah World Center, Jerusalem
The list of Jewish good causes, which provided cover for crimes, just got longer.

When Bernie Madoff made off with billions of dollar of Jewish charitable funds, via a too-good-to-be-true investment scam, almost every Jewish good cause was forced to examine its assumptions of trust.

Madoff was an insider, who even sat on boards and investment committees of the same organizations he scammed.

He was also known for his personal philanthropy and generosity.

Madoff's scam victims included Yeshiva University, Hadassah (The Women's Zionist Group of America), Ellie Weisel Foundation, The Wunderkinderen Foundation (of Steven Spielberg), The Chaiss Family Foundation and numerous other leading Jewish non-profit and charitable organizations.  

Although Madoff was the largest defrauder of Jewish causes, by a long haul, indeed the largest scam by gentile standards also, he was not the first, nor the last person to take cynical advantage of Jewish good causes.

In the latest example, Yaakov Fetman has been accused by Aish Hatorah of stealing an estimated $20m from the yeshiva, during his 17 years as their trusted CFO. This was also the finding of a Beit Din/Arbitrator, headed by Rabbi Dovid Cohen.

In a court ruling of the Supreme Court, Kings County, issued on 29th September 2014, the arbitration was largely upheld, including the estimate arrived at by Rabbi Cohen of the amounts allegedly pilfered from Aish, by Fetman using various secret bank accounts, scams and illegally taking possession of seven properties allegedly belonging to Aish located in Brooklyn, NY.

Rabbi Greenman of Aish explained to the court:

"The final Award amount of $20,000,000 was based on the limited information we had in our possession which was presented at the Arbitration, which showed at least $2.4 million being stolen or diverted from Aish accounts, over the last six years, between 2007 and 2013, together with approximately $2.5 million in unauthorized and unverified credit card expenditures over the same period. The Arbitrator drew negative inferences against Respondent for his failure to produce documents as directed by the Rabbi's interim psak rulings, together with his failure, under Jewish Law, to account for the legal means with which he claims to have amassed his unexplained net worth, as presented to the Arbitrator, and extrapolated that amount over Fetman's full 17 years of employment at Aish." 
The court documents do not explain how Aish Hatorah, an organization with a vintage reputation for good works, professionalism and acting in the Jewish community's interest, took 17 years to catch on to the problem of the missing tens of millions and the ever-increasing net-worth of their CFO.

It is inevitable that senior executives, whether of commercial or non-profit enterprises, are in privileged and entrusted positions, and that they can therefore take advantage and abuse their authority.

Furthermore, practically, it can be extremely awkward for those around these entrusted figures to challenge them, by insisting upon oversight and supervision mechanisms which should avoid abuses of privilege.

The balance of power is invariably in the favour of the senior executive - and whistleblowing is often a high-risk option for those who may be aware of irregularities.

It is just this awkwardness that the unscrupulous can take cynical advantage of.

I have often had occasion to insist that gentlemanly understandings are nevertheless clearly and formally documented, and then been accused of not trusting the person involved. "Don't you trust me?".

This issue can be especially acute in a not-for-profit context, where people are naturally involved in a cause for altruistic reasons, and may even be perceived as saintly. What Rabbi Yanky Horowitz has termed "The Halo Effect".

In such an environment, cutting corners or crossing boundaries, may be considered as good-for-the-cause, and so excused or overlooked.

On the other hand, the resources in question are public - and therefore the need for accountability, transparency and oversight entirely trumps the trust-me card.

The need for rigorous oversight and systematic documentation does not carry with it a specific distrust of anyone.

As the expression goes "Trust AND Validate".

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

'UN human rights council is oxymoron' – Netanyahu to UNGA 2014 (FULL SPE...





The is the full Bibi Netanyau speech yesterday at the United Nations.



Bibi is by far Israel's most talented advocate.



I would even go so far to say that Bibi is one of the world's greatest political orators.



Take a seat, and relish classic Bibi!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Shanah Tova!




Wishing all readers of Tzedek-Tzedek a Shanah Tova Umetuka - A Sweet New Year!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Why People Cover-Up Abuse


While many of us struggle with understanding why any adult would sexually abuse a child, we also struggle with understanding why any other adults would want to cover up such a heinous crime.

The cover-up phenomenon is pandemic.

To cite a few high profile examples over the past couple of years:

Jimmy Savile, UK pop culture hero and saintly charity worker - who reportedly raised UKP 30m for charity. His abuses of children only became public after his death. Hundreds of victims have since come forward to present their horrific experiences to a board of national enquiry. The abuses happened in the children's hospitals where Saville volunteered, and even in his BBC changing rooms. Literally hundreds of victims have stepped forward since 2012; and it has become clear that hundreds more adults knew, including senior members of the BBC and staff at the children's hospitals, and all who stood by doing nothing to protect these children from Savile for sixty years.

Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky was the beloved and respected deputy football coach for Pen State under the celebrated Joe Paterno. Like Saville, Sandusky was also an exemplary volunteer and activist for children, founding the non-profit The Second Mile, which received presidential accolade from George WH Bush.

On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 charges of sexual abuse of young boys. Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison—at his age, effectively a life sentence.

A commissioned investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh issued a report which stated

"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, the Special Investigative Counsel finds that it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from authorities, the University's Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large".

Rotherham is a post-industrial city in Yorkshire, Northern England. In August this year, a report exposed that over 1400 (yes, one thousand four hundred) children had been systematically sexually abused in the town. These crimes were perpetrated by mainly Asian men, over a period of decades.

Along with the horror at the scope and nature of these crimes, there was also public outrage at the failure by authorities to act to stop the abuse. Prof Alexis Jay issued a damning report which included an account of the failures of the city and police authorities to act to prevent the crimes. 

The report said the "collective failures" of political and officer leadership were "blatant" over the first 12 years covered by the inquiry.


Senior managers within social care were said to have "underplayed" the scale and seriousness of the problem.
Police were said to have given CSE (child sexual abuse) no priority, regarding many child victims "with contempt" and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.
The report found that three other publications in 2002, 2003 and 2006 provided "stark evidence" to the police and council.
The first of these was suppressed, which the report said had led to suggestions of a cover-up, while the other two were ignored.
Staff were said to have believed the extent of CSE had been exaggerated, while some were "overwhelmed" by the numbers of cases involved.
The Catholic Church has become a by-word for sex abuse cover-up, due to repeating patterns of clergy who sexually abused children, and who were then protected by the Church hierarchy for decades. These scandals have rolled from Boston, USA, where the behaviour was first exposed in The Boston Globe in 2002, through dozens of other US locations, and then to Catholic communities throughout Europe, South America and Australia.

The Jewish community has also experienced increasing exposure of past child sex abuse cases, and the cover-up phenomena which have come to light parallels the behaviour in other cases, such as those above.
Many of these events have taken place in orthodox communities, which is a double-blow to the prestige and good names of these communities - the first is that these crimes existed in the most pious communities, and the second that the community leadership had often failed to side with the victims, rather denying, minimizing and covering-up the crimes.

One high profile case was in the Satmar Chasidic community in Williamsberg. Rabbi Nechemya Weberman operated there as an unqualified but highly trusted therapist.

When a lone girl stepped forward, claiming to have been sexually abused by Weberman, she and her family were ostracised, intimidated and offered a $500K bribe to shut-up. The campaign to protect Weberman and to out the victim culminated in a packed fundraising dinner by the community, ostensibly to pay Weberman's legal fees, but actually to raise the cash for the bribe money.

In January 2013, Nechemya Weberman was convicted on 59 counts of sexual molestation of the young girl whom he had been counseling. He was sentenced to a staggering 103 years in the state penitentiary.

This pattern has been thoroughly documented in a new book by Michael Lesher Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities

I offer the following explanation of the phenomenon of covering up child sexual abuse - which is a universal and dangerous problem.

All these cover-ups are happening within social groupings.

That social grouping may be a national broadcasting authority or a children's hospital; a football club or university; in the case of Rotherham, a whole city's authorities and social services; the vast and closely organized Catholic Church; and our own orthodox Jewish communities.

In order to better understand the phenomenon, I suggest one consider the smallest social unit: The Family.

Indeed, the most distressing child sexual abuse cases are those which take place within a family.

Imagine you are a mother. Your daughter divulges to you that your husband, her father, has been sexually abusing her.

The horrific range of response going through the mother's shell-shocked mind include:

I love my daughter, and I love my husband.
I don't, no CAN'T, believe my daughter;
I believe her partially, but she must be exaggerating;
Why might my daughter be lying about her father - perhaps there is a vendetta; maybe she's mentally ill;
Should I challenge my husband about it, or will that put me at risk of reprisals from him;
If I confront him, will he take revenge on my daughter;
Maybe if I don't challenge him, but make sure to take some physical measures to protect my daughter, then, he'll stop;
maybe he's hurt others of my children;
should I call the police, or social services;
but maybe they will only make things worse;
yes, they'll probably only make things worse;
what if word gets out that my husband has abused my daughter - we'll all be shamed and ostracised;
if this gets out, it is the end for our family - whether or not he did it, my family life, as I knew it, is finished.  
I have to tell my daughter to shut up; I'll sort it out quietly.

Communities are really very large families.

And all this plethora of responses play out in the football club, university, broadcasting authority, municipality, church or synagogue.

It is at this point that most governments around the world step in and compel responsible behaviour, through variations of mandatory reporting laws for child abuse.

Here in Israel EVERY ADULT is a mandated reporter, if they have reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused.

Responsible organizations also introduce and implement protocols which lay out the correct procedures to follow in the case of an allegation of abuse.

It is a tragic lesson, learned so many times in every community that, left to their own devices, responsible adults and community leaders will too often make the wrong choice.

To cover up, rather than expose and address, cases of abuse in their midst.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A New Year's Message - Listen To Your Child!

This is an important New Year's Message from Magenu, NY, who promote child protection.





UAE: Camel Jockey Slave Kids


This news report tells the horrific story of child slaves being used for camel racing in the UAE.

The richest men in the world, are pampering their $1m camels, while trading in young children at $500 each.


Monday, 15 September 2014

You Want Me To Say WHAT To My Teen?


MAGEN PRESENTS

YOU WANT ME TO SAY WHAT TO MY TEENS?!

A candid discussion for parents by

Dr. Yocheved Debow, noted author and lecturer


A Torah based perspective on discussing “difficult” topics with your TEENS, including:
-Fostering healthy body image and preventing eating disorders
-How to explain the facts of human reproduction
-Countering western perceptions in the media and social networking
-Understanding the Jewish approach to relationships between genders
- A fresh approach to Tzniut

MEN & WOMEN WELCOME

Tuesday, September 16, 2014  8:15 PM

Kehillat Ahava V’Simcha (Carlebach)  70 Nachal Dolev, Ramat Bet Shemesh

Donation: 20 NIS

MEN & WOMEN WELCOME

Friday, 12 September 2014

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

This Blog and The Meisels Seminaries



In view of the fact that Magen, a child protection and victims' advocacy organization which I established in 2010 and manage, is now actively assisting with the investigation of alleged abuse at the Meisels seminaries and other seminaries, I am planning to take a break from commenting about this specific case on Tzedek-Tzedek.

All information provided to Magen will be treated with absolute professional confidentiality under the law.

Call Magen or Police About Harassment or Abuse in Seminaries!


(Article by kind permission of Frum Follies
By Yerachmiel Lopin

Magen is an independent, non-profit, victims advocacy organization in Israel. Magen’s English-speaking staff are well acquainted with the seminaries culture. Magen is now working to assemble information about abuse of students at seminaries, in order to:
  • Advocate for and provide support to past victims
  • Develop  safety protocols & programs for seminaries to protect students in the future.
Magen has opened a file about the Meisels seminaries (in addition to others) and have already begun speaking to people who attended those seminaries.  Any information you could share might help them better protect students.
Information provided could also help support prosecution of abuse crimes.
In Israel it is illegal for a clergyman or educator to have sexual relations with students. Consent is not a defense against such charges. In addition, sexual assault are prosecutable under additional statutes.
If you have information about harassment or abuse of seminary students  (whether you experienced it or observed it, or have grounds to suspect it) contact:
Shana Aaronson
shoshana@magenprotects.org

02-9999.678 (press 1)
magenprotects.org
Any information shared will be kept in strict confidence.
I have dealt with Magen and I respect their professionalism, their strict standards for confidentiality,  and their commitment to victims/survivors. Their services are free, including legal consultations to assist in bringing cases to the police and public prosecutors.
If you were a victim of criminal acts by Meisels (or anyone else) in the US, please contact me (Yerachmiel Lopin) by one of the methods described on the upper right of my web page for advice about where to lodge complaints. Even if you think or know your abuse was outside the statute of limitations, the information you share can facilitate the  prosecution of similar crimes inflicted on others.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seminaries: Blessing-Dispensers & Diplomats

Although there's lots of scandal, smoke & mirrors, the facts of the seminaries case are reasonably straight forward.

1. Rabbi Elimelech Meisels is alleged to have had "unwanted touch of a sexual nature" with students at his seminaries.
2. This was investigated by the Chicago Beit Din (CBD) and the charges were substantiated to the Beit Din's satisfaction.
3. This is not disputed by the ad hoc private Israeli Beit Din (IBD), nor anyone else of standing.
4. Meisels was instructed to depart from the seminaries by the CBD, subsequently reinforced by the IBD.
5. The CBD also investigated and found sufficient basis to allegations that senior members of the staff were informed by victims of the alleged offenses by Meisels, that they had failed to act to protect the girls, and the CBD therefore declared the seminaries themselves, even in Meisels absence, to be still unsafe. There are more bad apples in the cart.
6. This was accepted by Touro and TI who withdrew their accreditation from the seminaries.
7. The IBD, apparently with no knowledge of the nature of the allegations themselves, interviewed some staff members,  and then publicly declared the staff to be all wonderful and therefore the seminaries entirely safe in Meisels absence.
8. The IBD effectively closed the emergency exits of the seminaries, by banning other seminaries from seeking out these students, and by seizing and refusing to refund the $8000 deposits.      

In spite of the numerous leaked documents, thousands of lines of blogging, and zillions of commentators... nothing substantive has changed since then.

On 2nd September, a new letter was published signed by 5 highly respected rabbonim from the USA. This was reportedly the result of heavy lobbying by Rabbi Shafran in the USA, the head of the IBD.



Please allow my indulgence, while I parse this short document.

No heading 
DM: this is not from an entity, such as an organization, Beit Din, or whatever.

We are pleased to hear
DM: this whole document is not a result of any investigation or any due diligence. The only fact is that "we have heard..."

from artzeinu hakedusha
DM: from a sheliach/emissary from the Holy Land, in this case Rav Shafran.

that Pninim, Chedvas Beis Yakov, Binas Beis Yakov, and Beis Yakov Keser Chaya seminaries 
DM: the four seminaries until lately controlled by he-who-shall-not-be-named, disgraced sex-abuser Elimelech Maisels

in Yerushalaim, Ir Hakodesh 
DM: There is only one Yerushalaim, and no need for the qualifier Ir Hakodesh. The double repetition of Kodesh (artzeinu hakedusha and ir hakodesh) may serve as a veil of sanctity to cover up the sordid nature of the events which went on in these seminaries.

are now under the auspices of new administration
DM: "New administration" is beyond the replacement of just the administrator, but rather the clearing out of the old administration, and replacement with new staff. There is no other source for this claim of a clean out of the allegedly corrupt administration of these seminaries, beyond this letter.

with an exemplary and well-accomplished mechaneches at its leadership
DM: This mechaneches is not named, nor the claims of her accomplishments etc verified. These things have been heard by the signatories from Rav Shafran. It is now known from other sources that this mystery mechanaches is a Rebbetzin Blimi Birnbaum.

Additionally a vaad rabbonim 
DM: a committee, not a Beit Din. Heaven knows, we don't need a third publicly warring Beit Din in this picture.
There is no mention of either the Chicago Beis Din, nor the Israeli Beis Din, in this document. This is a diplomatic sidestepping of all issues relating to the standing and findings of those Batei Din, or even whether these two Batei Din remain with any functions, or have been effectively sacked and replaced by this committee. The rabbinical equivalent of No Comment, Let's Move On.

of gedolei Torah, Gaonim 
DM: senior rabbis

Harav Moshe Hillel Hirsch shlita
DM: Bio here

Harav Yehoshua Eichenstein shlita
DM: More info about Rav Eichenstein here

and Harav Asher Weiss shlita
DM: I believe this is he: HaRav Asher Weiss, Av Beis Din Darchei Horaha and Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah.

has been appointed 
DM: Not by these signatories, but by unknown parties

to oversee the seminaries and establish rules and guidelines
DM: This was the part of the job description of the IBD. The IBD have apparently been sacked/replaced in this regard. See Paragraph 3 herein:


as needed
DM: Given Rav Meisels behaviour, and the alleged cover-up and enablement by senior members of staff, "as needed" is very diplomatic understatement.

We are therefore confident
DM: because we believe that Rav Shafran is a reliable shaliach of this information.

that with the help of Hashem
DM: Not so confident in the rest of us.

these seminaries and their staff of mechanchot 
DM: mechanchot is female. There is no reference here to still very problematic mechanchim.

will continue
DM: More of the (dismal) same. No hopes for better results in the future, than the disaster of the the recent past

to guide and educate bnos yisrael in the ways of Torah and Spiritual Accomplishment with yiras Shamayim and in keeping with our holy masora.
DM: Here's hoping.

Hashem should bless them with everything good.
DM: them, the staff. Minority opinion, the students.

We convey
DM: through the shaliach, Rav Shafran, although he seems to be carrying back his own termination notice.

to them
DM: them, the staff. Minority opinion, the students.

herein
DM: this letter is not a public statement, but rather a good wishes letter to the staff of the seminaries

our sincere blessings
DM: more blessings

for a Blessed New Year
DM: it's a New Years Card.

Signed: Rav Levin from Telz of Chicago, Rav Aharon Feldman of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel, Rav Aharon Schecter of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, Rav Malkiel Kotler or Lakewood and Rav Yaakov Perlow 
DM: These five rabbonim include Rav Feldman, who was a disappointed & humiliated go-between for the CBD/IBD, and Rav Levin who is the fourth member of the CBD, who excused himself from active involvement in this case due to conflict of interests. Although the other three signatories may have signed me-too, these two rabbonim certainly understood the facts of this case.

Conclusion: Although this letter was greeted by the IBD spokesman Rabbi Eidensohn on his blog as an endorsement of the IBD and a declaration that the seminaries are safe, this is not born out by the document itself.

This letter basically says: we've heard things are changing, Heaven and three more supervising rabbis should protect everyone, best of luck to the staff, and a Happy New Year...

There has still been no external professional investigation of what went wrong at the seminaries, disciplinary action against any enablers, including reporting onwards to the police.

How can they begin to clear up the house, when they don't know where the dirt is.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Include-In Disabled Kids with Zippers!




Richard Kligman has launched a great campaign to encourage inclusion of kids with disabilities - Zip-Up for Special Needs Kids: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kligman/zip-up-for-special-needs

I encourage you to support this creative and important cause!!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lema'an Achai Receives Presidential Recognition for Operation Protective Edge

Avrohom Leventhal, Executive Director of Lema'an Achai, receives prize from President Rivlin

The Beit Shemesh non-profit organization Lema'an Achai received an honour from Israeli president Ruby Rivlin and Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul this week, for the organization's role in providing civilian support during Operation Protective Edge.

During the 50 days of war in the South and Center of Israel, Lema'an Achai provided substantial aid to IDF soldiers and southern population. This was focused on short term aid - and a longer term rehabilitation project has also been launched.

Lema'an Achai delivered over 280,000 NIS worth of equipment which was requested by specific army units in Gaza. These included:

5000 x Field Cellphone Rechargers
1300 x Army Issue Wearable Water Containers
400 x Army Issue Headlamps
7500 x Socks and Underwear
1000 x Packs of Moist Wipes
250 x Personal Hygiene Packs

These were provided directly to units of Combat Engineers and Infantry, according tho their specific requirements and needs.

In addition, on the Home Front, Lema'an Achai:

* funded families from Netivot, Ofakim and Sderot to take respite trips to quieter areas of the country,
* arranged a Fun Day for around 50 southern residents.
* arranged temporary accommodation for 11 families in Beit Shemesh
* provided food + clothes for 35 additional southern residents.

Lema'an Achai also joined forces with Magen (Child Protection) and Ligdol VeLifroach - Mercaz Rakefet (Child Development) to provide a War-Time Support Line (in English), a 24/6 counseling service for English speakers in Israel who are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or are simply seeking information regarding the war.

Unfortunately, the impact of this conflict upon the residents of the South will also require considerable support longer term.

Lema'an Achai has therefore established a free dental program with a new clinic in Sderot, together with a new social services office, to provide support and counseling for southern residents impacted by the war.

Lema'an Achai has received awards for their assistance in other national crises and conflicts, including 2008/9 Operation Cast Lead and 2012 operation Pillar of Defense; Magen also assisted thousands of evacuees from Gush Katif in 2007-2010.

Lema'an Achai is a local Beit Shemesh organization, which provides rehabilitation and assistance for families in poverty. In times of national need, Lema'an Achai has increased its reach, to provide aid for those who have been effected throughout Israel.

You can support Lema'an Achai here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Shame on You, My Friend

Rabbi Daniel Edensohn
Daas Torah blog
Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, Daat Torah
[This was originally posted as a comment on R.Daniel Eidensohn's Daat Torah blog posting, "Seminary Scandal: A Rambling and Misleading Slander by David Morris",  in response to my article "Meisels Victims"] 
Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,
I read your response to my post of Friday [8/22/14] with… profound sadness that a distinguished person who has done so much to make the world a safer place for children and all types of abuse victims, should forget all he learned, and all he wrote, and all we learned from him.
Many people who have had great respect for you have watched in the last two months as you have chosen to wage a truly bizarre campaign with only one obvious goal – participating in the minimizing, whitewash and cover-up of a painful scandal.
There is no need to rehash all the charges and counter-charges. Suffice it to say you have chosen to minimize, distract and obfuscate about an abuser and those who enabled him – you have put the wherewithal of the institutions and of three rabbonim, above the safety of the students.
I need to have no details beyond what was made public in statements by a reputable BD [Beis Din, i.e., rabbinic court]. The perpetrator engaged in conduct which included unwanted contact of a sexual nature. That is all that was said. No other details were released to the public, including, despite your requests, to your blog.
The BD also indicated that the activity in question should have warranted action by Senior faculty members,and some “failed in their responsibility to their students.” That is all I need to know.
Every one in the field considers these statements by the CBD [Chicago Beis Din] a courageous act.
Yet you have decided to orchestrate a classical "attack the victim,” “protect the institution,” “circle the wagons and shoot at anything that moves” scheme using all the time-honored techniques. Alleging they claimed Meisels had raped 40 people. I did not see that. Alleging there were no Victims. That cannot be true. Alleging none of this can be serious because the Victims have not gone to the police. As if all Charedi [ultra-orthodox Jewish] victims who live overseas normally travel to Israel to report to the police.
In short you are orchestrating a tired old scheme. You detail these schemes in the pages of your own book. These schemes, it must be said, have worked in the past. They may even work now. Yet you have decided to orchestrate a classical ‘attack the victim,” “protect the institution,” “circle the wagons and shoot at anything that moves” scheme using all the time-honored techniques. Alleging they claimed Meisels had raped 40 people. I did not see that. Alleging there were no Victims. That cannot be true. Alleging none of this can be serious because the Victims have not gone to the police. As if all Charedi [ultra-orthodox Jewish] victims who live overseas normally travel to Israel to report to the police.
Shame on you, my friend, for participating in the undoing of your lifetime’s work.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Meisels Victims


Full Disclosure: As Tzedek-Tzedek readers will be aware, I established and run Magen. I initiated the organization as a responsible & professional response to child/sex abuse cases, particularly in the frum community.  
-----------

Yesterday, I attended the grim and tragic funeral of Corporal Dave Gordon z"l.

Dave was a child sex abuse victim, who bravely stepped forward and spoke out publicly, advocating for other victims to also come forward. Dave volunteered his available time to Magen, to help in promoting this cause and protecting other children from being victimized and abused.

In Dave's case, the damage of the molestation he suffered as a child, played out tragically, even in this 21 year old, heroic, served-in-Gaza, IDF soldier.

The psychological trauma sex-abuse victims endured and often continue to endure for years and even decades, cannot be understated, minimized or overlooked.

As many are now aware, there is an extended blog-war (now officially declared a war of attrition) about Elimelech Meisels and the allegations that he sexually abused his seminary students; and the secondary allegations that, even in Meisels absence, the seminaries are still not safe due to the complicity and/or negligence of members of the staff who are still in positions of authority.

Much of the blog wars have focused on the jurisdictions of the two Batei Din involved - the Chicago Beit Din and the Israeli Bet Din. The question being addressed: Who has the authority to posken/rule?

This whole jurisdiction squabble is simply a calculated tactic by the IBD of blowing smoke in the public's eyes. Frankly, who cares?

Instead, the primary concern must be the process of healing & justice for the victims, and assuring the safety of the girls enrolled/attending these seminaries.

It is the sad fact that 90% of sex abuse victims do not step forward to report the crimes against them.

Most of Meisels' victims, by the nature of these crimes, are still unknown.

These victims are/were impressionable girls who were cynically taken advantage of and abused by a pop-star seminary mogul, and are now beset with fear, misplaced guilt-feelings, embarrassment, anger, bewilderment, doubts of faith, confusion, periods of depression...

The IBD has now stated through their proxy R.Daniel Eidensohn that, after over two months of them leaking and squabbling in the public eye, the IBD have apparently woken up and noticed there are real victims involved:

Anyone who has information of any type should contact either Rabbi Malinowitz (phone number) or Rabbi Gartner(I will try and get his number). However it is important to realize  that all they will do over the phone is to take your name and number and  which school this is about. They will then contact you about coming to the next Bais Din session.

It was explained that they will not accept testimony over the phone to one Dayan and in  most cases require the accused present (because they are a beis din not a lynch mob). 

From the point of view of a victim, this short message contains three acts of intimidation:

1. After you have the tremendous courage to pick up that phone and call the IBD, you will not be heard. You will, in effect, take-a-number.

2. You will only be heard by a (leaky) Beit Din, in Israel, in full session, including Meisels or other staff members who are alleged to have done a wrong-doing.

3. The expression "not a lynch mob" is referring to the accused not being "lynched".

This is small comfort for the victims, who are being implicitly warned they will be subjected to facing off publicly against their perpetrator or his enablers, aggressively cross-questioned and other intimidating tactics by the Beit Din, and will potentially not be believed, in the name of being fair to (not "lynching") the accused.

This level of frightening rhetoric (who's talking here about lynching anyone??), in the name of a Beit Din, is guaranteed to frighten away a victim.

In addition, I know Rav Malinowitz from close up.

He is a fine torah scholar; gets involved in fracases for his kicks; and unfortunately has the bedside manner of a pathologist.

If any of Meisels victims are reading this article, in the current circumstances I recommend you do not contact the IBD.

If you are seeking confidential counsel and advice, you should turn to an independent victims advocacy organization.

Magen is an independent, non-profit, sex-abuse victims support and advocacy organization, based in Israel, with an in-depth understanding of the US/Israel seminary culture.

If you are a victim of Elimelech Meisels, or witnessed or experienced any other abuse/grooming as a seminary student, you can contact/speak in confidence with Shana or Ruty: shoshana@magenprotects.org; ruty@magenprotects.org, or call Magen's 24/6 hotline +972-2-9999.678 (then press 1).
  
There are also other fine (non-Jewish) victims support and advocacy organizations in the USA. (Specific suggestions/recommendations welcome).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Dave Gordon z"l

Dave Gordon z"l in action with Givati Brigade
David Gordon z"l volunteered his time and many talents to "Magen", the child protection organization in Israel. 
If you would also like to support Magen's work, you are warmly invited to donate to Magen in David's memory: http://magenprotects.org/donate/


------

Dave Gordon went missing this week from the IDF and was found dead today, with his weapon at his side.

As soon as he made Aliya from Detroit, alone, at 21, Dave contacted Magen, the Child Protection Organization based in Beit Shemesh, Israel.

Dave introduced himself as a survivor of child abuse, who now wanted to help others who had suffered similar trauma, and to also raise awareness about the scourge of abuse, in order to prevent further children from being hurt.

Dave's path of coming to terms with his past, and channeling his personal creative talents towards child protection, culminated in a remarkable article he wrote in the Huffington Post, "Why I'm Choosing Leadership Over Privacy".

Dave describes the multiple acts of abuse he suffered as a child, particularly over a period of his life between 8-11. There were several perpetrators of whom four were from his Jewish community.Dave writes about how he divulged his secrets to local rabbis in Detroit, and his disappointment in their response.

Dave concluded his article:

This must stop! If we keep sweeping our problems under the rug we will eventually trip over them. The time has come for us to stand up for ourselves, our children and our communities. It's time to sacrifice the comfort of not tackling serious issues that are awkward and embarrassing and focus on the dignity of human life. If I can have a voice you can too. Take a stand and be a real leader. Blush for a few moments so others don't have to bleed.


One reason why victims of abuse are also called survivors is because so many don't make it. So many are too ashamed to reach out and frequently fall into depression, violence, addiction and ultimately into death's arms. But we can be brave and stand up for what we know is right. Together our voices can be louder than ever. I know that I alone cannot change the world, but together we can make a difference.
When Dave contacted Magen to volunteer, the organization saw Dave's talent for writing, social media - and his deep-set passion for justice and for child protection.

Dave set up a website for Magen, established & promoted media relations, and also helped with specific child protection cases. For example, as a result of Dave's intervention, a known perpetrator was blocked by Magen from continuing his work in an orthodox summer camp for hundreds of kids in the USA.

When Dave was accepted in the IDF, he temporarily excused himself from taking on further projects with Magen: "Sorry I have been out of touch things - have been quite hectic in the army!"

For Dave, entering the IDF with the prestigious Givati Brigade, completing his grueling combat training, and doing active service in the Operation Protective Edge, was a culmination of Dave's recuperation and rejuvenation. In a last message on his Facebook page, Dave wrote: "unbelievably overwhelmed, not from this mission but from the support and messages of encouragement from family, friends and strangers. I am OK and I've never felt more loved. Thank you all!"

Dave was a deeply  pained, embattled & courageous abuse victim; an eloquent and passionate child protection advocate; and a proud & heroic soldier in the IDF. 

Veyehi zichro baruch - his memory should be for a blessing. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Israelis Now Heard of Bradford


Recent outrageously Israelophobic statement by George Galloway, MP for Bradford, have put Bradford on Israel's map.

Galloway is a an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic bigot, who heads the pro-Hamas group Viva Palestina, who recently declared Bradford an "Israel-free zone". Rather too close for comfort to the German expression Juden-rein.

"We don't want any Israeli goods; we don't want and Israel services; we don't wants any Israeli academics...We don't even want any Israeli tourists...!" tiraded Galloway, with a backcloth of the Palestinian flag.

Israelis have never heard of Bradford. Which is not surprising, as it's a post-industrial backwater of West Yorkshire, once known for it's smokey mills and textiles industry, and is now known for...umm, not much.

Actually, my father was born and raised in Bradford - a true Bradfordian. At the time there was a significant Jewish community, many of whom we involved in the textile industry there. There is still a Reform synagogue; the Orthodox shul closed its doors just this year.

Bradford has the highest non-white population in the UK, fully 30% of the population.

Dusting off their maps of Yorkshire, a small group of Israelis decided to infiltrate Bradford, the Galloway-declared Israel-Free Zone.

The results are pretty funny...

Among an otherwise welcoming, and somewhat perplexed public, they managed to find one Galloway loyalist, who refused to accept the Bamba she was offered.




Monday, 11 August 2014

The Meisels Seminaries - The Letter Never Written


THIS LETTER WAS NOT WRITTEN NOR SENT OUT BY PNIMIM, BINAS BAIS YAKOV, CHEDVAS BAIS YAAKOV OR KESER CHAYA SEMINARIES.


However, if it had been, I believe this situation would be far better today, than it is. 

See previous postings here on Tzedek-Tzedek, Frum Follies (in the CBD corner), Daat Torah (in the IBD corner) and other fine blogs. 

This is a suggested model for such situations in the future. 

You are invited to suggest improvements either on-line or by email to me offline.

I believe that such a letter would have promoted safety and responsibility, in a way which would have given the parents the confidence they need and are entitled to that these Seminaries will be safer for their daughters in the future, than they were in the past.    
-----

Date of Letter: [Within One Week of the Seminaries becoming aware of the Chicago Beit Din’s investigation and findings].

To our staff, students and parents,

We are writing to you in the most regretful circumstances in a timely fashion in order to put you all in the picture, in the interests of the safety of our students, and transparency & accountability before the parents.

We have just been informed by the special Chicago Beis Din (CBD) that the founder and proprietor of our seminaries, Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, has been investigated by the CBD, further to complaints the Beis Din received from pupils of the seminaries. These complaints concerned serious allegations of unwanted sexual contact by Rabbi Meisels.

As a result of the investigation, the CBD has made this announcement:

   

We first wish to share our deepest regret & sincere grief should any of our staff have participated, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly in any abuse. We feel the pain of the alleged victims and we feel proud that these girls have had the courage to step forward in order to protect others girls.

We reach out and strongly encourage others who have endured any kind of abuse, or were witnesses to the same, during their time at our seminaries, to take this step also.

As a result of this CBD announcement, we have immediately taken the following steps:

1. Regretfully, we have discovered that there is and never has been a Seminary Protocol Concerning Abuse Prevention & Reporting in any of our seminaries. We have therefore referred this important matter of omission to Such & Such Organization, which is an independent non-profit agency and they will establish these protocols in all our seminaries. The S&SO will be acting under The Committee (see below). Deadline for implementation: 15th August, 2014.

2. In the absence of this protocol, we have formed an independent expert committee (“the Committee”) consisting of Rabbi X, Social Worker Y, and Lawyer Z.

This committee has been vetted by both the CBD, the Israeli Beit Din (IBD) referred to in the CBD’s declaration and Such & Such Organization; they have concluded that the individuals and collectively the Committee is of the highest professional and ethical reputation and can be relied upon to be independent and to protect the safety & confidentiality of anyone who refers to them.

The committee’s contact details are: XXXX

In light of the Committee’s immediate advice and instruction:

3. Rabbi Meisels has been requested by the Committee and has committed to take immediate leave of absence and will only return to a role in the seminaries in future in the event that he is entirely vindicated of wrong-doing. Rabbi Meisels has agreed to have no further contact, immediately and until further notice, with anyone associated with the seminaries, including governors, staff, pupils and parents. (For administrative purposes Rabbi Meisels will communicate via the IBD).

4. Any other member of staff who is suspected of participation, collusion or turning a blind eye to abusive behaviour will be placed on immediate leave, pending conclusion of the investigation.

5. The Committee has contacted the Israeli police to brief them, with a view to the police investigating and addressing any aspects of this case which are or could be criminal by nature. We strongly encourage anyone with information which may be helpful to this police inquiry to contact: Detective Plonit (who is a female investigator,experienced with crimes of this nature) contact details XXXXX.

If you are in doubt as to whether the information you possess is significant in this context, you may contact The Committee for their expert confidential advice and counsel.

6. Regarding issues of finance (dinei mamon/civil) in Israel, the IBD has graciously made themselves available to accept and judge claims either presented jointly or separately; the IBD will be operating officially as Arbitrators. The IBD has given assurances that they are impartial and will deliver their judgments, according to halacha and which will also be legally binding upon the parties, and in a timely fashion.

IBD contact details:

7. Regarding issues of financial damages (dinei mamon) in the USA, the above is true for the CBD.

CBD contact details.

These are the steps which have been taken in immediate response to to the declaration of the CBD.

Enrollment for Next Academic Year: Moving forward, our objective is to ascertain that the schools will be safe, beyond all doubt, for you (our pupils) and your daughters in the coming academic year, commencing 1st September 2014.

We understand that you have legitimate concerns about whether your daughters should attend our seminaries in the coming year, and we will make every effort to address these concerns in our ongoing communications.

You are invited to discuss these concerns with the Committee by email or by phone (Committee contact details and hours of availability)

We fully understand if you chose to find alternative educational institutions for your daughters for next year, as is your right, and we will be entirely helpful in this regard.

If you wish to apply for a refund of your deposits, please contact the CBD (for those who paid the Pnimim USA non-profit) or IBD (for those who paid Israeli Amuta). An application form for refunds is available on the website: www.xyz.org) The Batei Din have indicated a response time of approximately two weeks to respond to your request. You may may submit applications until 15th August for your deposit to be returned.

Summary: These are the allocation of responsibilities.

a. The Committee - professional issues relating to the alleged abuse

b. Israeli Beit Din (IBD) - financial issues (dinei mamon) in Israel

c. Special Chicago Beit Din (CBD) - financial issues (dinei mamon) in the USA

d. The Police (Israel) - criminal issues in Israel

e. The Minhalim - implementation

We are making every effort in these extraordinary and regretful circumstances to prioritize the uncompromised safety of our students, particularly for the coming academic year and ongoing, and we would appreciate your expression of confidence by continuing the enrollment process for 2014/15.

We will report our next steps on a scheduled bi-weekly basis. (In the case we have further urgent information to relay, we will contact you whenever required).

Once again, we express our deepest pain and sincere support for any student who may have suffered inappropriate behaviour while a student in our seminaries.

Yours sincerely


Signed:  Four Principals
             Representative of CBD
             Representative of IBD
             Representative of The Committee.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Class Suit Filed Against Seminary & Beit Din Heads






A class suit filing was submitted this week to the District Court for the Northern District of Illinios which accuses disgraced Rabbi Elimelech Meisels,  his sister Rachel Slanger, Yakov Yarmish and Bet Din Dayan Rabbi Zvi Gartner of conspiring to defraud parents out of thousands of dollars in tuition fees and withheld deposits. The four Meisels seminaries (Pnimim, Hemdas, Binas and Keser Chaya) are also identified as defendants.

The plaintiffs names have been omitted from the head of the published document, but are assumed to be parents of girls who attended the seminaries or are now enrolled.

The filing details a gruesome tale of how Meisels and others lured parents and students into their seminaries under false pretenses of ultra-orthodox standards of behaviour, and then Meisels groomed and sexually assaulted the girls, subsequently threatening & intimidating the victims into silence.

"This, it turned out, was a big fraud. It was all part of a scheme whereby Defendant Meisels and his co-conspirators would induce young girls to travel thousands of miles away from home under the guise of Jewish education only to forcibly engage them in various sexual acts and take their money in the process. 

"Defendant Meisels, like many other sexual predators, preyed on the vulnerable. He did this by developing mentor-mentee relationships with girls and exploiting these relationships to lure the girls into late night coffee meetings and other private settings and then sexually assaulted them. 

"Once the sexual assaults were complete, upon information and belief, Defendant Meisels would intimidate his victims by telling them that no one would believe that a rabbi and author with his reputation would have done such a thing. 

"Moreover, upon information and belief, Defendant Meisels would threaten his victims that if they shared their story with anyone, he would draw on his vast contacts within the Shidduch system to ruin their reputations and ensure that no viable candidate would want to take their hand in marriage."

The filing also describes how the scheme and assaults were exposed by the Chicago Beit Din, following which the Israeli Beit Din (Rabbi Zvi Gartner is named; there are also "unnamed co-conspirators", which I understand to mean Rabbi Shafran and Rabbi Malinowitz) concocted a sham "sale" of the seminaries to Yakov Yarmish, hastily and irresponsibly declared the seminaries checked & safe for students, and tried to place a ban upon other seminaries accepting the trapped students.

Distressed parents of enrolled girls requested their deposits back and were given the run-around, apparently by design & conspiracy, by Yarmish and Rabbi Gartner.

Seven different charges are laid out against the defendants:

* CIVIL RACKETEERING INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS (“RICO”) ACT
* COMMON LAW FRAUD
* BREACH OF CONTRACT
* INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS
* CONVERSION (a fancy way of saying stealing)
* CIVIL CONSPIRACY
* RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR (this is a term which covers an employer being responsible for acts of the employee, as the employers agent).

The suit asks for class-suit status (ie representative of many or all the other girls and parents), a jury trial and financial damages.

This class suit is the beginning of the closing chapter on the Israeli Beit Din's (IBD) systematic endeavours to hush the allegations up; quietly move Meisels out of public view through a "sale" of the assets; and to continue the seminaries, business as usual. All this while the IBD systematically bullied and intimidated parents, students, bloggers(!), lawyers, competing seminaries, Rabbi Aaron Feldman and the whole Chicago Beit Din, through the IBD's dogmatic and increasingly shrill quasi-halachik declarations and denunciations.

The wheels of the justice system are starting to turn, as the parents are mobilising to protect their daughters and their money, from allegedly unscrupulous and corrupt hands.