Monday, January 4, 2010

Sex offenders II - Treatment in Chareidi Society

Haaretz reports: This is the English version of a Hebrew article posted before

Around five years ago, Rabbi Yehuda Silman, a dayan (rabbinical court judge) in Bnei Brak court, approached Doron Agasi, a religious social worker, and asked for assistance in dealing with sex offenders. The request seemed like a call for help and Agasi, the principal of a boarding school for children-at-risk in Bnei Brak was acquainted with the problem first-hand. He proposed treating the offenders. He recalled the youth probation office's success with group therapy, which was offered as an alternative to imprisonment to youths who were sex offenders.

The proposal fell on open ears. The principle behind this method - that offenders are not removed from the community, that is, sent to jail, and no police file on them is opened - seemed like a solution that the ultra-Orthodox leadership could live with in peace.

That is how, with the full backing of rabbis, Agasi founded the Shlom Banayich (welfare of your sons) association for children-at-risk. Behind the somewhat vague name stood the first clear-cut social program to expose the dimensions of sex offenses in the ultra-Orthodox sector and treat it. Violence against a sexual backdrop raises unbearable questions in a society that prides itself on its moral superiority. It seems that a professional like Agasi, who belongs to the Hardal (abbreviation for Haredi-Leumi, or ultra-Orthodox nationalist) stream and is well-acquainted with the ultra-Orthodox and secular worlds, was needed in order to achieve a breakthrough. With his yeshiva-student like appearance - without the sneakers and the large crochet skullcap - he might have looked like an average ultra-Orthodox man, and his sensitivity generated a lot of trust. He basically worked as an intermediary between the ultra-Orthodox community and Dr. Talia Etgar, an expert in treating sex offenders at the Elem Association for at-risk youth.

Last week saw the end of the first course of its kind - for ultra-Orthodox therapists - in group therapy for offenders. The course was the initiative of Shlom Banayich in collaboration with Elem. The association with Elem came about after five years of fruitless contacts with the Probation Service and endless entanglements in the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Half of the funding for the course was finally obtained from a contribution (from the high-tech company, Check Point); the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs agreed to fill in the rest.

Thirteen therapists took the six-month course. Soon they will begin their practical work: every pair of therapists will spend a year and a half working with a group of five boys. The treatment is based on having the offender confront his responsibility and educating him about sexual behavior that is appropriate to the codes of ultra-Orthodox society. The group framework is meant to provide support and teach the participants to have mutual respect for others.

The potential participants in the group are ultra-Orthodox boys who are being monitored by the Youth Probation Service or those who are not obligated to check in with a probation officer (cases that are not included for various reasons in Amendment 26 of the criminal code). Working with them is dependent on the cooperation of the welfare officer and the rabbis. Every case is first reviewed by Elem's Center for Sexual Violence and then undergoes a risk evaluation, after which the boys are divided into groups.

The deterrent factor, according to Agasi, is the alternative: the boys know that if they don't take part in the group, a police file on them will be opened and they will be sent to jail. [...]


  1. If you follow the blog "my sick and ugly story", you will see that this option (punishment withheld if offender takes treatment) is not really helpful for the victim either.

    In the case described in this blog, the victim has to suffer in silence so that nothing will transpire, so that the perpetrator can go on with his life as if nothing happened (except that he goes to therapy, but he does not even disclose to his wife why he does)...

  2. In the case described in this blog, the victim has to suffer in silence so that nothing will transpire, so that the perpetrator can go on with his life as if nothing happened (except that he goes to therapy, but he does not even disclose to his wife why he does)...
    you have raised a good point as to the impact of this on the victim.

    But it is not unsual that the victim in fact does not want the details of his/her degredation be publicized. Does not want to participalte in the ordeal of testifying at a trial

    I am not sure why you say why you say the victim suffers in silence. The question was whether the perpetrator is arrested and goes to jail after being tried. The victim can talk to anyone he thinks it is important to talk with about the subject.

    The clear question is if the victim insists on having the perpetrator punished or feels that the desptie treatment the perpetrator will endanger others and he/she therefore files a police report. Having Rav Silman or any other Rav being the absolute judge of this matter and all other views are rejected does raise serious questions.

  3. Many American victims suffer in silence because the Agudah machs them aveck like worthless pieces of garbage.

    Spokesman Avi Shafran has not only never shown an iota of sympathy whenever he speaks on this matter but he hurls insults at them and accuses them of creating "tawdry tales". Or The Novominsker gets up at the annual dinner to say no one should whimper a word of protest and leave things up to his infallible daas Torah. This is the same rebbe who refused to do anything about Kolko, citing that the abuse was a few city blocks outside his jurisdiction of Boro Park.

  4. "I am not sure why you say why you say the victim suffers in silence."

    Read the blog.

    Apparently, the family decided that therapy was enough and did not want to compromise the "shidduch prospects" of the perpetrator, who also belongs to the family.
    And apparently the victim did not want to go against this decision of her parents, who are otherwise supportive.

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  6. A one size fits all therapy for sex offenders does not work, of course. There are varying degrees of pathologies- sex offenders for example, are rarely if ever, sex offenders only. They come with all kinds of baggage in addition to their sexual dysfunctions.

    Therapy designed for charedim is a good idea, but it is by no means a sure thing. Appropriately discussing sexual tyvos is one thing but addressing other underlying issues may a require very different approach. The balance is a difficult one to achieve.

    There is another issue that cannot be swept under the rug. The community will accept therapy as long as it is for yenem. For themselves or family, acknowledging therapy is taboo. Why? Because therapy (of any kind) is a 'black mark' that will affect shiduchim, not only for the individual but for the immediate family and the extended family, often for more than a generation. We live in an era where accepting a rich felon in the family is more acceptable than having someone who may have experienced temporary depression be related to us by marriage.

    This unspoken truth undermines pretty much all efforts to bring effective therapy into the charedi world. The effects of that truth cannot be overstated. In addition, all too often 'successful' therapy is measured by how 'frum' the yochid appears. If external behavior is acceptable, all is well and no more therapy is needed. The 'unfortunate' events can be swept under the rug- and don't believe for one minute that charedi patients don't know that and use that to manipulate others.

    Sadly, no matter what the rabbonim might say at this point, it is too little, too late.

    As a matter of clarification, this kind of therapy is not in my area of expertise. That said, there are certain universal truths when dealing with dysfunction.

    The frum world has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with mental health issues as it related to both patients and therapists.

  7. Frum Therapist - PART ONEJanuary 5, 2010 at 1:15 AM

    Ohel's disgraced and disbanded treatment program was precisely like Rav Silman's designed as an "alternative" way to solve the abuse problem, "specialized" to frum "sensitivities", implying that the obligation to protect children from a frum molester is somehow different in halacha than protecting from molestation by a goy.

    (Other examples of this distinction, in which the privilege to rape our children is reserved only to frum Jews, especially rabbanim, include Assemblyman Hikind's office offering a reward for information on a goy who raped a girl in Boro Park, but offering "nada" for those he supposedly is "encouraging to come forward” about Jewish molesters. The Agudah in Baltimore posts pictures of convicted sex offenders living in the neighborhood to warn parents, but hides the identity of the frum ones)

    Rather than reaching out to victims to publicize the serial molesters, reporting molesters to the police, setting up safety protocols in schools, or doing any of the things that secular society is trying to do to protect its children, Ohel, guided by "Daas Torah" (read corrupt and spineless rabbis) decided to quietly "treat" the molesters.

    One case that blew the whistle on the utter failure of this approach was that of now convicted serial molester Stephan Colmer. As accurately reported in the Jewish Week, and never denied by Ohel, rabbanim from the Mir had referred Colmer for therapy.

    However, the so-called deterrent factor claimed by Rav Silman is a "chucha v'tlula", a total joke. Of course Colmer knew that when he dropped out of therapy neither the rabbis nor Ohel would inform the police. After all Rav Ginsberg, the Rosh Kollel had told the victims to “forget about it”. Indeed, Reb Shmuel Birnbaum had said that Colmer did not need psychological treatment anymore, but only "Torah therapy" and invited him to learn in the beis medrash where he gained access and the trust of more teen age boys.

    As could be expected, Colmer indeed dropped out, went on to molest more boys and only after Rabbi Eisenman of Passaic publicly told victims to go to the police was he arrested in Israel and extradited and jailed here in New York.

    Experts in sex offender treatment at Ohel have said that the only molesters "helped" at all were those who had gone before a judge and knew that if they did not comply with the court's mandated treatment and safety plan they would automatically go to jail. But when a molester knows that his fate is in the hands of a rabbi, he feels quite secure in the awareness of countless molesters being tolerated by rabbis.

  8. Frum Therapist - PART TWOJanuary 5, 2010 at 1:20 AM

    Another reason that the Ohel system broke down is that the Beys Din in Lakewood of Rabbo Salamon, a huge referral source, was closed recently. Ironically, this was NOT because of the numerous molesters it was covering up for, but because in one case where the B"D actually did expose a molester and closed his pre-school, the molester is taking Reb Matisyahu to a din torah for 10 million dollars. Yad Hashem is seen here because since the beys din arrogantly believed they could in Reb Matisyahu's words "handle these issues quietly and, yes, sweep them under the carpet", it turned around to bite him that he is being sued and had to close up shop, when he should have told people to go to the police to begin with. He still will not tell people openly, but the "shtika k'hodaa" of closing the beys din was enough to get at least one family to go to the police on Yossi Kolko. But families of other victims are waiting to see what happens in that case because Reb Malkiel Kotler, (who learns bechavursah with the molester of the pre-school children) tried to get the father of Kolko's victim fired from his job as a rov, if he does not drop charges, and Rav Yisroel Belsky threatened to bashmutz them, only backing down when the prosecutor’s office said they would arrest him for obstructing justice. A woman who publicized the fact that he had been molested, had her house burned down in Lakewood, and the rabbanim, according to Reb Matisyahu, are keeping "hush, hush for the time being" lest the police find out that the arsonist is a "chashuver yid". This is mostly "bavusta" information, but I personally confirmed all of it from reliable sources, including a therapist who used to work for Ohel.

    There is not one single case documented in which an Agudah Gadol told a victim to go to the police, yet alone made the call himself. In fact when the legislative issue came up to mandate rabbis as professionals that they report to police, just like doctor's, lawyers and psychologists, Agudah's public response was to say this is unconstitutional because of separation of church and state. The chillul hashem here is that this is tantamount to saying that covering up and enabling child molestation is a part of our practice of religion just like milah, or shchita, or shabbos that the government cannot stop. Another argument used by Zweibel is that its not fair to give this responibility to rabbis more than to anyone else, as if it is beneath the kavod of rabbanim to have the special zchus of saving Jewish children!

    In Los Angeles, "Aleynu" under the Haskama of Reb Shmuel Kaminetsky, works together with all of the rabbanim. When there are allegations of molestation the rabbis call in the accused molester and insist he be evaluated by professionals who specialize in this. Then if it comes out he is a danger they come up with a "safety plan". Aside from not involving the police as a matter of principle, the other problem is that when I asked Aleynu staff what the rabbanim do if the accused refuses to comply, what detterrent they use, she could not even say they even threaten to call the police because empty threats are worse than no threats. She said that they get 7 or 8 rabis to yell at him. There was one well known case which was high profile enough and had gone on for over 20 years of Aron Tendler who was both a Rov and a Rebbe and molested numerous teen age girls, where the rabbis managed to get him to leave the city. But, of course, they still not only did not encourage survivors to go to the police, but they never publicized WHY the rabbi was leaving to Baltimore, so that the Baltimore community has no knowledge of the danger he presents. Their attitude apparently is that the Jewish kids in Baltimore are ok for him to molest as long as its not in their backyard.

  9. Frum Therapist - PART THREEJanuary 5, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    Although the Rabbanim in Baltimore have been apprised of the Tendler situation, we can all guess how courageously and wisely they took swift and decisive action to protect the community (you have to laugh or else you cry).

    In Chicago, Rav Avraham Chaim Levine kicked out a molester from his yeshivah only to send him first to the girls school (“who would want to molest a girl?”). After he was caught molesting there he was sent to a school for shvacher kids, and then ultimately to the modern orthodox school (they are not really frum, right?) where finally some parents took the severe move of neglecting Daas Torah and calling the cops. In Ner Yisroel, Moshe Eiseman still lives on campus and davens on the Mizrach Vont, even though they “retired” him after privately admitting he is a molester. In Yeshiva of Spring Valley, a molester named Aronson has been “let go”, but under Reb Shmuel Kaminetzky’s guidance, the school is covering up the years of molestation and the danger he still presents..

    Moshe Velevel Weisberg, the head of the Lakewood Vaad, that answers to Reb Malkiel and Reb Matisyahu, told the Asbury Park Press recently that "you would be surprised, in our community how much a beys din can punish a molester and get them to stop molesting," implying that the fear of a beys din is a bigger deterrent than that of going to jail. This is the same Vaad that actually threw Ohel out of Lakewood for even daring to try to bring their molestation "treatment plan" to the holy city. (The beys din had sent the molesters to Ohel in Brooklyn instead).

    In Brooklyn, we now have Kol Tzedek (more like Kol Sheker). The District Attorney. is "teaming up" with Ohel and the Agudah to encourage reporting to the police. What a fraud. Yes, under pressure the D.A. has taken some cases of no-name young molesters and proescuted them to the max. But with Kolko, he let him walk, with Mondrowitz he is impeding the extradition, and with his old pal Rabbi Niederman from Satmar, he is allowing “Rabbi Reichman,” a rebbe who even Dov Hikind named publicly, to teach Jewish children in UTA without an investigation.

    What does Rav Silman hold about the psak of Rav Elyahiv Shlita and of Reb Shlomo Zalman Z'TL that anyone who knows of a molester should go to the authorites? They did not differentiate between whether the abuser says he will stop or not. I do not know him, and am not willing to take it on faith that he is any different than virtually every single charedi rabbi in America, and either way, I fear that even if he meant well in setting up this system to help protect children, (and is not just creating one more Ohel-Lakewood Beys Din-Kol Tzedek approach to hiding the molester) he will end up inadvertently causing the protection of predators much more than of children.

    One of the many psychological issues that rabbanim do not seem to get, (and many professionals who do not treat offenders also) is that many of the abusers are sociopaths who are often much smarter than the rabbis, very devious in fooling people and can never be trusted in any way shape or form. Rabbi Tropper's actions fit this profile. Law enforcement is the only hope that society has when it comes to these kind of criminals.

    That is not to say that there are not also cases of pedophiles that are NOT sociopaths and that cannot be kept safe with treatment and professional safety plans. But the extreme value placed on the privacy of the pedophile, no matter what his diagnosis, which has led to a society that protects its image more than its children, really must be adjusted drasitically to recognize both the pain of the victims and the community wide danger.
    Otherwise we are no different than those who worry greatly about the rights of "Muslim-Americans" to privacy, meanwhile jeapordizing the security and safety of the rest of civilization. Kol Hamerachem Al Hachzarim, Sofo L'achzer Al Harachmanim.

  10. Frum Therapist thank you for your extensive comments. However you don't explain how the alternative is better. Most arrests don't lead to imprisonment and most times the family doesn't want to press charges.

    There are many factors which often prevent helping the victim or preventing other people from being hurt.

    There is no quick fix but things can clearly be improved.
    Could you please contact me

  11. I plainly think that it is not enough to say privately "what the perpetrator did is wrong", when he can still go on, live and be honored as though nothing happened.

    In all these cases that are shut up, there is always the implicit accusation that the victim is lying and making things up.

    So even if it is difficult to get an offender condemned, because of proof issues, it would be important for the victims to know that the community supports them and not the perpetrator. Not only in general, or when it was a "Goy" but also in the cases that actually occur within the community.

  12. "Most arrests don't lead to imprisonment and most times the family doesn't want to press charges."

    This is mostly because our "Daas Torah" society attacks the victim who is "moyser", as I have documented, but can give many, many more examples. A woman who are threatened to have their kids thrown out of a Chasidish yeshivah in Boro Park, if she does not drop charges, a 15 year old boy thrown out of Ner Yisroel for complaining about Moshe Eiseman abusing him, Joel Engleman's family being shunned because he went to the police on Reichman, etc. etc.
    Rabbi Margolis of YTT slapping a kid in the face for accusing Kolko and getting Rabbi Belsky to send Eli Greenwald a hazmana to a din torah for being "Moytzi Shem Ra" against Kolko, as well as threatening him and others that their "kids are not safe" that he will get them thrown out of ANY school in Brooklyn. Reb Malkiel Kotler threatening a therapist who dared to disagree with him and say that a frum jew in Lakewood molested, that he would get the therapist's kids thrown out of yeshivas in Lakewood.

    And of course lets not forget Rav Sheinberg saying publicly that if there was no "penetration" that the victims of Kolko should drop the issue, and he can stay and teach. And Reb Menashe Klein (as quoted in the NY Times) saying that anyone victim who goes to the police is a moyser and should be killed. ABC's Nightline report on Mondrowitz showed a document signed by 50 rabbanim that nobody is allowed to go to the police on him.

    So there are certainly not enough arrests. As for convictions after arrests, Newsday reported in 2003 that durring the Mondrowitz investigation and many others in Brooklyn the police officers said they could not DO one because the Yiddelech would not cooperate. They said it was a well known fact that there are two legal systems in Brooklyn. One for the frum Jews and one for everyone else. In Baltimore, the police have said that their investigation into Rabbi Eisegrau the principal of the cheder accused of raping his daughter and molesting others, was useless because "Jewish parents care more about their rabbis than their own children."

    If the Rabbis would join Dov Hikind in pleading with victims to come forward, and offering to go with them, and would be mechabed the heroes who do come forward we would certainly have a much much higher number of arrests and convictions.

    This will not happen, of course because Daas Torah does not want it to. It will require a revolution that has started by anti-Daas Torah bloggers and others who care more about children than Daas Torah.

    The Agudah and Torah Umesorah came out strongly opposed to the Markey Bill NOT for any halachic rationale or with any moral or ethical reasoning, but simply because it could jeapordize yeshivas that knowingly covered up for molesters, putting financial considerations over people's safety just as they have done with the Eternal Jewish Fraud.

    The battle lines have been drawn very, very clearly: Daas Torah vs. Jewish children. There appears to be no compromise. It It is an all out war.

    I would be open to hearing an alternative explanation.

  13. Rabbbi Eidenson:

    "There are many factors which often prevent helping the victim or preventing other people from being hurt."

    Such as?

    Bork: (I don't know how to do that fancy "o" on my computer)

    "I plainly think that it is not enough to say privately "what the perpetrator did is wrong", when he can still go on, live and be honored as though nothing happened.

    In all these cases that are shut up, there is always the implicit accusation that the victim is lying and making things up.

    So even if it is difficult to get an offender condemned, because of proof issues, it would be important for the victims to know that the community supports them and not the perpetrator. Not only in general, or when it was a "Goy" but also in the cases that actually occur within the community."

    Yes, when there is serious suspicion but, like in the case of O.J. Simpson, justice fails and the criminal gets to walk free, he should be forced to be evaluated by professionals to see if he poses a risk, and if so it should be publicized by the communal leaders. Just like they publicized when someone sold treif meat in Monsey, or Lipa Shmeltzer sang "assur" songs at his concerts, (what a disgrace for Daas Torah) and Rabbi Slifkin wrote a "dangerous book", (another disgrace caused by Leib Tropper and Leib Pinter) and Rabbi Riskin said something silly about Jesus, (jumped on at Yeshiva World News) and the charedi blogs wrote lashon harah and were anti-rabbi, (banned by the gedolim in Israel)
    and when Rav Steinsaltz said something controversial about a figure in Tanach (put in cherem by gedolim, for those who recall) or a Lubavitcher paper criticizes Rav Shach Z"L ("They ripped a Sefer Toyrah!...Rav Weinberg Z'L). Daas Torah knows very, very well how to publicly condemn someone who it feels is a threat to its interests. Unfortunately stopping molestation is not one of its interests.

    This goes way, way beyond the issue of detterent/punishment. It is like if someone had tuberculosis and the rabbis protected his privacy and allowed him to spread the highly infectious disease. Molesters, too, need to be quarantined for public health.

    BTW, Bork, I loved your music in the 90's; any new CD's coming out?

  14. Torah Umesorah's Shea Fishman ignored several attempts over the years by Long Beach attorney Elliot Pasik as well as some rabbonim to implement a system that checks for sex offenders among the NON-JEWISH employees of yeshivos.

    Even this he resisted, probably worried it would open a pesach to check rebbeim.

    Finally, Pasik and Feivel Mendlowitz were forced to go public against him. I spoke to Fishman just before TU stopped answering the phones from the angry public and he badmouthed E. Pasik to me with a story which a rosh yeshiva told me he could personally be mayid was a big lie.

    Because of the public uproar, Fishman "retired" in short order and was replaced by long time Agudah operative Shlomo Gottesman.

  15. I'm nor Björk, i'm just plain börk...

  16. PS: thank you, frum therapist, for all your informative, well-written and compassionate comments.

  17. Bork, my molester's wife knows...his therapists forced him to tell her.


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