Tuesday, July 14, 2020

R' Zwiebel & history of inaction against child abuse

I recently responded here and here to Rabbi Zwiebel's statement in the May 2012 interview that the bloggers made the issue of child abuse be taken seriously. Rabbi Zwiebel is an intelligent lawyer who is well aware of the significance of words. The interview was in a magazine where the interview was obviously reviewed and edited. So it was not a slip of the tongue that he made this comment. He also noted that he wasn't sure whether the price being paid for having these blogs (i.e., lashon harah and bitul zman) was worth the benefit of having abuse being taken seriously. As can be seen from the numerous citation that follow - the issue has been documented that gedolim have know there was problem for at least 28 years dealing with Kolko and Mondrowitz - so why was it necessary for the bloggers to make child abuse to be taken seriously? Bloggers have only dealt with the issue for about 7  years - starting in 2005 with UOJ and the Kolko case. I started blogging about abuse in 2007

Mondrowitz was 28 years ago. In 2003 there was a clear declaration from Torah U'Mesorah. In 2006 Meir Frischman - the director of Orthodox Camps provided guidelines for the camps . In 2007 Declaration of Baltimore Rabbis against abuse and acknowledging that Rabbis can't handle it properly. (In 2010 I interviewed one of the Baltimore rabbis responsible for the declaration and asked him why the declaration had produced no changes in dealing with abuse? He responded simply that the rabbis regretted having published the declaration - because every case needs to be decided by a gadol) However not until 2010 does Novominsker Rebbe publicly acknowledge problem at Aguda Convention

And even then no concrete changes proposed or instituted

As I document in my Child & Domestic Abuse books (also confirmed in recent law article by  Prof Resnicoff) the issue is not primarily a halachic issue but is a social one involving lack of resolve to deal with the problem or being more concerned with public image then the welfare of the victims. Public pressure is critical for rabbinic leaders to deal with the issue.

The following are from Child & Domestic Abuse vol I

2003 - Acknowledgement of Torah u'Mesora that there is a problem
At recent meetings of the Rabbinical Board of Torah U’Mesorah, attended by Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock, Rav Aharon Feldman, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, Rav Yaakov Perlow and Rav Aaron Schechter, shlita, the following statement concerning a painful issue was issued:
We address ourselves to the problem of child molestation in our community. A small number of individuals have caused untold pain to many children, primarily varying in age from three to fourteen. In addition to the sins which they have committed, they have created painful memories in the minds of their victims, memories which can have a devastating lifetime impact.
It is incumbent upon everyone to use every means to stop these violations of children, including, at times, exposing the identities of the abusers and even their incarceration. At times, our primary intent may not be to punish the perpetrators, but rather to help them. Therefore it is preferable, wherever appropriate, to force them to undergo appropriate professional therapy.
Torah U’Mesorah is issuing a set of behavioral and reporting standards for principals to implement in their yeshivos and day schools, which, it is hoped, will strengthen the protection of students. It is well documented that molesters are rarely strangers to the child; they are usually relatives or neighbors – and in rare occasions, even teachers. They are able to act because they have the child’s confidence, and then, after the act, they usually threaten him or her with punishment if he or she reveals what has occurred or they shame their victims into keeping a secret.
It is important that parents advise children in an appropriate manner to beware of potential molesters. Children must be told to advise their parents of any abusive behavior, and assured that they will suffer no consequences if they do so. We encourage rabbanim throughout our communities to address this issue, which, in itself, will serve as a deterrent to potential abusers. Rabbanim must also help and support anyone who has fallen victim to abuse, as well as refer them to seek professional help from frum private practitioners and/or organizations in their community. It goes without saying that rabbanim should take precautions that accusations are not made maliciously or without basis.
2008 Claims ignorance of severity and magnitude of problem until recently. Acknowledges problems in correctly handling abuse cases.
Rabbi David Zweibel executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America The Jewish Daily, October 10, 2008
“Until not terribly long ago, the issue was very much in the shadows,” said David Zwiebel, director of government affairs and general counsel of Agudath Israel of America. “The fact that there were isolated reports here and there of cases arising in yeshiva settings, it was known, but they were very isolated.”
“Sometimes they were dealt with correctly and sometimes incorrectly,” Zwiebel added, “but the severity of the problem and the possible magnitude were really things that most people, including myself, just didn’t understand.”
Bloggers legitimately target the Aguda over child abuse
 Rabbi David Zweibel executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America (Jewish Star November 12, 2008):
“[Sexual abuse] is an issue which has come out of the closet in a certain sense and is engaging the attention of our community and its leadership and that’s ultimately a good thing. That’s why it’s hard for me to be totally annoyed with some of the excesses of the blog world. Their outrage, anger, and sometimes excessive advocacy and negativity towards the establishment, it’s a terrible thing, but at the same time, I know that their hearts are in the right place and it is stuff to be very upset about. Is Agudah a fair target? I think we could always use a healthy dose of introspection and honest assessment of how well we as a society have performed in this area and lots of other areas.”
Community can't handle abuse - but D.A. should not be viewed as taking power from rabbis
New York Times (October 14, 2009 Orthodox Jews Rely More on Sex Abuse Prosecution By Paul Vitello):
David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a group representing many chareidi factions, offered the moderate view. “A broad consensus has emerged in the last few years,” he said, “that many of these issues are beyond the ability of the community to handle internally.”
But he added that prosecutors should recognize “religious sensitivities” by seeking alternatives to prison, to avoid depriving a family of its breadwinner, or by finding appropriate Orthodox homes for children removed from abusive families.
“The district attorney should be careful not to be seen as making a power grab from rabbinic authority,” Mr. Zwiebel said.
 Financial well being of yeshivos take precedent over victims
New York (April 2009) - Agudath Israel of America and Torah U’Mesorah
 The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, upon consultation with their respective rabbinic leaderships, respectfully submit this statement regarding legislative proposals to amend existing statutes of limitations for civil claims, including claims against schools and other communal institutions, based on allegations of child sexual abuse. We do so only after much serious thought, after weighing all relevant arguments and for the sole purpose of protecting the most fundamental interests of our community.
Agudath Israel and Torah U’Mesorah fully acknowledge the horror of child sexual abuse and the devastating long-term scars it all too often creates. Our rabbinic and lay leaderships are acutely aware of the emotional trauma and damage caused by the perpetrators of such abuse. Our hearts go out to their victims, and we share in their pain. We realize that for too long many victims have suffered alone. We are committed as a community to do whatever we can to root out perpetrators of child abuse from our schools and other communal institutions, and to help victims on the road to healing and recovery.
Indeed, in recent years, as awareness has increased and sensitivity has been heightened regarding the incidence of sexual abuse and its severity, both in the broader society around us and in our community specifically, Agudath Israel and Torah U’Mesorah have taken a number of concrete steps to help ensure that Jewish schools, extra-curricular youth programs and summer camps implement policies and procedures designed to protect children against such abuse. Our organizations have also supported legislative efforts to furnish such protection, including the recently enacted legislation in New York authorizing nonpublic schools to screen all prospective employees through the state’s fingerprint checking system. [...]

Stated simply, legislation that would do away with the statute of limitations completely, even if only for a one-year period, could subject schools and other vital institutions to ancient claims and capricious litigation, and place their very existence in severe jeopardy. Agudath Israel and Torah U’Mesorah most vigorously oppose any such legislation.
We must continue to seek out ways to protect our precious children and help eradicate molestation and other forms of abuse. We must also redouble our efforts to help those who have suffered the horrors of child abuse obtain the healing they so desperately need. However, we dare not bring down our most vital communal institutions in the process.


  1. PT 1 OF 2
    Maybe Rabbi Eidensohn published my previous comments but has not had a chance to respond to them. Here I am going to expand on my previous questions and comments, as of now still unanswered and unresponded to ( the previous responses of Rabbi Eidensohn were inadequate, he didn't answer my questions, and he included the insertion of paper tigers as he incorrectly paraphrased me and implied incorrect assumptions about some of my comments. Hopefully if this was due to inadequate communication on my part, this comment will do better.

    Once again Rabbi Eidensohn will not answer the questions that get to the heart of the matter.
    Now with this posting there are more.

    if Rabbi Eidensohn claims the rabbis of the current moetses are doing something in 2012 wrong that qualifies as a chillul Hashem as it has been described by Rabbi Eidensohn, I still can’t ascertain what it is from Rabbi Eidensohn’s postings outside of vague portions of his comments where he doesnt explicate the wrong.( ie. I’m not asking for a critique of zweibels nomenclature. let's just forget about him as far as this comment section. Someone else may want to ask about Zweibel but I want to get to what in my opinion is the very heart of the matter.). Rabbi Eidensohn has a responsibility to explicate this matter with exactitude ( as much as possible). Instead he seems to include so much material in his postings but never gets to the heart of the matter.
    Firstly, what are the current rabbis on the moetses currently doing wrong that qualifies as the big chillul Hashem to which Rabbi Eidensohn keeps on referring, what are all the details, and which gadol authorized Rabbi Eidensohn to print this ( “this” means whatever Rabbi Eidensohn writes in response to my question).

    Secondly, he should do the same and document the worst behavior of a rabbi ( or of numerous rabbis) who is on the moetses now, about prior cases of molestation swept under the rug with the molestor being kept with the children and no change being imposed upon the molestor. The record must meet a standard of credibility and conclude with some closing statement such as ..." And therefore I, Rabbi Eidensohn, have just detailed the worst documented behavior in detail, in context, of Rabbi So and So of the current moetses of Agudas yisroel of America, and I was authorized to do so by Rabbi Gadol X.
    (part 2 follows immediately )

  2. (PART 2 OF 2)
    ....The following is only my guess: My guess is we may never see Rabbi Eidensohn publish SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF THE FOLLOWING (MADE UP) SAMPLE STRUCTURE OF A FUTURE Rabbi Eidensohn POST along these lines:

    ( Rabbi Eidensohn: ) “Dear Reader: Rabbi So and So on the Moetses in America's Agudah was approached by a family and a child in January 200x. Details of unambiguous molestation were provided by the child. Ploni denied it and didn’t provide evidence of innocence ( of course doing so may not be within Ploni’s capacity) The moetses rabbi concluded that due to the denial we cant do anything ol pi halacha etc… { or, "due to the childs lack of credibility we can't ....}
    Rabbi so and so was again approached in February 200x this time by someone else with a different child, and Rabbi So and So heard the child detail an unambiguous event of molestation. {a}Ploni denied it again but didn’t provide evidence of his innocence ( of course doing so may not be within Ploni’s capacity). The moestses rabbi concluded that due to the denial we cant do anything ol pi halacha etc… { or, "due to the childs lack of credibility we can't ....}
    Rabbi so and so was again approached in March 2004 this time by someone else with a different child, and Rabbi So and So heard the child detail an unambiguous event of molestation. {a}Ploni denied it again but didn’t provide evidence of his innocence ( of course doing so may not be within Ploni’s capacity). The moestses rabbi concluded that due to the denial we cant do anything ol pi halacha etc… { or, "due to the childs lack of credibility we can't ....}

    Readers, This is a chillul Hashem and Gadol Rabbi So and So authorized me to write every word because I don’t have the shoulders to decide myself if I am relying upon the appropriately required documentary record and even more importantly, I don’t have the shoulders to decide to issue a condemnation of a chillul Hashem against the moetses rabbi.”
    ( finished)

    So we see a SAMPLE structure the likes of the one above, which would be of interest to the prudent person, in knowing of a credible case of sweeping under the table the case of 3 multiple complaints of 3 different children and the moetses rabbi swept it under the table and PLONI WAS STILL LEFT AROUND CHILDREN and nothing done to force ploni away from children.

    This is just a sample structure of the sort of explication I seek from Rabbi Eidensohn and which every rational objective oriented person should as well require in protest TO Rabbi Eidensohn's DEFICIT OF SUCH material that is
    at the heart of this discussed issue.

    And if in the end, Rabbi Eidensohn claims he has no documentary record to provide us with in as above sample, then he ought to explicitly say something along the lines of “ Gadol So and So authorized me to shrai chillul Hashem at the 6 rabbis on the moetses on account of their not doing what they are required to do to stop molestation( and then Rabbi Eidensohn can continue giving his rhetorical unevidenced comments, and limit them to what the moetses rabbis are not doing which he labels a chillul Cshem as opposed to what a moetses rabbi is actively doing to sweep it under the rug ( ie. and keep the molester around children)( END OF PART 2 OF 2)


    "However not until 2010 does Novominsker Rebbe publicly acknowledge problem at Aguda Convention.

  4. batmelech - thanks for reference I'll check it out

  5. Kalonymus HaQatanJuly 14, 2020 at 4:31 PM

    Actually, Norman lamm also was involved in cover ups at YU, AND took retirement when it became known.
    You see, even the people we have learned to respect most have skeletons in their cupboard.

  6. Kalonymus HaQatanJuly 15, 2020 at 1:16 PM

    In MO world, he was widely respected. Even in hareidi world, he was respected as a lamdan.
    In your world, you respect "tzadikkim" like .... I don't even need to write his queer name anymore.


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