Friday, December 30, 2011

New York Hasidic Women Want Separate EMT Unit


If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time.

Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women's division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies.

Deeply religious Hasidic men and women do not touch each other, unless they are immediate family. They don't shake hands. They don't sit next to each other on buses or at weddings. But when it comes to emergency births, the babies are often are delivered by male volunteers with Hatzolah. [...]

Rav Eliashiv bans Mishpacha Magazine


"בל ייכנס לבתי היראים" • הגרי"ש אלישיב נגד 'משפחה' לראשונה: מכתב חריף, חתום בכתב ידו של הגרי"ש, פורסם ב'יתד נאמן' ו'המבשר' - נגד 'משפחה' • אוסר לסייע ל'משפחה', ומאשימו בסילוף 'השקפת התורה' • ולמה פורסם המכתב? 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Necessary Chareidi response to the chilul HaShem of the fanatics

Cross-currents by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein

The Charedi Spring may have finally arrived. Eight year old Naama Margolese may do for Israel what a Tunisian street vendor did for the Arab world. The wave of revulsion for the behavior of the extremists, if sustained and channeled into focused police work, may release the Israeli public – both secular and charedi – from the tyranny of fanatics whose thuggery and primitivism ran unchecked in Meah Shearim for years.

The price we pay for it is a massive chilul Hashem, as hundreds of millions of people equate Torah with Taliban. The only partial antidote is for the genuine Orthodox world to do what Muslims do not do to their extremists. We must condemn with passion, conviction and without qualification. 

As the numbers of Meah Shearim-grown extremists increased, they sought space in other communities. (It was not only a matter of space. They were repudiated by many in their own neighborhood, including the Edah Charedis, which was still unable to rein them in.) Large numbers settled upon the Beit Shemesh area. Their growing enclave in RBS-Bet gradually spread out, to the point that they found themselves in close proximity to existing neighborhoods of dati Leumi and conventional charedim. Ongoing clashes came to a head with the opening of a frum girls’ school on land the extremists coveted in the dati Leumi neighborhood of Scheinfeld. While the dispute has been going on for months, and while violently imposing their requirements on local businesses has taken place for years, the issue exploded upon the national and international scene through a clip from Israel’s Channel Two that has gone viral. Listening to an Anglo girl dressed in long sleeves and a skirt speak about her fears in simply crossing the street and having to run a gauntlet of taunts, curses, and spittle from bearded adults has turned out to be the impetus to galvanize a country – including many charedim – into taking action. Contrasting her angelic demeanor with the ugly rhetoric of one of the tormentors who is particularly honest about their objectives to take over the entire contributed to the mood of resistance.

Orthodox Rabbinic Group Won’t Take Position On Reparative Therapy For Gays

The Rabbinical Council of America said it will not take a position on so-called reparative therapy for gays.

In a statement released Monday, the RCA, the main umbrella group of centrist Orthodox rabbis, said it will neither “endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those ... struggling with same-sex attraction.” It further affirms that any therapy should be performed only by licensed practitioners.

RCA President Rabbi Schmuel Goldin told JTA that the statement did not represent a shift in the group's position.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Disgusting Chilul HaShem! Spitting on a 7 year old girl

The latest battleground in Israel’s struggle over religious extremism covers little more than a square mile of this Jewish city situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it has the unexpected public face of a blond, bespectacled second-grade girl. 

She is Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of American immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. An Israeli weekend television program told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her elementary school here after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.  

The country was outraged. Naama’s picture has appeared on the front pages of all the major Israeli newspapers. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that “Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state” and pledged that “the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all,” there have been days of confrontation at focal points of friction here.

Preventing homosexual contact in schools & camps

An experienced educator raised the following concerns with me. Western society has experienced a radical change in attitude towards homosexuality in recent years. It is no longer viewed as a sign of mental illness or moral depravity but rather a legitimate sexual expression. The stigma and shame of engaging in homosexual activity has decreased drastically. Thus while it is true that such activity has happened in the past in dormitories or camps - either between a teenage boy and younger children or between peers who are exploring their sexuality - the frequency seems to be increasing or at least the awareness has sharply increased. At the same time - the Torah absolutely prohibits such behavior calling it an abomination.

His questions were 1) how to react if two boys are discovered to have willingly engaged in homosexual activity? 2)  Is there any way for the staff of a yeshiva or camp to identify boys who might be prone to such behavior or those who engage in it. 3) at what age does this type of activity stop being the result of  exploration of sexuality and instead indicate relatively stable sexual identity? 4)  When is it best to advise psychotherapy rather than silence? 5) under what circumstances should such boys either be refused admission to yeshiva/camp or be sent home and when should they be allowed to stay under watchful eyes and close supervision. 6) Is it better to provide some type of general educational program to explicitly warn  against such behavior or is it more beneficial to maintain the present approach of not to mentioning such activity so as to not arouse curiousity and attention? 7) Are there any differences between boys and girls in this matter? 8) Is there any proven way to discourage homosexual attractions and develop exclusive heterosexual interest?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2nd edition of Daas Torah available now for $35

The 2nd expanded edition is 822 page - English only. Approximately 200 new pages were added. There are additional chapters concerning the Satmar Rebbe's views on the 6 Day War, rabbinic authority, Daas Torah as well as Science and disagreeing with authorities. A portion of this new material has been posted on this blog, Most of the material from the first edition has been retained but has been reorganized. This edition is available only in paperback.

View first 52 pages including Table of Contents

My Amazon e Store - Purchase by clicking this link  - greater royalty for me from this option

or order directly from Amazon - with option of free shipping  

 volume II containing 460 pages of Hebrew sources just published - click link for more information
Many who have a good Jewish education in yeshiva or seminary regarding Jewish law and observance – often lack a deep and mature knowledge of Jewish Theology. Furthermore as a psychotherapist working in the Orthodox world – I often see clients whose problems are more issues of misunderstanding of Judaism rather than psychological issues per se. Knowledge of Jewish Theology is often restricted to a few platitudes such as “ You should love your fellow man” or “G-d runs the world” or mistaken ideas such as that Judaism doesn’t require any specific beliefs but only deeds. These concerns obviously apply even more to someone without a good Jewish education. In addition, teachers often expend hours looking for relevant material to explain a particular concept and students often need additional sources to get a clarify of subtle points.
This is a rich source book for those who would like to delve into the rich and nuanced discussions of classical Jewish theology. It is the work of over 10 years of compilation, translation and organizing. This work removes a number of hurdles 1) The original Hebrew has been translated into contemporary English 2) A wide variety of sources are quoted to avoid presented a biased and distorted view of a particular topic 3) There is no attempt to prove or force a particular view and thus contradictory views are presented 4) There is no censoring of material which might not be politically correct to current understandings but was acceptable for thousands of years.
As Rav Eliashiv told me, “You don’t avoid teaching Torah because it might cause confusion or questions. That is why a person has a teacher or rebbe.” As Rav Moshe Shapiro advised, “Let the sources speak for themselves.”

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ultra-Orthodox, Israel Police clash in Beit Shemesh; officer wounded

Police arrest two after residents chase officers, hurl rocks, and burn trashcans to protest the removal of a sign that calls for the separation of men and women on a main street.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Har Nof Pedophile: Rav Sternbuch's Psak

Rav Sternbuch's gabbai sent me the following clarification:

The Rav told me to publicise in his name that he has not allowed any chillul Shabbos midaorayso, the Rav feels that if there is no issur Torah it is allowed what is absolutely necessary as this is a tzorah drabim, this does not include taking photos . The rav has never allowed going around with a telephone and camera on Shabbos, in special situations a rav must be consulted. 

Rafoel Rechnitzer
I also confirmed with Rav Treibitz that he gave a heter [for those who had seem him] to call the police on Shabbos and to carry a camera on Shabbos to take his picture because the police said that if they knew what he looked like they would surely catch him. He told me that unfortunately there have been a number of victims already.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Divorce - problems of using secular court & beis din

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

This opinion was issued by New Jersey's Appellate Division this past week.  While I know little- if anything- about divorce law, I wish to make the following observations. 

Some states have laws which require gittin to be issued prior to the settling of a civil divorce.  Obviously, New Jersey isn't one of these states.  We should encourage those "askonim" (read as the Aguda, OU, et al) to try to pass similar legislation in states such as NJ. 

Sadly, I happen to know the husband in the NJ case.  While I do not know this person well, and am not intimately familiar with the situation, this specific case has been festering in the Passaic community for several years.  Whomever handled this issue from the rabinical side clearly botched it.  As with other issues addressed in your blog, our rabonnim need training on how to address these issues properly.

Aside from the primary rabbi(s) involved, the beis din involved also clearly mishandled this situation. We must encourage bottei dinim to seek the assistance of attorneys when drafting such resolutions.  The Court's opinion is heavily reliant on the unclear language in the beis din's ruling.  B'H, some bottei dinim use attorneys (the RCA has one on staff). 

It is clear that we have professionals in our communities who can assist with all of these necessities.  What is unclear is whether the entrenched establishment will issue a mea culpa and seek help.

*Disclaimer: I do not practice divorce law and do not intend to dispense legal advice. As an attorney in private practice, please note that the foregoing is my opinion and not that of my employer. 

A freilechen Channukah

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Jewish Santa puts on Tefilin

Crown Heights Info

Survivor of Incest replies to Dr. Lipner

Dear Rabbi/Doctor Lipner, (I'm not sure which title is appropriate.) 

I'm deeply moved by your response to my letters.  I just want to express my gratitude to you for your kind words to me.  They are indeed very encouraging.   May Hashem lead us to the point where we have totally extracted all lessons that we collectively  need to learn from this horrifically painful, and exasperatingly complicated ordeal called incest, and molestation.  And may we merit to transform all its darkness into brilliant lights, speedily in our days!!  Amen!!

Shas rabbi's son: OK to sit next to woman

Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has yet to address the exclusion of women issue. But his son, Holon's Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef on Wednesday slammed the "kosher" bus lines phenomenon. 

"There is no exclusion when it comes to a strange woman," he said in regards of gender segregation supporters. "Apart from touching, apart from looking, apart from smelling any good smell she may have put on herself – we should not be interested in anything else." [...]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Study shows: The richer you are - the less compassion you have

Pity the poor plutocrat. Politicians want to tax them, Occupy Wall Streeters mock them, 99% of their fellow citizens are mad at them (even if they secretly want to be one of them). Now comes word from the University of California, Berkeley, that is not likely to send their approval ratings any higher: a new study has confirmed that the richer you are the less compassionate you are — and don't gloat, you upper-middle classers, that includes you too. [...]

When the numbers on these inventories were crunched, Stellar and her colleagues found no meaningful personality differences among the students that could be attributable to income except one: across the board, the lower the subjects' family income, the higher their score on compassion.

Philadelphia Sportswriter Accused of Child Molestation

A prominent Philadelphia sportswriter abruptly retired Tuesday as three women and one man accused him of sexually molesting them when they were children in the 1970s, according to an investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer

The sportswriter, Bill Conlin, 77, a member of the news media wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News for more than four decades, abused the children when they were from ages 7 to 12, they told The Inquirer in graphic detail in an article posted on the paper’s Web site.[...]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dr. Asher Lipner: Response to Letter from Survivor of Incest

My response to the writer:
I admire your courage and strength.  You have survived great emotional trauma and made a life for yourself.  You are healthy enough to both recognize conflicted feelings about some of the most complex issues a person can face and to express them clearly and honestly.  Whatever more you do, and wherever you go from here, I want you to know that I feel honored to address you because of the specialness of your accomplishments, and what you have to offer the community and the world with your wisdom.  

I have been faced with similar questions plaguing others.  I too am a survivor of abuse by my Rebbe, which poses a different set of questions and emotional conflicts, but I know many other people who have survived incest.

The reason that contacting law enforcement is almost always a good idea is for safety.  In the case you quote of the author whose problems changed when police were brought in to stop her from being abused in her family, experiencing incest on an ongoing basis creates such a high level of risk for damaging one's life, that no serious consideration can be given to "collateral damage" that occurs when stopping the abuse.  This is the halacha, and the law in most civilized countries, and while not necessarily true 100% of the time, from a clinical perspective the vast majority of the time the "new" problems are not as permanently scarring and damaging as child sexual abuse allowed to continue.  

As for contact with family, each survivor needs to work this out for themselves.  It sounds like you have a conflict about wanting to stop the charade which feels soul-killing on the one hand, but wanting to keep it up for the outside world so that you will not have to lose communal status on the other.  This situation presents you with little alternative but to make the choice you have made: to cut off ties to your family.  What if you were to break the charade ONLY inside the family?  What if you confronted all the members and tell them how you feel?  That you can understand why showing a united and positive front to the outside has benefits, but at least internally can everyone acknowledge that there has been grave sinning and abuse that has gone on, and can they not only validate you, but work with you to hold your father accountable, and make him do Teshuva?  You might be able to have your cake and eat it to.  You could get healing support and validation from your family members, thereby allowing you to have contact with them without feeling "killed", while at the same time you would give up the validation of your story by the whole world, by choosing to keep the healing process within the family.  Another advantage of confrontation vs. total distance, is that it is another step towards making others safe from your father.  Do you never worry about your nieces and nephews?  Since your father has admitted his behavior, there is some reason to hope that others will support you, because they will not be able to deny it happened, which is usually the way family members choose to avoid having to deal with the problem.  

What I am suggesting is just that, a suggestion.   It is not intended to state "the right thing to do".  Each situation is different, and there is no one size fits all right or wrong answer when it comes to healing.  

Good luck, and Hashem should continue to give you strength in your healing,


If there were another way to stop the abuse without the police, such as removing the children from the home, that might be preferable in some cases, but that does not always stop the abuse.   As long as the molester still is allowed contact with the child, there is risk of continued abuse, and unless you involve the courts, it is impossible to guarantee that such access will be denied.  

Another reason to involve the police is to protect other people.  While many children do survive and some even go on to thrive after sexual abuse, removing the child from the home does not stop the abuser from molesting other children.  The only way to provide serious protection for all children from an identified child molester is to have the molester confronted and held accountable in a court of law.  This would not only help the child who is being molested be protected, other children the molester may have access to be protected, but it would also create a situation in which the molester can be helped to stop his criminal behavior and live a more healthy life. The victims need therapy, but the molesters need to be helped as well, and for them, treatment is usually only even somewhat effective if it is court mandated and monitored.  

Rabbi Pinto’s Followers Blame Aides for Missing Millions

Six years ago, an Orthodox rabbi and mystic who traces his lineage to King David moved to New York from Israel and amassed a notable following. Real estate titans fetched him at the airport. Members of Congress attended his Hebrew classes. Even LeBron James, who is not Jewish, borrowed a friend’s yacht to consult the rabbi in private. 

Lately though, the image of the rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, 38, has seemed tarnished. Millions of dollars in donations to the rabbi’s congregation cannot be accounted for, according to his aides and lawyers. Articles in Jewish publications have questioned his judgment. Camera crews have trailed him, with reporters shouting questions about improprieties. 

Now, the rabbi’s close followers are disclosing what they say is the source of many of his troubles. They said they told federal investigators that the rabbi had been the victim of a bizarre embezzlement and extortion plot that was carried out by two former members of his inner circle, who stole his congregation’s money and tried to frame him.[...]

Supportive Steps After a Sexual Assault

Do you know what to do if you or someone close to you becomes the victim of a sexual assault? A national survey released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that sexual assaults are far more common than previously believed, with nearly one woman in five reporting that she had been the victim of rape or attempted rape. 

Ideally, anyone who has been forced into a sexual act should be seen within 24 hours at a hospital emergency room where a specially trained team provides medical care and counseling, collects high-quality forensic evidence and supports often terrified victims who may — or may not — choose to pursue legal action. 

Unless you already know the best place to go, call a rape crisis hot line, regardless of the nature of the assault and even if the attack occurred days or weeks earlier. There’s a hot line in every community, according to Dr. Judith A. Linden, an emergency physician at Boston University School of Medicine, where she treats victims and trains medical personnel how to be sensitive and thorough in examining people who have been sexually assaulted.[...]

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Israel's past bastions of secularism, religious debates flare

The disagreement over worship traditions at Matzuva is just one example of the conflicts that have developed in the past several years at dozens of kibbutzim around the country. In some the issue is which stream or tradition to follow, while at others the dispute is over whether to build a synagogue on the kibbutz and where to put it: at the center of the community, or off the beaten path. Economic issues are also involved: The Religious Services Ministry spends hundreds of thousands of shekels every year to build synagogues in kibbutzim that want it.[...]

Dr. Moti Zeira, director of Oranim College's HaMidrasha Educational Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Israel, ascribed the current conflict to increased religious observance in Israel and a change in the kibbutz population. He said kibbutzim were influenced by the move toward increasing religious observance that began in the 1980s. "Young kibbutz members who became observant and stayed on kibbutz demanded venues for worship, posing a challenge from within that strikes a sensitive nerve," Zeira said. At the same time, many kibbutzim are absorbing new members, or nonmember residents, who want religious services.[...]

'Discrimination against women to be seen as crime'

Jerusalem - Police commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino ordered his commanders and officers to enforce a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination against women on Monday, following a string of incidents involving the negative treatment of women by haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men in public areas in recent days.

According to guidelines sent by Danino to police commanders, any form of discrimination against women must be treated as a criminal offense or a public disorder incident.

Danino accompanied the orders with a condemnation of the phenomenon, describing “any attempt to harm the rights of women” as unacceptable.

Child abuse is often unreported - few are punished for violating mandatory reporting laws

[...] Yet a USA TODAY examination of police and court records from across the USA found that a combination of infrequent enforcement and small penalties means adults often have little to fear from concealing abuse.[...]

Child welfare agencies estimate that 695,000 children were abused or neglected last year, but studies have repeatedly found that even more abuse goes unreported.

In a 1990 RAND Corp. survey, for example, 40% of professionals admitted they had not reported at least one instance of suspected abuse, even though the law required them to do so. In a 2008 study published in the journal Pediatrics, medical researchers found that doctors chose not to report more than a quarter of physical injuries they thought were "likely" or "very likely" caused by abuse. The studies found that workers weren't certain what they saw was abuse, and they worried that reporting their suspicions could do more harm than good. [....]

Thousands of Haredim protest in Jerusalem over Zionist take over of the tomb of the Rashbi


Thousands of haredim took part in a demonstration in Jerusalem's Shabbat Square Sunday night to protest a decision to establish a state authority which will be responsible for the tomb of Simeon bar Yochai in Mount Meron. Among the protesters were prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and leaders.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chareidim order woman to sit in back of public bus - she refuses

 Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday ordered an official investigation into an incident in which a young woman was told to sit in the back of a bus driving from Ashdod to Jerusalem due to haredi protest.

The incident happened on Friday when Tanya Rosenblit, 28, was on Egged bus 451. "I dressed modestly and tried to keep a low profile, but I could tell something strange was going on," she told Yedioth Ahronoth. 

"I could tell that the other passengers were looking at me with disdain. One of them yelled 'Shiksa' at me and demanded I move to the back of the bus, because Jewish men can't sit behind a woman."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2 NJ day schools accuse female teacher of "inappropriate sexual contact"

Two New Jersey Jewish schools have announced that a teacher they formerly employed had “inappropriate sexual contact” with student.

Both the Torah Academy of Bergen County, in Teaneck, and the Jewish Educational Center, in Elizabeth, sent out letters informing their parent bodies that they had recently been informed of the incidents of sexual contact with the teacher, who is female. The incidents had occurred prior to this year.

The schools indicated that they immediately contacted the police, who opened investigations.

Survivor of Incest clarifies her letter

This is a clarification of the original letter  in response to my comments and those of other readers

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

It seems like there are some misunderstandings about some aspects of my situation.So let me set things straight.

I had no recollection of the abuse until a few years after my wedding, when I entered therapy for a seemingly different problem, (more about that later.) I believe the reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, yes, trauma often gets suppressed. But an equally important reason is that I had no way of knowing when I was going through the abuse that this was not ok. Of course it didn’t feel ok, but I knew nothing about sex, had no language about what was happening, thus I didn’t even have the tools to be able to ask myself whether what my father was doing was ok or not. I believed I was special, and that is why my father was doing this with me, and probably nobody else in the world (certainly not my friends,) has had, or will ever have this experience. I definitely had no clue that this is something all married adults do, and it is not meant for children, or for anyone else besides one’s spouse. I knew about immorality being one of the three cardinal sins that one must give their lives for, yet I had no idea what immorality was, and certainly had no idea that this was what my father was doing.

In addition, please understand that it was totally inconceivable to me that my father would do anything against Halacha, since he was my primary educator regarding Yiddishkeit, so to me, for sure my father was a bigger Yirea Shomayim then I was.  (And those of you familiar with the Chassidishe education system, I’m sure you can realize how we inculcate this notion into our children that the previous generations are for sure much better than the later ones.  After all, the whole issue of Massorah, in a way, hinges on this belief.)

When I found out about sex, a few weeks before my wedding, it was already a couple of years after the last time my father actually lived with me, so although, under the surface there were loads of issues there for me, yet I didn’t have any landing space for the truth to come up and be exposed to me consciously.

Then, a few years after my wedding, I hit a rock bottom regarding a seemingly unrelated issue, and it was suggested to me that I go for therapy, which I did.  It took a year of intensive therapy until I realized that what my father did on a regular basis was sexual abuse, and then, once I realized that, the more suppressed memories of actually living with my father came to the forefront.

Even after the truth was clear to me, it still took another full year of therapy until I was ready to deal with the incest. I needed to take the time in therapy to reexamine who my father really is, character wise, in order for me to be able to accept and deal with the information I now had.

Based on my experience, regarding what it took for me to be able to come face to face with what really happened, I wrote to you in a previous comment that I strongly feel that the majority of incest victims in the Chassidishe communities are not even aware that they are victims.

I have been on an intensive healing journey since my discovery (for close to 20 years,) and look forward to continue on this path for the rest of my life. Baruch Hashem, I can now say that so much of who I am today would not have been possible had I not had the incest in my history. Healing from the incest has forced me to grow in ways that would never have been possible for me had I not had my history. And I believe growth is really what life is all about, and where the pleasure is at.(I hope it is self understood that I’m not in any way justifying abuse by making the above statements. Hashem runs this world, and ultimately no harm befalls us that isn’t leading to our higher good, in this world or the next. Yet this doesn’t at all excuse or mitigate the actions of the perpetrator, who is clearly responsible for his deeds.

Now let me share with you an excerpt of my first letter in order to clarify the point I was trying to make.

I often ponder, “As a child going through the abuse, knowing what I know now as an adult that has been through close to 20 years of intense healing, what would I have wanted other adults to have done to help me back then?” And I cannot say that reporting it to the authorities is the answer. I would have wished for someone, perhaps an aunt or other family member or family friend, to step in and remove me from my family, without exposing to the world what was really happening, (like by forcing my parents to send me to seminary, or by sending me to live with a grandparent with the excuse that the grandparents need a grandchild with them, etc.) In addition, I wish they would have sent me for therapy right then as a teenager

Had the authorities been called into the picture, and my family would have been exposed, I fear I would have never been comfortable in the community again.  Certainly I wouldn’t have been able to do the shidduch I did, or hold the prestigious job I hold. It is sad, but it is just the fact, that our community would surely consider someone like myself as damaged goods, had they been told the truth.  So I keep asking myself, is it really right for us to take a stand that calling in the authorities in such situations is the only correct thing to do?  After all, isn’t it the victim’s life that we are here to improve, and does calling in the authorities, especially in cases of incest really help the victim in the long run?

I think I have made it quite clear that removing the child from the family and getting them into therapy, needs to be the top priority in order to help the victim.

Of course there is also the other issue of protecting potential victims, yet this is not the point I’m focusing on in my letter, rather my question is, what is best for the victim. (Though I do affirm that we are commanded לא תעמד על דם ריעך and if we are able to prevent someone from being abused, and we don’t, we share the liability together with the perpetrator.)

Now, quoting your letter, "living a good and productive life at the cost of living a lie,” I believe that is an oxymoron. Learning to live a good life publicly while privately suffering the painful consequences of being a victim of incest, what is the benefit of living a good life publicly when one is suffering privately?

I don’t see myself as one who lives a lie. Both of my parents are aware of my truth, and more importantly, I do not participate in family functions where I perceive that my presence is an acquiescence to my family’s façade, no matter how weird this looks to others, or how uncomfortable it makes others feel. But perhaps most importantly, because of all the help I received over the years, and my husband’s continuous staunch validation, I know, and totally accept my truth.I choose not to share about my incest with my next door neighbor, school friends, or husband’s family simply because I feel the community just can’t handle it, and chances are they will ostracize me rather than face the truth, or at best, just simply be freaked out by me and my existence. After all, I know what it took for me to be able to digest the information of incest existing in the Chassidishe world, even though I only stood to gain by assimilating that fact, and I was in intense therapy to help me along.So what can I expect of the average Chassidishe community member?

There is just so much more I can say about this point, that I have come to understand while grappling with all this over the years, yet I do realize that this letter is long enough already as is. 

So thanks again for giving me the space to clarify myself, and wishing you much further success.

Jerusalem Conference on Abuse - Rav Zev Leff & Dr. David Pelcovitz January 22, 2012

Brooklyn D.A. Refuses To Name Child Sex Abusers

Law enforcement officials, legal experts, advocates and politicians have questioned why Brooklyn’s District Attorney arrested 85 Orthodox adults on child sex abuse charges but refuses to release their names.

In just three years, District Attorney Charles Hynes has arrested 83 Orthodox men and two women on charges including sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping and sodomy.

But when asked to reveal names — even of the 14 abusers who were convicted of sex crimes — Hynes refuses.[...]

Abused Israeli guru's 17 wives & 38 children received millions in aid

Many of the wives of Goel Ratzon, the self-styled spiritual guru arrested nearly two years ago for terrorizing and abusing them and their children, are still suffering hardship despite the millions of shekels the state has spent on their rehabilitation. 

Ratzon's 17 wives and their 38 children have received more than NIS 3.4 million in government aid through the Social Affairs Ministry, an unprecedented sum that is far beyond what is usually granted abused women who leave their homes. The funding covered such things as removing tattoos and covering debts of several hundred thousand shekels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Alleged child molester Herschel Taubenfeld of New Square turned himself into Ramapo Police

Alleged child molester Herschel Taubenfeld of New Square has turned himself into Ramapo Police as of 10:30 a.m. this morning. Previously he had fled the area when word of his impending arrest got around. 
Sources said Taubenfeld is a well-connected resident of the Hasidic village. Recently a victim of Taubenfeld came forward willing to go through with the prosecution of the case and the sources said police are likely to arrest others in Taubenfeld's circle in the coming weeks. Police have taken a heightened interest and been more successful in pursuing such cases within the Hasidic community, since certain activists like Brooklyn Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg have made light of the abuse.
Others have also helped, though most would rather not have their names known. These activists have been setting up support networks for victims of abuse, as the most difficult aspect of prosecuting abuse charges is finding a victim willing to go through the trauma of the legal process.[...]

Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Report Sexual Assault

An exhaustive government survey of rape and domestic violence released on Wednesday affirmed that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and in some instances may be far more common than previously thought. 

Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported being beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report. 

“That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey. “I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population.”[...]

Rabbi expected to plead guilty to sex abuse

Boston Globe

In a case that highlighted concerns about sexual abuse in Jewish communities, a rabbi who taught at one of the region’s most prestigious Jewish day schools is expected to plead guilty today to molesting three sixth-graders during the 1970s, according to two of his alleged victims and others familiar with the case. 

Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt, a former religious studies teacher at the Maimonides School in Brookline, was indicted by a Suffolk grand jury two years ago after one of his students, Michael Brecher, told Suffolk prosecutors that Levitt molested him when he was an 11-year-old patient at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a second student said Levitt abused him in the shower of his Brighton home.[...]

"Is the police the best solution" part II - Response to the letter from survivor of incest

The letter I received and published from a survivor of incest - has attracted many readers and a number of comments. It as a sensitive and cogent expression of the complexity of the horrific reality of abuse in our communities. I have done a lot of thinking about  her questions and how to respond to them. I am not going to complete that task today but simply want to summarize the issues she presents and then perhaps tomorrow to suggest some answers. I want to make sure I understand her letter properly.

She describes herself as a woman from a distinguished Orthodox Jewish family. Her father's sexual attacks happened when she was a child - and due to the resulting trauma - the memory of the rape was suppressed until after she got married. She was not protected or comforted from this rape nor did she receive therapy when it was discovered - apparently therapy started only many years later when she was married for a number of years. She is now living a good and productive life - but at the cost of living a lie regarding her past and being alienated from her family. Part of her concern is that if she had been fully aware of the abuse and if it became public knowledge due to the arrest of her father - she would not have gotten such a good shidduch. Therefore her question comes down to the costs-benefits analysis of having her father arrested for his horrible crime or whether it is better to live a lie in regards to the past - and have a good future?

The tenor of the letter seems to presuppose that there is either a choice of calling the police and having everything exposed and the possibility of a normal life forever destroyed or covering up abuse and learning to live a good life publicly while privately suffering the painful consequences of being a victim of incest.

I hope to show that the response to abuse is more varied and nuanced. [To be continued]

Israeli identity crisis - Who are we?” - Thomas Friedman

[...] It confuses them to read that right-wing Jewish settlers attacked an Israeli army base on Tuesday in the West Bank, stoning Israeli soldiers in retaliation for the army removing “illegal” settlements that Jewish extremists establish wherever they want. 

It confuses them to read, as the New Israel Fund reports on its Web site, that “more than 10 years ago, the ultra-Orthodox community asked Israel’s public bus company, Egged, to provide segregated buses in their neighborhoods. By early 2009, more than 55 such lines were operating around Israel. Typically, women are required to enter through the bus back doors and sit in the back of the bus, as well as ‘dress modestly.’ ” 

It confuses them to read a Financial Times article from Israel on Monday, that said: “In recent weeks, the country has been consumed by an anguished debate over a series of new laws and proposals that many fear are designed to stifle dissent, weaken minority rights, restrict freedom of speech and emasculate the judiciary. They include a law that in effect allows Israeli communities to exclude Arab families; another that imposes penalties on Israelis advocating a boycott of products made in West Bank Jewish settlements; and proposals that would subject the supreme court to greater political oversight.”[...]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A survivor of incest asks, "Is calling the police the best solution?"

December 8, 2011
Dear Rabbi Eidensohn Shlita,

Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to you for having the courage to deal with this most sensitive, greatly disturbing topic of molestation and incest.

As a survivor of incest, I regularly read your blog, and have found through it much chizuk and help in coming to terms with my ordeals.  It is especially helpful for me to read about what others have to say regarding different aspects of this topic, which also pertain to me. Thus, there are two points I would love to see you address, and receive feedback from other readers.

I come from a very prominent family, highly ranked regarding shidduchim. And indeed, I and my siblings all did very beautiful shidduchim. (I actually remember when I got married a relative of my husband commented to my father that after he got to know me he concluded that my father must be an expert in “Chinuch Habonos” to have raised such an outstanding daughter.)  And yet my father molested me for many years, to the point that Rav Eliyashuv Shlita ruled years after my marriage, when my story was revealed to him, that we needed to redo our Ketubah, since I wasn’t a בתילה when I got married, as my original ketubah stated.

Now these are the two points that I would love to see you address in your blog, and hear what others have to say about them.

Firstly, there has been much talk lately about reporting abuse to the authorities. I understand the need to do so in order to protect other children, and in cases of molestation, to help victims find their voice and feel like justice has been done. However, what happens when the perpetrator is your father, and going to the police will expose your own family, and ruin their good name? I know it might sound trivial to worry about your family’s “name” at a time when it’s all just a façade’ and in truth the family is extremely dysfunctional, however the fact remains that having a good name in our communities does mean a lot. In addition, how is the victim expected to handle these intense emotions of knowing that it is because of them that their father is in jail? After all, “blood isn’t water,” and the victim will be forced to live with having incarcerated their own, and their siblings’ father, and the husband of their mother, etc.

I often ponder, “As a child going through the abuse, knowing what I know now as an adult that has been through close to 20 years of intense healing, what would I have wanted other adults to have done to help me back then? And I cannot say that reporting it to the authorities is the answer. I would have wished for someone, perhaps an aunt or other family member or family friend, to step in and remove me from my family, without exposing to the world what was really happening, (like by forcing my parents to send me to seminary, or by sending me to live with a grandparent with the excuse that the grandparents need a grandchild with them, etc.) In addition, I wish they would have sent me for therapy right then as a teenager.

Had the authorities been called into the picture, and my family would have been exposed, I fear I would have never been comfortable in the community again. Certainly I wouldn’t have been able to do the shidduch I did, or hold the prestigious job I hold It is sad, but it is just the fact, that our community would surely consider someone like myself as damaged goods, had they been told the truth. So I keep asking myself, is it really right for us to take a stand that calling in the authorities in such situations is the only correct thing to do? After all, isn’t it the victim’s life that we are here to improve, and does calling in the authorities, especially in cases of incest really help the victim in the long run?
(In her memoir “The Source of All Things,” Tracy Ross tells her story of being abused by her step-father, and how the police were called in. It seems pretty clear to me that calling the police might of stopped the abuse, yet is triggered a whole new range of problems. And this is someone growing up in the secular world,קל וחומר a victim growing up in our “heimishe” communities.)

My second question is about the incest-victim maintaining contact with their family many years down the line.I chose to politely but firmly severe ties with my family.  I never explained why I didn’t show up for family functions or why I moved out of town and hardly called home.  I just did it. It’s been many years now that I hardly have contact with my family, and I really don’t miss it at all. I find that being away from them allows me to thrive, and I have strong loving relationships with my husband’s family, (though they know nothing about the abuse,) that fills in for the need of family for me. (and I do have Daas Torah backing me on my position.) 

I feel like having connections with my family, (including my siblings,) undermines my very existence. My father, (although he has admitted to the abuse to me,) still maintains the image of being an upstanding Erliche Yid, respected by all as being really chashuv, and my mother and siblings continue to go along with this image. Thus, when I meet with them, I feel like I’m sort of buying into this image too, which by definition denies my truth, my very existence. And yet I need to admit that deep down I would like this fake image to remain intact, since I too benefit from it as I move through life in the “heimishe” communities. So I guess I can’t really blame my siblings for the role they play in maintaining the family image, yet I stay away because of the damage it does to my soul when I force myself to interact with the family as if all was just fine and dandy.

I would love to hear from others, especially other survivors, how they deal with family issues, and what works for them.

Thanks so much for giving me the space to air my thoughts and feelings.Wishing you much Hatzlacha in all that you do.

Is a person required to save another's life - if it causes him/her great embarrassment?

Everybody is aware that there is an obligation of saving others. It is also clear that one needs to exert effort and even expend money to save others. You are even allowed to speak lashon harah to save another's life. The question is a person required to suffer embarrassment and degradation to save another person's life? Rav Moshe Feinstein says yes.

Vayikra (19:16) states, “You shall not go around spreading gossip amongst your people nor shall you stand idly by the blood of your fellow man – I am the L‑rd.”
This is codified in Shulchan Aruch(C.M. 426:1): If you see someone drowning in the sea or being attacked by bandits or wild animals and it is possible to save him by yourself or to pay others to save him and yet you don’t save him or alternatively you hear non‑Jews or informers plotting to do him harm and yet you don’t inform him or alternatively you know that non‑Jews or bandits are planning to attack him and you are able dissuade them and yet you don’t or other such scenarios – you are violating “do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow (Vayikra 19:16).
 Chinuch( #237) adds This means not only are obligated to try and save his life yourself but you need to also take the trouble and hire others if that is what is needed. The basis of this mitzva is well known because if you try and save others then others will try and save you. This is the basis of civilization and G‑d desires that society be preserved.
However Sanhedrin (73a) notes that there are in fact two verses - the verse in Vayikra and the verse to return lost objects and saving a person is a type of returning a lost object. Whence do we know that if a man sees his neighbor drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse, Thou shalt not stand by the blood of thy neighbor.’ But is it derived from this verse? Is it not rather from elsewhere? Viz., Whence do we know [that one must save his neighbor from] the loss of himself? From the verse, And thou shalt restore him to himself!9 — From that verse I might think that it is only a personal obligation,10 but that he is not bound to take the trouble of hiring men [if he cannot deliver him himself]: therefore, this verse teaches that he must.

Rav Shlomo Kluger
therefore learns from this gemora that in fact that the same parameters for returning lost objects applies to saving lives. In particular that just as in returning lost objects one does not need to embarrass and degrade himself (if it is not in accord with his dignity)- he doesn't have to cause himself embarrassment - even to save a life.

This conclusion is strongly rejected by Rav Moshe Feinstein (Y.D. 2:174.3)  [bottom of first colum] in his discussion of saving a person who attempted suicide.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogger not a journalist story - really about blogger trying to slander the innocent

Last week, a story came across my desk that seemed to suggest that a blogger had been unfairly nailed with a $2.5 million defamation award after a judge refused to give her standing as a journalist. A businessman who was the target of the blogger’s inquiries brought the suit. 

I went to work on a blog post, filled with filial umbrage, saddened that the Man once again had used a boot heel to crush truth and free speech. But after doing a little reporting, I began to think that what scanned as an example of a rich businessman using the power of the courts to silence his critic was actually something else: a case of a blogger using the Web in unaccountable ways to decimate the reputation of someone who didn’t seem to have it coming. 

The ruling on whether she was a journalist in the eyes of the law turned out to be a MacGuffin, a detail that was very much beside the point. She didn’t so much report stories as use blogging, invective and search engine optimization to create an alternative reality. Journalists who initially came to her defense started to back away when they realized they weren’t really in the same business.[...]

Prof. Kaplan responds to Rabbi Meisleman's attack on Rabbi Slifkin

 This is part of an article from Rabbi Slifkin's Blog. The full article can be accessed here.
The main problem with R. Meiselman’s reading of the Rav’s thought is that it is all black and white, lacking any balance or nuance. Had R. Meiselman, for instance, argued that the Rav’s concerns were primarily parochial and that universal concerns played only a minor role in his thought, I would have disagreed with him and argued that the weight of the evidence indicates otherwise, but his position would have had some plausibility and it would have made for an interesting debate. But no, such a nuanced statement does not seem to accord with R. Meiselman’s style. Rather, he has to argue that “The Rav in all his concerns was exceedingly parochial... and that one cannot find a single instance where the Rav was involved in any of the universal issues of his day.’’ This made it almost embarrassingly easy for me to disprove his claim by simply pointing to clear and explicit statements of the Rav in his essay “Confrontation’’ and in his position paper “On Interfaith Relationships’’ where the Rav does express universal concerns.
Similarly, had R. Meiselman claimed that the Rav maintains that the importance of the State of Israel has to be evaluated primarily in pragmatic terms, I would again have disagreed with him, but his position again would have had some plausibility, and it too would have made for an interesting debate. In such a circumstance R. Meiselman might even have had some basis for maintaining that the shmuess lends some credence to that more limited claim. But no, first R. Meiselman claims in his unnuanced fashion that the Rav maintains that “the importance of the State of Israel has to be evaluated purely in pragmatic terms’’ and that it “does not have halakhic meaning,’’ and then he, in equally unnuanced fashion, argues that “everything I said about Rav Yoshe Ber and Zionism is confirmed in ...the shmuess....It confirmed everything I had said on this topic.’’ Of course, had R. Meiselman admitted that for the Rav the religious significance of the State of Israel is not purely pragmatic, he would not have been able to arrive at the astonishing conclusion that “The Rav’s difference of opinion with other [Haredi] Torah giants was the degree of accommodation with the government [sic] of Israel. It existed on the pragmatic level only.’’
R. Slifkin’s praise and R. Meiselman’s critique of my article arose only tangentially in the course of their debate regarding the relationship between Torah and science. It is not my purpose here to enter into the substance of that debate; R. Slifkin certainly does not need my help.  I will only say that the same all or nothing approach, the same lack of nuance and balance that I have shown to be so prevalent in R. Meiselman’s reading of the teachings of the Rav are equally prevalent in his discussions of Torah and science.