Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rabbis who will not acknowledge sexual abuse because of lashon harah

Some correspondence I recently received clearly shows that there are rabbis - perhaps the  majority - who will profess that while they are very concerned about the welfare of children - but it is less important than being makpid on lashon harah.

Summary of correspondence: His Rav claims that allegations read or heard were lashon harah unless charges were first upheld in beis din based on testimony of 2 kosher witnesses. Questioned whether the average person is allowed to read such allegations on a blog such as mine since they don't need to know and thus the lashon harah serves no purpose.

This is the view clearly expressed by  Rav Menashe Klein   Put another way, these rabbis refuse to accept even the existence of abuse unless it can be reported in ways that don't violate the prohibition of lashon harah.

It is critical to realize that the same verse that prohibits lashon harah - also says that one should not stand by when someone is being hurt physically, psychologically or financially. In fact the commentaries - including that of Rav Elchonon Wasserman understand that there is no prohibition of lashon harah in a situation where a person can be saved from harm by speaking about it.
Vayikra (19:16) You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people; nor shall you stand against the blood of your neighbor; I am the Lord.

Relevant previous posts:
Rabbi Zwiebel of the Aguda saying lashon harah is a high price to pay to save kids from abuse
Rav Menashe Klein rejects the view of gedolei hador regarding child abuse - requires 2 witnesses and beis din
 ====================In contrast ===================
Rav Moshe Sternbuch saying that prohibition of lashon harah is not justification for not listening to allegations - he cites Rav Chaim Ozer and the Gerrer Rebbe.

Pischei Teshuva - saying not saying lashon harah to save people is worse than lashon harah

Rav Elchonon Wasserman - lashon harah prohibited only if intent to harm others

Rema - 2 kosher witnesses not needed 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Judge orders ex-Penn State executives to trial in abuse coverup

Reuters   Harrisburg District Judge William Wenner, after a two-day preliminary hearing, ordered a criminal trial to be held for the university's former president, Graham Spanier, 65, its former athletic director, Tim Curley, 59, and its former senior vice president Gary Schultz, 63.

Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, was convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. He is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in a state prison

A witness central to the prosecution's case, former assistant football coach Mike McQueary, testified on Monday about seeing Sandusky abuse a child in the school's locker room showers in 2001. He testified that the morning following the assault, he told Penn State football coach Joe Paterno what he saw and also told Curley and Schultz. No one told police.

Spanier, Curley, and Schultz are accused of a "conspiracy of silence" for failing to report the shower incident to authorities, which permitted Sandusky to continue preying on boys. He met most of his victims through a charity he founded for at-risk youth. [...]

D.A. Hynes conduct raises Questions of Professional Conduct

NY Times   In search of love and votes, Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, cannot seem to stop tripping over himself. 

Last week, he went on a television and radio show for the Orthodox Jewish community and denounced Sam Kellner. Bearded and intense, a bubbling fountain of words, Mr. Kellner is one of the rare few in the Hasidic community who spoke publicly about the plague of child sexual abuse. He helped the district attorney build cases against prominent Hasidic leaders, including a man accused of molesting Mr. Kellner’s own 16-year-old son. 

Or at least Mr. Kellner spoke until Brooklyn prosecutors turned around two years ago and charged him with trying to extort his son’s accused abuser, the Satmar cantor Baruch Lebovits.
The weakness of the case against Mr. Kellner is difficult to overstate. On Monday in State Supreme Court, Mr. Hynes’s prosecutors pleaded for more time to reinvestigate their rapidly disintegrating case. 

None of which appeared to have given pause to Mr. Hynes. “I believe there was a substantial effort by Mr. Kellner to gain money by making up stories,” he told the host of the program, Zev Brenner, last week. “I think we have a substantial case.” 

It appears Mr. Hynes, who often emphasizes the management experience he has accumulated over many decades, has violated the state’s rules of professional conduct, which prohibit prosecutors from offering “any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a suspect” in a criminal matter.[...]

Mondrowitz beaten up in Jerusalem by vigilante

Algemeiner   Avrohom Mondrowitz, a notorious fake rabbi and child psychologist who fled US arrest warrants for child molestation in 1984, was attacked and beaten by an unknown vigilante assailant last week in Jerusalem, according to cellphone video footage of the incident released exclusively to The Algemeiner.

“Isaac,” a 22-year old American studying in Jerusalem who recorded the scene, asked that his full name not be used and that his voice be altered in the footage.

The cameraman said he did not know the identity of the assailant nor was he, personally, someone who typically resorted to violence, but the frustrating circumstances surrounding Mondrowitz’s continued freedom from hundreds of accusers made this an occasion where “vigilante justice could be justified.”

Isaac, originally from the New York area, said that he was neither a victim of child abuse nor an activist, but knew many people who had suffered abuse and felt “someone has to do something,” and that he had to “speak up.”

Rav Kook's dilemma: Hesped for Hertzl

Shaalvim   On the twentieth of Tammuz, 5664 (July 3,1904), Dr. Theodor Herzl (Benjamin Ze’ev) Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, died at the tragically young age of forty-four. Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook, the newly installed rabbi of the port city of Jaffa, was asked to participate in a memorial service to honor the departed leader. Rav Kook was placed in a difficult situation, for which there was no totally satisfactory solution. On the one hand, the Halakha is quite specific when it comes to those who have deviated from the norms of Torah:
Whoever secedes from the way of the community, namely persons who throw off the yoke of commandments from upon their neck, and do not participate with the Jewish People in their observances, in honoring the festivals, and sitting in the synagogue and study house, but rather are free to themselves as the other nations, and so too the apostates and informers — for none of these persons does one mourn. Rather, their brothers and other relatives wear white (festive garments) and eat and drink, and make merry (Shulhan ‘Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 345:5).
However one might lionize Herzl, there was no getting away from the fact that his lifestyle was that of an assimilated Jew far from observance of traditional Judaism. If one were to adhere literally to the passage in Shulhan Arukh, the customary hesped or eulogy for the deceased would be out of the question.

On the other hand, Rav Kook knew his flock. If in Jaffa itself Rav Kook might find a few individuals capable of relating to the halakhic objection to memorializing a declaredly secular Jew, in Rehovot and the other outlying settler communities, Herzl, with his patriarchal beard and searing eyes, was regarded as nothing less than a modern-day “prophet.” And Rav Kook had been engaged not only as rabbi of Jaffa, but of the recently established moshavot (colonies) as well. [...]

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rav Moshe Feinstein's grave damaged by Belz chassidim

bhol update July 31, 2013

bhol Belzer chassidim -who went to Har Menuchos for the previous rebbe's yahrzeit - caused serious damage to Rav Moshe Feinstein's tombstone. This was the result of the pushing of the chassidim to see their rebbe.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lakewood: Child abuse must be handled by a beis din which doesn't exist!?

It has been a number of weeks since the Kolko confession and conviction. What lessons have been learned? Of course the most important question is what lesson has Lakewood learned?

On the face of it, it seems that Lakewood made a major mistake in how they handled the Kolko case. Kolko himself has confessed to being a molester to the secular court. He has allegedly also confessed before a number of rabbis who were scheduled to testify to this fact at the trial. Apparently then we have certified by both halacha and secular law that Kolko is in fact a child molester.

However if this is truth is obvious – then why has the Lakewood establishment been silent? Why haven't they at least acknowledged that they made a mistake and apologized to the family that they drove out of Lakewood for the alleged crime of mesira? Isn't it obvious to them that there was no mesira because the father's concern was to protect other children from an actual child molester?

The answer that I am hearing from Lakewood is a resounding, "No!" There are many who still claim that the reporting of Kolko constituted mesira – in particular Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. Rabbi Belsky in fact claimed in a letter that circulated Lakewood before trial that his investigation confirmed Kolko's innocence and that the father – Rabbi "S" was the abuser. The consensus of the reports I have gotten after the trial is that he hasn't changed his mind. This view is shared by many other rabbis in Lakewood. It is true that there are some who have changed their minds – but this is only in private. No one is acknowledging publicly that he erred.

It seems that there are at least 3 factions in Lakewood. 1) Kolko is innocent or at least never was a threat to any children. Since he is not a threat he is not a rodef and therefore there was no justification for calling the police. This seems to be the majority. 2) The other view is that Kolko is a child molester and even without a beis din or even a rav – it is clear that the police should have been called. No one of significance has publicly stated this view. 3) Kolko is in fact a child molester and major rabbis paskened that the police should be informed. However this group – in particular the rabbis – not only refuse to publically state that they paskened this way – but they allegedly lie when they are asked.  They are afraid of telling the truth. Publicly this view doesn't exist.

Furthermore the population in Lakewood has 3 different approaches to understanding the conditions for calling the police.

1) A beis din of 3 rabbis is required to hear the claims and testimony of kosher witnesses is required. The purpose of the beis din is to determine halachic guilt or innocence. This approach asserts that without an explicit psak from a beis din – it is prohibited to go to the police. Even if guilt is determined – but if the beis din says that the matter can be handled internally – it is prohibited to call the police. This is the view explicitly stated by Rav Menashe Klein.
2) No beis din is needed since they have neither the power or competence to investigate the matter. However a rav needs to be consulted as to whether there is raglayim ledaver – credible evidence. The rav serves as the gatekeeper – but he is not poskening guilt or innocence. This is the view of the Aguda.
3) There is no reason to consult either a beis din or a rav. It is enough that that there is credible evidence that abuse has occurred. Since we are dealing with rodef – self‑protection – no rabbinical authority is needed. Only normal human judgment and knowledge is required to make the decision of whether to call the police. This is the view of the RCA and Rav Belsky's letter posted to the RCA website.

Unfortunately whether one needs to go to a beis din or not is at this point a moot point in Lakewood. That is because a person with an abuse allegation, no longer has a beis din in Lakewood dealing with these cases. In addition apparently no rav will posken these issues and publicly stand by his views. Anyone who goes to the police after receiving a psak will be labeled a moser. Thus the problem for Lakewood is – there is no longer any acceptable rabbinic mechanism for dealing with these cases. This was also the problem for the Aguda when they announced a few years ago that a rav (not even a beis din) had to be consulted for raglayim ledavar – and then a year later they acknowledged that they had no rabbonim who were willing to be publicly designated to deal with child molesting!

In Lakewood this is allegedly the result of a dispute been Rav Malkiel Kotler and Rav Mattisyahu Solomon. Rav Kotler is allegedly opposed to having a beis din for these matters and Rav Solomon is allegedly for the beis din. I was told by a number of sources that the beis din of Rav Solomon was dissolved after it ordered on alleged perpetrator to quit teaching and he threatened the beis din with a $10, 000, 000 lawsuit. The final nail in the coffin of the beis din was that Rav Kotler publicly sided with the accused. Thus Lakewood has a "catch 22" situation. Everyone acknowledges that child abuse is harmful and therefore halachicly it must be stopped. But there is no longer a mechanism in Lakewood for dealing with the problem so therefore the problem can't be dealt with! The only thing that can be dealt is condemning those people who go to the police without the permission they can't get.

This conflicting confusion in dealing with child abuse – is not limited to Lakewood. It is also clearly present in Rav Belsky. On the one hand he strongly condemned Rabbi "S" as a moser and a molester – and yet publicly published a statement on the RCA website saying that someone with credible evidence should go to the police (without mentioning either a beis din or a rav). In contradiction he is also quoted as saying that "in Lakewood we don't go to the police." However to show that he was serious about calling the police he said in the RCA statement that in one case in Brooklyn he had actually advised going to the police. So Rav Belsky does favor going to the police in certain circumstances - however most cases of molesting apparently don't meet his standards.

In sum, in Lakewood "one does not go to the police" and even though there are major rabbonim who will permit it in certain cases of abuse – they will never acknowledge that they permitted it. Thus no one will go to the  police because they definitely will be destroyed as a moser. In Lakewood abuse is denied or covered up (in the immortal words of Rav Mattisyahu Solomon at an Aguda Conference). Sometimes molesters are asked to go to therapy - without any way of making sure they comply. Sometimes molesters are sent to Israel or other communities. There was even a case of the Lakewood establishment in which the rabbis naively tried curing pedophilia by have the pedophile marry an innocent orphan who didn't realize how she was being betrayed by the rabbis that she had been taught to blindly respect. In addition I have heard allegations that even when Rav Solomon's beis din was functioning and telling molesters to pay for therapy for their victim – that some of these molesters went on to molest other children - because they were allowed to keep teaching. Of course after molesting again, they again went to Rabbi Solomon's beis din – but the police were never called.

Thank You Again Yair Lapid for Helping Orthodox Judaism in Israel by RaP

Saturday, July 27, 2013

When sex offenders are targeted for killing

NY Times  When Charles Parker registered as a sex offender in the small upstate town of Jonesville, S.C., he became a prospect on another man’s kill list, the authorities say. [...]

Sheriff’s officials believe that the double murder in Jonesville, a one-square-mile town of about 900 residents, was not the byproduct of a botched drug deal or a home invasion. Rather, they suspect that Mr. Parker’s death was intended as the opening phase of a man’s quest to purge sex offenders from Union County.

“He went through our sex offender registry,” said Sheriff David H. Taylor, “and individually picked out targets.”[...]

[...] But the case in South Carolina is otherwise odd, he said. 

“It’s very unusual that someone would set out to kill large numbers of sex offenders.” 

Mr. Moody is not the first person accused of targeting sex offenders. As recently as last month, a California jury convicted a 36-year-old man of killing a neighbor who was a sex offender, and a Washington State man was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison for a pair of similar killings.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Watching the Jewish Community Watch and Its ‘Wall of Shame’

Tablet Magazine   Now 24, Seewald claims to have a database containing over 225 suspected sex offenders and a confidential eight-member advisory “board” made up of mental-health professionals, legal experts, and rabbis who, according to Seewald, refuse to acknowledge their roles publicly for fear of backlash. JCW’s Wall of Shame features 36 accused abusers, 21 of them arrested, according to the site, each added when the “board” has determined there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Like other Jewish blogs dedicated to sex-abuse awareness, such as Mark Appell’s Voice of Justice or Vicky Pollin’s The Awareness Center, JCW aggregates related news and offers referrals for legal advice or counseling services, but Seewald takes the job a step further. When a victim who confides in Seewald is unwilling—or unable due to the statute of limitations—to press charges, Seewald conducts his own investigation, selectively exposing alleged abusers on his “Wall of Shame.” [...]

According to Chaim Levin, 24, a Crown Heights blogger and activist who won $3.5 millionjudgment against his cousin on June 12, claiming years of childhood sex abuse, gaining Seewald as an ally was a relief. “The day I got a call from Seewald asking me about my story was the first time I believed that our community was actually making some progress in combating abuse,” said Levin. “I had been talking about what happened to me to anyone who would listen since I was 14, but everyone told me to keep it to myself and move on.”
Seewald’s confrontational style is evident in his latest project, Project E.M.E.S., an acronym for Educating Mosdos (institutions) on Eradicating Sexual abuse, launched this month, which aims to prevent sex abuse in religious summer camps. The project’s accompanyingvideo, titled “A Friendly Message to Camp Counselors,” warns them: “I don’t care who you are, what family you come from. If you touch a child, we will find out about it.”
But is Seewald—whose apparent irreverence for the hierarchies of Jewish institutions sets him apart from other crusaders in the field—helping or doing more harm than good? Seewald said he hopes the blog’s “Wall of Shame” will warn parents and instill fear in local predators, preventing the victimization of more children. “The only thing molesters are afraid of is being exposed and caught. They are more afraid of the Wall of Shame, than going to jail,” he told me. But the Wall of Shame has also proved to be deeply problematic; used irresponsibly, it can easily undermine the organization’s objectives and destroy an innocent person’s life. According to Ben Hirsch, co-founder of Survivors for Justice, an organization that advocates and educates on issues of child safety, Seewald is on a dangerous track. “Setting up a separate registry [from the law enforcement agencies] can be perceived as condoning a separate justice system,” he told me, “Which, in a way, perpetuates the message of the rabbis that we can deal with this issue in-house. The message must instead be that the only way to deal with child sex abuse is to report it directly to the police, without any prior consultation with a rabbi or other communal figure.”[...]

U.S. Prison Populations Decline, Reflecting New Approach to Crime

NYTimes   The prison population in the United States dropped in 2012 for the third consecutive year, according to federal statistics released on Thursday, in what criminal justice experts said was the biggest decline in the nation’s recent history, signaling a shift away from an almost four-decade policy of mass imprisonment. [...]

“This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration,” said Natasha Frost, associate dean of Northeastern University’s school of criminology and criminal justice.[...]

Imprisonment rates in the United States have been on an upward march since the early 1970s. From 1978, when there were 307,276 inmates in state and federal prisons, the population increased annually, reaching a peak of 1,615,487 inmates in 2009.

But in recent years, tightened state budgets, plummeting crime rates, changes in sentencing laws and shifts in public opinion have combined to reverse the trend. Experts on prison policy said that the continuing decline appears to be more than a random fluctuation.[...]

But changing public attitudes are also a major driver behind the declining prison numbers. Dropping crime rates over the last 20 years have reduced public fears and diminished the interest of politicians in running tough-on-crime campaigns. And public polls consistently show that Americans are now more interested in spending money on education and health care than on building more prisons. [...]

Marc Levin, senior policy adviser for Right on Crime, described the change in conservatives’ position on parole violators: It used to be “Trail ’em, nail ’em and jail ’em,” he said, “but there’s been a move to say, ‘Yes, there’s a surveillance function, but we also want them to succeed.’ ” [...]

Joan Petersilia, a law professor at Stanford and a co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said in an interview last year that she thought Americans had “gotten the message that locking up a lot of people doesn’t necessarily bring public safety.” California’s example, she said, has also spurred other states to consider downsizing for fear of facing similar litigation. [...]

David Kramer case: When is an apology not an apology?

Tzedek   When is an apology not an apology? When Yeshivah Centre seeks to separate itself from an apology issued by Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah Colleges Principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler.

Just two days ago, following the sentencing of former employee and confessed and convicted paedophile David Kramer, Yeshivah College Principal Rabbi Smukler put out a statement apologising for “any historical wrongs”, saying “we empathise with the victims and their families” and “we continue to offer support… to anyone who feels this will be of benefit to them”. (

Tzedek welcomed the letter as an important first step by Yeshivah in terms of acknowledging its past wrongdoing but noted the real test will be the actions taken by the institution and its leaders from this day forward. (

Sadly, it seems that the Yeshivah Centre’s actions have once again failed to live up to its rhetoric.

Rabbi Smukler’s response seems to suggest that the statement he released on Wednesday must have been only on behalf of Yeshivah College, NOT the entire Yeshivah Centre. Obviously the Yeshivah Centre is yet to issue its own public statement and unequivocal apology. The community and the general public must understand this distinction. [...]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Daughter's claim of gang rape led by father - rejected by jury after 5 minutes!

Jewish Chronicle   A father accused of leading the gang rape of his teenage daughter and using a snake and a gerbil during the attack has been found not guilty on all charges.

The Orthodox Jewish man was accused of sexually abusing his daughter from the age of 10. The now young woman also accused a family friend of raping her and joining her father in leading her gang rape, while she was drugged and bound, with a group of unknown men.

Following a month-long trial, both men were cleared of all charges after just five minutes of deliberation by the jury. [...]

His lawyer, Anthony Metzer, said: “The allegations against my client, a religious family man of exemplary character, were extraordinary and shocking and the jury must have found them to be fanciful and… without foundation.” [...]

Mr Goldberg said in court: “She is a feisty, confident young lady, who never once shed a tear, never once backed down,” and suggested she was “rather enjoying the battle of wits”. As for the girl’s psychologist and mentors, a US rabbi and his wife, Mr Goldberg said: “They’ve all been suckered by her.”

Three key pieces of evidence led to the acquittal in what their solicitor, David Sonn, called “record time”.

"זרוק מרה בתלמידים" - מדיניות חינוכית מחוייבת ?

 הרב פרופ' נריה גוטל
תחומין כו תשס"ו
עמו' 252-269

ז .סיכום :חרב פיפיות בידי המורה
החכם שעיניו בראשו חייב להכיר את מכלול המקורות, הן אלה שמדגישים את חובת  כיבוד הרב את תלמידיו והן את אלה שמעניקים לגיטימציה לזרזים שונים, כולל  להכלמה, מאידך גיסא, הוא חייב שבעתיים להכיר את נפש תלמידיו ,שכן חרב פיפיות  מסורה בפיו ובלשונו, להשפיל או לרומם, יש להניח שבדורנו, בסתמא, אהבה ואחווה  ושלום ורעות הם שיהיו הדרך הנכונה והמועילה, אם כי ייתכנו זעיר פה זעיר שם  תלמידים, שלהם תהא נאה גם דרך ההכלמה, יהאפקטיביות' היא אמת-הבוחן 32  הראשית, 'מדד' זה, אסור לו שייתן חלילה הכשר לכל מה שהמורה הסובייקטיבי רואה  כאפקטיבי, המבחן צריך לשלב מימד אובייקטיבי של נוהגים חברתיים-תרבותיים  הרווחים אותה שעה באותו מקום, עם מימד סובייקטיבי של עולם תלמיד זה שלנגד  עינינו, 'עולם ציפיות' התלמיד, שהוא חלק בלתי נפרד מן העולם החברתי-תרבותי  הרווח, הוא גורם כבד-משקל, אפילו מכריע, מאחר וככל הנראה, בעידן הנוכחי אמצעי  זה פוחת והולך מאפקטיביותו, לכן 'למיחש מיבעי', ומשקל האיסור והשלילה גובר על פי  רוב, והוא המכריע.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Schlesinger Twins: TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE

Help Beth    The judge has made a final custody order.

Samuel and Benjamin’s father has been awarded FULL & IMMEDIATE CUSTODY. My visiting rights remain the same- every Tuesday 11- 5pm and every second Sunday 9-5pm. Visits are to continue at the centre and I will still have to pay 44 Euros each visit to see my children. My applications for weekend access and overnight visits have all been denied by Judge Susanne Göttlicher.

Once again, her decision came as a total shock. She has held NO CUSTODY HEARINGS, has heard all my witnesses IN SECRET COURT, behind closed doors so I did not have the opportunity to cross-examine them or present any of my evidence.

She has not commissioned a psychological assessment on the father or the children, despite my repeated applications and despite her instructions to do so by both the Appeal Court and Supreme Court.

I have a 14 day window to appeal. It is holiday time in Vienna and the city has practically shut down. My lawyer and virtually every good lawyer in town is away on holiday. She timed her last custody decision at exactly the same time. 2 years ago exactly knowing the holiday situation.

More of Rav Elyashiv’s Rulings By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The former Gadol HaDor, Rav Elyashiv may have passed on to the Olam HaEmes, but his Torah lives on.  Indeed, thanks to the efforts of his son-in-law Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein Shlita, we are privy to new and remakrbale rulings of Rav Elyashiv – in a just-off-the-press sefer entitled Kav V’Naki, Vol. II, by Rav Zilberstein. Some of the rulings contained below deal with fundamental issues that all members of Klal Yisroel should be aware of.  Below are some of the questions divided into the categories of three of the four sections of Shulchan Aruch.

Orech Chaim
Regarding the Minhag of fasting for all who witness a Sefer Torah falling, may the Merciful One protect us, are women included in this custom?  Rav Elyashiv zt”l responded that this is the custom now in Klal Yisroel that all men who observed it fall fast, but the technical absolute halachic requirement was only for the person who actually dropped it to fast.  He also ruled that only men are included in this custom and women who see a Sefer Torah fall do not fast. (OC 13)  [Editor’s note:  Perhaps Rav Elyashiv is expressing a similar notion to that of the author of the Alei Shor that the custom of 100 blessings a day was never instituted for women because they have more natural Yiras Shamayim than do men and were not in need of the takanah of 100 blessings per day to increase the Yiras Shamayim].
Can a Down’s Syndrome child be included in a Minyan of ten? Rav Elyashiv answered that if the following two criterion are met, not only may he be counted but he may even be Motzi the masses with Krias HaTorah: 1] If he can shop without losing money and can accept and hold on to change or if he can travel alone on a bus and 2] if he understands a little bit of what he studies (OC 15).
A baal Teshuvah went back to his home community where the only Minyan that existed was one made up of people that drive back home on Shabbos (Heaven help us), is it preferable to daven with them or to daven without a Minyan?  Rav Elyashiv responded that it is preferable to daven alone, although he noted that Rav Moshe Feinstein argued.  In Rav Elyashiv’s published shiurim on Brachos, however, he did state that under very very pressing circumstances one may include such people in a minyan  (OC 16). [...]

An Editorial on Discourse: A response to Ami Magazine By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

This article is written in response to Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter’s editorial in the latest issue of Ami Magazine entitled, “Dov Lipman and Force-Fed Geese.”   I consider Rabbi Frankfurter a friend, and someone who earnestly seeks out the good of the Torah community.  However, in all honesty, I was rather horrified at the extreme tone of Rabbi Frankfurter’s attack on Rabbi Lipman.

Rabbi Frankfurter states that (Rabbi) Lipman is infuriating because of “his peculiar conviction that he wears two hats, one of a politician and the other of a rabbi.”  He further writes, “It is in his self-delusional latter role, in which he preaches as a ‘rabbinic authority’ about those things he says are good for the Torah-true community, that he is so irksome.”

I would like to take issue with Rabbi Frankfurter on two matters:  Firstly, Rabbi Frankfurter is certainly entitled to disagree with both Rabbi Lipman’s views and what he perceives as an “only I know what is good for you” tone.  Yet stating that Rabbi Lipman is self-delusional in the latter role of being a Rabbi is somewhat perplexing.  Rabbi Lipman was a teacher of Torah for many years and was involved in the field of Kiruv Rechokim as well.  To strip Rabbi Lipman of a title that he earned is an act of delegitimization that even the Roshei Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel where he earned his S’micha have not done.  There are many Orthodox Jews that refuse to confer upon the reform or conservative clergy the title of Rabbi because of non-adherence to matters of theology regarding Torah miSinai.  But in this case?

Let us argue from here to tomorrow about issues, but let us not engage in unbecoming ad hominem attacks on others where we engage in the delegitimizing of others.  It could very well be that Rabbi Frankfurter has not delegitimized his S’micha and only takes issue with his preaching as a Rabbinic authority – but the fact that he never refers to Rabbi Lipman with the title of Rabbi, however is indicative that this is not the case.

The second issue, however, is even more disturbing than the first.  Is Rabbi Frankfurter really comparing Dov Lipman and or the government of Israel to the Nazis?  He writes, “What is so tragic about Lipman’s latest pomposity is that Israel would hardly be a light unto the nations by taking measures to ensure animal and poultry welfare.  It was Nazi Germany with its limitless compassion for animal welfare that was deserving of that distinction.”     Have we lost our minds?  Nazis?  Invoking the murderers of our people when speaking about Dov Lipman and the State of Israel?  Why is it that when we voice disagreement with someone that we rush to the ultimate label of offense?  

The main objection of the Chareidi community to what Rabbi Lipman is doing is that he seems to be embarking upon the implementation of an agenda without consulting with the Gedolei Yisroel the leaders of our Torah nation.  But isn’t Rabbi Frankfurter doing the same thing by not having consulted with Gedolei Yisroel as to whether we can compare Dov Lipman to the Nazis?  One cannot imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l or yblc”t Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky Shlita comparing or drawing any analogy between Rabbi Lipman and his actions to the Nazis y’mach shmam.

As of this writing, this author has just returned from the Knesset where the Knesset committee members are ironing out the details of the plan for conscientious objectors to serving in the IDF  to instead serve in Chareidi-only communities in a medical capacity.  While the determination of who will be considered a conscientious objector will still be overseen by the IDF – the plan overall does allow for Chareidi Jews to enter the work force in attempt to address the issues of rampant poverty.  We in the Chareidi world may think that the way Rabbi Lipman is going about things is misguided – but the comparison to Nazis is wholly unwarranted, divisive and inflammatory.  As far as tzaar baalei chaim and geese go, this author does take issue with Rabbi Lipman on this matter – and Rabbi Lipman agreed to revisit the matter – even agreeing to visit a foie gras processing plant to see things for himself as to whether the force fed geese display any gag reflex or appear to be unduly suffering.  

No one is calling into question the notion of arguing or taking issue with the views of others.  Jews have been arguing since the formation of who we are as a people and even before.  What must change, however, is the inflammatory discourse, and the realization that when we have crossed the line – we must apologize.  

The author can be reached at

Understanding the Psychology of Child Molesters: A Key to Getting Confessions

Police Chief Magazine  [...] Offender Interview Is Essential
When investigating a case involving a suspected child molester, the stakes are high and a full confession is critical. But the ability to interview and relate to this type of offender is something that doesn't come naturally for most police officers. Many officers find the subject matter, as well as the offender, repulsive. They cannot have an amiable conversation with a person who they believe has molested a child. They are not able to mask their feelings, and they allow contempt, disgust, and hatred to surface during the interview, greatly reducing the likelihood that the offender will open up and share his deepest secrets.

Deep down, most child molesters want to talk. Some are sexually attracted to children and have known it for many years. They may be married, have a family, have a successful business or career, and be active in their religious institution, yet they have a secret that they have never shared with anyone. Most of them have struggled with their desires. They wish that they could change, but they are not able to do it by themselves. They all know that child molesters are hated and despised by society and they believe that no one could really understand their situation. Many know they need help but don't have the courage to seek it.

Although many molesters would really like to talk to someone, they also know there are many reasons to not talk about their feelings and actions. They believe they have everything to lose if they confess. They risk losing their marriage, their children, their home, their friends, their job, and their freedom. They fear embarrassment and humiliation. They are afraid of how the interviewer is going to react to them if and when they make that first admission of guilt. And child molesters fear going to prison. They have heard and read stories about what happens to child molesters in prison. 

When interviewing a child molester, an investigator faces two competing forces: the molesters' deep desire to talk and his fear of consequences. The investigator must exploit the first force while helping the molester to overcome the second. [...]

Understand the Thinking Process: One of the critical keys to interviewing child molesters is understanding how they think. There are several different types of child molester; and each child molester has a particular way to meet his or her needs and justify his or her behavior. Molesters use distorted thinking to rationalize and justify their crimes, to make their own needs most important and to minimize their behavior. Many offenders convince themselves that the relationship they had with their victim was different; that it was a mutual, loving, caring relationship; that the sexual acts were consensual; or that the child somehow benefited from the relationship. The more an investigator understands the way a sexual offender thinks, the more prepared he will be to elicit a confession.

There is no magic interviewing formula that works for all child molesters. An investigator must understand the psychology of this type of offender and then be able to apply that understanding to the interview process. An investigator should understand the differences between a situational and a preferential child molester, because there are different interviewing approaches and themes for each type of offender. If an investigator is going to interview a suspected pedophile, he really should understand the term pedophilia-a sexual attraction to prepubescent children-and should know exactly what that entails. He should understand sex offender terminology that includes distorted thinking, thinking errors, sexual addiction, and the addiction cycle. 

By having a better understanding of sexual deviance, an investigator will be better able to recognize the importance of certain disclosures. For example, many pedophiles were themselves victims of childhood sexual abuse. In this research study, 78 percent of the pedophile offenders stated that they were themselves victims. During the investigative interview, a suspect might disclose his own history of childhood sexual abuse, trying to use it as a defense for his behavior. For example, the suspect might say, "It happened to me; therefore, I would never do that to someone else." In fact, rather than signaling a flat denial, a revelation like that should open the door for an investigator to explore how that sexual abuse might have affected the suspect's own sexual development. Many offenders will admit that their own victimization resulted in confusion and sexual experimentation during their teenage years. This line of questioning will sometimes help the offender to open up and admit to the offense he has committed. [...]

David Kramer convicted of child abuse in Australia

Tzedek  Victim's Impact Statement
I was abused and molested by David Kramer over the course of two years, between the ages of 9 and 11 years old. This abuse happened in the classroom (in front of the class, although hidden from them) in places of worship, in the school library, in his house etc.

I was the epitome of an innocent child. Growing up, we didn’t have a television, magazines, or any secular form of media. I grew up loving religion, excelled in its study and was generally a sincere innocent boy who knew nothing from any sexual conduct. At the age of nine this all changed. I became this horror student who respected nothing. I refused to take tests in school and generally misbehaved. I had no respect for any authority, as the most well-liked respected teacher who was in a position of authority was a total fraud and liar!!

Without getting into the details of my traumatic experience, I will lay out the facts and repercussion that followed & let them speak for themselves:

As soon after the abuse I was the whistleblower and, as a result of my talking he was exposed, the entire school knew that I was a victim. Immediately following Kramer’s expulsion from school I was bullied by other students. Some of these students were around five years older than me. In one incident I remember a boy who must have been around four years older than me, shin me in my thigh and went on to say “this is for making up lies about Kramer”. I was around 11 or 12 years old at the time. I remember running home crying to tell my parents that I was assaulted. I skipped school that day. [...]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tamar Epstein: The Torah shows sensitivity to the mentally ill

I just came across an interesting article that Tamar Epstein wrote when she was a senior at Stern College. It deals with how the Torah shows sensitivity towards the mentally ill and enables them to integrate as much as possible in the world of business and marriage. The full article is found here. YU Torah Lectures

[...] In all instances Beis Din has the authority to determine who is a shoteh and what restrictions apply to him [4]. 

A shoteh is not only freed from mitzvos, but he is also not held accountable for damaging property to the same degree as normal people. For example, if an ox of a shoteh gores an ox from a normal person, the shoteh is not required to pay the fee that would be demanded of a normal person (Baba Kama 4:4). Similarly, if a shoteh's ox injures a person, or if a shoteh directly harms a fellow Jew, he is not required to compensate the victim (Baba Kama 87a). The Mechilta, under certain conditions, even extends this exemption from responsibility to murder (Mechilta, Mishpatim 4) [4].

The Torah provides a comprehensive model for integrating the mentally ill into society that is both compassionate and realistic. Halacha is sensitive to the limitations of a shoteh and requires the community, and specifically Beis Din, to provide him with care and support. In an effort to maximize a shoteh's quality of life, the Torah exempts him from the mitzvos, but at the same time allows him to integrate into society through commerce and marriage and other activities according to his abilities. Halacha appreciates the varying degrees of handicap and, therefore, offers a flexible system for Beis Din to apply case by case. The halacha is also sensitive to society's need for order and control. Beis Din, therefore, has the authority to prohibit the mentally ill from participating in business and marriage and other sorts of communal activities if the individual can not assume those responsibilities. We must emulate the Torah's example and treat the mentally ill with the same degree of sensitivity and respect.

[l]Margaret Talbot. "The Executioner's IQ Test." New York Times Magazine, 29 June 2003: 4.

[2]Zivotofsky, S. (1992). The Shoteh: A Discussion of the Jewish Rabbinic View of Insanity. Pharos. 55:13-16.

[3]Nitzavim - Mental Incompetence. Videocassette. Frand, Y. Yad Yechial Foundation, (1990).

[4]Ibin Ezra, Volume I, Responsa 120, Section 2.

[5]Strous, R. (2001). Halakhic Sensitivity to the Psychotic Individual: the Shoteh. Jewish Medical Ethics. 4:30-34.

Failure of religious leaders in abuse cases

NY Times   The men were spiritual leaders, held up before the children around them as wise and righteous and right. So they had special access to those kids. Special sway.  

And when they exploited it by sexually abusing the children, according to civil and criminal cases from different places and periods, they were protected by their lofty stations and by the caretakers of their faith. The children’s accusations were met with skepticism. The community of the faithful either couldn’t believe what had happened or didn’t want it exposed to public view: why give outsiders a fresh cause to be critical? So the unpleasantness was hushed up. 

This is not a column about the Catholic Church. 

This is a column about Orthodox Jews, who have recently had similar misdeeds exposed, similar cover-ups revealed. 

And I’m writing it, yes, because the Catholic Church over the last two decades has absorbed the bulk of journalistic attention, my own included, in terms of child sexual abuse. There are compelling reasons that’s been so: Catholicism has more than one billion nominal adherents worldwide; endows its clerics with a degree of mysticism that many other denominations don’t; and is just centralized enough for scattered cover-ups to coalesce into something more like a conspiracy. The pattern of criminality and evasion has been staggering. 

But some of the same dynamics that fed the crisis in Catholicism — an aloof patriarchy, an insularity verging on superiority, a disinclination to get secular officials involved — exist elsewhere. And the way they’ve played out in Orthodox Judaism illustrates anew that religion isn’t always the higher ground and safer harbor it purports to be. It can also be a self-preserving haven for wrongdoing.

Early this month, 19 former students of the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by two rabbis in the 1970s and 1980s who continued to work there even after molestation complaints. The rabbis were also allowed to move on to new employment without ever being held accountable. School administrators, the lawsuit alleges, elected not to report anything to the police.[...]

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Rebellion of Chief Rabbi Sacks by Rabbi Cardozo

Cardozo Academy  Let it be said. Jonathan Sacks has been a rebellious chief rabbi. Now that he is stepping down, we had better keep an eye on him and hope he will become even more of an insurgent.

Over the years, most of us rabbis have become irrelevant on a global level. But isn’t that what we craved? Yes, we wanted to be spiritual leaders and teachers of our communities, serve our congregants, and become heads of yeshivot. Some of us did very well. But we shunned the idea of going beyond this noble task and taking on the world. We preferred to stay put, teaching conventional Judaism, creating our own comfort zone where our beliefs would not be challenged; where we wouldn’t get upset or begin having doubts and experiencing religious crisis. We wanted to ensure that Tradition would survive and be passed on to future generations. Once we succeeded in achieving that goal, we indulged ourselves in self-satisfaction, content with our own arguments, divrei Torah and Talmud classes. This was our Judaism.

The fact that outside our little world there was religious and moral turmoil was not our business. That religious faith was challenged as never before did not bother us. It was for the goyim to deal with. We buried our heads in the sand and lived happily ever after.

By doing so, though, we robbed the rabbinate of one of its most powerful tasks: to challenge, to disturb, to rebel and to send a strong, passionate message that is not always to our liking. After all, Judaism “is not a sustained, comfortable state of consciousness, but rather a painful, hard-worn and impermanent conviction—a breathing spell in the midst of an ongoing conflict” (*). Great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once observed that religion has to function like a thunderstorm, but that over the years it invented sundry lightening-conductors and lost its purpose. The same is true about the rabbinate. It has become a pleaser, a comforter, not a biting critic of our moral failure and our spiritual and intellectual mediocrity. It was not prepared to challenge its own institution, the Jewish tradition; it wouldn’t dare to take a fresh look at its holy texts, at Halacha, and at the spiritual conditions and needs of its own people. [...]