Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

Rabbi Moshe Eiseman above, fits the ugly trend of recent "Rabbi's" who are suspected in molesting several boys, leaving behind a quiet murder trail in which the victims are forever scarred. Would you feel safe knowing Eisman has access to your children? what took Ner Israel so long to finally fire Eisman? Why did they allow this monster to keep his position with all theses serious allegations against him? Although Eisman may no longer be officially employed by Ner Israel, he still has access to the outside world, and that includes children as well. The liklihood that Eisman and other child molesters will re-offend is extremely high.

CALL TO ACTION: Rabbi Moshe Eiseman's Removal From Ner Israel, Baltimore, MD

The Awareness Center - September 3, 2006

There have been serious allegations made against Rabbi Moshe Eiseman over the last several years of molesting boys at Ner Israel of Baltimore, MD. The allegations were first reported by a blogger by the name of Unorthodox Jew. These allegations have since been confirmed by various reliable rabbinic sources.

It has been over a month since the Ner Israel administration brought the allegations to Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer who made a decree that Rabbi Eiseman needed to leave the Ner Israel. To this day Rabbi Moshe Eiseman is still employed by Ner Israel and continues to lives on their campus. Each day that goes by puts another child at risk of harm.

The Awareness Center is demanding that Rabbi Moshe Eiseman be relieved of his duties immediately, move off campus and required to attend treatment at a residential facility for sex offenders. It is also imperative that all communities members in which Rabbi Eiseman has worked be made aware of the allegations. The goal is to prevent one more child from being harmed and also to make sure that all past victims get the help they need.

Those who have been sexually victimized deserve to be treated with respect and dignity by professionals who have the experience and training to work with survivors of sex crimes. It is also very helpful if survivors contact local rape crisis centers who have free legal advocates available to go with them to file police reports.

There is a realistic fear that Rabbi Eiseman will return to Russia or return to working with Russian immigrants. These communities also need to be made aware of the past allegations and that if survivors come forward that they be referred to local rape crisis centers.

The goal is to prevent on more child from becoming the next victim and to ensure those who have already been sexually victimize receive help.

Please contact the administration at Ner Israel and Rabbi Hopfer and demand that Rabbi Moshe Eiseman be removed today!

Ner Israel Contact Information:

410-484-7200

Rabbi Aharon Feldman - Rosh Yeshiva (Head of the School)

Rabbi Beryl Weisbord - Dean of Students

Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger - President

Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer Contact Information:

Shearith Yisrael (Glen Ave. Shul)

410-466-3060

410-367-9183 fax


UPDATED CALL TO ACTION

Demand Rabbi Moshe EIsemann Do The Following:

The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - September 5, 2006

Please contact the following administrators at Ner Israel and also Rabbi Hopfer. Demand that Rabbi Moshe Eisemann leave his position at Ner Israel aand move off campus immediately. He must also go to police in Baltimore and confess to his crimes. Please note that there is no statue of limitation on sex crimes against children in Maryland. Rabbi Mose Eiseman must also pay restitution to his victims and enter into residential treatment for sex offenders.

It is believed that Ner Israel has known about this case for some time, yet has refused to take action. Please demand that they change their policies immediately!

How many more children will need to be sexually victimized before they start to take this issue seriously?

Contact:

Ner Israel Contact Information:

410-484-7200

Rabbi Aharon Feldman - Rosh Yeshiva (Head of the School)

Rabbi Beryl Weisbord - Dean of Students

Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger - President

Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer Contact Information:

Shearith Yisrael (Glen Ave. Shul)

410-466-3060

410-367-9183 fax




Survivor #1 of Rabbi Moshe Eisman

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

When I was --- years old, I was a talmid of Ner Israel. At that time, the Mashgiach Ruchni was Rabbi Moshe Eisemann. I became close to him and trusted him totally like a father figure. He is a very sick man. He would tell me he loved me and would hug and kiss me inappropriately. In this day and age, what rebby does this? He tried to control me by telling me loshon harah against my friends and family, and by telling my best friend not to be friends with me, and other ways.

I was very uncomfortable, but thought I was crazy for thinking he was weird. One day, he felt up my rear end IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BEIS MEDRASH! I couldn't believe it. I was shocked, angry and dismayed. But I did not have the guts to even say excuse me, what the hell are you doing. I did have the guts to tell my parents that he was "bothering " me and my mom called him and told him to stay away. He did not listen at first, but had the nerve to approach me a couple more times and to write me a letter threatening that love can easily turn to hate. I may still have that letter.

I know that this story does not sound like much, but there is more. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine had problems and was thrown out of the dorm. Rabbi Eisemann offered to take him into his house. One night in the middle of the night, thinking my friend was asleep, Rabbi Eisemann went in and put his hand under the cover, and groped my friend's privates. My friend was only ---. He was horrified. The next day he told ......., who went to the hanhalla. Rabbi Herman Neuberger, A"H, reacted by saying that the boy had to leave the yeshiva.

My friend was devastated. He came to me to ask me to come forward. Es Chatai Ani Mazkir Hayom, I wasn't ready completely. I told him if there was any other way to save his brother, he should do it, but if not I would come forward. He found another victim whose father was a huge gvir and who had also been touched inappropriately. So my friend was allowed to stay.

Reb Tzvi Berkowitz,the son-in-law of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky of Philadelphia, told my friend not to tell anyone what happened because it could be bad for the yeshiva.

I have suffered for years. Only years later was I able to tell my parents what truly happened. I have still not been able to confront the yeshiva satisfatorily on this issue.A few years ago, I DID tell Shragi Neuberger about it. He is a rebby, and Rabbi Neuberger's son and we were close once upon a time. He did not deny the problem. There had been a bochur who told Reb Dovid Cohen a similar story (a Russian bochur with no political clout) but that the story was "unsubstantiated".

I'm here to substantiate the fact that R. Eisemann has a real problem. What to do, the follow up phone calls have gotten us nowhere. I want to go further, but am afraid of being hurt personally by the yeshiva.

What I would like to know from you is, do you have a way to investigate and find others who have been affected? I'm sure there are. I found another person who said that he was also was felt up on three occassions, and although he was not traumatized he decided to stay away from Rabbi Eisemann. His story happened several years after mine. He also knows of one other person. By the way, I was traumatized mostly because of the relationship I had with Rabbi Eisemann, and also by the covering up and complete lack of caring on the part of the yeshiva. It is true that what happened to me from a sexual standpoint was "not as bad" as some other stories. After all there was no penetration, right??? There might not be a lawsuit, but is that really necessary even at this point? Wouldn't you think that the thought of a scandal now would get them to act? But Rabbi Eisemann is still sitting on the dais at the recent Rabbi Neuberger memory dinner, and what's worse, still talks in learning with unsuspecting yeshiva boys on a daily basis. What is wrong with these people???? Ignorance is only an excuse up to a point, no?!

If you have any ideas or advice for me, I would be so grateful.

One last thing. I thought of you this yomtov. Take a look at the Yalkut Meam Loez on Rus on Vayehi Bimay Shfot Hashoftim. He says that the judges / leaders of Klal Yisroel were judged by the people for their corruption. He writes pages and pages about this. He says that when Moshe Rabeinu "criticized" the Jews saying , a little more and they'll stone me", it was not a put down but praise that the Jewish people don't stand for phony, incompetent, self-interested leaders, but demand integrity from them, no matter who they are. I felt like he was writing about you. Really, take a look, and let me know what you think.


Survivor #2

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

I went to Gary Rosenblatt to ask advice. He's the editor of Jewish Week who did the expose on Baruch Lanner. He had been the head of the Jewish paper in Baltimore. He told me that Rabbi Neuberger had been involved in a case in the city (Eisgrau) where he insisted that it be kept quiet and nothing was done. It's as if there is some kind of Mesorah that he had that this is the correct thing to do in these situations. You know, chillul hashem, etc.

Shragi told people that Rabbi Eiseman has a heart condition, and this has to be considered in deciding to act or not. He also said that the Neubergers had been aware for years of Matis Weinberg's problems, but did nothing. He said "Everyone knows that the Neubergers and Weinbergs don't get along well, so they would not have believed us." Come again???

David Mandel from Brooklyn had started a Beis Din in Baltimore to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the frum community.The Beis Din consisted of Shragi, Rav Heinneman, Rav Hopfer, Rabbi Hauer, and Rabbi Goldberger. Shragi said that when Rabbi Heinneman is at the meetings they can't really speak about it because he doesn't get it as well as the rest of them. How do you explain this? A rabbi on Beis Din who does NOT understand the sickness?

According to Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, "There are as many rabbis out there that will hurt you than will help you," and "There ARE no more Gedolim, veharaya, that people come to me with questions that they used to go to gedolim."


Survivor #3

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

Did you hear about the two evenings that Ohel had entitled "let's talk about what never happened, but it really did"? The first one featured Rav Pam, Reb Shmuel and Reb Dovid Cohen and was emceed by Sruly Reisman. I gave them an A for effort, but their cluelessness caused, I believe, much pain to the victims/survivors in the audience. Reb Shmuel was asked by a lady what she should do about being molested 30 years ago and never telling anyone. She said that she was recently experienceing psychological symptoms. He told her to see a shrink, but to not tell her husband under any circumstances, because there is no way he would understand. This is in public and on tape. Rav Pam spoke about frum people with psychological issues like OCD, but didn't mention molestation, abuse of any sort, anything to do with sex or what the purpose of the evening was supposed to be. I wonder if someone told him, even? My favorite was of course, Rabbi Reisman, who after offering the caveat that he was not a psychologist, still felt that he had something intelligent to offer on the subject beacause of his experiences with victims. He then told two stories in which he went out of his way to point out that the molester was NOT Jewish. It did not take my years of leaning lamdus to make the diuk that apparently frum people of course don't molest, and that what had happened to many of the people in the room, really didn't happen at all according to the resident Navi expert. To "help" people even more, when asked by one survivor about the feelings of betrayal, he opined that this was not an issue at all, because like Don Rumsfeld said about the war in Iraq, "Stuff happens".

Basically, the message was to victims: we want to help you to get over it... so get over it, ok?


Survivor #4

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

I hope you took no offense that I called you meshuga. I think that anyone who is not made meshuga by the horrible world of hypocrisy that is called the frum velt has something really wrong with them. Anyway, sorry for the choice of words. Again, you are my hero.

One thing that impressed me about your approach, is that with the Gerrer situation (the gerrorists) you got the job done and didn't feel the need to "take them down" or to necessarily go after the yeshiva, etc.

I'm mentioning this, because although sometimes the situation calls for drastic measures like multimillion dollar lawsuits and possibly razing a yeshiva to the ground, each situation is different and this whole problem does require sophistication as well as passion. In my case of Ner Yisroel, maybe something subtle like a letter writing campaign, or a few choice phone calls asking politely for Rabbi Eisemann to be taken care of, might do the trick especially now that they see what the problem could lead to.


Survivor #5

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

I do not think it is enough to dismiss these people from their jobs. Look at the two guys who were fired. They go to Israel and will most likely end up like Mattis Weinberg molesting again at a later date. What needs to be done is:

Rabbi Eisemann should be told that the community, i.e. hanhalla of yeshiva, will monitor him and talk to his therapist to be sure he is complying. He will be given a job doing something with no child contact, but if he does not comply, he will be punished with fines or something else. His passport should probably be taken away.

His treatment should be comprehensive at a place that specializes in sex offenders and should include objective assessment for pedophilia (lie detector test, sexual deviancy measures, etc.) group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy.

The yeshiva, as part of the change that needs to be made, should have to track down as many victims as possible and apologize.

Am I asking too much?


Survivor #6

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

You have touched on many issues, and are right on target.

Firstly, Shlomo Gottesman at Torah Umesorah is a big part of the problem, he's known about these problems At Ner Israel for years and is deeply involved in covering up this issue.

The gedolim, at least the ones they call gedolim, are clueless outside their daled amos. As a general rule, the Europeans don't get it, and the great chachomim like R' Ruderman are gone.

The present rabbonim in America are either businessmen protecting their businesses, or shluchim from them. I can't think of one name today that can compare to the toes of a R' Ruderman.

What's worse is that they in their ignorance and self-interests are causing the destruction of authentic Orthodox Judaism. R' Moshe didn't know about N.Y. water? Romaine lettuce?

Chumras upon chumras...where's the beef??? kinderlach's lives and neshomas??????

The Neuberger's behavior come as a shock and will come back to haunt them. What about Tzvi Berkowitz?/ Is he out of his mind or just waiting for the rosh yeshiva's job? Eiseman is sick, he has molested me for years when I went for shabbes to his house. He said it is ok to feel good. How crazy is that???I'm at a loss to explain what's going on. Maybe this is the next dor hamabul...the rishaim seem to be everywhere. I need time to think of an aitza, right now, I'm shocked out of my mind.

Sincerely and all the very best,do not let the Neubergers fool you, they will do nothing.


Survivor #7

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006.

I know five of us that Eiseman masturbated, but I'm not sure how many would agree to help or come forward. There is the Russian boy but only Dovid Cohen know who this bochur is. I'm shocked that Dovid Cohen did not do anything to get rid of Eiseman, he told people years ago that he spoke to the Neubergers and they agreed to fire him.


Survivor #8

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

Oh, by the way, you know that Moshe Eisemann went for years and years to Russia to work with unsuspecting Jewish children there under Agudas Yisroel's plan for harbotzas torah.

I'm going to write Neuberger that he really needs to fire Eiseman, pronto. And if Eiseman takes the yeshiva to a din torah (sure) then I'm willing to back up the yeshiva. But I will not help them in any way until he's fired.


Survivor #9

I have two more victims of Eiseman who might be willing to contact you anonymously. Maybe three. Reb Dovid Cohen was also approached by somebody about Eiseman a while ago. I'm sorry you are having health problems. I'm suffering a lot too. Will it be all over soon? Or will it take as long as YTT is taking? Have you gotten any response from Ner Israel?


Survivor #10

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

I have an insider in Torah Umesorah...they ( Ner Israel) have no interests in doing the right thing at all. They're more concerned about finding me. I went to Herman 12 years ago and told him that Eiseman is sick, so they know full well and decided to do nothing. They learned NOTHING from the Margulies fiasco. I will be going public. Hopfer has been covering for Eisgrau...Eisgrau raped his own daughter, I'm in contact with her.

They're going to learn the hard way. I'll testify if needed!


Survivor #11

The Unorthodox Jew Blog - July 7, 2006

Apparently someone calling himself UOJ told Reb Sheftel that they've got 10 days to act or else. I had been wondering if they would make the top 3. Suddenly, Shragi says to my friend they are ready to act. Not to botch it up like TT did. He wants to go to a beis din first with Rabbi Hopfer. Many people told him that that's a waste of time, totally unnecessary. All they need to do is retire Eiseman based on 2 credible complaints, period. My friend said what are you afraid of that Eiseman will sue?!! I told him not to worry about Eiseman's heart condition, the victims come first. I think he might have heard me, but we'll see. Either way, I think in 10 days it will all be done. I hope. Shragi asked my friend if you had other victims. You told me that you didn't want to name others to me about other victims. He was very puzzled about how the molestation had taken place in the beis medrash, and I clarified to him that for some very sick individuals, that is what gets their rocks off.

Yasher Koach and keep up the good work. Soon it will be done and you can take a real hiatus and recuperate, I hope.

I'm feeling better already, but it ain't over till its over.


Survivor #12

On second thought, I don't trust Shragi at all to be looking out for my interests, I don't feel a need to confront Eiseman to his face, and I certainly don't want to have to speak to this guy Hopfer. So, I'm going to call off the charade and tell them to just do what you are calling for, which happens to also be the best thing for all people concerned. I truly hope they do what they need to.

A victim responds to a question that I pose about them calling for an immediate hearing:

No, they did not agree. In matter of fact my friend just got a call from Shragi from Eretz Yisroel, that when he gets back, he wants to have a meeting with me, my friend, any other victims, Rabbi Eiseman and Rabbi Hopfer. I'm not quite sure why they need his involvement. I'm not sure why they need anybody's involvement. It makes me nervous, but I'm willing to help do things their way for now. It's the bottom line that matters. I'm nervous about this too. Shragi now talked to my friend about making "restrictions" for Eiseman, it seems Eiseman is staying, and the talk of his dismissal is a charade.

Any victims of Moshe Eisemann please contact me. I am willing to assist you in legal action against Ner Israel and Eiseman.

The next yeshiva has one week to terminate their in-house sexual abuser!

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Education, Prevention, and Recovery

What is Child Sexual Abuse?
pull quote There is no universal definition of child sexual abuse. However, a central characteristic of any abuse is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity. Child sexual abuse may include fondling a child's genitals, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and anal intercourse. Child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact; such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography. Abuse by peers also occurs.

Accurate statistics on the prevalence of child and adolescent sexual abuse are difficult to collect because of problems of underreporting and the lack of one definition of what constitutes such abuse. However, there is general agreement among mental health and child protection professionals that child sexual abuse is not uncommon and is a serious problem in the United States.

The impact of sexual abuse can range from no apparent effects to very severe ones. Typically, children who experience the most serious types of abuse—abuse involving family members and high degrees of physical force—exhibit behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to posttraumatic stress disorder. However, children who are the victims of sexual abuse are also often exposed to a variety of other stressors and difficult circumstances in their lives, including parental substance abuse. The sexual abuse and its aftermath may be only part of the child's negative experiences and subsequent behaviors. Therefore, correctly diagnosing abuse is often complex. Conclusive physical evidence of sexual abuse is relatively rare in suspected cases. For all of these reasons, when abuse is suspected, an appropriately trained health professional should be consulted.

Who are the Victims of Child Sexual Abuse?

Children and adolescents, regardless of their race, culture, or economic status, appear to be at approximately equal risk for sexual victimization. Statistics show that girls are sexually abused more often than boys are. However, boys' and, later, men's, tendency not to report their victimization may affect these statistics. Some men even feel societal pressure to be proud of early sexual activity (no matter how unwanted it may have been at the time). It is telling, however, to note that men who have been abused are more commonly seen in the criminal justice system than in clinical mental health settings.

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse
Education, Prevention, and Recovery

What are the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse?
pull quote Children and adolescents who have been sexually abused can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. These problems typically include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. Depending on the severity of the incident, victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behavior. However, the strongest indication that a child has been sexually abused is inappropriate sexual knowledge, sexual interest, and sexual acting out by that child.

The initial or short-term effects of abuse usually occur within 2 years of the termination of the abuse. These effects vary depending upon the circumstances of the abuse and the child's developmental stage but may include regressive behaviors (such as a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting), sleep disturbances, eating problems, behavior and/or performance problems at school, and nonparticipation in school and social activities.

But the negative effects of child sexual abuse can affect the victim for many years and into adulthood. Adults who were sexually abused as children commonly experience depression. Additionally, high levels of anxiety in these adults can result in self-destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation-specific anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Many victims also encounter problems in their adult relationships and in their adult sexual functioning.

Revictimization is also a common phenomenon among people abused as children. Research has shown that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to be the victims of rape or to be involved in physically abusive relationships as adults are.

In short, the ill effects of child sexual abuse are wide ranging. There is no one set of symptoms or outcomes that victims experience. Some children even report little or no psychological distress from the abuse, but these children may be either afraid to express their true emotions or may be denying their feelings as a coping mechanism. Other children may have what is called "sleeper effects." They may experience no harm in the short run, but suffer serious problems later in life.

Can Children Recover from Sexual Abuse?
pull quote In an attempt to better understand the ill effects of child abuse, psychologists and other researchers have studied what factors may lesson the impact of the abuse. More research needs to be done, but, to date, factors that seem to affect the amount of harm done to the victim include the age of the child; the duration, frequency, and intrusiveness of the abuse; the degree of force used; and the relationship of the abuser to the child.

Children's interpretation of the abuse, whether or not they disclose the experience, and how quickly they report it also affects the short- and long-term consequences. Children who are able to confide in a trusted adult and who are believed experience less trauma than children who do not disclose the abuse. Furthermore, children who disclose the abuse soon after its occurrence may be less traumatized than those children who live with the secret for years.

Some researchers have begun to look at the question of whether someone can recover from sexual abuse, and, if so, what factors help in that recovery. Children and adults who were sexually abused as children have indicated that family support, extra-familial support, high self-esteem, and spirituality were helpful in their recovery from the abuse.

It is important for victims of abuse to relinquish any guilt they may feel about the abuse. Victims also report that attending workshops and conferences on child sexual abuse, reading about child sexual abuse, and undergoing psychotherapy have helped them feel better and return to a more normal life. Research has also shown that often the passage of time is a key element in recovery.

Counseling and other support services are also important for the caregivers of abused children. One of the strongest predictors of the child's recovery from the abuse experience is a high level of maternal and family functioning. (This, of course, assumes that the abuser was not a member of the immediate family or, if so, is not still living within the family.)

Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse
The typical advice "Don't Talk to Strangers" doesn't apply in this case. Most sexual perpetrators are known to their victims. Do not instruct children to give relatives hugs and kisses. Let them express affection on their own terms.
Teach your children basic sexual education. Teach them that no one should touch the "private" parts of their body. A health professional can also help to communicate sex education to children if parents are uncomfortable doing so. Develop strong communication skills with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
Teach your children that sexual advances from adults are wrong and against the law. Give them the confidence to assert themselves against any adult who attempts to abuse them. Make an effort to know children's friends and their families.
Instruct your child to never get into a car with anyone without your permission.
Teach your children that their bodies are their own. That it is OK to say they do not want a hug or that certain kinds of contact make them uncomfortable. It is important to remember that physical force is often not necessary to engage a child in sexual activity. Children are trusting and dependent and will often do what is asked of them to gain approval and love.
What To Do If You Think a Child You Know Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse
Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he or she has experienced, but be careful to not suggest events to him or her that may not have happened. Guard against displaying emotions that would influence the child's telling of the information. Reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong.
Seek mental health assistance for the child.
Arrange for a medical examination for the child. Select a medical provider who has experience in examining children and identifying sexual and physical trauma. It may be necessary to explain to the child the difference between a medical examination and the abuse incident. Be aware that many states have laws requiring that persons who know or have a reason to suspect that a child has been sexually abused must report that abuse to either local law enforcement officials or child protection officials. In all 50 states, medical personnel, mental health professionals, teachers, and law enforcement personnel are required by law to report suspected abuse.

Where To Go for Help
Several organizations can provide information and advice about child sexual abuse, including:
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
407 South Dearborn
Suite 1300
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 554-0166
http://www.apsac.org/
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Charles B. Wang International Children's Building
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3175
24 hotline: 1-800-THE-LOST
http://www.missingkids.com/

Child Help USA
15757 North 78th Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
(800) 4-A-CHILD
http://www.childhelpusa.org/

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
P.O. Box 1182
Washington, DC 20013
(800) FYI-3366
http://www.calib.com/nccanch/

Prevent Child Abuse America
332 S. Michigan Ave
Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60604-4357
(800) CHILDREN
http://www.childabuse.org/

Israeli women battle a culture of harassment

It's easier to file charges, even against the powerful, but abuse is still rampant in schools, offices and the military.
By Richard Boudreaux Times Staff Writer December 24, 2006 TEL AVIV — When women began coming forward a few months ago to accuse Israel's president of sexually abusing them, a young mother in this city heard one lurid account on the radio while driving her daughter to kindergarten. She had a nightmarish flashback: The groping in the finance manager's office. Her shock as she recoiled. The spurned man's revenge. Her ostracism at work and eventual dismissal. "Oh my God," she said to herself, switching off the radio. "That's my story too." The case against President Moshe Katsav and recent sex scandals involving other prominent men have stirred up memories of thousands of humiliating ordeals and illuminated one awkward truth: Eight years after it was criminalized by one of the toughest such laws in the world, sexual harassment is still rampant in Israeli offices, schools and military installations. Trying to hold itself to a Western legal standard of behavior and gender equality, Israel has collided with its own mores as a militaristic, religiously conservative society. Although the law has empowered women and helped expose misconduct, the scandals have caused a vigorous backlash by critics who say efforts to punish offenders have gone too far. The debate over the proper boundaries between men and women has invaded living rooms, workplaces and television talk shows in a country where one in four women says she has been sexually assaulted. Allegations that Katsav raped two female employees and harassed at least six others began surfacing days before Israel went to war in Lebanon in July. So did a criminal complaint that Justice Minister Haim Ramon had forced a kiss on a 21-year-old female soldier when the two were alone in a government office. The scandals faded in wartime. But they burst back into the headlines soon after the 34-day conflict ended. Katsav is under investigation by the attorney general's office and is expected to lose his job. Ramon has resigned and is on trial. "Israelis are starting to understand that nobody, no matter how powerful, is immune from punishment for sexual harassment," said Orit Kamir, a Hebrew University law professor who helped draft the 1998 legislation. "But this is a learning process that will require repetitive lessons." There are plenty of other case studies in the news these days. Renowned actor Hanan Goldblatt has been indicted on charges of raping or molesting women who sought his counseling for acting auditions. An Orthodox rabbi in Haifa, Mordechai Gafni, is accused of assaulting women during Torah lessons. Such behavior rarely came to light before the late 1990s. Government leaders, army commanders, business executives, teachers and other men in authority often considered sexual favors by female subordinates as a seigniorial right. The 1998 law, inspired in part by American legislation, made "intimidating or humiliating" sexual remarks and unwanted advances anywhere, in the workplace or in the street, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and grounds for civil suit. It outlawed sexual advances and remarks by employers even when the subordinate to which they are directed does not resist. A group of feminist lawmakers pushed the little-noticed measure through parliament before critics could mobilize effectively against it. Since then, Kamir said, several thousand criminal complaints have gone to the police and the courts, or have been settled privately between the parties — a lot for a small country but still a tiny fraction of the incidents of harassment reported in confidential surveys. Many Israelis thought the new law was a turning point when retired Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, a prime ministerial hopeful, resigned as defense minister after his indictment in 2000 for sexual assault and harassment. He was convicted the following year and given an 18-month suspended sentence. But women's advocates, lawyers and researchers say that although harassment is discussed more openly, they find no evidence that it has diminished significantly. The number of new calls to the hotlines run by Israel's network of nine rape crisis centers has been increasing steadily in recent years, to 6,270 in the first nine months of 2006. One in eight of these callers reported being distraught over unwanted sexual advances and demeaning sexual remarks by employers and other superiors, said Naomi Schneiderman, a spokeswoman for the network. "The law has changed and the rhetoric has changed, but this has not translated into real changes in attitudes and behavior," said Avigail Moor, a clinical psychologist and head of the women's studies program at Tel-Hai College in northern Israel. A survey Moor has conducted over the last two years indicates that 90% of Israeli women have been verbally harassed in a sexual way, at least 40% have been physically harassed, and 25% have been sexually assaulted. A separate study of women in one army unit in 2004 showed that 55% had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their two-year service, despite efforts by the military, perhaps more than any other major institution in the last decade, to curb the practice. Israelis tracking these numbers are not surprised that sexual harassment is so deeply ingrained here. The militarization of Israeli society in the wake of wars with Arab neighbors has shaped the country's male-dominated character. It is reinforced by belittling messages about women by Orthodox Jewish leaders, who have a powerful sway over civil affairs, and a strong dose of denial about the prevalence of abuse, activists say. Miri Schler, head of Tel Aviv's rape crisis center, said: "There's a myth that we have a higher ethical standard — you know, Jews don't rape Jews." Adding to the impunity with which men in authority commit abuses has been a collective reluctance by the Israeli media to probe the private lives of the powerful. "Hundreds of people, including the most prominent journalists, knew of this 'hobby' of Katsav's" before he was elected president, Ehud Asheri, an editor of the Haaretz newspaper, wrote recently of his decision in 2000 not to publish accounts of alleged sexual abuse by the candidate. "Why did they all keep silent? Because this knowledge was based on rumor and gossip." In the end, Katsav brought the scandal on himself. Apparently confident that the legal system would back him, he complained to the attorney general that a former secretary was trying to blackmail him. The woman countered with a criminal complaint that the 60-year-old president, a married father of five, had forced her to have sex under threat of dismissal. After other women came forward with similar stories, police said in October they had evidence that the president, a figurehead leader whose role is to serve as a unifying force and set a moral tone, committed rape, aggravated sexual assault, indecent acts and sexual harassment. The attorney general is expected to decide soon whether to indict Katsav, who denies the allegations. To women's advocates, the public drama is a double-edged sword. While highlighting the alleged misdeeds of powerful men, the Israeli media have echoed a chorus of complaints that the fight against harassment has overreached. Yair Lapid, a popular TV talk show host, wrote in a widely quoted column that he no longer paid compliments to women because they can "tear my life into shreds." Sassy Gez, a lawyer who defends men in harassment cases, said: "You cannot turn every crummy suitor into a criminal offender." More seriously, attorneys for Katsav and Ramon have waged a media campaign to portray their clients' chief accusers as manipulative women with unsavory private lives or political motives. The young Tel Aviv woman who was harassed by her company's finance manager knows what Israeli women can face when they use the law in their defense, an ordeal that discourages most victims from coming forward. The woman, Miri, remains so fearful of her tormentor that she agreed to talk about her experience only on condition that her full name be withheld. Miri was the 27-year-old human resources manager for a Tel Aviv company with 300 employees six years ago when she caught the eye of the finance manager, a married man then in his early 60s who far outranked her. In court papers, she said he repeatedly made suggestive remarks, including descriptions of his sexual fantasies about her, groped her several times and once tried to force himself on her in his office, in each case over her objections. The harassment went on for six months, until her rejection of the finance manager finally sank in. What followed, she said, was worse: For the next six months, she said, he maneuvered to have her shunned by colleagues as a troublemaker, and eventually she was fired in what was officially called a company downsizing. "Everyone was afraid to take my side or even talk to me," she said. "It was emotionally exhausting. I threw up each day I had to come to work." After her dismissal, she went to the police. It took nearly three years for the case to work its way through the justice system. "Every time I retold the story, it was like experiencing it again," she said. The defendant was convicted of sexual harassment and indecent acts, but the latter charge was overturned on appeal and he ended up with a fine of less than $400. "I left the courtroom and cried," Miri said. "I felt I had lost. But it was worth it. I had to close the circle, do everything I could." She does not believe her case made things better for anyone else. "Too many women in Israel have stories like mine," she said. "Some day, I'm sure, this will happen to my daughter."
boudreaux@latimes.com

======================

Case of Rabbi Yoram Aberjil

Netivot, Israel A not-so-saintly rabbi in Netivot

By Tamar Rotem trotem@haaretz.co.il

Haaretz - December 11, 2006

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/798796.html

It was a normal evening in early November. In Netivot, the town of memorial celebrations for saintly rabbis, quiet is something tangible - actually rare. Perhaps this was the reason why there was something disturbing about the quiet that prevailed outside. The little ones were already lying in bed in their pajamas when suspicious shadows were seen in the garden outside S.'s kitchen. Looking through the window, she made out three figures, and she felt something bad was about to happen. She knew these were the thugs of Rabbi Yoram Aberjil. At that very moment, her husband, A., was at the police station, filing a complaint of attempted assault by people he identified as the rabbi's followers. She was alone with her small children. "I knew that the outer door of the kitchen was not locked. That's how it is in Netivot. My whole body trembled."

S. pushed the stove against the door and ran to the "safe" room (reinforced against rocket attacks). She frantically emptied the wall closet and put the children into it. Meanwhile, the thugs entered the building. They hammered wildly at the door and shouted over and over for her to open it. A neighbor yelled from above: "What do you want here?" They said: "We've come to kill her."

"I took a carving knife and held it ready. The children started crying. I told them: 'Quiet. If you cry, it will be the end of us.' I held my hand over the mouth of the youngest child. One of the children said: 'Mommy, it's like in the Holocaust.'" The intruders continued to bang on the door and shout. Someone called the police, and when they heard the sirens, they ran off. "That night we packed our bags and fled," she related.

Until a few months ago, Rabbi Aberjil was the rabbi of S. and her husband. The two are in their late 20s, and, like all the members of the community, are newly religious. Over the last year, they decided to move away from the crowded community. They found an apartment outside of the area in which the community is concentrated, and moved the children to schools not identified with Rabbi Aberjil.

In the second week of September, S. relates, the telephone rang, and it was Rabbi Aberjil on the line. "I want you to know that your children are precious to me," he said. "I won't let anyone pick the fruit I planted. The next conversation will be really painful. I will follow you. I have ways of making you disappear in a hit-and-run accident. I will curse your children. I'm telling you, I have powers. Your children will be orphans."

At the end of October, they asked for help from a series of rabbis, among them the town's chief rabbi, Rabbi Pinhas Cohen. They unwittingly opened a Pandora's box. Other families of yeshiva students also came to Rabbi Cohen and told of threats made by Rabbi Aberjil. As a result of conversations with women, two files of evidence were compiled about what could be regarded as sexual harassment. Rabbi Cohen passed the complaints on to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (the country's leading Sephardic rabbi) and to the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Yosef gave instructions to establish a special religious court to examine the complaints.

This is not the first time Rabbi Aberjil has found himself in trouble. Some 10 years ago, there was another wave of complaints by women against him, which were examined by a religious court. He reacted strongly against the current accusations. "The town was seething. People I know who merely spoke with the women who complained were threatened with murder," said one rabbinic source in the town. Rabbi Cohen received threats by phone. His car and that of his wife were vandalized, and he lodged a complaint with the police. Other complainants were ostracized and expelled from Aberjil's study center, as was anyone who was in contact with them. Two of the complainants were beaten up. As a result of the various incidents, the young men and their wives lodged complaints with the police.

In early November, Rabbi Aberjil gave a speech that could be described as incitement to murder. It was circulated on ultra-Orthodox Web sites: "Whoever mentions my name, create a riot; tell him 'shut up, you sinner' ... If you have a prayer book, throw it at him; if you have a shoe, throw it at him; if you have a stone, throw it at him ... Take a stick and beat him until the man has to get to Emergency ... anyone who harms us. Because if he dies, nothing will happen; he died of wickedness."

According to the complainants and rabbinic sources who supported them, the police's handling of the matter was inadequate. They were abandoned by the rabbis, and this week the special rabbinic court decided to close the case for lack of evidence.

Rabbi Aberjil is an enigmatic character. He developed a kind of new stream in Judaism: Sephardic Hassidism, which draws from both the Chabad (Lubavitch) and Bratslav Hassidic traditions. In a town of "courts" and holy men, he has been able to create a unique image, and draw in the newly religious with magical cords. Both his admirers and his enemies agree that he is a deeply knowledgeable scholar. In his youth, he learned at an Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox (but not hassidic) yeshiva. His style is that of a preacher, spiced with stories of miracles and frightening tales. A rabbinic source in the town explained that it is easy to turn the newly religious into followers: "They revere him. He says he has a connection to G-d, and the newly religious are excited by that. It would not make an impression on those who grew up ultra-Orthodox."

Aberjil gathered strength in Netivot by collecting these scattered souls under his authority. Aside from his community in Netivot, he has been able to attract other groups, among them businessmen who come to consult him. "He knows how to appeal to them. He keeps talking about negating oneself. It's like brainwashing, and they become dependent on him, like robots," said one of the female complainants. Some 300 men learn at the study center in Netivot, but about one third of them do not define themselves as his followers. The real disciples and their wives are a separate group. They get up early on Shabbat to pray with the rabbi, and to take part in his study session. On the eve of Shabbat, the women, dressed in white, walk considerable distances from their homes, wheeling strollers, in order to receive a blessing. "The women admire him," said the wife of one of the yeshiva students. "They behave like lovers." Students tell of long counseling conversations Rabbi Aberjil has with their wives. According to the complaints, these talks sometimes become intimate, and slip into the realm of sexual harassment.

"Yoram Aberjil presumes to be a marriage counselor," says journalist Yossi Bar-Moha, who has published investigations into the courts of kabbalists. "Neighborhood rabbis tell me that he destroys families. To this man he says, 'Your wife is no good,' to that woman he says, 'Don't marry him.'"

Many students relate that Rabbi Aberjil expresses himself as if he is blessed with supernatural powers. His powers captivated settlers, many of whom came to consult with him before the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. One of them, from the settlement of Morag, told Haaretz that he bought a house in the settlement one month before the evacuation, because of the advice and blessing of Rabbi Aberjil.

Another young man related that Aberjil despises other rabbis, with the exception of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and forbids his followers from listening to "Radio Hakodesh," the pirate station of the newly religious. "Don't believe any rabbi," he likes to say. "I alone have holiness. I alone am G-d-fearing."

According to rabbinic sources who supported the complainants, Aberjil threatened that he would shut down his institutions if he got as much as a reprimand. "The rabbis and the religious court judges have relationships of mutual loyalty, and they had no intention of seriously investigating the matter," said the source. There was an intervention by the chairman of the Shas party, MK Eli Yishai, who treats the rabbi - regarded as an exceptional vote-getter in the south - with kid-gloves. Last week, the complaints and the cassette recordings of the alleged incitement were handed over to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

"We innocently believed that we would find a cleaner life in the ultra-Orthodox community," said one of the female complainants. "For us this is a very strong crisis of faith. We expected that at least the chief rabbis would see the truth, but we were bitterly disappointed."

Rabbi Aberjil's secretary, Erez Reuven, said in response that no force had been used against any of the families. "Not one of us lifted a hand against them. The families should not have left in the first place, and of course they can come back to the town." Referring to the study session whose contents included incitement to murder, he said: "The rabbi educates toward 'ahavat Yisrael,' love of the nation; and by the end of the session he explained that he was against violence."

The Negev sub-district of the police gave this response: "The complaints were dealt with efficiently and sensitively. Proof of this can be found in the calm that is being preserved. The complaint against the rabbi regarding incitement to violence was lodged at the Netivot police station. Once testimonies have been collected, the cassette and the material from the investigation will be given to the attorney general, who is the person authorized to determine whether it is a matter of incitement, and whether to instruct the police to launch a [full] investigation."

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Call To Action: Locating Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and His Return To Israel

Back in May, 2006 new allegations were made against confessed child molester Rabbi Mordechai Gafni . This time the allegations were made by three twenty-year-old women who filed a complaint with the police in Haifa (Israel). The new claims were of professional sexual misconduct. The alleged offenses occurred during Torah lessons given by Gafni.

Immediately after the charges were filed Rabbi Mordechai Gafni confessed and then fled Israel for the United States. He first landed in Boston, MA, where it is believed he stayed with one of his many female friends. There were rumors that soon after arriving in Boston he continued on to Boulder, CO and stayed with a colleague and then moved on to Utah. It is unknown where he is today. It is believed that he is in hiding and will attempt to reinvent himself again as he did back in the 1980's after the first allegations were made against him of child molestation.

The Awareness Center is seeking justice for all of the survivors of Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz (past and present). If you have any information regarding the current location of Rabbi Marc Gafni please notify The Awareness Center, Inc. at once.

The Awareness Center, Inc.

443-857-5560

Is Gary Rosenblatt reinventing history when it comes to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?

(© 2006) By Vicki Polin

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - June 16, 2006

http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/2006/06/is-gary-rosenblatt-reinventing-history.html

Early in 2003, while The Awareness Center, Inc. was in its infancy, several orthodox rabbis (who had a connection with the Rabbinic Council of America and Agudath Israel) started calling to request our organization to do something about Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz). In order to comply with wishes of the rabbonim, our board and volunteers attempted to track down three known survivors of this alleged sex offender.

We had very little difficulties tracking down the second and third survivors, yet had trouble locating the first. Gary Rosenblatt was the link to finding the first survivor.

During our initial conversation with Winiarz/Gafni's first survivor, we learned that several years prior, she had provided Rosenblatt with her story. Back in the 90's Gary had heard rumors and tracked her down. The first survivor stated that she was not seeking an opportunity to share her abuse history, but was convinced by Rosenblatt that sharing the story might spare future women the pain of abuse at Winiarz/Gafni's hands.

This survivor shared every painful detail with Gary Rosenblatt. Gary promised that he would publish a story right away. Years went by, there was no further contact and a story was never published. The survivor felt exploited and betrayed.

In 2004 finally Gary Rosenblatt reestablished contact with the first survivor, providing her with the contact information for The Awareness Center. The survivor was apprehensive, yet followed through and made the initial call.

I'll never forget the day Survivors two and three communicated with the first survivor. It was amazing to watch; a day filled with old terror and pain transforming into tears of healing, joy and empowerment.

Amazingly the three survivors were eager to work with Gary Rosenblatt. The intention was and always has been to prevent any more women from being victimized by Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni. The Awareness Center did it's best to work with Gary Rosenblatt as well, and provided him with names of individuals who had first hand knowledge of Gafni's past.

Gary had ample information and factual content from highly respected rabbis and members of the community. The original story Gary wrote was to be published in the spring of 2004, yet nothing happened. Every week Mr. Rosenblatt told the survivors it would be published the following week, yet nothing happened. It wasn't until September 24, 2004, that an extremely watered down version of what was originally written was published.

In Gary Rosenblatt's most recent article "Deconstructing The Gafni Case" he wrote:

"They felt they were the victims, that they had suffered enough and did not want to go through a public scrutiny of past abuses and humiliations. His former wives and the other women had new lives to live and reputations to protect."

The problem with this statement is; Gary ceases to mention that in the code of journalistic ethics created by the US department of Justice, one should never publish the names of victims of sex crimes. Three women spoke directly to Rosenblatt with the understanding that thier names would not be used, all of whom were quoted in his original article. It is common journalistic practice to have unnamed sources. Remember Watergate?

Rosenblatt continued:

"But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with firsthand experience of abuse speaking on the record."

"And I offered up Gafni's denials, and other rabbis defending him. They said that even if these things had happened, it was a long time ago and he had done teshuva (repentance). . . I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni. . . One thinks I should have acted on my instincts and been tougher on Gafni, even though I had no firsthand accounts on the record. Another said I was right to have held out for on-the-record attribution."

The survivor who was thirteen at the time of her abuse stated that it wasn't until years after her initial contact with Mr. Rosenblatt that he connected her with The Awareness Center. The survivor had already given a detailed account of her sexual assault directly to Rosenblatt, yet she requested that her name be withheld from the story. From the point this survivor contacted The Awareness Center, it was another six months before Gary's watered down article was published. He promised the survivor years before that he would publish the story the week following the initial interview, yet nothing ever happened.

Back in 2001, survivor number one received a telephone call from Winiarz/Gafni supporter Naomi Mark, ACSW. Naomi's goal was for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to meet with her offender. Naomi told this survivor that Marc Winiarz/Gafni wanted to make amends. She told the survivor that Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni had wrote a letter stating: "he thought the survivor was hurting because he ended their relationship instead of marrying her". He wanted to apologize for "breaking her heart."

The survivor told Ms. Mark that she would not meet with the man who raped her. The survivor disclosed that she let Naomi Mark know that "the relationship" Winiarz/Gafni was referring to should be called RAPE. A far cry from what Winiarz/Gafni called a "heartache, or a fallen romance."

The Survivor believes the reason Winiarz/Gafni wanted to contact her at the time was because he learned of the interview she had given to Gary Rosenblatt. The survivor was sure that Winiarz/Gafni was worried about what Rosenblatt would publish. Winiarz/Gafni wanted the survivor to say that she had forgiven him for the assault. Marc Winiarz/Gafni neither acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child, nor admitted to any violent acts.

It appears Gary Rosenblatt's attempt to re-create history has been influenced by his long time friend, Rabbi Saul Berman -- who to this day is believed to be a defender of Mordechai Gafni.

If Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni has done teshuva, why has he not contacted the other women whom he victimized? Why didn't he ever offer to pay for the pain and suffering all three women endured because of his offenses?

Once again Rosenblatt's affiliation with Rabbi Saul Berman influenced his ability to get the facts straight. Gary Rosenblatt had firsthand accounts. He spoke to three women who were sexually victimized by Mordechai Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni). Two survivors had sexual contact; the third was a survivor of inappropriate sexual advances by an orthodox rabbi, who was also a married man.

Gary Rosenblatt spoke to numerous rabbis and other credible individuals who backed the survivor's stories. What more evidence did he need?

If Rosenblatt really wants to make amends to the survivors of Winiarz/Gafni, he should put an advertisement in the New York Jewish Week calling for the extradition of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni, and have all those who have blindly supported Winiarz/Gafni sign it.

===================================

Deposition Of Mordecai Gafni's Third Wife

Lukeford.net - June 27, 2006

(Ex-Wife #3 divorced Marc Gafni in August of 2004. This was before Gary Rosenblatt's article the original article was published on Mordecai).

(Third Wife) Gafni Email Deposition

May 9th , 2006 (revised version)

The following is my personal testimony of what it was like to be married to Mordechai for almost 7 years. I share what I have known of Mordechai's drastic and tragic dark side. I focus upon the shadow aspects of our marriage and his personality, for I believe they are crucial to share, given what has unfolded in these past weeks. Please keep in mind that I could also write pages worth of testimony about the light side of Mordechai – from the beauty of his teachings to his ardent dedication to making a contribution in the world and helping others. May his light side and his dark side know full integration.

Also, while you can pass this testimony on to other concerned parties, please do not share my name with the press or in public. I have been advised by lawyers not to let my name to appear in public. Thanks.

Background:

I was 19 years old when I first encountered Mordechai. I was studying in Jerusalem the summer after my freshman year of college. I was an eager baalat-teshuva, newly "turned on" to the beauty of Jewish practice. I devotedly went to his classes at Isralight and other venues. We went on our first date the spring after I graduated college. I was 23 and star-struck. He was 15 years my senior. We got married at the beginning of 1998, less than 8 months after our first date. Several people warned me about Mordechai's past. He adamantly insisted that the bulk of the rumors were lies, exaggerations and the evil workings of other people's jealousies. I believed him.

He told me early on about some of his sexual misdemeanors as well as affairs he had on his 2nd wife. He assured me that he had done teshuva, changed, and that things with me would be different. I was all too ready to believe this as well. Plus I thought that I could help him, fix him; that my love could help him become the great man he had the potential to be. As soon as we started seriously dating, he pulled me into working for him full-time on writing and organizational projects. I was dedicated to his "mission" of Jewish Rennaissance and gave it all of my time and energy. His emotional abuse and manipulations began immediately upon our marriage. I was so dedicated to the mission that I endured it. Also, the nature of the his manipulations was such that I did not feel I could leave. The years that followed were a strange mix of great excitement, activity and purpose, as well as huge despair, confusion and pain. On the outside I seemed to be living a fairy tale of success. Behind closed doors I was living a life of enslavement, debasement, manipulation and verbal abuse. On top of the abuse, Mordechai was having numerous affairs on me; lying to me on a daily basis.

Finally, I found out about one of the affairs. Finally, my eyes were opened and I started to see through the fog of falsehoods. I fled Israel in February of 2004, only to be lured back in June 2004 by Mordechai's promises of change and commitment. But nothing changed. By early August of 2004 I demanded and received a divorce.

Soon thereafter, Mordechai came "under attack" by his enemies in America. In the fall of 2004, articles about his sexual misconduct and questionable reputation came out in America and Israel. He begged me to keep our divorce a secret until all of this bad press died down. I reluctantly agreed – mostly because I believed that the work that was going on at Bayit Chadash was valuable and I did not want to jeopardize it. Mordechai lied to the reporters and all who asked, saying that we were still married. He also lied to the Rabbinic supporters who helped wage a campaign to protect him. Mordechai refused to publicly tell the truth about our divorce until Pesach of 2005 (March/April). I am ashamed to admit that I was manipulated into also remaining silent and covering up to protect him, as I had done myriad times during our marriage.

Now that I see the damage that Mordechai has caused in so many people's lives I deeply regret that I did not speak out earlier about the abuse that I suffered at his hands and the abuse that I knew that he inflicted upon others. I also deeply regret that I did not speak out about the countless lies and manipulations that I witnessed him engage in on a regular basis. I sorely regret that I led people to believe that we had a good marriage when in actuality it was most often a hell. I have been studying, practicing and engaging in psychotherapy these past two years since I left Mordechai. The more I have learned the more clear it is that Mordechai is a dangerous sexual predator and sociopath. He hurt me in deplorable ways and I fear that he will continue to hurt others if he is not stopped. Indeed, I have already heard first-hand harrowing accounts of his abuse and manipulation of women (many of them friends of mine). In many ways, my story is mild in comparison to theirs. Hearing these tragic stories was the central motivator for my sharing my own. I pray that my speaking out now can help to thwart any and all future abuse at his hands.

1. Information about Sexual Abuse/Molestation of a Minor:

Before we got married, Mordechai shared with me that he had indeed had a sexual encounter with a minor. Her name was Judy – a teenager who was in his JYPSY youth movement. He explained to me details of their encounter and how he went about covering it up and discrediting her. He told me that she had seduced him. He said that they did not have intercourse, but that they had at least been undressed, sexually physical and that he had ejaculated. After Judy reported this, he lied to everyone involved, saying that she was emotionally unstable, jealous and had made it all up. He even received a document signed by a Rabbi attesting to his innocence. Judy was under-age, a student of his, and were it not for the statute of limitations, he could go to jail over this.

2. Mordechai also told me stories about various teachers and staff people connected withYeshiva University with whom he had struggles. He told me how he blackmailed a teacher (one of his "enemies" at YU) who tried to block him from studying/teaching there after the Judy incident. He had information about this particular man and threatened to share it if the man continued to try to block him. The man stayed quiet.

3. Adultery/Lying:

He also told me of several affairs that he had in Boca Raton while married to his second wife. These affairs were with women in his Congregation (the name of one woman was Fern Weisman). At least one of them was a married woman (whose name I don't recall, though I can find it). There was a scandal at the synagogue over rumors about his sexual misconduct. I do not think that his second wife ever found out about these affairs. They eventually left Boca to move to Israel. I believe that the main reason for this was that he needed to flee before people found out the truth (though he never framed it that way to me).

4. Adultery/Lying:

One of the reasons (among many) that I divorced Mordechai was because he had an affair while we were studying in Oxford. It was with a woman named Stutti at Wolfson College. He lied to me on a virtually daily basis to cover up this affair. This went on for approximately 10 months (from December 2002-Sept 2003). It was an agonizing time for me even though I did not consciously know what was happening. I finally convinced him to tell me the truth about the affair when we left Oxford and moved back to Israel. I was devastated, and realized that all of my hopes that he was a "changed man" were baseless fantasies.

5. Adultery/Lying:

I also was racked with suspicion that he was having another affair – with his "teaching partner", Erica Fox. On countless occasions I begged him to stop teaching with her and to pull back from their "friendship". He refused. Also on countless occasions I point blank asked him if they were having an affair. In response, he consistently told me how crazy, jealous and insecure I was. I have finally found out that they were indeed intimate with each other while we were married, as well as after. (All of this went on between 2002 until our divorce in August of 2004). I also have heard that he had affairs with two other women while we were together – one a young woman in Israel and the other in America. Since that I time I have found out that he has been having numerous sexual relationships with a variety of women – employees, students and funders (many more than have been reported in the press). At least one of these women is married to another man.

6. Debasing/Sexuality:

Mordechai was consistently verbally demeaning to me, particularly in our sexual interactions. Additionally, he viewed pornography on a regular basis; paying money to have memberships to certain sites. Eventually his computer and email were so full of pornography that he paid tens of hundreds of dollars to get it cleaned, for fear that someone may see it and that he would lose his job. I understand from formal depositions made with lawyers and the police in Israel that he had much more "extreme" sexual interactions with other women after our divorce; which involved S&M and also played heavily on themes of debasement.

7. Stealing Intellectual Property:

Mordechai used other people's stories/teaching (making slight changes) without attributing them properly. (The story in Soulprints about Eitan giving him a soulprint box was, for instance, based upon a story in one of Robert Fulghum's books.) Furthermore, I worked full time on both books "Soul Prints" and "The Mystery of Love". There are entire sections of these books which I myself wrote – with no public recognition given as to the depth and breadth of my contribution. Just a few of the numerous examples of this are the poem/invocation at the beginning of "Soul Prints", as well as the Parable of the Royal Wine in "The Mystery of Love". I insisted that I wanted at least these pieces to be attributed to me. He refused. Seeing I had no real choice, I gave in in the end and allowed the pieces to be used without attribution.

8. Verbal Abuse & Emotional Manipulation:

This is one of the main issues for me about the danger that Mordechai poses to others. Emotional abuse and manipulation was a constant throughout our marriage. I have pages and pages of journal entries describing entire scenes and dialogues full of emotional abuse. His yelling explosions, full of demeaning putdowns and blame, were virtually a daily occurrence. I eventually stopped fighting back and would just dissolve in tears after each explosion. He needed to always be right, always in control. If I didn't agree with him on something then he would burst into a rage and tell me how stupid I was. - But more than that, he would tell me how unloving, insensitive and selfish I was. Convincing me that I was the evil, selfish, unloving one was one of his most powerful tools of manipulation. He capitalized on my natural desire to be loving and giving. My goodness was a knife in his hands with which he carved his sick designs into me. I was utterly bewildered by his manipulations; the way he would turn everything around and make me the bad one. These turn arounds rendered me powerless time and again. In fact, I was so distraught by the nature of his putdowns and manipulations that I had regular fantasies of doing violent and suicidal acts against myself. My most recurrent fantasy during his abusive tirades was of slashing my throat. I was not "allowed" to express or feel anger towards him and so I turned all of my anger at him back upon myself. I had never in my life been suicidal before this time and since I left him I have not had suicidal or violent thoughts at all.

9. Verbal Abuse/Manipulation of Others:

I witnessed Mordechai being verbally abusive and manipulative with many other people. I saw it happen most with Dafna, his main staff person, but also - tragically – also saw it with his sons. I found his neglectful and insensitive treatment of his sons to be deplorable. Seeing him with his sons was another big factor in my wanting a divorce. The thought of him mistreating any future children that we would have was just terrifying to me.

10. Lies:

As I mentioned above, Mordechai lied about our divorce, his past and other essential issues to the numerous Rabbis who supported him when he was being attacked in the press and at various teaching institutions. The Rabbis he lied pointblank to include R'Danny Landes, R'Joseph Telushkin, R'Art Green, R'Eli Herscher and R'Saul Berman, as well as others. He likewise lied to the press and the entire Bayit Chadash community and Board. Of course, Mordechai was lying to me on a daily basis about the affairs he was having.

11. Exaggerations:

Beyond the examples above I witnessed Mordechai lying routinely in most every type of setting. Whether it was in a speech, at dinner with friends, teaching, or in talking to donors. He was consistently aggrandizing himself by exaggerating his successes, popularity, power and connections. He would get furious with me when I myself did not join in on telling these inflated stories about him; saying that I was selfish and unloving for not also telling these tales. Time and again he falsely claimed to be a spiritual/holy person. During his writings and teachings he would claim to pray, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, etc. None of which he did in the least. He led entire meditation retreats without ever having meditated himself. In my opinion, all of his frequent claims to spiritual enlightenment were (and are still) dangerously misleading fabrications.

12. Dishonest Financial Dealings:

Mordechai also lied to me (and others) about financial matters. For instance, I have recently been informed that he hid approximately $37K in the Bayit Chadash accounts so that it would not be factored in to our divorce settlement. I understand that he is trying to retrieve and further hide that money so that I can not access it. Who knows what other money he had hidden away so that it would not be factored in. He also hid money from his 2nd wife so that he would not have to give it for child support. She took him to Israeli court over his dishonest financial dealings with her (with their divorce settlement as well as with child support). She won the case. He fought hard against this case being leaked to the Israeli press. Additionally, before I met Mordechai he was fired from Milah for inappropriate financial dealings (although I do not know the details). Whatever the case, he clearly has a spotted history around financial matters.

13. Psychological Sickness:

I think it is crucial to share that based on all that I have known of Mordechai I see that he clearly has 2 psychological disorders which are evident and expressed in numerous ways. The most obvious is a narcissistic personality disorder. He exhibited the following characteristics which correlate with the DMS-IV diagnosis of narcissism. In the DMS, at least 5 of the following attributes are requires for diagnosis. Mordechai exhibits them all. I could give numerous examples in each category, but will refrain for lack of space and because they are just so very obvious to anyone who knows Mordechai.):

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance – exaggerates achievements and talents.


  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance.


  3. Believes that he is "special" and unique and can only associate with other special or high-status people or institutions.


  4. Requires excessive admiration


  5. Has a sense of entitlement – expecting especially favorable treatment or compliance with his expectations


  6. Is interpersonally exploitative; taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends


  7. Is envious of others or believes that others are envious of him


  8. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others


  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes


  10. As for the antisocial (or sociopathic) personality disorder. He exhibits the following of the criteria for the DSM (of which 3 are needed for diagnosis):


  11. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors (such as his sexual harassment in the workplace and sleeping with students and employees)


  12. deceitfulness, repeated lying


  13. irritability and aggressiveness (as is known by anyone who has ever worked under Mordechai, or crossed his path politically)


  14. reckless disregard for safety of self or others (such as endangering himself by juggling numerous affairs at once, given his history)


  15. lack of remorse; indicated by rationalizing having hurt, or mistreated others

Unfortunately, with Axis II Personality Disorders the chances for change via treatment are extremely slim; as opposed to Axis I disorders which are considered more treatable. Mental Retardation, for example, is also on Axis II, because no amount of therapy will be able to fully `treat' retardation. The same is understood for Personality Disorders – they are not entirely treatable. Thus, in my opinion, the belief that Mordechai will one day be able to return to being a teacher/leader of any sort is a dangerous one. I personally (and professionally) do not think that he should be "allowed" to return to any such roles at any point in the future. A tragic loss, perhaps, but in the end we as a culture and as a people need to reassess the traits that we value and pull forth from our leaders. May this whole fiasco pave the way for new standards of humility, sincerity and a genuine care for others.

===========================

Rabbi Kenneth Hain's Part in Protecting Rabbi Mordechai Gafni

By Survivor of Mordechai Gafni

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speaks Out - May 23, 2006

http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/2006/05/rabbi-kenneth-hains-part-in-protecting.html

"Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go." -- Rabbi Kenneth Hain

In 1986 soon after I was a victim of Mordechai Gafni's attempted forced sexual advances, a sixteen-year J.P.S.Y. (Jewish Public School Youth) girl, Judy, confided in me that Mordechai Winiarz (his name prior to his name-change to Gafni) had been sexually abusing and threatening her on several occasions. I realized immediately that I needed to bring these serious concerns to people who would stand up for what was right and put an end to his abuse of power and people. I had seen myself what he was capable of, and I was not going to stand idly by and let him abuse others.

Among people from whom I sought help and guidance, I turned to Rabbi Kenneth Hain, the current Rabbi of Beth Sholom in Lawrence, NY, who had connections with Yeshiva University (which funded JPSY) and who knew Mordechai personally. I called him to tell him my fears and concerns regarding the details of the sexual abuse of and threats made by Mordechai to Judy as well as the experience I had had with Mordechai when he attempted to seduce me. Rabbi Hain listened to everything and said to me, "You weren't there, so you don't know if this is true." When I told him the details of Mordechai's sexual advances towards me as well as his subsequent threats to me and to Judy once he knew that she and I had spoken, Rabbi Hain responded, "Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go."

Although twenty years have passed, I will never forget his exact words and how they shocked me. Here was yet another enabler of Mordechai--someone who had the responsibility to be as courageous as Rabbi Yosef Blau and at least investigate these allegations and follow-through with a proper course of action; yet, all Rabbi Hain did was quash me and insist that I "let things go." Rabbi Blau listened to victims and acted responsibly to ensure that the many accusations agains Mordechai be taken seriously and that Mordechai not be allowed to continue in his position as leader of JPSY.

Mordechai was eventually ousted from J.P.S.Y. I later heard from reliable sources that it was Rabbi Kenneth Hain who had furnished Mordechai with a letter of recommendation that he travelled with. With this reference, Mordechai fled to Boca Raton, Florida where he managed to dupe the Boca Raton community into accepting him to serve as rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue in Montoya Circle. Well, it wasn't long before scandal befell the community and allegations of serious sexual improprieties as well as misappropriation of funds shook the community. Changing his name to Gafni, Mordechai fled to Israel, and his string of sexual abuse and lies continued--with support from his enablers--until now, twenty years later—when we finally heard his "confession."

In 2004, I spoke with another survivor of Mordechai's sexual abuse. She had been quashed at every attempt to plea for someone to stop him, but her pleas went unanswered. In The Jewish Week in September 2004, Gary Rosenblatt quoted Mordechai's acknowledgement of a sexual relationship with this then thirteen year old girl— (though he claimed it was consensual) and he STILL succeeded in obtaining support from the enablers mentioned above while this now young woman cried out that she had been sexually assaulted by him repeatedly over so many months....

In addition to Rabbi Kenneth Hain every single person who supported Mordechai despite the numerous, substantial, and growing allegations--and quashed victims' experiences --claiming that there had been investigations that never took place--should be forced to realize the effects of their actions and inaction.

The letter below was signed and distributed to "The Jewish Community Worldwide" in 2005 in defense of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni:

To The Jewish Community worldwide:

In this letter we the undersigned ask the Jewish community worldwide to reaffirm its commitment to the Torah, and to the ethical principles of Judaism. Although the specific focus of our discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, whom have known collectively for many years, the issues we address are universal and timeless.

A group of several people – none of whom know Rabbi Gafni personally in any real way, and none who has had any contact in the past twenty years – have undertaken a systematic campaign to besmirch his name. Their primary method has been to keep alive and distort two very old and long discredited stories. Their attacks have recently increased in volume and intensity. He has consistently and generously offered to meet with them, but they have refused.

Many people who know Rabbi Gafni well, as all the undersigned do, have individually and collectively examined the accusations about him that this group has been spreading. We have found their rumors and accusations to be either wholly without substance or radically distorted to the point of falsification. We conclude that the false and malicious rumors against Gafni constitute lashon hara – and that the dissemination of such lies is prohibited by the Torah and Jewish ethical principles.

Thus we must address and to make right the wrong that has been attempted in regard to Rabbi Gafni, and affirm our support of him as an important teacher and leader in the Jewish community.

We have worked with Rabbi Gafni in many contexts, ranging from colleague to employer. We have published his works in our collections, co-taught with him, and known him in a host of other close relationships. Over the years, we have also extensively discussed with him the different stages of his life and the decisions he has made in relationships, professional choices and more.

We affirm without reservation that in addition to being a person of enormous gifts, depth, and vision, Rabbi Gafni is also a person of real integrity. He possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity coupled with a genuine humility that comes only from having lived life fully – with all of its complexity, beauty and sometimes pain.

Leaders of his caliber and depth who are committed to ongoing personal development are few and far between. From our dual commitment to him as an individual, as well as to the most profound ethical teachings of the Torah, we urge you as the reader of this letter to reject the false reports about Rabbi Gafni, and to give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.

Sincerely,

  1. Metuka Benjamin, Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple

  2. Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program

  3. Rabbi Saul Berman, Director, Edah

  4. Zivit Davidovich, Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television

  5. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh

  6. Rabbi Shefa Gold. Director C-Deep, composer and teacher

  7. Rabbi Arthur Green, Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School

  8. Rabbi Eli Herscher, Stephen S. Wise Synagogue

  9. Arthur Kurzweil, former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club,

  10. Avraham Leader, Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash

  11. Stephen Marmer, M.D., Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School

  12. Jacob Ner-David, Board Chair, Bayit Chadash

  13. Peter Pitzele, Ph.D., Bibliodrama Institute

  14. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbinic Chair, Aleph

  15. Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University

  16. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author, Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom

  17. Rabbi David Zaslow, Havurah Shir Hadash

  18. Noam Zion, Hartman Institute

Because of these Jewish community leaders' blatant dishonor to the rabbinate, negligence and inaction-- many women have become victims of Gafni's sexual abuse. This is a true Chillul Hashem--that supposed representatives of Judaism who should have cared about victims' claims and pleas chose not only to shut their ears but to lend support, encouragement , and financial assistance to the abuser--Gafni. These individuals must be held accountable for enabling Mordechai to add more victims to his list . These individuals need to issue public statements of apology to the survivors whom they ignored and to society at large for endangering all the people Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni encountered over the past twenty five years.

======================

Announcement from Chair of Elat Chayyim Board

From: Chaia Lehrer, Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center

Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 5:29 PM

Subject: Announcement from Chair of Elat Chayyim Board

Dear members of the Elat Chayyim community

I am very saddened to share with you a situation about which I have recently learned. Mordechai Gafni, a talented rabbi who has taught at Elat Chayyim and in many other places, has been accused of sexual misconduct by women within his spiritual community in Israel, several of whom have filed complaints with the police. He has not denied the allegations. These are serious offenses because although these relationships were apparently consensual, there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees.

Some of you may have studied with Mordechai Gafni, or participated in other events with him. For others he might be a complete stranger, and this letter may be irrelevant.

I am writing to you because experts who deal with abuse of power indicate that the first thing that must happen after the revelation of sexual abuse and/or abuse of power by clergy is full and honest disclosure to the community of the facts, as accurately as they are known.

It is in this spirit that I am passing on to you the information that I received from Israel, and informing you that Mordechai Gafni will no longer teach at Elat Chayyim. Those who have registered for his classes have been notified, and may either choose another workshop or receive a refund.

The Program Committee of Elat Chayyim had, in anticipation of our move to Isabella Freedman, begun to review our Code of Ethics, which all teachers are required to abide by. This unfortunate incident has strengthened our determination to maintain our high standards and continue to create an environment that is safe and heartfelt for all our guests.

The Committee continues to work in this regard.

This situation is only beginning to unfold. As always, at moments like this, there is a tendency to want to share and speak about what has happened. I urge all of us to do so with the highest awareness of what our tradition teaches about lashon harah, negative speech. We have both the obligation to know and to teach about abuse of power, and the obligation to strive to refrain from gossip -- and any harm that we may cause others by our speech.

This is also a moment to send our love and support to those women who have been harmed, and to acknowledge their courage in coming forth.

May we each send forth our blessings for healing, for all those who are involved in this situation and for each of us as we face our own shadows in the journey through our lives,

b'shalom

Lynne Iser

Chairperson, Board of Directors

Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center

===================

L.A. Gafni Event Canceled

by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Jewish Journal of Los Angles - May 26, 2006

Revelations about sexual misconduct have led to the cancellation of an upcoming local event featuring prominent Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.

Gafni had been scheduled for a public talk at Stephen S. Wise Temple on June 9. Over the past two years, since being appointed to the Wisdom Chair in September 2004, Gafni has returned every few months to the Bel Air shul, where he's had a loyal following.

Last week, four women in Israel — students and staff members at Tel Aviv's Bayit Chadash, the Jewish renewal center that Gafni co-founded — filed complaints of sexual misconduct with Israeli police. In a public letter, Gafni, 46, admitted to being "sick" and promised to seek therapy. Leaders of Bayit Chadash immediately dismissed him.

Gafni was appointed to the Wisdom Chair at Stephen S. Wise two years ago — despite anecdotal allegations that he had a history of sexual misconduct. The temple's senior rabbi this week issued a short statement denouncing Gafni.

"It is with a deep sense of shock and disappointment that I have learned of the sexual misconduct that has led to Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's dismissal from Bayit Chadash," senior Rabbi Eli Herscher said in a written statement responding to an inquiry from The Journal. "His actions, including vast deception, are indefensible."

Herscher declined further comment, but the temple canceled Gafni's June participation in a public conversation with commentator Dennis Prager.

Before being appointed to the Wisdom Chair, Gafni had been a regular scholar-in-residence at the 3,000-family Reform synagogue since 2002. His lectures and sermons attracted thousands.

Congregant Alan Finkelstein said he remembers Gafni's 2003 Rosh Hashanah sermon as, "my finest moment in shul. He involved the crowd, He helped you connect with the person next to you. It was one of the best sermons I've ever heard."

Finkelstein said he was moved to go back to hear Gafni on several other occasions.

But Gafni's popularity was undermined by persistent rumors that he had, in the past, manipulated women into sexual relationships. In October 2004, The Jewish Journal reprinted a Jewish Week article exploring allegations that Gafni had inappropriate sexual contact with students when he was 19.

Attendance reportedly decreased at Gafni's events following the publication of the article.

At the time, Herscher said he had discussed the rumors with Gafni and, after investigating them on his own, found them baseless. Herscher was in good company defending Gafni, as some of the country's top Jewish thinkers, of all denominations, called Gafni a remarkable teacher who was the target of a malevolent campaign. Herscher also decried Jewish newspapers for printing lashon harah (malicious gossip).

"Rabbi Gafni coming to teach here makes a deeply important Jewish statement - that if rumors and allegations and innuendo are allowed to destroy someone who only wants to teach, Jewishly, that is tragic," Herscher said in October 2004.

This week, Hersher's sympathies lay elsewhere.

"I pray that all who have been misled and hurt by him — first and foremost the women he has harmed — will soon recover," Herscher wrote.

===========

Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi Speaks on Gafni

May 26, 2006

Jewish Whistleblower :

Zalman-Schachter Shalomi statement on Mordechai Gafni - note no apology, no acceptance of responsibility for treatment of Gafni's survivors.

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence:

Marc Gafni has lost his ordination from both Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Zalman-Schachter Shlomi. Does he have a rabbinic ordination from anyone else? Do we still have to refer to him as "rabbi"?

Helping Gafni's Victims

May 28, 2006

WARNING: To all of the survivors of Gafni.

Be very careful accepting money from any organization. Consult with an attorney first. By accepting money raised you may become ineligible to file a civil suit against them. If you need help finding an attorney call The Awareness Center at 443-857-5560.

From Vicki Polin, Executive Director

The Awareness Center, Inc.

I want publicly state that at this time the Bayit Chadash community and those connected with Jewish Renewal movement have not apologized to the three survivors of Mordechai Winiartz/Gafni who came forward back in 2004.

Various leaders in the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Yosef Telushkin and several other individuals attempted to silence the voices of three women when they attempted to warn everyone that Marc Gafni was a sexual predator.

Can you imagine the psychological damage our community leaders and other members of our communities have caused the three survivors?

These three brave women also NEED and deserve to be financially compensated! Remember their voices have been ignored for over 20 years.

_______________________________________

Helping Gafni's Victims

http://trueancestor.typepad.com/true_ancestor/2006/05/helping_gafnis_.html

This just in from the Jewish Renewal movement, on how they've set up a fund to help pay for treatment of the victims of abuse at the hands of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni, and an e-mail address to send messages of support to those victims.

There's plenty of blame to go around. Here's a way to actually help.

Dear Friends,

In response to numerous inquiries as to what people can do to help the victims of abuse in the Bayit Chadash community, we contacted the folks over there to find out what is actually needed. The women who came forward to give depositions, and others also hurt by this terrible betrayal, have sustained great economic hardship and are greatly in need of financial assistance.

In response, the ALEPH Board has authorized setting up a "BAYIT CHADASH CHESED FUND." People wishing to contribute to this fund can do so via ALEPH's secure server. Just go to our member/donor page www.aleph.org/join.html and give by credit card exactly as if you were making a donation to ALEPH, but flagging it for the Bayit Chadash Chesed Fund by putting "Bayit Chadash" in the second address line. If you do not do this, we have no way of knowing your intention and your gift will be automatically processed as a donation to ALEPH's general fund.

Donors will receive a computer generated e-receipt for tax purposes. The receipt will be from ALEPH since we are the legal entity receiving the donation, but the proceeds will go to the Chesed Fund.

REMEMBER: YOU MUST EARMARK YOUR DONATION BY PUTTING "BAYIT CHADASH" IN THE SECOND ADDRESS LINE.

Dispersal of funds: The Bayit Chadash leadership in Israel will set up a confidential process whereby therapists treating the victims will apply to a panel on behalf of the clients without revealing their identities, and funds will be dispensed on the basis of need. The panel will report back on the use of the funds for the purpose of accountability, but preserving the privacy of the recipients.

Those wishing to send prayers and messages of support can contact the women directly at bayitchadash@walla.com. This is a special address set up for these women only. It is not a general address for Bayit Chadash or their staff. Please be mindful in your contact with them, allowing them the dignity of their own process at their own pace and respecting what is left of their privacy.

I'm glad ALEPH took this step, glad that they gave the rest of us an opportunity not just to opine but to assist in the very beginning stages of the healing process. I hope they can oversee this fund in a fair and efficient way.

Again, Shabbat shalom.

--T.A.



Campaign Against Edah

Justice for Survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni

May 28, 2006

Jewish Whistleblower is launching a Campaign Against Edah for Justice for Survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.

For the past years, Rabbi Saul Berman has proclaimed Rabbi Gafni's innocence, claimed publicly that he conducted an investigation despite refusing to speak to key parties and has attacked publically both the allegations of brave women who came forward and the names of anyone who supported them.

To this day, Rabbi Berman has refused to make any public apology or done anything resembling teshuvah.

As such we call on Edah contributors to pull their financial support for Edah and Edah directors to either demand Berman do public teshuvah or fire him.

Sincerely,

JWB

==================================

Charisma's shadow Jewish Renewal community grapples with ethics in wake of Gafni affair

by Paula Amann

News Editor

Washingtong Jewish Week - June 1, 2006

http://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&ArticleID=5384&TM=39212.11

In early April, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni brought his supercharged teaching style to a weekend retreat at the District's Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

Two weeks ago, the Shabbaton's featured speaker resigned from Bayit Chadash, the spirituality center he founded and led in Jaffa, Israel, amid allegations of sexual misconduct by five women students and staffers there.

Three young women in their 20s filed a complaint in early May with Haifa police against Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his center, reported YNet, a Web site for which Gafni had written a weekly column. The thrice-married rabbi, who is in his mid-40s, allegedly pledged each of the trio that he would marry her if she had sex with him.

After fleeing Israel for the United States, the Orthodox-educated Gafni confessed his guilt and apologized in a public letter to his followers, saying he would seek treatment for his "sickness." The U.S.-born Gafni, who hosted a TV show in Israel and had appeared in a special on PBS, had been dogged by sexual abuse allegations throughout his career.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, had ordained Gafni, but revoked that ordination in 1994, according to The Jewish Week in New York. That took place, the paper reported, after Gafni had been quoted in Ha'aretz as calling for restoring balance between the erotic and the spiritual.

The author of Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment and The Mystery of Love, Gafni had appeared in D.C. April 9 under the auspices of the Am Kolel Sanctuary and Renewal Center and the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.

Rabbi David Shneyer, who directs Am Kolel, reacted to Gafni's forced departure from Bayit Chadash via voice mail.

"It's really sad," Shneyer said. "I just wish healing for everyone involved."

The current president of Ohalah, the Jewish Renewal rabbinic association, Shneyer notes that the group was already readying ethics training for its conference next January when the news surfaced about Gafni, who does not belong to Ohalah or to Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the corresponding lay organization.

"Before this all broke, we had planned a track on ethics and relationships and boundaries in our community," Shneyer said in a later interview.

BJC's spiritual leader Hazzan Sunny Schnitzer said he had been aware of 25-year-old charges of sexual impropriety with teenage girls.

"He had personally refuted all the allegations," Shnitzer said of longtime rumors of such misconduct that swirled about Gafni.

The situation, he added, spotlights the tension between twin Jewish injunctions in Leviticus 19:16 to avoid lashon hara, or gossip, and yet not stand idly by when people are being hurt.

"You shall not go about slandering your kin," reads the verse, which goes on, "You shall not stand over the blood of your fellow man." (Translation from Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses)

The silence around Gafni's alleged misdeeds, said Schnitzer, represents "the downside of the Jewish rules of lashon hara because on the one hand, we refrain from anything that is rumor or hearsay, but on the other, there is an obligation to protect the community."

An Aleph spokesperson, Rabbi Daniel Siegel, stressed that his organization had long maintained both ethical guidelines and trainings for all teachers at its biennial Kallah, or retreat week.

"No romantic liaison can be undertaken under circumstances between a teacher and a student," Siegel said.

Aleph's director of spiritual resources and the group's former executive director, Siegel also noted that no complaints of sexual misconduct about Gafni had emerged when he taught at the Kallah.

"Mordechai's relationship to us was as a popular teacher," Siegel explained, noting that the Israeli rabbi did not ever join Aleph. "There has always been a certain caution around him. When he has in the past stepped over lines set by mutual agreement, we have called him on it."

Gafni also co-led a two-week session, "The Maggidic Journey: Developing Jewish Spiritual Literacy," last August and previous summers at Elat Chayyim: The Jewish Retreat Center in Accord, N.Y.

Bennett Nieman, the center's executive director, said his group had checked on 25-year-old rumors of sexual impropriety and could not substantiate them.

"There were some complaints that he was like a televangelist," said Nieman, but no complaints of sexual abuse by Gafni were leveled by Elat Chayyim participants, he said.

Both Aleph and Elat Chayyim have nearly identical guidelines that mandate "refraining from beginning a sexual relationship with any participant in our class, group, workshop, prayer group or healing session" at any of the events the groups sponsor.

Roni Posner, a District resident and board member of Elat Chayyim, which moves to Connecticut in September, said retreat center leaders were working to strengthen existing ethics guidelines, in light of the Gafni scandal.

"The ethical issue at the heart of this is ... the issue of the abuse of power that can happen in any teaching environment, whether in a formal school setting or retreat setting," Posner said. "Especially now, as we look at whole new era for Elat Chayyim, as we look at a move, we're reviewing all our policies, including our code of ethics."

Bethesda's Judith Dack, a summer staff member at Elat Chayyim, saw Gafni evoke strong, contrasting emotions from Renewal leaders and students there.

For some participants, Gafni Æ born Marc Winiarz Æ seemed "deeply inspired" and "brought people back to Judaism," recalled Dack.

Other observers, she noted, were "seriously concerned and frightened by this energy he was churning up."

At Aleph, Siegel said he would be preparing a document in the coming month on the difference between "true channeling" of the divine by spiritual leaders and the "shadow side" of religious charisma.

"We want to raise this issue into a public discussion because it's clear there's a need," Siegel said.

Schnitzer, meanwhile, flagged the pitfall of elevating a spiritual leader above his or her message.

"Guruhood is a really toxic place when it's all about the teacher and not the teaching," Schnitzer said. "We need to keep our eyes wide open and when the inconsistencies show up, we need to be aware enough to step back."

============================

Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault

By Ahiya Raved

YNET News - May 18, 2006

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3252577,00.html

Three women file complaint with Haifa police against modern-Orthodox rabbi, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US

Three young women in their twenties who reside in the heart of Israel filed a complaint several days ago with Haifa police against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his Jaffa center.

The women's attorney, Tami Olman, told Ynet that the police did not take the allegations seriously, allowing the rabbi to meanwhile leave the country.

Rabbi Gafni (Photo: Hagai Aharon)

Haifa police officials admitted they have collected the complainants' testimonies, in which they claim the rabbi promised each of them separately he would marry her if she had sex with him. Some of the women were Gafni's students.

According to Attorney Olman, the complainants accused Gafni of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault and notified police that once the rabbi learns of the complaint against him he is likely to try to flee the country. However, Olman said, no measures have been taken to prevent Gafni's departure.

To make matters worse, Olman said that once in the United States, Rabbi Gafni sent a letter addressed to his congregation in which he apologized to its members for what he had done.

Attorney: Police failed in handling case

In a letter Attorney Olman sent to the officer in charge of the investigation, she stated: "It is curious that the suspect, whom you said there was no hurry to interrogate, confessed to the allegations against him in a letter from the United States, after he fled the Israel Police's 'effective investigation'... the manner in which this affair has been handled does no honor to the police, to say the least."

Olman also said she intends to demand that an investigation be launched against the relevant elements at the Haifa police who neglected the treatment of the complaint.

Chief superintendent of the Haifa police Ahuva Tomer told Ynet in response that although the complaint itself was not filed with the Haifa police, officers at the station were willing to make an exception and collect the testimonies in Haifa, in order to save the women the trip to Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Gafni, 44, was born in the US and educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas. He made aliya to Israel 12 years ago and served as rabbi of the West Bank settlements of Tzofim. Over five years ago he opened the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, where he resided, teaches Torah and ordinates to the rabbinate.

Gafni, who studies and teaches Kabbalah, published several books, hosted his own television show on channel 10 and wrote a weekly column for Ynet.

Avi Cohen contributed to the report.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is important to know that even after Ner Israel removed Rabbi E from direct contact with students, he still received an ALIYAH this year Rosh Hashanah and according to my source was still living on Yeshiva Lane at that time.

Would Finkel of the Monsey kashrus scandal receive an ALIYAH in Ner Israel?

exposemolesters said...

It's very infuriating to me that Eisman was given a pass by Ner Israel. Unfourtanetley, the protection of the perpetrate is all too common with these Yeshiva's. That is why it is crucial to go after the "big fish" which is a process that we will continue to explore. NO YESHIVA or ORGANIZATION IS SAFE.

The so called Rabbi's and leaders who have allowed the abuse to flourish will be held criminally responsible for their horrific silence, manipulation, and betrayal of the Torah.

This cycle of hush-hush, intimidation, and threats, is all to familiar. YOB (shlomo Mandel, Yakov Mandel, Manis Mandel), YTT (Lipa Margulis, Yaakov Applegrad, Yisroel Belsky, Agudas Yisroel of America, Torah Umesora), Bais Yisroel/Ger Yeshiva (Grand Ger Rebbe), Ner Israel(Aharon Feldman,Beryl Weisbord,Sheftel Neuberger, Yaakov Hopfer), Baruch Lanner case (OU, NCSY).

People are outraged at Finkel, and rightly so (especially the Rabbi twisters and fakers of the torah), Yet many people still fail to realize the severity of Child Abuse and its effects. Treifa Meat they declare a day of fasting for. Rabbis who grope the genitals of children, that there is no fast day for. It doesn't concern the "Rabbi's" that children are being molested by their "Rebbe's". Go figure!

exposemolesters said...

Anonymous said...

It is important to know that even after Ner Israel removed Rabbi E from direct contact with students, he still received an ALIYAH this year Rosh Hashanah and according to my source was still living on Yeshiva Lane at that time.

Would Finkel of the Monsey kashrus scandal receive an ALIYAH in Ner Israel?

Dear Anon,

It is DISGUSTING that Moshe Eisen received an ALIYAH in the first place, but to receive it on Rosh Hashanah?

Ner Israel and Moshe Eisman, It's time for a big "YERIDA". You are mechallel Hashems good name. Go jump in your neighbors cesspool and stay there you sick and demented shmucks.

No Doubt, Finkel would receive an ALIYAH in Ner Israel. They are very un-prejudiced. Even Bin Laden would get one. If Kolko went to Ner Israel, He'd get one too. We are dealing with cowards and murderers, we cannot excpect any better of them.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the comment about Eiseman before. Thanks for your response. One question though - Margulies belsky, etc. I full know their involvement, but, though, I am not a Chasid, The lineage of Gerrer Rebbes beginnig with the Chidushei Harim were all very holy people. And so I shudder a bit when I hear the current Rebbe's name being mentioned together with MArgo, etc both here and the strong remarks by UOJ.

I find it hard to believe that the REbbe would be involved to that degree.

exposemolesters said...

The Gerrer Rebbe assisted in Lazerewitz's escape to Israel this past summer. That is a CRIME. Knowing full and well that Lazerewitz is accused of sexual misconduct by many students for a few decades, it was the responsibility of the Gerrer rebbe to make amends and help bring this man to justice, not aid in his escape.

It pains me very much to have to put the Gerrer Rebbe in the same sentence as Margo/Belsky. For the sake of protecting future victims, it is important for people to know the role that the Rebbe had in this man's escape from justice.

Perhaps the rebbe was misinformed or had amnmesia, but whatever the circumstances were, he was a hinderance in the investigation of Lazerewitz, and for that he must do Tshuva.

Rabbi Pinchus Shinberg is also a respected gadol who people wait long lines to get a bracha from. However, how do you come to his defense when he makes a psak in the YTT case, that if there was no PENETRATION then the torah does not consider it as a violation of sexual rape or misconduct.

There is a MAJOR problem in how gedolim are dealing with child abuse. Someone has to defend these children from being victimized. If GEDOLEI YISROEL cannot do this, then we must take over that role.

I have the utmost respect for those who conform to the torah's values of "derech eretz kodmo latorah". A talmid chochom with no derech eretz is like any other Shagetz you see on the street. A gadol hador with no derech eretz, no kovod amokom, no kovod abriyos, is absoloutly undeserving of any respect.

Thanks for writing.

exposemolesters said...

The Gerer - full name: Kotsk-Ger - sect of Hasidic Judaism was founded in 1859 in the town of Gora Kalwaria, Poland- known to the Jews as "Gur". The first Gerer Rebbe was Rabbi Itzchok Meir Alter (1789-1866), the author of Hidushey haRim ("Insights of R.I.M."). Rabbi Itzchok was known as the emperor of Polish Hasidism, and the town hosted many pilgrims to his court.

The most famous of the series of Gerer Rebbies was Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Gur (1847-1905), author of the Sfas Emes, a collection of Biblical homilies. This book established the tenets of Gerer philosophy, in which God's Inner Light is concealed by his own Tzimzum (reduction) and the outer trappings of Teva (nature), and a Jew's mission is to separate himself from the natural world so that God's spirit can once again flow into it.

In 1940, the Gerer Rebbe Mordecai Abraham Alter fled to Palestine, and reestablished his community in the Mea Shearim section of Jerusalem. There are also Gerer communities in Bnei Brak, Israel and Borough Park, Brooklyn. The current Gerer Rebbe is Rabbi Yaacov Alter. He wields not a little power in Israel, as the Gerer Rebbe traditionally holds the chairmanship of Agudat Yisrael's Council of Torah Sages, an Orthodox political party which decides issues of policy and representation.

Gerer garb varies from the typical Hasidic one in that the shtreimel, or fur hat, is of the spudik, or "tall" variety.

exposemolesters said...

Some more about the the lineage of Gerrer Rebbes:

The Gerer Rebbe
A tribute to a chassidic leader who rebuilt his decimated flock in the Holy Land

by Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Observer and is also available in book form in the ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Judaiscope Series. It is reprinted here with permission

Rabbi Yisroel Alter
5655/1895-5737/1977


Where did all these people come from? What drove them to crowd the streets?

It is barely 4 p.m. The radio had broadcast the bleak tidings at noon. To all except the closest, the news was totally unexpected. The morning papers surely had no mention of the Gerer Rebbe's passing. Even the more popular afternoon dailies did not report it. Who, then, amassed this crowd of 100,000 mourners - or 200,000, as police estimated them?

What contact did these tens of thousands of Jews have with Gerer Chassidus, or with the late Rebbe? They never caught a glimpse of his features on the TV screen - he kept himself as removed from the instrument as he would from fire. Radio? His few chosen words were never squandered on radio frequencies. The papers seldom reported his activities - his entire demeanor was in total opposition to the games of publicity-seeking. So what triggered this flow of humanity to flood Jerusalem's streets in tribute to this man in just three to four hours?

The range of the representation is staggering. And so is the contrast they present... the faces: The obviously Chassidic bachurim and yungeleit, whose every expression and gesture bespeak devotion to Torah and Chassidus . . . middle-aged men, elegantly dressed in modern attire, tears flowing down their cheeks, unwiped ... Jerusalem natives, in full Me'ah Shearim garb, white crocheted skull-huggers peeking out from beneath their black velour hats, the gravity of generations weighing down their features ... The young Sabra generation, representing the Yeshivot Tichoniot, much in evidence - heads usually cocked audaciously, crowned by kipot s'rugot, now hung low ... And so many Jews, who bear no particular stamp of affiliation.

A glance upward, and the eye sweeps over balconies and rooftops, crowded with yet more Jews ... The rich bouquet of Sephardic Jews of all hues and shades, the mix that only Jerusalem can boast . . . mothers with their young, some cuddling infants in their arms.

One look around, and it is obvious that they are not spectators at all, but fellow mourners grieved over the terrible irreparable loss.

It was the response of those who had known him as Rebbe ... of others who had found in him the deep concern of a father - their father ... of still others who saw in him a rebuilder of shattered people and communities ... of yet others who had appreciated the leadership role he had assumed in the affairs of religious Jewry in the Holy Land - in Agudath Israel, Chinuch Atzmai . . . But primarily it was the instinctive response of every Jew to the trauma of losing a great man. All knew the loss and felt its pangs with an immediacy that drove them into the streets to mourn - both the simple Jew who could not point to more than the simple fact, the "Ma zos," and those who knew: Those who savored the fine points of Kotzk, how they were perpetuated for four generations of Ger, only to be destroyed, and then rebuilt again in the Holy Land. How the specifics of Ger - the fierce devotion to Torah, the uncompromising pursuit of truth, the jealous watching of minutes, the careful training of the youth, the sparing of the words - how they were all recreated by this prince of Ger. They live on, but he is gone.

Ger - A Dynasty of Torah and Chassidus

The late Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Alter, was scion of a family of nobility, and heir to a demanding Chassidic tradition that had its spiritual source in the fountains of unadulterated truth that flowed from Parshys'che and Kotzk.

An impoverished Jew came to the Kotzker Rebbe and begged him, "Help me! I haven't a bit of food to feed my family! "

"That's not a problem. Just daven to Hashem with emes."

"But I don't know how to daven with emes."

"Then you do have a serious problem!"

Kotzk was not known for miracles. In its pursuit of truth - in Torah study, in life, in avodas Hashem - there was no time for miracles. But the truth that emerged from Kotzk was indeed miraculous.

Rabbi Yitzchok Meir, disciple of Kotzk, was the first Rebbe of Ger. His penetrating Chidushei HaRim on Talmud is widely studied. His thirteen children had died during his lifetime. His grandson, Reb Arye Leib, succeeded him. He was known by the title of his commentaries on Torah and Talmud, Sfas Emes (Truthful Speech), which are basic volumes in every Talmudic scholar's library. [The great Rabbi of Sochatchov, son-in-law of the sainted Kotzker, author of the Avnei Nezer, is said to have maintained two bookcases, one for Rishonim (earlier commentators) and another for the Acharonim (later ones). The volumes of the Sfus Emes, written at the turn of the century, were found to be amongst the Rishonim ... To study some portions of the Talmud without the Sfas Emes is unthinkable to the modern day scholar.] Indeed, Ger is renowned for its emphasis on Torah learning, for all of the Gerer Rebbes were also leading Torah scholars in their generation.

His son and successor, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter, continued in this tradition. He had amassed a huge library of sefarim. There were those that claimed that most of the books were superfluous, for he had committed their contents to memory in his first perusal.

During a visit to Berlin, he inspected the private library of a bibliophile. His host took out an old sefer, whose author was unknown to him - both the title page and first page of the work were missing. Reb Avrohom Mordechai asked permission to take the sefer to his room and his host readily agreed. The following day the sefer was returned with the title page and first page - written in by hand.

He is said to have left dozens of volumes of his own written commentary, which were never recovered from the destruction of World War II.

Reb Avrohom Mordechai was extremely reluctant to assume the leadership of Gerer Chassidus, deeming himself inadequate to the assignment. " 'He who commanded oil to burn can command vinegar to burn' - My sainted father was the 'oil' and his flame illuminated, I am the vinegar ..."

The growth Ger had experienced under the Sfas Emes was duplicated many times over under his son's leadership. 'While the town of Ger was over an hour's train-ride from Warsaw, and involved a long, difficult and expensive journey through the hills and valleys of Central Poland from other regions, 10,000 Jews would routinely undertake the trip to spend a Shavuos, a Yomim Norairn or a Succos in the company of their sainted leader. It was always considered a homecoming of sorts for Gerer Chassidim who, until the precious moments of greeting the Rebbe with "Shalom," considered themselves spiritually unfulfilled.

To be part of Ger for even a short while was to leave worldly concerns back home, to know the true meaning of serving Hashem with emes, to don the royal levush of Chassidic garb, and to muscle your way amongst the throngs for a glimpse - A word? That was a priceless commodity in Ger. For those few hours, the Chassid underwent a lapse of identity and it mattered little whether he was from the aristocracy or one of the numerous poor of Polish Jewry. Now he was a chassid . . . It is said that the world-renowned giant of Talmudic scholarship, Rabbi Menachem Ziemba, would sit anonymously at the foot of the Rebbe's tisch, imbibing the atmosphere, drinking in each cryptic word.

The ranks of Ger swelled to include some 250,000 followers. Indeed, Gerer Chassidim were the dominant force in many phases of life in countless Polish cities, towns, and villages.

Rebuildhg the Ruins

That was yesteryear, in pre-war Poland of the 1920's and 1930's, under the leadership of the Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter. Then, Hitler intervened with his plan to wipe out Jewry, and this majestic empire ended up in total ruins. The Rebbe and three of his sons escaped destruction, finding refuge in Eretz Yisrael.

One question hovered above the smoke: Could illustrious Polish Jewry, now in ruins, ever be revived? Would this spiritual edifice ever again reach the epitome of G-dliness, Torah, and Chassidus? The Rebbe died in 1948, leaving the mantle of leadership on the shoulders of his oldest son, Rabbi Yisroel Alter. He had also suffered personal losses, for amongst the millions of kedoshim were his wife, their son and daughter, and their families.

At the time of his father's passing, Jerusalem was under siege. Despite the threatening Arab armies and the terrible food shortages, chutz l'Aretz was only a memory, never to be considered as an option for escape - not for himself, nor for others ... To a Rav, a refugee from the concentration camp, inquiring whether to settle in America or to stay in Eretz Yisrael, he remarked - "This may be Medinat Yisrael, but chutz l'Aretz doesn't compare to it." Indeed, he rarely left Yerushalayim and never left the Holy Land once he arrived there.

It was time to rebuild, to strengthen his own soul and to work for Jewish continuity. For Polish Jewry, and particularly for the remnants of Gerer Chassidim, he was a link to a world that was no more.

The Emerging Rebbe

Rabbi Yisroel Alter was always recognized as a brilliant scholar. When only five, his grandfather, the Sfas Emes, prophesied greatness for him. Not given to little jokes, he referred to his favorite grandson as "Reb Yisroel." When Reb Yisroel was 16, that genius of scholars, the Rogatchover, is said to have remarked, "This young man knows Shas!" When still 15, he was engaged to be married to the daughter of a renowned Polish Torah Gaon, Reb Yaakov Meir Biderman, son-in-law of the Sfas Emes. In Torah correspondence that he exchanged with his father, the latter would address him in terms reserved for those destined for greatness - unusual in Ger, but not in his case. Before long, Polish Jewry recognized him as an outstanding Torah scholar.

The Gerer Priority: The Youth

The Chassidic courts of Kotzk, the "Rim," and the other Rebbes of Ger had a preponderance of young men. Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai especially had gone out of his way to encourage younger Chassidim, much to the consternation of some of their seniors. But in time, the barriers between old and young all but vanished.

"Sharfe yungeleit - sharp young men" they were called - sharp-witted, sharp in intellectual acumen, and sharply outspoken in their fierce intolerance of indolence, hypocrisy, and complacency. The Rebbe assigned the supervision of the yungeleit to his son, Reb Yisroel, and he took to the task with a zeal that never waned.

Batei midrashim cropped up all over Poland - in Warsaw, Lodz, Cracow, and other communities - where Gerer youth crowded their days with Torah and Chassidus. Some were fulltime scholars, others were out in the world of commerce, but all had made the bais hamidrash the focal point of their days ... They were prominent among those who streamed to Ger to more fully experience the kedushah of a festival, the awe of the Ten Days of Repentance. And they were outstanding among those who had heroically demonstrated the tenacity of their convictions by learning and living Torah around the clock in Ghettos under the worst of the Nazi terror. (Some of their exploits are recorded in Moshe Prager's Eilu She'lo Nichne'u.)

No sooner had the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai, arrived in the Holy Land, but that he again focused on the needs of the young, and began to build Torah. First he devoted attention to the Yeshiva Sfas Emes in Jerusalem, which he had founded on one of his five previous trips to the Holy Land. Sfas Emes was greatly expanded by his heirs, Reb Yisroel, and, yibadel lechaim, the present Rebbe, Reb Bunim Alter. Reb Yisroel continued to honor this priority of devoting special attention to the bachurim and yungeleit, for they were his pride of the present and hope for the future. This was of extreme importance, for at the time he took over the leadership of Ger, the outlook for the future was bleak, indeed - a Chassidus without Chassidim.

In the words of David Zaritzky, well-known Israeli writer:

His task was more difficult than that of his great father, for he was standing on ruins; from under his feet curled the smoke of crematoria, of charred Batei Midrash, and their members. Around him gathered half-dead, fully-despondent Chassidim, whose attachment to Ger was their sole spark of life, surviving lost parents, wives, children.

Not only did he rebuild the Ger empire, he rebuilt tens of thousands of people, endowing them with new neshamos, forming new features on their faces - it was a brand-new start, from Bereishis ... It was not simply a matter of teaching them to think like Chassidim, but to think like human beings, then like Jews ... like Chassidim, and then ultimately in the singularly Gerer approach.

He created it all. Quietly, with a soft word, a sharp gesture, an understanding nod. He quickly perceived not only the kvittel (the paper with the name and request written on it), but the person as well. The person? - he himself did not know what he wanted, so first the Rebbe taught him to want, then what to want. Finally, he taught him to ask for what he wanted - then he allowed himself to smile.

In three decades, the Gerer Rebbe built a network of Torah institutions which were to educate thousands of children. Gerer Chassidim from Europe and the Americas sent their children to learn in the Torah institutions of Ger and from the Rebbe's greatness. They joined Israeli youngsters in the Yeshivos Sfas Emes, Chidushei HaRim, and numerous kollelim spread across the land. The kollel in Bnei Brak (Bais HaTalmud LeHora'ah), for example, is well-known for having produced some of the outstanding Torah scholars in the land.

His involvement in building Torah went beyond his own Chassidus; the Gerer Rebbe was one of the founders of Chinuch Atzmai (the Torah School network in Israel), actively serving on its Board of Governors. Besides guiding the growth of many other Torah institutions, he was also at the side of his cousin, Rabbi Pinchas Levin, who was leader of the Beth Jacob movement in Israel, and headed the Jerusalem B. J. Seminary.

His interest in Torah youth was also not limited to his own. Thousands of yeshiva students visited him regularly and this writer personally witnessed his closeness with the talmidim of Chevron, Kol Torah, Etz Chaim and other Jerusalem yeshivos. While levush - the traditional Chassidic attire - is of great importance in Ger, it mattered little to the Rebbe how a visitor was dressed; that was merely chitzonius, exterior. What was more significant on such occasions was p'nimius - the inner content of Torah and midos.

The Rebbe's building plans also reflected a concern beyond parochialism. He ordered the building for the Yeshivas Chidushei HaRim to be constructed in an extremely modern section of Tel Aviv, predominantly inhabited by secular Jews. The Rebbe felt that the Yeshiva could have an inspiring effect on the whole community. . . . During his last years Ger began constructing Chatzor, a new settlement town in Galilee. Ger always had a special attachment to the Holy Land, and encouraging building in Eretz Yisroel was one of the Rebbe's important goals. His own father, Reb Avrohom Mordechai, would stress that the mitzvah of settling and building Eretz Yisrael is applicable in our times, and was above political considerations.

Leader of Klal

The Rebbe enhanced his many innate qualities by a relentless pursuit of personal perfection, making him into a Torah giant. This, however, did not lead him to withdraw from public life, and he forcefully used his unusual perceptive abilities in public leadership.

Like his father before him, who had joined the Chofetz Chaim and other leading figures of his time in founding Agudath Israel, he too chose to be one of the prime movers of the Agudath Israel movement. It was there that he saw his hopes for unifying Torah Jews - Chassid and Misnagid - into one strong movement. The Gerer Rebbe was one of the pillars of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages), and there was hardly a problem affecting Jewry in which he was not involved. Indeed, he felt it a sacred trust, and was often heard to refer to "my father's Agudath Israel."

He shunned personal publicity and offered his signature only where he saw a long-range benefit to Klal Yisrael. Agudath Israel was his vehicle for public expression and on almost every occasion he sought to strengthen the movement in the Yishuv as well as anywhere around the world. He felt a special kinship with the Agudath Israel of America, and often wrote his followers in the United States to assume active roles in its affairs. Outside of Agudath Israel proclamations, he was not given to issuing public statements.

He was extremely close with other gedolei Yisrael- it mattered little what the background of the gadol was. Although he had occasional ideological differences with other Chassidic leaders, these never interfered with his relationship with them. The Rebbe never waited for a famed Torah scholar to visit him, but was quick to travel to see them - such as the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer, Rabbi Eliezer Silver, and Rabbi Aharon Kotler. Torah, more than anything else, was his criterion for determining greatness, and he responded accordingly. People knew the extent of his involvement in Klal; they also sensed the depth of his devotion to being a loyal servant; their only questions were - When? - How?

Unity and peace amongst Torah Jews are known to have preoccupied his last days. One of his last actions was to take the initiative to heal a breach in political activity that had grown between him and the followers of the Ponovezher Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Schach - a split that had resulted from the Rebbe's policy of extending Agudath Israel's areas of cooperation to include some debatable factions. As if to underscore this fierce determination, he was stricken as his lips uttered "Shalom," the final blessing of Bircas Kohanim.

The Value of Time

The Gerer Rebbe seemed to have an obsession with time. No material commodity was more precious as a tool in avodas Hashem. His clocks and watches were meticulously synchronized and never had he arrived even one minute late for tefillah. Z'man tefillah (the halachically prescribed time for prayer) was scrupulously observed in Ger.

One could see his face nervously perspire at the slightest hint of wasted time. His every minute was accounted for and he often appeared edgy at public gatherings, in grief over time slipping by. Nor could time be measured without precision, and even his driver learned never to be late . . . "Farbreng nisht der tzeit - don't while away the time" he was often heard to say.

Following the Yom Kippur War, the Rebbe was besieged by visiting delegations from all over the world. He detested discussions on the political and military situation. To all queries he had one answer, "We must pray."

Once a distinguished American Rabbi asked him, "What do you say to the current situation?"

Replied the Rebbe: "I say Tehillim."

Time also meant organization, and as if to preach by example, his day was a model of structured planning. There was time set aside to pray, to learn, to receive Chassidim, to take interest in his institutions, to lead in the affairs of Agudath Israel and Klal Yisrael . . . To be koveya ittim, setting aside time for Torah study, was the substance of many of his messages to his followers.

When he was not busy receiving Chassidim or occupied with his involvement with Klal, he was totally immersed in Torah. His Rebbetzin was known to complain that he never slept, even after a serious operation in 1972. A familiar sight in Jerusalem's Ge'ulah section was the Rebbe strolling through the deserted streets well before daybreak. His bachurim were expected to have begun their day in Torah learning and he would not hesitate to awaken those who were not so quick.

Dawn: It was a time to take a deep breath of the brisk Jerusalem air - and to sigh for the woes of the individuals and the Klal. Equally as important was the opportunity it offered to signal the start of another day of avodas Hashem to his followers ... Chassidim remember the Rebbe performing essentially the same role in Poland, where he had also watched over the youth.

The before-dawn stroll was also a time when soldiers from the Schnellers Army Base (just opposite the courtyard of the Rebbe) would jog - and often would respond to a nod with "Boker tov, Rebbe."

The Private Encounter

The Rebbe had the unusual ability to sweep over a crowd of hundreds with one glance ... Somehow, each of the people in the crowd felt he had locked eyes with the Rebbe for one brief but powerful moment. In private consultations, he literally spent only minutes with each Jew who came to see him, yet he was able to swiftly profile the problems of the man before him. Scores of people would queue up outside his office and within a half-hour he would have seen everyone; each problem thoroughly aired and every response measured - but all in lightning time. He was privy to tens of thousands of problems - spiritual, economic, medical - and pronounced his advice within minutes. Surprisingly he would recall these brief encounters 10 and 20 years later, referring to names, dates, situations - asking after the welfare of those troubled. Sadness and joy passed quickly before him - through him - yet he was able to adjust his mood to a fresh start with each person.

Each man walked out with a substantial response. To a young yeshiva student who had been summoned home with dozens of telegrams on the eve of the Six-Day War, he said: "If you are afraid, stay here. If it is a matter of kibud av v'eim, go home." In little less than 30 seconds, a response, a halachah, and Torah philosophy.

An elderly Jew from Romania with a wholesale toy business in Tel Aviv, told his tale simply:

My wife became seriously ill with yener machalah (a veiled reference to cancer). The doctors could not decide: "Operate." "Don't operate." People in the street said to me, "Take a trip to the Gerer Rebbe. Everybody goes to him for advice and a brachah." So I traveled to Yerushalayim.

When I was younger I used to seek brachos at the courts of the Romanian Rebbes. And the procedure was simple. I'd put a sizeable pidyon (contribution) down on the Rebbe's table and he would devote a considerable amount of time to hear me out, question me on all the details, and rain down a host of brachos on me ...

At the Gerer Rebbe's, everything was different. That he doesn't accept pidyonim, I knew; but I had no idea everything went so fast. Before the people ahead of me even get inside they're out. What am I to do? 1 didn't even prepare a kvittel because I'd have to fill up a whole notebook with details.

I was very upset, and suddenly I was inside. To this day I don't understand what happened. I said only, "My wife's life is in danger," and the Rebbe understood everything. He asked me all kinds of questions and I felt sure it was taking a lot of time. He said "Don't operate!" and gave me a strong brachah. I felt wonderful. I looked at the clock when I came out - the whole thing had taken maybe two minutes. I still don't understand it. I know that "A tzaddik decrees and God fulfills." But I had not come for a brachah alone, but for advice as well. How did this tzaddik read my mind?

(from "An Appreciation," by Moshe Prager)

When he spoke, his answers were a remarkable blend of caution and razor-sharp wit. He yearned for the sharpness of Kotzk and he was overheard to have said, "Oh, how I wish I could lead like Kotzk!" But he considered the generation too weak for such leadership.

To Chassidim, Misnagdim, b'nai yeshiva and unaffiliated Jews, he was the Gerer Rebbe. Regardless of who you were, you were untruthful if you denied that your knees knocked in fright when you stood before him. - I heard this from people with no connection to Chassidus! His penetrating eyes were enough to make anyone quiver. But soon you were reassured, and once you walked out you realized that the Gerer Rebbe had left you with a lifelong impression.

The late Rav of Ponovezh once remarked: "Before the war, when my heart ached, I traveled to Radin to see the Chofetz Chaim and I felt better. After the war, I travel to Jerusalem to see the Gerer Rebbe and I feel better."

Such was the power of the late Gerer Rebbe - to penetrate minds, to soothe and to inspire. To people, big and small, he was the "big brother," the surrogate father, on whom to pour out all the world's woes ... Grandfathers saw in him the vanished patriarch in whom one could trust.

Whence the diversity of the Rebbe's followers? He had opened his door to everyone, and there is something about the Jewish soul, the pintele Yid, which homes in on its source.

exposemolesters said...

This Anon left a message on Shatnez Checker and child molester (Rabbi) Yehuda Nussbaum, still has access to boys in Yeshiva Of Brooklyn.

Since it was such a GENIUS of a comment, I decided to copy and paste it here so everyone can learn from it.


Anonymous said...

I know people like you and lets face it your a scumbag. You never succeeded at anything and it gives you great satisfaction to put down anything above you, which is pretty much everything seeing as your the lowest of the low. Instead of doing anything with your life you spend time trying to draw others into your hole of pittiness. You arent happy in this life and you definitely wont be happy in the next world.Like i said your a miserable scum.
==============================

I'm surprised you know people like me, afterall, it is beneath your dignity to know people of such miserable scum.

Why don't you know more formidable people such as yourself? Don't waste your precious time on this earth typing your hate speech to the lowest of the low as you have me classified. I'm disappointed in you.

I succeeded in getting under your skin for one. I succeeded in exposing the rotten apples such as your ilk. I succeeded in saving AT LEAST ONE JEWISH LIFE B'H.

Where is the unemployed Rabbi Molester and shatnez checker Yehuda Nussbaum these days, is he hanging out at your house playing touchy feely with young boys?

Anonymous said...

Hey EM; I came across your blog and I really appreciate all your hard work. I am not frum anymore because of being turned off by Rebbe's and principals who abused me physically, emotionally, and sexually. I am a product of different chassideshe yeshiva's, because I was thrown out of many. I hope that you will expose these schools too. Keep doing whatever it takes to save other children and may G-D be with you.

Truth said...

I have first hand knowledge of the Rav Eisemann case, and HE IS NOT A SEXUAL ABUSER. Even if all the allegations are true, there is no abuse or any legal issue here. This is why after all the fishing, Phil Jacobs has not found anyone who has come forward. The case could not be sent to the police. The vast vast majority of the allegations are not true. The yeshiva only asked him to leave the staff because of potential public perception of some small inappropriate behavior he may have done 30 years ago, which was deemed inappropriate for him to continue as part of the staff. I repeat, he is not an abuser, there is no fear that he 'would strike again', which is why he is still living on campus, and to lump him with the real abusers is so horrificly unfair. The man has done so so much good in his life and to have people say things about him which are patently false is a crime. He may have made a big mistake with something inappropriate many years ago, but haven't we all done similar things perhaps once, except that his was discovered. The fact that he is imperfect should not have cost him his career but depressingly, it has.

It is so sad that people can say whatever they want and make up things on a blog with no accountability.

About Me

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It is unfortunate that it has come to this. It is a big darn shame it has come to this. It is very hurtful that it has come to this. But yet, IT HAS COME TO THIS. It has come at the price of a GREAT CHILUL HASHEM. It has come to Hashem having to allow his holy name to be DESECRATED so that his CHILDREN remain SAFE. Shame on all those responsible for enabling and permitting Hashem's name to be desecrated! When you save children you save the future. You save the future you save generations. You save generations you save lives. You save lives you have saved the world!!!!!!!