Friday, December 14, 2007

"The Story of Mary Ellen which started the Child Saving Crusade Throughout the World"


Clergy Abuse: Rabbis, Cantors & Other Trusted Officials

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).


Showing of the film "Narrow Bridge"

This film was inspired by the case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko

Table of Contents

Please note: The Awareness Center looks at Clergy Abuse and Mass Molestation Cases as a Jewish Issue, not a denominational issue. We need to tackle these issues together as a people.

Opening up darkened spaces is a scary, saddening task, but it is a sacred one as well. For as we have been taught by our learned rabbis of the Sanhedrin, "anyone who saves one soul of Israel, it is said about him that he/she has saved a whole world" (Sanhedrin 37/a). Let us be "or La-Goyim", a light to show the way for other nations, by mending our communities without fear or shame.

In order to escape accountability for his/her crimes, the perpetrator does everything in hispower to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator's first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence him absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens. -- Judith Lewis Herman


Definition of Terms Relating to Sexual Victimization

(Incest, Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment)

The Awareness Center's Brochure

Sexual Assault/Rape - often referred to as rape, is legally defined differently in each state. In New Jersey, the law defines sexual assault as "the penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated." Penetration is defined as "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or the insertion of a hand, finger or other object into the anus or vagina by either the actor or upon the actor's instruction" (NJSA 2C:14-1). In most states the law, which is gender neutral, does not specify male or female, but uses the words "actor" and "victim" to describe the persons involved.

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Incest (From ISA) - A betrayal of trust in overt and covert sexual contact or act which possibly includes: touching or non-touching, verbal seduction or abuse, anal or vaginal intercourse, oral sex, sodomy, manual stimulation, direct threats, implied threats, or other forms of abuse between people who are related genetically, by marriage (step-parents to step children), by living arrangements, or in whom a child perceives a trusting relationship, i.e., mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, stepparents, step-siblings, half-siblings, live-in or sleep-over lovers, brothers, sisters, foster parents, adoptive parents, neighbors, family friends, baby sitters, anyone either known or a stranger with a power advantage of any kind over the child, or professionals such as teacher, extracurricular activities instructor, coach, professor, school principal, nurse, doctor, orderly, dentist, technician, therapist, social worker, minister, priest, nun, shopkeeper, landlord, scout leader, laborer, janitor, office worker, pilot, U.S. military personnel, lawyer, judge, police officer, mail carrier, politician, banker, corporate executive, or anyone whose employment or social standing puts them in a position of power over a child. This also includes any adult in a position of power who betrays the trust of a trusting adult.

When this trust between a child and an older child, sibling, parent-figure or adult is violated, that act becomes incestuous. We put full responsibility on the initiator for whatever took place. The child's age may range from conception, newborn, preschool, school age, teenager and older.

Criminal sexual contact - is legally defined as "intentional, non-consensual touching by the victim or actor, either directly or through clothing, of a victim's or actor's sexual organs, genital area, anal area, inner thigh, groin buttock or breast, for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the victim or sexually arousing or sexually gratifying the actor,"

Sexual Harrassment - Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

· The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

· The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

· The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

· Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

· The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sexual Harssment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

See also: How To File A Charge of Employment Discrimination

Peer sexual harassment - occurs in a variety of forms that may include sexual assault or criminal sexual contact.Other forms of this type of harassment include sexual comments, noises or gestures that threaten, scare, or make the victim uncomfortable.The behavior of the perpetrator would determine what crime was committed.

Date Rape and Relationship Violence

Maritial Rape - Legal definition varies within the United States, marital rape can be defined as any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) obtained by force, threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent. Rape in marriage is an extremely prevalent form of sexual violence, particularly when women who are involved in physically abusive relationships may be especially vulnerable to rape by their partners.

Domestic Violence - This is NOT the exactly the focus of The Awareness Center. Domestic Violence usually refers to spousal abuse. In some cases there is marital rape and incest (which is a part of the focus of The Awareness Center).


Case of The Zwi Migdal Society

Warsaw, Poland

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sao Paulo, Brazil

New York City, NY

and South Africa, India, China

This page is dedicated in the memory of Sophia Chamys, Rebecca Freedman, Rachel Liberman, and the thousands of other women who were obducted and forced into prostution by the Zwi Migdal Society. According to reports there were members of the Society who were rabbis.

Thousands of naive, impoverished Jewish girls from eastern Europe were sold by Jewish mobsters into sexual slavery. Originally believing they were leaving their homes to get married. Most of these women were from poor families, their parents hoping for a better life for their daughters, were shipped off to various locations. This kidnapping, rape and forced prostitution of young Jewish women lasted from the end of the 1860s until the start of the Second World War.

This hugely profitable (annual revenues of $50 million in the 1890s) commerce in flesh was operated by the Zwi Migdal, a criminal association It was centred in Buenos Aires, with branch offices in several locations in Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; New York City, NY; Warsaw, Poland; South Africa; India; and China.

The first boatload of young Jewish women arrived in Brazil in 1867; by 1913, there were 431 brothels in downtown Rio alone.

Three women --largely illiterate, bitterly poor--banded together to form their own benevolent society: the Chesed Shel Ermess, or Society of Truth. At the forefront were Sophia Chamys, Rachel Liberman and Rebecca Freedman, who also managed to get to a police station, and provide testimony which helped an honest cop destroy the Zwi Migdal in Argentina in the 1930s.

  • Sophia Chamys - was 13 when her father arranged her marriage to a well-dressed stranger from Lodz. She died at the young age of 18. Sophia's "husband" was, in fact, a wheeler-dealer in an international prostitution ring - Zwi Migdal. Chamys ended up, locked in a whorehouse, despised and shunned by the more respectable members of the city's Jewish community, which refused even to give the prostitutes proper burials.

  • Rebecca Freedman - became their leader (the women called her their queen) and made it her mission to perform the sacred tahara ceremony of washing the dead. Deeply religious, she died in either 1984 or 1986, at the age of 103.She was last president of the Society of Truth.

  • Rachel Liberman - more information needed on this hero.

THE POLACAS ("POLISH WOMEN" in Portuguese) first organized in 1906, in Rio de Janeiro, setting up the Jewish Association for Charity, Burial and Religion (ABFRI). Their goals, they wrote in the charter, were: "To set up a synagogue, and there practice all the ceremonies of the Jewish religion. To grant sick members in need of treatment outside the city a third-class train ticket and three pounds sterling. To grant members a third-class funeral." In its heyday, the organization existed in several cities, and several rabbis, all since deceased, were in its employ.


The Real Story of Mary Ellen Wilson

American Humane Society

The sufferings of the little girl, Mary Ellen, led to the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first organization of its kind, in 1874. In 1877, the New York SPCC and several Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from throughout the country joined together to form the American Humane Association.

The following is Mary Ellen's story, which marked the beginning of a world-wide crusade to save children. It is extracted from American Humane's Helping in Child Protective Services: A Competency-Based Casework Handbook.

Over the years, in the re-telling of Mary Ellen Wilson's story, myth has often been confused with fact. Some of the inaccuracies stem from colorful but erroneous journalism, others from simple misunderstanding of the facts, and still others from the complex history of the child protection movement in the United States and Great Britain and its link to the animal welfare movement. While it is true that Henry Bergh, president of the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), was instrumental in ensuring Mary Ellen's removal from an abusive home, it is not true that her attorney—who also worked for the ASPCA—argued that she deserved help because she was "a member of the animal kingdom."

The real story—which can be pieced together from court documents, newspaper articles, and personal accounts—is quite compelling, and it illustrates the impact that a caring and committed individual can have on the life of a child.

Mary Ellen Wilson was born in 1864 to Francis and Thomas Wilson of New York City. Soon thereafter, Thomas died, and his widow took a job. No longer able to stay at home and care for her infant daughter, Francis boarded Mary Ellen (a common practice at the time) with a woman named Mary Score. As Francis's economic situation deteriorated, she slipped further into poverty, falling behind in payments for and missing visits with her daughter. As a result, Mary Score turned two-year-old Mary Ellen over to the city's Department of Charities.

The Department made a decision that would have grave consequences for little Mary Ellen; it placed her illegally, without proper documentation of the relationship, and with inadequate oversight in the home of Mary and Thomas McCormack, who claimed to be the child's biological father. In an eerie repetition of events, Thomas died shortly thereafter. His widow married Francis Connolly, and the new family moved to a tenement on West 41st Street.

Mary McCormack Connolly badly mistreated Mary Ellen, and neighbors in the apartment building were aware of the child's plight. The Connollys soon moved to another tenement, but in 1874, one of their original neighbors asked Etta Angell Wheeler, a caring Methodist mission worker who visited the impoverished residents of the tenements regularly, to check on the child. At the new address, Etta encountered a chronically ill and homebound tenant, Mary Smitt, who confirmed that she often heard the cries of a child across the hall. Under the pretext of asking for help for Mrs. Smitt, Etta Wheeler introduced herself to Mary Connolly. She saw Mary Ellen's condition for herself. The 10-year-old appeared dirty and thin, was dressed in threadbare clothing, and had bruises and scars along her bare arms and legs. Ms. Wheeler began to explore how to seek legal redress and protection for Mary Ellen. Click here to read Etta Wheeler's account of Mary Ellen.

At that time, some jurisdictions in the United States had laws that prohibited excessive physical discipline of children. New York, in fact, had a law that permitted the state to remove children who were neglected by their caregivers. Based on their interpretation of the laws and Mary Ellen's circumstances, however, New York City authorities were reluctant to intervene. Etta Wheeler continued her efforts to rescue Mary Ellen and, after much deliberation, turned to Henry Bergh, a leader of the animal humane movement in the United States and founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). It was Ms. Wheeler's niece who convinced her to contact Mr. Bergh by stating, "You are so troubled over that abused child, why not go to Mr. Bergh? She is a little animal surely" (p. 3 Wheeler in Watkins).

Ms. Wheeler located several neighbors who were willing to testify to the mistreatment of the child and brought written documentation to Mr. Bergh. At a subsequent court hearing, Mr. Bergh stated that his action was "that of a human citizen," clarifying that he was not acting in his official capacity as president of the NYSPCA. He emphasized that he was "determined within the framework of the law to prevent the frequent cruelties practiced on children" (Mary Ellen, April 10, 1976, p. 8 in Watkins, 1990). After reviewing the documentation collected by Etta Wheeler, Mr. Bergh sent an NYSPCA investigator (who posed as a census worker to gain entrance to Mary Ellen's home) to verify the allegations. Elbridge T. Gerry, an ASPCA attorney, prepared a petition to remove Mary Ellen from her home so she could testify to her mistreatment before a judge. Mr. Bergh took action as a private citizen who was concerned about the humane treatment of a child. It was his role as president of the NYSPCA and his ties to the legal system and the press, however, that bring about Mary Ellen's rescue and the movement for a formalized child protection system.

Recognizing the value of public opinion and awareness in furthering the cause of the humane movement, Henry Bergh contacted New York Times reporters who took an interest in the case and attended the hearings. Thus, there were detailed newspaper accounts that described Mary Ellen's appalling physical condition. When she was taken before Judge Lawrence, she was dressed in ragged clothing, was bruised all over her body and had a gash over her left eye and on her cheek where Mary Connelly had struck her with a pair of scissors. On April 10, 1874, Mary Ellen testified:

"My father and mother are both dead. I don't know how old I am. I have no recollection of a time when I did not live with the Connollys. .... Mamma has been in the habit of whipping and beating me almost every day. She used to whip me with a twisted whip—a raw hide. The whip always left a black and blue mark on my body. I have now the black and blue marks on my head which were made by mamma, and also a cut on the left side of my forehead which was made by a pair of scissors. She struck me with the scissors and cut me; I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by any one—have never been kissed by mamma. I have never been taken on my mamma's lap and caressed or petted. I never dared to speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped.... I do not know for what I was whipped—mamma never said anything to me when she whipped me. I do not want to go back to live with mamma, because she beats me so. I have no recollection ever being on the street in my life" Mary Ellen, April 10, 1874 in Watkins, 1990).

In response, Judge Lawrence immediately issued a writ de homine replagiando, provided for by Section 65 of the Habeas Corpus Act, to bring Mary Ellen under court control.

The newspapers also provided extensive coverage of the caregiver Mary Connolly's trial, raising public awareness and helping to inspire various agencies and organizations to advocate for the enforcement of laws that would rescue and protect abused children (Watkins, 1990). On April 21, 1874, Mary Connolly was found guilty of felonious assault and was sentenced to one year of hard labor in the penitentiary (Watkins, 1990).

Less well known but as compelling as the details of her rescue, is the rest of Mary Ellen's story. Etta Wheeler continued to play an important role in the child's life. Family correspondence and other accounts reveal that the court placed Mary Ellen in an institutional shelter for adolescent girls. Believing this to be an inappropriate setting for the 10-year-old, Ms. Wheeler intervened. Judge Lawrence gave her permission to place the child with her own mother, Sally Angell, in northern New York. When Ms. Angell died, Etta Wheeler's youngest sister, Elizabeth, and her husband Darius Spencer, raised Mary Ellen. By all accounts, her life with the Spencer family was stable and nurturing.

At the age of 24, Mary Ellen married a widower and had two daughters—Etta, named after Etta Wheeler, and Florence. Later, she became a foster mother to a young girl named Eunice. Etta and Florence both became teachers; Eunice was a businesswoman. Mary Ellen's children and grandchildren described her as gentle and not much of a disciplinarian. Reportedly, she lived in relative anonymity and rarely spoke with her family about her early years of abuse. In 1913, however, she agreed to attend the American Humane Association's national conference in Rochester, NY, with Etta Wheeler, her long-time advocate. Ms. Wheeler was a guest speaker at the conference. Her keynote address, "The Story of Mary Ellen which started the Child Saving Crusade Throughout the World" was published by the American Humane Association. Mary Ellen died in 1956 at the age of 92.


Case of Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau

Principal of the Torah Institute

Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau is accused of physically and sexually assaulting one of his daughters. There have also been allegations that two families were "run out of Baltimore" because they wanted to go to secular legal authorities to deal with the accusations of child abuse against Rabbi Eisgrau. Rabbi Eisgrau is currently the principal of the Torah Institute of Baltimore, MD.

The Baltimore Orthodox establishment stated that they have investigated the charges and found them completely baseless.

A Baltimore police detective attempted to investigate the abuse complaints regarding Rabbi Eisgrau. He stated that he did not find enough evidence to persuade the district attorney to bring charges against Rabbi Eisgrau. The detective also disclosed that he never encountered such opposition to a child abuse investigation from a community as he encountered in Baltimore's Orthodox community.


Dear Family

By Eliezer Eisgrau's Daughter

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dear Family,

You have all turned your backs and walked away from me. My father, my mother, and eleven siblings. All gone.

This reality is very sad. It is disturbing, and incomprehensible all at the same time.

What is the terrible crime I committed that warranted the loss of my entire family? What could cause parents to abandon a child? Siblings to abandon a sister? And a community to collectively turn its back in silence?

I committed a terrible crime. My unforgivable crime is that I spoke the truth about my childhood.

I could no longer keep secret the years of fear and pain. The molestation by my father, and the emotional abuse and neglect of both my parents...

I did try hard to keep it in the family as I had been taught to. I tried so hard to be the daughter you wanted me to be. To be "good" To let it go, and just forget, and somehow be OK... But I was in too much pain. I knew I couldn't continue without help.

I came to you first, remember? But you made it clear that you did not believe that I was really hurt. You made it clear that you would not, and could not, believe me that Tatty molested me nor could you support me. You denied that I had a reason to be in so much pain. I had to go elsewhere for help.

Going outside the family for help and support is a major sin. The louder you shouted that it just wasn't true, that Tatty could never do such a thing, that nothing really happened to me, the louder I had to shout to hear myself over the clamor of your thirteen desperate voices.

Oh, if only It were true, as you say, that a therapist somehow convinced me that the memories are true!!! I would sue the therapist and have my family back!

If only it were true, as you say, that the books I read on the subject of abuse are what put these horrible ideas into my head!! I would burn the books and have my family back!!

If only I were truly sick, or truly mental!! I would then pose no threat and I could have my family back!! Oh, if only I were truly evil and out to "get" my father! But I still love my father in spite of myself. I don't believe that my father is an evil monster. He has caused a lot of pain and refuses to take any responsibility for his actions. He is a human being who has done much good and also much bad. He has a serious problem and I wish he would get help.

Unfortunately It is true that I was sexually molested and abused in our family. If I am real than this did happen. I am a product of YOUR family. Thankfully, there were others who heard and I got the help I needed. I survived and I am doing well! To my siblings and my fathers supporters I say I am none of the things you accuse me of. I am just a women. I have my strengths and limitations just like you. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, a friend, and neighbor just like you. I play with my children, hug them, kiss them and love them, just like you do. I laugh and cry and feel as deeply as you do. I have a life that is rich and joyful and completely separate from my past, as I hope that you do too. And I have many close friends who truly know and appreciate me for who I am...and know nothing of my past.

But there is no substitute for my family. I miss you. In spite of your denial of my experiences. In spite of your blame and accusations. In spite of you saying that your childhood was idyllic and wonderful...and therefore mine was too. I am truly happy for you that this was your experience and I can not take it away from you. I can only envy you. My childhood also had wonderful moments and happy memories, yet the good memories are overshadowed by pain, sadness, and fear. I wish there was a way you could accept our different experiences, and reconcile.

Perhaps there are those of you who would like to be in touch with me and believe that you can't because Rabbi Hopfer advised you to cut me out of the family. It would be going against "Daas Torah" to speak with me. I am so sorry for your pain. I am so sorry for us that you have chosen a rav who apparently believes that you have more to gain by breaking up our family than by encouraging its healing. Any thinking, intelligent person can see that Rabbi Hopfer's cruel advice, which hides behind the guise of "Daas Torah," sadly, has nothing to do with either.

Tatty, I miss you too.

You have hurt me terribly and I can't fully comprehend what you did to me. I understand why the people who have trusted you do not want to believe me. It is just too overwhelming. I also do not want to believe...I still want to believe that I am wrong. I still want to believe that I have a father who is safe. You loved me and hurt me. You gave me life, and you almost killed me. You will always be the only father I have. I will always need you.

Mommy, I think I do understand why you walked away... You made it clear from the time I was young that Tatty was much more important to you than I was. I believe that on some level you know that my memories of him are true. I believe that you needed him, and still need him more than you ever needed me. You have not been able to let yourself truly see me from the time I was very little. And that hurts. Because I needed you desperately. You are my mother and I needed your protection. I will always need you.

I am a women who was terribly abused as a child. I deal with this reality every day of my life. And because I did not keep the secret, I am now a women without parents or siblings.

With tears and always... hope for the future,

Eisgrau's Daughter.


Case of Rabbi Solomon Hafner

The case involved Rabbi Solomon Hafner, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Bobov sect in Brooklyn's heavily Jewish Borough Park section. Hafner was accused of sexually abusing a developmentally disabled boy during private tutoring sessions.

A Beit Din consisting of five Orthodox rabbis from around New York cleared Hafner, and the district attorney declined to prosecute.

Rabbis' Ruling May Nix Bid To Indict Suspect in Kid-Sex Rap

by Al Guart

New York Post - Saturday, March 11, 2000 (p. 10)

A panel of Orthodox rabbis cleared a Brooklyn rabbi of molesting a 7-year-old boy -- a move that might keep witnesses from the grand jury probing him, The Post has learned.

The panel, reportedly headed by Manhattan Rabbi David Feinstein and two rabbis from Brooklyn and two from upstate Monsey, cleared Bobover Rabbi Solomon Hafner on Thursday evening of any wrongdoing, sources said.

Hafner, 40, was charged last January with sexually abusing a developmentally disabled boy. A grand jury is hearing evidence in the case.

Leading Bobover Rabbi Chaim Tauber was caught on tape yesterday discussing the panel's ruling and predicting it might have an impact on Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' grand-jury probe of the charges.

"They came out with a resolution that Rabbi Hafner is clean as a whistle," Tauber said on a tape reviewed by the Post.

Asked about the effect the ruling would have on potential witnesses, Tauber said, "They have nothing to cooperate with. They have nothing to say. There is no one coming forward to blame."

Tauber could not be reached yesterday. His wife confirmed such a conversation took place but was surprised it had been taped.

The ruling of a Beit Din -- a rabbinical court -- holds sway over members of Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities, even more than secular authorities.

It is also seen by some as a means of trying to influence Hynes, who has been under fire from parts of the Jewish community for charging another rabbi with witness-tampering.

Last week, Hynes' office lost the case against Bernard Freilich, who was charged with threatening a couple to drop sexual-abuse charges.

"My concern is that actions like this might put a damper on rabbis and others in the community from coming forward with allegations such as this," said lawyer Michael Lesher, who revealed the rabbinical court's ruling to The Post.

"I would like to know what evidence they had and what significance this is supposed to have while a grand jury is pending," Lesher said.

"I am not at liberty to talk about this," Rabbi Feinstein said.

Jewish Court Stymies Reports

The Associated Press - April 16, 2002

By Karen Matthews

New York -- The case of a rabbi accused of molesting more than 20 girls sparked a review of sex abuse policies in Orthodox Judaism's most prominent group, but critics say a rabbinical court unique to the Orthodox branch still hinders abuse claims from getting a full airing.

As the sex abuse scandal among Roman Catholic clergy widens, church authorities across the country are revisiting the way they handle abuse claims and looking again at sometimes decades-old abuse claims.

But for Orthodox Jews, the wake-up call came a couple of years ago with the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who is accused of molesting teen-agers over a long career as an educator and youth group leader.

He resigned in June 2000 from his job as a leader of the Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth and is facing trial in Monmouth County, N.J. He could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.

Lanner has denied criminal wrongdoing, but admitted to having had romantic relationships with former students.

"Because of the Lanner case the Orthodox Union has undergone almost two years now of deep introspection and examination of our policies and procedures,'' said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the union, which represents 1,000 mainstream Orthodox synagogues in the United States and Canada.

He said the Orthodox Union has implemented standards for all staff members who work with youth and has set up extensive training sessions.

"We also have a clear way for parents or youth to complain,'' Weinreb said. "We're trying to develop a culture of vigilance and continuous improvement.''

While no one is alleging that sexual abuse is especially common among Orthodox Jews, critics say the rabbinic court or Beit Din, can discourage civil authorities from investigating a complaint.

"As we look at the general issue of the cover-ups of abusers in the clergy, what we find in the Orthodox Jewish community is unfortunately that an institution already exists which allows clergymen to wield extraordinary influence,'' said Michael Lesher, a lawyer and journalist who has written about the issue.

Lesher said that "deeply held tradition'' impels Orthodox Jews to bring a complaint against a rabbi to a Beit Din, where the accuser is often pressured not to alert the police or prosecutors.

In a case that received some local publicity, Lesher and sociologist Amy Neustein have charged that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes dropped charges against a Hasidic rabbi in 2000 after a Beit Din said he was innocent.

The case involved Rabbi Solomon Hafner, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Bobov sect in Brooklyn's heavily Jewish Borough Park section. Hafner was accused of molesting a young boy during private tutoring sessions.

A Beit Din consisting of five Orthodox rabbis from around New York cleared Hafner, and the district attorney declined to prosecute.

Hafner would not speak about the case, but his lawyer, Jack Litman, said that Hynes ``determined that the complaining witness and his family made up the charges.''

A spokeswoman for Hynes, Sharon Toomer, said the evidence "didn't substantiate the claim'' against Hafner.

But Dr. Katherine Grimm, a pediatrician who is the medical director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Manhattan, said that she interviewed the boy and "there were details that were very hard for a child to be coached to make up,'' Grimm said. ``Nobody had anything to gain from this disclosure.''

Neustein and Lesher suggested that Hynes' office was pressured to drop the case by the religious court, a charge denied by Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, one of the tribunal's members.

"Who is powerful enough to pressure the D.A. and the police to drop the charges?'' Rottenberg said. He added that Hafner served as a camp counselor and pool monitor for 13 years and no one ever complained about him.

In the Lanner case, a Beit Din met in 1989 - more than a decade before he was eventually charged in court with abusing two teen-age girls while he was principal of a Jewish day school - and found that allegations against him had not been proven.

Weinreb said anyone who suspects abuse should go to the police and not to a Beit Din.

"If there's a fire, you call the fire department, you don't go to the rabbinical court,'' he said. "We're obligated to go to the authorities.''


Case of Rabbi Yaakov Menken

(AKA: Kenneth Lloyd Menken, Ken Menken, Yaakov L. Menken, Yakov Menken)

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Spring Valley, NY

Yeshivas Ohr Somayach - Monsey, NY

Bais Medrash Gavoha - Lakewood, NJ and Jerusalem, Israel

Mirrer Yeshiva - Jerusalem, Israel

Kiruv Worker (Jewish Outreach) - International

Founder and Director of Project Genesis -Baltimore, MD

Founder and Director of -Baltimore, MD

Founder and Director of -Baltimore, MD

Author - The Everything Torah (Book)

Accused of clergy sexual abuse by a young adult female

If you or someone you know was sexually manipulated by Rabbi Yaakov Menken, please contact your local rape crisis center and or The Awareness Center, Inc. at 443-857-5560

CALL TO ACTION: Boycott Events Associated with Alleged Sex Offender, Rabbi Yaakov Menken

December 5, 2007

Download a pdf file of this call to action at:

Over the last few years The Awareness Center has shared information with you regarding the case of Rabbi Yaakov Menken (AKA: Yakov Menken, Kenneth Menken, Ken Menken). Due to the issue of confidentiality we have been limited in what we have made public. The allegations against Menken include sexual harassment and clergy sexual abuse.

Yaakov Menken's alleged modus operandi is to become a father figure to vulnerable young women and eventually manipulating them into having sexual contact with him. Menken is married with children and in his forties. The alleged women he targets are usually in their late teens or early twenties. In 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Menken had a discussion with Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky and confessed to having sexual contact with a very young woman he counseled. He basically blamed the survivor, stating "she came on to me".

Since The Awareness Center became aware of the allegations made against Yaakov Menken we were able to gathered information which included conversations with various rabbonim in Baltimore. It appears that a national Jewish outreach organization which included a relative of the Menken survivors were in a bet din dispute right before and during the time that Rabbi Yaakov Menken was sexually manipulating a young woman from an extremely insulated community.

The survivor was barely out of her teens at the time that Yaakov Menken started his grooming process on her. When Menken got started the young woman had recently moved away from her family for the first time. Menken allegedly marked her as an easy target and began to provide rabbinical counseling to her. It's important to keep in mind that Rabbi Menken was very angry with the survivors relative during this time period and the woman was unaware of the bet din dispute. It is believed that this is part of the reason why Menken picked her as a target and began to lure her in.

Usually when someone goes searching for spirituality they are in a vulnerable state because of some sort of personal crisis in their lives. These are exactly the type of people that Menken allegedly preys upon.

Several Kiruv organizations are partnering up with alleged sexual predator, Rabbi Yaakov Menken, for a Jewish Outreach event that will be featuring Dr. Gerald Schroeder. The problem is that by doing so they are basically saying that Yakov Menken is safe and someone both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews can trust.

The Awareness Center is asking that you boycott all events associated with Yaakov Menken, Project Genesis,, Project Genisis and We are also asking that you to call and or write the following people and demand that they stop working with Rabbi Yaakov Menken.


* The Advertiser


Phone: 410-764-3787


* The Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore

Adam Rosenberg



* The Center for Jewish Education

Larry Ziffer, Executive Vice President

Phone: 410-735-5000, ext. 5005



* Gerald Schroeder, Ph.D.

HaHish 5, Jerusalem 93223, Israel

Phone 011-972-2-5671233


Rabbi Yaakov Menken - May 14, 2007

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the founder of Project Genesis, and creator of many of its sites and programs. You will find hundreds of Torah commentaries authored by Yaakov Menken on this site and elsewhere.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken has been called a ' visionary ' in the field of Jewish Outreach. Project Genesis supports outreach organizations worldwide, while operating , the Internet's premier Jewish learning web site. Both Yaakov Menken and his organization maintain open communication with Jews at all levels of learning and education, and Project Genesis is endorsed by Jewish leaders from across the Jewish spectrum.

Rabbi Menken earned his Bachelor's degree from Princeton University in Computer Science, and pursued Rabbinic studies in Yeshivas Ohr Somayach, Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood and Jerusalem, and the Mirrer Yeshiva Jerusalem, before founding Project Genesis in 1993.

Yaakov Menken joined Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in creating Cross-Currents , a journal of traditional Jewish thought, in late 2004. This award-winning web log, or blog, features ten recognized, outstanding Orthodox rabbis and teachers. The name Cross-Currents reflects, in Rav Adlerstein's words, the aspiration "to expose the intersection between two currents: the timeless flow of authentic Torah thought, and the ebb and tide of current affairs."

Recently, Rabbi Menken led the technical development of Contact Loved Ones , an open voicemail system for those displaced by recent natural disasters. This story was picked up by the general media and especially by technical publications.

Rabbi Menken is a veteran analyst of the global Jewish scene. Project Genesis has helped with the hosting of Jewish World Review since its inception, and Yaakov Menken has contributed articles to JWR on tolerance , the value of life , the risks of the Internet (which also appeared elsewhere ) and other topics.

CALL TO ACTION: The Awareness Center is asking that Rabbi Shumel Kamenetzky make a public statement regarding the confession of Rabbi Yaakov Menken.

The Awareness Center - November 19, 2006

It is not often The Awareness Center puts out a warning regarding an individual who is also rabbi. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the time has come for action to be taken regarding the case of Rabbi Yaakov Menken.

The Awareness Center has recently learned that Rabbi Menken has created two new organizations associated with "Project Genisis". He has began a Kiruv organization (Jewish outreach) called 'e-Kiruv". He is also involved with an organization called Oz Nidberu. There are also rumors floating around that he may be involved in the development of a new counter-missionary organization.

We all have to be aware that it is not uncommon for Kiruv workers and or counter-missionaries to be involved with individuals who are experiencing a personal crisis in their lives. These crisis's includes a death in the family, illness of a loved one, trying to sort out unresolved issues, and even individuals who have been traumatized (victims or witnesses to a violent crime, survivors of childhood abuse, survivors of sexual assault, etc.). Individuals who are experiencing a life crisis are often in a vulnerable state and are more susceptible to being manipulated by sexual predator.

Over the last few years Rabbi Yaakov Menkin was accused of both sexual harassment and professional sexual misconduct. At one point Rabbi Menken had a discussion with Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky regarding the allegations made by one of the women he counseled. The conversation included a confession by Yaakov Menken of having sexual contact with the woman. Rabbi Menken basically blamed the survivor stating "she manipulated him". Rabbi Menken was nearly forty at the time. The young, haredi woman was hardly out of her teens.

Because of the serious and complicated allegations made, the word needs to get out that young, single adult women could be at risk of harm if they share information about their personal lives with Rabbi Yaakov Menkin, especially if the woman is experiencing any sort of life crisis.

Due to the sensitivity of the situation and for reasons of confidentiality we are limited in what we can share with you about the case. What we can share is on The Awareness Center's site on Rabbi Yaakov Menken <>

If you need more information regarding Rabbi Menken's confession please contact Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky.

The Awareness Center, Inc. is also asking that everyone contact Rabbi Kamenetzky requesting that he make a public statement regarding the confession made by Rabbi Yaakov Menken. Contact information for Rabbi Kamenetzky is provided below.

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky

Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia

6063 Drexel Road

Philadelphia, PA 19131

Telephone: (215) 473-1212 Fax: (215) 477-5065

If you or someone you know has had similar experiences, please contact your local rape crisis center and or The Awareness Center, Inc. 443-857-5560

Call To Action:

Stop Funding Programs Organized By Alleged Sex Offender Rabbi Yaakov Menken

The Awareness Center, Inc. - December 24, 2006

In honor of the survivors of Rabbi Yaakov Menken (AKA: Ken Menken), The Awareness Center is bringing the following information to your attention. The goal is to prevent any more individual from becoming the next victim of a sexual offense.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the founder and director of Project Genesis, a Kiruv organization (Jewish outreach). He has put together an educational program that is funded by the Jewish Education Enhancement Projects (JEEP), which obtains its funds through the Jewish Federation of Baltimore (The Associated).

The Awareness Center, Inc. is asking that you contact both organizations and demand they stop funding programs connected to Rabbi Yaakov Menken. We are also asking that you contact those who are advertising Menken's programs. Explain to them that they are putting unsuspecting women at risk of harm.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken confessed to Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky that he had sexual contact with a young religious woman. At the time of the abuse this particular survivor was undergoing "spiritual counseling" by Rabbi Menken. The survivor was bearly out of her teens at the time she was sexually manipulated. Kenneth Menken was nearly in his forties. He was also a married, haredi (orthodox) rabbi.

The young woman describes her experience with Menken as clergy sexual abuse (professional sexual misconduct) During a conversation with Rabbi Kaminetsky, Kenneth Menken stated the young woman "manipulated him into having sexual contact."

Project Genesis has put together the following lecture series, which is funded by The Associated of Baltimore. Each time this program is advertised puts another unsuspecting woman at risk of harm -- by being "counseled" by Rabbi Menken. Please demand that all organizations stop funding activities organized by Yaakov Menken. Also demand that newspapers and magazines refuse to advertise events connected to him. The goal is to prevent one more unsuspecting individual from becoming the next victim of a sex crime.

The Awareness Center is also asking everyone to contact the following speakers. Please help inform them of Rabbi Menken's past history of alleged clergy sexual abuse (professional sexual misconduct). All inquires of his confession should be directed to Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky. (215) 477-1000.

Please ask Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky make a public statement regarding Rabbi Menken's confession and require Yaakov to be in therapy with a highly qualified psychotherapist whom specializes in working with sex offenders. The Awareness Center is also asking that Ken Menken financially compensate the survivor for the pain and suffering he has caused her.

Contact The Following Organizations

The Jewish Education Enhancement Project (JEEP)


The Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore

Adam Rosenberg

The Center for Jewish Education

1) Larry Ziffer, Executive Vice President

2) Rivka Lampert Adler, Director Adult Education

The Baltimore Jewish Times

Andrew Buerger, Publisher


The Advertiser


Ner Israel Rabbinical College

Rabbi Aharon Feldman

Rabbi Beryl Weisbord


List Project Genesis Speakers:

  1. Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Becker

  2. Rabbi Motti Berger

  3. Rabbetzin Tzipporah Heller

  4. Rabbi Doron Kornbluth

  5. Rabbi Zev Leff

  6. Rabbi Noach Orlowek

  7. Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum

  8. Rabbi Ken Spiro


A boy's first train ride

Typical protective parents that we are, my wife and I were apprehensive about putting our 14-year-old son by himself on a train from New York to Baltimore, where he attends the high school division of a respected yeshiva. His planned ride back to school after Succot with one of the postgraduate students had evaporated, though, and so we had no choice.

We asked my father, who is a beloved congregational rabbi in suburban Baltimore, if he might be able to pick Dovie up at the train station downtown and take him to the yeshiva, he assured us, as we knew he would, that it would be no problem. He and my stepmother would do anything for any of their grandchildren.

My wife took Dovie to the train station on our end, and I called her on her cellphone from my office to make sure they had arrived safely and on time. As she described seeing our son off, I couldn't help but recall the story of another Jewish 14-year-old's first solo rail ride.

It was just about the same time of year, around Simchat Torah, but the year was 1939, and the Nazis had just begun their invasion of Poland. The boy's family, along with all the townsfolk, had fled their tiny village in central Poland by foot. Doing their best to stay ahead of the advancing German army, they reached a city called Zembrov, where there was a synagogue and Jewish infrastructure. The family found a temporary place to stay, but the boy had made up his mind, despite the family's dislocation, that he was going to the yeshiva in Bialystok, where, before the outbreak of the war, it had been arranged for him to study.

The parents balked - who could know, they argued entirely reasonably, what lay ahead? - but the boy insisted. Years later, his persistence at the time would make him wonder. Why indeed had he insisted on leaving his family at a time of war? But in the end his parents relented, surely unaware that their son's decision would save his life. With the clothes on his back, a spare shirt, his tefillin, a siddur, and a few apples from his mother, the boy boarded the train to Bialystok. He would never see his mother or father again.

ON THE train, two elderly Jews approached him and asked: "Little boy, where are you going?" He responded, "To the Bialystok yeshiva."

"The Bialystok yeshiva?" they exclaimed. "The Bialystok yeshiva has moved to Vilna!"

The boy hadn't realized - how could he have? - that all the Polish yeshivot had relocated at war's start to the famed Lithuanian city. Having no idea where to go or what to do, he began to panic but then calmed himself with the thought: "Well, I was going to go to Bialystok to study, and so now I'm just going to Vilna instead." When the train arrived in Bialystok, the boy, although he had no ticket, asked someone in the station which train was going to Vilna. When he finally located the track, he saw a train filled to capacity with people - some were hanging from its sides. The boy began to cry but was impelled by something nebulous but powerful to somehow get on the train. It had begun to leave the station but was still moving slowly and so he ran after it along the tracks and grabbed the handrail of the steps to one of its doors. Grasping his handhold tightly, he managed to get one of his feet on the step. As the train picked up speed, people moved in, and, with some settling on the platforms between cars, the boy managed to find a place to sit. He fell asleep, and morning found him in Vilna.

THE REST of the boy's story is equally compelling. He studied, as he had wished, in the yeshiva, but it wasn't long before he and his fellow students were uprooted again. Eventually they and their teachers were sent by the Russians to a work camp in Siberia, a saga unto itself. Although there were many harrowing moments over those months and years, he survived the war, immigrated to the United States and raised a family.

We American-born Jews would do well to more often and more deeply dwell on what previous Jewish generations had to endure. What we call problems wouldn't even register on their radar screens, and realities they faced daily we see only in our nightmares. Reminding ourselves of those facts not only charges us to more deeply respect and appreciate those who came before us, it provides us perspective in our own lives and impels us to be deeply thankful for all the great blessings we have, and all the great adversities we don't.

Dovie's trip was uneventful. His train arrived a bit later than expected but my father was there to shuttle him to yeshiva. When I called my father later that evening to thank him again, he assured me that he was happy to have been of help.

He also mentioned that he had asked Dovie if the train ride had been his first. When Dovie answered in the affirmative, my father told his grandson: "There isn't time now, but one day, remind me to tell you about my own first train trip. It was when I was just about your age."

The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

No one knows names. There are men approaching children. The silence of a Haredi Community in Har Nof - Israel

Fear and loathing in Har Nof

By Stuart Winer, Additional reporting by Hilary Leila Krieger

Jerusalem Post - March 7, 2003

Edition; In Jerusalem, Section: Features, Page: 01

Friday, March 7, 2003 -- In the last two months, public revelations of child molestation have caused fear and shock in the predominantly haredi neighborhood of Har Nof. As police try to combat the incidents of abuse, the community must combat a code of silence which has traditionally pushed such abuse below the surface.

"The haredi community is not used to talking to strangers on any subject, " said Dov Bernstein, supervisor for the Jerusalem area investigators of the Child Investigation Service at the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. "Add to that the problem of them being victims of sexual attacks and it can be very difficult."

Yet police succeeded in arresting two long-time abusers this winter. In early January, a 17-year-old haredi Har Nof resident admitted to sexually abusing young boys. The police said he had raped and sodomized 15 to 20 children from the ages of five to 10 in a local synagogue. And one month later, a 27-year-old non-haredi man from Har Nof admitted to committing over 25 acts of molestation on girls aged six to 11 over the past three years, according to Jerusalem Police Spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby.

But there are scores of other cases in the neighborhood that go unprosecuted for lack of evidence; in many instances they are not even reported. Now that the topic has been brought to the public's attention, everyone seems to know someone who has been affected by the phenomena.

"No one knows names," said Bertha Goldstein as she watched a group of children playing on Rehov Kaplan in Har Nof. "But there are men approaching children."

Over the past months local Har Nof newsletters have carried numerous appeals for parents to remain alert after children were accosted in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood.

"I recently heard of a guy who tried to stop a 12- year-old girl from leaving a building. She way lucky because some other girls walked in and she managed to run for it," Goldstein said. "Everyone thought these were isolated incidents but now they are beginning to piece things together."

"People are now very cautious about letting their children walk around alone," Goldstein said. "Even 12 and 13-year-old girls are not allowed out by themselves."

When victims do go to the authorities, they often find there's not much that can be done. One Har Nof mother recounted that after her 18-year-old daughter was fondled by an unknown haredi man in the elevator of their apartment complex one afternoon last summer, she filed a complaint with the police.

She said the complaint was a means of taking action, "[But] I don' t know if it does any good."

She noted that no arrest was ever made but didn't blame the police.

"I don't think the police can really do anything," she said, explaining, "he [the perpetrator] looks like the rest of the population. What would he do to stand out? It has to be residents, who know he's different and doesn't belong."

That's one of the reasons she said she believes speaking out about incidents of abuse is important. "If everybody called [attention to potential abusers], maybe we could do something about these weirdos."

Once she and her daughter began to talk about what had happened, they found that several friends and neighbors had experienced similar traumas.

"There's a lot of stuff going on in Har Nof," the mother said, noting that her daughter's experience "wasn't such an isolated case ... Frequently I've found out that people have gone through this."

While she said the women whom she told about the molestation were supportive and as a result felt freer to talk about their own similar experiences, she expressed some annoyance that no one had shared these incidents with her before.

"They weren't common knowledge. I didn't know I should be worried and alert."

Even so, she said her daughter thought twice about entering the elevator when she saw a strange man inside. When she noticed a second-grader also in the lift, she decided it was safe to enter.

"As soon as the doors closed he began to handle [fondle] my daughter, to grope her," the mother described. "She yelled at him and he got out and ran."

Afterwards, the mother recollected how her daughter "was very shaken, " as was the young girl who witnessed the attack.

But her daughter told her, "I have to go out now or I won't be able to go out."

The alternative would have been that "she would get crippled by fear, " the mother added. "It strikes your security. You don't trust anybody."

The sense of mistrust applies to the community as a whole, the mother explained.

"One would think that ostensibly in a religious neighborhood, people behave better," she said. "I think that we assume a certain kind of [safety]. We don't play around. We live by the Torah. Guys don't bother girls. Men stay married. It's not a free-for-all in terms of morality ... One individual can wreak a lot of havoc. "

But experts contacted by In Jerusalem said they didn't have any statistics to track whether rates of sexual abuse are higher or lower in haredi communities than in the public at large.

But Haim Walder, manager of the Center for the Child and Family in Bnei Brak, an organization that deals with child abuse in the haredi community, said that while "petty crime is almost unheard of in the haredi community, sexual crime is more common and more of a problem. People don't even think about it going on."

Walder, himself haredi, added, "The biggest problem is closure. People don't want to report it or talk about it."

"We found in Har Nof that we knew a lot of information but parents were not prepared to talk. We knew things were going on but people would not come forward," Bernstein said.

Yifat Boyer, an attorney at the National Council for the Child, an organization that provides legal aid for children, agreed that the lack of openness makes tackling child abuse in communities like Har Nof difficult.

"Even the people who are trying to address the issue in the haredi community don't talk about sex, or sexuality, or even use words like that."

"You don't want to overexpose the specifics of the threat the way a lot of media tends to go into graphic detail," Walder said. "On the other hand we don't want to ignore it."

Walder said that community leaders face the dilemma of how to warn children without exposing them to things that they don't want them to know about. The solution, in his opinion, is to give over the message in a way that is acceptable to community sensitivities.

"For example, there is a kid's book with a story that explains it is important to keep away from strangers without explaining what the danger is," Walder explained. He added that the idea is to encourage children to talk more about what happens to them.

At the same time he noted, "In some ways it is better not to scare the children" about concepts such as incest, inicidents of which he claimed is rare.

Boyer said educating children about incest in the haredi community can be a real problem due to the absolute authority wielded by haredi parents.

"You can't tell haredi children not to do what their father tells them to do," Boyer said.

Bernstein said that in some cases it can take years for children to realize that something happened to them.

Bernstein theorized that the dogma of benevolence and generosity on which haredi youth is raised may make them easy targets.

"There is a method to seducing children, of getting close to them. Child molesters know just how to talk to children to gain their confidence, " Bernstein said. "Since haredi youth are educated to believe in helping people whenever they can, they are easier to seduce."

Bernstein suggested that in some cases the hospitality inherent in haredi communities can result in predators being invited right into victims' homes.

"They also want to help each other and to help ba'alei tshuva (the newly observant), Bernstein added. "So it is confusing to the children who see their parents inviting these people into their homes and then they are not sure if there is something wrong when they interfere with them."

And the unwillingness to challenge authority extends to the means of dealing with cases, which Boyer said often revolve around the rabbis.

"Even when a rabbi knows about a case in his community he is less likely to report it to the authorities but will try to deal with it himself," he said. "That could be because they don't recognize the authorities and they also don't want the story to get out."

Additionally, Walder said, "Sometimes the victim suffers at the expense of the public and the media who have a field day, and that is something that the rabbis did not want to happen.The idea is to help the victim and the community."

Bernstein said that all victims of sexual abuse need to receive treatment. If denied it, the results can be dire. Studies have shown that victims of child sexual abuse who are not treated are prone to become abusers themselves as adults.

"The more serious the initial attack, the more intensive the treatment must be," Bernstein said. "It takes time, sometimes even up to three years of treatment, but it is critical."

Bernstein said some rabbinic leaders are taking special training and there are additional courses for religious women to help them to deal with these situations.

"People who do try to deal with incidents by intuition or from the Holy Scriptures can do even more damage," Bernstein said. "I know of cases in which rabbis said, 'It's not so bad,' or they drove families out of the community instead of trying to deal with the problem."

Har Nof resident and school principal Yizhak Soffer, said he feels that community leaders could be doing more.

"The cover-up attitude is stupid," he said. "The correct attitude is to be on the offensive. They should be supervising education, be much more aware of strangers, teach basic self-defense so that the kids know what to do if something happens."

Because of the difficulties in breaking into the closed community on a subject that is not only intimate, but also taboo, Bernstein said the investigators apply a method known as "joining."

He explained, "We often investigate in stages. First we build confidence by getting to know the children, and talking about neutral subjects."

"We are really in early days with dealing with it," Boyer said. "We are trying to hold a meeting with the people in the haredi community to try and make in-roads."

"It all starts with the rabbi," Bernstein said. "The more the rabbis are involved, the more likely the community is to involve outsiders in the process. I know one rabbi who managed to persuade some families to go to the police although they didn't want to at first."

Bernstein sees the first stage to tackling the problem in gaining the support of the community leaders.

"The more the rabbis are prepared to listen to us, even if they have suspicions, they will understand that we have the same interests: to protect the children."

The process of apprehending and punishing pedophiles in this country is a long and complicated one that can continue for years. First the perpetrator must be identified and subsequently arrested. The 27-year- old arrested in Har Nof last month carried out attacks for three years before being apprehended after a girl came forward with details of how he had molested her in a residential building. After police began investing the case, other victims spoke out.

There are many instances when the accused is released until the case comes to court. The 17-year-old arrested in January is currently under house arrest at his brother's.

Prosecution procedures begin when police receive a complaint from a victim. If, on the basis of initial evidence, the state attorney' s office decides to prosecute, then the child investigators take over. According to the law, children under the age of 14 are forbidden from providing testimony in court in order to protect them from difficult questioning. Instead of the child, the investigator who handled the case gives testimony.

All investigations with the children are videotaped from the first interview until the end of the investigation. The tape is then submitted to the court, where the judges watch all the footage and the investigator give testimony in place of the victim. Child abuse investigator Dov Bernstein said that in some cases the investigator decides that the victim can give evidence if the child seems confident and strong enough to do so. Usually, however, it is the investigator who speaks in the name of the child, a circumstance that Bernstein says is unique in the whole world.

By law, anyone who knows of a case and doesn't report it to the authorities can be sentenced to six months in prison.

"There is a legal requirement to report incidents that apply not just to community leaders or educators but all members of the public too, " Bernstein said. "There have been cases in the past when rabbis were investigated."


Case of Yeedle Werdyger - Chassidic Singer

(AKA: The Case of The Son of Famous Orthodox Singer and a Haredi Friend)

Jerusalem, Israel

Yeedle Werdyger and an unnamed haredi friend, were arrested in Jerusalem for enticing teenage girls, some of whom were below the age of 16, to take dangerous drugs and then to have sexual relations with them.

In addition, police said the two men photographed the girls in intimate positions in the bathroom and having sexual relations with other men. The suspects would later show the pictures to their friends. A search of the downtown apartment of one of the suspects turned up the miniature camera that was used.

When the singer was arrested, he tried to swallow the memory disc of his computer, breaking the chip as he chewed it. Yeedle's relatives say: This is a frameup.

According to the article "Rabbis calling for a boycott of the Ben David"; the rabbis were also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.").

City Notes - Haredi Drug and Rape Scandal

by Abigail Radoszkowicz, Judy Siegel, Gail Lichtman

The Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2003


Two haredi men, one the singer son of a prominent American haredi performer, were arrested Friday afternoon in Jerusalem for enticing girls, some of whom were below the age of 16, to take dangerous drugs and then to have sexual relations with them.

In addition, police said the two men photographed the girls in intimate positions in the bathroom and having sexual relations with other men. The suspects would later show the pictures to their friends. A search of the downtown apartment of one of the suspects turned up the miniature camera that was used.

When the singer was arrested, he tried to swallow the memory disc of his computer, breaking the chip as he chewed it. "We think he had good reason to do so," the police told the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge.

The victims were all harediot, and police said the suspects took advantage of the girls' innocence and lack of sex education.

Investigation of the case began based on complaints filed by some of the girls as well as on additional sources, said police.

The police description of one of the suspects as the son of a prominent haredi personality led to wild speculation in the haredi community. Radio reports noted that Israeli Internet sites carried the full names of the suspects.

The judge ordered the police to allow friends of the two suspects to supply them with strictly kosher food with Eda Haredit certification.

Yeedle: The Legacy Continues

by Charni Sochet

The coronation of the prince of Jewish music reiterates the intensity of a musical dynasty that has for three generations defined and revolutionized the medium. With a legendary grandfather, Chazzan David Werdyger, and the King of Jewish Music, Mordechai Ben David, for a father, Yeedle Werdyger's meteoric rather than episodic ascent to the court of musical excellence was paved in gold; two debut albums - "Together" and "Yeedle II" which both went gold.

Three years ago, as Yeedle embarked on a daunting journey to deliver his unique musical manifesto there was the ever present specter of his father's formidable shadow of excellence. MBD's twenty-five year seminal influence in the trends and direction of Jewish music would invoke analogous predictions that could prove disastrous to a debut artist. That dialogue of expectations has undermined the potential of sons who attempt to entertain the success of their fathers. Yeedle is very much his father's son, yet remarkably, he has emerged and cast a resplendent shadow of his own.

The parallels to his father's career are unavoidable and provide commentary on the Werdyger legacy of assiduous commitment to the format. Yeedle's status as heir apparent is distinguished in the familiar, yet uniquely eloquent vocal characterizations of his own stylistic imperative. MBD's visionary albums celebrate the medium of American Jewish music. He captured the volatility of contemporary music and made it palatable for a generation who would otherwise have been enticed by more alien refrains, bridging the gap between classical and contemporary music, and creating the premise for American Jewish music. Twenty-five years later, Yeedle generates identical revolutionary overtones by captivating the musical conscience of the next generation.

As Yeedle enthusiastically comments, "It's in my blood. As a child my father sang before he spoke. The heart he puts into music, is the heart he puts into everything else and he relayed that to me in every note and chorus. I live the music, and inhale its potency in the perfectionist tendencies my father passed on to me." Both Yeedle's and MBD's intensity embodies that ideal, in every arena in their lives. That orientation resonates in the success of "Together" and "Yeedle II". Yeedle's unassuming candor belies the impact he has had on the Jewish music industry. The response to "Together" was so overwhelming that it compelled Yeedle to devote himself to the full-time realization of his potential.

The public response to "Yeedle II" has by far surpassed all expectations. Yeedle reflects on its thunderous popularity, "The vocals, arrangements, choir, etc., every element of this album was formulated and reformulated to perfection. As an MBD production my father was directly involved in the arranging, mixing, and he guided me vocally." The selections on "Yeedle II" run the spectrum from the classical ballad to rhythmic dispensations with a variety that appeals to sensitivities across the spectrum.

The phenomenon that is Yeedle has swept the international music scene, with concert appearances in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Paris, London, Canada, and Israel. He recently returned from a concert in Israel at Parkei Hayarkon Gan Yehoshua at which he made a guest appearance and enthralled an audience that was 200,000 strong. "It's staggering to look out at a sea of faces 200,000 deep and perform to an audience ten times the size of a New York presentation." He shared the stage with MBD, Avrohom Fried, and Dedi and confides his anxieties in performing before a live audience of this magnitude. "I'm always nervous before a performance, but the expectations and exceptional show of unity generated by the concert inspired, motivated, and kept me focused. The incredible surge of exultation that swept the crowd demonstrates the vast inroads that Jewish music has accomplished in the last twenty-five years." That coincides with the significant contribution the Werdygers have made. His return from Israel is marked by his impending departure for another concert in mid-June back in Israel. The intense popularity of "Yeedle II" keeps him shuttling back and forth between concert destinations in an effort not to disappoint any of his fans.

The remarkable reception that "Yeedle II" encountered internationally bespeaks the universality of the message that Yeedle conveys, "I like to experiment with different styles of music, without negotiating the standards of Jewish music. Music that makes you feel guilty is not Jewish music. You have to feel the song, it's essence and it's message. I try to reach out to every Jewish neighborhood and affect each person, because each song is enhanced by our particular perspective. My intent is to take traditional Jewish music and update it; popularize it for consumption by the next generation." And it has been voraciously consumed by numbers that stagger industry standards.

Artistically, Yeedle corroborates his father's musical achievements by elaborating on their momentum. For the generation that has been weaned on MBD, the timeless classics are those selections that punctuated their youth and the very special moments in their lives. For the generation that is currently weaned on Yeedle these 10 gems incorporated on "Yeedle II" are destined to be irrevocably fused with the memories and reminiscences that support a generation. Yeedle is characteristically compulsive about the quality of his album, "There were no arbitrary selections. There is no justification to subject the listener to insipid tones and rhythms that serve as nothing more than filler. Therefore it was imperative to assemble the finest composers, musicians, technicians, choir, arranger, etc. for a project of this magnitude." Parenthetically, Yeedle is frequently queried as to the placement of his father's compositions on Side Two. He remarks, "The fact of the matter is that Side One can be Side Two and vice versa. Each song is singularly amazing for its message and spectacular arrangements." Mona Rosenblum distinguishes "Yeedle II" with his unique signature arrangements, interludes, and overtures complemented by MBD's own interpretations. Yeedle examines the intent of compositions by MBD, Yitzy Bald, and Reb Chaim Banet with the flair of a vocal master.

Specifically, "Kivisi", composed by Reb Boruch Chait, has been especially well received and appreciated by Yeedle's constituency. "Laasos Retzon Avicha Shebashamyaim", the title song initially suffuses the album with a fervor that reflects Yeedle's design; to do the A-mighty's bidding, and it further alludes to fulfilling his own father's visions.

Recently Yeedle was featured on Gideon Levine's "Best of the Best" album, and the response to his performance illustrates his dominance in the medium. His vision has, however, not been betrayed by his success, "I love having the power to create with music and using it to sustain the audience, without being destructive. The exuberant reaction of a child confined to a wheelchair after we've shared a song thrills the spirit and awakens the soul. I am privileged to use my music the way Hashem intended."

Yeedle's goal of releasing an album a year is well underway. He is currently summoning and assembling his network of professionals who will infuse his personality and their perspectives into a cadence of indomitable energy and spirit that will enthrall his audience from generation II generation.

Rabbis call for boycott of Ben David

The Jewish Telegraph (UK) - June 11, 2004 - Sivan 22, 5764

(Note: according to the following article the Rabbis calling for a boycott of this concert "... are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.").

A GROUP of Manchester rabbis has called for a boycott of the Mordechai Ben David Jerusalem Experience concert in Salford on Sunday week.

But the Lowry Theatre event, in aid of Israeli rescue organisation Zaka, will still go ahead.

The rabbis, including Manchester Beth Din dayanim Osher Westheim and Gabriel Krausz, put their signatures to a letter posted in synagogues advising people not to attend.

The stars are Mordechai Ben David - the world's number one Chassidic singer - together with his son Yeedle Werdyger and son-in-law Mendy Wald.

To satisfy Manchester's ultra-Orthodox community, the organisers - hoping to attract a 1,700 audience - arranged separate seating and entrances and even separate interval refreshment facilities.

Yet last weekend, posters signed by Dayanim Westheim and Krausz, Rabbis M M Schneebalg of Machzikei Hadass, Simcha Bamberger of Daf Hayomi, Y Wreschner of Adass Yeshurun Synagogue, Y Horwitz of Satmar, Leibish Rabinowitz of Shaarei Tefilah Synagogue and Sammy Goldberg of Damesek Eliezer Synagogue went up in the respective shools - banning attendance at the concert.

In defence of their position, the banning rabbis circulated an article, It's All a Matter of Taste, written by former Mancunian Ephraim Luft.

Mr Luft, now living in Bnei Brak, makes a swingeing attack on any Jewish music influenced by non-Jewish sources, even that played at religious weddings.

He particularly blames pop culture for leading to sexual immorality and claims chassidic pop is similarly tarnished.

He alleges that the intention of "frum singers" is "only to make money and they ignore the terrible negative influence that they are bringing with their music. Even if it is not intentional, it still takes control of the minds of young fans."

He quotes Rabbi Mattisyahu Solomon, formerly of Gateshead, who warns against the idolising of Chassidic singers. Mr Luft also warns against the security risks of large public gatherings.

The rabbis are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence.

But Rabbi Yehuda Brodie of Manchester Beth Din said the ban did not represent the views of the Beth Din.

The dayanim, he said, had signed in their private capacity. Manchester Beth Din dayanim Isaac Berger and Yehuda Steiner were not consulted on the matter. Concert organiser Dovid Holder, a daily Machzike Hadass synagogue worshipper, said: "The concert is going ahead. We hope it will be a sell-out.

''Mordechai Ben David, whom I know personally, is a very spiritual, Chassidic man.

"He is always learning Talmud and hardly speaks lest he talk lashon hora (slander). He is such a holy man that he makes a point of eating meat only on Shabbat."

He continued: "I am trying to do something nice for the Manchester Jewish community so that people can see how a frum gathering can be fun, uplifting and entertaining, that there are nice things in our religion. What's wrong with that?"

Tickets are available at the Lowry Box Office on 0870 787 5790.


By Steven I. Weiss

Foward - June 14, 2004

The Awareness Center has launched its page on Yeedle Werdyger, the popular Jewish singer and son of the yet-more-popular Jewish singer, Mordechai Ben David, who was reportedly accused of various criminal acts relating to drugs and sexual activity with fans who were minors in Jerusalem. Note that the original two articles there do not name Werdyger.

The launch of the page follows some controversy when certain UK rabbis issued a letter directing congregants not to attend a pair of recent concerts (covered heavily in the J-blogosphere, at Blog in Dm and most recently at Bloghead), one of which featured Werdyger. If I recall correctly, this was Werdyger's first concert since the arrest mentioned in the reports; if it was not, then some other concert in the UK was. The anti-concert contingent seems to have had plenty of desire to issue the concert ban without the accusations agains Werdyger. Indeed, the accusations against him, if the news and blogosphere reports are accurate, was merely a footnote. The Awareness Center caught one sentence in an article on the situation. Notes the Awareness Center:

Note: according to the following article the Rabbis calling for a boycott of this concert "... are also distributing a Jerusalem Post article relating to the arrest in Israel of a Charedi performer, even though the case was later dropped through lack of evidence."So the accusations were more the icing on the cake.

I've been following this as closely as anyone since the accusations first surfaced, and I'm struggling to see what news has been added to all-of-a-sudden bring these reported alleged indiscretions (note how long that string is) to the fore. I've sent The Awareness Center's Vicki Polin an e-mail asking as much. I'm as much for exposing abuse by those in power as anyone else, but this case, thus far, seems to be about as tenuous as any we've seen. I do hope we'll get more information about it, whichever way it turns out.

Posted by Steven I. Weiss, 11:29 PM



I suspect there are several factors at play here:

1) For months there has been pressure/communication with Rabbonim and concert promoters to quietly remove Yeedle from this concert. Some of this can be read in Blog in DM and MOChassid.

2) Apparently the promoters and MBD are standing firm.

3) I suspect the Rabbonim can't deal with Yeedle directly so they're going after the JM industry as a whole. On some level, I believe they actually believe it's not Yeedle's character but the nature of the JM industry that is screwed up.

4) The Awareness Center has had the Yeedle case up for months as an unamed case. I suspect for several reasons: the articles didn't name Yeedle, Rabonim were probably consulted to determine a course of action and at the time Yeedle had left public performance (private individual, not a public performer anymore) and was a reduced threat to potential victims.

5) But now Yeedle has re-emerged in England for the first time since the arrest, re-establishing himself as a public performer.

6) The Yeedle camp in trying to protect Yeedle has put out the most bizzare story. This story has further damaged the JM industry. If you were to believe it, you would have to believe that a competing JM had Yeedle framed with underage children and child pornography. If that were so, I might have to believe what the Rabbonim in England are saying about the JM industry.

7) If:

a. Rabbonim in England feel it is appropriate to publicize the Jerusalem Post article about Yeedle b. Yeedle chooses to be a public performer/figure the Awareness Center has no reason to maintain the case as an unkmown case.

Posted by me at June 14, 2004 12:21 AM


After reading ME's comment (it was posted as I was writing my comment above) I must agree with what he wrote. I would only add that I still believe that this is a means to an end -- and that is the end of 'Jewish music' as we now know it.

Posted by Shmarya at June 14, 2004 12:33 AM


My questions and comments:

1) Why has the reporting on this story been so poor? There doesn't seem to be follow-up. No US news outlet picked up on this story at all. Why were the charges dropped? Why has Yeedle been out of the spotlight? What happened?

2) If Yeedle's claims of being set up are true, why no arrests?

3) Has Yeedle damaged the JM industry? I think it is more than the "icing on the cake" for the Rabbonim in England. I really think they see something wrong in the JM industry and it is Yeedle. But what can they do? The charges were dropped in Israel. The only thing they can do is make the JM industry pay a price till they clean their industry up. Otherwise why the timing? Why pass around the Jerusalem Post article?

4) If the stories about Yeedle are true, does this mean the post-Lanner Orthodox community is still incapable and unwilling to take the necessary action to protect our children?

Posted by me at June 14, 2004 12:39 AM

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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!!!!!!!