SHAME ON YOU RABBI SHMUEL KAMENETSKY - YOU HAVE PERVERTED THE HOLY TORAH!
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).
UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENTS:
Showing of the film "Narrow Bridge"
This film was inspired by the case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
By Eliezer Eisgrau's Daughter
Sunday, July 30, 2006
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,
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.
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.
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 Torah.org -Baltimore, MD
Founder and Director of TorahMedia.org -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: http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/MenkenCallToAction.pdf
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, Torah.org, Project Genisis and TorahMedia.org. 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
* The Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore
* 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
Torah.org - 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 Torah.org , 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 <http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/menken_yaakov.html>
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
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
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
Ner Israel Rabbinical College
Rabbi Aharon Feldman
Rabbi Beryl Weisbord
List Project Genesis Speakers:
Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Becker
Rabbi Motti Berger
Rabbetzin Tzipporah Heller
Rabbi Doron Kornbluth
Rabbi Zev Leff
Rabbi Noach Orlowek
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum
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.