The Lost Children of East Ramapo

This article was posted in a Rockland County online paper called The Rockland Voice. The same article can also be found on a FB page entitled: Clarkstown What They Don’t Want You to Know and has been shared numerous times. LostMessiah has decided to reprint it here with the permission of the author and the editor. We found the article quite interesting both for its content and for its use of material from FailedMessiah.com.

There is really no further introduction necessary.

LostMessiah, March 3, 2016

To All The Children Lost in ‘Neverland’, Perhaps There Is A Peter Pan!

Neverland

To The Children of East Ramapo, both Public and Private School Students;
To Many ultra-Orthodox Children Relegated to Silence;
While You May be Lost in Neverland,
Perhaps there is a Peter Pan!

Subject: Finding Peter Pan – Part 1

By: Julie Globus
Child of Cultural Yiddishkeit,
An Attorney, an Advocate and a Mother

In an article entitled ‘Anti-Semitism: A Label Too Often Used as A Shield to Fight Off Scrutiny‘ that appeared in Rockland Voice on February 10, 2016, I was deeply critical of Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder, Yossi Gestetner, leader of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, amongst others. My premise in that article, and supported further in this one, is that these men, though they call themselves Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox, are really anything but. The constant fall-back on anti-Semitism should not be used as a shield against scrutiny.

Legislator Aron Wieder

This is not a commentary about religion. It is criticism of the behavior of men, who dress a part but do not act it. By mishandling the finances of East Ramapo’s public schools, by accepting if not demanding State Aid for schools that do not meet “substantially similar” standards, and for that matter do not protect their children, these men, their supporters and community members who actively look the other way, are decimating the futures of a generation of children. By advocating Torah study to the exclusion of adequate secular subjects for their private Yeshiva students, they are not only depriving their own children of an education; but they are denying the children of the public schools a future.

I contend that in so doing they are violating fundamental pillars of the religion they profess to love.

Yossi Gestetner

Since that article, I have been called many things, not the least of which is a ‘self-hating Jew‘. But, is it I who lacks enough respect for my children to educate them, or you?

Is it I who wants to hold the ultra-Orthodox leaders, to not only the educational demands found in multiple places within the Torah and its treatises, but the underlying spirit of those demands, or is it you?

Is it I who wants to see the children of East Ramapo, both secular and religious, receive a better education, and frankly one more aligned with the very tenets of the Torah and its teachings you profess to love’, or is it you?

And, as a follow-up to that question, is it I who wants to see the chains removed from a lost generation of children, who have been forced to receive a subpar education within the public schools of East Ramapo, Lakewood, Monroe-Woodbury and the list goes on, or is it you?

Assemblyman Dov Hikind

Is it I who wants to see a better future for the private Yeshiva students, who have been relegated to a Neverland of their insular, secretive and in some cases, less than Torah-loving community, or is it you?

The public school students are your victims, Gentlemen, because they are being denied a chance at fulfilling their dreams, because they have been trampled upon by you who have so disgracefully used sheer numbers of religious students as your means of attack on the public school system. The private school students, naïve to a greater understanding of education, are bound by chains and held hostage to a form of Jewish religious fundamentalism which I view as not even remotely related to the ethical and moral spirit of Jewish teachings. Many Yeshiva schooled children are being indoctrinated into a belief system meant to invalidate their individuality and provide them with nothing more than the ability to survive within their insular community. Their survival is determined by blindness and dependence. The survival of Judaism at large and of inter-community relations between Jews and non-Jews alike is contingent upon foresight and accountability.

To all of the children of Neverland, perhaps there is a Peter Pan?

One of the questions asked of me by someone who sent me endless emails about being a ‘self hating Jew‘, is “if I clearly understand the beauty of the ultra-Orthodox community?” I was quizzed whether I, “was aware that there is less crime, children can walk into the streets without concerns, they can play outside, they are not as vulnerable to violence?” “Did I see that by remaining insulated, the children of the ultra-Orthodox community are safer?”

Really?

After being interrogated during conversations with the ‘true believer’, and being emailed by the enforcer of my label as a ‘self-hating Jew‘, I did a lot of research. I thought perhaps I could answer the questions posed above and come to different conclusions? I looked for articles, blogs, anything I could find on living within the ultra-Orthodox community, beyond what I myself had experienced.

This was no easy task. It is not as if the community opens its doors providing full view of what my condemner referred to as the “beauty within the ultra-Orthodox community”. In fact, I suppose, due to the very desire of that community to hide in secrecy, I found very little.

moshe-menachem-taubenfeld

Quite troubling, I unearthed extensive articles on sexual abuse, abuse of children, traumas that have been ongoing for years and years and have been enshrouded in secrecy. I discovered countless examples of abuse victims betrayed by the system elected to protect them. There was no shortage of articles and commentaries regarding Rabbis and community leaders leveraging votes in exchange for protections for the abusers, and… silence. (The act of reporting an abuse is called mesirah and the person who reports the conduct of the abuser is a moser.)

Take for example one case in Rockland County. In Forward.com we read: “Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld, a prominent figure in the Hasidic community of New Square, was acquitted by a judge of molesting a boy for several years. Rockland County Court Judge Rolff Thorsen announced the verdict, which he conceded might be greeted with dismay by the public, to a packed, pin-drop silent courtroom. “I must not and will not be swayed by public opinion,” he declared.”

Judge Thorsen - Photo Credit WN.com

Rabbi Noson S. Leiter runs a victim’s advocacy group in Rockland County called ‘Help Rescue our Children‘.  He was visibly distraught over the ruling, laying the blame at a corrupt justice process, citing the fact that both the Rockland County District Attorney, Thomas Zugibe, and Judge Rolf Thorsen received an overwhelming majority of the New Square vote.

Judge Rolf Thorsen won 99% of the votes from all four Ramapo districts in New Square when he ran for the bench in 2014. His brother, Eric Thorsen, is a family court attorney with close ties to the Hasidic community in Rockland County.

The children of New Square are the biggest victims of a criminal justice system that clearly doesn’t seem to work in a just manner,” Rabbi Leiter said.

Thorsen’s verdict was greeted with shock by all except the residents of New Square and one wonders why Thorsen did not recuse himself given his political support of the Hasidic community in which the alleged offenses occurred?

Rabbi Nuchum Rosenberg who himself bore witness to the sexual abuse of children and was shunned from the Satmar community for shedding light and had bleach thrown in his face for exposing abuse.

I would be remiss at this time if I did not query that person, and all of those who similarly think that I am nothing more than an ‘anti-Semite/self-hating Jew‘: Are the children of the ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic communities safe in their homes and at their schools? Are these children protected from their Rabbis and other adults entrusted with their care? You, the person who sent me endless emails, are you aware of the sexual abuse and violence within your community; estimated at one in two males in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Community who are sexually violated by someone in whom they trust?

Or has that dirty secret been kept so tightly locked within the closed walls of your community that silence has become the better part of valor for so many of your beloved Hassidic children? Is this not a mishkovzucher, a sin before G-d?

You, who examine your clothing, lest it be Shatnetz, cloth containing both linen and wool, the interbreeding of different species of animals, do you scrutinize your community with the same zeal?

While there are years and years of articles on the subject of abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community, recently on January 6, 2016, found on FailedMessiah.com, Shmarya Rosenberg reported in an article entitled “Chabbad Rabbi Aryeh Leib “Larry” Dudovits Gets 8 Years for Child Sex Assault” about one man and his sexual escapades, “realizing his homosexuality”, abusing children. Shmarya writes: “Richard King, the abusers lawyer “claimed his client was really gay and wasn’t a child molester at heart.””

The article further states: “Dudovitz has struggled with “fighting homosexual urges- not sexual predator urges, King told the court echoing, perhaps unknowingly, the position of the late Chabad-Lubavitch Regge Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who allegedly attributed cases of child sex abuse to latent homosexual tendencies and told at least some Chabad rabbis not to report child sex abusers to the police.”

Again, as a Jew, I can only shake my head. What about the child, what about the children? What about their shame, their feelings of guilt, their feelings of being dirty and violated, nightmarish memories that don’t wash off in the shower and cannot be cleansed in the Mikvah? What about their feeling of betrayal of a trust, a trust which is so fundamental to any Jewish community?

Do these same religious leaders, advocating silence, know that the lives of sexually abused children are forever altered after abuse? Do the community leaders and Rabbis believe that saying Shema and the Amidah will really cleanse abuse victims of the sins of their abusers?

Sexual relationships, important for procreating and fruitful multiplication will never be the same. Each time abuse victims have sexual interactions, for the rest of their lives, those victims will remember the moments of abuse, play them out their heads, looping over and over what happened, over and over and over. Scientific, biological, psychological research suggests that abused children, who are not properly counseled, suffer from depression and suicidal tendencies and, worse still, grow to become abusers.

Rabbi Twersky who denied claims of abuse and refused to listen to members of his community who pleaded for help

Can the ultra-Orthodox community actually be blind enough to its own misdeeds to claim that these children are, indeed, properly counseled? I think not. In ignoring this problem, the ultra-Orthodox community is condemning not only the generation today’s children, but generations far into the future. And yet the Rabbis who profess to love the Torah, who are revered within their communities, who hold their 613 Mitzvot in highest esteem, are advocating, if not out-rightly demanding, silence. Much of these communities and their beloved and revered Rabbis know the truth of the abuse within their communities and yet, not only do they make the choice to remain silent but demand, under threat of intimidation, the same of every member of that community?

Are those who demand silence any less guilty of the abuse? Are they not fostering abuse? Are they not justifying abuse? Do they not owe more than that to the children who are ultimately the future of Orthodox Jewry?

For years FailedMessiah.com reported on the abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community, both domestically and internationally. Frum Follies by Yerachmiel Lopin, in an article entitled 60 Days for 4 Youth Victims, 24 Sex Felonies & 52 Misdemeanors, which quoted from a series of articles published in the New York Daily News on the same subjects, mentions one instance in which, and I quote: “Rabbi Yoel Malik pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of Sexual Misconduct, Oral/Anal Conduct (NYS PL 130.20.02) his charge sheet included another 52 misdemeanor counts and 24 felony counts of sex crimes with minors which the record shows the DA and the defendant agreed to have covered by the single misdemeanor plea. There were additional felony and misdemeanor charges that were dropped.”

image

FailedMessiah’s Shmayra Rosenberg, stopped short of calling sexual abuse amongst Yeshiva students an epidemic. I, on the other hand, am more than willing to take it one step further.

Sexual abuse of any kind is a crime of epic proportions; against children, unforgivable. Given what I now know, it is my opinion that within the ultra-Orthodox and Yeshiva communities, sexual abuse of children is an epidemic. Moreover, the desire of the ultra-Orthodox and fundamentalist Jewish communities to keep the misdeeds of their Rabbis and teachers sheathed in secrecy is, in my view, equally as criminal as the abuse itself.

That the Rabbis and community leaders choose to enshroud their sins by intimidation of their community members is tragic.

That the Rabbis and community leaders protect the abusers through agreements and plea deals; and pay expensive attorneys blood money for their unholy alliances, is nothing short of disgraceful.

That the Rabbis and community leaders leverage their votes and promises of support for government officials, in whose legal or legislative power it is to protect sexual abuse victims, in exchange for leniency for abusers, is in my view criminal complicity.

These Rabbis and community leaders who have decided it best, it more Jewish, it more holy, to keep these unimaginable secrets, are equally as guilty as the abusers they protect and of fostering, if not encouraging, a cycle of continued sexual abuse of children.

Frum Follies’ Yerachmiel Lopin, states in his final comments to his article “DA Kenneth Thomson has entered into an unholy compact with the ultra orthodox community. The DA does the least he possibly can when it comes to those who rape and molest orthodox children (unless they are gentiles) and they in turn will support him when he seeks reelection or election to a higher office. Shame on all of them.”

The children who suffer the trauma of sexual violence by their teachers, Rabbis and close relatives, who are then shamed into silence, are not only vulnerable and forever damaged, but will continually suffer the sins of their parents who enforced the code of silence. The future of Judaism, not only ultra-Orthodox Judaism but Judaism as it crosses all forms of religious observance is completely reliant, in my view, upon those of us willing to speak out, willing to bring these crimes to light, willing to condemn those within the community for enshrouding sexual violence in secrecy. The future of Judaism depends upon parents, children, teachers to step away from rabbinical edict and come forward, demand prosecution, demand justice on behalf of the victims, their children, not only today’s, the here and now, but those in the future for generations forward. Moreover, until the State of New York begins regulating state funded Yeshivas, not only from a strictly educational perspective; but also regulating those teachers and Rabbis in whose care Yeshiva children are entrusted, no child in the Yeshiva community is ever going to be safe. Here and here alone, the public school students in communities like East Ramapo, Lakewood and Monroe-Woodbury are far more fortunate than their private Yeshiva counterparts.

For those readers who are going to view my scrutiny and my criticism as yet another example of anti-Semitism, I remind you of the scandals of the Catholic Church, of the cover-ups by the various arch-Diocese, of the scandal at Penn State. Uncovering sexual abuse, within the Catholic community, within the sports community, within any community demands shedding light on the problem. The epidemic that is sexual abuse has necessitated not only the courage of those who were or are being victimized, but the courage of their parents, their guardians and members of the community at large. Ending the cycle of sexual abuse in any community necessitates accepting a measure of culpability by those who have covered up the abuse or turned a blind eye.

Scrutinizing and shedding light on the Catholic Priesthood is not anti-Catholic, but rather anti-abuse.

Shedding light on years of sexual abuse within the sports community is not anti-sports but rather anti-abuse.

Enlightening the world to the abuse within the ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic community is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic, it is anti-abuse.

Any attempt to turn this article into one of anti-Semitism is nothing more than a ruse, using religion as a shield, a wholesale betrayal of the same children who are being perpetually victimized.

The Best Picture of 2016, was a movie entitled “Spotlight”. That movie focused on the very people who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It drew attention to those within the Catholic community who worked tirelessly to uncover the abuse. The movie was a critical view of those within the Catholic Church who looked the other way or covered up the ongoing abuse. Spotlight, appropriately named, was a beautiful movie about shedding light, light within the greater hierarchy of the Catholic Church, from the Priests who committed the crimes to those within the Catholic Church who covered up those crimes all the way to the Pope, the final arbiter within the Catholic community. During the Oscar show, Lady Gaga sang a song dedicated to the victims of abuse within college campuses across the country, interwoven within the warp and woof of Spotlight’s theme. I note one particular comment made during the Oscars heart-wrenchingly profound in its implications: “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child; it also takes a village to abuse one.”

To the public school children who have been relegated to a Neverland of failed education, either because they have been left to study in subpar, aging and decrepit public schools, without appropriate facilities, classes and basic necessities, or because they are grossly unprepared for their future, we owe them more. In the effort to provide for them and their futures, we need to be vigilant, to fight for their rights, to demand better.

To the teachers who teach public school children, who do their best within impossible circumstances, thank you for keeping your students safe. The reality is, at the very least, State standards are available to protect these children while they are in school. The standards of selection of the public school teachers are governed by the New York State Education Department (in New York). The State inoculates public school children, by vetting the teachers in whose care they are entrusted. The public school children are taught, even encouraged, to come forward when something is not right. When public school children go to school, despite the physical condition of their schools and the lacking facilities, to some degree, the children can feel safe. Teachers are held to a particular set of standards, and with rare exception, those standards keep public school children safe.

To many private Yeshiva students, who are actually less fortunate than their public school counterparts; because of the ties that bind their arms to the restrictions of their communities’ tenets, going to school may include walking into the claws of an abuser. Not only are many Yeshiva students being provided an education lacking in the fundamental subjects necessary to assimilate them into the modern world; unlike the public school children, Yeshiva students have no governmental protections when it comes to those who teach them. For an unsettling number of Yeshiva students, not only are they being relegated to a Neverland of subpar education which fails to meet the “substantially similar” test; but they are also studying in schools without protections from abusive teachers and Rabbis. Rather than being encouraged to speak up, Yeshiva students are shamed into silence by culture and tradition, under the cloak of religion. Unlike public school students, many Yeshiva students’ voices are silenced, silenced by Rabbinical edict, silenced by their communities, silenced by their teachers and Rabbis and even silenced by their parents.

Breaking the chain of decimation of public education will require time, devotion, community activism. Breaking the ongoing and established cycle of violence against those Yeshiva children suffering abuse, which numbers are simply staggering, will require courage, a torch to light the way and an understanding by those communities that silence for the sake of religion is anything but the fulfillment of the pursuit of piousness.

Perhaps J.M Barrie said it best, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it. For to have faith is to have wings.” – Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.  In J.M. Barrie’s tale, Peter Pan was part of our collective imaginations. He was entrusted with saving the lost boys of Neverland. As a community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and secular alike, we are the collective Peter Pan. As a sodality, we can save the children who desperately need our help.

“If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” – Princess Merida from Tangled – To anyone who reads this, you can wrest control of your future. If you are being abused, speak up. Shout out. Do not suffer in silence, even if those within your community demand that of you. It is they who protect the abusers who are guilty of unspeakable sins. They sin not only against you, but against both ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and Judaism at large. It is they who demand your silence by intimidation who are violating the very tenets of a G-d they claim to love. It is they, along with those who force your silence upon you, who are guilty, not you.

You are the victims!

Come Forward!

We are listening!

Speak up!

Demand Justice!

2 thoughts on “The Lost Children of East Ramapo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s