Rabbi Dratch – Was JSAFE Ever Intended to be Anything More than Lip-Service? Is it not About Time You start Paying Attention?
Preface -LM May 6, 2016
Letter by Sura Jeselsohn
We received the following letter as an open letter to Rabbi Dratch. We are publishing it because we believe that it is only when confronted by indisputable questions of integrity will the rabbis with the power step-up an do something to stop the abuse within the Jewish community and help the victims of abuse by providing them with counseling and justice.
As a preface, in 2007 Rabbi Dratch met before a group of congregants at the Riverdale Jewish Center about his organization JSAFE – The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment. JSAFE, an organization raised by more than one of our commenters, appears to be little more than lip-service to a community looking for more. Perhaps another person critical of Rabbi Dratch’s seeming apathy towards the subject, if not outright protection of abusers, will give someone of authority reason to start the wheels turning toward change.
May 6, 2016
Dear Rabbi Dratch:
I am hoping that you remember me but in the event that details have been forgotten over time, I will try to refresh your memory.
On January 7, 2007 in the evening, you spoke before a small group at the Riverdale Jewish Center. You were presented in glowing terms by Jonathan Rosenblatt, then rabbi of the synagogue. You returned his compliments and spoke about your organization JSAFE – The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment. My husband and I attended the lecture in which you said all the right things about the need for the Jewish community to maturely face its problems with abuse. During the Q&A I asked you – in Rosenblatt’s presence – about the appropriateness of taking teens and young men unclothed into the sauna. Your answer left much to be desired.
I made an appointment with you and we met shortly thereafter in my home where I disclosed that my question was in relation to Jonathan Rosenblatt and his behavior over many years.. We spoke for more than an hour. You told me that the flattering language of Rosenblatt’s introduction was not a particular sign of friendship but just normal rabbinic public language. However, I never felt that the issues had any urgency for you.
The matter stopped there. You were not responsive nor did you return phone calls. We finally spoke many months later but it came about through the unlikely fact that your late wife, your sister-in-law and I took a class together and through my conversation with your wife, you must have felt obliged to call me.
Frankly I was concerned when you were hired as Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America. I have not followed your career and can only hope that JSAFE did help some victims. However, it did not help Riverdale.
It is claimed that Rabbi Dratch began his quest to help victims of sexual abuse within the Orthodox community years before the below piece came out. It is now 2016 and little has changed. He delivers great speeches but appears to do little.
In 2005, an article came out on a blogsite called jewishsurvivors.BlogSpot.com
Nothing has changed…
TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2005
Is Rabbi Mark Dratch Trying to Recreate The Awareness Center?
Back on November 11, 2004, Rabbi Dratch was interviewed by Luke Ford, and was quoted as saying the following:
“The website and its discussion groups are an invaluable resource for many people. I had been involved at supporting them at one point in time. Vicki Polin has done tremendous work. We had a disagreement about a year ago] over some of the articles published on there with regard to accusations made against individuals. Her feeling is that as long as there is an article out there it should always be public. I disagree with that. If there is no substantiation of the allegations after a period of time and the person may be innocent, those articles should not be there. As a result of that, we have parted ways. She remains an important resource for me and I imagine I am an important resource for her.
To the best of my knowledge The Awareness Center is much more then a website. It is a full grown organization. What a great way to disrespect an organization that you are trying to mimic. Belittle it and refer to it as just a website.
I know for myself when I’ve needed resources that I called and spoke to Vicki Polin, and was provided with information that I was unable to find else where. I’ve told friends and coworkers of mine about The Awareness Center, and they were able to locate a rabbi, connect with attorneys, find counselors who have experience working with rape and incest survivors.
I personally have had very bad experiences going to Jewish Family Services. The majority of therapists at two different JFS’s I went to didn’t have the experience in working with rape victims.
At one point I had to move to another state. I had the same experience in both states with JFS therapists. Reading the brochure of JSAFE, it seems like Jewish Family Services is where Rabbi Dratch is sending survivors. If you are a survivor don’t go there! Because I live in a semi-rural area, Vicki had suggested I track down a local rape crisis center and be seen there, or ask them for the name of a therapist they would recommend. I also suggest the same thing.
In Luke Ford’s article on Rabbi Dratch, Steven I. Weiss was quoted as saying:
“Luke – Dratch’s argument against Polin, that she should remove old stories that have not been substantiated, comes in pretty neatly with the Michael Ozair story. Remember that in that case, only allegations against him had been printed, and the fact that he pleaded no contest in 2001 would have made the allegations three years old with no follow-up. It was precisely because his file was maintained on The Awareness Center’s Website that we matched him up as Michael Ezra of KabbalahCoach.com, and that we did further inquiry into the matter, reporting his plea for the first time.”
I don’t want anyone to forget that Rabbi Mark Dratch mislead the survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler into believing what they said to him would be kept confidential. He also encouraged them to talk to the investigator who was hired by the RCA to conduct an investigation of the Tendler case.
The investigator wrote a report and provided it to the RCA. Rabbi Basil Herring, executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) decided it was only fair for Tendler (not his attorney) to have a copy of the final report, which had the names and contact information of the alleged survivors in it.
Rabbi Mark Dratch who was once an honored member of The Awareness Center’s advisory board is now taking the ideas of another organization and running with them. The difference being is that Rabbi Dratch is closely tied to the organization that needs the most monitoring. It’s almost like the United Nations monitoring the Saudi government.
POSTED BY DINA TAMAR AT TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2005