Lubavitcher Chassidic Dr. Conversion Therapy Lawsuit – Is He Treating to Heal or Shaming Into Trauma- The Nature of His Practice and Religion

 

Lubavitcher Chassid Sues New York Over Conversion Therapy Ban

In a society where privacy is at a premium, unpopular views are shouted down in public venues, and the most personal facts of people’s lives are casually revealed on social media, the therapist’s office has been one of the last bastions of safe speech. Psychotherapy patients can converse with their chosen counselors without fear of exposure, shaming, or outside interference.

That has been changing, and a recent New York City law currently being challenged in federal court goes further than ever in dictating the parameters of private therapy sessions. The unsubtly titled “Counseling Censorship Law” prohibits mental health counselors from helping individuals with homosexual feelings or gender identity issues work to overcome them.

Unlike so-called “conversion therapy” bans in other jurisdictions – to date, 18 states and more than 50 cities and counties have enacted them – New York’s law applies not only to minors but to patients of all ages. It also carries stiff financial penalties for practitioners.

One of those practitioners, Brooklyn psychotherapist Dr. Dovid Schwartz, an Orthodox Jew and a member of the Crown Heights Lubavitch community, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the law violates his and his patients’ rights to free speech and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The plaintiff also assails the law’s vagueness in failing to define subjective terms like “identity exploration and development” and “change,” which makes him vulnerable to prosecution.

The city’s ban, says Roger Brooks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which is litigating the action, “intrudes into the privacy of a counselor’s office to censor an entirely voluntary and very personal conversation between an adult and the counselor or psychotherapist he has chosen.”

The lawsuit – like the plaintiff, his patients, and the therapy they pursue – is animated by principles of faith, specifically Torah laws and values. “[T]his case is not just about whether a menorah can go up in a public square,” says lead local counsel Barry Black, of Nelson Madden Black LLP, who is working together with ADF. “It involves the essence and core of religious practice.”

Virtually all of Schwartz’s patients are Orthodox, including many fellow Chabad adherents. A small subset of them seek his help, either initially or in the course of ongoing psychotherapeutic treatment, to deal with unwanted feelings of “same-sex attraction.” (That is the term of choice favored by Schwartz and many in the religious world, revealing a far less rigid view of human sexuality than the terminology used by the defendant and the culture at large.)

In his affidavit, Schwartz asserts that he “does not attempt to increase opposite-sex attraction or change same-sex attraction in patients who do not desire his assistance in that direction,” and “never promises that these goals will be achieved.” He further notes that some of his patients have succeeded in reducing or eliminating their unwanted attractions, while some have not or have chosen not to continue the process.

Moreover, the lawsuit stresses that the plaintiff’s counseling sessions with his patients consist solely of talking and no other interventions. This is significant because reports from New York City’s Commission on Civil Rights relied on by the City Council and cited by the defendant refer repeatedly to the fact that conversion therapy, known by its critics as SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts), has in the past been associated with electro-shock treatment, castration, and other painful practices designed to dissociate individuals from their impulses. One of the key questions the court must decide is whether talk therapy alone is a form of speech – and thus constitutionally protected – or commercial conduct, which is subject to regulation.

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Handler Should be Defrocked – Measles and The Vaccine Conspiracy, The Gospels According to Luke and the Nazi Ties to Medicine –

I attended an Orthodox anti-vaccine rally. Here’s what I saw.

NEW YORK (JTA) — The weirdest part of an Orthodox anti-vaccine conference here was probably when the emcee, a rabbi wearing a black hat and white beard, quoted the Gospel of Luke.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” he cried, reciting the Gospels nearly verbatim.

Rabbi Hillel Handler wasn’t referring to the 200 people gathered in the basement of a haredi Orthodox wedding hall in Brooklyn to hear about the alleged dangers of vaccines. Rather, he was talking about the doctors, rabbis and politicians who he says are all hoodwinked by a massive conspiracy orchestrated by drug companies and the Centers for Disease Control to make money off of vaccines.

While the scientific consensus supports vaccination and regards it as a historic boon to public health, the crowd, like the emcee, do not put much stock in that science. Handler and the other speakers charged the CDC and its purported stooges with hiding the dangers of vaccines and destroying evidence that they are harmful. They cited no credible evidence.

“This is all being orchestrated by the drug companies, which are very close to the CDC,” Handler told the crowd in a gender-segregated room at a catering hall in the Midwood neighborhood. “The doctors all march in lockstep with the CDC. The doctors don’t think they’re marching in lockstep. They don’t understand that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, is a totally corrupt swamp. … They are criminals.”

The rally comes amid an ongoing measles outbreak sparked by low vaccination rates, particularly in the Orthodox community. According to the CDC, there have been 981 confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year. In New York City, according to the city’s Department of Health, there have been 566 confirmed measles cases since September, the highest totals since 1992. The city says most of the cases have involved members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The city required immunization in heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods earlier this year. Large Orthodox organizations have encouraged their communities to vaccinate.

“[C]ountless rabbinical figures and leaders, including leading rabbis in the Agudath Israel movement and doctors serving these communities, have repeatedly encouraged vaccination in the strongest possible terms,” reads an April statement by Agudath Israel of America, a leading haredi group. “Indeed, the overwhelming majority of children enrolled in Jewish schools are vaccinated.”

But there are some vocal holdouts.

At the rally held late Tuesday night, organized by an anti-vaccine group calling itself the United Jewish Community Council, speakers cast doubt on established medical opinion and the CDC. The crowd, which appeared to be mostly but not entirely haredi, was receptive to the message and applauded.

One attendee told another that large pharmaceutical companies like Bayer and Merck, which now produce vaccines, had collaborated with Nazi Germany. (Bayer was a division of a larger company that did collaborate with the Nazis, though now it is under different ownership. Merck, originally connected to a German company of the same name, split off into an independent American firm in 1917, before the Nazis came to power.)

“If you had bought a mutual fund in the ’30s, back in Nazi Germany, you would have done phenomenally,” the attendee remarked.

After Handler, speakers included Dr. Daniel Neides, a former vice chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute who resigned last year after writing a column questioning vaccines. (He later apologized, saying he “fully supports vaccination” and was trying to open a conversation about their safety, not question their use.)

But the bulk of the program was led by Del Bigtree, a Hollywood producer without medical qualifications who styles himself as an expert on vaccines. He directed the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe.” Last month Bigtree spoke to a similar rally in Monsey, New York, also the home of a large haredi community.

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Rabbi Eliezar Berland, Accepting Cash for “blessing” Terminally Ill, Demanding Money, Negotiating Comeback

Chasidic rabbi accused of accepting cash to bless terminally ill patients in Israeli hospitals

Eliezer Berland allegedly offered his services in exchange for 20,000 shekels

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, pictured here in in 2016 as he is led into court by police for his trial on sexual assault charges
Rabbi Eliezer Berland, pictured here in in 2016 as he is led into court by police for his trial on sexual assault charges (File photo: Flash 90)

The leader of a powerful Chasidic sect in Jerusalem has been accused of extorting money from the families of terminally ill patients in exchange for a rabbinical blessing.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 81, who heads the Shuvu Banim sect of Breslov Chasidim in Jerusalem, allegedly offered his services in exchange for 20,000 shekels (£4,250) to the relatives of patients in a vegetative state in Israeli hospitals.

He previously served jail time after being convicted of indecent acts and assault.

During the hospital visits, which were recorded on security cameras and obtained by Israel’s Channel 12, Rabbi Berland is heard demanding the money for pidyon nefesh (“redemption of the soul”).

In their desperation, some families reportedly accepted.

His representatives have denied the allegations, but videos have previously been published of him online blessing patients alongside a phone number to call.

Rabbi Berland fled Israel in 2012 after police began investigating accusations that he sexually assaulting women in the Shuvu Banim Sect.

After spending several years on the run in Morocco, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands and South Africam he was finally extradited in 2016 to Israel, where he convicted on two counts of indecent acts and one of assault and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

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ADDITIONAL READING:

Family of sex offender rabbi sued to recover missing charitable funds – report

Close relatives of a prominent rabbi convicted of sex crimes are being sued for misappropriating charitable donations for personal use, Israeli TV reported Sunday.

According to Channel 12, the Justice Ministry-approved lawsuit is seeking NIS 50 million ($13.76 million) from the wife, son and grandson of Rabbi Eliezber Berland, who heads the Shuvu Bonim religious community.

Another 11 people are also named in the suit, most of whom the report said acted as fronts.

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Sex offender rabbi ‘negotiated with deputy ministers’ for public comeback

Rabbi Eliezer Berland (L), a convicted sex offender, meets with UTJ's Meir Porush at a Beit Shemesh wedding on January  6, 2019 (courtesy)

A popular rabbi convicted of sexual offenses has been negotiating his public rehabilitation with ultra-Orthodox politicians in exchange for his followers’ political support, according to a television report on Tuesday.

After evading arrest for three years, Eliezer Berland, 80, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November 2016 on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault, as part of a plea deal. He was freed after five months, in part due to ill health.

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Rockland’s Ed Day, Ramapo’s Michael Speech, and Rabbi Chaim Schabes – Voices of Reason: The Measles and a Misguided Gathering in Monsey.

To the People Who Organized this Travesty of a Gathering, to the Owners of this Hall Who Allowed It, You Should be Paying the Bills for Anyone who Gets Sick!

To our readers:

If a person carrying the HIV virus knowingly has sexual relations with someone without first informing that person of the risks, it is a crime. HIV is spread through blood transfer and the interaction of certain bodily fluids. It is not airborne and is generally not contagious.

However, a family can choose to not vaccinate themselves or their children for measles and can walk into a crowded Costco or onto a cruise ship, infected with the measles and it is not a crime? The measles is highly contagious, is airborne and does not require a live host to pass from one person to another. Why are the actions of this family not viewed as criminal?

Perhaps the difference is what it takes to spread the disease? HIV requires intimate contact, generally speaking and measles only requires that you go out in public. Is that the difference?

A family that chooses not to vaccinate its children, that then infects others should be held fully and completely accountable for the damage to those who become ill. The measles is life threatening. It has financial implications. It has health implications. It is now costing the United States health insurance industry millions of dollars. It is costing public welfare like Medicare and Medicaid in the tens of millions.

In the year 2000, the Measles was virtually eradicated from the United States.

We have moved centuries backwards and Rabbis, attorneys couching their arguments in fundamental freedoms and wayward knuckleheads named Bigtree are preaching the virtues of anti-vaxing and its already debunked theory of a connection between the vaccine and autism.

What about the fundamental rights of the rest of the population to be able to travel out in public and feel safe. What about new mothers with children who are too young for the vaccine? And what about people who are finding that the vaccines from the late 60’s are not protecting them. And finally, what if the virus mutates, a very real possibility.

The priorities here are upside down and it has nothing to do with illegal immigrants!

Rabbi At Anti-Vaccination Symposium Blames ‘Illegals’ For Spreading Disease

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Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish families gathered in a catering hall Monday night in the Rockland County hamlet of Monsey, where they heard anti-vaccine crusaders claim that inoculations are the real health risk, and that measles can help produce growth spurts and prevent everything from cancer to heart disease.

Dr. Larry Palevsky, who runs the Newport Wellness Center in Long Island, a practice that specializes in “holistic pediatric services,” asked onlookers to question whether there was actually a measles outbreak, or if people were actually catching measles from the vaccine itself. Or, perhaps, doctors have been misdiagnosing other illnesses as the measles.

“Is there a bad lot of vaccines?“ Palevsky asked the crowd. “Is it possible that these lots are bad? Is it something other than the unvaccinated children?”

The symposium, hosted by a group calling itself the “United Jewish Community Council,” was advertised through robocalls and fliers sent around WhatsApp groups. Getting wind of the rally, Rockland County officials sent out a desperate message urging people not to attend.

“This type of propaganda endangers the health and safety of children within our community,” County Executive Ed Day, Ramapo Supervisor Michael Speech, and Rabbi Chaim Schabes wrote in a joint statement. “It is unfortunate that these outsiders are targeting our community and attacking our right of self-determination…We urge our residents to continue to ignore these attempts to exploit our differences and ask that they stand together.”

But the message did little to dissuade hundreds of people from showing up, mostly Orthodox Jewish families from all over the region; some bussed into Monsey from as far away as Brooklyn and Lakewood, New Jersey.

Crowds trickled in at first, but by 8:30 p.m. the ballroom was packed with hundreds of spectators, with women and men separated by a cloth partition. (The podium was in front of the men’s side, while women initially had to make do with a video projection. After some protest from non-Orthodox women there, organizers pulled back the curtain a few feet so women could see the stage.)

Just one of the event’s five speakers, who were introduced as “distinguished personalities” and the “cream of humanity’s crop,” was from the Orthodox community. Rabbi Hillel Handler, who has likened vaccination to “child sacrifice” in the past, told the crowd that according to “medical research,” if you catch “measles, mumps and chickenpox, your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, and strokes goes down 60 percent.”

He also said that Hasidim were being scapegoated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who he called “a very, very sneaky fellow” and a German.

“The Jews are our misfortune,” he said, bringing up how Jews were stigmatized in Nazi Germany. “We Hasidim have been chosen as the target in order to distract from the virulent diseases that are sweeping through the city from illegals.”

The other speakers were figures from the national secular anti-vaccination circuit, who traded in long-debunked and fraudulent claims that vaccines cause autism or other autoimmune disorders, while painting measles as a trivial childhood illness that can give children a growth spurt or protect them from cancers.

D.C. lobbyist Greg Mitchell took the stage after Rabbi Handler. Mitchell has pushed for such causes as the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill signed into law late last year by President Trump. Mitchell, according to a report from the Daily Beast, was booted from those efforts when organizers found out he was also lobbying for the Church of Scientology, and that the church was potentially trying to convert formerly incarcerated people through a nonprofit it runs.

“I will be your voice in Washington, I’ll make it will help you carry your message; I will stand next to you,” Mitchell said, admitting not to know much about the vaccine safety issue and deferring to the expertise of other speakers. “I’m your lobbyist, I’m here to help you.”

Palevsky then questioned the reality of a measles outbreak, while warning the crowd about the measles vaccine. “Hundreds of thousands if not millions of mothers…have witnessed children regressing after they get the MMR…the children stop talking, they don’t look at you, they start flapping their arms, they start banging their head,” he said.

According to New York City and Rockland Health Departments, the vast majority of people who’ve gotten sick with measles have been unvaccinated. In Rockland County, 92 percent of people were either completely unvaccinated or had an known vaccination status, according to the county’s health department. In New York City, 92 percent of children who got sick and 72 percent of adults were unvaccinated as of April 24, according to a city Department of Health advisory sent out to health care providers.

The final speakers were two of the biggest names on the anti-vaccination circuit. Andrew Wakefield, the author of the fraudulent 1998 paper published then retracted in the Lancet that claimed there was a link between the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine and autism by looking at 12 autistic children, spoke to the crowd via videoconference.

“I want to reassure you, I have never been involved in scientific fraud,” he said. “What happened to me is what happens to doctors who threaten the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies and who threaten government policy in the interest of their patients and that is what happened.”

Embedded video

Gwynne Hogan@GwynneFitz

Andrew Wakefield joined the crowd via ominous video conference:

See Gwynne Hogan’s other Tweets

After Wakefield’s study was found to contain factual inaccuracies and ethical violations, investigative journalist Brian Deer revealed that Wakefield had also been receiving payments from an attorney trying to sue the vaccine manufacturer.

Finally, Del Bigtree, TV producer-turned-anti-vaccination YouTube host, addressed the crowd.

“This could destroy our species…They wanna talk about the measles,” Bigtree shouted to the exuberant crowd. “I wanna talk about autism, I want to talk about the greatest epidemic of our lifetime and all the other chronic illnesses that are skyrocketing in this country.”

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Williamsburg, Brooklyn and a Passover Plague – Get Your Children Vaccinated or Don’t Attend Seders with Others

Signs warn of the dangers of a persistent measles outbreak in Williamsburg.

A measles outbreak is dividing families in this Orthodox Jewish community. Passover could make it worse

 

New York (CNN)As one of the holiest Jewish celebrations of the year arrives, families in the Hasidic section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, face a dilemma.

“Say you have six kids that want to come to the Seder, with all the grandchildren,” said Eli Banash, 32, a member of the Orthodox community who works in Williamsburg.

“Grandmother wants everybody to come. One family didn’t vaccinate the kids. Five did. The five families are saying, ‘We’re not coming unless they don’t come!’ With Passover, it’s going to intensify.”

persistent measles outbreak has hit this ultra-Orthodox enclave and led city officials to declare a public health emergency.

Passover, which begins at sundown Friday and ends April 27, marks the Exodus story from the Bible and is celebrated with large gatherings and ceremonial meals. But community leaders and health officials fear the holiday may further fuel the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Already, 359 cases of measles have been confirmed in Brooklyn and Queens since October, mostly in Williamsburg. The outbreak began when, according to health officials, an unvaccinated child became infected with the illness while visiting Israel.

“The concern is that with Passover and increased travel, we’re going to be putting more people at risk,” said New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

Across the country, measles cases have jumped to the second-highest level in a quarter century, with 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Because of measles’ long incubation period, we know this outbreak will get worse before it gets better,” Barbot said in a statement this week.

A pamphlet directed at Orthodox communities helped fuel the fear of vaccines

In Hasidic Williamsburg, bearded men walk hurriedly in long frock coats crowned by black hats. Women in ankle-length skirts push strollers on crowded sidewalks and Hasidic boys with spiraling side curls dart through the streets in bunches.

In an insular community where some don’t take kindly to intrusion, residents blame the outbreak largely on a hardline minority opposed to vaccinations, or anti-vaxers. The close-knit neighborhood — where residents explain the insularity as a way of preserving the community’s identity — has seen heightened tension in some families, especially as Passover preparations got underway.

Blima Marcus, a nurse and past president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association, has been holding small workshops with the nurses in Brooklyn and New Jersey to educate members of the ultra-Orthodox community who are fearful of vaccines.

The fears were fueled in part by a slick 40-page booklet being distributed in Orthodox enclaves about the dangers of vaccines. The booklet is directly aimed at the Orthodox community, partly written in Hebrew and filled with snippets from the Torah. Yet Marcus and Orthodox Jewish leaders say there is nothing in Jewish law that prohibits vaccinations.

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