SHOCKING TWEETS AND THE OPTICS OF IT ALL… Anti-Semitism
(underlined portion loosely translated)
“We Identify with the hurt of all of the Iranians. We are Jews of the Torah, we pray that Zionist Israel will topple at the first opportunity.”
All Jews Should be Speaking Out About The Voices of Our Own Dissenters, Those Who Wish the Very Destruction of our Jewish Homeland and Those Who Boycott Solidarity Events
This Post is Not-Anti-Semitic, it is Painfully Self-Aware.
The insidious problem of anti-Semitism, with its complicated history and underpinnings, is a problem exacerbated not only by outside forces; but also from within the Jewish community itself. This is not victim-shaming but a series of observations.
Outspoken Jewish organizations that choose to “boycott” events like the Brooklyn Bridge solidarity march prove, in no uncertain terms, that they believe that not all Jews are created equal. Disagreement with the message of one of the sponsors should have been left on one side of the bridge as everyone walked across, to be picked up at a later time and place, if indeed, this was a Jewish solidarity event, uniting us all against anti-Semitism. Otherwise, it is simply an example of the incarnation of hatred within the Jewish community, a poor example if you are trying to unite Jews against a common enemy. Sadly, this same group received widespread coverage as the outspoken face of anti-Semitism and Jewish solidarity; and in reality they were and continue to be anything but.
In Rockland County, New York, as political bigwigs like Kristen Gillebrand, Governor Cuomo and AG Tish James were allegedly “supporting the Jewish battle against anti-Semitism” they were only doing so if that anti-Semitism was directed at the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities. They did not offer to meet with the standard bearer of Judaism, mainstream vocal Jewish and non-Jewish activists within the County. Instead they met with a single contingent, and not one that represents the majority of Rockland’s Jews.
As Jewish Federation of Rockland was voicing its concerns with a rally at the Jewish Community Center, a worthy cause, it was unwilling to address the fundamental concerns of ordinary people whatever the religion within the County. Those concerns are genuine and should not be belittled for the sake of political clout. Rather, those far more eloquent than this writer, have an obligation to come up with solutions to real problems that do not diminish the voices of those who do not provide a financial donation, contribution or political voting bloc.
Childhood Sexual Abuse and its Aftermath, “Unbelievable” and a Rabbi on Trial…
The following is being posted with permission in its entirety from the website of Larry Noodles. We encourage you to view the article and the website by clicking here. The permission granted should not be deemed an endorsement of our site by the author.
The article, “State v. Daniel Greer – Day Three” is a summary from the trial of Rabbi Daniel Greer, affectionate referred to by Larry Noodles as “The Goat.” This is explained in an earlier article.
Day Three is a summary the testimony of Lisa Melillo, an expert in forensic interviews of victims of sexual abuse, a summary of the testimony of Shira Mirlis, the wife of one of the victims and a summary of the testimony of Dr. Gabrial Fagan, an expert on Orthodox Jewish child molesters. It is being re-posted here by LM in the context of new developments at a number of acclaimed institutions of religious learning, now confronting abuses that occurred within their midst.
Childhood sexual abuse is complicated, devastating and has lifelong implications. As described in a recent Netflix television series, “Unbelievable” which is a true account of a serial rapist – [altogether unrelated to a religious community] a victim walks around with the aftermath of sexual abuse for a lifetime as if carrying a bullet fragment in the spine. Nothing could be more accurate. The relevance of that series to this article lies with the victim, Marie, who was destroyed not only by her rapist but by the handling of her case by the investigators, the responses of those she trusted and the recriminations that followed.
Childhood victims of any sexual assault are forever altered. Their sexual encounters are never completely healthy following abuse, no matter how much therapy a victim undergoes. And most childhood victims do not get therapy.
The nature of childhood sexual abuse is further complicated and made deeply tragic when the abuser is of the same sex as the abused. Not only does the guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-loathing and diminished self-esteem become part of a victims’ psyche; but also in victims of same gender abuse, the victimized is forced to confront the questions of sexuality that accompany that abuse.
For communities that have chosen to hide the abuse, childhood victims are victimized, repeatedly, over and over, by each and every person who knows, knew or suspected and said nothing. The complacence, if not disgraceful cover-ups within that community, are daily reminders, constant betrayals. The community enables the abuser and leaves the abused with a terminal sense of demoralization.
Children very rarely will report abuse that has not actually happened. Sometimes those children do not understand the nature of what has occurred until they are older, when the “bullet to the spine” is so deeply ingrained in their persona that confronting it risks changing a familiar reality. Adult victims of childhood sexual violence who have lived a lifetime with memories of abuse know that there are moments when the nightmares they confront provide comfort. An alternative reality risks leaving a frightening void.
Children do not know enough to invent sexual confrontations that did not occur. They are innocent enough to not always know they have been abused. Children of insular communities generally are not taught sexuality until they are in early adulthood, and trying to tie in childhood memories with young adult realities can be confusing, unsettling and overwhelmingly terrifying. And then there is the guilt and the shame.
For those of you who are reading this and engaging in the very same cover-ups intended to protect the good name of your community, understand that you are equally as complicit in the abuse as if you had committed it yourself. For members of the justice system, those whose jobs it is to investigate these cases, understand that children do not make up stories of uncomfortable sexual encounters. Tread lightly. You are dealing with the fragile psyche of a child or the shattered life of an adult victim.
Children can misread signs but there is a fine line. Treading lightly on the side of the victimized child is often the better side of valor. Children do not have enough information to invent those stories, particularly not children of religious communities.
For those tasked with hearing new cases that are being filed by childhood victims, do not take your task lightly. The courage of a victim does not come easy. It is like being dragged in gravel while tied to a truck moving at 100 miles per hour. It is agonizing, harrowing, humiliating and can seem endless. Think of the sound of nails scratching sharply on a blackboard, a diamond needle scratching along the vinyl of a record album, and understand you have been tasked with hearing a story that should be disturbing to hear but is far nearly unendurable to tell. Please take your responsibility with the depth of gravity the children and adults deserve.
For a victim the experience of telling the story is heart-rending and scarring and jarring and summoning that level of strength is nothing short of heroic. Children deserve better from our society by not having their stories ignored.
For children or parents of children who are being victimized, please come forward. Your time is now. You will be paving the way to a brighter future for yourself or your child. If you have lived in silence, don’t be afraid of your new reality. You are finally able to seek justice. Take the reins in your hand and ride with them.
There will never be light, just fewer less frightening shadows.
In the case of the State of Connecticut v. Daniel Greer the State presented the testimony of Lisa Melillo. Melillo is an expert in forensics interviews of victims of sexual abuse. Melillo discussed “delayed disclosure.” She testified that children have fear of not being believed or fear of family reaction or fear of getting into trouble. Children may not know that they are being abused, they don’t have sexual knowledge. Children have loyalty to their abuser and love their abuser. In most cases the children know their abuser well. There are very few cases of “stranger danger.” Most cases the sexual abuse occurs as part of a relationship with the abuser, separate from the abuse, it could be a family member. Children fear that they could suffer economic consequences, that their father will be thrown in jail, the family will be broken up, they will have no money. Melillo said children fear going into foster care if they report the abuse.
Melillo said teenage victims don’t perceive themselves as victims. They can be tricked into thinking that they are not being abused. They think that they are in a legitimate relationship. Males are socialized not to be victims. The stigma of homosexuality prevents victims from making a report.
Melillo testified that there is a power relationship that goes on with sexual abuse. The adult has more power over the child than the child has over the adult. We socialize children to obey adults, ie., police officers, teachers, etc… Children have the fear of punishment, or may even be threatened overtly by the abuser. The child perceives the adult as someone who can get them in trouble. The teaching method of “good touch bad touch” to teach children about abuse is no longer used by therapists. A bad touch can feel good to the child. The child is conflicted, as the body is responding in a pleasurable way.
Melillo testified that children “accommodate” the abuse by keeping it a secret. The children feel shame and embarrassment. They feel that they are damaged. Children try to protect themselves, everything will be OK if I just don’t tell. They protect themselves by maintaining a secret. Kids don’t have the resources to help themselves and they feel helpless and trapped. The kids feel they have to accommodate the relationship.
Melillo testified that after kids make a report they have a hard time trying to pin down the details of individual episodes, especially if the abuse has been going on for a long period of time. They may remember the first or last incident. If the abuse has been going on for years it is difficult for them to pin down times, dates and locations. Melillo testified that the children may share other activities with the adult. The sexual abuse may be one part of the relationship. The child also has positive interactions with the adult.
Willie the Dow cross examined Melillo. The Dow pointed out that she testified 36 times in Court, and in each case she testified for the State. Melillo said she would testify for the defense but no defense attorney ever asked her. The Dow pointed out that some people make false reports. The Dow asked Melillio whether the majority of Melillo’s 600 forensic interviews were with young children and not teenagers. Melillo said a large portion of her interviews are with adolescents and teenagers. The Dow obviously didn’t do his homework, he didn’t score any points. The Dow is down, its a bear market in the Goat stock exchange. The Dow pointed out to Melillo that she did not meet with the victim nor did she meet with the Goat. Why would anyone want to meet the Goat?
Melillo testified that the first sexual assault or sexual experience is the most memorable. The Dow asked her if someone left out crucial information in their report of their first assault whether that would that be important. The Dow tried to hammer Mirlis about the fact that in court he mentioned that the Goat touched his crotch on the first assault while in the police report Mirlis did not mention anything about the Goat touching his crotch. The Dow asked Melillo whether “leaving a crucial part about the crotch touch” was important. If this is the best defense that the Dow has for the Goat the State of Connecticut should start to get a jail cell ready for the Goat.
The Dow asked Melillo about whether the victim’s claim would be valid if the victim invited the abuser to a Christening or a bris, do you know what a bris is?” Melillo smiled and said she knew what a bris was and nodded her head. The Dow didn’t have to Dowsplain a bris, although I believe the Dow wanted to explain it to her and show off how educated he has become on Jewish customs.
The Dow made Melillo admit that some factors can be evidence of abuse while the same factors can be evidence of no abuse. Honoring the abuser or severing ties with the abuser can both be evidence of abuse. The Dow didn’t score any points with his cross examination.
Shira Mirlis was called up next to the witness stand by the State of Connecticut. She testified that she is the wife of Eli Mirlis, she has three kids, she went to seminary and then to Israel. Her relationship evolved very quickly with Eli when she met Eli in Israel. Shira testified that Eli told her that he was molested by a “rabbi” when she first met him in 2005. He said he was “molested by the rabbi of the yeshiva of new haven, he was crying when he said this.”
Shira testified that the day Eli was supposed to go back to the United States with Shira he got a call that his father had passed away. Eli was devastated and was very worried about his siblings. Eli was 18 and Shira was 19. Eli was the oldest of six other siblings. Eli and Shira went to the United States and went to the funeral and Eli sat shiva. The goat was at the funeral and may have been at the shiva. After 30 days there was shloshim. Shira was not present at the shloshim. Shira testified that Eli was very protective of his siblings during the thirty days before shloshim.
Shira testified that in 2007 she and Eli got engaged and planned a December wedding, on December 16th. The summer that Eli’s father died the Goat called Eli and said he wanted to meet him to discuss something. The Goat told Eli to meet him at the Branford Motel. Eli told Shira that he wasn’t sure what the Goat wanted. Eli assured Shira that he wasn’t going to let anything happen to him when he was with the goat. After Eli went to the hotel Eli called Shira and asked her to come to the Branford Motel, after the Goat had left. When she talked to him she knew something happened between the Goat and Eli, she could tell by the sound of his voice. Shira went to the Motel and Eli was crying and told her something had happened. Eli didn’t want to discuss the details about what happened between him and the Goat. Shira said Eli had sexual activity with the Goat at the motel and Eli was upset and regretted it. Shira wanted to be supportive of Eli and didn’t press him on all the details. Shira didn’t want Eli to go to the motel with the Goat in the first place.
Shira testified that the Goat was at her wedding, he signed the marriage contract, the ketuba, but she didn’t see him sign it. Shira testified that there were 400 people at her wedding. She said she had no interaction with the Goat. She said that there was a mechitza in the wedding hall, separating the men from the women. She testified that the men dance with the men and the women dance with the women at a Jewish wedding. She testified that she didn’t trust Daniel Greer. She said that she kept a close eye on Eli when he interacted with the Goat. She said she didn’t understand the relationship between Eli and the Goat but she dealt with it the best she could.
Shira testified that she had a sheva brachot, a party after the wedding, at Avi Hack’s house in New Haven. Larry Noodles was at this sheva brachot in December of 2007. Nobody called me to the witness stand. If I was called to the witness stand I would attest that the Goat stopped in the sheva brachot for about two minutes and left. I found it strange that the Goat didn’t stay as I knew Mirlis was a former student. I would think that the Goat would want to stay at the party as he was Eli’s rabbi. I didn’t know Eli at the time. I was asked to attend the party because they needed a minyan for the sheva brachot, and Avi couldn’t scrounge together enough people in the community to come by to make the minyan. Some of Eli’s friends from the goat high school were there.
Shira testified that after she got married she went to New Haven during the Jewish holidays and occasionally on Shabbos. She testified that she fought with Eli about going to New Haven. She said she “couldn’t look at” the Goat. Shira testified that she almost died giving birth to her first son, she hemorrhaged. Shira was in the hospital. She didn’t realize that Eli chose the goat as the sandek and Dov as the mohel. Shira was very upset that Eli chose Dov and the goat to be part of the bris. She knew that the Goat paid for the bris so she went along with it. She said that Eli was making very little money at the time. They were both about 20 years old. She didn’t like the goat holding her son. Shira testified that she had two miscarriages before her son was born, and she didn’t want the goat to touch her son, after all she went through to have a baby. Why is it so easy for rich old Goats to manipulate young people with no money?
Shira testified that Eli eventually told her the gory details of his relationship with the Goat. She said that the Goat and Eli look normal in public. She said Eli told her that “he didn’t like the goat going into him, and mostly the Goat gave him head but when he gave the goat head he wouldn’t let the goat cum in his mouth.” She had a very sick and disgusted look on her face when she explained this to the jury. She said that Ele cried when he told her these details.
The Dow cross examined Shira. The Dow asked Shira why she didn’t want “Dove” Greer involved in the bris. Shira corrected the Dow and said “Dov” Greer not “Dove.” The Dow said there is “Ezi, is that how you pronounce it, and the Hack, and the operation, you know what I am talking about.” The Dow asked Shira if the Jewish community all ate at the same kosher stores, all went to the same shuls and was not unlike another “ethnic community, such as Wooster Square, St. Michael’s Church, Pepe’s Pizza, you know what I am talking about?” Shira looked at the Dow as if he was from planet Mars.
At one point during the cross examination of Shira the Goat pulled the Dow aside and they had a little sidebar whisper conference at counsel’s table. After they finished the Judge asked whether there was any other issues the Dow wanted to raise. Willie the Dow told Judge Alander that he wanted to read a passage of St Paul from the Corinthians. The Judge asked the Dow how that would be relevant. The Goat looked angry. I can’t believe that the Goat requested that his Attorney read a passage from the Corinthians. The Goat would never allow a copy of the Corinthians in his Goat shul.
The Goat is not losing his religion. Even though I had reported that Willie the Dow told Judge Alander that the Goat had surgery scheduled on September 30th, which falls on Rosh Hashana. I heard wrong. The Dow wanted to introduce medical records of the Goat’s prior hernia operation which was on September 30th of some year, which may not have been on Rosh Hashana.
The Dow asked Shira whether she ever told Eli to report the Goat to the police. Shira said she always told Eli to report the Goat to the police. The Dow asked Shira whether she knew that there was a police department in Lakewood, where she lived at the time. The state objected. Objection SUSTAINED
The Dow asked whether Shira ate at the Goat house when she came to New Haven after 2008. Shira interjected that she “RARELY” went to the Goat’s house for meals. The look on her face is one of revulsion when she talks about the Goat. She is very convincing. The jury was riveted by her testimony.
The Dow introduced a copy of the Gan Gathering ad book, showing the ad placed by Mirlis. The Gan gatherings were fundraising dinners that the Goat had every year. I went to many of these gatherings. I have been looking for old ad books for historical purposes, if you have any drop me a line. The Dow asked Shira whether she ever placed an ad on the Gan’s ad book for their “annual anniversary event.” They were fundraising events not “anniversary events.” The Dow is down another 100 points on the world markets.
The State called Dr. Gabriel Fagan, an expert on Orthodox Jewish child molesters, to the witness stand. Fagan graduated from John Jay University and Yeshiva University. Dr. Fagan testified that he works with victims of child abuse as well as perpetrators of abuse, and provides counseling. Dr. Fagan was dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a black jacket, a long brown beard, glasses and a black velvet yarmulke. Dr. Fagan stated that he has testified in a Jewish rabbinical court but never in secular court. The State’s attorney said to Fagan, “Obviously you’re Jewish…” Dr. Fagan interjected, “most people think I am Amish.”
Willie the Dow introduced himself to Fagan before the Court proceedings in the bleachers. The Dow asked Fagan whether he knew what New Haven was famous for. Fagan shook his head. The Dow told him that New Haven was famous for its pizza. The Dow told Fagan that “you people should get out more you would like the pizza.”
Fagan testified that not all Orthodox Jews have beards, he said some don’t have beards for business purposes, others for hygeine purposes. Some see it as law or a common custom. He said most Orthodox Jews wear black jackets and white shirts, as they are very “fashionable.” Some people in the courtroom laughed. Fagan said his clothing is simple, and related to issues of modesty.
Dr. Fagan testified about Orthodox schools and why the sexes are separated. He said that most Orthodox Jews won’t date prior to marraige. There is a strong culture not to engage in pre-marital sex. When you put a bunch of teenagers together there is a risk of pre-marital sex that could lead to mixed dancing. I added the mixed dancing. Fagan didn’t mention mixed dancing.
Fagan said boys and girls learn differently which is a good reason to keep them separated for educational purposes. He said this is a well accepted custom for thousands of years, and Jewish law. He said that the difference between the Orthodox and the non Orthodox is the acceptance of the oral law. There is a way to do everything from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. There are 613 commandments, that are expanded on in the oral law, which covers marriage, monetary laws, weddings, bris. The Torah is seen as a blueprint on orthodox life, with the oral law providing additional explanation and commentaries on the meaning of all the laws. The laws apply from the day you are born until the day you die. For Orthodox Jews everything involves community, men need to pray three times a day, they need a quorum of ten individuals, you are always involved in the community, for a school you need a community. You have civic patrols that work with police, you have the EMTs, women who help other women who give birth, when you are sick there are communal institutions that help you, this is what it means to be an Orthodox Jew. The community is extremely central to Orthodox Jewish practice. The Rabbi is the master of ceremonies, in smaller communities a rabbi and his Rebbetzin will be the quarterback for everything in the community. Dr. Fagan testified that without the rabbi in the community there would be chaos. You need rabbis to serve as the conduit as to religious information and guidance.
Dr. Fagan has little coke bottle glasses and speaks quickly with a New Yawk accent. Fagan reminded me of Woody Allen in his rabbi costume in Anne Hall. Dr. Fagan testified that the Orthodox Jewish community has been about ten to fifteen years behind the secular world with regard to issues of sexual abuse in the Jewish community, but today many Jews have written books, formed organizations, and have addressed this issue. Faga said he was aware of these issues in 2002 because he was in the Jewish community as he grew up Orthodox. Formal sex ed was not done in 2002-2003, the time Mirlis alleged that he was raped by the Goat. Fagan said his parents were very open minded and he received information from his parents about the ‘birds and the bees’ as a youngster. He said not as many Orthodox Jewish parents were as open minded.
Fagan said he advises parents that their kids are going to learn about sex one way or another, its better that they learn from their parents rather than someone else Dr. Fagan testified that most Orthodox Jews don’t have televisions and they filter the internet. Jews are highly segregated and not exposed to sexual issues. Jews don’t even have the words to use to speak about sexual topics. There is not even a Yiddish word for sexual abuse.
Dr. Fagan testified that the topic of his PhD dissertation was the issue of why victims did not come forward for a long period of time after abuse. Dr Fagan stated that there is a Yiddish word for the backside, the “tuchos” and most parents use the words “front tushie” and “back tushie” but there are no words for penis or vagina. If children don’t know these words they don’t know that they are being abused if they are touched in this part of their bodies.
Fagan testified that there is a strong focus against “gossip mongering” in the Jewish world. If you speak evil of others you can violate 8-12 commandments. It is inculcated from early on not to speak evil or make accusations against others. Even in kindergarten it is taught not to talk about others, even if someone steals your blocks, you are not supposed to tell the teacher who stole your blocks.
Dr. Fagan testified about how Rabbis are given the highest honor and respect in the Jewish community. The Rabbis are your teachers and as you get older, such as in high school, you may spend 16 hours a day in school. They are your mentors, your guides and teachers, more so than your own parents. Rabbis are part of the connection of chain of events to the Jewish religion, throughout their lives.
Dr. Fagan testified that religious and spiritual conflicts are amplified when the student is abused by a Rabbi who they are close to. The trust is violated. Trust is a central theme in life from the time you are a baby. The relationship between student and rabbi is based on trust, there is reverence, an expectation that this person has additional knowledge to help them in life, when this trust is violated and rocked, the trust gets eroded. A victim is going to have a hard time in social groups, to engage in romantic relationships. If you can’t trust your partner it is difficult to function in a relationship, there is jealousy. Betrayal is another common problem, a crisis of faith, an individual who is part of the community and has a family, and then you have someone who represents that religion and spirituality, it makes the victim question the entire religion. The sense of betrayal comes not just from the person who violated the trust but also a betrayal from God.
Dr. Fagan testified that if someone who is running the place is stealing your wallet, who do you tell? If the Rabbi is running the place and he molests who do you report it to? The dynamic of traumatic sexualization gets amplified. If you have your first sexual encounter in not a typical way, if your first exposure to sexuality is experienced as “icky” or “yukky” it can lead to problems, sexual acting out, excessive pornography. Because masturbation is frowned upon in Jewish world, someone may struggle with sexual self control, he may engage in prostitutes, pornography, etc…
Dr. Fagan testified that in 2006 there was nothing public in the Jewish world on sexual abuse. The first victims who came out felt alone, they felt they were the only ones who were victimized, they got shamed by the community. Victim shaming. If someone came out their entire family was deemed undesirable for marriage. It would effect marriagability. With sexual abuse there is a fear of being seen as “used goods” that people don’t want to talk about.
Fagan testified that a child who is abused will not run away, our brains are like swiss cheese, we look at the good and try not to look at the bad, to justify staying in the house. The Goat did not look happy during this part of the testimony, he pulled the Dow aside, the Dow objected and asked that the testimony be striken. Dow’s Motion to strike testimony DENIED
The Dow cross examined Dr. Fagan. The Dow said that Orthodox communities are not all the same, they may be different whether you are in Passiac or in Crown Heights. The Goat didn’t look happy watching a fellow Orthodox Jew rat him out on the witness stand, spreading loshen hora. Fagan is worse than Larry Noodles! Dr. Fagan told the Dow that most Orthodox schools don’t allow radios, but if they do it is only AM radio rather than FM radio, so they can listen to the Yankees.
The Dow asked Dr. Fagan about rabbinical court. The Dow asked whether Jews are supposed to go to Rabbinical court. The Dow implied that Mirlis was somehow deficient because he didn’t go to a rabbinical court to report abuse, and he went to secular court instead. Nobody in the Jewish world today goes to rabbinical court in order to report sexual abuse.
During the break I spoke with Dr. Fagan. I asked him where he lived. He said he lived in Woodmere, New York. I asked him whether he knew Dov Greer, who lived not too far from Woodmere. Fagan said he never heard of Dov Greer. I pointed to the Goat and said that Dov was his son. The Goat heard our conversation and looked at Fagan to see whether Fagan knew Dov. The Goat hasn’t seen his children in a couple of years. The Goat burned that bridge down a long time ago.
We’re marching on, from the Criminal Court at 235 Church Street, New Haven, on to a conviction without a reasonable doubt, to the outer edges of the flat earth, we’re marching bitterly, goat cliff after goat cliff we are conquering! Yechi Noodles! Moshiach Now!
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Nearly 200 people attended the We, Too, Are YU March for LGBTQ Representation this past Sunday in New York City. Marchers wore “We, Too, Are YU” t-shirts and pride flag pins and carried signs and pride flags with the Star of David as they marched from nearby Bennett Park to the Yeshiva University campus.
Yeshiva University, an institution affiliated with Modern Orthodox Judaism, has struggled to reconcile biblical prohibitions of homosexuality with its increasingly diverse student body. Within Orthodox Judaism, some rabbinic opinions condemn homosexuality while others attempt to offer acceptance and tolerance to religious LGBTQ individuals. Past events at Yeshiva University have reflected both approaches, underscoring the institution’s struggle to resolve the issue of LGBTQ representation on campus.
Although organized by the College Democrats, an official Yeshiva University club, the event was not approved by the university’s Office of Student Life. Two local Jewish LGBTQ organizations, Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth, helped sponsor and organize the event. The College Democrats are demanding permission for a Pride Alliance club and LGBTQ events, a statement from Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman condemning homophobic rhetoric, the appointment of an administrator whose role it is to promote diversity on campus, and sessions about tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ students at orientations.
In a recent statement, Berman wrote that “Yeshiva University strives to be a nurturing and inclusive environment for all our students, ensuring that every individual is treated with respect and dignity.” Berman has put together a committee of rabbis and educators “to address matters of inclusion on our undergraduate college campuses, which includes LGBTQ+.” The committee, he says, will “work on formulating a series of educational platforms and initiatives that will generate awareness and sensitivity and help our students develop a thoughtful, halakhic, value-driven approach to their interactions with the wide spectrum of people who are members of our community.” The statement links to Yeshiva University’s non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, and says that “the University is committed to ensuring that no member of our administration, faculty, or student body harasses or discriminates against any student or employee.”
Mordechai Levovitz, founder and clinical director of Jewish Queer Youth, noted this statement in his speech at the march. He and other members of the LGBTQ community have criticized Berman for not including any LGBTQ individuals on his committee. During the rally, Levovitz led chants of “nothing about us without us” to protest Berman’s decision.
In the hours before the march, Yeshiva University students, alumni, and staff, as well as representatives from Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth, spoke to a crowd of supporters. Molly Meisels, president of the College Democrats and lead organizer of the march, came out as LGBTQ during the opening speech. “I’m not doing this as an ally, I’m doing this as a bisexual member of the community I am advocating for. I march because I didn’t feel comfortable coming out at YU until right now,” she said, prompting applause from the crowd.
A major frustration within the LGBTQ community is the offensive rhetoric often used by students and professors in classes, particularly those relating to Jewish law. “In my first few weeks at school, I was in a class where the rabbi said that sexual relationships such as incest, bestiality and homosexuality are all sins punishable by death in the Torah,” said Courtney Marks, a march organizer and a student at Yeshiva University’s Stern College, in a speech before the march. “He spoke as if people like me are evil and as if our lives do not matter. This is why I march!” she added, holding back tears.
Molly Meisels (left) and Courtney Marks (right) at the pre-march speeches in Bennett Park. (Credit: Leo Skier)
“I get paid to go to YU,” Joy Ladin, an openly transgender professor at Stern College, told the crowd in her speech. “But queer students are paying to be trashed in classes, to have humanity denied, to have halacha warped around values of homophobia and xenophobia and transphobia, rather than values that recognize that every kind of human being is created in the image of God.”
Ezra Felder, now studying at Columbia University, transferred out of Yeshiva University because of the intolerance he felt as an LGBTQ individual. “It became too much for me to stay in YU as a queer Jew,” he told Moment. “It was really difficult to be in a place where my queerness wasn’t able to be explored.”
In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”
“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.
Jay Goldberg, who attended Yeshiva from 1980 to 1984, says that he endured years of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse from Finkelstein. The rabbi, he said, forced him and others to wrestle with him while he became sexually aroused, and demanded that they hit him repeatedly. Neither Goldberg nor Singer ever reported Finkelstein’s behavior to the school; when one student, identified in a future lawsuit as John Doe 14, finally did, in 1986, Finkelstein allegedly pulled him out of class in a rage, shoved him against a wall, punched him, and threatened him with expulsion. The school took no action during those years other than removing Finkelstein’s office door. In 1991, he was promoted to principal.
During those same decades, another Yeshiva rabbi, Macy Gordon, was also reportedly sexually abusing students. One accuser, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 2, claims that Gordon sodomized him in his dorm room in 1980. The rabbi “said he was going to punish me for missing class,” the accuser told me. “He laid me across his lap and took my toothbrush and plowed it in and out of my rectum, and it burned. I remember it burned for a very long time after. I can’t go back in time and tell you what I was thinking, but I can only tell you that it lasts forever.” He told me that Gordon also sprayed Chloraseptic on his genitals, remarking that he showed “signs,” by which Gordon meant signs of puberty. Later that year, John Doe 2 tried to kill himself.
In total, Finkelstein and Gordon are suspected of hundreds of acts of sexual abuse at Yeshiva, though they never faced any legal repercussions. Finkelstein was discreetly forced out of Yeshiva in 1995 but quickly found work as the dean of a Jewish day school in Florida and later as the director general of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, although allegations of abuse followed him to each of these new positions.
Gordon, for his part, enjoyed a thirty-plus-year career at Yeshiva.He also eventually moved to Jerusalem, where, according to the New York Times, he served alongside Finkelstein on the advisory board of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization promoting Orthodox Judaism to liberal American Jews. (The current president of the organization claims that neither rabbi had been involved with the group “to my knowledge.”) In 2002, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor—a celebrity dermatologist whose advertisements were a staple of New York City subway cars for decades—set up a $250,000 scholarship fund in Gordon’s name for future generations of Yeshiva students. (Zizmor claims he knew nothing of the abuse at the time, and when allegations surfaced, he maintained that Gordon was “a great teacher, a great man.”)
In 2013, thirty-four of Finkelstein’s and Gordon’s victims—including Singer, Goldberg, John Doe 14, and John Doe 2—filed a $680 million lawsuit against Yeshiva, alleging that sexual misconduct occurred for decades with the knowledge of the administration and without recourse for victims or punishment for the perpetrators. But by the time the suit was filed, the statute of limitations had expired, and the case was dismissed.
This past February, however, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed the Child Victims Act (C.V.A.), which modifies the state’s statute of limitations such that many cases previously dismissed because of the length of time since the alleged crime can now be relitigated. As of this writing, attorneys for the former Yeshiva students—now numbering forty-one—planned to refile the lawsuit with new evidence on August 14, the day the law was scheduled to go into effect. Their hope, one of the attorneys, Michael Dowd, told me, is for Yeshiva to “finally be held accountable for their craven, repugnant, and unconscionable behavior in letting known sexual predators have unfettered access to scores of innocent and unsuspecting boys.” But even if they succeed, it’s far from certain whether the C.V.A. will be able to fundamentally change the culture of secrets and lies that has given rise to scandals such as the one at Yeshiva in the first place.
| A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned”… (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) More
After a rabbi sent her explicit messages, JBLM soldier’s wife says she was targeted and betrayed
When Traci Moran, an observant Jewish woman living at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with her enlisted husband, came to Army Chaplain Capt. Michael Harari in August 2018, she was looking for spiritual guidance, she said.
A Tacoma rabbi, Zalman Heber, had been sending her sexually explicit text and voice messages for almost a month despite Moran asking more than once that he stop, the messages showed.
Harari was her husband’s unit chaplain — meaning he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the unit’s families — and the only rabbi on base. And he and Heber were part of the same Hasidic organization, Chabad, that runs synagogues and cultural centers around the world.
All that meant, Moran said, that Harari was “in an incredibly unique position to take my report and tailor counseling to my specific religious views.”
Instead, an Army investigation obtained by The Seattle Times found that Harari violated her confidence by sharing her allegations with Heber. Then, Heber and Harari worked in parallel to “harass and attempt to intimidate and ostracize the Morans from the civilian communities surrounding JBLM [Joint Base Lewis-McChord],” according to the investigation, which examined whether Harari violated the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy.
Heber confirmed sending Moran sexually explicit messages last summer. But, he said, the messages did not constitute sexual harassment.
Harari did not respond to a request for comment, but in a memo submitted to the investigation said the Morans “verbally assaulted” and “slandered” him and his wife. A representative of Harari’s endorsement agency, the organization that confirms he is capable of carrying out his religious duties on base, denied “any linkage between Harari and Heber.”
Meanwhile, Moran said she has lost faith in both Jewish and military institutions.
“I have been victimized twice,” Moran wrote this month in an official complaint to the Army about what she says is the base command’s inadequate response to Harari’s actions. “First, by the rabbi [Heber] who sexually harassed me, and then by the chaplaincy of JBLM.”
“Too much information”
When Moran, who had recently moved to the Pacific Northwest from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, went to pick up a shipment of kosher food at Rabbi Heber’s house in July 2018, she said she sought to make a connection by telling him about the community activities she’d previously led.
Heber then began messaging her, and she messaged back. Almost immediately, though, the exchange became full of what Moran, in one plea to Heber to stop messaging her, called “TMI — too much information.”
The explicit messages, a selection of which The Seattle Times reviewed, included Heber describing sexual acts with his wife.
“I really don’t want to know about your personal life with [your wife],” Moran replied at one point.
On Aug. 12, 2018, Moran and her husband, Staff Sgt. Jared Moran, sought rabbinical guidance by taking the messages to Harari, according to the Army investigation.
“CPT Harari assured us he would not repeat the information to anyone as he was bound as a chaplain not to,” Moran testified in her sworn statement.
Six years after serving Congregation Shaar Hashomayim as its first female clergy member, Rachel Kohl Finegold is changing her title from “maharat” to “rabba,” because she is confident her community is now ready for it.
In a June 27 article in The Forward – headlined I am an Orthodox Clergywoman, and I am Changing My Title – she explains the reasons for her decision.
To her, the title “rabba” recognizes that she “can fill a rabbinic position without compromising my adherence to the halakhic parameters for women.”
The Shaar is the largest and second-oldest congregation in Montreal.
In 2013, Rabba Kohl Finegold was one of three women in the inaugural graduating class of Yeshivat Maharat in New York, which was the first institution in the world to train and ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities.
The New York native, now 39, has been serving the Shaar as director of education and spiritual enrichment since then.
“Maharat” is a Hebrew acronym denoting a female “leader of Jewish law, spirituality and Torah.” “Rabba,” which is used by some ordained women in Orthodoxy’s liberal wing, has been contentious because of its similarity to the word “rabbi.”
The ordination of women is not recognized by mainstream Orthodox bodies, such as the Orthodox Union or the Rabbinical Council of America.
Rabba Kohl Finegold writes: “I have found the title (maharat) to be unsatisfying for those on all sides of the issue of Orthodox women’s ordination. More liberal-minded Jewish feminists may feel it does not sound rabbinic enough, that it shies away from the fact that I have the same ordination as any Orthodox rabbi.
“Traditionalists, on the other hand, those who object to the ordination of Orthodox women regardless of the title, may feel the title ‘maharat’ might be masking some hidden agenda that I have not been honest about, or even, at some point down the line, that I intend to violate halakhic norms.”
She notes that “maharat” is “an invented acronym only a decade old.” It is little understood, she says, and is difficult to pronounce.
“The time is ripe for me to move toward a title that is more rabbinic to the ear, and more familiar to the tongue,” she writes.
Rabba Kohl Finegold says she has the support of her synagogue’s leadership and even the more traditional congregants now accept that the term “rabba” more accurately reflects her clerical role.
In addition to her educational and programming duties, she can officiate at weddings (but not sign as a witness on the ketubbah) and at funerals (but not be counted among the minyan for Kaddish).
The title “rabba” was first used by Sara Hurwitz, who was the first woman ordained by Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss, a few years before the inaugural class. It stirred considerable controversy.
Those in Rabba Kohl Finegold’s inaugural class could choose the title they wanted. One of the other two graduates was Abby Brown Scheier, the wife of the Shaar’s Rabbi Adam Scheier and an educator, who has been using the title “rabba” for a couple of years. She is not on the synagogue’s staff.
Rabba Kohl Finegold says she always hoped for a title that was a feminized version of the word “rabbi,” but put that aside in favour of the less contentious word “maharat” when she was hired by the Shaar.
“This community was taking a risk on me. They would be the first congregation in North America to hire an institutionally ordained Orthodox woman as part of the clergy,” she writes. “As they took this courageous step, they needed to ensure that this monumental change would be accepted, and that my title would not be divisive.”
Edward Cohen, 67, illegally sold medication – including viagra – through Jewish charities
An Orthodox man has been convicted of laundering proceeds from the illegal sale of medication totalling more than £10 million through Jewish charities.
Edward Cohen, 67, funnelled “huge sums of money” – from sales and charitable donations – through an international network of firms, bank accounts and currency exchanges.
Southwark Crown Court heard that the medication sold included Viagra, slimming pills and prescription medication.
Edward Cohen fled the country ahead of the start of the trial and was convicted in his absence.
Edward Cohen’s son David, a 38-year-old teacher, was cleared of money laundering charges and supplying false information to the Charity Commission.
But he was convicted of providing false information for the purposes of obtaining benefits.
David Cohen, of Ashbourne Avenue, in Temple Fortune, North London, was granted bail.
Both men will be sentenced on July 4.
The trial partly concerns the financial activity of charity Chabad UK – which is entirely separate from Chabad Lubavitch UK, and not part of the official Chabad movement.
Data obtained by police investigators show that in one financial year – 2012/13 – Chabad UK’s income jumped from £1.26 million to just under £8 million, almost £7 million of which came from merchant accounts linked to sales.
The following year, Chabad received £2.85 million from merchant accounts, out of a total income of £3.4 million.
It contrasted with the period from 2008 until 2012, when merchant account proceeds accounted for 2.5 per cent of an income of £6.05 million.
The jury heard that Chabad UK’s premises, on Oldhill Street in Stamford Hill, North London, were raided by police officers on September 1, 2014.