Three members of Jackson Township boards dealing with development have tendered their resignations, following the release of recordings of their attendance at a meeting aimed at stopping the construction of a housing project geared towards Orthodox Jews.
Controversy began after an anonymous leak to local officials and media surfaced that Richard Egan, who was a member of Jackson’s Planning Board, and Sheldon Hofstein and Joseph Sullivan who served on its Zoning Board, were present at what was labeled as the town’s inaugural CUPON meeting. CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has been active in New York’s Rockland County for some time, largely focusing on efforts to oppose the growth of the Orthodox community there.
The meeting was held two weeks ago at Jackson’s Miller Road Fire House and was reportedly attended by some 28 residents. Included on its written agenda was discussion of an upcoming Planning Board application for Jackson Trails, a development for more than 460 homes and a shul in an area of the town near the border with Manchester Township, far from the area of Jackson that borders Lakewood, and which is already home to several hundred Orthodox families.
Very brief clips of a recording of the meeting, released through the Lakewood Scoop, feature the three men acknowledging that their presence at the gathering must be kept secret.
“We’re not supposed to be here,” Mr. Hofstein said. “Nobody saw us.”
“We didn’t sign in, we’re neutral like invisible,” said Mr. Egan.
“We weren’t here,” said Mr. Sullivan.
A source who has listened to the entire audio recording but requested anonymity, told Hamodia that all three took an active part in conversations strategizing to block Jackson Trails’ application.
The planning meeting held four days later was attended by some 175 residents. Just before it commenced, Gregory McGuckin, who serves as an attorney for Jackson as well as being its assemblyman, approached Mr. Egan and asked that he recuse himself from taking part in the meeting.
Presumably under pressure from town officials that their continued participation would throw a further pall over the town’s zoning and planning decisions, Mr. Egan and Mr. Sullivan submitted their resignations this past Friday, and Mr. Hofstein added his on Monday.
Robert Nixon, who serves as president of Jackson’s Town Council told Hamodia that he welcomed the resignations.
“Council was surprised and disappointed at the allegations made recently against members of our Planning and Zoning Boards and we support their decision to step down,” he said. “The focus of the Zoning and Planning Boards have always been, and must only be, on the law governing land use and Jackson’s Master Plan.”
Zoning Board appointments are made by the town council, and those to the Planning Board are made by the town’s Mayor, Michael Reina.
Jackson has struggled to keep its town boards staffed in recent years, following a series of scandals. Robert Burrows, a former Zoning Board member, has been the author of several online anti-Semitic tirades. In 2017, Larry Schuster was forced to resign after anti-Semitic and other offensive comments he made online were discovered, only weeks after Anthony Marano was forced from the board over an arrest for possession of illicit materials and resisting arrest.
At the time, members of the council called for more rigorous background checks to be made before admitting applicants to serve on town boards.
The recent resignations could complicate Jackson’s ongoing legal woes as well. In 2017, the town was sued by the Agudath Israel of America, which claimed that ordinances that banned the construction of new schools and eruvinwere motivated by bias against the Orthodox community.
Officials had entered into arbitration, but negotiations stalled and a trove of emails revealed by a FOIL request between the mayor and council members seemed to reveal that talks were little more than a stalling tactic. The cases are currently moving forward.
Prior to the Agudah’s action, Jackson had been sued by Oros Bais Yaakov over the township’s denial of its application to build.
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The Catholic Church and the Jewish Establishment, Holding Someone Accountable – The New Yorker Article
We are posting excerpts of the following article from the New Yorker, despite its focus on the Catholic Church. Victims are victims and both those from within Catholicism and those from within Judaism share harrowing similarities and should share in justice and holding those in charge accountable.
We do not view the injustices that have occurred within the Jewish community to be any different and may even be worse. The nature of the sexual abuses are the same, a person entrusted with the care and upbringing of children has used religious observance as a means to serially abuse. The determination of the establishment to cover up the abuse is equally as similar among the Catholic Church and the Jewish establishment.
Where the Catholic Church differs, however, is that it does not as a pattern and practice brainwash its victims into this notion of “Mesira” or “reporting,” shunning families and leaving those victimized to be isolated and thereby re-victimized over and over by the community. The Catholic Church, while trying to strong-arm victims into remaining quiet, has not resorted to the same dark and tragic methods of using the very belief in G-d as both the sword and the shield to cover up and avoid accountability for the sexual abuse that has been rampant within the community.
We thank the write for this piece and we hope that this, along with admissions by religious Jewish leaders now coming forward with their own stories of abuse, will help to move this forward in a significant and meaningful way.
THE NEW YORKER:
The Catholic Church is turning to outside arbiters to reckon with its history of sexual abuse. But skeptics argue that its legacy of evasion continues.
Last Wednesday, the New York State Education Department issued clarifications to the lengthy, and sometimes, vague educational guidelines it had released on November 20. For fifth and sixth graders, the guidelines will not require a minimum number of hours studying general subjects like math, English, and history. Only seventh and graders will have an hour requirement – but those will effectively be cut in half, from the original 35 hours a week.
The original regulations were sparked by concerns about the lack of secular education at chassidic boys’ schools, but they apply to every private school in New York state regardless of how well it has educated its students in the past.Advertisement
The Council of Catholic School Superintendents made the first move after the original, unclarified guidelines were issued, calling for boycotting the new review system at all of the New York state’s approximately 500 Catholic schools, according to the Albany’s Times Union newspaper.
A December 13th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal authored by Rabbi Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva at the Mirrer Yeshiva, and Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, placed the blame for the guidelines on criticism from a small group who “appear more interested in undermining parental control of yeshivas than in enhancing their secular studies.” They acknowledged that some yeshivos need improvement, but argued that they “don’t define the yeshiva system.”
By the time the clarifications were announced on December 19, an online petition protesting the November directive had already garnered approximately 50,000 signatures. And when they were issued, yeshiva advocates – rather than celebrating – dug their heels in, noting that the main issue was not the number of hours mandated by NYSED but rather control of private school curricula.
A statement issued by Agudath Israel of America said it considered the clarifications “progress” but argued that giving the state authority to decide which subjects should be taught and for how long – which would potentially cut into the hours of Torah instruction – was “a grave threat to our mesorah.”
A similar statement from Parents for Educational And Religious Liberties in Schools criticized NYSED for formulating requirements without incorporating meaningful input from parents, yeshivos, and others involved in Jewish education, leading to a flawed process that ultimately had the state suffering “the embarrassment of having to walk back requirements it supposedly spent two years developing.”
The Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS released a statement saying it was “extremely concerned about government regulation of the curriculum of religious day schools and yeshivas,” as did the Rabbinical Alliance of America, with executive director Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik slamming NYSED for violating the tenet of separation of church and state “in a most egregious manner, as evident by the draconian guidelines issued by the New York State Department of Education.”
An initiative spearheaded by City Councilman Chaim Deutsch also took on the updated requirements, noting that they could affect nearly half a million students in religious Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish private schools. A letter signed by 28 of the City Council’s 51 members charged NYSED with attempting to turn private schools into “curricular clones” of the public schools, “forcing its way deep into private school practices with this unprecedented incursion.” It blasted the department for refusing to respond to concerns raised by community leaders.
Community leaders have called on the public to continue expressing their dissatisfaction with NYSED’s new policies. A letter released last week by Torah Umesorah signed by Rabbi Brudny, Rabbi Reisman and Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, urged readers to “keep the pressure up” in the “battle for the heart and soul of our yeshivos.”
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According to the High Court of Justice’s ruling, by December 2nd, the Knesset must pass a new law regulating the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox civilians to the IDF.
The proposed draft bill threatens to dismantle the coalition and prompt early elections.
The Council of Torah Sages of Degel HaTorah, the Lithuanian faction of the United Torah Judaism party, is expected to convene on Monday or in the coming days in order to decide whether the party’s opposition to the bill still stands, or if a compromise regarding the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox population is possible.
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Catholic News Service Satan is attacking bishops; they must fight with prayer, pope says By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service 9.11.2018 9:29 AM ET The pope said “the devil seeks to reveal sins in order to scandalize the people of God.” 465 more words
8 child protection recommendations that Orthodox rabbis should implement immediately
July 21, 2016
Many Orthodox rabbis and institutions are affiliated with one or more major Orthodox umbrella groups. These groups include the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, Torah Umesorah, the Rabbinical Council of America or the National Council of Young Israel.
Over the last several years, I tried to convince several of these groups, numerous prominent rabbis and The Jewish Federations of North America to take even minimal steps to protect Orthodox children from the rampant sexual abuse found in our communities. My efforts went nowhere.
Most of the time, my phone calls and emails were ignored. In the rare instance that I was actually able to have a conversation with a rabbi or leader of one of these groups, they would not agree to do anything to protect our kids.
To my knowledge, none of these major Orthodox groups or The Jewish Federations of North America have any publicly posted set of child protection rules. Rabbis who do want to protect the children in their care have little or no direction from their affiliated organizations as to how to make their institutions safe for children.
In the absence of any guidance on this issue from most of our religious or Jewish lay leadership, I have written a set of child safety recommendations that all rabbis and Orthodox institutions can and should implement immediately.
I urge anyone interested in stopping the unrelenting plague of child sexual abuse in Orthodox communities to send this list to your rabbi, principal, board of directors or president of your synagogue, school or yeshiva. Ask them to implement these child safety recommendations. If they stall, delay, make excuses or refuse to, ask them why protecting our children from sexual abuse is not a priority for them.
1) Publicize the names of the hundreds of Orthodox child molesters who are known to rabbis.
Frequently, victims or their parents report to their rabbi when a child has been sexually abused. In many instances, rabbis cover up the molester and demand that the victim remain silent about their abuser. Parents and employers can’t protect the children in their care if they don’t know who the predators are who deliberately target Orthodox kids for sexual abuse. “The List” on my website is a good place to start for this information.
2) Ban from Orthodox institutions and excommunicate anyone known to have harmed children in the past.
Many studies show that there is no drug or therapy that cures child sex offenders from their desire to sexually abuse children. They are never safe around kids and they should never have access to them.
3) Implement and enforce basic, common-sense child safety rules in every Orthodox institution.
No adult other than a parent or guardian may ever seclude themselves with a child.
Anyone who suspects that a child may have been harmed must report that suspicion immediately to the police, without first asking the permission of a rabbi. Only a suspicion of harm, not proof, should obligate one to make a report, as the law requires in many states. Let the experts in law enforcement determine if a crime has been committed.
No one who has harmed children in the past may be allowed in an Orthodox institution.
4) Expel from the rabbinate any rabbi who is known to have abused children or women.
There are hundreds of rabbis who are known sex predators. Some of them have even served jail sentences for sex crimes against children and women. Yet they inexplicably retain the honored title of “rabbi” and they are free to officiate as a trusted member of the Orthodox rabbinate. By contrast, even the Catholic Church defrocks abusive priests.
5) Punish anyone known to have retaliated against a victim of child sexual abuse or their family for speaking out against their abuser or going to the police.
Victims and law enforcement officials frequently report that victims are threatened or punished for reporting Orthodox child molesters to the police. The threats and witness-tampering cannot occur without the tacit, if not explicit, approval of the community’s rabbis. Rabbis must stop intimidating and threatening victims and start punishing those who do.
6) Assign a prominent community rabbi to attend every court proceeding in support of the victim in a child sexual abuse case.
Statistically speaking, children almost never lie about being sexually abused. If a child is alleging that they were sexually abused, it is usually true. Only the public support of a victim by a prominent rabbi will teach the community to take every allegation of sexual abuse seriously and to treat the victim and their family with kindness, support and compassion.
7) Rabbis must insist that Orthodox therapists report abuse to child protective services or the police.
Several Orthodox therapists have told me that they and their colleagues have been threatened by rabbis with termination from their jobs if they report Orthodox child molesters to the police, as most state laws require. Rabbis can either choose to protect our children, or to protect their abusers. By threatening therapists who report abuse, rabbis are choosing the molesters over our children.
8) Rabbis must demand that Israel extradite every Orthodox individual wanted by the police back to their country of origin.
Avrohom Mondrowitz, Malka Leifer, Gershon Kranczer, Asher Kranczer and Yona Weinberg need to be extradited without delay.
Eric Aiken is the owner of http://www.protectjewishkids.com and an advocate for Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse. “The List” is the world’s largest database of Orthodox child molesters.