Kol V’Oz – Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Global Jewish Community

Special Thanks to the Contributor of this Newsletter

 

Dear Lost Messiah,
I’m delighted to announce that Kol v’Oz has been granted Core Participant status in the forthcoming investigation into the UK Jewish community by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). This means that Kol v’Oz and I will be an active part of the Inquiry and will be able to testify, ask questions of witnesses, make submissions, among other benefits. A public hearing will be held in March 2020.

Those of you who followed the monumental Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would be aware of the significant positive impact this continues to have both in the broader Australian society and more specifically in the Jewish community. We hope and expect this to also be the case in the UK.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who has been sexually abused within a Jewish institution in the UK to contact IICSA to share your story. Please feel free to contact me as well (or alternatively, if contacting IICSA is an issue). Please also contact me if you have any information regarding cover-ups and/or intimidation within any UK Jewish institution.

Our colleagues at Migdal Emunah have also received Core Participant status – please feel free to contact them as well. We will continue to work together with Migdal Emunah to ensure the Inquiry is well-equipped to investigate the Jewish community properly and to ultimately make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice is achieved for victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and to ensure the safety of our children today and into the future.

Please share the above information with anyone you think may be interested.

Obviously there are costs to participate in the Inquiry – and for our work more broadly – so if you’re in a position to support us financially, please do so by clicking here. There are tax deductible options available in the US and in Israel. We’re currently working on an Australian option as well. Thank you in advance!

As always, I’ve shared below a range of relevant material.

On this Tisha b’Av, I’d like to share a Kinah from a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Warmest,

Manny Waks
Chief Executive Officer

Debbie Wiener is the former Chair of the now-defunct The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence. This organisation has caused damage to many in the Jewish community. It has recently come to my attention that Debbie is on the board of a new Jewish organisation that deals with another vulnerable group of people. I feel compelled to protect this group by sharing publicly relevant information.
Israel Police has recommended to charge Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, in the Malka Leifer case. Click: i24YnetThe Jerusalem PostThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe Jewish ChronicleJ-WireThe Australian Jewish News
In response to the latest sexual scandal involving Chabad, I wrote an oped titled Chabad – a law unto itself. Subsequently, there was a further allegation in the same case, which ultimately prompted the Chabad rabbi to resign from his Rabbinic post (but not as director).
Support our work
Some quotes from a 2008 article, soon after Adass purchased plane tickets for Malka Leifer to evade justice immediately after allegations of child sexual abuse were made against her:

[Adass spokesperson Norman] Rosenbaum said it was “categorically just not true” that the school purchased Leifer’s ticket to Israel after she resigned amid still unconfirmed rumours that she behaved inappropriately toward students.

He denied the school had tried to cover up allegations, and said “the school has not yet received any complaints”.

And a quote from a 2017 article:

The group then told Leifer she would be stood down as the head of the Adass school. But then, in a fateful decision, it was agreed that rather than report Leifer to the police, the principal should be spirited out of the country.

Rosenbaum was reportedly a part of the decision-making group.

All those at Adass who were involved in the cover-up in any way must be held to full account – for justice and to ensure the safety of children today.

The one-year look-back window for New York victims and survivors to sue their abusers or the institutions where the abuse took place commences on 14 August 2019. This was part of the New York Child Victims’ Act, which recently came into effect. We are proud to have been part of a broad coalition, over many years, who successfully lobbied for the archaic laws to change – in spite of fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, the ultra-Orthodox community and others. We encourage everyone who feels they can pursue some semblance of justice to do so. Please ensure to obtain proper legal advice. Click here for additional information.
More hypocrisy from David Werdiger…

Werdiger’s ‘thought of the week’ to members of JBD – Jews of the (Melbourne) CBD tells readers of Hasidic teachings about the power of words which can be used to ‘hurt and to deceive’. Werdiger is especially concerned about ’choos(ing) our words even more carefully’ when it comes to social media.

Yet an independent IT report has found that Werdiger, through Objectivewear Pty Ltd, a Company of which he was a Director and Shareholder, was behind the infamous anonymous blog site ‘The Fifth Chelek’ which was highlighted at the Australian Royal Commission for its anonymous attacks against victims of child sexual abuse, their families and supporters. This blog played a key role in the demonisation of victims/survivors and creating the culture that inspired it.

To date, Werdiger has failed to accept responsibility for his involvement with this blog. Nevertheless, he has continued to preach on the Jewish perspective of using words carefully, decried the fact that because of social media ‘things people have written years or decades ago (privately or publicly) are hauled out to haunt them’ and the closest he has come to an apology is ‘acknowledging that there are things that I have said or done in the past that I would not say or do now’. He has also sought to play a leadership role in reshaping the Constitution of the Yeshivah Centre, notwithstanding his role in the events which led to the Royal Commission and the restructuring of the Yeshivah Centre.

And to be clear, this was not Werdiger’s only infraction.

It’s important for victims/survivors to hold to account those who have wronged them, especially when they continue to preach shamelessly. It’s important to us for the public to know that Werdiger, among others, is a hypocrite.

Second Tacoma, Wa Woman Has Alleged Harassment Against Chabad Rabbi

Second woman comes forward with allegations of harassment against Tacoma rabbi

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: Rabbi Zalman Heber has resigned his position as rabbi of the Chabad of Pierce County, according to a statement released by Heber through his attorney. It was unclear if he is also resigning his position as director. “That will be determined,” said Heber’s attorney, Barry Wallis.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Another woman says she is the victim of harassment from Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Shomer and her husband, Spencer Freeman, 49, were both members of the Chabad until they formally split from the Orthodox Jewish center in December when they learned of similar behavior Heber allegedly inflicted upon the Jewish wife of a soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Traci Moran.

Shomer’s story was known to members of the Chabad and The News Tribune, but she was reluctant to come forward until now.

Moran’s allegations against Heber came to light during an Army investigation into JBLM chaplain Capt. Michael Harari. The Morans allege Harari breached their confidentiality after they asked him for advice about Heber’s alleged sexually overt messaging. Harari banned them from the base synagogue and Heber filed a restraining order against them.

Heber has denied the allegations made by Moran. He and his attorney also declined requests to comment for this story.

In an interview with The News Tribune on July 29, which mostly focused on the Morans, Heber said he asked Shomer if he could express his emotions with her during a meeting in 2017 and confirmed that he asked Shomer for a hug and that she declined.

“She said, ‘Rabbi, you should know better,’” Heber told The News Tribune.

Shomer said no such conversation took place.

“I didn’t say, ‘You know better.’ I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” Shomer told The News Tribune on Tuesday.

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Rabbi Zalman Heber in the sanctuary of the Chabad Jewish Center of Pierce County in Tacoma on May 25, 2012. Heber is currently at the center of allegations he acted inappropriately with at least two women at the Chabad. Joe BarrentineTHE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

The body that oversees the Tacoma Chabad, the Chabad Lubavitch of Seattle and its leader, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin, have not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

Shomer was motivated to go public, she told The News Tribune on Tuesday, after recent news stories about Moran and Heber.

“I’ve turned the other way. I’ve forgiven. I’ve done all the right things,” Shomer said. “This is the last part that I think is right. The truth told from my point of view.”

Shomer said she had to work through shame and self-blame.

“He manipulated me, and I allowed it,” Shomer said. “I tried to make OK with it, and it’s not OK. And now he’s telling lies and I just wanted the record to be set straight.”

LAW COUPLE

Shomer, originally from Philadelphia, and Freeman, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years.

Shomer is Jewish; Freeman is not. The couple chose to raise their two sons in the Jewish faith.

“Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said.

rabbi victim_shomer and freeman_4.jpg
Tacoma attorneys Kim Shomer, 50, originally from Philadelphia and Spencer Freeman, 49, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years. Although only Shomer is Jewish, they decided to raise their two sons in the faith. “Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said. Drew Perine DREW.PERINE@THENEWSTRIBUNE.COM

The couple met Heber at their youngest son’s bris in 2007.

When her sons were about five and seven, they began attending Hebrew school at the Chabad. Later, the family started going to the synagogue for special events and Jewish holidays.

Shomer’s oldest son revered Heber, even dressing like him on occasion, Shomer said.

“He held him in high regard,” she said of her son.

The family found themselves increasingly drawn to the Chabad, located on North Mildred Street in Tacoma.

“We were very charmed by what we perceived as the spiritual nature,” Shomer said. They were particularly interested in Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.

The couple began having weekly Kabbalah study sessions with Heber in March 2015.

“I feel like that was his door into me,” Shomer said Tuesday.

At first, the texts from Heber to Shomer were routine: changes in schedules, children’s activities. But, as in Moran’s case, they allegedly became incessant and personal.

NO TOUCHING

Segregation of the genders at Chabads is strict. During Shabbot (Jewish sabbath) services, the men worship on one side of the synagogue and the women on the other. A partition separates the two sides, Freeman said.

Men and women do not touch each other, not even a handshake, according to the Chabad organization’s website. Women wear wigs and non-revealing clothing, Shomer said.

Freeman said he needed to learn etiquette when he became more involved in the Chabad. He recalled meeting Heber’s wife, Miriam, for the first time and attempting to shake her hand.

“There was this awkward moment when she put her baby’s hand in my hand,” Freeman recalled.

Shomer found the gender segregation and strict contact protocols appealing.

“It’s a rule you live by,” she said. “You just come to understand it. You don’t have to give it a second thought.”

LIGHTING MENORAH.JPG
Rabbi Zalman Heber lights a menorah during a Hanukkah celebration at South 9th Street and Broadway in Tacoma on Dec. 9, 2012. Lui Kit Wong THE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

An Observant US Army Family Targeted by the Chabad Rabbi They Trusted and the Army Chaplain Ordained to Protect

A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned” his actions with Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber to ostracize Traci Moran after she alleged that Heber sent her explicit messages.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

| 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.

To continue reading click here.

The Chabad Moshiah and the Rebbi’s Grave

In this photo from July 2, 2019, people pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

25 years after his death, crowds flock to Chabad rebbe’s grave

 

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s quiet in the middle of the day on the streets of this residential neighborhood in New York City’s borough of Queens — except for the steady stream of visitors coming in and out of one particular small converted house next to a cemetery.

The men and women, young and old, have made their way from around the city, the country and the world to this unassuming site, the burial place of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to pay their respects to the leader of Judaism’s Chabad-Lubavitch movement who died 25 years ago.

While visitors come year-round, the crowds grow tremendously around the anniversary of his passing, which according to the Hebrew calendar falls this year on July 6, with people sometimes waiting a few hours to spend even a couple of moments at his mausoleum, where they pray and leave notes.

While visitors come year-round, the crowds grow tremendously around the anniversary of his passing, which according to the Hebrew calendar falls this year on July 6, with people sometimes waiting a few hours to spend even a couple of moments at his mausoleum, where they pray and leave notes.

“If you’re coming here, you’re coming here for the real deal,” said Rivky Greenberg, 19, of Anchorage, Alaska, who timed her summer travel plans to coincide with visiting around the anniversary.

Greenberg, raised in Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement, has come to the site several times in her life for the connection to the rabbi that it gives her.

“It’s not a tourist site,” she said. “It’s very rare that people will come and not feel something.”

Schneerson led Chabad-Lubavitch for more than four decades as the seventh rebbe, or spiritual leader, following the death of his father-in-law, whom he is buried next to at the Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights in eastern Queens. His wife’s and mother-in-law’s graves are a short distance away.

In those years, he was one of the most influential global leaders in Judaism, reinvigorating a small community that had been devastated by the Holocaust and pushing for all Jews to become more deeply connected to their faith and do more good in their everyday lives. He sent Chabad representatives to live all over the world.

The 25th anniversary of his passing has been widely noted, especially on Israeli social media, which is filled with tributes from politicians and commentators.

Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of Israel’s Knesset who spent three years in Soviet prison in the 1980s before immigrating to Israel, said he “was a model of love for Israel and instilled in the Jewish nation a belief in its eternal values that protected us for thousands of years and will protect us forever.”

Following Schneerson’s death, a member of the community bought the home next to the cemetery, assuming it would become well visited, which it has been. Chabad-Lubavitch representatives estimate there are now about 400,000 visitors a year, with about 50,000 in the period surrounding the anniversary. The majority are Jewish, both Lubavitchers and not.

To continue reading click here.

 

A Gimmel Tammuz Campaign… Do You Really Want to Know – Be Careful Where You Donate Your Money

“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the necromancers and those who divine by Jidoa bone, who chirp and who mutter.” “Does not this people inquire of its God? For the living, shall we inquire of the dead?” 

Isaiah, 8:19′

Gimmel Tammuz Awareness Campaign Sweeps Jewish Media

A campaign bringing awareness to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the upcoming auspicious day of Gimmel Tammuz has been sweeping the Jewish world this week.

The grassroots effort was spearheaded by a bochur Menachem Benchemon, and the Rebbe’s message was seen by tens of thousands around the world.

“Chazal teach us that the day of a tzadik’s yahrtzeit is a most auspicious day, a יום סגולה ועת רצון, to connect with the tzadik, granting us the potential to elicit berochos and yeshuos min hashomayim in the zechus of the tzadik,” the article reads.

The article also gives suggested ways to mark the Yartzeit of a tzadik, including learning a teaching of the Rebbe, reaching out to a fellow Jew in Chesed and Ahavas Yisroel, and davening at the Rebbe’s Ohel in close proximity to the day of his Yartzeit.

To continue reading click here.

The Subjugation of Jewish Women in Crown Heights – Chabad – An Election Open Only to Men, and US Law?

Crown Heights Jewish Women Should Be Able To Vote In CH Jewish Elections-But They Aren’t – OPINION

By Andrea Karshan, a Jewish woman currently living in Crown Heights

In Chabad Crown Heights, the Jewish community is holding elections, and women aren’t allowed to vote.

Elections are being held in June in Chabad Crown Heights for the Vaad Hakohol and the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council for the first time in 8 years. The Vaad Hakohol is a religious organization in Crown Heights that deals with Kashrut. And the Crown Heights Community Council is a secular organization in Crown Heights that is partly government funded. The Crown Heights Community Council deals with food assistance, housing, medical insurance, community relations, and other things.

When I found out about this election, I was excited. And I thought to myself how can I get involved. But then I was told that women aren’t allowed to vote. I am a woman who lives alone. So my household will be not be spoken for in the election. The leaders of these organizations don’t just serve the men in the community. They serve the women too. Women should be able to vote also. We should have a voice in choosing the people who represent us in the community. In general elections, whether it be for city council, president or any other political position, Jewish women in Chabad Crown Heights are encouraged to vote, especially for candidates who local Chabad community leaders have endorsed. So forbidding Jewish women to vote in Crown Heights only applies to this election.

This policy of women not voting in these elections completely excludes unmarried, divorced and widowed women from the voting process. As for married women and women living with their fathers, the assumption is that everyone in the household would vote the same way. But perhaps the wife and husband or father and daughter would vote differently. Therefore, they should have their voice when it comes to voting. Any Jewish resident of Crown Heights over the age of 18 male or female should have a vote.

After hearing that women cannot vote in the upcoming Vaad Hakohol and Crown Heights Community Council elections, I went to talk to someone at the Crown Heights Community Council about it. One thing he told me was that the Crown Heights Rabbonim believed that based on Jewish history that only men voted, Jewish law was that women could not vote in this type of election. I replied to him what if we based American law on American history that only white men had rights and blacks and women didn’t? He couldn’t answer me. The Torah may be timeless. But these policies are definitely outdated.

The representative from the Crown Heights Community also told me that women voting policies were voted on by the community (men and women, and I believe that’s the only time that women voted) following a lawsuit in the 1990s. And the community voted that men only should vote. But the CrownHeights Rabbonim before the vote advised the community to vote that only men should vote.

I think as long as the Rabbonim are advising people to think this way about women voting in these elections, it is hard for people to publicly go against the Rabbonim. But I think privately many Lubavitchers in Crown Heights are for women voting in these elections.