The Child Predators Who “Hide in Plain Sight” Grooming Children and the Days of Reckoning for Yeshivas

A view outside the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Google Street View)

‘We feel like we failed’: How one Jewish school is processing the arrest of a teacher who preyed on children

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sitting at the front of a large room lined floor to ceiling with Jewish holy books, Rabbi Joseph Beyda’s voice broke as he processed, seemingly in real time, the idea that a trusted teacher had preyed on his students.

“I think the overarching feeling of the administrators and the faculty and the board of the school is, we know you trust us, we take that trust very deeply, we dedicate our lives to it, we failed on this,” said Beyda, the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush’s Joel Braverman High School. “You could say it’s not our fault, but we feel like we failed.”

Beyda was speaking Wednesday night at a forum for parents and alumni at the Brooklyn high school that was called in the wake of last week’s arrest of Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick, a former teacher charged with soliciting naked photos of students for years, going back to at least 2012. An FBI special agent sitting to Beyda’s left confirmed the rabbi’s assertion: There was no way for the school to have known what Skolnick was doing.

“This is a man who hid in plain sight,” said the agent, Aaron Spivack. “There is nothing this school could have done. There’s nothing that anybody could have done. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, if you want to use that analogy. Predators are predators for a reason. They find ways to be predators.”

Skolnick, who moved last year to an administrative position at SAR Academy, another Orthodox school in New York City, was arrested Friday night by the FBI and charged with the production, receipt and possession of child pornography and child enticement. He was immediately fired by SAR. He had taught at Flatbush from 2012 to 2018.

Days after the arrest, which came only weeks into a new school year, parents, faculty and administration are still in shock. They want to know if there is any way to prevent this in the future, what to tell their kids and how to encourage them to talk about any abuse by Skolnick. SAR also held an open meeting for parents to speak with an FBI representative and school administrators.

“It’s just very sad that it took a long time until this came out in the open,” said the grandmother of one of Skolnick’s students, who declined to give her name for fear of being publicly linked to the scandal. “But it’s understandable because people are reluctant to expose such incidents. It’s sad, and I know he was a good teacher, he had a good reputation. My granddaughter and her friends, they were shocked.”

At the Flatbush forum, Spivack reviewed the FBI investigation of Skolnick’s alleged crimes. The rabbi is accused of posing as a teenage girl online and soliciting underage boys to send him explicit photos. At least one boy complied, and Skolnick threatened to release them publicly after the boy said he wouldn’t send more. Spivack said there is no evidence at this time suggesting that Skolnick inappropriately touched students or distributed the photos.

According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, Skolnick admitted that he had requested explicit photos from 20 to 25 people, most of them children. Beyda said he believes that many Flatbush students were solicited.

“The number is really high,” the principal said. “And it’s not going to be surprising to be greater than 100, and maybe more than that.”

Both SAR and Flatbush have policies governing the reporting of sexual harassment, teacher communication with students and the boundaries of teacher behavior with students. SAR conducted a background check before Skolnick was hired that came up clean, as did an FBI check. Beyda said Flatbush has an extensive interview and reference-checking process, and now does criminal background checks as well.

Advocates for preventing sexual abuse in the Jewish community said that the key for schools is to recognize and prevent what are called “grooming” behaviors — actions such as inviting kids over for sleepovers or luring them to secluded spaces — that lay the groundwork for abuse.

“If you see a rebbe insisting that a child spend Shabbos at his house without any other supervision there, that’s a red flag,” said Asher Lovy, the director of community organizing for Zaakah, which combats child sex abuse in the Orthodox community.

Joel Avrunin, the parent of a child who allegedly was sexually abused by a rabbi at a Jewish camp in Maryland, said that schools should hire an external firm to investigate Skolnick’s behavior and the school’s response to it. That’s what SAR did following revelations that Stanley Rosenfeld, an assistant principal at SAR in the 1970s who later taught English there, had abused students.

“What are the schools doing to find out the extent of his involvement with children?” Avrunin asked. “I’d like to see any school first hire an outside investigator. Who did he have contact with and what anti-grooming policies did the schools have in place?”

SAR did not respond to a JTA request for comment.

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Malka Leifer – Extradition and Hearings, and 3 of her Victims

Melbourne sisters miss out on facing accused abuser in court

Three sisters who were allegedly abused by the former principal of an ultra-orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne have missed out on facing their accused abuser in court.

Dassi Erlich, and her sisters, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, travelled more than 13,000km for the court hearing in Israel, however a last-ditch ruling by the judge excused Malka Leifer from appearing on the grounds it could be detrimental to her mental health.

The alleged victims were still allowed to sit in court for the hearing, which was to determine whether Leifer is mentally fit enough to be extradited to Australia.

http_prod.static9.net.au_media201811281945181128-Malka-Leifer-Jerusalem-court-hearing-2

Three sisters allegedly abused by former principal Malka Leifer travelled to Israel to attend a Jerusalem court hearing about her possible extradition to Australia. (9NEWS)

 

“It’s been very intense sitting in there,” Ms Erlich told 9News.

“Now we’re here and we see the ups and downs, and it’s incredibly difficult to watch that, and just hope and have faith that the judge will come to the right decision.”

The women could only listen and observe while a psychiatrist was questioned.

Leifer, a mother of eight, fled Australia for Israel in 2008 after being tipped off about the allegations against her.Leifer, a mother of eight, fled Australia for Israel in 2008 after being tipped off about the allegations against her. (AAP)

“We have no voice,” Ms Meyer said.

“We’ve got to be completely silent and that is the most difficult thing in there.”

Leifer, a mother of eight, fled Australia for Israel in 2008, after being tipped off about the allegations.

Leifer's defence lawyers are now arguing she is mentally unfit to be extradited back to Australia to face court over the accusations.Leifer’s defence lawyers are now arguing she is mentally unfit to be extradited back to Australia to face court over the accusations. (9NEWS)

She has battled extradition since 2014 when she was charged with 74 child sex offences.

Leifer’s lawyers argue she is too mentally ill to be extradited.

However, after a private investigator recorded video footage of Leifer walking, shopping and interacting with people, opinion in Israel is changing.

The former principal faces eight charges of alleged child abuse.The former principal faces eight charges of alleged child abuse. (AAP)

Both a member of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, and a Jerusalem city councillor were at court to observe proceedings and support the alleged victims.

“If she’s got nothing, if she wants to clear her name…if she’s not guilty…then why not go back and clear her name?” Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a city councillor, said.

Leifer’s brother, sister and one of her adult children were also at court today.

Leifer did not appear in the court today, and the case is set to return in a hearing in January.Leifer did not appear in the court today, and the case is set to return in a hearing in January. (9NEWS)

They made no comment.

No judgement has yet been made about whether Leifer is mentally fit for extradition, and the case will return to court again in January.

It will be the former principal’s 43rd court date in Israel – and there’s still no sign of a quick resolution.

Rabbi Daniel Greer, What Have you Been Up To?

Greer

RABBI ACCUSED OF RAPING STUDENT ORDERED TO TESTIFY AT TRIAL

 

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A rabbi accused of repeatedly raping and molesting a teenage boy has been ordered to testify at a civil trial after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a deposition.

Jury selection for Rabbi Daniel Greer’s trial in federal court in Hartford is scheduled to start Wednesday. Jurors could begin hearing evidence later in the day or Thursday.

Greer, 76, remains the principal at the Yeshiva of New Haven school. A former student at the Jewish boarding school, Eliyahu “Eli” Mirlis, now 29, is suing Greer and the school on allegations of sexual assault, infliction of emotional distress and other claims.

Mirlis, who attended the school from 2001 to 2005, also alleges in the lawsuit that Greer sexually abused at least one other male student. The Associated Press generally does not name people who allege sexual assault, but Mirlis wanted to come forward, his lawyer said.

Greer has denied the allegations and has not been criminally charged. New Haven police say they’re looking into a sexual assault complaint filed by Mirlis’ lawyer, Antonio Ponvert III.

Greer and his lawyers, David Grudberg and William Ward, did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.

According to court documents, Greer invoked his right against self-incrimination at a deposition last year. His lawyers asked a judge to bar Mirlis from calling Greer to the witness stand, but the request was denied.

“Parading Mr. Greer before the jury to repeatedly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege will only serve to paint him as ‘a criminal who has probably eluded justice’ in the eyes of the finders of fact, which will cause significant and irreparable prejudice in this case,” Grudberg and Ward wrote in a motion filed last month, adding that Greer also would invoke his Fifth Amendment right if called to testify.

Although Judge Michael P. Shea denied the request this month, he said Greer’s lawyers could object to specific questions to prevent Greer from having to repeatedly take the Fifth on the stand.

Ward has questioned why Mirlis came forward with the allegations years later and did not take the matter before a rabbinical arbitration court. He said the allegations have damaged Greer, his family and the good reputation he spent years building in the community.

Greer is a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School who has testified before the state legislature several times on a variety of issues, including opposing same-sex unions in 2002 before the state approved same-sex marriage. He also is a former member of the New Haven police commissioners’ board and a past chairman of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency.

He also led efforts to improve New Haven’s Edgewood neighborhood.

Greer’s daughter was among a group of Orthodox Jewish students who sued Yale University in the late 1990s, claiming the school’s requirement that they live in coed dorms violated their constitutional rights. A federal judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit.

http://staging.hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_RABBI_SEX_ABUSE_LAWSUIT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-05-09-10-10-24

CHILD VICTIMS ACT – Legislation and Justice – SIGNATURE REQUESTED

Houses of worship and a person’s experience of their faith should be free of sexual abuse.

Shockingly, when victims of child sex abuse by religious leaders and other perpetrators come forward to seek justice and stop abusers from causing more harm, they are blocked by current New York State law. New York ranks among the very worst in the nation — alongside Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi — for how the courts and criminal justice system treat survivors of child sex abuse.
Mental health experts know it can take decades for a victim of this abuse to overcome the fear, shame, and trauma to be able to come forward to confront their abuser, but our current law allows survivors of abuse to pursue criminal or civil justice only until the age of 23 — a statute of limitations of, in some cases, only five years.
A bill called the Child Victims Act can change that at the upcoming session. It will extend or eliminate the statute of limitations so victims come forward and perpetrators can be prosecuted, helping victims get justice and taking unknown abusers off the streets. April and May are critical months for clergy to demand that officials introduce and vote for the bill.

Add your name to demand action here

Right now, many Republican members of the New York legislature are opposing the bill. Some religious institutions are pressuring legislators to reject the bill because it could mean holding them accountable. Religious groups and others are threatening to thwart the re-election of members if they pass the bill.
Clergy for Child Victims is mobilizing faith leaders to sign this petition to the governor letting the governor, state assembly, and state senate know that we stand behind the governor’s support of the bill. On May 9, a group of clergy will make a lobbying trip to Albany to try and get new legislation passed before budget negotiations start.

Sign and share with your colleagues here

As an influential faith leader in New York, I urge you to sign the letter to demonstrate widespread support from multi-religious faith leaders.
Thank you for supporting this crucial effort.
In faith,
Rabbi Ari Hart

The Halachic Obligation to Report Abuse

scales of justice and child

http://www.kollel.edu.au/single-post/2016/12/25/The-Halachic-Obligation-of-Reporting-Abuse-to-

FACING CHALLENGES, REPORTING ABUSE, AVOIDING HARM…

We are surprised by this. You may be too.

“Don’t Stand Back. Don’t Withhold Yourself.”

 

The following is a link to a video regarding the obligation to report abuse.

http://www.kollel.edu.au/single-post/2016/12/25/The-Halachic-Obligation-of-Reporting-Abuse-to-

 

Australia – Abuse Victim Suing Yeshiva Centre – a Groundbreaking Development

Abuse victim suing Yeshivah Centre

https://www.jewishnews.net.au/abuse-victim-suing-yeshivah-centre/56689

Shimon Walles. Photo: Peter HaskinShimon Walles. Photo: Peter Haskin

A CHILD sexual abuse victim of Rabbi David Kramer has gone public for the first time, claiming his negotiations with Yeshivah Centre for compensation have hit a roadblock.

Shimon Walles, who was sexually abused by Kramer when he was a Yeshivah student in 1990, spoke to police for the first time in 2008.

In 2013, Kramer pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting Walles among others, and received a jail sentence.

“When Kramer was convicted I was more traumatised by the re-victimisation,” Walles exclusively told The AJN this week, referring to his treatment by some members of the Yeshivah community.

“At the time, the retribution was so bad that I couldn’t live in Australia.

“I was just trying to move on with my life and at the time I never thought of civil action.”

According to Walles, when he returned to Australia in 2014 the victimisation and intimidation continued.

He said he felt like he was being driven out of the country ahead of the Royal Commission. He then contacted Yeshivah for the first time to seek compensation through mediation.

He claimed that over the course of two years Yeshivah failed to adequately respond, and that earlier this year his lawyer told him to start proceedings in court.

“I told my lawyer that I want to keep things civil with Yeshivah, and instead of going to court to write them another letter and try and go to mediation again.

“I wasn’t looking for a war with Yeshivah, I just wanted to be peaceful.”

But last week, after another round of negotiations with Yeshivah, Walles finally gave up and decided to take legal action.

“I’m very frustrated and unfortunately it has come to this, but if they can’t wake up after everything that has happened what choice do I have?

“I am now ready to start exposing it for what it is.”

Walles said that deciding to publicly reveal himself as a victim was difficult, but made easier given his treatment by the community.

“I know they speak about me behind my back and do terrible things behind my back, so at this point in time what do I have to lose?”

In a statement to The AJN the Yeshivah’s management said that ensuring that survivors of child sexual abuse are treated with respect and dignity has the highest priority.

“Measures have been put in place through education and training to try to ensure that survivors are treated with sensitivity and compassion,” the statement said.

“In recognition of past abuse, the centre also established a redress scheme offering redress including monetary payments and access to counselling which is available to survivors in a respectful confidential manner outside the legal framework.

“The centre takes all such claims seriously but is understandably not in a position to make public comment in relation to a particular claim or individual making a claim.”

JOSHUA LEVI

 

https://www.jewishnews.net.au/abuse-victim-suing-yeshivah-centre/56689

Nechama Bendet – Inconsistencies and She Claims Libel? An Utter Disgrace!

 

Bendet

 

THE HERALD SUN:

Jewish college director sues over sex abuse claims on Facebook

A SENIOR administrator of Yeshivah College is suing for libel, claiming she had been accused of pressuring child sex abuse victims not to pursue their complaints with police.

The orthodox Jewish school’s former general manager, Nechama Bendet, has lodged a writ in the Supreme Court seeking damages over five Facebook posts by Bruce James Cooke, whom she describes as a “vocal member of the Jewish community”.

Now the school’s director of development, she claims Mr Cooke suggested she had sought to ostracise two victims by calling them “mosers” for going to police and had thereby tried to pressure them not to pursue their complaints.

“Moser” is an offensive ­Hebrew term for one who breaks a code banning Jews from informing on one another to secular authorities.

This year, Ms Bendet told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that the college had never discussed investigating claims of a cover-up after a former Yeshivah guard, David ­Cyprys, was accused of child sex crimes.

David Cyprys
David Cyprys

In 2011, it approached Robert Richter, QC, who ­advised it on public relations and dealing with victims, she said.

In her statement of claim, she says Mr Cooke’s posts suggested that she knew of abuse but did not report it to police; that she had shown complete disregard for victims by asserting the school had no legal obligation to report their abuse; that she condoned not reporting child sex abuse and rape to police unless there was a legal requirement to do so; and that there were reasonable grounds for police to investigate whether she had engaged in criminal conduct in relation to abuse.

Ms Bendet claims he also suggested she bullied and intimidated teachers and staff at Yeshivah and at Beth Rivkah Ladies College; that she abused her position by terminating a security contract for personal reasons; and that by her behaviour she was destroying the Yeshivah Centre and must be immediately removed.

She claims the posts were published without an honest belief in their truth or with reckless indifference, that her feelings, credit and personal and business reputation had been gravely injured, and that she had been humiliated and embarrassed.

Ms Bendet is also seeking a permanent injunction restraining Mr Cook from making such publications.

Mr Cooke’s lawyer, Chris Stakis, said his client would defend the case because he believed the publications were part of a legitimate debate on matters of importance.