Political Ambitions, Mesira, Lack of Education – a Culture of Sexual Abuse in Orthodox Judaism- How Many Victims?

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Secrets and Lies

Sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism

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.

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Jewish Organizations and the Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse, Victims Should be ENCOURAGED to Come Forward

Team USA volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard speaks in support of the Child Victims Act on March 14, 2018 at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York.  Getty Images

Through ‘Lookback Window,’ Jewish Orgs Face Retribution for Child Sex Abuse

As child abuse cases against yeshivas mount following a one-year lookback provision, questions turn to legal strategy. Are their fears of bankruptcy warranted?

When a one-year lookback provision created by New York’s new Child Victims Act opened last month — temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases and allowing survivors of any age to pursue justice through the courts — youth-serving institutions across the state braced for legal fire.

Now, just weeks after the lookback clause went into effect, Jewish institutions across the denominational spectrum are facing legal retribution for allegedly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse, with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s. In the handful of cases filed thus far, prominent defendants include the National Ramah Commission, the Conservative movement’s camping arm; the Conservative movement’s flagship rabbinical school, Jewish Theological Seminary; Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution, Yeshiva University; prominent Modern Orthodox day school Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School (SAR); prominent Modern Orthodox day school Westchester Day School; Yeshiva Torah Temimah, a Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox school with a branch in Lakewood N.J.; Oholei Torah, a prominent Chabad yeshiva in Brooklyn; and Temple Beth Zion, a legacy Reform congregation in Buffalo.

Claims leveled against these institutions include negligence in stopping or preventing sexual abuse; breach of fiduciary duties; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against survivors of childhood sex abuse. Though details among the cases vary, leadership across institutions are alleged to have known about predatory behaviors and failed to act; helped alleged abusers gain entry to other youth-serving institutions; and engaged in intimidation tactics to prevent victims from coming forward.

Yeshiva Torah Temimah, an all-boys charedi school based in Brooklyn, faces a new lawsuit for covering up the alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who taught at the school from the 1960s throughout the ’80s. Four ex-students previously sued the school, charging Kolko molested them from ages 11 to 13; at the time, the state court tossed the cases after determining claims fell outside the statute of limitations then in place.

(L-R) Barry Singer, Jay Goldberg, David Bressler three of the plaintiffs in the suit against Yeshiva University at a recent press conference announcing their suit against YU. Hannah Dreyfus/JW

(Previously, the school agreed to pay an unprecedented $2.1 million to two former students who accused Kolko of sexually assaulting them. Details of the secret settlements emerged in 2016 when the school failed to make payments. The case marked the first time a New York yeshiva paid off alleged victims of sex abuse, experts said. Kolko, now 72, received a controversial plea deal from then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in May 2012 after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment; he did not have to serve jail time or register as a sex-offender.)

Now, the case is being revived under the Child Victims Act. Alleged victim Baruch Sandhaus filed a complaint in Brooklyn Supreme Court last month, alleging that Kolko and another rabbi on staff “would inappropriately touch” his private parts on various occasions between 1978 and 1980, when he was a student at Torah Temimah.

Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the yeshiva, said the alleged events occurred “40 years ago” and so have no connection to the current administration.

“Why would a new administration know anything about what took place decades ago?” he told The Jewish Week in a phone conversation. “It’s not going on today.” The school, he said, is “financially capable of dealing with a lawsuit” and will “continue to function and turn out Torah-trained young people.”

Sheinkopf referred to the new roster of lawsuits — including the revived case against Torah Temimah — as “a trial lawyer game to make a lot of money.”

As cases begin to play out — a process that could take years — precedents set in other states that have adopted similar lookback provisions might provide a blueprint for what institutions, and survivors, might expect, lawyers say.

“So far, every religious institution I’ve sued has told its constituents that lawsuits would lead to bankruptcies,” said Patrick Noaker, the attorney representing plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed last week in Kings County Supreme Court against the Chabad boys yeshiva, Oholei Torah.

Yeshiva Torah Temima in Brooklyn, NY. Wikimedia Commons/Jim.henderson

Noaker said the passage of the Child Victims Act won’t make it any easier for alleged victims to win cases. “Sometimes the time that has passed can make it hard to find witnesses and evidence that the school knew or should have known that children were in danger. We also have to prove damages,” he said. “The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other,” he said.

“The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other.

In February, shortly after the Child Victims Act bill passed, Agudath Israel of America — a large charedi umbrella group that long advocated against the bill alongside the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America — issued a statement warning its constituents that the look-back provision “could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of our community.”

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, told The Jewish Week this week that “the fears certainly continue,” though he was not aware of how many suits had been filed against yeshivas.

For Noaker, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who represented plaintiffs in a host of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota after the state passed a three-year lookback window in 2018, the line is familiar.

The argument is straight-up manipulation.

“The Catholics said lawsuits would shut down hospitals and homeless shelters — it never happened,” said Noaker. “The argument is straight-up manipulation.”

Though several of the cases he litigated did contribute to dioceses in Minnesota filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to settle hundreds of claims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, not one diocese ceased to function because of the financial decision.

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More on the Child Victims Act here.

The Integrity of a Case of a 7 Year-old Jewish Rape Victim is Being Questioned

Lawyer representing 7 year-old Jewish rape victim defends integrity of case

The lawyer representing the 7 year-old victim claiming rape answers questions throwing the case into doubt.

By World Israel News Staff

The lawyer for the 7-year-old Jewish girl, who claims a Palestinian raped her, spoke of some of the difficulties with the case on Israeli radio on Sunday.

The case, which made headlines last week, has been plagued by conflicting information.

According to the police report, the child was definitely sexually abused. However, due to the family’s delay in contacting the police for a week and the police neglecting to send the girl’s clothing to a forensic lab, there does not appear to be DNA proof of the attacker.

Forty-six year old suspect, Mahmoud Katusa, has been indicted on charges of kidnapping and rape. Katusa was a janitor at the school where the girl studied. According to the police, he was friendly to her and gave her sweets.

Additionally, the report says that two Arab workers helped to perpetuate the crime by holding the young girl down during the violent act. These suspects have yet to be found.

One issue plaguing the case is that the girl was apparently dragged through her ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Samaria. Generally, streets in these areas are crowded with people.

The question being asked is how is it possible that no one stopped him if she was resisting the whole way as the report states.

Fried explained, “The school is in a mountainous area and we’re not talking about packed streets. The girl walked in unmarked paths and there, it seems, she was ambushed and kidnapped.”

There are claims that Katusa passed a polygraph test. However, Fried clarified that he only passed the standard beginning questions, such as his age, where he lives and his hobbies. Regarding questions relevant to the case, he was found to be lying.

More so, though Katusa has an alibi, the woman providing it “had a relationship of employment with him,” said Fried.

The attorney defended his client’s integrity by noting, “The girl provided testimony in four different interrogations, and she provided absolute identification of the guilty party,” he said. “This is a person who is familiar to her from school…She also gave exact details about the apartment, about the vase of flowers, and everything matches the scene.”

Fried added, “The girl told her version, and in my entire life I’ve never seen children lying in an interrogation. She has no motive for lying. She described things exactly as she saw them.”

Oversights have also complicated the investigation. Despite the fact that the pediatrician, who examined the child, did not report the crime to authorities or send her to the emergency room, the doctor did write the rape in her report.

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Will Cuomo’s Replacement Protect Ultra-Orthodox Sex Crime Victims?

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D.A. Kenneth Thompson, “Voice for racial justice” but not for molested children…

We would not want to celebrate someone’s demise. It would be purely awful of us. He leaves behind a wife and children, parents and siblings.

We offer our sincerest condolences to those who mourn his loss. We do not.

We can’t help but hope that his successor will do more, just a little more is something, to help the victims of sexual assault, suffered at the hands of Rabbis, and frankly Priests. We find ourselves praying, just short prayer, that his successor cannot be swayed by the power of the bloc of ultra-Orthodox voters and power brokers.  Perhaps he will meet these men again…

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Ken Thompson, Brooklyn District Attorney, Dies After Disclosing Cancer

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/10/nyregion/ken-thompson-brooklyns-first-black-district-attorney-dies-at-50.html?_r=0

Kenneth P. Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn and a voice for racial justice at a moment of tension between law enforcement and minority communities, died on Sunday from cancer, his family said. He was 50.

Mr. Thompson was elected district attorney in 2013 after campaigning on a platform of reform and racial justice, and unseating Charles J. Hynes, a fellow Democrat and a troubled incumbent who had served more than 20 years.

After being absent from his office for nearly two months, Mr. Thompson released a statement on Tuesday saying he had cancer. His office released a second statement on Sunday night, announcing his death and saying that his family had been by his side at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan when he died.

A former federal prosecutor who went on to have a successful private law practice, Mr. Thompson earned a reputation in office as one of the country’s most progressive district attorneys, creating a robust internal unit that reviewed questionable convictions and establishing a policy of not prosecuting most low-level marijuana arrests.

At a moment of heightened racial tension over police-related shootings, he chose to prosecute — and eventually won — the complicated case of Peter Liang, the former New York City police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in the stairwell of a housing project in 2014. After the trial was over, Mr. Thompson decided not to seek prison time for Mr. Liang, which enraged Mr. Gurley’s family and led to protests.

“The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with District Attorney Ken Thompson, his family and his loved ones tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in a statement on Sunday. “With a life and promise cut far too short, our city was blessed with but a glimpse of Ken’s unwavering commitment to justice and his unrivaled pursuit of a more fair system for all those he served.”

Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Thompson was the son of a police officer and lived in public housing in Harlem before moving to Co-Op City, a housing development in the Bronx. He attended the city’s public schools and applied to the Police Department, as his mother had, before choosing instead to attend the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. After his graduation, he obtained a law degree from the New York University School of Law.

On the advice of one of his law professors, Ronald K. Noble, a onetime Treasury Department official and the secretary general of Interpol, Mr. Thompson sought and found a position as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. In 1997, he was assigned the prestigious task of making the opening statement at the trial of Justin Volpe, a former police officer who eventually pleaded guilty to torturing a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, with a broken broomstick in the bathroom of a Brooklyn station house.

After leaving government service, Mr. Thompson went into private practice. His most prominent case was representing an African-born hotel housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, who accused the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping her in a Manhattan hotel room in 2011. Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, eventually dismissed the case, and Mr. Thompson was criticized for his incendiary personal attacks against Mr. Vance and members of his staff.

Mr. Thompson had harbored ambitions for higher office, but, according to a friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Thompson declined to disclose the type of his cancer, learned he had an aggressive form of the disease this year. By the time he received the diagnosis, the cancer had already metastasized and was incurable.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may now name a replacement for Mr. Thompson, who would have faced re-election next year. “A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader — and a national voice for criminal justice reform,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday.

Mr. Thompson is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson; his children, Kennedy and Kenny; his mother; his father; his brother; and his sister.

 

To read the article in its entirety click here.

 

CAMP BNOS IS NOT SAFE FOR GIRLS: The Agudah Problem

 

May 11, 2016

Camp Bnos for Girls and the Agudah Cover-up

UPDATE: Camp Bnos is not safe for girls- הכזונה יעשו אחותינו?ת

הכזונה יעשו אחותינו?

November 13, 2015- URGENT NEED TO KEEP OUR BNOS YISROEL SAFE

Dear Rabbis, parents and Leaders,

We assume you were not notified of the horrific event which took place at Camp Bnos (Agudas Yisroel) this past summer. It is important for you, as a leader, to be made aware that a camper was raped on the girls’ campus. She was left unsupervised and taken advantage of in the worst possible way. There were 2 boys involved.

AS OF LAST SUMMER. CAMP BNOS IS A MAKOM SAKANA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Originally, Mr. Meir Frischman admitted it happened, he has since changed his tune (obviously he has since received direction and advice from perhaps the Agudah directors, Rabbonim or Attorneys) and now denies all allegations and has completely removed himself from any & all responsibilities surrounding this situation. He has gone so far as to deny it, and refer to the RAPE as a “rumor”.

The police were notified, and Mr. Frischman did NOT have them speak with more than a few people from the camp. Directors who have been in the camp for literally decades were not notified until they returned home after camp was over.

From An Insider: Meanwhile, a simple observation.  We are both familiar with defense mechanisms.  I make observations all the time of new mechanisms that are just that, but masquerade as something else.  The Agudah position, which we know to be fundamentally flawed, is not really a policy at all.  It is a simple effort to cover-up the cover-ups.  They cannot do different, because that would be self-incrimination.

 

Letter from Jonathan Goldsmith on Facebook:

“Dear Mr. Frischman, I am the cousin of Jonathan who called you a few days after this took place. You told me you can not control rumors. I also spoke with Lt. Pratti at that time. I certainly had the feeling from you that you took no responsibility in this matter. You did not care that I had 2 nieces in the camp and did not even say you will do anything special to protect them. Even when we talked about the medical report you said the police closed the investigation, which is to the day untrue. Today on Erev ROSH Hashana, you and your camp mother as well as the entire staff will stand before Hashem and do WHAT? Tell HIM that it was just a rumor? Blame it on the Rabbonim who you claimed to have days Torah from? Do WE know what you even told your “daas Torah” based on the fact that you lied to me, I assume you also didn’t tell the “daas Torah” a girl was raped. You were more concerned with protecting the rapist(s) than protecting your campers, acting honorable and truthful. A good year to you and your family and may the shofar wake you from your evil ways.”

 

Additional information:

https://www.facebook.com/Thetruthatcampbnos/

A RAPIST IS AT LARGE! As the investigation continues, Meir Frischman has done nothing to help the police, and the camp mother has kept her lips tight. We are dealing with people willing to protect a rapist! This cannot be tolerated. Parents. Keep your children safe. This camp is not a safe environment. Please share this message so that other parents can see this. Consider yourselves warned.

ITS THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN… Summer is just around the corner. Please pass alng this crucial warning to all parents considering Camp Bnos for their daughters this summer. Meir Frischman the Camp Mother, Agudas Yisroel and their Rabbaim have ignored a RAPE of a camper last summer! This outright display of corruption puts every camper in danger. A camp that ignores child safety and refuses to help the family/law enforcement while they are withholding information needs to be shut down. Please keep your children safe this summer and far away from Camp Bnos.