A Rabbi On Trial for Sexual Assault in Connecticut, Day Three, a Summary and Comments

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.

LM     

STATE V. DANIEL GREER DAY THREE

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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Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse -Maryland (and Wyoming)

LM is reposting the following article written by Joel Avrunin. The Avrunin family has been sued for defamation in conjunction with a report of abuse made by their son. They are currently litigating the matter in Federal Court. 

LM has been, for obvious reasons, following the Avrunin defamation case for some time; but has not posted anything about the lawsuit. There is most certainly a chilling effect on litigation.

We are reposting without permission of the author and, as always, will take down anything deemed to be a violation of copyright or inaccurate. Alternatively, we will correct any information if we become aware of inaccuracies or have some reason to believe that information we have been provided is faulty.  

Maryland Finally Enacts Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse

On April 18, 2019, Maryland took a big step towards protecting children when Governor Hogan signed a law creating criminal penalties for a mandated reporter who fails to report child sexual abuse. Mandatory reporting laws date back to the Child Abuse and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1974, and require certain people with knowledge of child abuse to report it to authorities. Until this 2019 legislation, Maryland was one of only two US states (the other being Wyoming) to have mandated reporting on the books, but have no criminal penalty failing to report child abuse. Imagine lowering the speed limit to save lives, but then having no tickets for speeding. A law with no penalty is no law at all. While past failure to report could result in civil liability for the person not reporting abuse immediately, Maryland House Bill 787 establishes criminal penalties. Versions of this bill have been proposed in Maryland for over 15 years, so the passage is a cause for celebration.

After my family was victimized in the state of Maryland by a member of the clergy, I learned that Maryland has some of the worst protections for sexual abuse survivors in the United States. Maryland police regularly ignore reports of rape, closing them as “unfounded” at nearly twice the rate in other states. When a victim pushes their case, police in Maryland force victims to sign waivers or recant entirely. And when a victim has the nerve to question the police, Maryland state attorneys are alleged to get aggressive not with sex abusers, but with abuse victims. Maryland also lacks strong anti-SLAPP laws to protect those who report abuse from being sued for defamation by their abusers. Even teachers indicated by CPS for abuse (but not prosecuted) get transferred from school to school, and only in 2018 did Maryland’s largest school system complete CPS background checks of teachers. If you like the beach, you move to Florida. If you like to ski, you move to Colorado.  Maryland’s legal environment makes it a sandy beach (or a powdery ski slope) for those who like to sexually abuse children. 

In fact, Maryland Delegate C.T. Wilson noted that Catholic priests seeking to escape punishment for abuse in Pennsylvania have been relocating to Maryland. Wilson plainly stated, “Maryland was a repository for bad actors because we had soft laws.”

The first big recent change to Maryland’s hostile environment to victims came in 2017 when Wilson sponsored a bill to expand the civil statute of limitations window from 25 to 38, understanding that it can take decades for abuse survivors to come forward. With a criminal justice system easy on sexual abuse, expanding the civil window is the next best step for victims to obtain justice.

The next big change came in 2018 when I had the honor and privilege to provide testimony to Annapolis in support of the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act, being championed by Baltimore City States Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Prior to this act, in the rare circumstance police investigated sex crimes, and in the rarer circumstance charges were filed, the rules of evidence in Maryland prevented prosecutors from introducing evidence of other sexual crimes. Maryland’s rules prevented the introduction of patterns of sexually abusive behavior as evidence (including multiple victims). The 2018 law had languished in committee for years, being opposed by Jewish leadership, Catholic leadership, and criminal defense attorneys. Once it got out of committee, it passed, and Maryland took another big step towards protecting children and other victims of sexual abuse. However, the accompanying bill to establish criminal penalties for not reporting child abuse did not make it to a vote in 2018.

In 2019 Maryland took the next big step in victim protection, when the criminal penalties not only got a vote, but were signed into law.  I cannot find another article celebrating Governor Hogan signing this bill, and it is quite important in the battle to improve the law and make sure no other family goes through what my family has endured.

Maryland’s failure to report law previously did not address penalties for violations, only penalties for interfering in a report.  Maryland Family Law § 5-705.2 stated:

An individual may not intentionally prevent or interfere with the making of a report of suspected abuse or neglect as required by law. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, on conviction, is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

No penalty was established for those who delayed reporting or failed to report altogether. Even Maryland legislators had no idea the gaping hole in their own law. Maryland Senator Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) said,

I was shocked. I didn’t realize that we were only one of two [states without penalties for failure to report]

The new law faced opposition from those who thought the punishment was draconian, and that taking away professional licensing was punishment enough for failure to report. In fact, Del Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery) reportedly said that since the 2015 license revocation law hadn’t been used, they shouldn’t pass more laws. Arguments like these, combined with opposition from the Jewish and Catholic lobbies kept this bill languishing in committee.

The new law modifies Section 5-704 of the Maryland Code of Family law where mandated reporters are defined by adding the following language:

(B) A PERSON WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR AND ON CONVICTION IS SUBJECT TO A FINE NOT EXCEEDING $10,000 OR IMPRISONMENT NOT EXCEEDING 3 YEARS OR BOTH.

While this law alone does not solve the sexual assault investigation and prosecution gap in Maryland, it does provide a tool for more progressive prosecutors to begin unraveling this crime.

Unfortunately loopholes still exist. Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-704 defines mandatory reporters as:

…health practitioner, police officer, educator, or human service worker, acting in a professional capacity

But Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-705 provides an exemption from these laws from clergy if they are:

bound to maintain the confidentiality of that communication under canon law, church doctrine, or practice

Unfortunately, the clergy exemption is still too prevalent in many states. Maryland law does not clearly differentiate between a Rabbi operating within confidential canon law/rabbinic doctrine, and a Rabbi who is working as a teacher, a school principal, a camp director, or a medical doctor. The largest Jewish community in Maryland mostly follows the rulings of the Agudath Israel of America, who requires rabbinic approval prior to reporting abuse. One of the largest religious schools specifically brings questions to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky who also requires Rabbinic screening of child abuse prior to reporting. Rabbis in Maryland trained at the local Ner Israel rabbinic college advise that when there is an indication of abuse, people should

Call CHANA [our religiously directed private community organization], and together with their guidance and support, they will help you navigate if and when to involve the police, CPS, or whatever may be most appropriate.

Should a school principal, teacher, or healthcare worker be charged under the new mandatory reporting law, the vague wording will put prosecutors and judges in the uncomfortable situation of litigating the intricacies of Jewish law (halacha). Will the rabbis who delay reporting abuse while they run internal investigations be able to claim their behavior is in keeping with canon Orthodox Jewish law? What makes a person a Rabbi? In the ultra-Orthodox world, often a formal ordination (smicha) process is not required, merely a letter from a school principal (Rosh Yeshiva) calling a student a Rabbi. Could a school teacher charged under the new law get a last minute smicha exempting him from the law?

Catholic opposition to clergy reporting is actually starting to abate, led by new initiatives. It certainly helps that prosecutors in Maryland have started to look through files of the archdiocese of Baltimore. As of today, the most vocal opponents of mandatory clergy reporting are not Catholic but Jewish. In response to mandatory clergy reporting laws being debated in neighboring Washington DC and Virginia, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld provided what I would term a strawman argument as he commented:

Turning clergy into policemen is very dangerous…….If we try to hurt how religious societies function, it will hurt children

Ron Halber of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington offered tepid support to clergy reporting, but then walked it back with the caveat:

In some traditions there are privileged communications that take place between religious authorities and parishioners. We want to make sure there’s nothing blocking free exercise

It is ironic that prosecutors in Maryland are investigating the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, but have made no public inquiries into the Jewish Archdiocese (known as the Vaad of Baltimore and Vaad of Greater Washington). A push for mandatory clergy reporting in Maryland as is currently under debate in DC and Virginia would be a great first step.

The problem is that Maryland Code Sections 5-704 and Sections 5-705 are in conflict due to the vague language. The legislature could fix this in at least two ways. First, narrow the legal definition of clergy-communicant privilege by defining who can claim the religious exemption and when. A Priest must have a church, and a Rabbi must have a synagogue. The disclosure must be in a recognized protected conversation. Right now the law fails to clearly differentiate abuse learned through spiritual privilege, and abuse heard through other means, such as while playing a game of basketball. The aforementioned Jewish community group that reportedly chooses which cases to report to police will sometimes refer abuse victims to a Rabbi for therapy. Is that Rabbi required to report child abuse he learns about because he is a therapist, or is he exempt from reporting because he is a Rabbi? The law does not make it clear.

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If Institutions Stopped Taking Money from Questionable Donors, the Power of those Donors Would Diminish – Epstein

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After ‘deafening silence,’ Harvard opens review of Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to university

No university or charity or scientific society has been more closely associated in the public eye with Jeffrey Epstein than Harvard University, which received approximately $9 million from him over the years.

And no organization has seemingly been more adamant that it had nothing to explain, nothing to review, nothing to refund — even after Epstein later became the nation’s most notorious sexual predator.

That silence ended Thursday.

After refusing to comment for months on its past associations with Epstein and the money it collected as a result, Harvard released a letter from its president late Thursday stating that the school had opened a review into the matter.

“Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors,” wrote Lawrence S. Bacow, who took over as president in June.

Bacow said the school’s review of Epstein’s connections began two weeks ago, and had turned up funds Epstein gave that are still in use.

This week, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper published an editorial blasting the school for what it called “deafening silence” on the matter. In late November, the Miami Herald reported Epstein had been the beneficiary of a highly unusual non-prosecution agreement. Despite credible claims from dozens of underage girls that Epstein had sexually abused them, the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida discarded a 53-page draft indictment, allowing Epstein to avoid a federal trial and potentially life in prison.

The Herald’s series of stories on Epstein, Perversion of Justice, also explored how then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta — later President Donald Trump’s labor secretary — agreed to keep the non-prosecution agreement secret from Epstein’s victims. The articles brought renewed scrutiny to Epstein’s years of alleged sex trafficking.

Amid that fresh scrutiny, Epstein was arrested the first week of July and was awaiting trial in New York City when he was found dead in his cell Aug. 10. The death was termed a suicide.

The university “absolutely bears the responsibility to make a concrete statement denouncing its ties to Epstein,” the Crimson said in its editorial. It continued, “Not only did [this] silence further Epstein’s reputation while he was alive, it is also unfair to current Harvard students who must live with the knowledge that Epstein touted his affiliation with their school while University administrators stayed — then as now — silent.”

Harvard did not respond to a request from the Miami Herald for additional comment.

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The Child Victims Act Means Suits Against MTA (Yeshiva) Can Move Forward – It’s Time for Victims to Get Justice…

New Law in NY Allows Abuse Case Against MTA to Move Forward

In 2013, 34 former students of Yeshiva University’s high school for boys, Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA), sued the yeshiva alleging they were sexually abused over three decades by two rabbis and other school staff. In 2014, the case was dismissed by a New York District Court judge who cited an expired statute of limitations.

In February, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Child Victims Act (CVA), which changed the statute of limitations on criminal charges and civil lawsuits involving children. It opened a one-year window, which began on August 14, for new lawsuits to be filed on old cases, allowing adult survivors of child sex abuse to seek restitution. The CVA gave these alumni the opportunity to have their case heard, and they filed suit once again, joined by several other men, totalling 38 current plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs were victims of child sex abuse perpetrated by Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon, and three unnamed individuals at MTA, over a 30-year period from the 1950s to the ’80s. Rabbi Gordon is now deceased and Rabbi Finkelstein lives in Israel.

Jay Goldberg, a 53-year-old software developer who lives in West Orange, has joined the lawsuit alleging that he was a victim of abuse at the hands of Rabbi Finkelstein while a student at MTA in the early 1980s. Goldberg’s goal, he said in an interview with The Jewish Link, is “to help the people who aren’t ready to get help, who have been abused and are stuck in a situation where they feel they can’t do anything.”

“If anything comes out of this, I would like it to be if only one, 10, 100 victims who wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting help, will get help. It is not about rehashing the facts, it’s about helping others in similar situations get the help they need.”

He stated emphatically that he does not want to be suing Yeshiva University. “I am not out to destroy YU,” he added.

According to Goldberg, it is not the facts of the case that are in question. “The only issue in question is ‘Are they responsible for what happened 30 years ago?’” he noted. The current law in New York seems to answer that question in the affirmative.

Goldberg’s hope is that this lawsuit will help to end the stigma of child sex abuse for survivors. He feels that most people do not know how to deal with abuse victims.

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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.

Child Victims Act Look-back Window in Second Month – Now is Your Chance to Get Closure, Restitution, Understanding..

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38 Ex-Students Accuse Orthodox Rabbis of Sexual Abuse at Yeshiva University High School in New York

(NEW YORK) — Thirty-eight former students of an Orthodox Jewish school in New York City operated by Yeshiva University sued Thursday over claims they were molested by two prominent rabbis in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The suit alleged the university failed to protect students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and even promoted one of the rabbis to principal after receiving abuse reports.

A Yeshiva University spokesperson declined to comment, citing a school policy against speaking publicly about litigation.

The lawsuit is one of hundreds that have been filed over child sexual abuse allegations since last week, when New York state opened a one-year window for suits previously barred by the state’s statute of limitations.

During a press conference Thursday, three of the alleged victims, flanked by their lawyers, spoke about disturbing behavior they say went on for decades. “I didn’t even understand at the time that this was sexual abuse; I just knew that this guy was putting his hands all over me,” said Barry Singer, 61, speaking of one of the rabbis he said kept reaching into the boy’s pants, even in school hallways.

The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse unless they choose to be named.

One of the accused rabbis, Macy Gordon, died recently in Israel. The other, George Finkelstein, has denied the allegations.

Finkelstein was promoted from the school’s assistant principal to principal even after some of the boys’ parents reported the alleged abuse to school officials, the plaintiffs said. He also eventually moved to Israel, where he worked at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Calls to the synagogue rang unanswered Thursday.

Thirty-four of the plaintiffs attempted to sue Yeshiva University for sexual abuse and facilitating sexual abuse in 2013 but the case went nowhere, because it was barred by the statute of limitations at the time.

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