De Blasio – Not so Pro-Israel After All – or Are His Ultra-Orthodox Block Being Pacified?

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De Blasio isn’t jumping to defend Israel after UN vote

http://nypost.com/2016/12/29/de-blasio-isnt-jumping-to-defend-israel-after-un-vote/

Mayor Bill de Blasio — who has repeatedly cast himself as a fierce defender of Israel — refused Thursday to take a position on the UN resolution condemning the Jewish state for expanding its settlements.

“I don’t really know what I think about the details of the resolution,” the mayor said at an unrelated press conference in Times Square. “What I know is it’s besides the point. The solution has to come from … Israelis and Palestinians. That’s the core of the matter. And right now that’s not happening.”

In past years, de Blasio has said it is his duty to speak out on Israel’s behalf.

“I will work every day … in support of the state of Israel because we know time and again the state of Israel is under attack,” he said at the Queens Jewish Community Council on Aug. 25, 2015.

De Blasio said that because Israel doesn’t have “enough friends,” New York must advocate for it.

 

“We must speak up,” he said. “We have to be one of the places that does.”

The mayor made similar comments the previous year.

“I am the mayor of the city … with the largest Jewish population anywhere on this Earth. By definition, I’ve said it many times, it’s not only normal and natural [to support Israel], I consider it my responsibility to stand up for the state of Israel,” de Blasio said on July 14, 2014.

City Hall press secretary Eric Phillips later issued a statement, saying:

“Mayor de Blasio said clearly that the U.N.’s role in the peace process has never been helpful. Like many at home and abroad, the Mayor also acknowledged that the ultimate consequences of the U.N.’s resolution cannot be predicted and that the effect of the U.S.’s abstention is unclear. What is clear is that the U.N.’s anti-Israel positioning in the Middle

To read further click here.

Satmar Support Hillary – But not Her Face in their Newspapers…

 

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‘Friend of the Jews’ Hillary Clinton Endorsed by ultra-Orthodox Satmar Sect

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.751424

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A day after Ivanka Trump visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s grave to gather spiritual support for her father’s presidential campaign, another ultra-Orthodox sect gave an endorsement to his rival, Hillary Clinton, called her a “longtime friend of the Jews.”

The large Satmar sect includes has tens of thousands of followers worldwide, the majority of them in the New York areas. Since 2006, the community has been divided into two factions, led by rival brothers and rabbis Aron and Zalman Teitelbaum. Members of both sects are anti-Zionist, believing that it is sacrilege to create a Jewish state before the arrival of the Messiah.

The statement calling on Satmar followers to support Clinton, which came from Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum’s branch, declared that Satmar leaders “endorse and hereby order all registered voters, in our community, to come out and give the vote for the longtime friend of the Jews, Hillary R. Clinton, former New York State Senator and Secretary of State. (She) is known for her rare rich career of grand achievements, with special sensitivity and understanding to the needs of our Jewish brothers, in particular with very delicate cases of pidyon shevuyim (liberation of Jewish prisoners) and hatzalot nefashot (saving of lives.)”

The announcement is signed by the “brotherhood” of community organizers.

It’s not the first time in the 2016 election season that Clinton has won the Satmar endorsement. In April, both factions gave her their blessing in her primary race against Bernie Sanders. At the time, one Satmar newspaper ran an editorial declaring that, “It is important to demonstrate our ‘Hakarat Hatov’ (the Hebrew term for gratitude) for Mrs. Clinton, whose help for Jewish interests had far-reaching effects back when she was First Lady in the White House.”

The reference to “liberation of Jewish prisoners” in the Satmar endorsement may have something to do with the fact that on his last day in office, January 20. 2001, the same day he infamously pardoned financier Marc Rich, President Bill Clinton also reduced the prison sentences of four ultra-Orthodox men, members of the Skverer sect, whose rabbinical leader is the brother-in-law of Satmar’s Aron Teitelbaum, who had been convicted and imprisoned for federal fraud.

That pardon raised eyebrows due to the fact Hillary Clinton, in her first Senate run a few months before the pardons, received an overwhelming percentage of the vote from the Skverer’s sect’s home base in New Square – more than 100 times than that of her opponent, Republican Rick Lazio. An investigation was initiated by the Manhattan U.S. attorney into whether, as the New York Times reported  “the village leaders aggressive courting of the president and Mrs. Clinton before and after the 2000 Senate election raised questions of whether the men’s sentences were reduced in exchange for votes.”

The 2002 Times story quoted the attorney for the Southern District of New York who announced the closing of the investigation saying that he had “determined it wasn’t appropriate to bring charges against anyone in the case.” That attorney was a man who would go on to play a key role in the current election race – FBI director James Comey.

While Satmar may be endorsing Clinton’s candidacy, it is not exactly known for empowerment of women. Women don’t hold leadership roles in their strict community and if Clinton should win the presidency, her photograph wouldn’t be featured in their newspapers, which refrain from running any images of women – particularly in Clinton’s trademark pantsuits (one report  tells of a 2006 meeting with between Clinton and a Satmar rabbi which was stymied because the then-senator was wearing pants. The situation was resolved by her agreement to “wear a long raincoat over her pants.)

In August, it was reported that the sect had issued a decree that higher education for women was “dangerous” and “against the Torah,” and that “no girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree.”

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.751424

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words – To be a Charedi or Not to be a Charedi

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HEATING UP! Hamodia Attacks Mishpacha Decision To Publish Photo Of Hillary – Contributing Editor Of Mishpacha Sruli Besser Fires Back

 

It was predictable. We all knew this would happen – it was just a matter of time.

As YWN has reported, the front cover of this week’s Mishpacha Magazine had a picture of Hillary Clinton. YWN has confirmed that this decision was made after consultation with the greatest Poskim and Gedolim in the United States.

Nonetheless, the decision was denounced by the editorship of Hamodia in Israel. Yet Hamodia was well aware that Mishpacha’s decision was checked and double-checked with the Gedolei HaPoskim. In fact, Hamodia has behind the scenes, been avidly trying to get all Charedi media publication to agree to their Chassidish opinion (the Admorim of Gur and Novaminsk — which we FULLY respect) not to publish a Hillary photo.

Apparently they are oblivious to the fact that not everyone is required to follow those Chassidim opinions. It is shocking that the Hamodia in Israel chose to attack the opinion of major Poskim – and label them as not “true Chareidim.”

Here are excerpts from their editorial that slammed Mishpacha: “True Charedi newspapers never have and never will publish pictures of women, even if they are in leadership positions. Jews have their own view of everything that happens, especially when the subject is as important as elections. In the eyes of Jews, the US is definitely a ‘kingdom of kindness’ in our days, and deserves recognition and appreciation for that. They understand that the fact that we won’t publish a picture of the Democratic candidate on the front page of haredi newspapers does not mean that we don’t support her, but rather stems from the fact we keep Jewish law,” said Hamodia.

There is a story told that when Artscroll’s biography on Rebbitzen Kanievsky a”h was about to go to print, a copy was shown to Hagaon HaRav Chaim Shlita. After browsing through the book, he turned to those around him and asked, “Why are there so many photos of me and not many of the Rebbitzen? This book is about her!”

Is Moreinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita not a “true Chareidi?”

The policy of not publishing photos of women has morphed into a policy of dangerous intolerance to those who do not adopt this Chumrah.

The weekly Flatbush Jewish Journal published a photo of Rebbitzen Pam A”H on her Yartzheit. Their decision was made following the Psak of their Rabbonim – who are among the biggest Rabbonim and Poskim in Flatbush. Sure enough, the paper was viciously attacked by some of the local Chassidish Rabbonim. The Rabbonim who have paskened for the paper have been living in Flatbush for 70 years or more. These Chassidish Rabbonim have only opened their shuls recently.

Recently, the same newspaper was attacked after publishing photos of Rebbitzen Feldman A”H of the Mirrer Yeshiva.

The intolerance has simply gone too far.

Whatever happened to respecting the opinions of others? Why must every Charedi publication follow the opinion of the Hamodia?

Additionally, one must take into consideration the ramifications of ignoring the President of the United States.

Let’s take, for example, when the iconic photo taken inside the Situation Room during the operation to capture or kill Bin Laden. That photo was airbrushed to remove then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and published in the Satmar newspaper Di Tzeitung.

The doctored photo and story went viral. Later, WikiLeaks exposed emails that showed just how furious Hillary was at the time. Imagine her reaction as president. Not to mention the fact that altering the photograph was illegal and the cause for a serious Chillul Hashem.


Today, Sruli Besser – a contributing editor of Mishpacha responded to the HaModiah attack on Facebook. He wrote:

Dear Hamodia,

I’m so sorry that you don’t find us to be true chareidim. I thought hours of conversation and deliberation with real rabbanim would give us some credibility, but I guess not. I’m sorry that when we asked genuine gedolim and poskim how to proceed and followed their advice, we didn’t think to ask you what true charedi papers have always done.

I’m much sorrier that you thought it wise to make this a public issue, because the charedim (true, not true, whatever) don’t need this story in the secular media. We were barraged by requests for comment last week from major media outlets, and we respectfully fended them off because we’re not here to be spokesmen and saviors, just to do keep doing our jobs with ehrlichkeit, professionalism and dedication. It’s not about us.

I respect your right not to publish a picture of Hillary, in line with your mesorah. (I imagine that this comment appeared in Hebrew Hamodia, not English, I haven’t yet seen it. I hope it’s not in English!) It’s a holy mesorah. I enjoy Hamodia and will continue to enjoy it.

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was asked by a British census taker what language he spoke at home and he said Ivrit, rather than Yiddish- which of course didn’t reflect his true ideology. Talmidim asked him why he chose to answer that way and he said, ‘Voss iz tzuvishen mir uhn mein breeder, things that come between me and my brother, iz nisht di gesheft fuhn der…isn’t the concern of this Englishman.’

I’m sure you mean this l’shem shamayim and I wish you hatzlacha in your great work.”

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/482751/heating-up-hamodia-attacks-mishpacha-decision-to-publish-photo-of-hillary—contributing-editor-of-mishpacha-sruli-besser-fires-back.html

 

“‘Fraud’ is too nice a word – Lakewood, an Opinion

 

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/10/05/opinion-lakewood-s-ultra-orthodox-day-schools-tyranny-of-the-many/

Opinion: Lakewood’s Ultra-Orthodox Day Schools, ‘Tyranny of the Many’

 

“There’s nothing fraud hates more than a spotlight,” says Tom Gatti, head of the newly incorporated Senior Action Group (SAG) in Lakewood. The fraud he references is an utter lack of compliance with a newly legislated program, Senate Bill 2049, that awards $17 million a year to a private consortium representing Lakewood’s burgeoning sector of 130 ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools. The bill mandates an oversight committee. None exists. And no governmental entity — the Christie administration, Department of Education, local school board, or bill sponsor Senator Robert Singer (R-Ocean, Monmouth) — seems to care.

So here’s some illumination.

American democracy is complicated. Elections pivot on the preponderance of votes but minorities are afforded protections (codified in the Bill of Rights) in order to avoid, as John Stuart Mill had it, the “tyranny of the majority.” That very tyranny is an apt description of Lakewood’s public education landscape.

The South Jersey city is home to the second-largest population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in America (Brooklyn comes in first) and this population is growing rapidly. The total population of Lakewood is about 60,000 and is projected to rise to 225,000 by 2030, almost entirely fueled by the continued influx of ultra-Orthodox families. Last year the town’s planning and zoning departments approved 10 synagogues, nine yeshivas and 1,175 new residences. Many ultra-Orthodox constituents vote in a bloc, taking instruction from the Vaad, a local council of rabbis. The elected municipal government is dominated by white male Orthodox Jews, as is the school board.

And that school board is in a bind. The budget for Lakewood Public School District, which serves about 5,600 Latino and African-American children, has a $12 million deficit out of an annual operating budget of $127,778,000. The two biggest bites are transportation and special education. Until this year the district paid $18,199,974, mostly to bus 10,000 non-public students on gender-specific buses to 130 different yeshivas. (The other big bite — a mind-boggling $31,485,495 — is annual tuition to private special-education schools, mostly for ultra-Orthodox children who attend Jewish yeshivas that accept children with disabilities.)

According to a recent analysis by Michael Hoban, senior educational consultant to Lakewood U.N.I.T.E (the group that represents Lakewood’s black students), most school districts allocate about 75 percent of annual budgets to student instruction. In Lakewood that allocation shrinks to 48 percent.

Hence, Senator Singer, Lakewood’s white knight, wrote a bill (or the Vaad did, depending upon who you ask) that awards $17 million a year to pay busing costs for yeshiva students, with enough left over for “courtesy busing,” or transportation for students within state walking parameters. (The town council has “pledged” to pay for courtesy busing for public school students.)  The $17 million, according to the bill, is paid directly to a “consortium.”

That consortium, now registered with the state Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, is an LLC called the “Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA) and the chairman of the board is Rabbi Yisroel Schenkolewski, who is also the municipal police chaplain, commissioner of the Ocean County Board of Elections, founder of a girls’ yeshiva, and, according to the Jewish paper Haaretz, in an article entitled “Only in America,” wielder of  enormous power within the ultra-Orthodox community.

What about the accountability described in Senate Bill 2049 as an “oversight committee” consisting of five members, four appointed by the commissioner and one appointed by the state monitor or the school board?

According to SAG, Inc., at least three well-qualified residents dutifully filed resumes presenting credentials to all these entities and repeatedly contacted Senator Singer’s office. While there have been occasional responses, no action has been taken.

Certainly, there’s no point in prospective overseers contacting LSTA. According to Ocean City Politics, “The Lakewood Student Transportation Authority still has a nonfunctional public website and phone calls made to it are directed to an automated prompt. No public information has been released about the bids for busing by the agency, unlike local and county governments that publish bid documents on their websites.” (As of publication date, this nonfunctional status is unchanged.)

To date, $17 million of taxpayer money has been sent to an unaccountable consortium. To date, there is no oversight committee as stipulated in state law. To date, Lakewood public school students, 74 percent Latino, 20 percent black, and 86 percent economically disadvantaged, are summarily deprived of access to their constitutionally guaranteed thorough and efficient system of education.

Now, let’s be fair. Nonpublic school students are entitled to transportation within state parameters (although gender-specific, yeshiva-specific buses are a murky area). The district is underfunded because of New Jersey’s broken and unsustainable school funding-formula.  But the state Legislature just handed over $17 million a year to an unaccountable group of powerbrokers (regardless of who is responsible for implementation of the Senate bill) and called it square. This disdain for rectitude and law perpetuates the inequities — indeed, the tyranny — visited upon the minority children who attend Lakewood Public Schools. “Fraud” is too nice a word.

D.A. Kenneth Thompson and the Child Sex Abuse Cases You Swept, Sweep Away… PART II

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GUEST AUTHOR: ERIK AIKEN, www.protectjewishkids.com

 

How the Brooklyn D.A. covers-up Orthodox child molesters, 2 of 2

This is the second in a 2-part series

In my first article, I wrote how a year and a half ago I made a public record request for the photos and arrest reports of 15 Orthodox men convicted by the Brooklyn D.A. The D.A. refused to give me any of the information that I requested.

Last week, I made a new Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Brooklyn D.A. (Brooklyn D.A. FOIL request) I asked for the photo, arrest report, case disposition (the court’s decision) and length of jail time served (if any) of 29 Orthodox individuals arrested for, or convicted of, child sex crimes by the Brooklyn D.A.

The following day, the D.A.’s office sent me a 3-page letter denying every request, for every individual. They refused to reveal to me a single case disposition or tell me how long a convicted Orthodox child molester spent in jail or even if they went to jail.

In 80% of the more than 3 dozen Orthodox convictions that I investigated in Brooklyn, the molester received probation or only a few months of jail time.  By contrast, even though Federal child sex crimes are not necessarily more severe or heinous than the ones prosecuted by the Brooklyn D.A., every Federal conviction of an Orthodox child molester that I could find resulted in jail time, usually for many years.

As to my request for the molester’s photos, the D.A. told me that they would make me wait 6 months before releasing them to me. I filed an appeal of this ridiculous stonewalling and the D.A.’s office rejected my appeal.

New York’s public records law requires that documents be given to the requester within 20 days or “within a reasonable period” – Public Officer’s Law 89(3). Having public access to governmental records is a fundamental right of American citizens. This is the only way we can know what our government is doing and be able to hold officials accountable.

There is nothing “reasonable” about withholding photos of convicted Orthodox child molesters for 6 months. There is no justification for refusing to release conviction information about Orthodox child molesters or informing me of how much time they spent in jail, if any. In the time it took the D.A.’s office to write their 3-page laundry list of excuses of why they aren’t going to comply with the law, they could have instead provided me with the records that I requested.

Kenneth-Thompson-picture-with-rabbis.pngNot only does current Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson refuse to release public records of Orthodox child molesters requested under FOIL, Thompson is also ethically-challenged in other ways.

Just last week, Thompson was fined $15,000 by the New York City Conflicts of Interests Board for using New York City police officers as his personal waiters and delivery boys to buy him thousands of dollars of meals, all at taxpayer expense.   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/nyregion/ken-thompson-brooklyn-district-attorney-conflict-of-interest-case.html

Kenneth-Thompson-picture-4.pngWhen Kenneth Thompson ran for office, he promised to change the corrupt ways of his predecessor, Charles Hynes. “For his part, Thompson openly criticized Hynes’ record on crimes committed by the ultra-Orthodox. “Every community in Brooklyn has to be treated the same,” he said. “When I become Brooklyn DA, I’ll make sure there’s equal justice for everyone, under the law.” The Daily Beast – 2013

 

Charles-Hynes-photo-with-rabbis.pngAmong other things, Hynes was notorious for refusing to release to the public the identities of Orthodox child sex predators that he convicted, in contravention of standard practice by other D.A.’s. The covering-up of Orthodox child molesters by the Brooklyn D.A. allows rabbis to pretend that there isn’t a rampant child sex abuse crisis in Orthodox synagogues, schools, yeshivas, summer camps and mikvehs.

 

The Brooklyn D.A.’s failure to stop rabbinic witness intimidation

 

Kenneth-Thompson-picture-3“…witness intimidation, a problem in the ultra-Orthodox community that District Attorney Charles Hynes himself has acknowledged is worse than anything he has seen even in organized crime and police corruption cases.” The Jewish Week – 6-26-12

“Hynes claims that his office has received numerous “allegations that some rabbis were actively counseling, intimidating and harassing victims of sexual abuse, coercing them from reporting abuse to authorities” The Jewish Week – 5-17-2012

 

Kenneth-Thompson-picture-5.pngThe office of the Brooklyn D.A. publicly acknowledges that rabbis violate the law and coerce, threaten and punish victims to prevent them from testifying against their Orthodox abuser and that it’s worse than the Mafia. Nevertheless, Thompson has not prosecuted a single rabbi or their surrogates for witness intimidation.

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the Brooklyn D.A. protects Orthodox kids from sexual predators

 

Moshe Spitzer - picture 2Moshe Spitzer was charged with 135 counts of abuse, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of sodomy, was sentenced to 2 years in prison and was released after serving 3 months.

 

 

 

Andrew Goodman - photoAndrew Goodman was charged with 114 counts of abuse. He was sentenced to 2 years in jail. When released, Goodman took one of his former victims across state lines and sodomized him. Taking a child across state lines to abuse him is a Federal crime. The Feds convicted him for that one act and got Goodman sentenced to 10 years to life.

 

 

Shimon Benisty - picture 2Shimon Benisty was convicted of molesting 2 young girls and deemed a “sexually violent offender”. He was only sentenced to 11 months in prison. Upon release, he was deported to Israel where he was convicted of abusing 11 more children.

 

 

 

Menachem Tevel - picture 2Mendy Tevel was charged with 37 counts of child sex crimes, some of them felonies that could have sent him to prison for life. He was sentenced to just 1 year in jail and was released after serving 7 months. He is not on the NY sex offender registry and reportedly now lives in Beverly Hills, CA. He was recently videoed roaming the halls of an Orthodox children’s school nearby.

 

 

Baruch Lebovits - picture 3Baruch Lebovits was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison for child sexual abuse. Due to the Brooklyn D.A.’s bungling of the case, Lebovits spent less than 16 months in prison.

 

 

 

Yonah Weinberg - picture 2Yona Weinberg is a convicted, level-3 child sex offender (the most dangerous tier) who is wanted by the Brooklyn D.A. on additional charges. Weinberg sent me a letter (Yona Weinberg lawyer letter and Israeli lawyer) from his lawyers that insist that Weinberg is not wanted by the police. (Note the unauthorized FBI watermark on the first and second pages). I spoke to NYPD fugitive task force Detective Kevin Lapin (who has Weinberg’s case) on 6/15/2016 and he told me that Weinberg is wanted and has been wanted since 9/10/14. Weinberg flew to Israel the next day. According to several victim advocates in Israel that I contacted, the Brooklyn D.A. is doing nothing to extradite Weinberg.

 

Gershon Kranczer - picture 2Rabbi Gershon Kranczer and his son, Asher Kranczer, both fled to Israel 6 years ago before they could be arrested on horrific child sexual abuse charges. Kranczer’s wife was reported to have driven them to the airport. The D.A. didn’t prosecute her.

Rabbi Kranczer has another son, Yechezkel, who didn’t escape and was charged with 72 counts of child sexual abuse. Yechezkel was convicted and given probation.

I asked the D.A. why they haven’t extradited either Kranczer from Israel and they told me it was part of an “ongoing investigation”. Really? Doing nothing for 6 years constitutes an ongoing investigation?


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Meilech Schnitzler was convicted of throwing bleach into the eyes of child victim advocate, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg. Schnitzler didn’t serve a day in jail. Thompson defended the total absence of punishment by saying that Schnitzler “will have to take an anger management class” New York Post, 6-18-14.

 

Mr. Thompson – Meilech Schnitzler doesn’t need an anger management class, he needs jail time.

 

Kenneth-Thompson-picture-7.pngKenneth Thompson’s campaign promises of equal treatment under the law turned out to be empty. It appears that Thomson cares more about getting re-elected than prosecuting those who abuse Orthodox children. In Brooklyn, to get re-elected as D.A., you need the Orthodox bloc-vote and their campaign cash. That only happens when the rabbis see that you do their bidding by covering-up Orthodox child molesters and allowing rabbis to punish victims who go to the police.

Eric Aiken is the owner of http://www.protectjewishkids.com and an advocate for Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse. “The List” is the world’s largest database of Orthodox child molesters.

Jewish Fundamentalism and the Subjugation of Women – Satmar

 

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Satmar Decree Bars Women From ‘Dangerous’ College Education

http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/348328/satmar-decree-bars-women-from-dangerous-college-education/

Hasidic rabbis from the Satmar sect reportedly have issued a decree barring women from pursuing higher education.

The Yiddish-language decree says college education for girls is “dangerous” and “against the Torah,” and that “no girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree,” The Independent online newspaper based in Britain reported Tuesday.

According to the Independent, the decree was issued by Satmar leaders in New York and applies to members of the sect worldwide.

 

Responding to the report, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement, according to UK’s Jewish News: “The mainstream Jewish community would certainly reject this view. Both Jewish girls and boys should all have the opportunity to go to university if that is what they want to do.”

The Satmar decree said the sect’s schools will not hire women “who’ve been to college or have a degree.”

“We have to keep our school safe and we can’t allow any secular influences in our holy environment. It is against the base upon which our [institution] was built,” the decree said.

Satmar is the largest sect of haredi Orthodox Jews in the United Kingdom, according to the Independent, which said the country’s haredi Orthodox population is estimated at 30,000.

At What Point Does the Ultra-Orthodox Community Tackle Abuse Head-On?

 

 

https://www.blogger.com/static/v1/jsbin/4044097237-ieretrofit.js
Unorthodox-Jew A Critical View of Orthodox Judaism

“A society that refuses to rally against its own criminals at least with same roar as it rallies against other sectors of society is indeed doing a lot of harm to itself.”

The Hasidic teachers in court, Tel Aviv, August 2, 2016.

It’s Time for the ultra-Orthodox Community to Tackle Sex Abuse Head-on

A society that refuses to rally against its own criminals at least with same roar as it rallies against other sectors of society is indeed doing a lot of harm to itself.   

Last week in a bold and unprecedented move, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau penned an open letter to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) educators cautioning them to “deal seriously” with instances of child abuse that have been reported at educational institutions and in some homes. “Burying our heads in the sand is not the answer to these difficult and painful issues,” Lau wrote, urging members of the community to take responsibility for the atrocities.

Lau’s letter came in the wake of a report that as many as six teachers from a Hasidic school in Tel Aviv have been charged with abusing almost two dozen preschool and elementary school students. This is by no means an isolated incident: In the last few months at least three Israeli Torah scholars have been accused of sexually abusing women and girls, and in two of these cases the victims involved close members of the perpetrators’ families.

To make matters worse, such abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community has not been confined to Israel. Similar abuse cases, in which rabbis preyed on naïve young women, have been reported in the United States and the United Kingdom, while Australia has established a royal commission to investigate why a school had concealed the abuse of its students for 20 years. We know about these cases because the authorities have managed to prosecute and punish these criminals. There are other cases where offenders have evaded punishment by exploiting the Law of Return and escaping to Israel. Sadly, there are some rabbinical miscreants who not only go unpunished – they continue to occupy their pulpits owing to the victims refusing to press charges and the communities that wish to sweep such allegations under the rug.

This shocking situation obviously does not mean that the ultra-Orthodox community is uniquely guilty of sexual abuse. A community as large and diverse as this one surely deserves the presumption that most of its adherents are decent individuals who strictly uphold religious law. Indeed, the overwhelming majority frowns upon any sexual impropriety, and barriers are set up to avoid such eventualities. Men and women are rarely on a first name basis and meetings between the sexes are always held with open doors to prevent any hint of intimacy. Children, from a young age are not placed in close confines with relatives of their extended families of the opposite sex, and religious teachers are trained to spot and report suspicious signs of child abuse.

The problem is that the community often fails to report and publicly protest crimes such as child and sexual abuse – a failure that may be traced to Haredi culture. From a young age, the Haredi child is taught that emunat hakhamim, belief in Torah sages and rabbis, is such an important principle that it renders many sages infallible in their eyes. They are also familiar with the dictum that the Torah serves as an antidote to one’s evil inclination. These combined beliefs place Haredi children in a double bind, so that not only are their teachers “incapable” of erring, they have also been “immunized” from committing evil acts.

Given such a framework, what is a Haredi child (or naive adult) with personal knowledge of sexual crimes meant to think when he knows the perpetrators are Torah scholars? How can he contemplate that his teachers or mentors are sexual deviants? And if these perpetrators are so evil, why is it only the Chief Rabbinate that reacts? The only body that counts within this community is the Council of Torah Sages; while it regularly calls for mass protests when it feels its religious lifestyle is under threat, the council has remained eerily silent on the subject of abuse. How are these children to know that such actions are intolerable and that any Torah taught by such offenders is worth very little?

Sadly, they probably won’t. A child growing up in an insular Haredi neighborhood will learn by the ever-present posters he sees, and by the demonstrations he attends, that sexual deviancy is not all that important. It certainly does not trump the issue of dead bones being exhumed to make way for a highway or hospital. It is no more important than secular Jews wishing to enjoy themselves at the cinema on a Friday night, and is probably no less evil than a Haredi traitor who dares put on an army uniform.

In such an environment, why should there be any incentive to report sexual offenses? This is especially true where reporting comes at a cost: whistleblowers and victims are keenly aware that any exposure severely harms their own and their progeny’s marriage prospects. Is it any wonder then that abuse continues as long as it does until one courageous man or woman has the guts to go to the police?

Unfortunately, this situation is not mitigated by the argument that the Haredi sector’s individual members and organizations have done much to benefit society as a whole. And yet a society that ignores its own internal problems, that refuses to rally against its own criminals at least with same roar as it rallies against other sectors of society, and that steadfastly conceals its misdeeds, is indeed doing a lot of harm to itself.

If the Haredi community in Israel and abroad is to reclaim the public’s trust it must shun all acts of sexual abuse. It must act seriously and it must act now. The time has come for the community to demonstrate to itself as well as to others that there is zero tolerance for harming the sexual integrity of anyone created in G-d’s image, especially children.

David Fachler has a Masters in Law from South Africa (LLM) and a Masters in Contemporary Jewry from Hebrew University, Jerusalem (MA). He is contactable at davidfachler@yahoo.com.

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