Marvin Schick has done another despicable thing.
To those who follow Schick's writings, this is not surprising. Schick has spent much of his adult life covering for haredim.
When Hella Winston's book Unchosen was published, Schick wrote a libelous review. I called him and challenged him to produce facts. He never did, at one point claiming illness as an excuse.
Schick libeled Winston on the pages of the New York Jewish Week, in an unlabeled advertisement meant to look like a news report or in-house column. The Jewish Week's Associate Publisher Rich Waloff told me the line designating Schick's 'columns' as advertising had "somehow" "inadvertently" "dropped out" months before. But Waloff did not understand why the Jewish Week had to answer any questions about its policies, and he refused to name the sponsor of Schick's ads or to apologize to anyone for the lack of labeling.
Gary Rosenblatt, the Jewish Week's Editor and Publisher, dismissively told a source that he would not answer questions from "bloggers" about Schick – or anything else, for that matter. It was not long after this that Rosenblatt was forced to admit he had covered up his friend Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's sex abuse for years. Who forced that admission? Bloggers.
On the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Jewish Week ran a story under the byline of Associate Editor Jonathan Mark. Crown Heights was festooned with large yellow banners, flags and bumper stickers naming the late Rebbe the messiah. The main synagogue in 770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad's international headquarters, was draped with these. Mark's article minimized this messianism, mentioning it only in passing when referring to the main synagogue in Chabad's international headquarters as the basement synagogue. The other synagogue upstairs had no such banners. What Mark failed to tell his readers is the basement synagogue is huge, capable of housing thousands for prayer, and the "upstairs synagogue" is the size of a small bedroom, able to (legally) hold perhaps two dozen men.
When I published my critique of his work, Mark emailed me and told me that he did not write the line about the basement synagogue. It was inserted into his story, Mark claimed, along with other edits by a person unknown to him.
Assuming Mark is telling the truth, who could do this to the Associate Editor of a publication? The graphic designer? The printer? An intern? Perhaps.
More likely it was done by or at the request of someone higher up in the Jewish Week than Jonathan Mark. That would mean either Rich Waloff or Gary Rosenblatt did the deed. My money is on Rosenblatt.
For years, Schick's paid advertisements have been published in the Jewish Week, presented as if he were a columnist working for the Jewish Week rather than an advertiser on its pages. Sometimes these ads have carried a very small, indistinct disclaimer; sometimes they have not. When they have in the last two years, it is because of unwanted attention from bloggers and the very real potential of a libel suit, not due to any self-policing on Rosenblatt's part. It should go without saying that Schick did not have the honesty to insert that disclaimer himself.
I bring this up now because Schick's latest attack is based on his attack against Winston two years ago (Download Schick.pdf), and against the now-released study done by Michelle Friedman on sex abuse in Orthodoxy.
Schick's original attack against Winston claimed Winston had promoted her book as a book on sex abuse in Orthodoxy. Schick also claimed New York Magazine's Robert Kolker had made the same claim from the book. In fact, neither assertion was true.
Schick also claimed Winston's dissertation advisor "told me that the original manuscript was far more hate-filled than what appeared in print." That advisor is William Helmreich, now Professor of Sociology & Judaic Studies at City University Graduate Center and City College of New York and Director of the City College Conflict Resolution Center. Helmreich told me then that he never made that statement or any similar statement to Schick. Further, Helmreich confirmed that he had not seen any of Winston's book until a few days before it went to press. He praised that manuscript highly. Winston's editor at Beacon told me that no changes were made in the manuscript and that nothing was done during the writing process to tone down the work.
In other words, again, what Schick claimed is not true.
What is true is that Winston had just published a widely read and well reviewed book on Jews who leave haredism and Kolker had just published a widely read and well received article on Rabbi Yehuda Kolko's 40 year career of rabbi-on-boy sexual abuse and the haredi rabbis who covered it up. Both works make haredism look bad, not because of bias, but because both expose previously hidden problems that soil ultra-Orthodoxy's image.
Now Schick has revisited this because Michelle Friedman's paper is finally through the long peer review process and is now published (Download ajp_articlefinal.pdf). Winston had cited a pre-publication summary of Friedman's article in her book, and Schick attacked Winston for doing so. Schick claimed that many of the study participants were ba'al teshuvas and therefore these women brought their sex abuse stories in from the outside. Without them, Schick claimed, sex abuse in haredism would be incidental.
Schick is making this claim again now that the study is released. But what Schick does not tell his readers is that it is even more likely the study under represents the number of abused women in Orthodoxy rather than the opposite. For various reasons having to do with the willingness to report along with access to counseling and anonymous medical care, those women who chose to report are arguably the tip of the iceberg, not the iceberg itself.
No one can draw comprehensive conclusions from a study like this. Friedman herself does not do so. Neither do her coauthors or the study itself. Neither does Winston. To the extent that such generalities were drawn, they were drawn by media unfamiliar with the methodological process involved, not by Friedman the others.
In her book, Winston in fact writes:
While it is unclear whether or not such abuse exists to a greater degree in these communities than it does in the general population, some have theorized that Jewish communities' historical antipathy toward informers has likely played some role in keeping such abuse quiet, when it occurs.
Honesty, it seems, is not a Schick family character trait.
But there is a another point Schick misses. The Friedman study does not survey women who have left utra-Orthodoxy. Anecdotal evidence shows a high level of sexual abuse of these former haredi women when they were still inside haredism. Would inclusion of these women and removal of all BTs change the study results? Perhaps it would. Perhaps it would show that sex abuse is rampant in haredi society. Anecdotal evidence would point that way, but we can't be sure until a study like this is done.
The point is, the knife Schick wields cuts both ways, and Marvin Schick is too dishonest to admit it.
I could go on about Marvin Schick's deficiencies. But the issue really is not Marvin Schick alone, anymore than the issue of a bull rampaging in a marketplace is this issue of the bull alone. Just as the bull left his confinement because of willful or accidental neglect of its owner, so too Schick continues because of the willful neglect of the Jewish Week and others who publish him.
Gary Rosenblatt has a responsibility to report the truth. Indeed, the Jewish Week’s website puts it this way:
"Our first loyalty is to the truth."
In that vein, readers of the Jewish Week are entitled to know who pays for Schick's 'columns.' Could it be that a Jewish organization uses money raised to educate Jewish children for this purpose? Is it a private donor? Is this donor getting a tax deduction for this? Does this "project" show up on an organization's IRS 990 form or is it hidden?
Another negligent party here is the Greater New York Jewish Federation, which buys Jewish Week subscriptions for tens of thousands of Jews, in effect owning the paper without actually owning it. While it is difficult to make the legal claim that the New York Federation is liable here, the moral claim seems clear.
Women and children are sexually abused in haredi society, just as women are abused in non-Orthodox society and non-Jewish society. If such sexual abuse is more frequent in haredi society (which I admittedly believe) or less frequent (as Schick claims) is not the issue. Zero tolerance for such sexual abuse is the issue.
Everyone involved here should be trying to stop this abuse, to wipe it out.
Instead, haredim like Marvin Schick downplay the abuse and fight legitimate efforts to curtail it because those efforts involve publicity which damages the haredi community's standing. That damage to the haredi reputation is clearly more important to Marvin Schick and his cohort than the very real, painful and often permanent damage done to the bodies, minds and souls of innocent haredi women and children.