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October 28, 2010

Has The Haredi Community's Silence On Child Sexual Abuse Been Broken?

David-mandel_ceo_ohelfinal2 Has the Jewish community finally come to terms with sexual abuse? That is the question raised by the publication of a controversial new book, “Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community.”

Has the silence been broken? New book has some answers, but doubts linger
By Michael Orbach • The Jewish Star

David-mandel_ceo_ohelfinal2 Has the Jewish community finally come to terms with sexual abuse? That is the question raised by the publication of a controversial new book, “Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community.”

It is the first extensive treatment of sexual abuse among Jews aimed at a religious audience, and it faces the explosive topic head on — from advice on contacting police to filing abuse reports to halachic arguments about why reporting molesters is in keeping with Jewish law.

The editors, Dr. David Pelcovitz, the Straus Professor of Psychology and Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University, and David Mandel, the CEO of Ohel, the largest Jewish social service agency, have nodoubt about the book’s importance.

“There’s been some kind of tipping point that’s been reached,” said Dr. Pelcovitz. The book, he explained “reflects the openness, I’m seeing the default setting seems to be shifting to action rather than denial. People have come to an understanding that responding to the issue of abuse, both in supporting the victims of abuse and dealing with the perpetrators is much more important than the issue of shame and stigma.”

Pelcovitz_lecture Pelcovitz said the change was caused by a critical mass of professionals who were “sensitive to the uniquely cultural presentation of abuse in the Orthodox community.”

“There’s been a really kind of growing group of people who are going out and getting training in the area,” Pelcovitz explained.

Mandel listed the outspoken position of advocates and rabbinical authorities like Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky,  Rav Avraham Pam z”l, and Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novaminkser Rebbe. Mandel also cited prosecutors taking action against child molesters. Surprisingly, Pelcovitz also credited the Catholic Church and its new openness.

Gavriel Fagen, a Woodmere resident and social worker, wrot a chapter about victims.

“By incorporating direct quotes from victims, I feel that a voice was given to those who have suffered in silence,” he explained.

Unequivocally, both Mandel and Pelcovitz advocate reporting offenders to civil authorities.

“There is a growing willingness in the yeshiva community to be able to do that,” Dr. Pelcovitz said. “Recognition that it is the law… There’s very little gray area. The [book] make it clear that there’s no gray area in Halacha.”

David Mandel, co-editor of “Breaking the Silence” is closely associated with Ohel, the largest Jewish social service agency, and some have accused him of using the book to whitewash Ohel’s record on sexual abuse. The organization has been accused of inaction and covering-up for sexual molesters.

Michael Lesher, who edited “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals,” a collection of essays about sexual abuse inside the Jewish community that was published last year by Brandeis University Press, said that Ohel continued to refer patients to Avrohom Mondrowitz, a rabbi and pyschologist, even after suspicions were raised of his sexually abusing hundreds before he fled to Israel in 1984. He has avoided extradition and remains free in Jerusalem.

“Ohel had reports of Mondrowitz’s abuse of children at least two years before anyone called the police,” Lesher maintained.

Ohel has also been criticized in another high profile case. In 2007, Stefan Colmer pleaded guilty to 37 counts of sexual abuse. It was later revealed by The Jewish Week that Colmer had attended a program for sexual offenders run by Ohel. When Colmer dropped out, Ohel did not alert authorities and Colmer molested several other individuals.

“The agency made no effort to follow up with him or to warn the community where he was then living,” Lesher said. “This meant that Colmer was easily able to approach potential victims at the Mirrer yeshiva at a time when Ohel had every reason to know he represented a risk.

“Perhaps Mandel should be asked about these things if he’s now presenting himself as an authority on child sex abuse.”

Ben Hirsch, the president of Survivors for Justice, an advocacy organization for Jewish sexual abuse survivers called the book a “must-read.” “It contains information crucial to parents, educators, mental health professionals and anyone else who cares about this issue,” Hirsch said. Though he was troubled by Mandel’s involvement.

“The fact — as demonstrated by the Mondrowitz and Colmer cases — that Ohel has had direct knowledge of dangerous offenders living among us and does not share that information with the public and law enforcement needlessly places literally thousands of children at risk,” Hirsch explained. “This practice violates both halacha and civil law. And the Colmer case, tragically, is not the only one of its kind. I ask myself: what other predators does Ohel know about and continue to leave us in the dark about?”

Asked about Ohel’s past treatment of sex offenders and whether the controversial program would be restarted, Mandel declined to speak about it, but offered that “sex offenders can be treated by any number of professionals in private practices, whereas a number of years ago they had not been available.”

In his chapter, Mandel notes that most sex offenders don’t end up in prison, even if they are found guilty. Former Westchester district attorney Jeanine Pirro successfully prosecuted 111 men arrested for pedophilia. However, Mandel notes, only eight of the perpetrators received jail sentences.

“The fact that most perpetrators are not in jail is not a Jewish phenomenon,” Mandel writes. He advises keeping the sexual predators inside the community.

“We’re better off knowing who he is where he is and surrounding that information with as many safeguards as we can,” Mandel said.

The publication of the book also coincided with the National Jewish Week to Prevent Child Abuse, a program launched by the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. While largely ceremonial, the week showcased a wider awareness of sexual abuse.

“We wanted to bring together all of the leading organizations to create a unified voice that says we must protect our children,” said Dr. Asher Lipner, vice president of The Jewish Board of Advocates.

The week had some notable signatories including the Orthodox Union, National Council of Young Israel, and the Rabbinical Council of America. Ohel did not sign on and neither did Kol Tzedek, the Ohel-affiliated hotline run by the Brooklyn District Attorney.

“I personally made it very clear to them that the week has nothing to do with controversial legislation, and nothing to do with exposing scandals from the past,” said Lipner. “It is simply about bringing awareness of a public safety issue that has hurt far too many children in our community.  We were also disappointed that the Kol Tzedek program would not agree to participate in any way, after they told me that the D.A would need permission from his partners in the Orthodox community (OHEL, et. al.), and apparently it was not granted. It appears, unfortunately, that there are elements of our community that will still play politics with children’s neshamas.”

Jerry Schmetterer, spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney, said that this wasn’t the case.

“We wouldn’t need permission to attend,” he said. “It would be the district attorney’s decision. We did not attend, we weren’t able to and we’re planning our own conference.”

Mandel explained that simply because Ohel wasn’t at the conference didn’t mean “Ohel does not support the effort of this group.”

“We support any effort to educate the community about prevention and response to sexual abuse,” Mandel said.

Mandel and Pelcovitz are both bad guys.

Mandel is everything bad said about him in this article and more. The man even publicly told Jews not to report child sexual abuse to police or child protective services.

Pelcovitz has been complicit in Ohel's wrongdoings and coverups of child sexual abuse for years.

I just received the book yesterday, and I hope I'll have the time to write a full review of it.

But Mandel and Pelcovitz don't belong on a book tour, they belong in federal prison. Maybe one day soon they'll get there.

Photographs: Top, David Mandel; bottom, Dr. David Pelcovitz.

Comments

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"Hardei community" ≠ "Jewish Community" kthxbye

I have heard Dr. Pelcovitz speak on many occasions. A real nice and intelligent guy who gives of himself to help others. If Mr. Rosenberg doesn't like him, then all the better!

If Mr. Rosenberg doesn't like him, then all the better!

It's the little kids who were raped and abused because Pelcovitz did not call the police that you should be worried about.

But, as always, you're far too selfish and far too stupid to care.

Mandel is an overpaid buffoon. The idiot parades around as some kind of "expert" regarding child sexual abuse. Meanwhile, he doesn't hold any psychology degrees. The only experience he has in the field is doing a good job in covering up for child molesters. His speech in Baltimore where he told parents "there is no need to involve the police (if your child is abused)", was a real winner. His participation at the Torah Temimah 2006 Kolko conference where he stated that child molesters can be cured and be reinstated as teachers was another gem. This man is dangerous and like Shmarya states, he should be locked up in jail rather than going on book tours and speaking engagements.

Like the Walls of Jericho it takes time and concerted effort to break down the fortress of denial. We are well on our way in the second decade of the Twenty First Century but there is still a long way to go. Any Jewish group working sincerely on this problem is to be commended. We all have to try and defeat "The Nothing".

P.S. If readers have not seen "The Neverending Story” I suggest they do so.

Great movie. Ironically, it was made by Krauts.

Boro Park had a public seminar on child abuse. Hundreds of people attended. Nachum Rosenberg, villified for his public battle against child abuse, was honored for his efforts. Speakers included the Bostoner Rebbe of Brooklyn as well as Dov Hikind. The walls are truly starting to fall.

The walls are starting to fall. Mandel and Ohel deserve very little of the credit.

According to this article Mandel advises keeping the sexual predators inside the community.“We’re better off knowing who he is where he is and surrounding that information with as many safeguards as we can,”

This contradicts his claim that he wants to rely on the criminal justice system which, as Mandel knows fully well, uses incarceration as an important way of protecting kids. Is Mandel claiming that folks who are not incarcerated and on sex offender registries are assigned 24/7 mashgichei temimim? I think not.

Meanwhile, Pelcovitz is ridiculous enough to credit the example of the new "openness" of the Catholic Church. As far as I can tell, the church is always a day late and a dollar short. They make a show of public regret when they are caught but they are still covering up all sorts of things including actions by the pope to return molesting priests to work with children.

According to the article Mandel says "The fact that most perpetrators are not in jail is not a Jewish phenomenon,” He advises keeping the sexual predators inside the community.

Well, Ohel has certainly done a lot to keep sexual predators in the community. And by the way, it is a Jewish phenomenon that so few cases of molesting get reported to the police and that entire communities turn on and torture those who do go to the police.

Not having seen the book, I cannot judge it in its entirety. It is an edited volume and there may very well be some excellent chapters. In fact Pelcovits himself may have shared some useful information.

However, if the statements in this article are indicative of the book, I am sure that it is an advertisement for Ohel and I am sure it does not warn the public about the serious problems with Ohel then and now.

The speeches from the Boro Park event are on You Tube. The Bostoner Rebbe evidently didn't show up.

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheVinVid

If Mr. Rosenberg doesn't like him, then all the better!
It's the little kids who were raped and abused because Pelcovitz did not call the police that you should be worried about.
But, as always, you're far too selfish and far too stupid to care.


This is the difference between Harold and Archie Bunker, Bunker is obiously a learned man with sometimes his heart in the right place but he is very mean and vicious, Harold on the other hand is very nice but he is a savage idiot.

"But Mandel and Pelcovitz don't belong on a book tour, they belong in federal prison. Maybe one day soon they'll get there."
Hmm. I wonder why we bother with the whole legal system - arrests, trials, etc... Rosenberg seems to know who belongs in jail just by hearing about what's in a book, let alone reading it. What a talent.

Hmm. I wonder why we bother with the whole legal system - arrests, trials, etc... Rosenberg seems to know who belongs in jail just by hearing about what's in a book, let alone reading it. What a talent.

Not too bright, I see, and you have a reading comprehension problem as well.

What I was clearly referring to was their years of covering up sexual abuse.

Idiot.

If you believe they committed crimes, and have knowledge of real evidence to back it up, I encourage you to contact law enforcement and have them launch an investigation. If you don't, why would you convict them in the court of Rosenberg and decree that they should be in jail?

If you believe they committed crimes, and have knowledge of real evidence to back it up, I encourage you to contact law enforcement and have them launch an investigation.

There is evidence and law enforcement has been notified.

And, hopefully, there will be indictments.

Really? Why don't you post it on your website? Why not challenge any of your targets to a debate in a public forum, and show that you are something more than a petty, petulant insecure child who can't get over rejection by "the Rebbe"' of your brilliant Ethiopian proposal, and general lack of success in life, hiding behind his computer screen peddling heresay, rumor and libel and calumny, with some modicum of truth thrown in?

Really? Why don't you post it on your website?

Moron. I have.

In fact, the article posted above mentions some of them.

Buddy, you have your head way up your ass.

Just another example of Scotty going off the deep end.

Or, perhaps I should say, "That's just Scotty being Scotty."

Speaking of the Bostoner Rebbe and child abuse..........
Coincidentally enough, I have just read a comment on the Unpious.com blog by someone involving the aforementioned Rebbe and his bizarre advice to someone relating cases of abuse.
This is a quote.

'Regarding the subject of violence amongst Chasidim I have witnessed my fair share.
I went to a frum day school of about five hundred students.
In my class alone, I know of six students who were physically and/or sexually abused.
By the age of twenty one I had found out about so many cases of child abuse in my community involving both boys and girls that I knew I would have to actually confront the Rabanim who had been in charge or leave altogether.
100% of the people I spoke to, including a Rosh Yeshiva,School Principals, teachers, Rebetzens etc, basically the most prominent members of my community, told me in answer that ‘Kibud av ve’em’ overrides all other suspicions of wrong doing.
I even spoke to a Rebbe visiting my city at the time, the Bostoner Rebbe, who answered me after I recounted to him the horrors of specific incidents of child abuse with,”Tell the parents of those children affected to drink peppermint tea, it calms the nerves.”
I was sickened beyond belief and left the community for good a month later.

That Chassidic disregard for secular law that you mentioned has somehow evolved or rather devolved over several centuries into an actual disregard for the fundementals of right and wrong.
If it is possible for an entire Chassidic community to justify to themselves that not only violence but the ultimate act of evil that is child abuse is somehow not an ‘aveira’ then seriously the entire core of that belief system has become rotten.
The Chassidic philosophy as a lifestyle with no moral compass is meaningless but that is exactly what the Chassidic world has become.'

REALITY CHECK
the recent action and resistance by the rabbis haver energized the community in a major revolt and has empowered the victims to come forward as never before.mandel and pelcowitz are totaly irrelevant.There are approxmitly 3 arrests weekly in brooklyn alone.the recent unity rally in brooklyn by the jewish board of advocates and other activisits like rabbi nuchem rosenberg,hirch,appel and others have thrown a fire at those who protect molestors,Only more arrests and the people will win this battle and we will

Can some one please elaborate on the allegations against Dr. Pelcovitz. I know several people, both askunim and mental health professionals who advocate for victims and advocate for police involvement who think very highly of him.

Does any one have any specific knowledge other than, 'he consulted for Ohel,' 'he once worked for Ohel' etc.

This, of course, makes them both guilty as charged in the kangaroo court of Scotty Rosenberg.

Is Gavriel Fagen related to Donald Fagen?

hope is here:
Good evening and how are you?
You sound like a nice person.
Listen.
In Chassidic communities across the world the introduction to married life begins something like this.
A teenage girl with no or limited knowledge of sex is introduced to a teenage boy with same.
They speak or not for an hour or more.
In a month they have a big party where they both wear pretty clothes.
After the party they are both raped by each other.
The girl is soon told never to resist the
husband as he will take his insatiable desires elsewhere.
'Just be bittul, that is what you were created for'.
The girl is raped regularly.
Her shoes, clothes, way she walks and tone of her voice are all moderated to what her husband wants.
There is no such word as 'no' anymore.
In five years time she'll discover her husband's secret porn stash.
In ten years she'll know he has a regular at the brothel downtown.
She lives. She's alive.
Problem is she has no desire to wake up anymore.
If this does not describe anyone you know, kol hakavod.
Child abuse is not the beginning of the problem, it is the smoke above a city that's burning.

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