Dateline Of Reporting On Rabbinic Sex Abuse
Do the Orthodox Jews have a Catholic-priest problem?
Where Can Survivors Of Rabbinic Sex Abuse Turn For Help?
Who can victims/survivors go to for help? Rabbi Mordechai Tendler case exposes the sad simple fact that in the post-Lanner era little has changed.This seems to be the key question now again being asked. Where do you go? Who will help you? Who can you trust?I do not have the answers to these questions but let’s look at the organizations and individuals that failed victims/survivors in this situation and review what we’ve previously discussed.
1) OHEL and rabbinical leaders
In early 2003, several of the women who say they were sexually exploited by Rabbi Mordecai Tendler contacted Rabbi Dovid Cohen the Halachic advisor for Ohel for help. He did not help them.Various rabbinical leaders and community leaders were approached over the years. But nothing was done.
2) Agunot advocacy organizations and their leadership
They utterly abandoned and failed victims/survivors. At worst supported and continued to send women to Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, at “best” remained silent.
3) Rabbi Mark Dratch (Jsafe) and the RCA
In December 2003, during the question-and-answer session of a Makor forum on rabbinical abuse, several female health-care professionals in the audience spoke with frustration about Rabbi Mordechai Tendler and made accusations of rabbinical sexual misconduct, which they reported has been going on for years.This led to the current long and protracted RCA investigation that has just in the last 9 days resulted in Rabbi Mordechai Tendler's expulsion from the RCA.
Rabbi Dratch initially put together investigation materials but stepped aside as others in the RCA took over the investigation as there was a feeling that there may be a conflict of interest due to Rabbi Dratch's past involvement in The Awareness Center.
An outside organization Praedium was brought in to investigateVictims/survivors and other witnesses were told that their information would be treated confidentially and NOT handed to Rabbi Mordechai Tendler. They were betrayed.
Although, Rabbi Dratch was certainly not the source of the RCA betrayal, he did make a mistake. He told victims/survivors that his colleagues would treat their information confidentiality, something he should never have done as his colleagues turned out to be far from honorable in this regard. Hopefully, in his Jsafe organization he will choose his colleagues with more caution. It is clear that he has lost some trust among victims/survivors as a result of this. It is also clear that in the future advocates helping victims/survivors will be less inclined to trust or tell victims/survivors to trust the RCA or Jsafe. Both will have to take steps to re-establish their credibility as trustworthy. The question remains today, can a victim/survivor go to the RCA for help? Can they trust that the RCA will act professionally? Can they trust that confidentiality will be respected? These questions remain.
I would note:
a. No counseling services/resources and no legal representation were provided to victims/survivors. Once again raising the question of why such resources are not available to victims of abuse in the general community.
b. During the entire investigation, Rabbi Mordechai Tendler continued to act as a pulpit rabbi and provide counseling to women.I also want to clarify an important point. Rabbi Dratch has been criticized as part of the RCA for this betrayal. I believe Rabbi Dratch is a good and decent man. I believe he truly wants to make a difference. As I have posted in the past, he has a long commitment to this issue and has been a powerful advocate. He clearly understands that there is no simple solution to how to deal with these type of cases or how to advocate:
I personally disagree with Rabbi Dratch in this regard. An initial review process in untenable. It is NOT possible to investigate these type of cases and come to conclusions like “guilty/innocent”. That is for the courts or a future Sanhedrin to determine. No other religion is taking such an approach and for good reason. Each and every case is difficult. It may take decades to understand the whole picture. Look how long the Rabbi Mordechai Tendler case has dragged on. That is why I advocate the same approach as other religions. Post all public cases that are documented in any way, shape or form. Put the information in the public's hands.
We are a very “rights of the abuser” focused society. This must change. The rights of the past/current/future victims should be equally focused on. It clearly isn't.
I would only remove cases when the parties involve make a formal request and submit to a full review by professionals directly in the field of sexual abuse who have both the education and experience to fully comprehend and analyze the dynamics involved.
Here is a case I would like to see addressed by Rabbi Dratch/Jsafe:
Anthony Roberts a former teacher at an Orthodox school in England was recently found “not guilty of sexually abusing a 14 year-old student. Mr. Roberts maintains his innocence and will almost certainly be back in education in some Jewish community within a few years.
Should he be back in education? What would/could Jsafe do?
I know of cases in kashrut where shochtim with questionable behavior (unrelated to shita) were told that even though there was not enough evidence for a beis din to find them guilty, the fact that a chashas (suspicion) exists is enough that they are no longer welcome in kashrut. The justification? They should never have put themselves in a position where they could be compromised. As shochtim they must be beyond reproach.Should we not have stronger standards as to who works with our children then we have in kashrut?
4) The Jewish press played an important role in this case. Both Gary Rosenblatt and Rukhl Schaechter (in particular) have written powerful articles.
I would note that although I praise Rosenblatt for stories like Rabbi Lanner, I have been and continue to be critical of the arbitrary standards he applies to sexual abuse stories. If the general media had used similar standards, there would be no Catholic Church scandal. He has refused to do proper investigative reports on numerous cases such as, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, Rabbi Lewis Brenner (see quote and link below regarding this area). He is too quick to acquiesce to senior RCA members in letting them investigate and deal with such situations quietly (Rabbis Bryks and Tendler). He has also delayed stories for no good reason (Rabbi Mordechai Gafni).
As I've pointed out before, people turn to him for help believing that the reporter that broke the Lanner story will help them. Unfortunately, many victims/survivors find no help. He has simply refused to investigate many stories in this area. Unfortunately, he is the one reporter that everyone is referred to.
"The professional dilemma this poses for me, and this newspaper, which already has a reputation — I believe undeserved — for Orthodox bashing, is whether we are now to become the central communal clearinghouse for dealing with and outing Orthodox Jewish officials with various sexual deviancies. I don’t think that’s our role."
Unfortunately, there are few Jewish press reporters willing to even do stories in this area and the general media has been reluctant to do stories in this area. I was asked to list Jewish reporters who could be approached recently. I could only name the above two. Many reporters after doing stories in this area are so disturbed by the material that they avoid doing further work in this area. Several reporters I have approached have told me exactly that.
5) The Awareness Center was the one organization that showed backbone, the one organization that advocated for these women, the one organization that tried to find resources for them even when it had none of its own, the one organization that did not betray these women, the one organization that was not quiet and the one organization that put its reputation on the line for these wome. If ever there was proof of the need for an advocacy organization like the Awareness center, it is stories like this.
Now if only it had proper resources of its own.
Rabbi Saul Berman
Charlotte Schwab writes in her book Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust:
A Jewish woman writes Luke 12/15/04:
Jewish Whistleblower writes:
I need a title for my new book on Orthodox rabbis who are sexual predators.
I was thinking of (inspired by the harrowing 2002 movie The Sisters Magdalene): You're Not A Man Of God: Orthodox Rabbis Who Are Sexual Predators.
* Below The Pulpit
Full disclosure by Luke Ford:
I was ejected from three Pico-Robertson Orthodox synagogues in 2001 (Young Israel of Century City, Beth Jacob and Chabad's Bais Bazalel, in that order) (related article on my Young Israel expulsion) and from one in 1998. Many in the Orthodox community (and elsewhere) say that my writing on rabbi-predators is motivated by my hatred for rabbis.
While I am not the last person in the world to write a book about rabbinic sex abuse, I am far from ideal for this task. To be pithy, my own life has not been a model of holiness. While I don't believe I've ever sexually abused anyone (nor have I been abused), what principally separates me from much of the conduct (between adults) described in this book is opportunity. I've never been in a position of religious leadership, and thank God for that.
I have other reasons for not writing this book. As a convert to Judaism, I don't want to criticize my adopted faith. To do so is an implicit criticism of my choice. When I look at the large number of rabbis who've taken advantage of their position, I wonder if there's not just something wrong with some religious Jews but with some parts of the Jewish religion.
I converted to Judaism because I thought the Torah made people better. Yet, in many cases in this book, the Torah seems to have made people worse. It became a tool to abuse the vulnerable.
Rabbis were my path into Judaism and I've depended on them to shape my life within Judaism. There's no class of people I admire more than rabbis and therefore there is no group I wish to trash less. (Yet I could write chapters on why the very opposite of what I've just argued is also true.)
When I go to shul, I want to see my friends (some of them rabbis) and have a nice time. I don't want to write things that could disturb this oasis in my life. Not only do I lack the moral standing to lecture people about sexual sins, I lack the education. Every rabbi in this book knows more Torah than I do.
While I accept my religion's strict standards of behavior, I haven't fully internalized them. Thus, I rarely get upset when I hear about sins between consenting adults. And when it comes to adulthood, I hold by my religion's ancient standard - 13 years old aka Bar Mitzvah. I'm willing to execute murderers down to age 13 and I regard it as good an arbitrary separation as any between child and adult.
While I would not get sexually involved with anyone under 18, and I support society's sanctions against those who do, I do not automatically regard sex between adults and post-pubescent teenagers under 18 as loathsome (in many cases I do regard it as loathsome). Throughout Jewish history, there have been adults, with the blessing of the community, who've married and had sex with those under 18.
I've never worried much about the morality of those in power having sex with those who seemingly are without power. I don't get incensed (though neither do I approve) when professors have at it with their students nor when bosses boff their secretaries.
If your boss says you must have sex with him or lose your job, I've always believed you should quit your job and get another one. To sue over such matters says to me that you lack the strength to control your life.
I don't buy into the whole victimhood mentality in these instances. I believe that people with an IQ over room temperature should be responsible for their own lives. If your husband forces you to have sex with him, then you should leave him and create another life. I don't think it should be a criminal matter.
If you get naked with someone you know and get raped (without any weapon being used or permanent physical damage inflicted), then you should wise up about those you get naked with. I don't think it should be a criminal matter and I don't think it has to haunt you for the rest of your life.
In other words, while I tell much of this book from the perspective of those it is easy to label victims, I don't buy into the modern language of victimology. And I don't automatically shun all predators.
I've had rabbi acquaintances who've been convicted of various sexual sins and crimes. One slept with women in his congregation. Another one received oral sex from a 14-year old girl. Another had child pornography on his computer.
While I oppose all such behavior, I never felt it was my place to tell these men that they had done wrong (nor did I choose to include them in this book). Instead, I related to them in a friendly manner.
Many cases which are popularly viewed through the prism of predator-victim, I view as more complex. When I watch the movie Lolita, I'm not at all sure who is the villain - the girl or the man?
When I hear about attractive female teachers who get into trouble for having sex with their underage male students, my primary reaction is to wish that I could've had such relations during my teens. (Though if I were to have a daughter one day, and was to find out that her teacher or rabbi had screwed her, I'd want to kill him.)
When I heard the stories I placed in this book, I rarely got upset. I rarely tried to comfort the purported victims and I rarely seethed to punish the purported predators. Rather, my overwhelming concern was to ferret out the facts and to tell the stories fairly and fearlessly.
How did I come to write this book? It just fell into my lap while I was blogging on Jewish matters in the summer of 2004. Initially I made fun of some stories of rabbinic sex abuse. Then I realized that the behavior I was satirizing was a serious problem that deserved serious reporting.
When I discussed my book with people, I was frequently asked these questions:
* Why did you write this?
I thought the topic compelling and important.
* What should we do about rabbinic sex abuse?
I don't know.
* Why do you focus on the Orthodox?
Because I find the Orthodox more dramatic and interesting than the other Jewish streams.
* Is sexual abuse a big problem in Orthodoxy?
It seems to be as large a problem as clergy abuse in Catholicism. I'll never forget the year 2001 when three Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis, in separate cases, pled guilty to sexually molesting children. Since then, whenever I open up a Jewish newspaper, I expect a story about rabbinic sex abuse.
* How do you know if a person is guilty of sex abuse?
It is difficult to know because such abuse usually occurs behind closed doors, but there are some good indicators:
-- If someone pleads guilty.
* Do the Orthodox view women as property?
I've never seen that. I've never met an Orthodox husband who viewed his wife as property akin to his car. I've never met an Orthodox wife who viewed herself as chattel.
* How do the Orthodox deal with sex abuse?
There is no orthodox Orthodox reaction. Each community deals with it differently. Some cooperate with law enforcement while others try to take care of things in-house. Many communities eject predators. Until recently, this was usually done without warning the predator's new community.
* What's the psychology behind a sexual predator?
Men act like predators when they can (unless constrained by values and fears).
* Are you worried your book will cause anti-Semitism?
No. Jews in 21st Century America can usually feel secure about threats from the goyim. As Dennis Prager says, our biggest problems are internal to our community.
* How do you reconcile this book with Judaism's laws against forbidden speech (lashon hara)?
While I can't fully reconcile my writing with Jewish law (certainly not with the Chafetz Chaim's interpretations), I strive to follow the example of Judaism's sacred texts, such as the Bible and the Talmud, which have no compunction about holding Jewish leaders accountable for their actions.