Web Site Tracks Sexual Abusers
Broadcast on May 1, 1989, the show was titled “Mexican Satanic Cult Murders,” and during one segment Oprah presented a woman under the pseudonym of “Rachel” who was undergoing long-term psychiatric treatment for multiple personality disorder.
“As a child my next guest was also used in worshipping the devil, participated in human sacrifice rituals and cannibalism,” Oprah told her audience. “She is currently in extensive therapy, suffers from multiple personality disorder, meaning she’s blocked out many of the terrifying and painful memories of her childhood. Meet ‘Rachel’, who is also in disguise to protect her identity.”
“Rachel” said she had witnessed the ritual sacrifice of children and had been a victim of ritualistic abuse. “I was born into a family that believes in this.”
“And this is a — does everyone else think it’s a nice Jewish family?” asked Oprah, introducing “Rachel’s” religion. “From the outside you appear to be a nice Jewish girl…. And you are all worshipping the devil inside the home?”
“Right,” said the disturbed “Rachel.” “There’s other Jewish families across the country. It’s not just my own family.”
“Really? “And so who knows about it? Lots of people now.”
“I talked to a police detective in the Chicago area….”
“So when you were brought up in this kind of evilness did you just think it was normal?”
“Rachel” said she had blocked out a lot of the memories, but she remembered enough to say “there would be rituals in which babies would be sacrificed.” She later added, “Not all Jewish people sacrifice babies…. It’s not a typical thing.”
“I think we all know that,” said Oprah.
“I just wanted to point that out.”
“This is the first time I heard of any Jewish people sacrificing babies, but anyway — so you witnessed the sacrifice?” said Oprah.
“Right. When I was very young I was forced to participate in that, and…I had to sacrifice an infant.”
The phones at Harpo started jangling with hundreds of irate callers objecting to Oprah’s blithe acceptance of “Rachel’s” claims about Jews practicing devil worship. Television stations across the country — New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland, Washington D.C. — were inundated with furious calls. Within hours, Jewish groups rose up in condemnation, and Oprah’s show because a national news story. “We have grave concerns about both the lack of judgment and the insensitive manipulation of this woman, who is clearly mentally ill, in a manner which can only inflame the basest prejudices of ignorant people,” Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism told The New York Times.
Arthur J. Kropp, president of People for the American Way, a leading civil liberties organization, met with his board of directors in Washington, D.C. “There’s been a lot of concern about so-called trash television,” he said after reviewing the transcript of Oprah’s show. “She was the one who introduced the religion. I don’t think she introduced it to convey any correlation between the woman’s Jewishness and what she saw, but nevertheless Oprah did do it and that was careless.”
This wasn’t the first bad publicity Ooprah had ever received, but it was brutal because she was being criticized for offending sensibilities of race and religion, which she had always appeared to champion. It was an especially sorry position for a woman who had put herself forward as a “poor little ole nappy-headed colored chile” from the lynching state of Mississippi as a not-so-subtle reminder of the viciousness of bigotry. She now felt misunderstood by her accusers, but she also recognized that her career was in jeopardy.
“We are aware that the show has struck a nerve,” said Jeff Jacobs, then COO of Harpo Productions. He pointed out to the press that Oprah had said on the air that “Rachel” was one particular person talking about her particular situation. “And she was identified at the top of the show as being mentally disturbed,” he added, not commenting on why such a person would be allowed on the show in the first place. Recognizing the danger of a national boycott of The Oprah Winfrey Show and the potential loss of sponsors, which could spell financial ruin for everyone, Jacobs quickly offered to meet with Jewish leaders in Chicago to try to salvage the situation, but neither he nor Oprah offered a public apology. When reporters called, Jacobs said Oprah was “traveling” and “unavailable for comment.”
…Feeling battered by the bruising she was taking in the nation’s press over her devil-worship show, Oprah remained close to her condominium at Water Tower Place when she wasn’t working. Serendipitously, she happened to meet Harriet Brady (nee Bookey), another resident, in the lobby. Mrs. Brady, then seventy-two, was well known in Chicago’s Jewish community as a philanthropist. She approached Oprah to introduce herself, and then said kindly, “I think I can help you.”
Within hours she was on the phone to her good friend Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, a federal judge whose contacts extended into every segment of society. He agreed to help, and for the next week Judge Marovitz and Mrs. Brady worked on Oprah’s behalf to assemble a group of representatives from the region’s Jewish community to meet at Harriet Brady’s condominium to try to quell the raging controversy.
Oprah arrived at the meeting on May 9, 1989, with Debar DiMaio and two Jewish members of her senior staff, Jeffrey Jacobs and Ellen Rakieten. They sat down with Michael Kotzin, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Chicago; Jonathan Levine, midwest director of the American Jewish Committee; Barry Morrison, director of the Greater Chicago/Wisconsin Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Rabbi Herman Schaalman, president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis; Maynard Wishner, resident of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Judge Marovitz; and Mrs. Brady.
Oprah was sufficiently contrite and vowed never again to broadcast a show on devil worship. She agreed to reach out to B’nai B’rith, which fights anti-Semitism and racism, whenever her show focused on those subjects, and she promised to exercise better judgment in selecting her guests. The two sides came together over the next three days to work out two statements to be delivered to the press, which had been covering the story nearly every day. Oprah and her executive producer said, “We recognize that The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 1 could have contributed to the perpetuation and historical misconceptions and canards about Jews, and we regret any harm may have been done. We are aware of community and group sensibilities and will make every effort to ensure that our program will reflect that concern.”
Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community leaders, ADL representative Barry Morrison said, “We were all satisfied that Oprah Winfrey and her staff did not intend to offend anyone and that Oprah was genuinely sorry for any offense or misunderstanding. During the meeting, constructive recommendations were made and there was an extensive exchange of information which led to a greater understanding of Jewish perspective on the part of Oprah and her staff.”
Not everyone was pleased with the outcome. “It’s an inadequate response to the harm that may have been done on that broadcast,” said Phil Baum, associate executive director of the American Jewish Congress. “It’s not our sensitivities she ought to be concerned about. It’s a question of the integrity of her show. This apology cannot possibly reach anything like the people [7,680,000 homes, according to the A.C. Nielsen Company] who were exposed to these statements.”
Oprah refused to make an apology on her show or publicly comment on the program or the statements, but privately she embraced her two major defenders and kept Mrs. Brady and Judge Marovitz close to her for the rest of their lives. Both were invited to all her parties, and because of them she became more involved in Jewish causes.
The following is an excerpt of the May 1, 1989 Oprah Show. Vicki Polin confirms that she was "Rachel." Yori Yanover sent me this first (5/10/05).
OPRAH: As a child, my next guest was used also in worshipping the devil, participated in human sacrifice rituals and cannibalism. She says her family has been involved in rituals for generations. She is currently in extensive therapy, suffers from multiple personality disorder, meaning she's blocked out many of the terrifying and painful memories of her childhood. Meet "Rachel," who is also in disguise to protect her identity. You come from generations of ritualistic abuse?
"RACHEL", Was Used In Satan Worship Rituals: Yes, my family has an extensive family tree, and they keep track of who's been involved and who hasn't been involved, and it’s gone back to like 1700.
OPRAH: And so you were ritually abused.
"RACHEL": Right. I was born into a family that believes in this.
OPRAH: Does everyone else think it's a nice Jewish family? From the outside, you appear to be a nice Jewish girl?
OPRAH: And you all are worshipping the devil inside the home?
"RACHEL": Right. There's other Jewish families across the country. It's not just my own family.
OPRAH: So when you were brought up in this kind of evilness, did you just think it was normal?
"RACHEL': I blocked out a lot of the memories I had because of my multiple personality disorder, but, yes. I mean, it's like if you grow up with something, you think it’s normal. I always thought something…
OPRAH: So what kinds of things? You don't have to give us the gory details, but what kinds of things went on in the family?
"RACHEL": Well, there would be rituals in which babies would be sacrificed, and you would have to, you know…
OPRAH: Whose babies?
"RACHEL": There were people who bred babies in our family. No one would know about it. A lot of people were overweight, so you couldn't tell if they were pregnant or not, or they would supposedly go away for awhile and then come back…
"RACHEL": The other thing I want to point out not all Jewish people sacrifice babies. I mean, it's not a very typical thing.
OPRAH: I think we kind of know that.
"RACHEL": I just want to point that out.
OPRAH: This is the first time I heard of any Jewish people sacrificing babies, but anyway--so you witnessed the sacrifice.
"RACHEL": Right. When I was very young, I was forced to participate in that-- in which I had to sacrifice an infant.
OPRAH: And the purpose of sacrifice is to what? Is to bring you what? What are you sacrificing for?
"RACHEL": For power...
OPRAH: Power. And so were you ever used? Were you ever used yourself?
"RACHEL": I was molested. I was raped several times.
OPRAH: What's your mother doing in all of this? What's her role in all of this?
"RACHEL": What is-- I'm not exactly- -what her role is-- I haven't, you know, recovered all of my memories, but her family was extremely involved. You know, she brought me to it. Both of my parents brought me to it.
OPRAH: And where is she now?
"RACHEL": She lives in the Chicago metropolitan area. She's on the human relations commission of the town that she lives in, and she's an upstanding citizen. Nobody would suspect her. Nobody would suspect anybody involved in it. There's police officers involved in it. There's, you know, doctors, lawyers, Indiana chiefs involved in it.
OPRAH: Are you kidding?
"RACHEL": I mean, it's not the person, you know, who looks scummy that's involved in it. It's someone who looks normal.…
OPRAH: Were you raised with a sense of right and wrong, “Rachel?”
“RACHEL: Yes. I mean, it’s like we, I had both. I mean, to the outside world, everything we did was proper and right, and then there were the nights that things changed, that things just got turned around. What was wrong was right, and what was right was wrong. That’s what helps to create some of theto develop MPD.
OPRAH: Multiple personality disorder.
“RACHEL”: Right, right.
OPRAH: I know a lot of people are shaking their heads here, and I'm sure that when you go back home, I mean, everyone's going to try to make you look like you're crazy.
"RACHEL": Oh, definitely.
"RACHEL": They do that all the time.
OPRAH: It's very difficult to believe, so how is it that you come to believe these people, Tina?
Ms. GROSSMAN: Well, I've treated over 40 survivors of ritual abuse. Adult patients with multiple personality disorder, and from many states in this country as well as Canada. What we've seen and heard and gone through in the abreactions which is the remembered experiences of that- we are hearing the identical same things from these adults. Okay. These are not children that are three years old, and you can, as an adult, perhaps rationalize that this is fantasy material. These adults are saying things. They have never met each other before. They are describing identical rituals, just the same as, since I'm Jewish, you could go to New York or California and describe a seder in one state or another and, as a Jew, you would recognize it. This is the belief system in evil and the power that evil gives you, and so it has these certain rituals, so they are very similar with all of the survivors.
OPRAH: See, but I am very surprised because the Jewish faith is the Jewish faith. and worshipping the devil is not a part of the Jewish faith. I mean, Jewish people do not worship the devil.
Ms. GROSSMAN: But before there was Christ and before there was a system of one God, there was Paganism- and it still exists in the world, and in many cultures, you still find the belief that there is strength and power in the actual consumption of human flesh or animals' flesh.
OPRAH: Now in your family. did you all call it worshipping the devil, "Rachel?”
OPRAH: Or did you…
"RACHEL": I don't know.
OPRAH: It was just evil. these things you did.
"RACHEL": It was-- right.
"RACHEL": Well, I said it was evil, and they said it was good. There's a book that I had just come across called [Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural by Howard Schwartz, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988] which is a book of Jewish mysticism and supernatural, and there's a lot in that book that relates to what I endured when I was a child.
OPRAH: I want to stop right here, though. because you know how people build prejudices. I want to make it very clear this is one Jewish person, so don't go around now saying to people, you know, "Those Jewish people, they're worshipping--'. This is just one person. Okay.
OPRAH: Okay. Thank you very much.
"RACHEL": I mean, I don't know very many other Jewish people who would do what I did.
OPRAH: But you know how people hear one thing, and then go off and they say, "I heard on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' today that…”
To this day, Vicki stands behind what she said on Oprah (she intentionally twisted some minor details on Oprah to disguise herself and her family.) She now says she can only trace her family back to the 1800s.
If you Google ""ritual abuse" Oprah," you will see how many anti-semitic websites used Vicki's appearance as fodder to perpetuate the myth that Jews sacrifice children.
On May 11, 2005, I speak by phone to someone close to Vicki Polin's family.
This source is someone Vicki likes and respects.
My source says: This is my opinion, but it is the opinion of her family. That the claims were unfounded. I think she was led to make those claims through the investigator she had worked with (Jerry Simendl) who wanted to prove a theory of suppressed memory syndrome. And her therapist Tina Grossman. They had a theory they wanted her to prove and they found her to be a susceptible person to suggestion.
A lot of us have questions we want to answer about our lives. They had a theory that repressed memory is a big thing. As most people of Jewish background would attest, most people who survived the Holocaust saw horrible atrocities too, but they don't have these repressed memories in the same fashion.
Luke: Vicki claims she had five abortions as a result of being impregnated by her father.
Source: I've known Vicki since she was about ten years old. I can't say that in those early years, I was a best friend of the family, but I've been around for a while. Neither I, nor her sisters, saw evidence for that. I don't think that something like that would be hush-hush.
Luke: She claims her family is part of a cult that goes back to the 1700s of ritual abuse.
Source: Honestly, I think it is all bulls---. She makes accusations about her aunts and uncles as well. I've known them for as long as I've known her. I never had an inkling that anything like that could've been happening. It's possible that it happened and I was oblivious but [members of Vicki's family] were they completely oblivious? If they had any clue that something like that could've been happening, could they stand idly by? I don't think so.
We saw the show. There was no mistaking who that person was. I got in the car and went down to talk with her. I said we need to have a cup of coffee. We had a cup of coffee. She completely denied being on the show. I said, I know it was you. I watched the show. She told me all these stories. I don't understand where that came from. Has she ever given us any kind of proof or validation that it was true? Not one bit.
Luke: Was she a stable girl as a teenager?
Source: As stable as any other teenager.
A sexual predator is obviously a horrible person. A person who sacrifices baby is a whole other animal. She's made claims in the past that go way beyond sexual predators. I don't doubt that she believes this.
[Vicki is not a responsible person. A member of her family] said to her pointblank -- 'Give me some evidence. Give me some idea why you said all these things.' To the best of my knowledge, Vicki never came forward to say this or that. She basically said, 'This is what I believe. You've got to believe it or don't believe it.'
Luke: Did Vicki confess that was her on the Oprah show?
Source: I don't know if she ever said yes, but it was an accepted fact that it was.
After that, [her sister] was really pissed off at her. They couldn't talk without ending up screaming at each other.
I questioned everything. Maybe they are all part of this cult and I was suckered in to provide whatever they need. I did meet with Vicki, Jerry and Tina to find out... In those meetings, they said, we have accounts of this and that. But nothing hard and concrete ever came out. I said, 'Give me something that I can latch on to.' Nothing was presented. That's why I had to dismiss it as not true.
When I was a little kid, I would lie in my bed and stare at my closet door, which was open two-or-three inches. The more I'd stare at it, the more I was convinced that the door would open and the bogey man would come out. Those were the types of answers that I got too -- that she feels this way or that way.
Feelings are one thing. They may be right or wrong. We have to go beyond just feelings.
If there was any validity to any of these things, the whole world should know about it. Back in 1989 and 1990, I did all the research I could do and I found that it wasn't true.
If you talk to leaders of most of the major religions, few of them would condone some of the things she has said as a policy of religion. There are always going to be the goofballs here and there...
Vicki's definitely a brilliant woman. She knows how to use the system. She knows how to do what she needs to do. She's not just a flake. She knew how to turn some heads.
Over the past ten years, I've had little contact with Vicki. She doesn't have much contact with [her family].
I told Vicki that if anything she told me was true, I'd divorce my wife and take my kids to the other side of the world. There is nothing more disgusting than that possibility. I pleaded with Vicki - help me save these kids. But she wouldn't give me anything beyond what we had already heard. She would not elaborate. Just to say that these people are horrible. Did she ever contact me again to say that she was worried about the kids? Not one time.
Unfortunately, I had to keep a close eye for years. I never saw any evidence of that. To the contrary.
But she's become a watchdog for the community, huh?
Maybe someone who made those claims, got her name out there, got her publicity, be it bad or good, made their place in life, has to live that story, and stay with that story to maintain her credibility. We all do things at an earlier age that we regret...
Luke: Vicki often says she's on the edge of death with her [health] problems.
Source: She's been dying for the last ten years. She's been on the verge of one surgery or another. She's been about to kick the bucket for a long time. Her claims are always followed up a couple of days later with a request for cash.
Luke: She complains that she needs money for surgery and her family won't help her.
Source: When was the last time she had a paying job?
Luke: She's been on disability for ten years?
Source: Forever. If you research Illinois's public aid and her past record, she is no stranger to the system.
Luke: She knows how to work the system.
Source: She really knows how to work the system. That's why in our eyes she lost credibility because she knows how to work the system.
On the day she went on Oprah, she got a lot of attention. Was it credible? I don't know. I asked her specifically. I asked Tina, Jerry. Give me something. They were giving generalities. 'We've done research and we know that these things do occur.' Well, is it something she experienced or something she fabricated? 'This is the way she feels.'
Here's Vicki's letter to the ADL in the summer of 1989. I publish it verbatim:
Vicki Polin's Story In Her Own Words
To this day, Vicki stands behind the substance of what she said on the Oprah show May 1, 1989.
Vicki's family rejects her allegations that she was abused, sexually or otherwise. They say she has no credibility with them. Some members of her family have no contact with her and others have only limited contact.
I have no independent verification of Vicki's story but I will be talking to people who knew her as a child, teenager, and young woman.
From my telephone conversation with Vicki which I promised not to publish until Vicki gave her approval and had the opportunity to edit her words.
Vicki: "I was on the Oprah show just about 16 years ago. All hell broke out in my life after the show. I had been working for an organization called VOICES in Action (Victims Of Incest Can Emerge Survivors) at the time, and was finishing up my bachelor's degree I had told my story tons of time because of the work I did. I had spoken at national conferences, been on TV before and also on radio talk shows.
"Oprah was fairly new at being a national talk show at the time, and I had no idea how public being on that show was going to be. I went on like I did other TV show's with the intention of educating people on the ramifications sexual abuse has on survivors and their communities.
"I was in a disguise, but there's a lot more to it. I was on the show with the therapist I was seeing at the time. I was extremely dissociative back then, and was not aware until afterwards of how unprofessional and inappropriate my therapist was. I realized this after the chief of police of a small town outside of Chicago contacted me. He's become a trusted friend over the years.
"After I was on the show the ADL came after my family. Oprah didn't even know my real name, so I was amazed that in less then 24 hours that they did. I was stopped on the streets by holocaust survivors on my way to school, telling me that "I was going to start another holocaust" by saying what I did.
"The ADL called my parents in to some sort of meeting. I learned of this months later. You have to understand that I have had really little to do with my family since I was in my late teens - early 20's."
Vicki writes in early May, 2005:
Jaundice posts to Yudelline.com:
Oprah, the Jews, and Blood Libel
Author Naomi Ragen On Vicki Polin
Naomi writes me 5/22/05:
I email Naomi Ragen:
Naomi doesn't reply.
On June 3, 2005, Olga in Baltimore writes:
Olga provided supporting documentation for her claims. When I raised the matter with Vicki Polin, she had no comment.
Naomi Regan subsequently emails Olga:
I speak Thursday afternoon, May 12, 2005, with a woman who was in the audience of Vicki's appearance on the May 1, 1989 Oprah show.
Woman: "I had already heard everything before from Vicki so that wasn't shocking to me. Oprah was the one who mentioned that Vicki came from a Jewish family. I know that that was not something that Vicki wanted to put forward on the show. I knew that that would blow up."
Luke: "What do you think about the veracity of what Vicki said? Most people would find it hard to believe."
Woman: "In 1984, I learned that my little girl, who was four-years-old, was being sexually abused at a Jewish preschool in Chicago [Rogers Park JCC]. I was the whistleblower on that case. They interviewed over 80 children and found that as many as 20 had been sexually abused.
"Once I found out what had happened to my child, we took her out of school and got her into therapy. My daughter and several other children began making allegations against their teachers and widespread pervasive abuse involving child pornography and bizarre ritualistic activity.
"When I met Vicki, we met through her connection with VOICES in Action (Victims Of Incest Can Emerge Survivors). I was getting involved with the organization Believe The Children, which had been founded by some parents in California who were involved in similar cases, in daycare center, even though they were not Jewish preschools.
"I was hearing bizarre accusations from my child and Vicki was recalling similar events from her childhood. I had no reason to doubt [Vicki]."
Luke: "You have no doubts there was definitely this type of ritual abuse at the school?"
Woman: "There was definitely sexual abuse and physical abuse of the children. As far as the ritual abuse, it's hard to say. Did they really kill babies? I don't know. I do know that the children were convinced that they were killing babies. It may be that they were acting something out with dolls or maybe the children were drugged and led to believe things were happening. There was costuming and special effects involved. I can't say for a fact that they killed a baby. I can say for a fact that my daughter believed that they did."
Luke: "Do you find Vicki's reports about her childhood ritual abuse credible?"
Woman: "I do because they are not inconsistent with what I heard from my own daughter and what I also heard from a lot of other survivors."
Luke: "Isn't there a whole movement against this type of testimony? Something about repressed memory?"
Woman: "Definitely. During the eighties, when my case and similar cases came to light, the cases got a lot of publicity, people were arrested, and then they couldn't convict the people because the children were too young to testify or too traumatized. So, from that, developed this huge backlash against those who were making the allegations. The people who were accused got organized. They banded against the idea that anybody could repress a memory of something and concluded that the children were fantasizing and the parents were hysterical. I can only speak from my own experience. I can't say what may have happened in other cases. I can say that the last thing I wanted to believe was that my child had been abused. I tried to talk her out of it and to find other explanations for what I was hearing. But there wasn't any other explanation.
"I heard horrible things from the mouth of my own four-year-old, bizarre things that I had never heard of doing to a child or an adult. My child had a sheltered life aside from going to that preschool. We didn't even have a VCR at the time or cable TV. Where did she get this information if it didn't happen? She didn't get it from me because I didn't have any abuse in my background."
Luke: "The stuff about killing babies is so hard to put your mind around."
Woman: "There are several theories about that. You can say it was a satanic cult and it was part of their belief system to do this. I know that Vicki's case is especially inflammatory because of her coming from a Jewish family.
"In my child's case, it is possible that all these satanic trappings were part of the effort to terrorize the children, intimidate them, keep them from telling. If you take a small child and kill an animal in front of them, or kill a baby or pretend to kill a baby in front of the child, and then say to the child, if you tell, this is what will happen to you, that's an effective threat. It works to keep the kids shut down.
"With the pornography they were making, perhaps this was part of the pornographic script?"
The woman says her daughter retains few of these shocking memories and has gone on to a normal life.
Vicki Polin writes 5/13/05:
I believe the following affidavit probably comes from a woman named Olga, who has been a close friend with rabbi Worch and was friendly with Vicki two years ago.
Vicki Polin Equals Shauna Green
Vicki is the "Shauna Green" in Rachel Lev's 2002 book Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community. Vicki is described this way: "Shauna is a 40-something artist, therapist, and survivor of ritual abuse, who over the years recovered from a dissociative identity disorder."
From page 175: "As a teenager I lived in a car for a while," said Shauna Green. "I was certain my parents were going to kill me. I wish there had been a safe house to go to -- to get away from my parents. I wish there had been some way to force them into treatment. It was my word against theirs. No one did anything. The schools made it into a behavioral problem. Family decided I was a discipline problem. I was molested in my temple by the rabbi and others. What do I want the Jewish community to do now? Instead of belittling, educate. Learn the symptoms of abuse. Learn what to do. Learn how you can reach out."
The book contains some of Vicki's art work and on the back features an endorsement from rabbi Mark Dratch.
For years, Vicki used the pen name "Shauna Green." Here is an article she wrote under that name in 1992: "Questions to Ask Yourself Before Disclosing, Confronting or Going Public." It's on The Awareness Center website.
Another error in the Rachel Lev book is that Vicki's parents did not belong to a Reform synagogue.
I call rabbi Yosef Blau at Yeshiva University at 7:45am PST, Friday, May 13, 2005.
Rabbi Blau: "I just walked out of giving a class."
Luke: "The essential question that is being posted anonymously is that rabbi Blau was blackmailed into leaving The Awareness Center because there was damaging information about his son's divorce that he wanted to hide?"
Rabbi Blau: "That's nonsense. I've heard different versions of it.
"Number one. Anything that has has to do with my son's divorce is public record. There's nothing there. It was very unpleasant business. Life has unpleasant business."
Luke: "Were you blackmailed in any way to leave The Awareness Center?"
Rabbi Blau laughs. "I would not describe it as such.
"The other version of the story is that I was blackballed into joining it because of my son's story. Which way do they want it? That was in JWB2.
"Being on The Awareness Center is a complex thing because it is not an Orthodox organization. It takes on some difficult situations. It does some extraordinarily good work, and I'm not talking about what's written on the net [theawarenesscenter.org]. I'm talking about how it has really helped survivors of abuse. That certainly has affected me as well. My wife has always wanted me to get out [of The Awareness Center]. I'm taking on a new area of responsibility starting Sunday. They're going to try to stop that too, I assume. I just don't have the koach (strength) to do it anymore.
"This is part of the desperate campaign to divert attention... I don't think there's any question about who's orchestrating this campaign. It's a desperation campaign. If they claim that people are being blackmailed, it doesn't say too much good about them.
"If you would ask Vicki Polin, she understands what is going on.
"That people are bringing this [his son's divorce] up on blogs is a sign of desperation. It's unpleasant."
Luke: "Is it true that you were going to leave anyway within a week?"
Rabbi Blau: "Yes, I had promised my wife that I would leave anyway when I became president of the RZA (Religious Zionists of America), which was this Sunday [May 15]."
Luke: "Have you lost a lot of friends over your being in The Awareness Center?"
Rabbi Blau: "I don't think so. You'd have to define who are friends. Eversince I got involved with dealing with these kind of situations, the people whose accusations I feel are totally inappropriate have always had supporters. Their supporters have not been major fans of mine. This was before I even heard of The Awareness Center. I only heard about it a couple of years ago. That's a price one has to pay for this kind of thing. In the net of things, I don't think I've lost more friends than I've gained."
Luke: "How long have you known about Vicki's appearance on the Oprah Show in 1989?"
Rabbi Blau: "She told me right at the beginning."
Luke: "And did that cause you trepidation about aligning with such a person who made such claims?"
Rabbi Blau: "My sense of what it means to be a survivor of abuse, and what one goes through, and the process of healing, is such that I don't judge such people who did something like that."
Luke: "I don't think people understand that Vicki can be competent in her job and still be completely wrong in what she said on Oprah?"
Rabbi Blau: "Ok."
Luke: "What do you think?"
Rabbi Blau: "I made my statement.
"She comes from a non-observant [secular] background. Her knowledge of Judaism is only what she gained in the past couple of years. At that time , was stuff she had only gotten from strange sources. That she had a distorted view then has nothing to do with what she's doing now."
In January 2005, Vicki Polin showed rabbi Blau the tape of her Oprah appearance. "It was clear that someone at some point was going to try to use it against her. I told her to speak to a reporter directly and have him view the tape. She did that [with Phil Jacobs, the editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times] but he never wrote the article.
"This [stuff such as Blaufacts.com] is all coming from people with an agenda to protect people who've appeared there [theawarenesscenter.org]. They're swinging wildly. They've done it to you as well. You know it."
Luke: "Would you agree that people with no agenda who read a transcript of that tape would think that Vicki was nuts?"
Rabbi Blau: "Very possibly, if they didn't know the whole picture. That's why I told her to speak to a reporter."
I email Vicki for the date rabbi Blau joined The Awareness Center. She replies: "I don't remember the exact date, but it was when I first moved to Baltimore. I remember this because I had asked Rabbi Porter who rabbi blau was, and if he thought he was ethical and I should invite him to be on the board. Rabbi Porter said yes, and laughed because I didn't know who he was. I get that a lot from people."
Later, Vicki wrote me that rabbi Blau joined TAC board in February 2002. Vicki says she moved to Baltimore in October, 2001. She met rabbi Porter in December 2001 and rabbi Blau in early 2002.
Luke: "Tell me why you started The Awareness Center?"
Vicki: "I've been working in the sexual victimization field since 1985. I started as a volunteer, and then went back to school to get my degrees. As time has gone on, I've gotten more in touch with my Jewish identity. I started to realize that there was nothing out there for the Jewish survivors of sexual violence. For years I told other people to start something, no one did, so I ended up creating The Awareness Center.
"It was a gradual process. In April of 1999, I started changing my private practice web page into The Awareness Center as it is now.
"Back in the early 1990's, I was working in a rape crisis center on the South side of Chicago. I was a clinical sex abuse therapist, working with kids who were sexually abused. I was the fifth Caucasian hired and the first Jew. As I worked with the kids, I had to learn about black history, Kwanzaa, and black power. I started realizing that I knew more about their heritage than I did about my own. That's when I started learning about Judaism."
Luke: "How did you start getting support for The Awareness Center, particularly from Orthodox rabbis?"
Vicki: "As I was recreating the web page, I was also googling Jewish web pages finding e-mail addresses and sending notes to everyone who had an e-mail address listed -- letting them know what I was doing and asking if they were interested in joining forces. That's how I met Na'ama Yehuda, Dr. Michael Salamon and rabbi [Yosef] Blau and rabbi [Mark] Dratch. I'll never forget when I got an e-mail back from rabbi Blau, I didn't know who he was. I had to ask someone who he was. My friend told me he was OK and I should contact him. I did that immediately and the rest is history."
Luke: "What have been the typical areas of conflict between you and Orthodox rabbis regarding the center?"
Vicki: "It seems that everybody has a different perspective on halacha and the way we deal with cases. It all depends on which case we're dealing with, what the halacha seems to be."
Luke: "Why did rabbi Dratch leave the center?"
Vicki: "He was under a great deal of pressure with his position with the RCA. It was a conflict of interest between the two organizations. You would have to ask him."
Luke: "How is dealing with sexual abuse different in the Orthodox world than outside of it?"
Vicki: "First of all, the Awareness Center is not an Orthodox organization. It is a Jewish organization. We have individuals calling us from all affiliations and including those from no affiliation. On our web page we have cases of alleged and convicted rabbi abuse from every affiliation.
"In the secular world, people read newspapers and watch TV. They tend to be pretty progressive in the way they see individuals who have been sexually victimized, especially children. In the Orthodox world, it is often so insulated, that I feel that I am back in the 1980s trying to educate them on the basics. Many just don't have the information available to them that they need."
Luke: "How do you tell the truth when someone alleges sexual abuse?"
Vicki: "One of the myths that people have is that the majority of claims individuals make of sexual violence are made up. You have to realize that it is only 1-2 percent of cases where there might be false allegations. If and when there is a case of false allegations -- it is usually a cry for help, something else is going on in the life of the individual. Either way, the individual needs help.
"One of the things The Awareness Center does is to look for consistency in what a caller is saying.
"The statistics of occurrences of childhood sexual abuse is the same in the Orthodox world as it is in the secular world. I even read a study some time ago saying the statistics are the same in rural China. Basically one out of three-to-five women and one out of every five-to-seven men have been sexually abused by their 18th birthday."
Luke: "Don't you think the Jewish community is taking this more seriously than it has in the past?"
Vicki: "It depends on which community you are talking about. I was recently talking to a rabbi from an extremely insulated community -- he basically was saying that anybody who makes these kind of allegations is crazy. It appeared that he bought into the myth that 'Jewish people don't abuse their children.' It enraged me, and made me more determined to do what ever I could to make sure our rabbinic leaders become educated."
Luke: "What is rabbi Saul Berman's complaint with the center?"
Vicki: "His complaint has mainly to do with our handling of the case of rabbi Mordechai Gafni. From the beginning, I've had no idea where he was coming from and why he is trying to protect an individual who confessed to statuary rape a 13-year old girl. Rabbi Gafni has never shown any signs of remorse. He has never made teshuva [repentance] to the individual he assaulted. Rabbi Berman has sent The Awareness Center several long elaborate letters of complaint. No matter what we did or said, he just wasn't satisfied. It's obvious that he is lacking the needed education so that he could have a better understanding of sex offenders and in working with survivors of sexual violence. It saddens and scares me that a man of his statute is not willing to learn."
Luke: "Do you feel like you need to educate these rabbis?"
Vicki: "Definitely. I'd love to do training with them. One of the long-term goals of The Awareness Center is to have some kind of certification program for rabbis. Once they are educated we would be able to use them as referral sources for survivors, their family members and those who offend."
Luke: "How much training does a rabbi need?"
Vicki: "When I worked as a rape victims advocate, I had to undergo a 40-hour training on some of the basics. That's what I wanted to start out with. Rabbis need to understand what the symptoms are of someone who has been sexually violated (both adults and children). They need to know about the different types of sex offenders, and how to help families members of sex offenders. They also need to know what to do when an alleged or convicted sex offender comes to their minyan. They need to know some of the basics of how to make their minyans safe for everyone."
Luke: "What role does rabbi Blau play with the center?"
Vicki: "He's my partner in crime. He is our halachic advisor, does a lot of hands on work -- doing a lot of case management. And most important, he's always explaining to me -- who's who in the Orthodox world."
Luke: "Do you believe that God called you to be a sex abuse victims advocate?"
Vicki: "It's hard for me to say that it comes from God. Please remember that I come from an atheist background. I'm really learning as I go along. What I feel comfortable saying is that the universe has opened its doors in this direction for me. Every time I try to walk away, it just doesn't let me."
Luke: "Have you ever been romantically or sexually involved with someone you were [counseling]?"
Luke: "What do you think about suppressed memories, are they valid?"
Vicki: "Instead of me answering this question, I would like to refer you to a dynamic web page that discusses all of the relevant information on the topic."
Luke: "Is the center a one woman show?"
Vicki: "The Awareness Center is a coalition of several different individuals who are dedicated to ending sexual victimization in Jewish communities around the world. We currently are all volunteers (I can't wait until the day we have the funding we need to hire staff). I may be the most visable, but we have a team effort going on. We would not be able to do the work I'm doing without Rabbi Yosef Blau, Na'ama Yehuda, Dr. Michael Salamon, Renee Cannella, San, Adam and a slew of other people.
Luke: "Are you the poster “Me”?"
Vicki: "I am NOT the individual who posted on the Protocols blog, who used the name of "ME". I wish I was as intellegent and as articulate. The "ME" poster has a vast knowledge of Hebrew and Torah. I don't."
Vicki's deaf cousin Robin was active in Jews for Jesus and featured in a court case.
Larry Yudelson writes: "Having a relative who is a Jew for Jesus would explain TAC's fixation on cult membership as a symptom of abuse."
My sources say: What Mordecai Tendler needed was psychological/moral/religious help. He has big problems. He thinks he's above the Torah. He gave permission to people who are a Cohen to marry a divorcee. It is in this week's Torah reading that a Cohen can not marry a woman who is divorced.
He was freeing women from their marriages on flawed and questionable grounds. One woman was warned by several people about marrying a particular guy. She married him anyway. It was exactly as predicted. She was abused in every way. Then, when she wanted a divorce, he wouldn't give her a get. She went to Mordecai Tendler. He knew that she was warned before the marriage but he dissolved her marriage on the basis that she had married without knowing whom she married. It was taking something by mistake.
People who have analyzed the things Mordecai Tendler has said on behalf of his grandfather Reb Moshe Feinstein are about to come out with a study showing that Mordecai's rulings are at variance with things his grandfather said. At the end of Reb Moshe Feinstein's life, when Mordecai Tendler was put in charge of his apartment and his ailing grandfather, his grandmother was afraid of him. He was rude to people who came to see Reb Moshe Feinstein. Mordecai has problems. It's a shame that the family did not deal with these problems.
Mordecai Tendler did something outrageous 12 years ago. Rabbi Yosef Blau spoke to his father Rabbi Moshe Tendler, who said that "Mordecai was a strange kid. He's always been a strange kid. He does idiotic things."
The Tendlers hired Hank Sheinkopf as a fixer/publicist.
Mrs. Blau was always unhappy with The Awareness Center (TAC) and she told her husband exactly why she did not approve of TAC. Mrs. Blau saw no reason to post those profiles. Just the names of people who should not be hired. That would've been enough.
Mrs. Blau told rabbi Blau that Vicki Polin went overboard, that Vicki was sensationalist, and that there was no way of controlling her. Mrs. Blau didn't like the Tendler family page on The Awareness Center website (recently removed but can be found here). She saw no reason to bring in the names of the people related to Mordecai Tendler. Why mention that Mordecai was Moshe Feinstein's grandson? Why is that part of the story? Why is that Vicki's place to put that on the internet? Though rabbi Blau was on TAC board, there was no telling Vicki what to do.
Mrs Blau told rabbi Blau: It can't be both ways. You can't cover for everything she's doing while she's doing her own thing. Mrs. Blau was very upset. Every time she sees an Awareness Center email, which come several times a day, she deletes it immediately. Mrs. Blau asked her husband -- what is accomplished by reading in the United States that someone in Netanya, Israel, is accused of something? To carry every report from around the world would make one think that sexual perversion has run amok in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Blau said that even though Vicki made mistakes, she was doing more good than harm, and if he was to leave TAC, it would be open season for sexual predators. Such predators need the fear of exposure in addition to the fear of G-d.
Mrs. Blau predicated Rabbi Blau's taking the RZA (Religious Zionists of America) presidency on his leaving TAC.
Rabbi Berman and Telushkin's crusade against rabbi Blau and TAC is to save Mordecai Gafni. Why they are protecting Gafni? Who knows? Saul has a blind eye and a deaf ear on this matter. Otherwise, Saul is wonderful.
Rabbi Yosef Blau's son was married to a disturbed woman. Therefore, the divorce was protracted and bitter. The civil divorce was quick. It was the Jewish divorce that she did not want to accept. If the Blaus gave out the papers on the divorce, the divorced woman's family would be shamed.
The Blaus will go to a wedding and people will turn away from rabbi Blau and say hello his rebbetzin. They shun rabbi Blau because of his role in TAC.
Mrs. Blau said that Vicki was the wrong intermediary for the community on this issue. She has a checkered past (that 1989 Oprah appearance) and she remains a loose cannon.
On the other hand, I've been getting calls and email from women who are profoundly grateful to Vicki Polin for the help she's given them in rebuilding their lives. This help has been far more important to them than whatever Vicki said on Oprah in 1989.
I talk Thursday morning, May 19, by phone with Orthodox rabbi Ze'ev Smason or the Nusach Hari Bnai Zion synagogue in St. Louis, MO.
Luke: "Did Vicki tell you about her 1989 appearance on the Oprah show?"
Rabbi Smason: "Yes, she did mention that to me. I've known Vicki for at least six years. I met Vicki on the internet in a Jewish chatroom, as I have done many other individuals, as a rabbi and as a person. I've made many pleasant associations with people throughout the world. At one time, we had a get together in St. Louis. I invited a number of people from around the country to come to our house over the weekend to spend Shabbos with myself, my wife, and my family. Vicki was one of the people who came. I got to know Vicki better. I've maintained contact with her over the years."
Luke: "What do you know about her 1989 appearance on the Oprah show?"
Rabbi Smason: "I only know what I've seen in the articles she sent me about it. I don't know any more than what she has said publicly about it."
Luke: "Does she strike you as someone who is mentally stable?"
Rabbi Smason: "Yes, she does."
Luke: "What do you know about her work on the issue of sex abuse?"
Rabbi Smason: "I know about her work with The Awareness Center and it is a one-woman show publicizing specific instances of abuse as well as disseminating information to people on how to respond properly to abuse. She's a voice in the wilderness raising people's consciousness about it. She's at the forefront."
Luke: "When Vicki went on Oprah in 1989, she said her family was part of a cult that ritually sacrificed children going back to the 1700s. As a rabbi who is aware of how this sort of charge has been used against Jews since the Middle Ages, that they sacrifice children..."
Rabbi Smason: "To say such a thing is abhorrent. It's appalling. I don't know what prompted her to say that. I don't know what her state of mind was at the time. I've never asked her if she still believes that that is so."
Luke: "She does."
Rabbi Smason: "I haven't spoken to her about that issue. I have related to her as she has appeared to me from the moment I met her. When I first met her, she indicated that she had spoken on Oprah and that there was some controversy involved with that. She said she had a troubled background and spoke with me in some detail about the problems she had with her family. I just related to her as a friend and on a case-by-case basis of what she is doing now in raising consciousness about sexual abuse."
Luke: "How closely have you been following The Awareness Center (TAC)?"
Rabbi Smason: "Fairly closely. She keeps me in touch via emails and I see The Awareness Center being mentioned in other people's emails. There have been issues that have come to light through the Rabbinical Council of America about a certain member who was expelled. Some of the things that have never been discussed in the Jewish community, such as sexual abuse by rabbis, are now being more freely discussed."
Luke: "From what you know, do you think The Awareness Center is doing more good than harm?"
Rabbi Smason: "It's hard for me to answer that question. There's a lot of good that they do and there are things that they do that I object to. There has to be a careful calculation made when exposing the names of individuals. We have issues in Jewish law that prevent us from defaming, slandering and maligning individuals. It could well be that a competent posek [a decisor of Jewish law] could decide that the individual's name needs to be publicized because the individual is a danger. But to make that decision requires broad shoulders, to take upon oneself the decision to publicize this individual. I question the criteria by which certain individuals' names are mentioned [on TAC]."
Luke: "How would you describe Vicki's knowledge of Judaism when you met her?"
Rabbi Smason: "She was not well-versed in Judaism and traditional Jewish sources."
Vicki Polin writes: