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In late December 2004, Baltimore rabbi Yaakov (Kenneth Lloyd) Menken of Torah.org put together a team of prestigious Orthodox bloggers for his website www.cross-currents.com. Rabbi-bloggers include Emmanuel Feldman, Jonathan Rosenblum, Yaakov Yosef Reinman, and Yitzchok Adlerstein.

Rabbi Menken has a modus operandi of becoming a father figure to vulnerable young women, supplanting their real family and friends, having them take him into their confidence, having them spill their sexual secrets and questions to him, having them trust him implicitly as a holy rabbi who knows what is best for them...

Many of the young single females on his staff come from respected rabbinic families. Many of them get called by him "Miss so-and-so." The vulnerable ones are more likely to be called by their first names.

Born around 1966, Menken became Orthodox at Princeton, graduating in 1986. Menken's official biography says he spent the next seven years studying in such yeshivas as Yeshivas Ohr Somayach, Bais Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood and Jerusalem, and the Mirrer Yeshiva Jerusalem (becoming an Orthodox rabbi). He founded Project Genesis in 1993 (before he married) because he wanted to spread Torah to college students who didn't have access to shiurim (Torah teachings).

Rabbi Menken is married with five children. His wife works as a teacher.

He was ordained by Ohr Sameach of Monsey, New York. His rebbe is rabbi Silberberg of Monsey, who brought Menken his biggest client -- Compuplus.

From the 12/31/04 Baltimore Jewish Times article on Menken's new blog (launched under the direction of at least one of Baltimore top two Orthodox rabbis, Yaakov Hopfer):

Baltimore Rabbi Yaakov Menken, perhaps the Orthodox community's most active computer maven, has waded into the world of Internet blogs to counter the perceived bias.

The clash that cross-currents.com addresses is not just between Orthodox Jews and the rest of the world, one rabbi said, but about traditional Jewish thought and the principles of Western journalism.

"The Orthodox community has for many years perceived a bias in the liberal media, much more powerful and much more endemic than the bias perceived by political conservatives regarding the news media," said Rabbi Menken...

Rabbi Menken is friends with rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau, head of Baltimore's Torah Institute. They both go to rabbi Yaakov Hopfer's Glen Avenue shul Shearith Yisrael.

Rabbi Menken says the incest and molestation accusations against Eisgrau are ludicrous, as well as the sex abuse allegations against rabbis Matis Weinberg and Mordecai Tendler. He also says Gary Rosenblatt was wrong to expose rabbi Baruch Lanner, who went to prison for sexually abusing underage girls.

I'm not aware of Menken praising any reporting on any case of rabbinic sex abuse.

Rabbi Menken posts December 30, 2004:

Right now, there is a web site carrying extremely serious allegations about a member of our community, allegations which, if believed, would result in the immediate termination of that individual’s employment – or great damage to the company that employs him. The “evidence” against this person comes entirely from a blog (and another web page created by the blogger), which also contains a series of allegations against various rabbis and others who are “protecting” this individual.

Anyone who knows any of these people knows that the allegations are ludicrous. If the allegations had a hint of truth to them, then (given their nature) the rabbis in question would be first to tell him he must leave his job. The allegations were discredited long ago – but certain people don’t care. They would rather besmirch the innocent based upon “testimony” which changes substantially each time the story is re-told.

I posted in reply:
Dear rabbi Menken, Congratulations on your new site and on the stellar credentials of your contributors. There is no beautiful teaching that can not be abused. Judaism's laws and teachings about forbidden speech, about lashon hara, are not a shield from independent scrutiny, nor a club to beat away all inconvenient facts. The prophet Nathan had no problem saying to King David, thou art the man. Judaism is a constellation of values and practices. You can't seize one interpretation of Jewish law (the Chafetz Chaim's teachings on lashon hara) and claim it trumps all other values. For instance, when there is a life at stake, that value trumps all of Jewish law but for three laws. The record of the Orthodox community in Baltimore regarding rabbinic abuse is not stellar. Some disinterested reporting (so long as it is accurate) may be a good thing for your community.

The evidence against Eisgrau was serious enough (coming from Eisgrau's daughter and others) that it initiated a lengthy police investigation. The detective who conducted the investigation has told people that he believed the charges had credibility but he encountered a stonewall of no cooperation from the Baltimore Orthodox community, and so was not able to do his job. A couple of persons in Baltimore who investigated the charges independently were hounded and harassed by the Baltimore Orthodox establishment and cowered into silence (not because they believe Eisgrau is innocent).

One interesting thing I've encountered in the reactions of Orthodox rabbis to The Awareness Center and reporting on sex abuse is that many of them cheer on reporting on certain colleagues (such as Mordecai Gafni) but abhor it on other colleagues. And frequently it does not seem to be a matter of misreporting facts that bothers them. Rather they want scrutiny on fellow rabbis they view as a danger and little scrutiny on rabbis they view as good.

As Gary Rosenblatt laid bare in his reporting on rabbi Baruch Lanner, the Orthodox Union protected a child abuser for about three decades.

Certainly there is a dramatic difference in the facts on the ground in the Lanner, Gafni and Eisgrau cases. Lanner was convicted of crimes and imprisoned. Gafni confessed to statutory rape. As for Eisgrau, the case is more murky. Accusations were made by several persons, a detective investigated, but no charges were filed. Nobody wants to come forward by name to say that they were harmed by rabbi Eisgrau who retains the trust of Baltimore's Orthodox establishment.

Rabbi Menken on his new blog makes one of those cheap shots that immediately alerts me that somebody is not thinking but rather looking to make a cheap shot and score rhetorical points at the expense of truth and merit. He writes: "...about the motivations of self-appointed watchdogs."

I reply:

Aside from appointments by God, whose appointing should we respect? Who appointed you to start this website? Whoever it is, does that, in and of itself, make your website and your writing more valuable? If The Los Angeles Times appoints a reporter to do a story, does that, in and of itself, make it superior to a story chosen by a freelancer? When Dan Rather and CBS News appointed itself to run a false story about George Bush and his medical records and military service, was that false story, because it was appointed by a corporate news entity, make it superior to the accurate stories by bloggers who appointed themselves to the story? Of course not. If the great rabbis of our generation appointed you to set-up this website, it does not make any of your posts necessarily more important, more true, more in line with Torah values, than the rantings of somebody in California. A blog, an article, a book, a speech, a painting, have to stand on their own merit, and not on the merit of who appoints them.

Regarding Rabbi Menken's comment: "I would prefer (strongly) that we not discuss individuals." Thankfully this attitude widespread in the Orthodox world and other circles does not permeate Judaism's sacred texts. From the Bible to the Talmud, Judaism's sacred texts are filled with discussions and descriptions of the intimate (and often bad) behavior of individuals. Jewish sacred text has no compunction about holding Jewish leaders accountable for not only their public decisions, but their private lives (certainly to the extent that their private behavior affects the public). My fervent wish is that respectable Jewish weeklies were as lively as the Torah and numerous Talmudic discussions.

Rabbi Menken writes me 12/30/04:

Tell me something... how did I become a "staunch supporter" of Rabbi Eisgrau? Because I laughed when you claimed that Phil Jacobs is "under the thumb" of R' Menachem Goldberger? Or was it when I started rolling on the floor at the idea that R' Yaakov Hopfer and R' Moshe Heinemann could threaten the funding of R' Dovid Cohen in NY? Yes, my son goes to TI, and no, I have no concern for his safety. But I'm no staunch supporter -- just not totally clueless.

Much of what I read on your blog sounds reasonable, but what you wrote about Baltimore mixed familiar names with obvious untruths. You're reporting from a distance; having viewed the situation up close, I know what you got from someone must have come from an alternate universe, because it's nowhere to be found in Baltimore, MD.

Vicki Polin invited me to join the Awareness Center, because she knew that I'm attuned to these issues. But I hesitated precisely because I couldn't authenticate what she was publishing.

Now, I haven't spoken to the detective. I wouldn't object, of course. But I have spoken to Phil (Jacobs), who went to speak with Eisgrau's daughter, thought it all over, and "spiked" the story because her story couldn't be authenticated. In fact, it changed repeatedly and Phil didn't "smell" a story. He's published a whole set of things Rav Goldberger would surely have preferred he not, as any reader of the BJT can discern. And even Phil, as all who know Baltimore can tell you, cannot single-handedly spike a story the newsroom wants to print, especially not under Rav Goldberger's "thumb". Even Vicki knows that's bogus; she admitted as much to me on the phone.

The other "accuser" says that Eisgrau fondled him in front of other boys. Fine -- where are the boys? He claims witnesses, and cannot find witnesses. Now I ask you, is that testimony or evidence of falsehood?

It certainly doesn't add up to a situation where the appropriate course of action is to put Rabbi Eisgrau up on the web. And do you really think the Rabbis of Baltimore would tell parents to send their kids to a known pedophile?

At some point, the inherent illogic of this must seep through to any unbiased mind.

12/31/04

Watchdogs vs Rabbis

Rabbi Yaakov Menken writes (these paragraphs since deleted from his blog):

I will make one comment about the so-called “watchdog” mentality, as applied to a well-known scandal of a few years back. The newspaper editor who “broke” that story insisted that he “went public” not because he wanted to sell papers and enhance his own reputation as a journalist, but because “nothing was being done.”

Then, two years later, he “broke” a similar story after a whole set of steps were taken, and, in fact, the first line of his story was that a Bais Din was about to be convened in order to find out the truth.

This tells you something about the truthfulness of the so-called “justification” for his publication of the first set of allegations. I am not saying that those who should have done better supervision are not worthy of criticism – but I’m saying something about the motivations of self-appointed watchdogs.
Rabbi Menken is talking about Gary Rosenblatt and the rabbi Baruch Lanner affair.

JewishWhistleblower responds 12/31/04 to rabbi Menken:

I've criticized Rosenblatt publically (and deservingly) but when it comes to the Rabbi Baruch Lanner and Rabbi Matis Weinberg cases, he should get a medal. He protected children/young women/men from sexual predators something that in both cases rabbonim involved were incapable of. These predators preyed on our community for decades.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken what you have written shames us all. You owe Rosenblatt a public apology.

What research have you done in these cases? Have you spoken to the victims? Does the truth even matter to you?

It wasn't a beit din at all and it wasn't convened to find out the truth.

It was merely a tribunal that gave permission to forward the allegations to a beis din in Israel that refused to hear the matter.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken claims permission from his rabbi to publicly impugn reporter Gary Rosenblatt’s motives for writing Rabbis Lanner &Weinberg stories

Rabbi Yaakov Menken claims he has permission from an unnamed rabbi to publicly impugn reporter Gary Rosenblatt’s motives for running the Rabbi Baruch Lanner and Rabbi Matis Weinberg stories.

Per Rabbi Yaakov Menken:

I will make one comment about the so-called “watchdog” mentality, as applied to a well-known scandal of a few years back. The newspaper editor who “broke” that story insisted that he “went public” not because he wanted to sell papers and enhance his own reputation as a journalist, but because “nothing was being done.”

Then, two years later, he “broke” a similar story after a whole set of steps were taken, and, in fact, the first line of his story was that a Bais Din was about to be convened in order to find out the truth.

This tells you something about the truthfulness of the so-called “justification” for his publication of the first set of allegations. I am not saying that those who should have done better supervision are not worthy of criticism – but I’m saying something about the motivations of self-appointed watchdogs.

The claim of permission from his rabbi to impugn Gary Rosenblatt's motives is being reported by SIW from an email from Rabbi Yaakov Menken.

“Go consult your Rav to find out when this is permitted; I did. YM”

Steven Weiss weighs in here and here.

1/12/05

Missing My Rabbi Menken Lifeline Column

A girl writes: "It looks like [rabbi Yaakov] Menken has not written his Lifeline column since the beginning of the jewish year. wonder what happened? He's still getting paid as the director of torah.org, why is he neglecting one of his duties, to spread the light of Torah to over 50,000 jews every week? I'm going to sign up for Lifeline and see if anything is emailed out every week."

Well, dear girl, I checked Torah.org and it does not appear at all that the good rabbi is neglecting his duties. The site overflows with his articles. Can you not find enough spiritual sustenance from "The Way Of G-d," "Duties of the Heart, Part Two," and "Almost Midnight"?

1/13/05

Can one expect that a pretty, innocent girl with an older, "experienced" superior will be so easily able to escape his advances?

Rabbi Yaakov Menken writes November 30, 1994:

The problem with Sherut Leumi [women serving in the Israeli Defense Force with men] is that a girl cannot abandon her post the first time a man makes a pass at her. With all the debate over sexual harrassment in _this_ country, you would be amazed at what Israelis consider "normal" behavior. Can one expect that a pretty, innocent girl with an older, "experienced" superior will be so easily able to escape his advances?

It's hard for me to fathom the naivete of a person who, in the 1990's, questions whether it was appropriate to forbid religious girls to do this kind of service. If you want to call preserving religious mores "stifling" religious girls, that's your prerogative.

Immediately before I became frum, I met two religious girls who were on a break from their "Sherut Leumi" - on a beach in Teveria. I can assure you that it wasn't their religiosity that was on display.

Why is it that no one has remarked on how the State of Israel "stifles" people by forcing them to serve in the Army, or how the US "stifles" us by forcing us to pay taxes? Just as the leaders of the country are called upon to tell us what is necessary for preservation of the nation, so too the leaders of the Torah community should be _expected_ to tell us what is necessary for the preservation of Torah.

Checking out Rabbi Menken's website Torah.org, it is clear that he employs a lot of women. They're often called "Menken's Harem." He tends to hire single women. They can get married and know that they can move anywhere and still work for him. They can move to Israel and support husbands who study all day in yeshiva. At any time, rabbi Menken may have several, say six or more, single young women working for him. Some of these women may be vulnerable and he can act as a positive father figure. Of course rabbi Menken is a holy rabbi, not a secular army leader, and he wouldn't think of having his way with a naive pure Bais Yaakov girl who works for him and looks to him for guidance.

Incidentally, I was discussing these lofty issues with a Bais Yaakov girl of my recent acquaintance. She had read some things I had written and wanted to discuss them in greater depth.

"You're a sociopath," she laughed. "That's why you drive a Timothy McVeigh van. Luke Ford is a sociopath. You may quote me. And you laugh.

"You scare them. They know you have the story and they're scared."

I was reading the blog The Beach of Yellow. I enjoyed her entry (I've spoken to her many times and I and others have fact-checked her and she is credible) called "Feel the Power":

I was reminded today that the tables have shifted between me and my ex-abuser. When I was under his control, he had all the power. I felt weak and defenseless. Then the day came and I told. This simple act of telling enabled me to take my life and my power back. No longer am I weak, I am now exceedingly powerful. I am sure that my ex-abuser is beginning to shake in his pants as he realizes that I have taken my power back, and I am free to take action against him.

The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, but they grind exceedingly smooth.

Call Me Daddy!

It is a lot of responsibility to be a moral leader. I have thousands of readers each day who look to me for guidance about the most difficult issues of life. Based on my study of the sacred texts, I am able to guide them in the right paths. All the while, I am keenly aware that a carelessly chosen word here, an incorrect emphasis there, and one of my readers might fall into an abyss from which he would never recover.

It would be a terrible thing if I were to abuse my position and prey on the vulnerabilities of young and attractive women seeking father figures. It would be a terrible thing if I were to abuse such a woman, and then cloak my fears about being revealed as a predator by publishing pious Torah rhetoric about not speaking lashon hara (gossip).

If I were a rabbi who wrote something like this, I'd want to make sure that holiness of my behavior matched the holiness of my rhetoric:

The simple fact of the matter is that the laws of Lashon Hora continue to apply. There is no journalist’s (or blogger’s) exemption. Nor do I think it is accurate to say that problems don’t get solved until they are made public. That may be true in rare cases, but there are many others where matters are resolved without mentioning names. I do not believe that we have the right, and certainly not the responsibility, to report badly about individuals.

Right now, there is a web site carrying extremely serious allegations about a member of our community, allegations which, if believed, would result in the immediate termination of that individual’s employment – or great damage to the company that employs him. The “evidence” against this person comes entirely from a blog (and another web page created by the blogger), which also contains a series of allegations against various rabbis and others who are “protecting” this individual.

Anyone who knows any of these people knows that the allegations are ludicrous. If the allegations had a hint of truth to them, then (given their nature) the rabbis in question would be first to tell him he must leave his job. The allegations were discredited long ago – but certain people don’t care. They would rather besmirch the innocent based upon “testimony” which changes substantially each time the story is re-told.

The fact is that you don’t need loshon hora to stop spousal abuse. The rabbis are accused of not caring by people who have never bothered to speak to them directly – and, not incidentally, have a huge chip on their shoulders about Judaism.

Blogging – or newspaper reporting – is no excuse for loshon hora. In another surprising bit of Divine Providence, yesterday the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation asked me to publicize the following notice (which they also provided as a PDF for all who want to see it nicely formatted). It’s quite appropriate to this topic.

If I was going to become the Internet point man for Orthodox Judaism in its righteous defense against "self-appointed watchdogs," I'd hope it would not be in defense of my own misdeeds.

If I was going to recruit a distinguished panel of contributors (say, Emanuel Feldman, Jeff Ballabon, Jonathan Rosenblum, Marvin Schick, Nosson Scherman, Shira Schmidt, Toby Katz, Yaakov Menken, Yaakov Yosef Reinman, Yitzchok Adlerstein) to go to war against lashon hara and the needless destruction of people on the Internet, I'd hope that I'd never screwed up one of my young vulnerable employees through sexual abuse and hypnosis.

If I was going to be the point man for a community (say the Baltimore Orthodox community led by rabbis Yaakov Hopfer and Moshe Heineman) fighting numerous charges of sex abuse, I'd hope that I didn't have a background in sexual abuse of a vulnerable employee.

If I was going to offer a bribe to remove publication of a report on the stonewalling of a police detective's investigation of sexual abuse in a community, I'd hope I wasn't thinking primarily of my own reputation.

If I had a past where I took advantage of a young female employee, I hope I'd feel that I had done a bad thing, and I hope I would move along the path to teshuva (return).

If I was the leader of a religious community, say Baltimore's Orthodox community, and a credible report came in about sexual abuse by a religious leader in my community, I would think twice before sending that leader forth to represent Orthodox blogging. I also hope that I would investigate the lady's report instead of dismissing it as just the first accusation against a favored rabbi.

If I were a rabbi who'd turned my backs on vulnerable people with credible reports of sexual abuse at the hands of religious leaders, I hope I'd think a second time and consider changing the way I did business.

If I were the editor of an establishment Jewish newspaper, the Baltimore Jewish Times, say, and I realized that I had been covering up for sexual predators in my community (and the powerful rabbis who protect them, say rabbis Hopfer and Heineman) and writing fluffy articles about persons who might deserve inspection, I'd resign my position. Any other job, even as a secretary, would be more honorable than publishing articles like this.

1/3/05

I understand from my sources that rabbi Yaakov Menken has two main computer businesses -- Project Genesis (which does torah.org and other jewish stuff like that) and Team Genesis, which does commercial web development. Teamgenesis.com is the website.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken replies to my inquiries:

Luke,

You can try to find a story there... really. If you come up with anything for your efforts I'll be very surprised. My accountant is one of the straightest guys there is, and maintains the wall between Project and Team Genesis.

http://forums.torah.org/ was launched in September, and has 378 members. Not bad for three months, and those are only the folks who want to post.

We have ten years of classes in there [Torah.org]. My material from one year would be "a few dozen pages." Mutiply by somewhere between six and ten years of archives, ten parsha classes... currently Torah.org is somewhere over 20,000 pages. I can't claim they are all in use, but I just queried the server.

And the development work wasn't for Torah.org alone, or even primarily, but for our new audio site and others.

Oh, and TeamGenesis ends up making donations back to Project -- for Team to simply write it off, says my accountant, would be inappropriate.

PG accomplishes a tremendous amount on very limited financial resources. The truth is that the $62K (some of that, I think, was held off from 2002) was billed at very low rates and must of *that* was donated back. If I weren't running Project Genesis, TeamGenesis could actually make real money...

I'd love to be making six figures. Hasn't happened. I'd love it, though.
My source writes: "According to the website it looks like he expanded the commercial stuff by purchasing an internet services provider. The long list of programmers on the staff page of torah.org work mainly for teamgenesis. Not sure why they're listed on torah.org, probably to make it look like a big heavy organization. But most of those developers do commercial development for pay. That's the main method of financing for torah.org. Rabbi Menken justifies the skimpy pay by saying that the profits are going to support torah.
"Torah.org is a non-profit and teamgenesis is for profit, and all of the profits from Team Genesis get channeled into Project Genesis, conveniently avoiding taxes. Also, there's this wealthy guy who pays menken's salary (at a tune of a couple of thousand a month) so that he doesn't draw a salary from Team Genesis."
Another source writes: "I'mn trying to understand how much he pulls out of Torah.org/Project Genesis which is a non-profit ($36K as a director + $10K expense account). There is a for profit corporation Teamgenesis COM Inc. which I believe he runs which charges Project Genesis for services ($62K)."

Jack writes:

Looking at guidestar.com Project Genesis tax filings I have a lot of
questions:

1) "Project Genesis is the recognized leader in Jewish education via the Internet, and with over 60,000 participants is the largest ongoing Jewish education program in the world. We offer Judaism in a vibrant, exciting and compelling manner."

They have 60,000 participants? Who recognizes them as the leader?

On their discussion forum they have a memberlist of 378.
http://forums.torah.org/

2)
Board Members: 7
Full-time Employees: 1-5
Part-time Employees: 1-5
Volunteers: 21-100

Who are the board members?

All I found was Board of Directors - Michael Schneider, Chair

What do these employees do for project genesis, I see very little material on their Torah.org website. Is there overlap? Does the $88,173 in payroll get used to work on his for profit company Team Genesis, which does commercial web development.

3)
Programs
"Launched in December 1993 with fifty participants, Project Genesis now serves over 60,000 students worldwide. Each student participates in one or more classes, involving weekly email correspondence. When reprints and forwarded email are included, Project Genesis reaches over 200,000 Jews every week. The organization provides a full curriculum of thirty classes in English, and translated material in Russian, French and other languages. Project Genesis has grown at a rate equaled only by the Internet itself, while teaching Jewish ethics, prayer, philosophy and law to people who represent the full spectrum of modern Jewish life."

200,000?

4)
Goals and Results

Accomplishments for Fiscal Year Ending 06/30/2003

Exceeded 60,000 students.
Launched LEAP (Learning Events and Programs) search engine, to link seeking
web surfers with local programs meeting their needs and interests. Includes
zip-code search in USA.
Now featuring over 30 email classes as well as two audio classes, with a
full multimedia library under construction.
Objectives for Fiscal Year Beginning 07/01/2003
Fully integrate our Jewish Learning Network and LEAP engine with Jewish
outreach organizations nation- and worldwide.
Deploy torahmedia.com, a Digital Media Library featuring lectures by educators around the globe.
Expand our class offerings into many new areas, with a special emphasis on basic-level, introductory classes.

Self Assessment

Project Genesis primarily tracks the number of participants in ongoing classes as the best measure of our reach. We also monitor usage of our web site, and will track users of our database-driven outreach center.

I wish they had a site counter to back up some of these assertions in terms of traffic.

5)
"Project Genesis paid $62,367 last year in internet hosting/design
(presumably to Team Genesis)."

That seems excessive. I've looked at the site, it's not that extensive or complicated. It's a few dozen pages.

Can you do this when you control both the non-profit and for profit entities? It seems to me as inappropriate taking money from a non-profit through a related for-profit company.

6)
Why is Project Genesis selling a computer to TeamGenesis? Why is it not
transferred at cost? Why are they creating an artificial $2,065 gain in
Project Genesis? How is a one year old computer worth more a year later?

7) Who pays Menken a salary? Why? It seems between his salary/expense
account ($46,500) in Project Genesis and the $60,000 he moves into his for-profit company from Project Genesis that he is doing quite well.

8) This all looks fishy to me. I'd like to get a copy of their financial statements for the past few years and get some additional information on TeamGenesis.

It appears to me more accurately, that funds are being channeled the other way from the non-profit Project Genesis into the for-profit Team Genesis through large webhosting and design fees, which is troubling as they are controlled apparently by the same person. The potential overlap of expenses between the companies is something that needs to be examined more closely.

As to avoiding taxes, you would need to see his personal returns. I don't think that claim is accurate, at least from what I'm reading.

Per Guidestar - latest IRS 990 filings for Project Genesis:

$ 88,173 in payroll
$ 62,367 in internet hosting/design
$ 46,500 salary/expense account - Rabbi Menken
_________
$ 197,040 Total

You can evaluate the changes in the website from year to year at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.torah.org

I just don't see any justification. Particularly for internet hosting/design fees.

Mobius at Jewschool ( www.jewschool.com ) could do (and does) such internet hosting/design work for a fraction of the cost and frankly, his "product" is far superior.

>If I weren't running Project Genesis,
>TeamGenesis could actually make real money...

If there is any truth to Menken's claim, why does he need a for-profit entity with a similar name to his non-profit entity at all? Why not run everything through the non-profit entity?

>Oh, and TeamGenesis ends up making donations back
>to Project -- for Team to simply write it off, says my
>accountant, would be inappropriate.

Huh?
1) Team Genesis is obviously profitable then.
2) What would Team Genesis write off? What you've written makes no sense.

Menken has an ethical obligation to disclose the relationship between the 2 entities and address fully the issues raised here. I would like to see audited statements for the past decade for both entities and a justification for these generous web-hosting/web-development fees.

>Why is Project Genesis selling a computer to TeamGenesis? >Why is it not transferred at cost? Why are they creating an >artificial $2,065 gain in Project Genesis? How is a one >year old computer worth more a year later?

It's been suggested to me that this accomplishes the following:
1) The gain in the non-profit is not taxable, no tax consequences.
2) This increases the cost-base of the computer by $2,065 on TeamGenesis's books (something they wouldn't be able to do if they bought it directly).
3) TeamGenesis is able to depreciate the computer by an additional $2,065 over its life and thus reduce its taxable income(something they wouldn't be able to do if they bought it directly).
4) If the computer becomes obsolete, TeamGenesis can use the write-off (Project Genesis couldn't) and the writeoff will be $2,065 than if TeamGenesis had bought the computer directly.

>The truth is that the $62K (some of that, I think, was
>held off from 2002)

Per Guidestar -
I believe this all relates to TeamGenesis (as best as I can determine, I would need to see TeamGenesis' books to confirm some of the professional and consulting fees):

Year ended June 30, 2002
Internet hosting and design = $62,367
Consultants = $4,921
Professional services = $7,651 (may include accounting fees)

Year ended June 30, 2001
Internet provider = $11,713
Internet hosting and design = $6,604
Consultants = $9,422
Professional services = $4.799

Year ended June 30, 2000
Internet provider = $10,808
Consulting = $38,382

Year ended June 30, 1999
Internet provider = $1,359
Consultants = $21,446

Year ended June 30, 1998
Consultants = $29,314

>My accountant is one of the straightest guys there is, and
>maintains the wall between Project and Team Genesis.

I couldn't find accounting fees for 2001 and 2002. They are either no such fees for those years or they were incorrectly put as part of the professional fees/consulting fees rather than being broken out properly on a seperate line (which is titled accounting fees). Or perhaps, no fee was charged.

Given the fees I could find, I doubt Menken's accountant does more than simply take the numbers Menken provides and fill out the 990 form (with maybe some small tax planning advice).

Year ended June 30, 2000
Accounting fees = $730

Year ended June 30, 1999
Accounting fees = $407

Year ended June 30, 1998
Accounting fees = $550

Interesting Team Genesis/Project Genesis connection:

see convicted sex offender [child molestor] Rabbi Benyamin Fleischman:

List of Rabbi Benyamin Fleischman's clients:

...
Project Genesis
...

List of Rabbi Benyamin Fleischman's Friends:

...
Project Genesis
...
Team Genesis
...

[Fleischman worked for Menken between 1997-99. Fleischman davened an Ner Tamid.]

CAPALON COMMUNICATIONS LLC - DOMESTIC LIMITED LIABILITY CO (DOM LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY) - 7/10/2002 - W06896641 - MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION

Rabbi Menken also runs the above company. I believe it also does webhosting.

Another source writes:
$62k for a year's worth of web design and hosting?! That's insane. What are the day rates at work here for the technical work, and what are the monthly fees for hosting?

Also, all of the metrics claimed for "participants" are highly, highly dubious. I suspect by "participants," he means visitors to the site (and even then, I wonder if he's counting pageviews instead of unique users - if only because all his other metrics strike me as so dodgy). And the idea that he can quantify how many of his group's emails are forwarded - and that the recipients are necessarily Jewish, as he claims - is ridiculous.
Bat Dina writes:
Beyond financials, here are some real important questions to ask Mr. Menken (who made him a rabbi? does he deserve that title?):
What are the goals of torah.org? How are metrics measured to track that these goals are met? Are they met? Are these goals worthwhile goals, to justify pouring so much money into torah.org? What kind of ROI is there for the wealthy donor and all of the not-so-wealthy donors who contribute their hard-earned money to Project Genesis?
My friend, who runs a non-profit, tells me that non-profits with a cash flow of over 100K must have an independent audit of their financial records by someone other than their accountant. Was this done for torah.org? My friend also said that the names of the board members is public info, and the names of major donors and people on the payroll are probably also public info. How can we get this info?
Learn With The Vulnerable

Rabbi Yaakov Menken writes 3/2/05:

Rabbi [...] called upon everyone to take a direct, hands-on approach, spending one hour a week learning with someone with less background.

Maybe I should start learning with rabbi Menken. He can teach me Torah and I can teach him poems such as this one:

Powerlessness

Part of me is still standing there,
naked in front of the mirror
frozen in shame and fear
on that cold winter night.

I was home alone, taking a bath
and you wanted me to walk in naked in front of a window.
"This is an opportunity," you said, "no one is home."

I hung up the phone on you and turned off the ringer.
Later, you were angry that I hadn't taken your calls and done your bidding
what happened next, I cannot write but the event is seared on my heart (or whatever is left of it).

I had no choice.
I needed to mollify you because you were my everything
I thought of running away but I had too much to lose.

Later on, I realized it was either leaving or dying, so I left.
But part of me is still standing there,
naked in front of the mirror
frozen in shame and fear on that cold winter night.

Luke says: Some rabbis shouldn't take a direct, hands-on approach. Some rabbis should keep their hands to themselves.

3/22/05

A Hypocrite Revealed

I sat facing him, one spring day. I looked at him and for the first time since meeting him, finally saw him for who he was.

"You are such a hypocrite," I said quietly. The words startled me. He smiled. (The daggers in that smile! I am still aching from their slashes though a long time has passed by.)

"I know," he said, still smiling.

My world fell around me like a million pieces of confetti.

3/23/05

Torn

My trust in him boosted his ego. He encouraged me to trust him totally, to tell him anything and everything about my life and myself. When I told him about certain private things (after much prodding on his part), he took it upon himself to control my private life, ostensibly because he wanted to help me. In reality, he was projecting his own sex addiction onto me and using me to feed his sex addiction.

His defense mechanisms are so strong that even as I was leaving, in our last conversation, he claimed, "I was trying to help you and not to harm you. I love you. I was giving you a safe place to explore your sexuality."

I pray that his own children never experience that kind of "loving" or that kind of "safety".

Rabbi or Predator?

In my younger years, when I'd walk the streets of my hometown, I'd see rabbis and feel a certain awe and deference. Now, when I go back to that ultra-orthodox torah-centric enclave, and I walk the streets, I pass the black hatted and coated rabbis and feel a certain suspicion. Is this a real rabbi, or a sexual predator/pervert/rapist dressed up like a rabbi?, I think.

The conformity demanded by the community provides a convenient cover for those who are sexually challenged. While a large percentage of the rabbis on the street are indeed decent, G-d fearing people, a small percentage are not. Because the pretenders work hard to make themselves fit in, they are all the more dangerous. Most of the time, they are even pretending to themselves by concocting elaborate excuses to justify their behavior and put a "holy" spin on it.

Living in an ultra-orthodox community does not make one immune to sexual addiction. Like any other addiction such as alcoholism, it must be treated. Suppressing it will not help. Covering it up and hiding it will not help.

5/13/05

Spat Between Rabbi Yaakov Menken And AJOP?

Neither party will talk to me.

In 2002, one of Menken's interns (a disturbed 15-year old boy) committed arson against Etz Chaim, the outreach center of rabbi Porter, who was president of AJOP at the time. The Baltimore Jewish Times first wrote up the incident as arson.

Outreach Center Rebuilds After Blaze 2/7/02 Jewish Teen Arrested In Shul Arsons 2/21/02 Etz Chaim Rebuilds Destroyed Home 3/5/04

Finally, in the October 15, 2004 edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times: "Rabbi Porter said that the accidental electrical fire enabled him to look at Etz Chaim and start it over from scratch."

I'm wondering if, since this is Baltimore and you never turn in another Jew to the authorities, perhaps there's a connection.

About six months ago, rabbi Menken was uninvited from the January 2005 AJOP conference because he blew it with one of his employees. Some rabbis, such as Menken, are not appropriate for outreach work.

Jewish Speed Learning - Rabbi Yaakov Menken Style

Liya Erela writes 9/25/05 on the Jewish Survivors blog:

Today I was at an event called "Jewish Speed Learning", which was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Education and the JCC of Baltimore, MD.

I was outraged to see that these two organization would invite Rabbi Yaakov Menken to be one of their presenters.

I hope the only reason he was invited had to do with the fact they were not aware that they put unsuspecting women at risk of harm.

It's obvious that none of the rabbis who are very familiar with the allegations against this man were more interested in protecting their friend, then they were of protecting non-observant women.

You have to realize that Menken does have some very good friends and influential buddies that he daven's with at the Glenn Avenue Shul. I guess it doesn't matter to his friends that Rabbi Yaakov Menken confessed to HaRav Kaminsky "that he didn't sexual assault his victim"; yet he did confessed to having sexual relations with her.

I guess it doesn't matter to the rabbunim of Baltimore that Menken is married and has children? I'm sure they will tell you that Menken is a master doing Kiruv work (Jewish outreach). You can see that at his website. Why should anyone be concerned. Remember Menken said "the entire affair was the victims fault".

I have a problem with this kind of thinking. Don't forget that Rabbi Yaakov Menken is an orthodox rabbi. I guess he is exempt from halacha? I guess it's ok for him to have sex with a woman other then his wife? I guess it's ok for him to be having sexual relations with women he is doing kiruv work with too?

Kenneth Menken's Father

Matthew Menken MD, FACP Neurology Physician, New Jersey

Dr. Matthew Menken is the Clinical Professor of Medicine and Neurology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, a post which he has held since 1982. Prior to that, he was Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology from 1977 to 1982 and Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology from 1973 to 1977.

Dr. Menken's hospital affiliations include the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Attending Staff, Neurology physician, St. Peter's Medical Center, Chief of Neurology and Electroencephalography and the University Medical Center at Princeton, Chief of Neurology and Electroencephalography.

Dr. Menken was educated at the Central High School, Philadelphia, PA then the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. He studied Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts and graduated as M.D. cum laude in 1962. His post-graduate experience, in summary, includes Internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, Clinical Associate in the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland and Fellow in Neurology, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY. He has been in Practice as a Neurology physician in New Brunswick and Somerset, NJ since 1969.

Dr. Menken is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (1971), a Diplomate of the American Board of Electroencephalography (1979), a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP, 1988) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology (1978). He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the American Electroencephalographic Society, the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, the American Medical Association, the Medical Society of New Jersey, the Boylston Medical Society and the American Medical Encephalographic Association. Dr. Menken has Honors including Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha, Harvard Medical School (1962).

In addition to his academic and clinical positions, Dr. Menken holds a number of special appointments. Most notably, he is an Examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, a member of the Medical Expert Advisory Panel, N.J. State Board of Medical Examiners, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Archives of Neurology. He is Chairman of the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Medical Education (1988), Co-Chair of the Consensus Development Conference on the Scope of Neurological Practice in the United Kingdom, Royal College of Physicians of London, 1985, Co-Chair of the Working Group for Neurology, Royal College of Physicians of London, United Kingdom (1993) and World Federation of Neurology Liaison Officer to World Health Organizatio, Geneva, Switzerland, 2000 to 2002.

Dr. Menken is a prolific writer of medical articles and has a vast list of publications to his name.

1/23/06

Here's a small list of the people who endorse and work with sexual predator Yaakov Menken of Torah.org. The word has been out for a year about Yaakov's ways with the vulnerable ladies who work for him. Here are the contributors to Menken's blog Cross-Currents.com: Emanuel Feldman, Eytan Kobre, Gedalia Litke, Jonathan Rosenblum, Mark Bane, Marvin Schick, Shira Schmidt, Toby Katz, Yaakov Yosef Reinman, Yitzchok Adlerstein.

I guess these people don't have a problem associating themselves with an outed sexual predator.

When I checked 1/23/06 the listing of the programmers at Torah.org, a favorite place for Menken to find girlfriends, it seemed that all the programmers (a male-dominated profession) were female (many are married and work from home, and should be safe from Menken's predatory ways): Chaya Miriam Cohen, Web Application Programmer Havi Goodman, Web Application Programmer Shuli Gunsher, Web Application Programmer Sora Basha Harbater, Web Application Developer Chavi Jacobs, Graphic Designer Leah Newmark, Web Application Programmer Michal Segelman, Web Application Programmer Nechama Stampler, Web Application Programmer Rivy Strauss, Web Application Programmer

I hope to God that none of these women work near Menken.

I suspect that most of these programmers spend little time on Torah projects. Menken makes his money off his secular projects, but it's good to put all his programmers on the Torah ledger.

Dec. 5, 2007

The Awareness Center sent out this mass email:

Over the last few years The Awareness Center has shared information with you regarding the case of Rabbi Yaakov Menken (AKA: Yakov Menken, Kenneth Menken, Ken Menken). Due to the issue of confidentiality we have been limited in what we have made public.  The allegations against Menken include sexual harassment and clergy sexual abuse.

Yaakov Menken's alleged modus operandi is to become a father figure to vulnerable young women and eventually manipulating them into having sexual contact with him.  Menken is married with children and in his forties.  The alleged women he targets are usually in their late teens or early twenties.  In 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Menken had a discussion with Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky and confessed to having sexual contact with a very young woman he counseled. He basically blamed the survivor, stating "she came on to me".

Since The Awareness Center became aware of the allegations made against Yaakov Menken we were able to gathered information which included conversations with various rabbonim in Baltimore.  It appears that a national Jewish outreach organization which included a relative of the Menken survivors were in a bet din dispute right before and during the time that Rabbi Yaakov Menken was sexually manipulating a young woman from an extremely insulated community.

The survivor was barely out of her teens at the time that Yaakov Menken started his grooming process on her.  When Menken got started the young woman had recently moved away from her family for the first time.  Menken allegedly marked her as an easy target and began to provide rabbinical counseling to her.  It's important to keep in mind that Rabbi Menken was very angry with the survivors relative during this time period and the woman was unaware of the bet din dispute. It is believed that this is part of the reason why Menken picked her as a target and began to lure her in.

Usually when someone goes searching for spirituality they are in a vulnerable state because of some sort of personal crisis in their lives.  These are exactly the type of people that Menken allegedly preys upon.

Several Kiruv organizations are partnering up with alleged sexual predator, Rabbi Yaakov Menken, for a Jewish Outreach event that will be featuring Dr. Gerald Schroeder.  The problem is that by doing so they are basically saying that Yakov Menken is safe and someone both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews can trust.

The Awareness Center is asking that you boycott all events associated with Yaakov Menken, Project Genesis, Torah.org, Project Genisis and TorahMedia.org.  We are also asking that you to call and or write the following people and demand that they stop working with Rabbi Yaakov Menken...