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From rabbi Yosef Blau's official biography at Yeshiva University:

Rabbi Blau earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1959 from Yeshiva College, the men's undergraduate, liberal arts and sciences division of the University. He earned a Masters of Science degree at the University’s Belfer Graduate School of Science in 1960, and was ordained at Yeshiva University's affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in 1961.

Rabbi Blau was appointed Mashgiach Ruchani (spiritual guidance counselor) at RIETS in 1977. Rabbi Blau is also the spiritual guidance counselor for students at the University's undergraduate schools and colleges for men.

In communal life, Rabbi Blau served as national president of Yavneh, the National Religious Jewish Students Association, and as a member of that organization's National Advisory Board. He also served as vice president of the National Conference of Yeshiva Principals.

From The YU Commentator 10/26/04:

The following are the prepared remarks of Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani of RIETS, delivered at the October 13, 2004 symposium entitled "Envisioning the Future of American Judaism," sponsored by the Yale Judaic Studies program and the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University.

One hundred years ago no one would have predicted that there would be any Orthodox Jews in America to participate in this panel this evening. America was and continues to be a land of opportunity for Jews a "goldener medina" (a golden land), but from the perspective of traditional religious observance it was a "treife medina" (a non-kosher land). Not yet having a five-day workweek, Sabbath observance was almost impossible. The public school and the American University replaced the cheder, the Jewish doctor, lawyer and professor the successor to the Talmudic scholar. Americanization seemed to require dropping a European observant life style.

Fifty years ago we had survived but prospects for the future were still doubtful. The first key to Orthodoxy\'s revival has been the day school movement, Jewish and secular education in one school. On an advanced level, Yeshiva University represents an American amalgam of a yeshiva and a university. This education is not limited to rabbis, in that respect Yeshiva University is fundamentally different from the other rabbinical schools represented at this panel. Our undergraduates, both male and female, spend half their day on Judaic studies whether they will become professionals, business people, secular scholars or rabbis.

America has become more accommodating to religious diversity. Civil rights laws prohibit religious discrimination. One can leave an office early on a winter Friday afternoon without threat of being fired. Remarkably, in many cities the sign of a flourishing Orthodox community is a major medical center. Four years ago an observant Jew, keeping kashrut and Shabbat, ran for vice-president of the United States and his religious life was not a significant issue in the election.

A small group of optimistic religious leaders, who came from Europe with a variety of perspectives, led this revival. At Yeshiva, the presence of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, whose intellectual credentials as both a Talmudist and philosopher, were acknowledged across the religious spectrum, gave Orthodoxy respectability. Rabbi Pinchas Teitz created a model community and introduced use of modern media to spread Torah. Rabbi Aharon Kotler recreated a European yeshiva in Lakewood New Jersey. The Bobover, Lubavicher and Satmar rebbes established major and diverse Hassidic communities.

Today our rabbinical scholars and intellectuals were born and educated in this country. The emergence of the State of Israel re-ignited Jewish pride and it is a given that Orthodox youth, female and male, will spend a year or more studying in Israel. The Orthodox community is most closely aligned with Israel and while its aliya rate is small it includes a number of potential leaders.

A baal teshuva movement has emerged with a significant number of Jews from non-traditional homes returning to the observance of grandparents and great grandparents. In fact one of the challenges facing modern Orthodoxy is that many of these returnees are attracted to a European Orthodoxy and they see us as too accommodating to western culture.

Orthodoxy in America is multi-faceted. It includes both Orthodox feminists and opponents of any public role for women. Scientists and Wall-Street lawyers co-exist with kollel students who consider working a compromise with a true religious life. Some look to rabbis to decide personal questions and others never ask.

American culture is constantly in flux which requires that modern Orthodoxy continuously reevaluate its relationship with the external society. New challenges are inevitable. It is easier to either accept all the values in vogue or to reject modernity totally.

Responding to the changing role of women in society is particularly complex for a religious tradition that values knowledge and is also centered on the home and family. The remarkable development of formal Jewish education for women, which in less than a century has gone from a select group of knowledgeable women to a system of schools educating all young Orthodox women for at least twelve years leaves many questions.

Rabbinical leadership in Orthodoxy in America will need to be expert in traditional texts as the laity is also yeshiva educated and secularly knowledgeable as well. At Yeshiva\'s rabbinical seminary we are expanding pastoral training and trying to imbue our students with a broad vision of the Jewish community. We have to find the proper balance between loyalty to tradition and innovation for both men and women to produce the leadership needed to ensure a vibrant Jewish future.

I speak by phone October 12, 2004, with rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University.

"Mordechai Winiarz was a student [in the mid '70s] of rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his high school in Riverdale -- Ohr Hatorah AKA Manhattan Hebrew High School (MHS). Rabbi Riskin also operated a girls high school. My wife was principal of the girls high school -- Dr. Rivkah Blau (author of a biography about her father, Rabbi Mordechai Pinchas Teitz — "Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah").

"Mordechai was close to rabbi Riskin.

"I first recall him seriously when he was running JPSY (circa 1983). My wife was now principal of a different school -- Shevach. He called her and asked her to take a girl [Judy] from JPSY who had been staying at his home. My wife took the girl into the school. Clearly, the young woman had issues. She arranged for the woman to see an Orthodox psychologist in Queens. The psychologist told my wife the story about what happened between Mordechai and herself. The psychologist reported to my wife that he believed the girls story.

"I recall a conversation from that time with another psychologist who had a child who was an advisor to JPSY. He had Judy stay at his home for Shabbos a couple of times. I discovered that he was aware of the story and that he believed the girl.

"My wife was very upset about the story.

"During this time, I received a call from Susan, who told me about the incident she described to you.

"At some point, I became aware of problems in his first marriage. I knew his first wife. She came from a small town in Maine. She was sweet and naive. He was a sharp operator. It did not seem like a good match.

"I know loads of people tried to convince the woman who became his second wife not to marry him.

"At one point, Mordechai came into my office and told me he'd get my wife. I was stern with him. He was threatening. That obviously solidified my concerns.

"JPSY came apart. The official story was that one of the major funders of the organization had economic reversals in the real estate market. There was resentment that Mordechai managed to protect himself financially but left others unpaid.

"He managed to get himself into an advanced kollel at Yeshiva University. I was perturbed about it. I realized that this was a troubled fellow who seemed to cause trouble for other people.

"Rabbi Riskin had a beis medresh. He was the only one to get semicha [rabbinic ordination] under that system. He studied under Riskin. Mordechai did not get semicha from YU.

"There is one rabbi who has repeated over the years that he won't give anybody semicha. He gave it once and regretted it eversince. It is thought that he is referring to Mordechai.

"Mordechai ingratiates himself with people. For two weeks, he was a star teacher at JSS (James Streir School, a school for baalei teshuva [returnees to Judaism] at YU. The kids were enamored with him. He made a wonderful first impression. And then it disintegrated. He didn't last the term.

"I know the administrator (with a background in psychology and social work) who made sure that Mordechai had nothing to do with YU anymore.

"Mordechai spent a short time in the rabbinate in a couple of different places. He was in Stamford, Connecticut, in-and-out quickly. He was in Boca Raton for a few months. He came into my office at YU one day to say that he was doing wonderful things at Boca and taking over the world and he is going into politics and he will become a senator from Florida. He is always grandiose. He was going to prove to me the enemy...

"Then something went wrong in Boca and he left suddenly. There were rumors of scandal.

"Recently, I called two people from the community. One said everything was fine. There was a difference of opinion on some issues. The second one was so apprehensive that before he would speak to me, he asked me a question about when I first met rabbi Kenneth Brander, the current rabbi of the Boca Raton Orthodox shul, and his wife. Rabbi Brander's wife was a student of my wife at MHS. So then he was fine.

"I asked him why he did this. He said I had no idea how powerful Mordechai is. How dangerous he is. He was nervous that maybe I was an agent for Mordechai. I couldn't get from him what happened except that Mordechai was evil.

"Mordechai moved to Israel and moved to Israel and changed his name. He was still married to his second wife. People would inform me of things. Mordechai applied to the Chief Rabbinate. Someone called me and asked me to speak to the Chief Rabbinate. I did.

"One night [circa 1995] Mordechai showed up at the Beis Medresh at YU. He walked over to me and said, 'I'm coming back. And when I'm back, I'm going to get you.'

"[Circa 1999] I got a phone call from a private investigator in Israel. He said he was hired by a foundation [funded by billionaire Shari Aranson] which was considering giving Mordechai money for a television program. The head of the foundation is suspicious of him and wants me to do an investigation. He said he was coming to New York in two weeks.

"Sure enough, two weeks later, I got a phone call from the man. I went to meet him at his New York hotel. He takes out a volume of all the stuff he has. I said to him, why do you want to talk to me if you have all this material? He said, 'Because I have to be complete, and Mordechai had mentioned your name as going on a vendetta against him. And that he said your wife has always been jealous that he is rabbi Riskin's favorite and not him.'

"I said, that is absurd. She ran a school for rabbi Riskin for six years.

"I have the investigator's name -- Meir Palevsky of AMN Investigation Services in Tel Aviv. I have his card in my wallet. I have told people over the years to call the investigator in Israel. I've seen the man's name in the Israeli media.

"Meir told me two things. One, he was wasting his time because the daughter of the man who ran the foundation was enamored with Mordechai and he will get the money anyway. Two, he had an employee interview Mordechai. After Mordechai gave his version of the story -- that Judy propositioned him -- and that if he hugged her, it was only because he felt sorry for her. Mordechai then made some vulgar comment about the girl's anatomy.

"Over the years, people in Israel have sent people to talk to me about Mordechai. He keeps changing jobs and organizations.

"During this entire time [until circa 2001], he was still Orthodox. Saying that certain Orthodox people are opposed to him because he is no longer Orthodox is nonsense. Rabbi Billet was his teacher in high school. If you say people have a vendetta against him, it's an old one.

"Mordechai would reinvent himself. He was Carlebachian for a while. Then he became New Age. Periodically, people would show me articles he wrote. He managed to get his name in all kinds of publications. A number of the articles revolved around eros. Doing sins for God's sake. There was always a sexual component.

"My connection with the thing in The Jewish Week started several years ago. For the 50th anniversary of Israel, there was a special supplement and Mordechai came across as this new religious personality who was beyond everything else, was going to impact on the country. I was upset. I contacted Gary Rosenblatt [a longtime friend of R. Blau's] and said, you are giving such a troubled person a free ride.

"I called the late J.J. Greenberg [son of rabbi Yitz Greenberg]. He had worked for JPSY. 'J.J., nobody is going to accuse you of being right-wing Orthodox. Could you explain about Mordechai?' He said, everybody knew about Mordechai. This is not a secret. Unfortunately, J.J. was subsequently riding a bicycle and hit by a car and killed in Israel.

"After the Lanner scandal broke, several people contacted Gary Rosenblatt and said, why don't you write about Mordechai Gafni.

"Over the past year, I've spoken to the unnamed woman in Gary's article [who says that Gafni raped her]. The story was totally new to me.

"Someone from the Jewish Renewal movement contacted me a couple of years. He'd known Mordechai from Israel. He said this dangerous man is moving into the Renewal movement. I need to do something about it.

"Rabbi Siegal [from the Renewal movement] called me. I directed him to the private investigator in Israel. He said the people were taken with him but his son had come back from hearing him and said, there is something wrong with this guy.

"Rabbi Gafni applied for a job at Pardes. Rabbi Danny Landes liked him. He defended him in Gary's article. The three [Israeli] women rabbi Landes spoke to are different women from the three [Gary's article talks about]. There were and are teachers at Pardes who were upset [when Gafni came in to teach] because they knew his story. A friend of one of my son's who was teaching at Pardes quit over this.

"Mordechai came to American and spoke at some Hillel conferences. They weren't interested in him. Richard Joel [now president of YU, formerly head of Hillel, a Jewish organization on college campuses] says Mordechai came in and complained -- they're telling lies about me. Richard said, 'I have no idea what stories are true or not true. But I heard you speak and you said "I" 35 times and "God" no times. We're not interested.'

"At one point, Mordechai was going to have an article in a symposium in Tradition magazine. A YU student who had heard him at Hillel, and knew something about him, saw Mordechai's article and contacted me. I spoke out. The comment that came back from the editor was -- I knew about Mordechai Winiarz. I didn't know it was the same person. Mordechai's article didn't appear.

"Then I heard Mordechai was involved in Jewish-Buddhist things in Israel. Then Bayit-Chadash came.

"Over the past six months, I've had numerous telephone conversations with the three women [in Gary's article]. Most of it was me listening to them. You never know what affects people's lives. In two of the three cases, it has had a dramatically negative affect on their Jewishness and their other things. They're still traumatized and petrified.

"Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh from the Renewal movement contacted me. She spoke to one of the women. I was not taken by her. She complained about The Awareness Center and other things. She never called me back. I got an email from someone else in the Renewal movement who heard there was a controversy. I responded. I never heard back.

"Last year, rabbi Saul Berman came to see me. We're old friends. We had a long conversation. We are clearly not on the same page. I can't explain other people's attitudes. I told him about the women. I gave him the name of the private investigator.

"My wife and I went to a lecture given by rabbi Joseph Telushkin. We are close to the head of the organization that hosted the lecture. After the lecture, rabbi Telushkin came over and wanted to talk to me and my wife about Mordechai. What do we have against him? My wife did most of the speaking because she has known Mordechai longer and better than I. Afterwards, she thought he had understood. I said, no, he didn't. Unfortunately, I was right.

"They [rabbis Telushkin, Berman and Tirzah Firestone] said they did some kind of investigation. Rabbi Berman did speak to Judy. She thought that he understood her, but again, probably not. One of the other women called him a number of times and he didn't respond. To the best of my knowledge, rabbi Telushkin has spoken to none of these three. They are not the only ones. I don't have an investigative agency.

"My sense of Mordechai is that he is a profoundly troubled person who can be very dangerous. I have no reason to believe he's done teshuva. Every time he has to deal with a real case, he basically says, I didn't do it. He says he's changed. He's done teshuva. But for what? He says he's never done anything wrong.

"There are the same common patterns between Mordechai Gafni's situation and that of Baruch Lanner. Admitting a little bit one time and that you've stopped. The next time saying you've never admitted it. In the first article [The Jewish Week], he says: 'I don’t work with kids, I don’t counsel men or women and I don’t meet alone with women.' In the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles article, it is as though he did nothing wrong. His story changes. Arthur Green's letter says that he did terrible things 20 years but he's done teshuva. How would Arthur Green know aside from what Mordechai tells him? In the letter from rabbi Berman and Telushkin, it seems that he never did anything bad. This is classic pattern. Admit it when you have to. Deny it later.

"I've never fully understood the fear of Mordechai, but clearly many people see him as very powerful. When he threatened me, I didn't take it seriously. To take something seriously, you have to find it credible.

"Mordechai is good at bouncing back. He is not going to go away."

What did you think of Gary's article?

"Gary is a friend of mine. I've known him forever. We worked together on the Baruch Lanner thing. I would've preferred a stronger article.

"Most of these people bury themselves. Same thing with the article on Mattis Weinberg. It was the quote from R. Weinberg that was devastating. The arrogance of these people gets them. And they're all arrogant. It's part of what makes them what they are."

...........

Rabbi Yosef Blau Resigns From The Awareness Center (TAC)

5/5/05

I believe, but don't have direct evidence for this, that the Tendlers are behind this new website Blaufacts.com.

I find it hard to believe that rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman are behind this new site, even though much of the contents of the new site is similar to a series of attacks those rabbis made against rabbi Blau and TAC via carefully written letters (widely distributed) over the past year. But this site is not the modus operandi of rabbi Telushkin and Berman. One can argue that some of their criticisms about rabbi Blau were wrong, but most everyone who knows them says they are honorable.

Blaufacts.com reproduces this letter from rabbi Telushkin and Berman. Was this done without their permission?

September 13, 2004

Dear Rabbi Blau,

Since we met some months ago to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse and the role of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I have been maintaining a continuing interest in the activities of The Awareness Center.

My recent letter to Vicki Polin and the members of the Executive Committee of The Awareness Center included a list of suggested policy recommendations which would have made the operation of The Awareness Center website a fair and effective instrument in the battle against sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Unfortunately, Vicki, in the name of the Executive Committee, dismissed all of the suggestions with a single condescending brush stroke.

Permit us to be perfectly blunt. The Awareness Center website as it currently stands is often misleading, its truthfulness cannot be assumed, and, in the name of justice, it has itself become an instrument of vicious abuse. We are moved to make this harsh evaluation in the light of the following points and more:

1. The claim that the site will only report previously published accusations is an outright lie. Vicki has herself sent anonymous slanderous postings to web blogs and then cited them on The Awareness Center site as the basis for serious accusations.

2. The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which simply never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation.

3. The site does not remove accusatory material even after full and multiple investigations have concluded that they are false.

4. The Awareness Center has initiated campaigns to destroy the reputation and work prospects of accused persons, even after their names have been formally cleared and/or full resolution between the parties has been achieved.

5. The site will provide no opportunity for response by accused persons, other than an admission of guilt.

6. The attempt to destroy people's reputations long after their death is not the pursuit of justice, it is journalistic pornography.

These and many other serious offenses (of which we have extensive substantiation) have made The Awareness Center an untrustworthy and deplorable repository of falsehoods, innuendoes, and scandal mongering. It is a disgrace to the Jewish community and we will not abide its continued destructive activities.

We fear that your own reputation for probity and for responsible communal response to the vital issue of sexual abuse may be seriously injured by your continued association with The Awareness Center. We urge you, as we will be strongly urging all others connected with it, to disassociate your name from The Awareness Center until such time as responsible policies and honest procedures are implemented for its future operation.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Blau's letter to The Jewish Press, ardent defenders of rabbi Mordecai Tendler.

From the new website Blaufacts.com (it is a professional and painstaking work, free of libel and amply documented):

Why does Yosef Blau degrade by including on his website past and present leaders of our generation, specifically Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l, and Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg shlita (a former relative of Yosef Blau)?

There's a veiled threat in this to rabbi Blau and some of the people he cares about most. Some background information.

Blaufacts.com reproduces this quote from Rabbi Yaakov Menken December 30, 2004 on the blog Cross-Currents.com:

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.

Background information on rabbi Yaakov Menken.

5/6/05

Menahem writes on CampusJ:

Whoever posted this petty attack on Rabbi Blau has way too much time on his/her hands, no concept of what constitutes fact-checking and a generally delusional perspective.

Under a link called "Blau Facts," the site contains a disclaimer, " All information displayed on this site will be preceded by a link to the source of the information, so as not to allow any attempt to dispel these clear, undeniable facts." What clear, undeniable facts follow? Quotes from the media that in my mind point far more to Rabbi Blau's maturity and involvment with serious matters (that he must shoulder because no one else in the rabbinic community seems interested) than to refute him in any way.

Steven I. Weiss Weighs In On R. Blau Resignation

Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University is indisputedly the leading Orthodox rabbi seeking to combat rabbinic abuse. There's been a significant effort to trash him that has grown significantly in recent weeks, owing to the fallout of the situation regarding Rabbi Mordechai Tendler.

Steven writes:

1) Why are we only hearing about the site from people who aren't involved in the anti-Blau effort, such as Luke Ford? Usually, you'd hear about such a project from the partisans behind it or supporting it.

The exchange of letters between rabbis Saul Berman (SaulBerman at AOL.com) and Joseph Telushkin and The Awareness Center began March 25, 2004.

Rabbi Saul Berman writes Vicki Polin:

Rabbi Bob Carroll shared with me your inquiry about creating a link to your important website from the Edah site. I believe that he responded briefly to your inquiry, but I would like to expand the discussion further in order to see whether our concerns could be sufficiently put to rest to enable us to work together. The Edah website currently gets in excess of 325,000 clicks per month and could serve as a valuable portal for information about the abuse problem in the Jewish community. We would like to be able to provide our community of readers with the opportunity to be more aware of the problem and the resources available to help victims.

The particular concerns that we have are as follows:

1. Process. Do you yourself make the determinations to include individual cases within the listings of accused abusers? Are the members of your Advisory Council consulted in each case and does there have to be a vote or arrival at consensus in order to warrant inclusion?

2. Age of the charge. Do you operate with any equivalent of a statute of limitations? For example, the charges against Rabbi Shlomo Aviner were already 15 years old and you document no prior or subsequent charges against him. What is the purpose then of listing him? It sounds like the purpose is to disgrace him for his alleged behavior rather than to protect the community from future threat.

3. Evidence for the charge. When an allegation includes no substantiation whatsoever, and in consequence, public prosecutors dismiss the charges, why should the allegation be honored by inclusion? Such is the situation, for example of the charges against Rabbi Yonah Metzger. Should not the site at minimum provide the accused with an opportunity to respond to the charges?

4. Halachic criteria. Does the site operate by any Halachic criteria for the permissibility of publicizing unlitigated and unwitnessed accusations? If yes, who is the Halachik decisor on such matters? Certainly the Chofetz Chaim requires not only first hand knowledge to justify reporting truthful but defamatory reports, but it also requires that Tochacha be issued. I assume that means that the accused must be provided with an opportunity to either deny wrongdoing, or to do teshuva. Does the center provide the opportunity, when feasible, for such direct engagement with alleged abusers?

5. Range of wrongs. The Center identifies itself as being the "Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault." If that is the limit of its mandate, and that is already extraordinarily broad, why does the site venture into matters of "cultic" practices which involve no direct allegations of sexual wrongdoing? For example the newspaper articles concerning Rabbi Mordecai Gafni charge him with unspecified "cultic" practices, but make no suggestions of sexual wrongdoing. Is this simply an evasive attempt to "get" Gafni for long circulating, but never publicly confirmed, allegations of impropriety dating from over twenty years ago?

6. Unlistings. What criteria are utilized for removing people from the listing? For example, there was a time when Rabbi Tzvi Flaum was listed on the site. What process was put into motion that eventually resulted in his removal from the list, and what determines when that process is set in motion?

As I indicated at the outset, we truly value the work you are doing and would like to be able to do our part in helping rid the Jewish community of leaders who exploit the vulnerabilities of others in the interest of their own sexual gratification. We feel, however, that our concerns about the above issues of process and substantive criteria must be responded to, in theory and practice, before we can use our website to promote the visibility of the Center. Please get back to me as soon as possible so that we can explore these issues together.

Sincerely, rabbi Saul J. Berman

.............

Vicki Polin responded:

June 16, 2004

Dear Rabbi Berman,

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the concerns about The Awareness Center. I also want to apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Please understand that we at The Awareness Center receive enormous numbers of emails and phone calls on a daily basis, which causes us to function as a crisis hot-line.

I know you originally wrote your letter to me (Vicki), but the Executive Board of Directors decided to respond together, as an organization.

We have no way of knowing whether our reply will put all of your concerns to rest--only you would know that. However, we hope that you read the information below with an open mind, not only to the rights of the accused, but also to that of the many victims repeatedly silenced in the past.

1. Process. Do you yourself make the determinations to include individual cases within the listings of accused abusers? Are the members of your Advisory Council consulted in each case and does there have to be a vote or arrival at consensus in order to warrant inclusion?

At this time Vicki Polin is the webmaster of our site. The Awareness Center has a few volunteers who post articles and other information to our daily email newsletters. Vicki Polin, as the Executive Director and President of The Awareness Center, is aware of and approves all the cases that are posted. Our policy is to post all cases of alleged and convicted offenders, whose allegations/convictions have been published elsewhere in legal and/or court documentation, police reports, newspapers, etc. We might also allow other information to be posted as long as at least one other Board of Directors member approves.

Our Executive Board of Directors includes:
Vicki Polin - President
Na'ama Yehuda - Vice President
Michael Salamon, Ph.D. - Treasurer
Rabbi Yosef Blau - Secretary

The Awareness Center also has an Advisory Board whose members offer us a wide range of advice on various issues that pertain to sexual victimization/violence/offenders in Jewish communities around the globe. Please be aware that The Awareness Center is purely a volunteer run organization. Our Executive Director, Board of Directors, Advisory Board and other volunteers devote hundreds if not thousands of hours of their personal time, without any compensation. Once The Awareness Center has funding, and we are able to pay our Executive Director and hire other necessary staff there will be, if needed, changes in the way we operate.

2. Age of the charge. Do you operate with any equivalent of a statute of limitations? For example, the charges against Rabbi Shlomo Aviner were already 15 years old and you document no prior or subsequent charges against him. What is the purpose then of listing him? It sounds like the purpose is to disgrace him for his alleged behavior rather than to protect the community from future threat.

The Awareness Center is not a litigation organization. We are a resource/referral organization that operates as a clearinghouse for information already posted elsewhere. Almost all the information on our web page is information that has been published elsewhere. Exceptions being articles written by members of our Board of Directors, Advisory Board, or other individuals whom we respect. Our web page acts as a specialized library on the topic of sexual violence/victimization.

Did you know that in some countries there is no statue of limitation on cases of sexual violence? Once such country is Canada. When someone is sexually violated it is as if someone has murdered his or her soul. This is one of the many reasons why we do not put time restraints on articles.

It has been well documented in the general public and also in Jewish communities that many offenders will victimize in one community and then move on to another. The status quo has been that different communities do not share vital information, with the end result being that children and/or adults continue to be sexually violated. As we know there has been a code of silence, in society at large but very much so in the Jewish Community--not to tell. Because of such codes of silence, offenders who abused 30 or even 40 years ago often continue to offend today.

The Awareness Center gets emails on a daily basis from NEW survivors of offenders listed on the site, often about offenses that happened many years ago, and were kept silent because the victim was certain that he or she were the only ones. If we cap the length of time an offense can be listed, we are in effect claiming that after a time, a survivor is no longer entitiled to recognition. We also in effect silence potential future victims who might otherwise not know that they are not the only ones an offender has harmed, and would therefore be likely to speak up.

The Awareness Center's mission is not to cause humiliation to anyone, not even to abusers--we are niether judge nor jury, nor do we claim to stand in place of higher authorities of justice. We do, however, believe that a victim's right to validation comes BEFORE an offender's right for privacy. It is always painful to come across yet another Jewish person who was offended. It saddens us even more when we find so many offenders who had charges against them dropped or dismissed as incomplete evidence following witness tampering, intimidation, and using the force of authority figures to silence the victims.

At the same time, if you or anyone else wants to provide us with documentations that prove that Rabbi Aviner (or any other of the alleged or convicted offenders on the site) took steps to not only take responsibility for wrongdoings, asked forgiveness of victims, had entered and completed treatment with a psychotherapist who has recognized experience with treating sexual offenders and who is willing to give a written letter that they are no longer posing a risk to others--we would not only be thrilled for the steps to healing taken by members of our community, but will seriously consider taking the case off the site, or moving it to a link for offenders who made "teshuva" (not only between them and G-d but also between Adam-Lechavero) and can be models to others who erred.

3. Evidence for the charge. When an allegation includes no substantiation whatsoever, and in consequence, public prosecutors dismiss the charges, why should the allegation be honored by inclusion? Such is the situation, for example of the charges against Rabbi Yonah Metzger. Should not the site at minimum provide the accused with an opportunity to respond to the charges?

Some of the comments above should address the above concern. To repeat the important points--sadly, there were many cases where the police dropped the investigation or the case was dismissed following witness tampering, threatening, shaming, and other methods of silencing the victims. If you are familiar with some of the more public cases, you must know that unfortunatelly such manipulations in handling of complaints were not rare. Victims and their families were routinely told by rabbinical courts, rabbis of their community, or people close to the accused rabbi, that if they did not drop their charges/stop talking about it and so forth, they will be excommunicated, their children will not find a shiduch, no yeshiva would accept their children, etc... Families of victims had to recant or stop cooperating with the police because otherwise they were accused of "mesira", "lashon-hara", and ruining the name of a rabbi. Many were told flat out that they should keep quiet because the rabbi's reputation was more important than anything that he might have done to them!

Because of the long history of meddling and muddying the water of victims' complaints, The Awareness Center is forced to make difficult decisions. Please note that we do not post personal communications of people who claim that this or that person had harmed them, only information that was already published/written elsewhere, and only from reputable sources/publications.

As for the offender's right to respond--of course that they have the same right to respond as any one else! We would welcome responses from offenders who can open our eyes to formal documentation that we overlooked and which they believe should be on the site. Though we cannot promise to post them, we will give such documentation serious and expedited consideration for posting. Even more--for those offenders want to use The Awareness Center's forum as a place for public apology and regonition of the severity of their actions, via personal emails/mail and/or documents that hold such apologies from a previous time, we would take these under expedited consideration as well.

4. Halachic criteria. Does the site operate by any Halachic criteria for the permissibility of publicizing unlitigated and unwitnessed accusations? If yes, who is the Halachik decisor on such matters? Certainly the Chofetz Chaim requires not only first hand knowledge to justify reporting truthful but defamatory reports, but it also requires that Tochacha be issued. I assume that means that the accused must be provided with an opportunity to either deny wrongdoing, or to do teshuva. Does the center provide the opportunity, when feasible, for such direct engagement with alleged abusers?

Please be advised that Rabbi Yosef Blau is on our Board of Directors and we consult with him almost daily. We also have five other rabbis on our Advisory Board. Please feel free to consult with Rabbi Blau if you have any more Halachic concerns.

Even more so, if you'd look at the list of Rabbis who are supportive of The Awareness Center (Rabbis who Publicly Support the Efforts of The Awareness Center), you'll see many rabbis outside of the immediate circle of The Awareness Center's boards, who are supportive of our mission and our policies. In addition, rabbis in Israel and in the US have made Psakim specifically in cases of sexual abuse. They make it clear that in case of a sex-offender, because of the danger to others in the community (let alone the mountains of studies on sexual offenders which depict repeated offenses in most cases if not stopped) Lashon Hara DOES NOT apply, because the life of the community comes first. In another psak that calls for a Kal-Vachomer (all the more so), a rabbi in Israel ruled that when a parent (or other person in authority) commites a sexual offense, especially if it is against a child or a vulnerable person under their care/teaching, and even more so if it's been a repeated offense, they give up their right as a parent (teacher). So much so that in cases of incest, the child, even if adult, is DISMISSED from Kibud-Av v'Em, and is only bound to sit Shiva, but not to cloth and feed and house and other aspects that are bound by Jewish law.

That said, of course there is place for Teshuva. If a person does Teshuva for sins against another person, a plea for forgiveness from G-d is not sufficient--they must first mend the fences with the person/s they hurt and get forgiveness (or at least make serious attempts at that) bedore they even approach G-d's forgiveness.

We can see an example for the hirarchy of Teshuva in Neviim, when Ishaia scolds Israel for doing wrongs among themselves and yet seeking salvation through coming up to the Temple to sacrifice come holidays: (Ishaia Alef, 11-18)--"Lama Li Rov Zivcheichem...gam ki tarbu tefila eineny shomea, yedechem damim maleu.....Limdu heitev, dirshu mishpat, ashru chamotz, shiftu yatom, rivu almana." It is only through working through the harms done by person to person that we can approach G-d for forgiveness--as a nation, not only as individuals.

It would be interesting to know how the Chofetz Chaim would have ruled regarding the issues of sexual abuse in this day and age--at the time such issues were Taboo, and were not discussed. Nor was it known that sexual offenders are likely to continue to offend. Maybe the Chofetz Chaim would have made an exception in cases where the safety of the rest of the community was at stake.

With respect to Tochecha: this is sadly yet another issue where history has not proven itself. When rabbis were repreimanded in the past for offenses (which were, by the way, immediately and effectively silenced), they often harmed again, in the same community or in other communities that were not told of their danger, all because of fear of Lashon-Hara. The Tocheca didn't help, and more victims got hurt. When we come against sexual offenses, especially those committed against minors--research, statistics, and reality show that reprimand is not an effective tool against recidivism. Informing the public, however, is effective as it often brings into the light additional victims, allows procesuction, and ENFORCES TREATMENT on offenders who would otherwise just continue to offend. For those who find Tochecha to be enough, maybe they could take this opportunity to ask for survivors' forgiveness, seek treatment, and publicly let people know that they are aware and dealing with the danger they pose to others, and are taking steps to stop it. Pushing things under the table in hushed meetings among the rabbis of a rabbinical courts has NOT proven itself effective. Maybe one day, when rabbis will recieve training in sexual abuse prevention, identificaion, and treatment, there will be room to approach offenders within a more private forum. To date, as a community, we do not yet have the tools to do so.

5. Range of wrongs. The Center identifies itself as being the "Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault." If that is the limit of its mandate, and that is already extraordinarily broad, why does the site venture into matters of "cultic" practices which involve no direct allegations of sexual wrongdoing? For example the newspaper articles concerning Rabbi Mordecai Gafni charge him with unspecified "cultic" practices, but make no suggestions of sexual wrongdoing. Is this simply an evasive attempt to "get" Gafni for long circulating, but never publicly confirmed, allegations of impropriety dating from over twenty years ago?

Your concerns abour 'cultic' practices are understood. Maybe the relationship between cultic practices and sexual abuse would be less ambigous to you if you found time to read about the connection between cults and sexual victimization. Unfortunately, cults and cult-like communities often involve abuse of power (including sexual abuse/assault/exploitation) as well as secercy and intimidation via power figures. In almost all cases of cults or cult-like accusations, victims were hushed of devalued in order to maintain the integrity of the group. However, once things became known, there was no longer doubt that allegations were true and in most cases only the tip of the iceberg.

6. Unlistings. What criteria are utilized for removing people from the listing? For example, there was a time when Rabbi Tzvi Flaum was listed on the site. What process was put into motion that eventually resulted in his removal from the list, and what determines when that process is set in motion?

Rabbi Tzvi Flaum is still listed on our site, though in a different location. You can find his case here: Domestic Violence in Jewish Homes.

As mentioned above in several places, there is a process for removal form the list (Policies Addressing Victimization and Offenders), (When Melodies, Torah Scholars, and Abuse Collide).

If an offender publicly apologizes for the offenses, takes responsibiliy for the pain they caused, undergoes therapy with a therapist who is recognized as an expert in the area of sexual offenders and completes the therapy with an official letter from the therapist confirmoing that they are no longer in danger to offend, and is willing to comply with whatever treatment (psycotherapy, medication, combination thereof) needed to make sure they do not offend again, then their request to be removed from the offenders site can be seiously considered.

As I indicated at the outset, we truly value the work you are doing and would like to be able to do our part in helping rid the Jewish community of leaders who exploit the vulnerabilities of others in the interest of their own sexual gratification. We feel, however, that our concerns about the above issues of process and substantive criteria must be responded to, in theory and practice, before we can use our website to promote the visibility of the Center.

We hope that the above information helps clarify our policies and underlying reasoning. It is painful to know that such unspeakable events can happen in our community. However, it is important that we allow voice to those who'd been harmed, and stop the processes of silencing those victims who already spoke up so that they can heal and others not be harmed. By not allowing the reality of sexual victimization to be known as soon as we become aware of it, we in effect become willing participates in scerecy and silent endorsement.

We at The Awareness Center would very much welcome the support of Edah for our work, which is a work of heart, tirelessly done with no monetary compensation as of date, and in spite of countless trials and tribulations. You circulation would increase awareness to atrocities within our community and help us all reach for solutions that will stand the test of time.

We hope that you find a way to bridge the conceptual gaps that sexual victimization forces us all to make--it is against everything Jewish when people of power harm those more vulnerable. It is not an easy or comfortable reality to hold, and we all wish it could just go away. For those who have been victimized, and for those who would if we don't allow victimes to speak up or step forward--we must go on.

Sincerely,

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC - President
Na'ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, APP - Vice President
Michael Salamon, PhD - Treasurer
Rabbi Yosef Blau - Secretary Executive Board of Directors - The Awareness Center

Rabbi Saul Berman responded August 26, 2004:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the inquiries which I had made concerning the functioning and policies of The Awareness Center (TAC).

Unfortunately, I did not find satisfaction of my concerns in your responses. On the contrary, your letter makes me even more concerned than before about Awareness Center practices which are themselves irresponsible, lacking in accountability and therefore, potentially abusive towards innocent persons.

However, I continue to recognize the essential contribution which TAC can make to helping the Jewish community deal with issues of sexual abuse, Therefore, rather than throwing up my hands in despair and disappointment and urging others to disassociate themselves from TAC, I would like to join with you in looking at possible policy changes which could make your work even more effective in enlisting the support of the community.

In my comments I will retain the order and numbering of my original letter, and of your responses, so that we can refer to those as necessary.

1. Process of Listing - On two separate occasions you indicate that TAC will only post information which was already published in other reputable sources. You know that to be not true and, therefore, you add a morally undermining caveat – that you would “allow other information to be posted as long as at least one other Board of Directors member approves.” This slight exception, while tempting given the secrecy which has engulfed such situations, opens the door to witch-hunting and vengeance for personal grievances. It is essential that the fundamental threshold of prior publication in reputable sources be upheld.

Nor should blogs and other such self-publishing vehicles be acceptable as a reputable source. Vicki Polin has on occasion sent her own comments into blogs, over the signature ‘Me,’ and then used them as a basis for reporting accusations within TAC site. This is certainly unconscionable.

1. Age of the charge - I am persuaded by your comments that no Statute of Limitations should apply in regard to prosecutions for criminal sexual assault. Likewise, the report of conviction or of a finding of culpability by an Ethics committee of a Professional association, should remain posted on the website. However, the same cannot possibly be justified in regard to accusations for which, over time, there remains insufficient evidence for any legal action and absence of evidence of a pattern of continuing sexual impropriety. While it is essential to continue to monitor such situations, it is unjust for a barren accusation to be held permanently before the eyes of the community.

I would suggest the following policy: A previously published accusation should be allowed to remain on TAC website for up to one year after the listing. If by that time there have been no additional accusations reported either in publications or directly to TAC, then the article should be removed into a non-public monitoring area. The website should prominently announce that aside from the persons openly listed as accused or convicted abusers, there are other persons who are being monitored, and that people should transmit to TAC any information about sexual abuse since it might help lead to prosecution of repeat abusers. Also, the accused should be informed by TAC that the published material is being removed from the website, but that emergence of any future accusations could cause the material to be restored to public view.

1. Evidence for the Charge - I understand and sympathize with the temptation to ascribe veracity to every charge of sexual assault, particularly when there appears to be exploitation of a vulnerable victim. However, the totalitarian mindset of guilty until proven innocent, is, and must be, rejected by persons with democratic spirit, and certainly by people infused with the spirit of Jewish Law and values.

Reporting published records of accusations is essential to encourage further reports being made. However, once an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, it is essential, in the Jewish spirit of justice, for the exculpatory finding to be reported on TAC website for a period of some months, and for the entire record to then be removed from the site.

1. Halachic Criteria - I would certainly agree that the protection of children and vulnerable adults can often require, even by Halachic standards, the posting of published accusations against otherwise upstanding citizens. Where criminal prosecution is possible, many, including myself, argue that there is a Halachic duty to report the assault to the appropriate governmental authority in order to allow criminal prosecution to be pursued. Likewise, where possible, accusations should be reported to employers and Professional Associations for condemnatory action against accused abusers.

Where no criminal prosecution is possible, and no Professional Association has jurisdiction, the primary goals need to shift. Firstly, TAC must provide referrals to gain help and healing of the psychological and spiritual wounds of the victim. Secondly, one accused of a lengthy pattern of abusive relationships should be encouraged to seek Psychiatric and Spiritual counsel. Thirdly, when the accusations suggest that the abusive behavior was sporadic or rare and contextual, then TAC should attempt to bring the accused abuser and his or her victim together for reconciliation, itself a critical element in healing the wounds. Continued public listing of accusations on TAC website, must be used not as a goal in itself, but as a tool to produce the aforementioned results (i.e., as Tochacha.)

Whenever possible, TAC must utilize accepted mediation services and techniques to bring victim and accused together for an attempt at resolution of their conflict (i.e., as Teshuva and Piyus.)

1. Range of Wrongs - I remain opposed to TAC being focused on anything other than direct instances of sexual abuse within the Jewish community. While sexual abuse is connected to some cults, it is also connected to certain social and economic conditions, to varied psychological backgrounds and certainly to the general status of women within the given culture. Such connections could theoretically justify the inclusion of any information concerning human beings within the website. It is an unacceptable diversion of the resources and energies of TAC, its website, its staff, and its supporters, to report on matters outside its direct mandate.

Recent issues of TAC Digest have strayed massively away from the central focus of the organization, including reports on Israeli politics, religious conflict related to the status of women, and much news totally unrelated to the Jewish community. Such news briefings should be discontinued, and the website should immediately have removed from it any published materials related to cultic practices, which have no direct bearing on allegations of sexual abuse.

1. Unlistings - It is essential that TAC not be perceived as a garbage site, a permanent dumping grounds for every allegation of sexual impropriety against Jews and Jewish leaders. It is precisely this perception which has made TAC a favorite subject and link within many anti-Semitic websites. Vicki has had to work valiantly to reduce the prominence of such misuse of TAC within Google citations. The dynamic character of the web-listings would itself encourage the confidence of our community in the integrity of the site.

I have above identified two situations in which a listing should be removed:

a. If after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing

b. If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.

I would add two additional circumstances in which listings should be removed:

c. If, pursuant to the attempts outlined above (par. 4), an actual reconciliation is achieved between the victim and the accused, then the mediated agreement between them should specifically call for the removal of published information from TAC website, and that should immediately be done.

d. Any person concerning whom a published record of accusation of sexual abuse appears on TAC website, must have the right to appeal that decision to a Special Committee of the Board of Directors of TAC. Such an appeal should be able to be done either in person or in writing. Minimally such communication with the accused could produce an opportunity to press the accused to go for help, to do Teshuva, and to attempt reconciliation with the victim. The Committee might offer to include exculpatory materials within the listing. The Committee must remain open to the possibility that they will be persuaded by the appeal that there is in fact no substance to the accusation and that the material should be removed from the website pending further clarification, or permanently.

This closes my narrative response to your letter. The following is an outline of the policies which I believe would deeply strengthen The Awareness Center, and would certainly make it possible for Edah to throw its support behind the project.

Proposed standards of operation of The Awareness Center

1. Process of listing:
a. No listing will be done on the website without prior publication of incriminating information in a reputable source in which an accused is specifically mentioned by name.
b. Blogs, and other self-published materials will not be utilized as a reputable source of prior publication.
c. The executive Director of TAC and its Board members will be expected to refrain from “blogging” based on unpublished information.

2. Age of the Charge:
a. There will be no statute of limitations for the listing of criminal convictions or of findings of impropriety by Professional associations.
b. If, however, after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing.
c. Emphasis will be placed within TAC website, and by its supporters, on the encouragement of reporting accusations of abuse concerning persons not publicly identified on the website.
d. The accused will be informed of the removal of the published material, but will be informed that any new accusations could result in the restoration of the material to public view.

3. Evidence for the Charge:
a. Published reports of accusations of sexual abuse will be reported on TAC website despite the absence of corroborating evidence or testimony.
b. If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months.
c. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.

4. Halachic Criteria
a. TAC will encourage victims to report allegations of sexual abuse to appropriate governmental authorities for criminal prosecution, and to employers and Professional Associations for administrative action.
b. TAC will provide referrals for victims to professional help in achieving healing of their psychological and spiritual wounds.
c. TAC will attempt in advise persons accused of lengthy patterns of sexual abuse, to seek appropriate psychiatric and spiritual help.
d. Whenever possible, TAC will attempt to bring victim and accused together under supervised circumstances for resolution by mediation.

5. Range of Wrongs
a. TAC will remain focused exclusively on the subject of sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
b. TAC Digests will not include materials other than the above.
c. The staff will immediately remove from, and not further include within, TAC website, any published articles which do not deal directly with allegations of sexual abuse within the Jewish community.

6. Unlistings
a. (2.b. above) If after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing
b. (3.b.&c. above) If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.
c. If, pursuant to the attempts outlined above (par. 4. d.), an actual reconciliation is achieved between the victim and the accused, then the mediated agreement between them should specifically call for the removal of published information from TAC website, and that should immediately be done.
d. Every accused person should be entitled to appeal to a Special Committee, either in writing or in person. If the Committee is persuaded that the accusation is unfounded, they shall instruct the removal of materials from the website.

Just to concretize the implications of these standards, a complete review of the listings at the website would have to be undertaken to assure compliance with the standards. Entries concerning the following individuals would have to be immediately eliminated for non-conformity with the standards : Rabbis Shlomo Aviner, Mordechai Gafni, Yonah Metzger and Don Well. I am certain that other cases would also now fall outside the limits of propriety set by these standards. These changes will be perceived as strength, not weakness.

I recognize the truth of your oft asserted declaration that The Awareness Center lacks the financial and human resources to achieve its own ideal vision, and therefore might find it difficult to undertake the intense evaluation required by this proposal. A smaller, tighter operation, more clearly focused on a narrow mission and operating with well defined and defensible policies, would be in a stronger position to appeal for the funds needed to assure its effectiveness. Many would be more willing to help raise the necessary funds.

Conversely, failure to take the immediate steps indicated above, and reluctance to adopt the clear standards outlined above will result in severe defection of supporters and the likelihood of being discredited within the very community you seek to defend. I look forward to your prompt response and to our being able to work together toward your vision – the protection of our community from sexual predation.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Saul J. Berman

January 4, 2005, rabbi Berman writes again:

Dear members of the Awareness Center board,

The issue of sexual abuse in the Jewish community is an important one that needs to be confronted. However, due to serious concerns amongst growing numbers of members of the Jewish community about the tactics and abuses of the Awareness Center, as well as Vicki Polin's refusal to respond satisfactorily to my previous communications, we feel forced to take action in order to prevent the continued undermining of this important issue.

It is not clear how aware you as board members have been of the abusive, unethical, unhalachic and libelous ways in which Vicki has conducted her efforts in your names, but we assume that it is in everyone's best interest for the Awareness Center to operate at the highest level of integrity so that its actions are respected and trusted in the community. Since that is currently not the case, we hope that you will do everything in your power to immediately make the changes which Vicki Polin herself has been unwilling to do, or to shut down the site. The way the site now operates makes the members of the board subject to serious personal liability.

Please read the attached letter addressed to Rabbi Blau from myself, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Rabbi Shefa Gold, Dr. Stephen Marmer, and Naomi Mark which outlines some of the issues involved. I will be contacting several of you by phone in the next day to discuss this further. Unless certain changes are made soon in the way that Vicki Polin operates, we stand ready to take further action.

Here is the letter referred to above:

Dear Rabbi Blau,

Since we met some months ago to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse and the role of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I have been maintaining a continuing interest in the activities of The Awareness Center. We are very alarmed at the apparent absence of control over the site by the prominent people who attach their names to it.

My letter this past spring to Vicki Polin and the members of the Executive Committee of The Awareness Center included a list of suggested policy guidelines which would have made the operation of The Awareness Center website a fair and effective instrument in the battle against sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Unfortunately, Vicki, in the name of the Executive Committee, dismissed all of the suggestions with a single condescending brush stroke. She noted in that letter, "Please be advised that Rabbi Yosef Blau is on our board of directors and we consult with him almost daily. Please feel free to consult with Rabbi Blau if you have any more halachic concerns." It is clear that you, Rabbi Blau, are Vicki Polin's source of Jewish ethical and halachic credibility.

Upon further investigation a number of highly disturbing matters have come to light which demonstrate that Vicki Polin is unfit to direct an effort like the Awareness Center, a role which demands impeccable integrity, honesty and psychological stability. For example, we have definitive information in the form of transcripts and signed affidavits that Vicki appeared on May 1, 1989 on the Oprah Winfrey show under a pseudonym. She claimed - partly on the show and partly in private conversations - that she had recovered through therapy many horrific memories of ritualistic abuse and that these memories included the following;

1) that she and others were repeatedly sexually abused on open Torah scrolls in a synagogue
2) that she was forced by her parents and other Jewish families to murder babies and eat their flesh
3) that she has had five abortions as a result of repeated incest with her father
4) that her repeated sexual abuse was part of a widespread phenomenon (involving many rabbis and community professionals) of neo-satanic ritual abuse and murder within the Jewish community. According to Vicki, the satanic cult in which her family was involved is directly traceable to the false messiah Jacob Frank.

All sectors of the Jewish community were appropriately outraged by her appearance on the Oprah show, and the claims she made on the show have since been used by anti-Semitic groups as modern evidence of the ancient canard of the Jewish blood libel. In response, Oprah's producers pointed out correctly that it had been made clear on the show that Vicki was mentally disturbed. Vicki herself has shared with friends that she suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Vicki has also presented herself, on the record and in private conversation, as the psychotherapist of particular alleged victims of sexual abuse reported on by The Awareness Center. That Vicki should be in a therapeutic role with these women is unconscionable and any information that comes from her can simply not be considered credible.

The person who has partnered with Vicki in a number of unjustified and distortion-filled character assassinations has been Luke Ford, whom you have cooperated with as well, Rabbi Blau. Luke Ford is a discredited malicious gossip columnist for the pornography industry. He has made clear in his own writings that he does not check information, that he often reports information that is false, and that his definition of truth is that it expresses "the point of view" of the person telling him the information.

We find it shocking that you not only associate with Vicki Polin and Luke Ford, but that you are the major source of professional rabbinic credibility for Vicki Polin and the Awareness Center. Vicki Polin has written clearly that she only publishes materials from "reputable sources." It is difficult to imagine that under any definition Luke Ford's blog and reports would fit into that category.

Most importantly, the Awareness Center as it currently operates is often misleading, dishonest, and, in the name of justice, viciously abusive. We are moved to make this harsh evaluation in the light of the following points:

1. The claim that the website will only report previously published accusations is an outright lie.

1a. Vicki, responding to my (Rabbi Berman) initial communication of concerns, wrote as follows: "Please note that we do not post personal communications of people who claim that this or that person harmed them." (6/16/04 letter from Vicki Polin to Rabbi Berman, representing herself and the executive board of TAC). In fact, the Awareness Center has posted personal testimonies, including those discredited by earlier investigation.

2. Vicki herself or through a close associate sends anonymous slanderous postings to web blogs and then cites them on The Awareness Center site and in mailings as the basis for serious accusations.

3. The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation.

4. The site does not remove accusatory material even after full and multiple investigations have concluded that they are false.

5. The Awareness Center regularly initiates active campaigns to destroy the reputation and work prospects of accused persons, without any evidence other than accusation, even when the refutation of the accused party is compelling, and even after their names have been formally cleared and/or full resolution between the parties has been achieved, and even when it is clear the accused person poses no danger.

6. The site will provide no opportunity for response by accused persons, other than an admission of guilt.

7. The attempt to destroy people's reputations long after their death is not the pursuit of justice, it is journalistic pornography.

These and other serious offenses (of which we have extensive substantiation) have made The Awareness Center an untrustworthy and deplorable repository of falsehoods, innuendoes, and scandal mongering. The Awareness Center is in gross violation of all halachic standards that might apply to these situations. It also violates standards of libel, with its board members personally liable for any legal action highly likely to be taken against it.

As a result of the McCarthyite activities of the Awareness Center and its false and unsubstantiated accusations, the real and critical issue of sexual abuse is being truly undermined. All of this leads us to conclude that we have an obligation to protect innocent people from name rape and other terrible violations. The Awareness Center is a disgrace to the Jewish community and we should not abide its continued destructive activities.

We believe that our concerns about the Awareness Center's transgressions will need to be publicized to the general public, and we will take steps to allow that to happen, unless there is an immediate removal of inappropriate material from the Awareness Center site, and serious safeguards and oversight instituted to prevent continued abuses. While the original motivations behind the Awareness Center are indeed important, these same goals can be accomplished-as we outlined in a several-page letter to Vicki Polin-without the Awareness Center devolving into an instrument of abuse in which the ends justify any means.

Two key members of the board/advisory board who, as we do, support the fight against sexual abuse, have already resigned from the board, independently of any effort on our part. We also know that there are those promoted on the website as "Rabbis Who Publicly Support the Awareness Center" who have no idea that their names are being listed. After one of these rabbis, Shefa Gold, was made aware that her name was being inappropriately used, she contacted Vicki strongly insisting that her name be immediately removed. This was months ago and her name is still listed as of this day, in flagrant violation of her request.

It is clear that the Awareness Center website speaks for its board as well as claiming to speak for the Jewish community as a whole without any mandate, oversight or control by those bodies. We fear that your own reputation for probity and your leadership role in the communal response to the vital issue of sexual abuse may be seriously injured by your continued association with The Awareness Center. We urge you to disassociate your name from the Awareness Center and to work toward its closure until such time as responsible policies and honest procedures are implemented for its future operation.

Sincerely, Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Rabbi Shefa Gold
Stephen S. Marmer, MD, PhD
Naomi Mark, ACSW

Vicki Polin's 1989 Appearance On Oprah

5/11/05

Yori Yanover sent me this. To the best of my knowledge, this transcript is substantially accurate.

The following is an excerpt of the May 1, 1989 Oprah Show. Vicki Polin confirms that she is "Rachel."

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?

"RACHEL": Definitely.

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: Really? And so who knows about it? Lots of people now.

"RACHEL": Well, I talked to a police detective in the Chicago area, and several of my friends know, and I've spoke publicly before, and…

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 outnot 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.

OPRAH: Absolutely.

"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?”

"RACHEL": No.

OPRAH: Or did you…

"RACHEL": I don't know.

OPRAH: It was just evil. these things you did.

"RACHEL": It was-- right.

OPRAH: 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.

"RACHEL": Most Jewish people do not do what my family did.

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…”

5/10/05

Interview with Rabbi Yosef Blau

Steven I. Weiss has it:

He cited two primary reasons for his departure, that "I have to be careful that I won’t be something that is used" in a campaign to discredit the RCA and its actions regarding Rabbi Mordechai Tendler by associating the organization with The Awareness Center, and that he is to be announced as the new president of the Religious Zionists of America this Sunday, and that because "I’m taking on new responsibilities, my wife asked me to do it."

He emphasized that his stepping down from The Awareness Center was a direct result of the pro-Tendler campaign that has found a home in various outlets like The Jewish Press, and has attacked the RCA's decision by proxy through demeaning Blau and The Awareness Center. He noted that he is the only link among the RCA and The Awareness Center, and that now that he's left the organization, the RCA will be freer to fight its own battles.

5/13/05

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 [1989], 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."

Aside from one sentence I didn't publish from today's talk, this interview represents the sum total of my communication with rabbi Blau since our October 2004 interview about Mordecai Gafni. Our previous communication before today was a brief email October 19, 2004.

5/14/05

Tendlers Vs Blaus Vs Polin

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.

Dr. Rivkah Blau was always unhappy with The Awareness Center (TAC) and she told her husband exactly why she did not approve of TAC. Dr. Blau saw no reason to post those profiles. Just the names of people who should not be hired. That would've been enough.

Dr. Blau told rabbi Blau that Vicki Polin went overboard, that Vicki was sensationalist, and that there was no way of controlling her. Dr. 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.

Dr. 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. Dr. Blau was very upset. Every time she sees an Awareness Center email, which come several times a day, she deletes it immediately. Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.