Abuse

J STREET’S FAILURE TO WARN OTHERS ABOUT ARI SHAVIT IS “DEEPLY DISAPPOINTING,” ETHICS COMMITTEEE SAYS

NEWS RELEASE
from the Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership

contact: info@jewishleadershipethics.org

October 31, 2016

The Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership is deeply disappointed that
officials of J Street knew of Ari Shavit’s sexual harassment of women, yet “did not report [Shavit’s harassment of one of its staffers] to other national Jewish organizations that host Shavit,” according to The Forward (Oct. 30, 2016).

In a statement, the Committee said: 

“We strongly applaud the decision by Hillel International and AIPAC to cancel their planned speaking dates for Ari Shavit, following the revelation that Shavit sexually assaulted Danielle Berrin of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. 

“At the same time, we are deeply disappointed that J Street reportedly failed to alert any other Jewish groups about his behavior, after Shavit sexually harassed one of its staff members in 2014, resulting in J Street’s decision to quietly sever its ties with Shavit. Keeping quiet is not the way to combat sexual harassment. 

“We urge all American Jewish organizations to adopt a policy of zero tolerance with regard to sexual harassment and assault, and to share information about predators with each other. For too long, there has been an inclination among some American Jewish leaders to sweep sexual abuse cases under the rug. The time has come for a serious change in the culture of American Jewish attitudes toward sexual harassment and assault.”

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AGUDA CHALLENGED ON ABUSE BILL

NEWS RELEASE
from the Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership

contact: info@jewishleadershipethics.org

April 12, 2016

JEWISH ETHICS COMMITTEE URGES AGUDATH ISRAEL
TO STOP OPPOSING BILL TO AID CHILD SEX ABUSE VICTIMS

The Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership is urging Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah to drop their opposition to New York State legislation that would make easier for victims to sue perpetrators of sex crimes against children.

The Committee was heartened by the news that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has urged the State Senate and Assembly to take action on the issue. According to Schneiderman, current statutes are “unreasonably restrictive” and make it unfairly difficult for victims to seek justice.
( http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/schneiderman-steps-article-1.2592543 )

The Child Victims’ Act (A2872A/S63A), sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) and Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting perpetrators of sex crimes against children, and would a create a one-year window for victims to bring civil suits against perpetrators in cases where the statute already expired.

Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah are the only Jewish organizations opposing the Markey-Hoylman legislation. The two groups have argued that the bill might result in lawsuits that could cause substantial financial damage to some Jewish day schools.

In a statement released this week, the Committee on Ethics in Jewish Leadership said: “Jewish organizations have a moral obligation to make the safety of Jewish children their highest priority–and to conduct themselves with the highest standards of ethical responsibility. Victims of abuse have a right to seek justice, and Jewish institutions that have engaged in misdeeds should not hide behind statutes insulating them from legal action. If there are any schools whose administrations tolerated abuse, then those schools should face the consequences of their actions. Jewish organizations should be rallying around the victims, not undermining legislation designed to punish those who commit crimes.”

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RABBI QUITS OVER PRENUP REFUSAL

Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of the New York City-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), has canceled his synagogue membership after the synagogue’s rabbi spoke out against prenuptial agreements:
http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/why-i-rescinded-my-shul-membership/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=440017c565-2016_01_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-440017c565-54941337

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“THE SILENCE BREAKERS”

Orit Arfa, writing in the Jerusalem Post weekend magazine on January 16, 2016, offers a poignant and powerful account of “Shedding Light on the Darkness of Abuse,” a recent conference in Jerusalem on the problem of sex abusers and enablers in Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and the United States:
http://oritarfa.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/TheSilenceBreakersJPost.pdf

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LAWYERS THREATEN NEWSPAPER OVER REPORTING ABUSE

Lawyers for accused sex abuser Marc Gafni have threatened legal action against The Forward for quoting remarks made by Gafni on a tape that the lawyers themselves gave to the newspaper. The controversy began when Gafni, together with his lawyer and public relations adviser, were interviewed by The Forward on December 30, 2015, and insisted that the conversation be tape-recorded. As per protocol, Gafni’s team sent The Forward a transcript of the conversation afterwards. But they apparently did not realize that the transcript included a conversation between Gafni and his aides which took place after the interview concluded and the reporter had hung up. In the latter conversation, Gafni and his lawyer, Christopher Marston, talked about suing The Forward, or another party, as a “test case” in order to “make an example” that would send a message to his critics. Marston said that if they filed one suit, “then you just literally send somebody a link, the next person a link, and say, ‘Hey check it out. We sued this person, too.'” When The Forward asked Gafni for his comment on that part of the conversation, Marston sent the newspaper a warning that “we will sue your client on several ground [sic]…We will make sure the article [that The Forward was planning to publish] is very expensive one for [you]…” The Forward published the article anyway:
http://forward.com/news/328938/in-recorded-conversation-gafni-considers-strategy-against-critics/

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NO OBLIGATION TO REPORT ABUSE?

A prominent Detroit rabbi says it was “not his position” to report evidence of child abuse that was revealed to him. The controversy concerns David Cohen, an American-Israeli soldier who died under mysterious circumstance in 2014. Gordon had revealed in a 2006 newspaper article that when he was a student at Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, he was sexually abused by several older students for three years. Gordon wrote that when he revaled the information to Rabbi Shmuel irons, head of the local Kollel Institute, the rabbis was skeptical of his claims and said “that there was nothing he was going to do about it.” In an interview with The Forward, Rabbi Irons said he made no attempt to contact the alleged perpetrators of the abuse: “When asked if he felt an obligation to act on the allegations, Irons, who is also a board member at Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, said: ‘That was not my position in the community. If he had really wanted to take this to the courts, he could have. No one was stopping him.’ As a rabbi, Irons is considered a mandatory reporter of child abuse under the Child Protection Law in the state of Michigan.” Read more at: http://forward.com/news/321107/a-year-later-family-and-friends-still-dont-know-what-to-make-of-david-gordo/

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As published in the New York Jewish Week – June 12, 2015

UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR

To the editor:

If Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt’s habit of bringing boys and young men with him into the sauna was perfectly acceptable, why was it kept hushed by leaders of the congregation (“With Sauna ‘Secret’ Out, Riverdale Shul Faces Tough Choice,” June 5) ? Why wasn’t this announced from the pulpit: Boys and youth, take off your clothes, your rabbi wants to mentor you.

Would you allow your son to be drawn into a shower, sauna and hot tub, naked, with Rabbi Rosenblatt, also naked? Then why subject the children of  your fellow congregants to such humiliation?

Social attitudes may have changed, but Jewish law has not. Such behavior is unseemly and unacceptable, period.

Let me raise a question that I have not seen discussed. If Rabbi Rosenblatt wanted to conduct his mentoring of congregational youth in a shower, sauna and hut tub, what happened to the women of the congregation? Were they simply to be denied rabbinical mentoring because they could not be brought into the men’s shower?

Professor Susannah Heschel
Department of Religion
Dartmouth College
Hanover, N.H.

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