Sunday, June 28, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Pictured Above: Rev. Dr. Traci West, Vicki Polin, Maria Taylor
2009 NOW Conference - Clergy Sexual Abuse
© (2009) By Vicki Polin
Being at the 2009 - NOW conference in Indianapolis was incredible. It has been too long since I've been around so many like-minded people.
There were so many things I learned at the conference, including at the workshop in which I was a part of. It was an honor to be on a panel with Rev. Dr. Traci West and Maria Taylor. The three were amazing to listen to, along with those who were brave enough in the audience who shared their stories and experiences. Each and every one of us came from such completely different backgrounds, yet we were all describing the exact same issues.
It saddens me a great deal how we really cannot blindly trust those who are in leadership roles, such as members clergy. The reality is that trust is something that needs to be earned and re-evaluated as time goes by. Unfortunately, there are too many individuals who are giving over their own power to those who are more then willing to abuse their leadership positions for their own personal gain. No matter what faith, race and or social/economical background one comes from the issues and ramifications are very much the same. The only way to end clergy sexual abuse and any other type of sex crimes is by all survivors and those who care about them uniting together.
In the Jewish community when we speak out about sex crimes we fear anti-semitism if when we report sex crimes. In the African American community they fear an increase of stereotyping and racism. Other faiths they come up with similar issues in hopes of silencing, shaming and blaming those who have been sexually victimized. In all communities the survivors and their family members often become outcasts, and are often chased out of the community that at one time felt as if it was their home and family.
It never stops amazing me that no matter what faith and or ethnic group believes, the same exact problems arise when it comes to dealing with clergy sexual abuse. The words used, the names of the offenders and those who cover up the crimes may be different, yet it all boils down to the same thing -- the abuse of power and control.
It's strange how learning that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was known for manipulating women into having sexual contact with him, put me in a state of shock. I also briefly went into a state of denial. How could this American hero also be an alleged sex offender? But then again he's no different then any other member of the clergy who uses their role and position of power to use their own grooming process to lure in their next victim. King is no different then Rabbis Mordecai Magencey, Marc Gafni, Mordecai Tendler, Steven Kaplan, Yaakov Menken, David Kedmi, Hershy Worch, Tobias Gabriel, or many of the other member of the clergy who lured in adults. I personally believe they all should be "Defrocked" and criminally charged. The problem is that with most cases is that it takes those who have been sexually victimized years to come forward. Long past the time the statutes of limitations have run out. I personally feel the notion of statutes of limitations on all sex crimes (against adults and children) need to be abolished.
I also wanted to mention that on my way to the NOW conference I was listening to Carole King's Tapestry CD, with a friend. It's been years since either of us have ever heard it. When the song Smackwater Jack came on, my friend and I looked at each other in shock. We both heard the song millions of times, yet being adults who advocate for survivors the words seem to take on a different meaning. We both started wondering if the lyrics really were talking about clergy sexual abuse. In the past I had always thought of "Smackwater Jack" as being a civil rights song -- bringing an awareness about racism. Yet this time driving to the NOW conference to discuss clergy sexual abuse, it seemed to be talking about clergy sexual abuse, a topic which wasn't discussed back in the early 1970's when the song was written.
Below are the lyrics and also a link to Carole singing it on youtube. I'd like to hear what you think.
Here's Carole King singing "Smackwater Jack" on youtube:
Smackwater Jack he bought a shotgunCause he was in the mood of a little confrontationHe just let it all hang looseHe didn't think about the nooseHe couldn't take no more abuse,So he shot down the congregationYou can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his handBig Jim the Chief stood for law and orderHe called for the guard to come and surround the borderNow from his bulldog mouthAs he led the posse southCame the cry "We got to ride to clean up the streetFor our wives and our daughters!"You can't talk to a man when he don't want to understandThe account of the capture wasn't in the papersBut you know, they hanged ole Smack right then (instead of later)You know, the people where quite pleasedCause the outlaw had been sizedAnd on the whole, it was a very good year for the undertakerYou can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Colmer Plea Deal Seen Raising Questions
by Hella WinstonSpecial To The Jewish Week
A Brooklyn sex offender indicted on 37 counts, including sexually molesting two teenage boys in his Brooklyn home, may go free in just a few months under a plea deal announced last week. The deal involving Stefan Colmer, once a member of Midwood’s Orthodox community, is raising questions about the handling of his case and its impact on future victims’ willingness to come forward to law enforcement officials, according to observers.
Colmer, 32, who was arrested in Israel and extradited to Brooklyn in 2007, faced a maximum sentence of close to 50 years in jail. But under the terms of the plea agreement, Colmer pled guilty only to eight counts of criminal sexual act in the second degree.
According to a press release from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, he will be sentenced on June 30 to two and one-third to seven years in prison. With credit for time already served, Colmer could be out of jail before the end of the year. The DA had asked the judge to run two counts of criminal sexual act consecutively, which would have meant a sentence for Colmer of four and two-thirds to 16 years in prison.
However, according to an article in the New York Daily News, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy rejected the request because “Colmer had no record, was being treated for his sexual problems and the case against him was weak.” Efforts to reach the judge for comment were unsuccessful.
When asked whether Colmer had received any treatment for his problems, his attorney, Robert Gottlieb, told The Jewish Week “What I said [to the judge] is that he accepted responsibility and that he had received treatment. Obviously, while he is incarcerated, it’s not any present, ongoing treatment, but in the past he had seen doctors.”
In fact, as The Jewish Week reported in May, Colmer had received treatment several years before he was arrested, in the now-defunct Ohel Family and Children’s Services Sex Offender Treatment Program. He dropped out of the program of his own volition, however, because, according to those who discussed it with him, he did not feel it was helping him.
Further, the claim that Colmer’s case was weak has also puzzled those close to the investigation.
Michael Lesher, an attorney and author who was directly involved in the case and who wrote about it in the newly released book “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals” (Brandeis University Press), told The Jewish Week, “I’m very surprised that the judge declared the case against Colmer ‘weak.’ Two highly credible children gave grand jury testimony describing in detail their abuse by Colmer. The police detective in charge of the case always told me he considered it a strong one.”
Another source familiar with the facts of the case confirmed Lesher’s impression and further noted that the young victims were highly credible and ready to testify. This source, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the case, also told The Jewish Week that law enforcement knew of approximately 10 more victims, some of whom had been instructed by their rabbis not to come forward.
Indeed, the lead detective on the case told The Jewish Week that within the Orthodox community it is not atypical for victims to be discouraged from coming forward to law enforcement, particularly if there are others who already have done so. While this means fewer victims have to subject themselves to a difficult process, according to the detective, it also spares the molester the prospect of more jail time that could result from additional charges.
There appear to be other inconsistencies in the report of the plea deal. According to the DA’s own press release, “After learning he was under investigation, in February 2007, Colmer fled to Israel.”
This statement seems at odds with those of the lead detective on the case, who told The Jewish Week last month that Colmer was not under investigation until after he arrived in Israel, following a report made by one of his victims to the Brooklyn police. When asked to clarify its statement, a spokesman for the Brooklyn DA said only that “our press release is accurate.”
Further complicating matters is the fact that Colmer was in fact reported to the Brooklyn Special Victims Unit on Jan. 7, 2007 by Marc Stern, a prominent attorney and member of Passaic’s Orthodox community. Colmer had moved to Passaic after his activities had become known to rabbis and others in his Brooklyn neighborhood, none of whom reported him to the police or encouraged his victims to do so.
While Stern gave a detailed report to the Special Victims Unit detective, the case was promptly closed, according to a law enforcement source, for lack of a “complaining witness,” or victim.
In Stern’s view, the fact that the case was not investigated at the time “underscores the unavoidable need — and duty — of those molested to come forward promptly to the authorities as witnesses. Secondhand [information] just does not cut it.”
The fact that the case was apparently closed for this reason, however, raises questions about a new initiative by the Brooklyn DA, dubbed Kol Tzedek, to address sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.
According to the DA, a central aim of the project, which offers, among other services, a confidential hotline for the reporting of the abuse, is to generate more prosecutions of sex offenders. When asked how the new initiative plans to deal with anonymous reports, or reports from those other than victims, a spokesman for the DA’s office offered a vague response, saying that “we take every phone call to our hotline seriously.”
While Lesher clearly acknowledges the need for victims to report these crimes to the police, he and other advocates see something much more troubling in the Colmer case.
“What we see is that child sex abuse victims in the Orthodox community are still fighting every element of the system to get justice,” said Lesher. “Few rabbis will support them when they come forward; they’re attacked by other Orthodox Jews; the Brooklyn DA is in no rush to prosecute the offenders; an agency like Ohel will look the other way; and the few brave survivors who come forward end up being told the case is ‘weak’ because so many others didn’t make their own reports.
“Right now,” Lesher continued, “the innocent few are still paying the price for the guilty — and their moral accomplices.”
Lonnie Soury, the spokesman for Survivors for Justice, an advocacy group, said, “The case of Stefan Colmer is not about Stefan Colmer — it is about the ongoing failure of the Brooklyn Orthodox community and its institutions to protect its children because they are instead focused on protecting their own reputations and the reputations of the pedophiles.
“The fact that there are at least 10 more victims who seem to have been discouraged from coming forward,” Soury continued, “highlights the severity of this problem.”
Friday, June 12, 2009
New York Jewish Week - June 12, 2009
by Staff Report
|Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Jewish Legal Advisor of Ohel|
The halachic adviser to Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, which receives millions of dollars in state and federal money, told a Bergenfield, N.J., synagogue audience in 2007 that tax evasion is permissible under Jewish law as long as one doesn’t get caught, according to people in attendance.
The adviser, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, a Brooklyn-based, highly respected halachic expert who also serves as one of three rabbinic guides to Nefesh International, a network of Orthodox mental health professionals, is said to have made the comments about tax evasion during a Shabbat talk at Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield in February 2007.
Now, more than two years later, the repercussions may be taking a toll on Rabbi Cohen and his reputation.
Several in attendance at the talk said that Rabbi Cohen gave an extended response to a question from the audience, asserting that tax evasion is permissible under Jewish law, as long as there is no realistic possibility of being caught, thus causing a chillul hashem, or desecration of God’s name.
The justification was based on the rabbi’s apparent belief that the reason the rabbis of the Talmud forbade stealing from a non-Jew was only out of fear of anti-Semitism.
Virtually every halachic source agrees that tax evasion, as well as theft from non-Jews, is categorically forbidden.
Rabbi Cohen allegedly told his audience that he was making his controversial remarks on Shabbat — he is also said to have asserted that, like the biblical Esau, non-Jews still hate Jews — knowing he was not being recorded, and that if subsequently questioned about his statement, he would deny it.
The rabbi told The Jewish Week on Monday that the statements attributed to him were "totally misunderstood" and that he "repudiated" them.
Based on letters obtained by The Jewish Week, it appears that at least seven people in attendance at the lecture wrote to or called the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest group of Orthodox rabbis, where Rabbi Cohen, though not a member of the RCA, served on its prestigious Va’ad HaPoskim, a group of halachic authorities. Some of the letter writers sought to have Rabbi Cohen removed from the panel; others simply attested to their having heard the rabbi make the remarks, which he denied to the RCA.
The RCA appointed a committee to look into the matter, and concluded that, based on Rabbi Cohen’s assurance that he opposes tax evasion and affirms treating non-Jews with full respect, the matter was closed.
But last week, without fanfare or notice, the RCA disbanded the Va’ad HaPoskim.
Some speculate that it may have come about in light of recent reports in the Jewish press regarding Ohel, with which Rabbi Cohen is affiliated. Others note that the RCA passed a resolution at its annual convention last month calling on congregations not to give honors to those who engage in unethical conduct.
"So how would it look if one of their halachic authorities is alleged to have approved of cheating on your taxes?" one source noted.
In response to a query from The Jewish Week, RCA Executive Director Rabbi Basil Herring explained that the Va’ad HaPoskim move was taken "to avoid confusion." He said that while individual members of that group will be consulted on halachic matters, as in the past, the RCA’s halachic decisions will continue to be made by its Va’ad Halacha, made up of RCA member rabbis.
But according to an RCA official, "the catalyst for the move was the Rabbi Cohen issue."
The official, like most others contacted for this report, asked not to be named out of concern about repercussions.
Asked in an e-mail whether it was appropriate for Rabbi Cohen to continue to serve as halachic adviser for the group, an Ohel spokesman did not respond.
Rabbi Cohen, an American-born graduate of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, with a pulpit on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, has a longstanding reputation as one of the most respected and practical-minded authorities in the charedi community.
"He has taken courageous positions" on matters of domestic and sexual abuse, according to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the outgoing executive director of the Orthodox Union. Though some halachic experts are reticent, as is Ohel itself, Rabbi Cohen has encouraged victims in some cases to go to civil authorities, including the police.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski, a psychiatrist and fellow halachic adviser to Nefesh International, said Rabbi Cohen is one of the most "highly respected" rabbis and "one of the most flexible halachic experts" who is unafraid to take lenient positions.
Both rabbis expressed surprise at the controversial statements about tax evasion and non-Jews attributed to Rabbi Cohen.
But another leading rabbi, who described himself as a longtime friend and admirer in many ways of Rabbi Cohen, said that though he had not heard of the tax evasion statement before, he found it "consistent" with the rabbi’s views on non-Jews.
"The irony is he’s a big liberal in the haredi world," the rabbi said.
Others recalled that Rabbi Cohen is no stranger to controversy, and that at a Nefesh International conference in 2000, he suggested that women in abusive marriages stay in the marriage for the sake of their children. After much heated discussion, he apologized the next morning.
How Many Survivors did HaRav Dovid Cohen Turn Away?
Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse Speak Out - Blog
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Lo ta'amod al dam re'echa. We are forbidden to stand by and do nothing!
I keep hearing about cases in which survivors of childhood sexual abuse went to Rabbi Dovid Cohen for help. Each of these cases Rabbi Dovid Cohen stated that he didn't believe the survivors or that the cases were unsubstantiated.
Rabbi Dovid Cohen is the halachic advisor (advisor on Jewish law) at Ohel (a mental health center in Boro Park). I think it's also vitally important to note that there have been many complaints about Ohel over the years regarding the training and education of those who work in their programs for survivors and offenders. I've also been told that if a therapist at their agency suspects a child is being abused, they need to get the ok from Rabbi Cohen prior to making hot-line reports.
Many Victim Advocates like myself have been saying over and over again that our rabbis DO NOT have the education or training to collect forensic evidence nor know how to conduct victim sensitive interviews. Our rabbis NEED to be working as if they are all mandated reporters. Meaning if they SUSPECT a child is being abused and or neglected -- they pick up the phone and make a hot-line report.
We all NEED to start demanding that when a rabbi hear disclosures they IMMEDIATELY help those who have been "allegedly" victimized contact child abuse hot-lines and or make police reports. Let those who are trained conduct the investigations. The way cases have been handled in the past NEEDS TO STOP TODAY!
The goal is to protect our children from ANY POTENTIAL HARM!!!
Here's a list of some of the cases in which Rabbi Dovid Cohen said were unsubstantiated. If you know of more please post them:
- Simcha Adler
- Yohannan Berkowitz, PhD
- Rabbi Lewis Brenner
- Rabbi Ephraim Bryks
- Rabbi Moshe Eisemann
- Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau
- Shmuel Juravel
- Rabbi Solomon Hafner
- Rabbi Yaakov Menken
- Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz
- Rabbi Ben Zion Sobel
- Rabbi Mordecai Tendler
- Rabbi Matis Weinberg
READ THIS TOO!
Was HaRav Dovid Cohen Threatened?
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
CALL TO ACTION: Help Those Who Were Sexually Abused in New York
New York Assembly Bill A2596 / Senate Bill S2568
The Awareness Center's Daily News Letter - June 9, 2009
The Awareness Center's Daily News Letter - June 9, 2009
If you live in the state of New York, were abused in New York, and/or your offender has lived in or currently resides in New York, contact Senators Dean G. Skelos and Dale M. Volker (Chair of the Codes Committee). They are key in getting the New York - Child Victim Act of 2009 passed.
The Child Victims Act of New York is in the hands of Senator Dean G. Skelos (Long Island) and Senator Dale E. Volker. On behalf of protecting children and those who were already abused, please call both Senators and let them know you are counting on them to allow the bill (Child Victims Act of 2009) to reach the Senate floor for a vote. They need to be persuaded to support the amended bill (already on record as opposed to original bill).
Remind the Senators that according to statistics, between one-fourth to one-fifth of their constituents are survivors of childhood sexual abuse (forty-six percent of these constituents were abused by family members, the remaining fifty-four percent are made up of survivors of babysitters, neightbors, doctors, therapists, teachers. It's only 2% by clergy of all faiths).
It is also important to mention that if they allow the bill on the senate floor not only will survivors in their districts vote for them in the next election, that you are sure that all supportive people in the survivors lives will also be more likely to vote for them. Any Senator not voting for this bill is basically saying that they care more about political pressure and game playing then caring about protecting children in who live in their district or travel through the state of New York.
See Contact Information and Brief Bio's on Both Senators Below
Senator Dale M. Volker - 59th Senate District
Albany Office:Legislative Office Building, Room 808
Albany, New York 12247
Main District Office:
4729 Transit Road, Suite #5
Depew, New York 14043
Warsaw District Office:
143 North Main Street - Room 103
Warsaw, New York 14569
Albany, New York 12247
Main District Office:
4729 Transit Road, Suite #5
Depew, New York 14043
Warsaw District Office:
143 North Main Street - Room 103
Warsaw, New York 14569
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The Awareness Center, Inc.
(the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209
MEDIA ALERT - Confessed Child Molester Becomes Board Member of "High Road For Human Rights"
Over the last few years The Awareness Center has been attempting to warning the public and various rabbinic organization that confessed child molester, Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Gafni, Mordechai Winartz) has been in the process of reinventing himself. The Awareness Center has been asking all rabbinic organizations to post public statements on their web pages denouncing this confessed sex offenders behavior. Back in 2004, Rabbi Marc Gafni confessed to sexually abusing a thirteen-year-old girl in the state of New York.
It has been brought to the attention of The Awareness Center, that Rabbi Gafni has become a cherished board member of an organization called "High Road for Human Rights".
High Road for Human Rights, state that their mission is to advocate for those who have been treated unjustly. Unfortunately, this organization does not seem to care about the women who have been sexually violated by board members, Rabbi Marc Gafni. (https://www.highroadforhumanrights.org/aboutus.htm). Other board members of this organization include many internationally reknown celebrities such as : Ed Asner (Actor), Harry Belafonte (Actor and Singer), Ben Cohen (co-Founder Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream), Yoko Ono (Widow of John Lennon), Eli Wiesel (writer, professor, political activist). You can see a complete list of board members by clicking on the following link: http://www.highroadforhumanrights.org/board/board.htm
Over the years Yeshiva University, The Rabbinical Council of America and The Alliance For Jewish Renewal (ALEPH) have dealt with Rabbi Gafni and are very much aware of the potential dangers this confessed sex offender possess, including the fact that he has once again recreated himself.
Considering Marc Gafni's past history, we must believe that it is only a matter of time before new victims of sex crimes emerge. The Awareness Center is demanding that Yeshiva University, The Rabbinical Council of America and The Alliance For Jewish Renewal -- make public statements denouncing this confessed serial rapists past behavior in hopes of preventing another sex crime and also assist The Awareness Center's attempts at warn both women and children to stay away from Rabbi Marc Gafni. (See background information below)
The Awareness Center, Inc.
ALEPH (Alliance for Jewish Renewal)
Debra Kolodny - Executive Director
7000 Lincoln Drive #B2
Philadelphia, PA 19119-3046
Eleven BroadwayNew York, NY 10004
Rabbinical Council of America
Rabbi Basil Herring - Executive Vice President
Rabbi Mark Dratch - Chair of Task Force on Rabbinic Improprieties
305 Seventh Ave., 12th Floor
New York, NY
Richard M. Joel - President
212 960 5300
Belfer Hall 1200
2945 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10033
Morry J. Weiss - Chairman of the Board of Trustees
500 West 185th Street
New York, NY 10033
September 24, 2004 -- The New York Jewish Week, "The Re-invented Rabbi" (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#The), in which Gafni stated: "I was a stupid kid and we were in love," "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her". The 13-year-old girl called his "loving relationship" sexual assault. (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#Teachings).
"The second woman, Judy, said that when she was 16 and deeply unhappy at home, she joined a popular Orthodox outreach group for teens that Rabbi Gafni was leading called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth), and was drawn to his charisma and concern for her.". . ."During a two-week period when she ran away from home and was staying with Rabbi Gafni, who was then 25 and married, Judy said he abused her sexually on two occasions. Even more upsetting, she said, was that afterward, the rabbi tried to convince her the encounter did not happen, and then harassed her for many months. He threatened to keep her out of Jewish schools (she was seeking to transfer from public school to a yeshiva), called her home at all hours of the night and then hung up, mailed pictures to her home of naked men, and had her followed." (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#If)
A woman named Susan, who at the time was a 22-year-old adviser in JPSY, said she believed Judy's account, because of what he attempted to do to her. She said that when she took Judy's side, Rabbi Gafni made harassing phone calls and threats against her. "He told me I would regret it," Susan said, adding that the rabbi made inappropriate advances to her as well. (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#Susan)
2004 -- Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, spiritual leader Efrat, Israel was going to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Winiarz/Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. When Gafni heard of Rabbi Riskin's wishes, he wrote a letter "returning" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.
May 18, 2006 -- YNET News (Israel): "Rabbi Gafni Accused Of Sexual Assault" (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#sexual%20assault), Three women in their twenties file complaint with Haifa police against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (AKA: Marc Gafni), claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US.
May 19, 2006 -- Forward News: "Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa" (http://theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html#Mea). Marc Gafni issued a public apology for having "hurt people I love," and said that he would seek in-patient treatment for what he called "a sickness.". . . At least five female students and staff members have come forward to accuse Rabbi Mordechai Gafni of luring them into sexual relationships through intimidation, psychological manipulation and deception. Late last week, Gafni, an Orthodox-trained rabbi who has become a star of the New Age-style Jewish Renewal movement, was dismissed from his position as the head of Bayit Chadash, a center on the Sea of Galilee that he co-founded six years ago.
2006 -- Gafni moves from Boston, MA to Boulder, CO and then on to Salt Lake City, UT. He becomes involved with the Buddhist community and befriends Diane Musho Hamilton, who is also on the board of "High Road for Human Rights" (http://www.eomega.org/omega/faculty/viewProfile/83aca76821e7c2b7e598576087789963/).
July, 2008 -- It was reported that Marc Gafni married his forth wife and is the process of recreating himself and his web page. Marc Gafni's biggest supporter is Rabbi Gershon Winkler, founder of the Walking Stick Foundation. It has been reported by that Winkler shares many of Marc Gafni's philosophies including the one on having multiple "marriage partners". (http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Winkler_Gershon.html).