Sunday, April 26, 2009

Should we be shocked that David Mandel Would Oppose the SOL bill in New York?

Regarding David Mandel Oposing the SOL bill in NY
By Vicki Polin, Founder/CEO 
David Mandel is the CEO of Ohel, which is an ultra orthodox mental health agency located in Brooklyn, NY.   According to the following report  David Mandel is opposing the SOL bill that is pending in New York, which should not be a shock to anyone.  Ohel has a great deal to loose if the bill should pass.  It's obvious that both David Mandel and the administration at Ohel have a desperate need to protect their assets.
We all must be made aware that a huge portion of Ohel's budget is supplied by both the state and federal government.  Agencies who receive such funds are expected to comply with the mandated reporting laws of their state.  It appears that for many years the Ohel administration believe that they were exempt from adhering to the laws of the land. 
I have been told by numerous Ohel insiders that for years this agency has been failing to comply with the mandated reporting laws in New York -- meaning  orthodox children do not deserve the same civil rights as those who are brought up in other communities. 
Last year David Mandel spoke at an event sponsored by the Vaad of Baltimore (Board of Rabbis and Jewish legal court system).  At the event Mandel made it perfectly clear to audience members that he feels that when one suspects a child is at risk of harm that they should not be making hotline reports on their own, that they should bring their information to the local rabbis to make a determination if anything should be done.  The problem is that the majority of rabbis do not have specialized training in collecting evidence nor in conducting forensic interviews.  Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that those who have been abused are shamed and blamed into silences.   
There have been numerous reports that David Mandel has been making the same speech in other orthodox communities in the United States, Israel and other locations, yet the one in Baltimore is the only known recording.
It's also important to note that Mandel does not have any specialized training in the mental health field.  His degree is in a field related to the business world.
Considering all of this information, I personally feel that David Mandel is a danger to the orthodox community, especially to children, adult survivors and also parents who go to him or his agency for help.  
If David Mandel frowns upon community members trusting their own judgement, utilizing their own critical thinking, when they suspect a child is at risk of harm -- how can we trust David Mandel or his agency to care for our mental health needs?  


Brooklyn, NY - Ohel Will Oppose Bill to Allow Victims in Old Cases to Name Abusers

by Michael Orbach - Jewish Star April 26th, 2009
Brooklyn, NY - The Jewish social service organization Ohel has decided it will oppose legislation that would allow victims of childhood sexual abuse currently beyond the statute of limitations to bring their cases to court. Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah, its affiliated educational arm have announced their opposition to the open-window provision under consideration in Albany.

Ohel CEO David Mandel declined to confirm Ohel’s position, which was described to The Jewish Star by two reliable and well-informed sources.
“It is simply not a matter of a yes or no issue of supporting the Markey bill or the Lopez bill as one can be supportive of major portions of legislation without supporting it in its entirety, and at the same time remain true to their convictions,” Mandel said.
Mandel was referring to legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Queens) that would extend the civil statute of limitations by five years as well as open a year-long window to bring civil cases that currently are beyond the statute. A competing bill sponsored by Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) would extend the civil statute of limitations by two years but does not include the yearlong window.
In a statement released Tuesday, Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, indicated that they would “have no objection to legislation designed to give victims of abuse greater recourse against perpetrators.”
However, Agudah and Torah Umesorah “vigorously oppose” legislation that would do away with the statute of limitations, even temporarily for a year, since that “could subject schools and other vital institutions to ancient claims and capricious litigation, and place their very existence in severe jeopardy.”
Agudah acknowledges a conflict of interest related to a lawsuit against Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn, and Yehuda Kolko, a longtime rebbe there. The suit lists an Agudah-owned summer camp for boys, Camp Agudah, Inc., as a defendant. The suit was filed in Brooklyn Federal Court in 2006. It alleges that Kolko molested David Framowitz, identified in the suit as John Doe No. 1, while he attended Camp Agudah in the summer between his seventh and eighth grade years.
“It’s not anything that was ever hidden,” Rabbi Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president, explained.”
“The camp is the same name. Notwithstanding that this group of rabbonim who sat on this question for the last number of weeks is among the most senior and respected rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, when you get to that level, chances are you’re going to be affiliated with institutions that operate programs that young people participate in. It’s impossible to imagine [that] a question of this nature should not be considered by the leaders of the community simply because they are affiliated with institutions.”
Rabbi Zwiebel added: “If we’re sinister, we should surely do a much better job of covering our tracks.”
Agudath Israel’s position is a general one meant to apply across the nation, according to Rabbi Zwiebel. Practically speaking, however, Agudah’s position puts it in opposition to the Child Victims Act bill, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Markey. Instead, Agudah will direct lobbying efforts to support the Lopez bill. It does not have the open-window provision leading some critics to refer to is as “The Hide the Predator Act.”
Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, blasted Agudah’s position, which she described as “indifferent to the safety of children.” Similar legislation passed in California and Delaware led to the identification of 360 previously unknown sexual predators, she said.

“Without the window, the predators remain in the shadows so that they can groom more children for abuse,” Hamilton explained. “A stand against the window is a stand for the predators.”
Michael Lesher, an attorney who represents a number of victims of childhood abuse, criticized Ohel.
“If Ohel really cares about children then it really ought to care about their freedom to seek justice when they need it,” he said, noting, “If they [Ohel] have nothing to hide,” then they shouldn’t be in “direct opposition to the bill.”
The legislation has garnered a complicated response from elsewhere in the Jewish community. The United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg - closely tied to the United Talmudical Academy, which faces a $5 million dollar lawsuit for allegedly harboring a sexual predator - has also publicly objected to the window. Joel Engelman, the plaintiff in that suit, is also beyond the statute of limitations.
The Orthodox Union has not taken a public position on either bill. At a rally in Albany earlier this week the representatives of a number of Jewish organizations joined Christian groups to push for the Markey legislation.
And Agudah’s position has drawn criticism from prominent members of the Jewish community, as well.
Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani (spiritual guidance counselor) of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and an outspoken activist against sexual abuse inside the Orthodox community, said that “the old system does not work” and the only way to fix it is “a communal responsibility to bite the bullet.”
“This is the only way that institutions will take responsibility and abusers will not be given the opportunity to move from one place to another,” Rabbi Blau asserted. “Institutions that have been completely negligent should be sued.”
Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of the Orthodox social justice group Uri L’Tzedek, was equally adamant.
“Halacha does not have a statute of limitations,” Yanklowitz maintained. “What is the fear of organizations of allowing the justice system to work? If they have been taking responsibility for their educators and religious leaders then there should be no threat to their organization’s financial stability.”
In a letter distributed on April 22nd, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose campaign to end sexual abuse inside the Orthodox community helped bring the issue of sexual abuse to the forefront, asked Agudah to reassess its position and work out a compromise.
“Achieving justice for the victims need not come about as a result of the financial demise of our greatest institutions,” Hikind wrote, “but neither can we forsake those who have already sacrificed far too much.”

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