Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gathering of 8,000 Hasidic Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse At Citi Field

By Vicki Polin
Skokie Sexual Abuse Examiner - May 21, 2012

May 20, 2012 -- An estimated 40,000 hasidic men gathered at Citi Field along with another 20,000 collected at nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY, for the highly publicized and mandated to attend program, organized by ultra-orthodox rabbis -- to discuss the dangers of the internet and to reiterate their continued ban of its usage.  While speaking outside of the stadium to news reporters, Eytan Kobre, an attorney, who runs a Jewish family weekly magazine in Brooklyn and served as the group’s spokesman, insists it is not calling for a ban on Internet use, but wants to use filters to manage it.  Yet individuals who attended the gathering reported that inside the stadium, using yiddish, the rabbonim empathized their continued their ban of the internet.

In many hasidic communities it is frowned upon and actually banned for women to attend live events such as this one.  The belief is that it is considered to be immodest for men and women to be seen together in such a public venue.  The chasidic rabbonim did not want to totally exclude women from hearing directly what was being said, so they arranged for there to be six satellite sites having live-streaming video of their presentations -- utilizing  the very internet they already banned.  What is also interesting is that on the original flyer advertising this event, was an e-mail address for individuals to obtain more information using the very same demonized internet.

The cost to the hasidic community for this event was an estimated 3 million dollars, funds that many feel could have been used more wisely in helping the hungry within their communities or even to assist children and adult survivors who were sexually abused within the chasidic world.  

Many have been asking if the 3 million dollars covered the total costs which included the rental of two stadiums, added trains to the New York subway system, what appeared to be TSA screeners placed outside of both stadiums, ambulance services, added police officers, along with other types of heavy duty security, including a police helicopter hovering over Citi Field to protect the “Heed Call of the Gedolei Yisroel” participants, or if some of the costs were deflected to New York tax payers?  

According to scientific research, one out of every 5 men, and one out of every 3 women have been sexually abused by the time they reached their 18th birthday.  Considering it is estimated that at least 60,000 men attended Sunday evenings gathering, statistically, that means there were at least 12,000 hasidic male and 5,000 female survivors of sexual abuse mandated by their rabbonim to come to a gathering to learn about the dangers of the internet.  When you add in the fact that these survivors came from the extremely insulated chasidic world, the odds are, they most likely have never told anyone that they were sexually abused as children -- and are ultimately “suffering in silence”.  

At the same time the rabbis were preaching their gospel to their followers inside Citi Field, another group was gathered outside the stadium.  An estimated 500 survivors of child abuse (who walked away from the chasidic lifestyle after being neglected and or abused as children), family members and other support people came together in hopes of educating the Jewish community about sexual predators and the coverup of those crimes within the hasidic world.  They also were demanding that the very same rabbis attempting to ban the internet, create a gathering just like this one, addressing the issues of sexual abuse/assault -- along with putting the needs of survivors first over that of any alleged or convicted sexual predator.

Prior to the event, Joel Engleman, who is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse by a rabbi, along with a few others protesters, staged themselves at the subway stop in front of the stadium to pass out information about sexual abuse to individuals going to the rabbis rally.

Eli Mandel, an observant Jew who helped organize the rally, stated that two rabbis told him that he “was doing a good thing by attending the survivors rally” and continued by saying that one of the rabbi stated he wished he could be there with them, “to show support”.

Various members of the survivors group were angered when they arrived at Citi Field.  Their belief was that their rally was going to take place in front of stadium.  Instead the police moved them behind the stadium were very few could see them. Many felt this was done at the request of the rabbonim in hopes of limiting their exposure.

Protesters also reported that there was a serious issue regarding their ability to speak with individuals who were interested in what they were doing and saying.  The police did their best to maintain a separation of the protesters and the those attending the stadium event.  Just about every time someone dressed in the traditional black and white garb, came over to speak with individuals from the survivor rally -- the police quickly shuffled away by.  Both felt the actions of the police was a trickled down message from the rabbonim in another attempt to interject their control over others and take away the civil rights of US citizens.

Moti Weiss, one of the spokespersons for the rally, disclosed that he was asked by a reporter “why everyone on one side of the “stadium” fence was ultra-orthodox and those on the other side were made up of individuals dressed in normal clothing?”  Mr. Weiss was also asked “if his group was really there to protest against a way of life.”  The reporter was unaware that police kept trying to keep the groups separated, even though the goal of the protesters was to protect children and to expose the ongoing coverups regarding child sexual abuse cases within their own communities.

Mr. Weiss also explained that those living within the ultra-orthodox community that go up against the grain, would be faced with severe consequences.  Not only would a individual and their family members from that world be shunned, they also would loose their livelihood -- especially if they worked within the community.  Their children would no longer be accepted into Jewish day schools (yeshivas), nor would they be able to get good marriage partners.  All of these things are critical to members of hasidic communities.

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