Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Case of Asher Lipner, PhD

Case of Rabbi Dr. Asher Lipner, PhD.

Ohel Famly Services - Brooklyn, NY 
Psychotherapist in Private Practice - Brooklyn, NY
Dov Hikind’s Task Force on Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community - Brooklyn, NY
Ner Israel Rabbinical College - Baltimore, MD
Mir Yeshiva - Jerusalem, Israel
Beth Medrash Govoha - Lakewood, New Jersey 
Derner Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies of Adelphi University - Garden City, NY
Harvard Medical School - Boston, MA  

This is NOT a case of sexual abuse/assault. It is a case of a therapist acting inapproriately in his handling of cases involving sex crimes and breaching confidentiality with clients and those he advocated for.  

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs. 

Table of Contents: 


  1. Asher Lipner speaking at a JBAC event in Chicago (10/17/2010)

  1. Rabbi Asher Lipner, PhD (08/21/2012)
  2. Pirkei Psychotherapia: Ethics of our Psychotherapists (08/21/2012)

  1. My Experience with Advocacy (01/15/2013)
  2. Linkedin - Asher Lipner (05/24/2013)

Asher Lipner speaking at a JBAC event in Chicago
JBAC - October 17 2010

At the time of this presentation, Asher Lipner was an unlicensed mental health professional.


Rabbi Asher Lipner, PhD
Huffington Post - August 11, 2012

Asher Lipner received his Bachelors Degree in Talmudic Law from the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore. He also studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Rabbinics and Talmud, as well as Rabbinic Ordination in 1992. He taught Judaic Studies at the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco and served for six years as the National Lecturer for the Academy’s Institute for Jewish Medical Ethics.

Asher began training at the Derner Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies of Adelphi University, in 1994, and completed an internship at Harvard Medical School in 2000. He earned his Doctorate in Clinical and School Psychology in 2004 writing his dissertation on “Unconscious Ambivalence towards God in Psychoanalysis and in Judaism.” He currently practices as a licensed clinical psychologist in Brooklyn, New York, where he specializes in treating survivors of sexual trauma and abuse.

Dr. Lipner, himself a survivor of rabbinic sexual abuse, is an outspoken advocate for the rights of abuse victims. He has published editorials, appeared on radio shows, and lectured publicly to heighten social awareness about issues of child safety and healing from sexual trauma. In 2009, he served on New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s Task Force on Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community, and he has developed programs to help survivors gain a voice, pursue justice and find healing in their community. In the winter of 2008-2009, Asher was named a “local hero” by the Jewish Week after organizing the first National Conference on Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community. His chapter entitled “Community Responsibility to Confront Abusers” was published in 2010 by Emunah Press in “Child and Domestic Abuse: Torah, Psychological and Legal Perspectives,” a volume in their Daas Torah Series.  


Pirkei Psychotherapia: Ethics of our Psychotherapists
By Vicki Polin
The Examiner - August 21, 2012

Rabbi Dr. Asher Lipner
On July 27, 1981 a six-year-old boy named Adam Walsh was abducted from a the toy section of a Sears department store in Hollywood, FL. A few weeks later his severed head was found in a drainage canal more then 120 miles away. As a result of this gruesome murder Adam’s father John became an activist in hopes of preventing another child from being harmed. Adam’s parents originally founded the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, which later merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Eyes get opened up very wide when you or someone you know and love is victimized by a violent crime. It is not uncommon for a survivor or family members to read and learn everything they can about such crimes from not only an emotional and healing aspect, but from a legal perspective too.

The truth is that a vast number of licensed mental health, legal and law enforcement professionals who work in the trauma field are also often survivors of crimes in which they go on to became experts. In reality, survivors of heinous crimes often are looking for individuals who have been through similar experiences to watch intently and to emulate as role models. What better person to learn from than someone who has gone through something similar to what they have experienced. 

One such example is that of award winning attorney, Jeff Dion, who has been advocating for the rights of crime victims for nearly twenty years, and is currently the director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association

Jeff began advocating for survivors after his twenty-three year old sister Paulette, was murdered by the same serial killer who murdered Adam Walsh back in 1982. Over the years Jeff also shared publicly that he is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It was only after he dealt with his own personal issues that he decided to pursue a career in law to help other crime victims. 

Unfortunately not every professional, either survivors of violent crimes or non-survivors who work with trauma survivors is really emotionally and psychologically ready to do so. Many graduate degree programs either highly suggest or require students to be in therapy while obtaining their degrees, not only so that they can experience first hand what it’s like to be on the other side of the proverbial couch, but also that they have the opportunity to work through any unresolved issues they may unconsciously bring to the therapeutic table.

Being a mental health provider means being able to maintain healthy boundaries in all aspects of a private practice and also outside of a psychotherapist’s working hours. This is especially true for professionals who are also in the limelight. One critical issue for any licensed mental health professional, especially when working with survivors sex crimes, is to be highly respectful to issues of confidentiality. The truth is confidentiality is also critical for anyone who is advocating for others. Including the lay people calling themselves “advocates”.

Dr. Rabbi Asher Lipner - Psychology Today
When a survivor of child abuse who also has a graduate degree, and speaks out as an expert -- and they personally have NOT healed enough to help others --often end up harming the very people they are trying help. Unfortunately, this is exactly what seems to have been happening with various survivors of sexual abuse who have been going to Dr. Rabbi Asher Lipner for help. The accusations made include violations of confidentiality along with other various types of questionable unethical practices.

Many of those involved in the anti-rape movement within the Jewish orthodox community have been extremely grateful and amazed that back in 2009, Asher Lipner had the courage and tenacity to come out of the closet and disclose that he was molested when he was in his late teens by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, who is a highly accepted rabbi connected to Ner Israel Rabbinical College and High School.

Those of us who work with Jewish survivors of abuse originally saw Asher Lipner’s coming out as a great asset. Not only because he named his offender, who is an extremely revered rabbi, but also because of the credentials Lipner carried. Not only did Asher Lipner have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology he was also the first ordained orthodox rabbi who spoke out as a survivor.

Within a short period of time the truth about Asher's indiscretions regarding confidentiality and other unethical behaviors started to surface, putting a huge dilemma on the Jewish orthodox survivor and the lay advocacy community. Not only have there been several allegations of Lipner of breaching confidentiality, there have also been allegations made that when he suspected that children could be at risk of harm no hotline reports were made, along with the fact for a time he maintained a private practice without a license. Both are violation of New York law. In several newspaper articles published prior to Lipner receiving his state license, he was quoted using the title “psychologist” and also “social worker”, which again is a violating of the New York law.

Dr. Asher Lipner speaking with Rabbi Yosef Blau
One example of Dr. Lipner of publicly acknowledging a private practice before 2011, is in the article Jewish Star article: “How to talk to your kids about a touchy subject”. In it he is described as the vice president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, and a therapist in private practice. Another example of deception, is in the Jewish Week article: “Jewish Community Still Behind On Confronting Abuse”, where Lipner describes himself as being a clinical psychologist, which written was five months prior to him taking his licensing exam. According to New York state law, you can not be called a psychologist or a social worker unless you are licensed as such.

The question remains on the minds of many survivor and lay advocates, “What do we do about Asher Lipner?”

According to the Huffington Post, Asher Lipner began his clinical training at the Derner Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies of Adelphi University in 1994, and then completed his internship at Harvard Medical School in 2000. It was not until 2004 that he received his doctorate degree in clinical and school psychology. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Lipner having any specialized training in the sexual trauma field. 

After finishing up graduate school Asher Lipner was almost immediately employed by Ohel Family Services in Brooklyn, NY. Since Lipner was employed by an agency that provided clinical supervision it was not mandatory for him to be licensed during the hours he worked at this fairly large mental health agency. One of many ethical issues arose when he opened up and maintained a small private practice during these same years. Bottom line is that it is illegal in the state of New York or almost every other state in the US, to practice as a mental heath provider without being licensed. 

Over the last several years there have been multiple reports made by individuals who went to Dr. Lipner for help who have been claiming that he violated confidentiality. When questioned about these allegations, Lipner often claimed that the things individuals shared with him was outside of the context of his professional capacity. More recently, there have been a few claims by “lay advocates” that not only is Asher applying pressure for them to refer potential clients to him he has also been instructing these same potential clients to blackmail their alleged offenders for funds to pay for therapy. 

After learning of these allegations individuals have been requested to file complaints with the New York state licensing board. Unfortunately, many of these individuals who felt victimized by Dr. Lipner come from the Torah observant world, where they were taught not to go to the secular authorities, let alone to make police reports about being sexually victimized. All one can do is hope that these individuals will find the courage and strength and help to protect others from the damage or harm they disclosed was caused by Asher Lipner. 

Over the last several years a few rabbinic, legal, law enforcement and mental health professionals were made aware of Lipner’s illegal practices, yet most did nothing -- except to encourage him to be licensed. There were a few professionals that did contact the New York State licensing bureau during this period of time prior to him becoming licensed, yet no criminal charges were filed against him. It is believed that the fact that he’s a survivor of clergy sexual abuse has buffered him from prosecution.
The issue that stood in the way for many was the fact that he was a survivor of sexual abuse. 

Everyone wanted to be kind and cuddle Asher in hopes that would help him to do the right thing. This is especially true since soon after disclosing he was a survivor of a sexual assault, he lost his position at Ohel. Because of the publicity it made it more difficult to find a new position and financially “he was forced to build a private practice”, even though he still was not licensed. Finally about a year ago he sat for his licensing exam, and became licensed on January 5, 2011

Nochem Rosenberg, Yaakov Horowitz, Mark Appel, Zvi Gluck, Asher Lipner
Over the years there have been several different survivor forums geared towards Jewish orthodox survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Repeatedly Asher Lipner had been reminded that he was a licensed psychologist. He was also reminded that after leaving his job at Ohel Family Services that he maintained a private practice without being licensed. Either way many individuals who contacted him looking for help stated he repeatedly violated the confidentiality agreement that is inherent when an individual works in the mental health field. Unfortunately, Asher Lipner posted information regarding several of his clients on various boards and web pages, without the expressed permission of his clients. 

One of the most difficult balancing acts for survivors who are professionals have, is to figure out if they can ever switch their roles from survivor to advocate/activist. It’s nearly impossible to be able to go back and forth between the roles. Yet, once you take on the role as a licensed mental health provider who is seeing a client clinically, you can never take on any other role with the person.
According to a Monica, who is long time survivor/activist in the orthodox world, yet wishes to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation stated:
“Asher Lipner has a habit of not only unethical practices, violating professional confidentiality laws, listening to hearsay and unprofessional opinions of law and psychology and then spewing harmful advice to survivors about other advocates and professionals.”
In Asher’s defense he repeatedly said that when complaints were made against him he stated that these were not clients of mine. He’d go on and say these were survivors who came to me in my role as an advocacy. He would also say things such as the person who was making complaints against him gave Asher permission to post the information. Lipner appeared to find all sorts of excuses for every claim made against him. Unfortunately, the complaints came from a merrid of different individuals who didn’t know other complaints were made against him. 

Dr. Lipner was given the opportunity to respond to these allegations for this article, yet chose not to. During the conversation Lipner became quiet defensive and started talking about a cases in which he violated confidentiality to the point that I immediately was aware of the survivor mentioned. The case involved a survivor trying to settle her case in a bet din (Jewish religious court). This was a case in which confidentiality was critical and that survivor only told a few individuals she trusted about her situation.

After awhile one has to believe that where there is smoke there’s fire. Asher Lipner does have a doctorate in psychology, he does have rabbinic ordination, he is a survivor of a sexual assault and he is now also a licensed psychologist. It saddens many of us to say that it appears that Dr. Rabbi Asher Lipner has not been healed enough to be working in the context of a mental health provider time. 

To file a complaint against a mental health professional in the state of New York: CLICK HERE


My Experience with Advocacy
By Asher Lowy
Support the Survivor Blog - January 15, 2013


Advocate. Noun. As defined by Oxford: A person who puts a case on someone else’s behalf. There is a legal concept in monetary halacha called Zachin l’adam shelo b’fanav, that you can acquire something for a person without his knowledge or presence, and that something will legally be in his possession. This only applies, however, if the acquisition is for the benefit of the intended recipient; if, however, the acquisition does not benefit the intended recipient, or harms him, then the acquisition is invalid and it is not his. As I understand advocacy, the intended functions are similar. You are acting on behalf of a survivor who either cannot or will not, due to situation, circumstance, or lack of means, in their best interests, whether that means arranging therapy, or doctor visits, securing legal representation, helping them navigate the labyrinthine justice system, or just being there for them when they have no one else. At least that’s how I understood it.

I first got involved in the (pardon the term) “abuse community” following my own abuse. After publishing an article in Ami magazine about my story, I decided I had to get more involved. I begun by writing the manuscript for a book I’ve since shelved, but that wasn’t enough. So I started volunteering at Our Place, a drop-in center for at-risk kids. Mind you, “at-risk” in this context does not mean at risk of going “off the derech;” at-risk means at risk of dying from drug overdoses, drive by shootings from angry drug dealers, winding up in prison for theft, assault, or even murder. I started my work there with a head full of idealistic notions of kiruv and self-improvement. I was going to help kids with the benefit of my experience and solid grounding in hashkafah. I was going to help kids with the backing of a community that must care enough about their kids, a community that if asked for help would surely respond enthusiastically.

I remember the first time I was painfully disillusioned of my notions of community and support from our leaders. I was talking to the owner of Our Place, asking him if perhaps we could get a few gedolim to support us, help us raise much needed funds. He laughed at the idea and told me that he had approached many rabbonim and had gotten responses varying from “I’m sorry, I can’t” to “Get out, your organization is terrible.” When I started telling people that I worked for Our Place I got mixed responses, too. Some people commended me for my selflessness and desire to work with such difficult people; others told me that we were encouraging the problem; that we were helping kids go off the derech, helping them get addicted to drugs; that we were not doing enough to ensure that otherwise good kids weren’t negatively influenced and sucked into street life. Despite my best arguments, they would not hear reason. I gave up on them.

Slowly I began to give up on more and more of my community. First I lost faith in the leaders, and then in the administrators, and then in the people themselves. Here were kids, most of whom were victims of some kind of abuse, kids who had begged for help but were thrown out of yeshivos for their efforts, kids, some of whom, whose lives are so bad, and homes so abusive, that they would prefer to sleep in homeless shelters rather than go home--or a park bench if a shelter wouldn't have them. Kids whose situations were created, exacerbated, and maintained by a community I had believed in. Kids who had been abandoned and driven from the community. And we were their last haven. We were the only people willing to give them help. The funny thing is, that the community welcomes back our success stories with open arms (providing they wear black hats and sit in kolel for the requisite amount of time).

So I got used to the idea that I was alone (barring one small oasis) in a community that would never accept me. No one would ever accept me for who I am with my history of abuse and what it did to change me. And then I stumbled across a forum for Jewish survivors of abuse. Given my history, I joined. At first when I joined I didn’t really think I needed a support group; as far as I was concerned I was healed. I joined in a support capacity, figuring that I could do for them what I had done for Our Place. I later realized just how much help I really needed and they’ve really helped me along in my healing process. About two months after I joined, I started getting more involved in people’s lives on the forum. If there was a problem someone needed help with, I made myself available to do what I could.

As I started getting involved in more and more of these cases, I started to explore the world of advocates, advocacy, and awareness. It seemed incredible at first--a world of people who openly acknowledged their pasts, who owned their pasts, people who were passionate about helping survivors, and put their livelihoods and reputations on the line to do what they can for another human being, frum or not. There were websites listing names, photos, and information on known sex abusers, and offering support to their victims. Organizations that held events for survivors where they could meet and have fun and find acceptance among similar people. People who were willing to tell their stories publicly, to go on TV despite all the communal pressure to stay silent, to protest outside a DA’s office or internet asifah, or fundraiser in Williamsburg. People who didn’t care about the pressures of shidduchim, or kibbudim in shul, or what Chatzkel would tell Yankel in the mikvah about him. Heroes.

My world went from a place consisting of everyone else and Our Place Island, the only place I would be safe, to an ever expanding utopia of survivors and advocates, all living harmoniously, all there to help one another. If we ever had a problem, the advocates were only a call or email away, ready with all the help we could need. But there was a pin for that over-inflated bubble. The pop came when I heard a certain advocate make a rude comment about a female survivor’s ass and what he would like to do with it. Another came when another advocate encouraged a very impressionable survivor to extort her abuser, despite the statute of limitations being up. Had she gone ahead with his plan, her abuser could very well have gone into his local police precinct, told them that he had sexually abused her twenty years prior and that she was now extorting him by threatening to out him, have her arrested, and gone home scott-free.

When confronted about his advice, he declined to comment. Instead, a friend of his, another advocate, responded for him. She accused us of going after a good man whose only concern was for that girl’s wellbeing. When we told her what he had done, she denied it. He finally joined the conversation and denied it as well. When we brought proof that he had indeed told her that, he claimed she was lying, that she was mentally disturbed, that everyone knows she’s a slut who couldn’t be trusted, and then he revealed personal information about her that he had no business telling us about. When I told him that he should be keeping confidentiality, he said he saw no need and was under no ethical requirement to do so. He clearly did not understand that being an advocate means he is supposed to work for a survivor’s best interests, among which is confidentiality.

When I told him that, his friend joined back in the conversation and asked me who the hell I was. I told her I was a twenty year old survivor who was concerned about the way the duo was advocating for him, she basically told me to shut up, that I was a nobody who had no right to talk to her that way after all she had done for the cause, and that I was a little kid who couldn’t possibly know enough to be qualified to open his mouth on the subject. I then told her that regardless of my age, she and her friend called themselves advocates, and by definition they exist to serve my best interests. If I feel my best interests are not being served, or are being hurt by your actions, I told her, then you are, in fact, by definition, not advocates. I earned the title pompous ass for my troubles.

A while later, I found out about a sexual harassment case that had been brought against a very prominent advocate back in 2002, that had been quashed. Someone had posted about it on a well-known advocacy site, and it confirmed what I had already suspected about that advocate’s character. When I checked back a few days later, the posting had been removed. After looking into it I was told that the owner of the site had been pressured into removing it. I asked around a little about it through some of my other contacts, and they all said they had seen it, but because they didn’t want to cause a fight they kept silent about it. Starting to feel a little like deja vu all over again.

The people I spoke to about my concerns all told me that I had no choice but to take the bad with the good, that they do good work, and that despite the harm they cause to survivors, those advocates mean well. A while back I wrote a piece about the flaws I saw in the advocates and the way they conduct themselves, but a friend convinced me not to publish it. The problems have not gone away, though. In fact, some of them have only gotten worse. I’ve seen survivors intimidated and bullied by advocates who pressure them into going public with their stories before they are actually ready to, or before they’ve started really healing. While it is a terrible thing to pressure someone to stay silent, pressuring someone to come forward before they are ready can be nearly as devastating emotionally.

I’m putting this piece up on the STS blog because I know that none of the other abuse blogs will ever publish something this inflammatory. Sound familiar? I’m reminded of the days when I was shopping around for frum publications willing to publish my articles on abuse, only now the situation is reversed. It’s becoming more and more apparent lately, that we have more in common with our enemy than we would care to admit. The advocates we have, for the most part, are self-proclaimed and uncredentialed. What defines an advocate in the Jewish world is anyone who decides that they are an advocate. Had an interview with the news once? Congratulations, you are now an advocate. Wrote an article? You’re an advocate. I can almost hear Jeff Foxworthy building a routine around this. There is no accountability at all among the advocates, and no one ever hears about the damage some of them cause. No one will, because we’re so scared of losing the little we have that we’re too afraid to speak up when the people who claim to protect us lose sight of our needs.

An advocate works in the best interests of someone else, in this case, survivors. Anything else is not advocacy, it is self-service. There is no place for ego, or self-promotion, or one-upmanship, or selfishness in advocacy. The survivor’s best interests must always come forward. TV interviews and articles are lovely, but what ultimately matters is how many children you protect, and how many survivors you support. If a survivor tells you that something you’re doing is not in their best interests, then you lose the title “advocate” until that’s rectified. There are many good advocates out there who are attuned to the needs of survivors and do listen when we ask them to change. Interestingly enough, though, those people cringe when people call them “advocate.” 


Asher Lipner - Linkedin
Linkedin - May 14, 2013



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