Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Case of Rabbi Juda Mintz

Case of Rabbi Juda Mintz
(AKA: Yehuda Heschel Mintz, Juda Heschel, Yehuda Mintz, Yehuda H. Mintz, Juda H. Mintz)

Torah V'Daas Yeshiva - (Williamsburg) Brooklyn, NY
Montreal, Canada
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Montreal, Canada
Emory University's Hillel - Atlanta, GA 
B'nai Torah Synagogue  - Sandy Springs, GA
Congregation Shema Yisrael - Dunwoody, Georgia
Mount Freedom Jewish Center - Randolph , NY
Fort Dix Correctional Institution - Dix, NJ
Beit T'Shuvah -  Los Angeles, CA
Internet Addiction Counselor - Recovery Through Torah, Venice, CA

As of January 19, 2014 Rabbi Juda Mintz's name does NOT appear on the National Sex Offender Registry. 

Back in 2002, Mintz pleaded guiltyof possessing child pornography, which was found on his synagogues computer. Mintz was sentenced to one year and one day in a federal penitentiary. 

Prior to being caught, Mintz spent time living at Beit T'Shuvah, which is a Jewish residential treatment program for sex offenders

During his 35-year career, Rabbi Juda Mintz established a Jewish youth group in Montreal, founded a traditional congregation and a campus Hillel in Atlanta and led more than 50 missions to Israel. He was ordained at the Orthodox Torah V'Daas yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY

Mintz says sex addiction is a problem he has battled throughout his life. He says he was introduced to pornography at age 9 when his cousin, who stayed with his family to attend rabbinic school, shared girly magazines with him. Throughout his adolescence, he says, it seemed perfectly normal to look at pornographic magazines.

At one point, Rabbi Juda Mintz "abandoned his last name and was going by his first and middle name ( Rabbi Juda Heschel). Should a convicted sex offender be offering counseling services to other sex offenders? Especially since he states that he has only been in "recovery for a short period of time and states his sex addiction started in his youth. Can a sex offender be "recovered" or should we refer to his criminal behavior as being "in remission"?  –– Vicki Polin

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Table of Contents:  

  1. Former N.J. rabbi admits having child pornography (02/26/2002)
  2. Former Rabbi Pleads Guilty (02/28/2002)
  3. Decline and Fall - Rabbi Juda Mintz speaks about the addiction that ruined his life and cost him his honor (03/08/2002)
  4. Atlanta congregation tries 'multiplex' approach (03/08/2002)
  5. Porn Charges (03/14/2002)
  6. Mt. Freedom former rabbi sentenced to year in prison (04/03/2002)

  1. Web Can Ensnare Victims Quickly (03/07/2003) 
  2. The Agonizing Toll of Sexual Addictions (03/07/2003)
  3. `There Are No Secrets' (03/0/2003)
  4. Rabbis' Addictions Coming To Light (04/11/2003)

  1. Federal Bureau of Prisons - Locator
  2. Jewish Groups Meet Bush at Conclave (03/12/2004)
  3. Web Site Tracks Sexual Abusers (03/26/2004)
  4. Rabbi Juda Mintz, Beit TaShuvah (2004)

  1. What do we do about convicted sex offender Rabbi Juda Mintz? (AKA Yehuda Mintz)   (12/20/2006)
    • Counseling for Internet Addiction (11/17/2006)

  1. Rabbi Juda Mintz's name does  not appear on the National Sex Offender Registry (01/19/2014)
  2. Recovery Through Torah (01/19/2014)
  3. Living the 12th Step (01/19/2014)


Former N.J. rabbi admits having child pornography
Newsday - February 26, 2002

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) The former rabbi of a Morris County synagogue pleaded guilty Tuesday to having child pornography on his temple computer.

Juda Mintz Jr., who now lives in Georgia, faces 27 to 33 months in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He remains free on $100,000 bond pending sentencing June 12 by U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper.

Cooper barred Mintz from having a computer with Internet access in his home. She also ordered him to continue mental health treatment and have no contact with minors unless another adult is present.

Mintz, 59, of Dunwoody, Ga., was rabbi for about 18 months at the Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph before leaving in September 2000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna A. Krappa said.

Mintz admitted that at that time he had at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual activity, including some images of children under 12.

The synagogue said it cooperated with authorities.

"We deplore his actions and, indeed, relieved him of his duties because of them," according to a statement released by synagogue vice president Jonathan Ramsfelder. "During his tenure, (Rabbi Mintz) was viewed by many congregants as a warm, generous and dynamic rabbi and teacher. This was a loss."

Mintz will never serve as a rabbi again, and is now working as a clerk in a convenience store, said his lawyer, Lawrence S. Lustberg.

"He is extremely remorseful about what he did. It has cost him his whole career. But it has led him to a very intensive program of counseling and rehabilitation that will prevent this from ever happening again," Lustberg said.

"He never improperly touched a kid or adult. He is not a sexual predator," Lustberg said. He said Mintz only viewed the pictures, but never sent them to others.

It is not clear if Mintz would face any sanction from religious authorities.

Shema Yisrael's Rabbi Mintz, who was ordained in the fervently Orthodox Torah V'Daas yeshiva in Brooklyn, was for 17 years the spiritual leader of another Atlanta synagogue, a congregation affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Had also previously served the Jewish community of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Metro Briefing | New Jersey: Trenton
Former Rabbi Pleads Guilty
New York Times - February 28, 2002

A former New Jersey rabbi has pleaded guilty to charges he viewed child pornography on his computer. The former rabbi, Juda Mintz, 59, of Dunwoody, Ga., admitted that he had used a computer at the Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph Township, where he was the rabbi, to download pictures of children engaged in sex acts. Under a plea deal, Mr. Mintz agreed Tuesday not to have contact with children without another adult present. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on June 12. Steve Strunsky (NYT)


Web Can Ensnare Victims Quickly
by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles - March 7, 2003

Rabbi Juda Mintz (1967)
In his 35-year career, Rabbi Juda Mintz established a Jewish youth group in Montreal, founded a traditional congregation and a campus Hillel in Atlanta and led more than 50 missions to Israel — all without the aid of a computer.

But when he was hired at a Mount Freedom, N.J., synagogue at the age of 56, his board felt the rabbi should have a computer.

It didn't take long before Mintz stumbled upon Internet pornography. For 18 months, he spent several hours a day numbing out in front of the computer.

Now in recovery for two and a half years, he continues to uncover underlying reasons for his addiction: parents who were distant, his own dysfunctional marriage of 36 years.

But it is also true that without Internet pornography, Mintz may never have acted on his emotional disturbances.

Like a growing number of people, Mintz became addicted on a medium that can snare its victims within a matter of weeks.

Robert Weiss, who co-authored "Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession" (Hazleden, 2001) with Jennifer Schneider, said he is seeing a significant increase in the number of people addicted to cybersex, even among people with no history of addictive behaviors.

"Something about the intensity and the accessibility and the affordability of the Internet made it more arousing and a more immediately compulsive medium than any of the other outlets for sex, and therefore more addictive," said Weiss, clinical director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles.

Weiss said that about 60 percent of all Internet traffic involves a sexual purpose. An estimated 2 million users are addicted — meaning they are ashamed of what they are doing, it is impacting their life, yet they are unable to stop.

In a small number of cases, the behavior moves out of virtual reality and into real life.

Just last week in New Jersey, Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum, who founded and directed the Jewish Center for Spiritual Care for the New York Board of Rabbis and was named the board's Chaplain of the Year for his work at Ground Zero, pleaded not guilty to charges that he was having sexually explicit e-mail conversations with a 13-year-old girl, who turned out to be an undercover police officer, according to The New York Times.

 While it is hard to cull out how many cyberaddicts are Jews, mental health professionals agree that there is no reason to believe the proportion is any different among the Jewish population than the general population.

"The Web site has become the opiate of the 21st century. It's a wonderful way to stay in your secret world, your fantasy world," said Donna Burstyn, a psychotherapist who has many Orthodox clients.

In the last two months before he was caught, Mintz's addiction spiraled down to child pornography, for which he could face up to three years in federal prison. For now, he is living at Beit T'Shuvah, running a weekly 12-step minyan at Kehillat Israel in Beverlywood and working to alert community leaders — and especially educators — to the allure of Internet pornography.

"I don't think any rosh yeshiva or teacher or rebbe for boys or girls is in denial that this is a humongous plague facing these kids," Mintz said.

Natural adolescent curiosity now has an outlet that is more convenient, prolific — and addictive — than magazines hidden under the mattress.

Many Jewish families, especially in more observant circles, use heavy filters, none of which are foolproof firewalls. Others use commonly encouraged approaches, such as keeping the computer in a common area and monitoring when and for how long kids are on computer.

But the most effective tool, said Scott Perloff, assistant director for education technology at Milken Community High School, is keeping a culture of openness around the Internet.
"You should really be engaged with the kids when they are on the Internet," he said. "Use it as an opportunity for helping kids develop judgment about what is appropriate and inappropriate material."

If kids do happen upon explicit material, don't overreact, Perloff said. Teach kids to close the image, or just turn off the monitor, and alert a parent or teacher to what they have seen.
"When parents are faced with a 9-year-old boy who mistakenly ended up on a porn site, that is a teaching opportunity the parent dare not avoid," said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism and an expert on ethics. "Because if they do avoid it, children may deduce that this is perfectly fine, or they may deduce that the parents are so uncomfortable with it that is a taboo subject which they are not to talk about with parents."


The Agonizing Toll of Sexual Addiction
by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles - March 7, 2003

"I stopped making promises and decided to live a double life. My goal was to make a lot of money and to make sure that my two worlds don't mix."

One Friday night 33 years ago, when Yisroel Richtberg was 12 years old, an older boy sneaked into his dorm room at his Chasidic yeshiva in Israel, pulled off Richtberg's pajama pants and raped him. The same thing happened the next Shabbat.

The boy told Richtberg (not his real name) that if he ever told anyone, the two would be blacklisted at all the yeshivas, and the attacker said he would kill himself.

Richtberg didn't tell.

Instead, he sank into a cycle of depression, shame and isolation, one that would lead to a 20-year addiction to prostitutes, pornography and drugs, fronted by a double-life as an upstanding Chasidic rabbi, businessman and father of 12.

Today, Richtberg is alive to tell his story because he got help from therapists and 12-step programs. He has made it his life's mission to help others conquer an addiction so coated with shame that it resides at the very bottom of the hierarchies of addiction.

Identified in the 1970s by Patrick Carnes, author of "Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction" (Hazelden, 2001), sex addiction has the same psychological and physiological underpinnings as alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions, but cultural proscriptions against openly addressing sexual behavior problems have made it one of the least understood of the addictive disorders. Addicts are either feared as offenders, which only a small percentage are, or mockingly revered with a that-sounds-like-fun wink.

But addicts say there is no pleasure in being a slave to a compulsion so strong that it affects the body and mind as acutely as a drug.

"There is still this judgment of `what a sleazy guy,' but what they don't understand is that the addict has a psycho-biological disorder in which he is seeking a drug that he himself produces," said Robert Weiss, clinical director of the Sexual Recovery Institute, on Olympic Boulevard, just outside Beverly Hills. "He is literally dosing himself with his own neurochemistry, like a drug addict with a needle in his arm."

Whether acting out by compulsively masturbating to pornography, having serial affairs, frequenting prostitutes or habitually seeking homosexual or heterosexual one-night stands, sex addicts sink into a pit of shame and self-loathing, often threatening their families and livelihood.

It is difficult to determine whether the incidence of addiction is higher or lower in the Jewish community than in the general population, where Carnes estimates that about 5 percent to 8 percent of adults have a sexual compulsivity disorder. Conversations with several mental health professionals who work with the Jewish community, from ultra-Orthodox to unaffiliated, revealed that all had a significant number of patients dealing with sex addiction, including several rabbis. Several pulpit rabbis revealed that congregants had sought counseling from them about sex addiction.

Weiss believes the vast majority of sex addicts are men, and pointed out that female sex addicts might be too embarrassed to seek help, or might be getting paid to act out as prostitutes or exotic dancers.

Weiss estimates that about 20 percent of addicts are sexual offenders, usually engaging in exhibitionism or voyeurism. Occasionally addicts are guilty of molestation or rape, but not all sex offenders are addicts.

In a world where clothing styles, entertainment and marketing have stripped away sexual inhibitions, triggers are everywhere for an addict. Free-flowing pornography on the Internet has added to the mix a population of addicts who never showed such tendencies before (see Web, p. 11).

The changing reality of cybersex has forced Jewish community leaders, educators and rabbis to begin battling a seemingly inbred denial and acknowledge that the community must aid its addicts.

In Los Angeles there are indications that awareness is growing. A Jewish Federation conference on addictions in the fall of 2001 attracted 250 people.

This year, 880 people attended the annual dinner of Beit T'Shuvah, a residential rehabilitation organization in Los Angeles that uses Judaism at the core of its treatment — the only such facility in the country.

With the help of Rabbi Juda Mintz, himself a recovering addict to Internet pornography, Beit T'Shuvah and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California recently co-sponsored a series on addictions. It was at the session on sex addiction, and in private conversations with The Jewish Journal, that Richtberg told his story.

Addiction or Just Bad Behavior?

Richtberg is a Chasid with a scraggly beard, wide-brimmed hat, long coat and knickers tucked into his thin black socks. Thick glasses cover his tired blue eyes, and his Yiddish accent belies his American birth and Israeli upbringing.

Two years after Richtberg was raped, his parents transferred him to a new yeshiva in Jerusalem, hoping to reverse his baffling transformation into a depressed and isolated C student.

A rabbi at the new yeshiva, an ad hoc counselor for boys who have sexual problems, was the first person Richtberg told about the rape and his subsequent behaviors: compulsive masturbating, viewing pornographic materials and a sexual relationship with another boy. (Years later, Richtberg found out that the boy, after he married and had a family, committed suicide.)

While the rabbi was more compassionate than others in the yeshiva system who scolded and blamed Richtberg, he was not a mental health professional and was more interested in getting Richtberg to stop his behaviors than in healing him. Richtberg said he would promise the rabbi that he would stop, but then would come back crying in shame when he didn't.

"Today I know I was an addict from the start because I had so much pain, and I didn't have a person to talk to about my pain, and I tried to do something to cope," Richtberg said.

Experts say his symptoms — compulsive, self-destructive behavior, followed by shame and heartfelt-but-futile promises to stop — were classic signs of addiction, whether caused by an acute trauma or more subtle emotional trouble.

"All addiction is caused by a hole in one's soul, and a need to fill it with something," said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, spiritual leader of Beit T'Shuvah. "It's about loneliness and emptiness. We turn to addictive behaviors and substances as a solution to this experience of not fitting in, of not being good enough."

Despite an understanding that the addiction is destroying his life, the addict's attempts to stop will fail until he gets outside help, experts say.

"An addiction becomes the center of your life," said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism and an expert in Jewish medical ethics. "It becomes like an idol, theologically speaking, and everything in your life is centered around it, and most other things that are really important get lost."

While society has come to accept an individual's powerlessness in relation to drugs and alcohol, because of the brain's chemical dependency on these substances, the terminology of addiction seems harder to justify in reference to gambling, overeating or sex, which most people can control.

However, experts report that sex addicts have the same genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior as other addicts. And once an addict gets hooked on a behavior, his body treats it — and the pursuit of it — as a drug.

"Neuropsychological research shows that the exhilaration that people feel when in pursuit of the object of their addiction can approximate the high in and of itself, so that not only are they seeking the thrill through the drug or illicit behavior, but even the pursuit is generating an exhilarating high," said David Fox, a clinical psychologist and rabbi.

Just how to classify sex addiction is still a matter of debate in the medical community. Sex addiction made its way into the DSM III, the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, in 1980, but was pulled with the release of the DSM IV in 1994. Weiss is confident that current research has quieted most debate and that the diagnosis will be reinstated in the next edition.

All of this makes it difficult to use sex addiction as a legal defense, and Weiss notes, it is hardly a defense that conjures much empathy among jurors.

The Double Life
Mark Altman (not his real name), a 40-something married professional, who was a sex addict for more than 20 years and has been in recovery for five, was raised by two alcoholics and suffered a childhood trauma that set off his addiction.

He began sexually acting out as a teenager, "numbing out" by compulsively masturbating, he said. Starting in college, he sought sexual liaisons with men at sex clubs, bathhouses and park restrooms, while in his public life he dated women. He continued his double life through 15 years of marriage, raising three children and belonging to a Reform temple.

"Every New Year's, every birthday, every Rosh Hashana, every time there was some sort of event when I could make a resolution, I would swear to myself I would stop, because it was killing me," Altman said.

"I was leading a good family life, I was there for my kids, I was there for my wife," he continued. "I just carried on this charade, and I was dying inside. And I couldn't stop, no matter how hard I tried."

At one point, he planned suicide. He sought therapy, but it didn't give him the tools to stop. At the height of his addiction, he was acting out almost daily — adult bookstores, cybersex, phone sex and cruising for sexual encounters.

Altman knows now that what he was searching for was validation — the comfort of believing, however fleetingly, that someone else thought he was worthy of love and attention. It was never about the sex, he said.

"The thing I was really looking for was somebody to hold me and rub my back and tell me I'm an OK guy, not such a bad person," he said. "You feel so bad about yourself, and as an addict, you look to the exterior to find something to fix you."

But the fix never lasted long.

"I would act out," Altman recalled, "then feel really crappy about it afterward, saying, `I can't believe I did this,' then go home to my wife and kids, and feel awful and shameful and guilty and horrible, and the only way I knew to make it stop was to act out again."

Experts say the cycle Altman described is characteristic of all addictions and is usually augmented by what is referred to as boundary crossing, where increasing levels of the substance or behavior are needed to achieve the same high.

Richtberg can mark each of the milestones in his life with another boundary crossing. When he was 19, on the advice of the rabbi who was counseling him, he married. His first introduction to the female body quashed his desire for men, but enhanced his addiction.

He stayed clean for three weeks after he married. But the first night his wife cooked dinner, he took a bus into Manhattan's redlight district instead of going home.

"I cruised the streets and went to some peep shows," Richtberg recalled, "and came home about 3 a.m."

It was his first time at a live show. "Today, I know it was too hard for me to deal with my life, and I had to run."

He celebrated the birth of his first daughter by seeing a prostitute for the first time. As his habit grew more expensive, he left kollel, where he was studying full time to earn rabbinic ordination, and started a business.

At around that time in 1983, his third child was born, a son with a serious genetic disease. "I knew for sure that Hashem is punishing me, and that's why he gave me such a sick child," Richtberg said. "And I kept promising myself that I'm going to stop."

Two years later, another child was born with the same disorder, and two years after that another child was born with a different chronic illness. Another child died in infancy.

With each trauma, Richtberg crossed another boundary. He began to use drugs — first marijuana, then cocaine, then crack.

"At a certain time, it's hard to say exactly when, I gave up," Richtberg said. "I stopped making promises and decided to live a double life. My goal was to make a lot of money and to make sure that my two worlds don't mix."

Getting Help
Getting into drugs killed Richtberg's illusion of control. Within a year and half, he lost his business and started bouncing checks within his own community. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to business fraud for which he later served a 20-month sentence. His double life was falling apart.

It took a well-timed external kick to finally induce Richtberg to get help. The nurses who lived at Richtberg's home to care for his disabled children told his wife that they thought he was on drugs. His brother-in-law brought him to a clinic.

Richtberg yo-yoed through the first few months of therapy, which focused only on his drug problem, until his therapist insisted that he go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and intense outpatient rehabilitation. Richtberg went on his last cocaine binge in October 1991.
Richtberg said he stayed away from prostitutes for a full year. But then one day, he found himself in Manhattan, in tears and with a prostitute. The next day, he and his therapist came up with one last hope: Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).

Richtberg went to a meeting that day and has been clean since.

"Treatment for any addiction is directly related to motivation, so if someone is really motivated to change, it is possible, but it is an active process," Weiss said.

Unlike gambling, drugs or alcohol, sex cannot simply be sworn off. Rather, sex addicts construct parameters in which they can have sex — with a loving partner, for instance — and still stay on the path toward their life goals.

Altman went to his first SAA meeting after he was arrested at a park where men hung out to pick up sex partners.

"I never really thought that I could ever find a group of people talking about the kind of things that I was sure nobody else did," Altman said. "Twelve-step gives you tools you can work with to stop these behaviors, to really live your life. It's not just about stopping the sexual activity. It's about living your life with integrity and honesty and being accountable for your actions."

Spiritual Treatment for a Spiritual Malady
Borovitz of Beit T'Shuvah, himself a recovering alcoholic, believes that spiritual counseling, prayer and Torah study are essential to integrating all the elements of a Jewish addict's soul.

"One of the things that most people speak about in recovery is finding their authentic soul and how important it is that they can take a breath and be who they are, rather than who everyone else expects them to be," Borovitz said.

He said addicts need to harness God's power to make their recovery successful.

"Turning my life and will over to God's care is a statement by me that the creative energy of the world is available to me to learn and to follow the derech [the right path]," Borovitz said.
While some might mistake admitting powerlessness for relinquishing responsibility, Borovitz said the admission brings a renewed sense of moral culpability.

"Once I have a connection with God, I have to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven," he said. "I can't lie to myself anymore."

Both Altman and Richtberg had to re-envision their relationship to Judaism and God to succeed in SAA's 12-step program.

"When I was first forced to go to AA meetings, I felt that it's goyish, it's not for me," Richtberg recalled. Meetings are often in churches, God is invoked as the higher power and sessions end in "The Lord's Prayer."

Richtberg wove together the 12-step process with the Jewish path of teshuvah (repentance), growing closer to God and stronger in his Judaism as he made amends with himself and others.

"This is like a cancer, my addiction, and based on the prognosis, I can't stay sober," Richtberg said. "But there is a God who can help keep me sober if I turn to him every day," he said. "Every day, I get up in the morning, and I say, `Tati [Daddy], I'm powerless, I can't stay sober and I'm asking you for a toivah [favor]. Please keep me sober for today. I'm not asking more, just for today.' That has been working for 10 years."

Altman, a self-described atheist who grew up in a "spiritually empty" family that belonged to a Reform temple, said he had "to get away from a lot of initial religious baggage before I could develop my own concept of a higher power."

Altman now has a "constellation of ideas" that constitute his higher power. One of those ideas incorporates the ongoing conversation in his own head between what he calls "my addict" and the person he was born to be — the one who can discern right from wrong, the one who can learn to love himself for who he is.

"The program consists of people helping each other," he said. "Two people are always stronger than one person alone, so I cannot deny that that is a power greater than me."

With Help, Hope
Altman is honing his new conception of God with Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Agoura Hills, who has worked with addiction for years.

"Every rabbi should have the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as some of the Jewish recovery books, on their shelf just over their shoulder, so everyone knows that we're here, and that we're open," Kipnes said.

Harriet Rossetto, CEO of Beit T'Shuvah, said that opening Jewish opportunities for recovery is especially vital for rabbis, who often have no one to talk to about the conflicting realities of their public image and what goes on inside them.

"It's time to address rabbis as human beings and acknowledge that they have these issues and provide treatment, rather than putting them up on this pedestal and knocking them off and stepping on them," Rossetto said.

Beit T'Shuvah, with Mintz's help, is putting together an anonymous 12-step group for rabbis.

Mintz said that working to raise awareness of addiction in the Jewish community has become his tikkun — a mission of healing that is his life's purpose.

Richtberg, who hides his secret from his Chasidic community and the small congregation he runs, believes his ordeal also has a divine purpose. He makes himself available to rabbis, doctors and mental health professionals. He started an SAA group in Israel and he often runs the minyan at international SAA conventions.

And if in his past life his milestones were marked with sinking deeper into his addiction, he said they are now marked with saving more lives.

On the very day last year that his son, disabled from birth, died as a teenager, Richtberg got a call from an Israeli friend who was in the United States and needed the support of a fellow recovering addict. With Hatzolah paramedics still in his home, Richtberg at first explained that he just couldn't. Then he called back and told the man to come right over.

"My son left in the spirit of somebody who was reborn," he said. "I helped somebody recreate a new life and another one left."

In the 10 years that he's been clean, Richtberg and his wife have had three healthy children. On their anniversary this year, his wife, who considered leaving him when he revealed his secret, told him she now treasures each minute she is married to him.

"If you ask me what is the basic change that has happened to me in the last 10 years, it's that 10 years ago, I did not believe I had anything to give, that there would ever come a time in my life that I would have something to give," Richtberg said.

"Now people feel that I'm something," he said. "People value me. Sometimes I still have a hard time believing it."


Decline and Fall - Rabbi Juda Mintz speaks about the addiction that ruined his life and cost him his honor
by Jason Green
The Atlanta Jewish Times - March 8 , 2002   24 Adar 5762

Rabbi Juda Mintz tilted back in the swiveling armchair, bringing two fingers to his pursed lips. He measured each word carefully, as if searching for the perfect thing to say.

He strained to explain his addiction to pornographic images, the events that ruined his life and what he calls his debt to God and his path to recovery.

He said he's lost nearly everything — except himself.

"With all of my losses, I've discovered that there's a part of me I otherwise would not have known," Mintz said. "I'm constantly grateful for all of God's miracles. With all of the stresses, I can still function and still have hope and determination."

Mintz, 59, who spent more than a quarter-century working as a rabbi in Atlanta, pleaded guilty last week to a single count of possession of child pornography, a crime that could carry prison time. Lawrence Lustberg, the Trenton, N.J., attorney who is representing Mintz, is hopeful his client will be given probation.

Sentencing is set for June. Mintz faces a maximum term of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. In reality, Lustberg says Mintz is looking at a sentence of 27 to 33 months and is hopeful his client will receive a lighter sentence.

Mintz may have to register as a sex offender when he is released, Lustberg said, but neighbors would not have to be notified of his crime.

"I'm a person of faith," Mintz said during an exclusive, hour-long interview with the Jewish Times during which he often closed his eyes and struggled for the right words. "I do very much believe nothing in life is coincidental."

Mintz is not alone. Although he has not been accused of anything more than the possession of illegal images, the issue of clerical sex problems has made headlines in recent weeks with the revelation that as many as 80 priests in the Boston area may have molested children over the past 40 years. And the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reportedly has found "credible evidence" that 35 priests under its jurisdiction sexually abused children over five decades.

Two Jewish spiritual leaders have recently been in the spotlight as well:

  • Howard Nevison, 61, cantor of New York's Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, faces charges that he sexually abused his nephew on three occasions between 1993 and 1997 while the boy was 3 to 7 years old. 
  • Former Boca Raton, Fla., Rabbi Jerrold Levy pleaded guilty in August to having sex with a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison and three years probation.

Mintz, who did not fight the charges, admits looking at pornography, but said he never paid for the images he viewed or engaged in sex chats online. He said he's a sex addict, but has never physically harmed anyone.

"There has never been any allegations of impropriety with any human being, let alone with a child," he said. "It is well known that the essence of my rabbinic career has been my teaching and Judaic involvement with the children. This is one of my greatest mysteries, which I am beginning to understand through therapy."

Mintz was once an Atlanta icon. In 1973, he organized Emory University's Hillel chapter, and, after eight years at the campus, became the founding rabbi of Traditional Congregation B'nai Torah in Sandy Springs in 1981.

"As Congregation B'nai Torah's founding rabbi, Juda Mintz was an energetic, inspirational religious leader and was instrumental in the Traditional synagogue's rapid growth," Ron Lipsitz, B'nai Torah's founding president, said in a statement. "He endeared himself to many congregants, officiating at hundreds of lifecycle events and leading numerous trips to Israel."

Ed Goldberg, B'nai Torah's second president, said Mintz's efforts helped build the strong foundation the congregation has today.

"This unfortunate incident should not be the only thing he is remembered for," Goldberg said in a statement. "He gave many positive things to the Jewish community and to B'nai Torah. His leadership helped us create and build a Traditional synagogue in North Atlanta that is stronger than ever."

Others in Atlanta's Jewish community said they feel disbelief and sadness. Many people loved and respected Mintz and wondered how he could have sunk so low.

"It makes me nervous," said one former congregant who asked not to be identified. "He bar mitzvahed my boys, my little boys."

Mintz left B'nai Torah in the spring of 1998 when members voted against renewing his contract. There were allegations of financial improprieties, said a congregant who asked to remain anonymous, but no charges were ever filed.

Mintz went on to start Congregation Shema Yisrael, a nondenominational synagogue in Dunwoody that does not require members to pay dues. He left Shema Yisrael in 1999 to become rabbi at Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph Township, N.J., about an hour's drive from New York.

After 18 months at Mount Freedom, Mintz's life began unraveling on Sept. 10, 2000.

After Mintz complained that his computer was running slowly, a technician found child pornography on its hard drive. Temple officials reported the findings to local police and federal pornography charges eventually were filed.

Mintz says sex addiction is a problem he has battled throughout his life. He says he was introduced to pornography at age 9 when his cousin, who stayed with his family to attend rabbinic school, shared girly magazines with him. Throughout his adolescence, he says, it seemed perfectly normal to look at pornographic magazines.

His addiction, he says, never affected his work as a rabbi, but it troubled him in other ways.
"All along, there was this small yet deep, dark place — that was my disease — and that offered me an opportunity to medicate myself when I felt depression," he said. "I say this not as an excuse for my behavior, but as an explanation."

It wasn't until 1999, Mintz says, that he even knew how to use a computer. Without the aid of modern technology, Mintz says he was able to manage his problems in an acceptable way.

But the donation of a computer to Mount Freedom Jewish Center opened new avenues — avenues that ultimately led to his arrest. Mintz said the computer brought new worlds to his fingertips — Judaica, current events and pornography.

"[The pornography] was in the confines of my own office at the synagogue, initially after hours, that was viewed by me," he said. "It was with these pornographic images that my addiction was rampantly fueled."

Mintz, who returned to Atlanta the day before Rosh Hashana and has been working as a convenience store clerk, said he understands that people are questioning his actions. He said he needed to be among nurturing friends so he could get through the trauma of his pending divorce and to heal.

No one, he says, has criticized him directly.

"Much to the contrary, I have received extreme encouragement and help financially and otherwise to get me through the most difficult time of my life," he said. "I will be eternally grateful to those who have reached out to me. There is a real sense that they have helped save my life."

Friends, he says, continue to remind him that they are privileged to give something back for everything he did as their rabbi. Still, Mintz says it's difficult to be receiving help rather that giving it.

"It's an adjustment, not unlike the surgeon who finds himself as a patient in a hospital bed," he said.

Some reactions in Atlanta have surprised him.

"There were some who I thought would be forthcoming — and even supportive — who weren't and there are those who have come forth and bonded with me in ways I never imagined," he said. "For the 27 years that I have been blessed to live in Atlanta, ministering to the Jewish community to the utmost of my ability, I ask if not for your compassion, then for your understanding and your forgiveness."

Mintz said he is not wallowing in self-pity. He plans to be admitted to Beit T'Shuvah, a 105-bed residential rehabilitation community in Los Angeles, that treats people with therapy, 12-step programs and Judaic studies. While at Beit T'Shuvah, which was founded in 1987 and is the only center of its kind in the United States, Mintz will be treated for his disease and will teach Judaics.

Harriet Rosetto, Beit T'Shuvah chief executive officer, says sex addiction is similar to other compulsive disorders.

"They all use something internal to satisfy the external," she said in a telephone interview from the center.

Clergy, she said, have a propensity to sex addiction. They often have strong lusts and try to heal them by becoming rabbis, priests and ministers in an effort to find God and mitigate their urges, Rosetto said.

But instead of helping, becoming a clergyman only exacerbates the problem. "The harder they try, the worse it gets," Rosetto said.

Being in a position of power also fuels the problem, she said.

"When people come to clergy, they are coming in their most vulnerable position, revealing their most vulnerable selves," Rosetto said. "On some level, even if they're trying to make people feel better, there's intimacy."

Sex addicts, like other addicts, are able to manage their problem and able to rebuild their lives, she said.

"Every day, calls come from all over," Rosetto said. "Addiction is a major problem in the Jewish community."

Rabbi Ilan Feldman, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Jacob in Toco Hills, said any problem that affects human beings can be found in the Jewish community.

"I've encountered this [sex addiction] in many other cases," he said. "It needs nonsensational and thoughtful attention."

Mintz says it was a blessing that he was caught. Had he not been, he said he probably would have stayed at Mount Freedom or gotten another pulpit, "never addressing the addictive cancer that was destroying my life and the life of my family."

"I am grateful that the disease was examined properly and that there is treatment in which I can yet live a spiritual life," he said.

Once his treatment is completed, he hopes to start a synagogue for recovering addicts, combining 12-step program meetings with daily services.

"I want to create a place in which shame would not be present," he said. "I truly believe that this would be a holy undertaking that would enable addicts to feel a sense of self worth, both in the eyes of God and in his or her own Jewish community."

Mintz believes he would not have been prosecuted if he were not a rabbi, but says his arrest and guilty plea have put him on the road to freedom. It has been a high price to pay to come to terms with sex addiction.

"I take comfort in believing that when someone does good, it is eternal. It can never be taken away although, perhaps, it can be denied," Mintz said. "For the many opportunities that God has given me in my many years of service to the Jewish community, I take solace in that by his divine grace he has enabled me to teach the souls of many.

"I pray that whatever remains of my earthly journey that I be enabled to continue serving him by reaching out to the souls of others as well as my newfound soul."


Atlanta congregation tries 'multiplex' approach
Debra N. Cohen - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

NEW YORK - An experiment in religious pluralism is unfolding in Atlanta, where a new synagogue is bringing together, under one roof, Jews connected with each of four main movements of Judaism - Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.

The newly established Congregation Shema Yisrael currently meets in a hotel and works like this: The various groups of worshipers gather, each in their own space, with their own prayer books and Torah scroll, in a ballroom divided into separate sections with movable walls. After their respective prayer services end, they open the dividing walls, rearrange the chairs and, together, listen to each rabbi and prayer leader present a brief sermon. A discussion ensues, and then they share kiddush.

Orthodox/traditional and Conservative groups meet each week. The Reform group gathers three out of four Sabbaths. On the fourth, a Reconstructionist chavurah (study group) takes its place.

Call it "multiplex Judaism." It is an idea whose time has come, says the rabbi and creator of the concept, Juda Mintz. "Everyone's talking about Jewish pluralism but not doing anything about it," he said. "This, I pray, will be a model for others."

It is apparently the first such congregation ever created, though a similar approach regularly takes place on college campuses under Hillel's aegis - the model that Mintz says inspired him. A recent Shabbaton on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts similarly brought together Jews from each of the movements - but it was for a single Sabbath, rather than as an ongoing effort.

To be sure, there are a few synagogues that accommodate two different styles of worship. For instance, in the wake of discord over the issue of women being called to read from the Torah, some Conservative synagogues have split off into egalitarian and traditional services. But never have any of the sources contacted for this story ever heard of a pointedly multidenominational and ostensibly permanent effort like Shema Yisrael.

"There is a great hunger for unity," said Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Conservative synagogue Valley Beth Shalom, in Encino, Calif., when called for comment. "There is a revulsion against the apartheid that exists among Jewish denominations."

But it is also a sign of these tendentious times that when contacted, senior executives at two major Orthodox organizations, one centrist Orthodox and the other fervently Orthodox, both reacted with enthusiasm - privately, that is. Neither was willing to say anything publicly supportive of the Atlanta effort.

"Mintz is a visionary. It's a brilliant idea, though truthfully I can't congratulate him publicly on founding non-Orthodox minyanim," said the centrist Orthodox executive. "If I did, I'd be crucified."

The fervently Orthodox executive said, with a shade of doubt, that "it sounds like a prayer mall. But it fills me with a good feeling that there's a place where people are all sitting and being Jewish together."

Shema Yisrael's Rabbi Mintz, who was ordained in the fervently Orthodox Torah V'Daas yeshiva in Brooklyn, was for 17 years the spiritual leader of another Atlanta synagogue, a congregation affiliated with the Orthodox Union. He left in June with some 30 families in tow.

The other unique aspect of his idea in forming Shema Yisrael is that it asks for no dues. Mintz expects congregants to pay what their heart decrees. That, he believes, will be enough.

Between 125 and 150 followers have turned out each Shabbat for services, and so far, they are putting their money where their hearts are. A congregant donated a suite of offices. And from the first paycheck his secretary got from Shema Yisrael, Mintz said, she wrote a $500 check back to the congregation.

Mintz, like the other rabbis and prayer leaders, are working without pay, for now. Fifteen congregants are now each taking out $2,500 personal bank loans to provide Shema Yisrael with most of the $50,000 that it needs to pay its bills now through the High Holidays.


Porn Charges
The Canadian Jewish News - March 14, 2002

ATLANTA - An Atlanta-area rabbi has pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his temple computer. Rabbi Juda Mintz, 59, faces more than two years in prison for possessing at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual acts. Mintz allegedly had the files while serving as spiritual leader of Mount Freedom Jewish Centre in Randolph, N.J. According to his lawyer, Mintz now works as a clerk in a convenience store.


Mt. Freedom former rabbi sentenced to year in prison
By Matt Manochio, Daily Record
The Daily Record - April 5, 2003

A former rabbi with the Mount Freedom Jewish Center who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer at his synagogue was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, plus three years' supervised release.

Juda Mintz, 60, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to having at least 10 computer files containing images of minors engaged in sexual activity. He was fired shortly after the September 2000 discovery.

He also must pay a $2,000 fine, according to Sarah Gurka, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Calls to the Mount Freedom Jewish Center were not returned on Friday.

Mintz's attorney, Lawrence S. Lustberg, said the former rabbi has sought treatment for his problem ever since the pornography was discovered nearly three years ago.

Lustberg said Thursday's three-hour court proceeding was dedicated mostly to discussing "the extraordinary lengths" that Mintz has gone through to seek treatment.

Mintz is in a residential facility in Los Angeles where he is getting psychological treatment.
"He has taken greater steps than anyone I've ever represented in my 20 years of doing this," Lustberg said Friday.

It's not yet determined where Mintz will serve his sentence, Lustberg said. He added that he likely will request that Mintz's time be served at a facility in Otisville, N.Y., which has a large Orthodox Jewish community.

Since Mintz's sentence is more than one year, he could be eligible for parole if he meets good behavior guidelines, Lustberg said. He added that it's likely that Mintz will serve at least nine months of that sentence in prison.


`There Are No Secrets'
Rabbi behind bars for child porn reflects on repentance on eve of Yom Kippur.
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Jewish Week - October 3, 2003

Rabbi Juda Mintz: "I am not above any law."

Fort Dix, N.J. — Juda Mintz may look like an ordinary guy — middle aged, medium height, with a comb-over and thick glasses — yet there is something about the Modern Orthodox rabbi that makes him stand out among the 4,500 inmates at the Fort Dix Correctional Institution, a federal prison in southwestern New Jersey.

Under the glaring fluorescent lights of the large cinder-block walled prison visiting room, Rabbi Mintz walks calmly over to greet a visitor. He is dressed in the same beige work-shirt and pants that every inmate wears from the day he arrives until the day he is freed.

Amid the dozens of prisoners playing with their young children, sharing vending machine snacks with their wives and parents, canoodling with their girlfriends though there is no privacy in the rows of plastic chairs, there is something striking about Rabbi Mintz.

It's his equanimity. Rabbi Mintz seems almost happy to be here.

"It sounds crazy, I know, but I am happy," he says in a brief interview in the meeting room.
It's a place he never imagined he would be.

Rabbi Mintz was arrested just before the High Holy Days four years ago and charged with viewing child pornography.

The computer in his office at New Jersey's Mount Freedom Jewish Center was running slowly and a technician working on it found pornographic images, including eight involving children, stored on the hard drive. Congregational leaders alerted the FBI.

Rabbi Mintz, almost before he knew what had hit him, had lost his job, his marriage, his home and the career that he had begun decades before at Yeshivat Torah V'Daas in Brooklyn.

He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography, which carried a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine. The rabbi was given a prison term of a year and a day, with time reduced for good behavior. He expects to be released before Passover next spring after serving about 10 months.

In the meantime, Rabbi Mintz does much of what all the prisoners do. He sleeps on the bottom bunk in the room he shares with 11 men — a privilege granted him because of his age, 61. Showers and a television are shared with other rooms. He takes his turn mopping the floors, Rabbi Mintz writes in an interview conducted by mail.

Prison officials did not permit a visiting reporter to bring writing materials or a tape recorder into the reception room, so after the visit questions were mailed to Rabbi Mintz and he sent back hand-written responses.

Between standing on line in the mess hall and being in his room for the mandatory head counts at 4 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight and 5 a.m., Rabbi Mintz writes that he spends his days praying and studying, teaching and counseling.

He and the two dozen or so other observant Jewish inmates — there are another 25 Jews who are not observant — receive three certified kosher meals a day. His prison job, for which he gets paid $5.50 a month, is being an orderly in the Jewish chapel.

He sweeps, empties the trash and sets things up for worship services, which he also leads. The Jewish chapel has a Torah scroll, and a sukkah will soon be erected in the jail yard. Rabbi Mintz and his friends will eat their meals there, and bless the lulavs and etrogs for Sukkot.

"There is some type of Jewish learning going on here from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., except for meals and the count," the rabbi writes. "Interestingly, there's the same type of friction between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish communities here as there is on the other side of the fence.

"Ironically, this is the first time in 40 years, since I moved from Williamsburg [where he grew up] to Montreal at age 21, that I have lived in a shomer-Shabbat community."

Before moving to Mount Freedom several years ago he lived in Atlanta, where he established an innovative congregation that brought together traditional/Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Jews.

The Jewish community inside the Fort Dix walls is diverse, too. Among the prisoners in with Rabbi Mintz are chasidim — including a 27-year-old from New Square, N.Y., sentenced to 13 years for money laundering — Israelis, Russian Jews and some non-chasidic black-hat types, he says.

"I study daily with a chasidic chevruta [partner], we're studying [the classic Torah text] `Duties of the Heart,' "writes Rabbi Mintz. He teaches two classes, one on the Ethics of the Fathers, and one on the weekly Torah portion, does one-on-one teaching and "informal counseling," he writes. Most everyone, including guards, administrators and inmates, calls him rabbi, he says, though he's never asked them to.

Each week he attends three 12-step meetings, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I am neither an alcoholic nor a drug addict," he writes. "I am addicted to pornography, but the label of the addiction is far less important than recognizing addiction as a disease of chemical imbalance in the brain that manifests itself into compulsive behavior." He also meets daily with one of the addicted inmates he mentors.

Being in prison has given Rabbi Mintz plenty of time to reflect on his crime.

"I must always realize that it is because of people like me, and tragically the millions of others in the world who view child pornography, that there is an industry that abuses the most innocent of all victims; these helpless children who are forced to participate in this most heinous of crimes," he writes.

"If there weren't people who sought and viewed these images, there would be no market for child pornography. I must do teshuva [repentance] for contributing to the destruction of young, innocent lives.

"I am comforted to feel the acceptance of my teshuva by G-d," he writes, "and I am hopeful that my teshuva will be accepted by my victims and by my community."

"The worst aspect of being in prison," he writes, is realizing that no matter how much he repents, he will never move past "the stigma I will have the rest of my life. I'll forever be `a felon.' "

Once released, Rabbi Mintz plans to return to the residential treatment program for Jews in Los Angeles — Beit T'shuva — where he lived and worked after his arrest, and before he was remanded to the prison.

He hopes to get a similar project off the ground in New York, and to develop a program on addiction for rabbis and rabbinical schools.

In the meantime, Rabbi Mintz is spending his days at Fort Dix relishing the time he has to spend on what he loves best.

"For the first time in my life I am able to take two to three hours each morning for my prayers," he writes. "I am able to speak, praise, petition, meditate, study, sing, all in the context of my tefillot [prayers].

"For the vast majority of my life, even in adolescence, I was the giver, the teacher, the counselor, the provider. Being `discovered' as a pornography addict and being turned in to the authorities was one of the most important turning points in my life.

"It is teaching me the importance of recognizing how much in need I am of receiving. Receiving consequences for my actions. I am not above any law, and most importantly, I'm now experiencing the loving intimacy I have with G-d. I live in His light; there are no secrets, no dark places."

His Shabbats at Fort Dix are spent out in the yard, communing with his new friends, blessing and enjoying the challah rolls and grape juice provided by the prison, singing together as the day of rest wanes.

"I try to spend as much time as I can in the fresh country air," Rabbi Mintz writes. "There may be barbed wire fences surrounding the prison, but it doesn't block out the blue skies, bright sun, moon, stars, trees, and singing birds."

Don't you see the fences and barbed wire, a visitor asks?

"I can look out at the fence," he said in the windowless, linoleum-floored visiting room, "or I can look up. I look up." 


Rabbis' Addictions Coming To Light - New awareness slowly taking hold in Jewish community as arrests mount.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen - Staff Writer
The Jewish Week - April 11, 2003

Rabbi Juda Mintz: Child porn addiction cost him his job and his marriage.

In a Trenton, N.J., courtroom last week, Rabbi Juda Mintz, a charismatic Orthodox champion of Jewish pluralism, stood before a federal judge, his fate in the balance. He faced Federal District Court Judge Mary Cooper, charged with downloading child pornography onto his synagogue computer. The rabbi and his followers hoped the judge would allow him to serve his time at the Los Angeles residential Jewish addiction center he moved to a year ago.

But while Cooper praised the rabbi for turning his life around since his arrest three years ago and ministering to other Jewish addicts, she sentenced him to one year and one day in a federal penitentiary.

Rabbi Mintz, a passionately spiritual Modern Orthodox rabbi whose career was devoted to reaching all Jews, regardless of denomination or degree of assimilation, has been in treatment since he was fired from New Jersey's Mount Freedom Jewish Center in 2000. Since moving to Beit T'Shuvah, he has started programs and synagogue services specifically for Jewish addicts, and was reaching out to hidden addicted rabbis.

"I am devastated," Rabbi Mintz said of his sentence in an exclusive interview, in which he spoke of a desire to continue his work once released.

Rabbi Mintz is one of a growing number of Jewish clergymen whose names have been in the headlines recently after being arrested for sexual, financial or substance abuse and related behavior.

Reform Cantor Howard Nevison of Temple Emanu-el in Manhattan was arrested last year and charged with sexually abusing his young nephew. In February, Orthodox Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum, director of the New York Board of Rabbis' Jewish Center for Spiritual Care, was arrested in a police Internet sting operation and charged with attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor.

Rabbi Baruch Lanner last year was sentenced to seven years in prison for his abuse of two teenage students when he was the principal of a yeshiva high school in New Jersey.

Their cases shine a light on the issue of addiction in the rabbinate and how the Jewish community is dealing — and mostly not dealing — with it. Sexual and other addictions among clergy are coming into public view as a result of the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandals.

And in the Jewish community, the issue is beginning to emerge from the shadows as experts within the major branches of Judaism call for much more attention to be paid. Most rabbinical schools are beginning to integrate pastoral education into their curricula, but only to teach their students how to deal with congregants' problems, not their own.

"I can't really say that I've seen much in terms of `rabbi heal thyself,' " said Dr. Michelle Friedman, a psychiatrist and director of pastoral counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a new Modern Orthodox rabbinical school in Manhattan. "I really hope that it's beginning but I don't think it's out there yet."

At Chovevei Torah, which is taking pioneering strides on issues of rabbinic self-awareness, students are required to take instruction in pastoral issues during each of their four years. Classes are taught by experts in fields ranging from domestic violence to addiction.

Students also must attend weekly "process groups" facilitated by psychologists and psychiatrists, where they work out their internal conflicts. That kind of intensive psychological supervision continues once the students are placed doing fieldwork. And nothing said in those sessions is shared with the school's administrators, said Friedman.
But the new seminary is seen by observers as one bright spot in an area that should command much more attention.

Clergy Are Susceptible
"There is an issue of addiction in the rabbinate in all the movements," said Bonita Nathan Sussman, director of JACS: Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others, a program of the New York Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services.

Clergy are especially vulnerable to addictive behavior, experts say.

"Clergy are highly susceptible to the urgings of a strong shadow or yetzer harah [evil inclination], because the brighter the persona, the darker the shadow," said Harriet Rosetto, chief executive officer of Beit Tshuvah, who took the unusual step of flying across the country to be with Rabbi Mintz at his sentencing last week.

Three of Beit Tshuvah's 110 current residents are rabbis, she said. Two, including Rabbi Mintz, are Orthodox and one is Conservative.

While other addictions, from drugs to food, are also found, sex addiction is disproportionately common among clergymen, Rosetto said, "for the very reason that it is so taboo and forbidden."

"It's because power is an aphrodisiac, because one is constantly called upon to nurture others. Of all the addictions, sex is the one that most seems to fall in the moral range, and clergy are supposed to be moral.

"In their own minds, and the minds of those who revere them, they're supposed to be without blemish," she said. "And the more you feel you're supposed to be without blemish, the more blemishes appear. If you can't acknowledge your imperfections and know where to go with them, it flourishes.

"And nowhere in anybody's rabbinic training or practice does anyone talk about it or tell you what to do with it."

Others agree, though there is at least tacit acknowledgement that addiction among rabbis exists.

For years, astute observers at rabbinical conventions have noticed a small sign tacked to the bulletin board designated for messages between attendees. It announces a meeting for "Friends of Bill W.," usually late in the evening after other activities have ended. The sign points those in the know toward a 12-step meeting, which in this setting would be attended just by rabbis. But those meetings happen just once a year, and rabbis struggle to find a place of their own the rest of the time.

The movements' rabbinical arms offer no formal professional forum for addressing the issue. Representatives of the rabbis' organizations interviewed say they haven't had seminars on addiction among rabbis at their conferences.
"Like many issues, addiction in the rabbinate isn't talked about within the rabbinical organizations and training institutions," said Kerry Olitzky, a Reform rabbi and author of four books about Jewish spirituality and recovery from addiction.
"When it is talked about, it's talked about behind closed doors," said Rabbi Olitzky, who also heads the Jewish Outreach Institute. "Just as it took the Jewish community a long time to recognize that addiction was a problem among everyday people, it's taking them even longer to acknowledge it among caregivers, particularly rabbis."

Cases `Swept Under Rug'
So what happens when it becomes known that a rabbinic colleague is staggering, or even falling, under the weight of an addiction? Though awareness of it may not reach colleagues, even when it does, little happens beyond a rabbinical organization's occasional refusal to place them in a new movement-affiliated synagogue.

Addicted rabbis, when they lose their jobs, usually move from one community to another, usually to unaffiliated synagogues.

For laypeople, "one form of denying the problem is just to get rid of the rabbi," said Hirsch Chinn, a fervently Orthodox rabbi who is a member of the JACS rabbinic advisory board.

In the fervently Orthodox world, people don't always even go that far.

"Kids are molested continually," said Rabbi Benzion Twerski, a psychotherapist in private practice in Brooklyn's haredi community. "These are not things that hit the media, and it's not a raging epidemic, but it happens within the yeshivas. These incidents happen in the finest of places.

"The perpetrators are more often than not faculty. When these things happen, they get shushed up real quick and the rebbe or faculty member gets moved around to different jobs. They get shuffled around, not moved out of town, because people think it will go away," he said.

"The majority of cases get swept under the rug. The people doing this have a problem of molesting, and it's an addiction, but it's seen as an aberration, as misbehavior," he said.

While little is done about an addicted rabbi within most rabbinical groups, the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America hopes to include issues like this in its ethics guidelines, which it has just started revising, said Rabbi Heshie Billet, its president.

The current guidelines were written decades ago. "We want to upgrade the standards so we can deal with a lot of these issues that come up today that didn't come up 30 years ago," he told The Jewish Week.

Pastoral Issues On Agenda
At the seminary level, aside from Chovevei Torah, pastoral issues have begun to take on a greater visibility. Addiction, however, is studied only as a problem among congregants and remains unexamined as a potential personal threat or issue.

In the last few years, pastoral care classes have been made mandatory at the Reform movement's seminary but remain voluntary at the Conservative movement's.

"We offer them but not every rabbi student gets takes them. They should be mandatory," said Dr. Herb Nieburg, director of the student counseling service and adjunct associate professor of professional skills at JTS.

Little attention is paid to addiction issues at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, even in pastoral counseling courses, said Rabbi Linda Holtzman, director of practical rabbinics there.

"We do not do enough on the subject of addiction," she said. "It doesn't feel to me as if every student who leaves here is prepared well in this area."

The truth is, rabbis are not just human beings but human beings with uniquely challenging jobs. They live in the fishbowls of their communities: Nearly their every action is seen by someone they know, and at the same time they are put on psychological pedestals by their congregants. "Too often," one rabbi said, "we start to believe our own press."

"The pressures on congregational rabbis in particular are extraordinary," said Rabbi Eric Lankin, a pulpit rabbi for 14 years and now director of religious and educational activities at the national organization United Jewish Communities.

Rabbi Lankin, a Conservative rabbi, also has a doctorate in pastoral counseling from the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College and a special expertise in gambling addiction.

"The expectations of congregants and the Jewish community and the 24/7 schedules of a rabbi are impossible, and those who have a proclivity to addiction can easily find themselves there," said Rabbi Lankin.

Even when they want to start recovery, rabbis face the challenge of having no truly safe space to turn to in the 12-step world.

"It's a very bold move for a rabbi to go to a meeting, for fear that someone will see you," said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, a convicted felon and recovering drug addict. After being released from prison, he attended rabbinical school at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and has since become the rabbi of Beit Tshuvah. "Even though meetings are supposed to be anonymous, people are people."

Rabbi Mintz, now waiting to begin his sentence, says if a rabbi in any community comes out and declares their addiction, "by and large they are risking their job."

"Who do we trust, who do we let our hair down to?" he asks. "Even among colleagues, there are so many issues of turf, competitiveness and ego. For rabbis especially, we are judged on such a high pedestal no matter what. We need to find a place of healing."

To provide a safe haven for rabbis with addictions, he recently started Recovering Rabbis Anonymous, which is backed by Beit Tshuvah. The group met for the first time last week in Los Angeles. Three rabbis came. Rabbi Mintz couldn't attend. He was on his way to New Jersey for sentencing.


Federal Bureau of Prisons - Locator

Inmate Information for JUDA MINTZ

Inmate Register Number : 12805-050


Age : 60

Race : WHITE

Sex : MALE

Projected Release Date :  4/01/2004

Location : FORT DIX FCI, PO BOX 38, FORT DIX , NJ 08640

Phone Number : (609)723-1100


Jewish Groups Meet Bush at Conclave
by David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles - March 12, 2004

(Does anyone know if President Bush has visited any rape crisis centers or any healing centers that work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse?)

President Bush hugged a cantor, listened to an Orthodox high school choir, walked with an addict-turned-rabbi and heard success stories of the Jewish-based Beit T'Shuvah addiction treatment center during his March 3 Southern California visit.

"We're all realizing that we need to have faith," said Conservative Rabbi Mark Borovitz, an ex-convict and ex-addict who is the spiritual leader of the 120-bed Beit T'Shuvah on Venice Boulevard in West Los Angeles. "It's not about a religion, and it's not about trying to change somebody's religion."

Bush met with Borovitz for 40 minutes before his speech at a regional conference of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Staples Center. Borovitz escorted Bush to the podium, where the president spoke about faith-based addiction treatment programs. During his speech, the president praised Borovitz and his wife, Beit T'Shuvah CEO Harriet Rossetto, and Harold Rothstein, a recovering addict who is now Beit T'Shuvah's facilities manager.

"And they helped save Harold's life," Bush told the crowd. "The guy was lost, and now he is found, thanks to these two good souls."

Bush met seven addiction counselors and former addicts during the 40-minute meeting. Along with Christian-based Union Rescue Mission and Welcome Home Ministries representatives at the meeting, "we were the Jewish program," said Rossetto, who met her husband before he was a rabbi and while he was a drug addict imprisoned at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

The Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Office is opposed by civil libertarians who believe federal funding for faith-based programs violates church-state separation mandates. However, Beit T'Shuvah residents have said their recovery is helped in a setting that is both medical and spiritual.

According to Rossetto, Bush said at the meeting, "The government can't open people's hearts — it can only give money to the people that can open people's hearts."

"He talked to each of us in turn," she said. "I saw it not as a political event but as being known by the office of the president. I agree with the president on this use of faith as the key ingredient to help people heal from addictions. So it was an experience of unity, of people being united around a common belief, people with whom I might otherwise not be sitting around a table."

During his Staples Center conference speech, Bush said, "Harriet is married to Mark. Mark is now a rabbi. He was in prison. He was addicted. He told me the story about how the rabbi in the prison got a hold of Mark, and said, `I'm never going to forget you. I love you. I want to help you.' And so Mark runs into Harriet, his wife, who has started a — she, too, is a social entrepreneur, by the way, at Beit T'Shuvah. It's a program for addicts."

"She sees him at the prison," Bush said, according to a White House speech transcript. "He's kind of a — probably feeling his oats pretty good about that time. She says, fine, why don't you — if you want to do something constructive, why don't you just show up at our program? So he did, three years later."

Jim Towey, Bush's faith-based initiatives director, tapped Borovitz and Rossetto for the preconference meeting after learning of the facility through Beit T'Shuvah board member and philanthropist Annette Shapiro.

"The president is following through on his commitment to faith-based initiatives," said Bruce Bialosky, Southern California chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "Jews recognize that they face some challenges, and they are dealing with those challenges. We have such low incidents of alcoholism comparatively, but in a secularized society, we face more and more of that."

Bush sent Borovitz and Rossetto a holiday card last December. "I have it framed," revealed Rossetto, who said of the president, "He's personable."

The 16-member choir of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills performed at the event. "We were the only entertainment at this White House interfaith convention," said Cantor Avshalom Katz, the choir's director and cantor at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. "We got the request two days before from the White House to perform for this convention."

The choir sang "America the Beautiful," and the prayer for the State of Israel, "Avinu Shebashamayim," as well as, "The Inventor's Song," to which Katz gave a Jewish inventors twist, as the choir sang lyrics including, "Salk made the polio vaccine. And it took Rickover and his special talent to float a nuclear submarine."

"After his speech," Katz said, "he came to shake hands. As he approached me I said to him, `Mr. President, you are the best.' And he gave me a hug and a kiss. It was a kiddush HaShem [honor to God's name]."


Web Site Tracks Sexual Abusers
Vicki Polin's efforts have received praise and criticism in the Jewish community
Debra Nussbaum Cohen - Staff Writer
Jewish Week - March 26, 2004

From an apartment in a fervently religious section of Baltimore sits a nonobservant Jewish woman working fervently herself on a project that has become the center of her life and is making an impact — for good or bad, depending on whom you ask — in the Jewish community internationally.

Vicki Polin, 44, created and runs The Awareness Center, an organization devoted to the issue of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

Essentially a one-woman operation, the center exists only on-line, through its Web site, www.theawarenesscenter.org, and over the phone. Polin and her board members, who include prominent rabbis and professionals knowledgeable about issues of sexual trauma, consult with people who turn to the organization for help.

All sorts of Jews, from all over the world, contact The Awareness Center for advice, counseling and referrals, says Polin, who puts in 60 to 80 hours a week on the project. She says the Web site is visited by about 15,000 people each month — victims of abuse, called "survivors" in the sexual trauma community, their family members, rabbis, lawyers, law enforcement officials and others concerned about the issue.

It is a clearinghouse with layers of information that includes lists of clergy, therapists and medical doctors who are sensitive to the needs of sexual trauma survivors, definitions of different types of abuse, and articles published by The Awareness Center explaining aspects of surviving and reporting such experiences.

The site also includes links to relevant sites within other faith communities.

The controversial element in The Awareness Center's site is its listing of rabbis who are believed to be sexual abusers. The documents listed were all published elsewhere first.

In some cases the people named have been prosecuted and convicted by the courts. In others the posting is based on allegations alone.

And that, say some, is unfair.

"It's a dangerous precedent to have a Web site listing unsubstantiated accusations made against people," says one New York rabbi, who asked not to be named.

The site also lists rabbis accused or convicted of a broad range of sexual misdeeds, from viewing child pornography several times to rape. But in order to distinguish the degree of severity of the offense, a viewer has to wade through the pages of documentation that have been posted.

"It is like guilt by association," concedes Rabbi Mark Dratch, an Awareness Center board member and head of the Rabbinical Council of America's Task Force on Rabbinic Improprieties.

Rabbi Dratch and others say that the good accomplished by the organization outweighs the potential damage of some of its postings.

"People who are survivors of sexual trauma don't have many places to turn, and Vicki has succeeded, through the accessibility and anonymity of the Internet, for people to have resources, have places to call," Rabbi Dratch says.

"If we had more resources we'd be in a better position to separate different levels of offenses, different kinds of accusations," says Rabbi Yosef Blau, a dean at Yeshiva University and Awareness Center board member.

"But without a much larger organization, at this point this is about all that could be expected to do under the circumstances. Hopefully people will read the articles and not just see names on a page.

"It's a tricky business, at what point we go public," he says.

Polin agrees it's a dilemma.

"We're not doing it to hurt people. We're doing it to protect people," she says.

The site also names rabbis without identifying their denomination. That's because sexual abuse "is a Jewish problem, not an Orthodox problem, or a Reform problem or an unaffiliated problem," Polin says. "It's a Jewish problem."

With the help of a law clinic volunteer, Polin hopes to gain status soon as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

The project was born out of her experience working as a counselor with sexually abused clients in Illinois, where she lived at the time, through an organization called Voices, Victims of Incest Can Emerge Survivors.

"I'd get calls from people who were Jewish, and I found that I had to refer them to Christian resources," Polin recalls. "I realized I was handing over Jewish survivors to missionaries, and that really bothered me. I started telling everyone that the issue needed to be addressed in the Jewish community, but nobody did."

She said a number of Christian organizations were dealing with these issues, "and it always bothered me that there was nothing like it for Jewish survivors."

Now her efforts are being embraced by the Jewish establishment, with 140 rabbis of every denomination adding their names to the list of endorsers. And Polin says she has more to add but just hasn't had the time to get to it.

In the last few months Polin has been invited to address the conferences of Jewish Women International and of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

Her organization is struggling to stay afloat, though, with a few small donations to support the effort. Polin says that with more funding, she would like to put together a large conference — a "summit" — later this year of rabbis and other Jewish professionals, professionals working in the sexual trauma community, law enforcement officials, survivors of abuse and their family members.

Another goal is to set up a rabbinic certification program, "so if we need a referral we can say `this rabbi has that training,' " Polin says.

"We'll provide about 40 hours of training so they know the different kinds of offenders and victims, know the difference between sexual harassment, abuse and sexual assault, and domestic violence."

One person who praises Polin's work is a rabbi listed as a sexual offender by The Awareness Center.

"I give the Awareness Center a lot of credit," says Juda Mintz, an Orthodox rabbi who was released this month from a federal prison into a halfway house after serving 10 months on charges of viewing child pornography.

"We know that dealing with clergy there has been tremendous cover-up and denial. There have been concerted efforts by powers-that-be within the Jewish community to cover up or at best minimize what is more often than not serious offenses," he says.

"If this is a mechanism by which those offenses can be uncovered and the community can be sensitized, that is all to the good. And I say this as a perpetrator."


Beit TaShuvah - 2004

Rabbi Mintz wraps teflin for afternoon prayers. His career spanned 36 years before he was given a computer as a gift from his affluent New Jersey congregation. He subsequently became addicted to internet pornography, and was arrested and ultimately sentenced to a term in federal prison after the FBI found images of children on his computer.


What do we do about convicted sex offender Rabbi Juda Mintz? (AKA Yehuda Mintz)
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - December 20, 2006

Rabbi Juda Mintz was ordained at the Orthodox Torah V'Daas yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY. Back in 2002 Mintz pled guilty to federal charges of possession of child pornography which was found on his synagogue's computer. At the time Mintz was sentenced to one year and one day in a federal penitentiary.

Recently, one of our subscribers sent us a copy of an ad that was published a Jewish newspaper in California (see below). We were shocked to learn that Rabbi Mintz is now offering confidential counseling for internet addictions. Remember that the treatment of sex offenders is still in its infancy. There has not been a proven treatment that works over the long run. Rabbi Mintz in the past admitted that he has had his addiction since his youth. He has only been in recovery for a relatively short time.

Given the information provided above, do you feel that a convicted sex offender should be offering counseling services to others who have sex addictions? Do you think that a Jewish newspaper has the responsibility to screen such ad to protect the public? Remember Mintz confessed to possessing at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual acts.

In old newspaper articles Yehuda Mintz stated his sex addiction has been a problem that he has battled throughout his life. He says he was introduced to pornography at age 9 when his cousin, who stayed with his family to attend rabbinic school, shared girly magazines with him.

In the same newspaper article Juda Mintz stated his addiction never affected his work as a rabbi, but it troubled him in other ways. If this was true he would not have been arrested and sentenced to prison.

We as a community have to do what we can to protect innocent individuals from becoming the next victim of a sex crime. Allowing Juda Mintz to provide counseling to others with sex addictions is totally inappropriate. To allow him to advertise in Los Angeles Jewish Journal is horrifying.

I want to point out that Rabbi Mintz is not the only rabbi providing counseling to other offenders. We can't forget about the Kabbalah Coach - Rabbi Michael Ozair.


Counseling for Internet Addiction
Los Angeles Jewish Journal - November 17, 2006


NOTE: Rabbi Juda Mintz "abandoned his last name and going by his first and middle name in this article. Should a convicted sex offender be offering counseling services to other sex offenders? Especially since he states that he has only been in "recovery for a short period of time and states his sex addiction started in his youth. Can a sex offender be "recovered" or should we refer to his criminal behavior as being "in remission"?  -- Vicki Polin

To Forgive or to Shun
A child-porn-convicted rabbi tries to make amends as rabbi sex-abuse cases roil the Jewish community
By Justin Clark 
LA Weekly - March 28, 2007

Two Sundays ago, while having coffee with an Irvine woman he'd recently met on the Internet, Rabbi Juda Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) made the inevitable disclosure. He recounted the felony that, seven years ago, destroyed his marriage, estranged his children, forced his synagogue to fire him and sent him to federal prison.

"I'm a registered sex offender," he told his date, heart banging in his chest.

As an Orthodox Jew, Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) wasn't accustomed to going to confession. Seven years ago, he was a highly respected rabbi at Mount Freedom Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue in Randolph Township, New Jersey. But he was also a lifelong porn addict, and his addiction peaked after he was shown how to use the synagogue's computer. Two weeks before the High Holy Days, the synagogue's computer technician discovered two pictures of child pornography that Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) had viewed on an adult Web site. By enlarging the images, Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) had unwittingly downloaded them to his Web browser's temporary-file cache.
"It was 2000," Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) says, explaining why the synagogue's elders went directly to the FBI. "That was during the height of the lawsuits against the Catholic Church."

Heschel's (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) nine months at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution, one of which he spent in solitary confinement, were only the beginning of his downward spiral. Seven years after those fateful mouse clicks to illegally download child porn, Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) has abandoned his last name (Heschel is his middle name) and lives an impoverished life in a tiny Venice apartment, decorated with the pictures of his three children who live on the East Coast. In Los Angeles, his potential employers and landlords usually assume that "registered sex offender" means rapist or child molester. He has been denied jobs and turned down for apartments. One of the most difficult moments came when a Los Angeles synagogue initially told him he was no longer welcome — even as a congregant.

As Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony becomes embroiled in new claims that he knew about — and failed to stop — sexual abuse by a California priest, a number of high-profile sex scandals involving rabbis here and elsewhere have created a simmering fear among believers.

"We in the Jewish community are recognizing that we aren't immune from these problems," says Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of The Board of Rabbis of Southern California — one of the area's two main rabbinical bodies, along with the Rabbinical Council of California. "For too many years I've heard Jewish people say this is not our problem, it just affects other faiths and denominations. We're seeing otherwise."

Diamond was horrified, for instance, to see his close colleague Rabbi David Kaye ensnared last year on Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator." (Kaye was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for attempting to seduce an actor who, working with Dateline, posed as a 13-year-old boy.) Around the same time, the principal of one of Los Angeles' most popular Jewish schools, Rabbi Aron Tendler, stepped down amid allegations that he had sexually abused teenage girls. A few months later, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, a popular leader in the Jewish Renewal movement, lost his chair at Los Angeles' Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School after confessingto molesting several of his former female students.

Diamond says all of these episodes left him "very, very pained." He isn't alone. A growing concern about unreported sex abuse — and what to do with offenders when they're caught or come forward — has reshaped alliances within the local Jewish community and created bickering behind closed doors.

So discovered prominent Rabbinical Council member Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein last month, after he hosted a seminar dealing with the growing number of sex-abuse allegations surfacing on Jewish blogs. Adlerstein said he felt torn between the need to listen to victims and his colleagues' concern that the Internet has simply created a venue for l'shon hara, or anonymous slander.

But he found even bringing up the subject at all was tricky. Says Adlerstein, "I immediately got flak from colleagues asking me, `Why are you talking about the stuff when you know it's going to get distorted?'"

The discussion has led to some positive results. In 2002, when Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) began speaking about his struggle to overcome porn addiction and re-enter society after prison, he and Diamond helped organize a five-part seminar on the problem of sexual addiction among the clergy. It was the first time in years, says Diamond, that leaders of the historically estranged Board of Rabbis and Rabbinical Council found themselves sitting down at the same table.

Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) says the discussion was especially needed in the Orthodox community, where the topic is dealt with less openly because of the shame attached to it. To rectify that, Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) organized a 12-step group for addicted rabbis at the local rehabilitation center Beit T'Shuvah in Culver City, where he voluntarily resided before his sentencing and stint at Fort Dix.

Soon after, the Aleinu Family Resource Center — the primary family-advocacy group for Orthodox Jews — convinced 21 of 26 local Los Angeles yeshivas to agree to guidelines that encourage the reporting of sexual abuse by rabbis. (Council director Deborah Fox declined to identify the nonparticipating yeshivas to the L.A. Weekly, but calls their refusal to sign the guidelines an example of the lingering resistance to addressing the subject of sex abuse.)

Dealing with sex-abuse allegations can be even trickier than preventing the abuse in the first place. Like priests, rabbis suspected of sexual abuse have been shuffled from one temple to another. Unlike priests, however, rabbis cannot be defrocked, which poses a tricky question that Jews must face: how to deal with the fallen.

For its part, Diamond's organization will soon send a team of chaplains to serve Jewish patients at the 1,500-bed Coalinga State Hospital, a recently constructed facility for sexually violent predators. California's first new mental hospital in 50 years focuses not on curing its patients but preventing relapses — a more realistic goal, practitioners say. At the same time, Diamond admits, nonviolent turnaround cases like Heschel's (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) present an equally serious dilemma: After seven years of seeking treatment, telling his story and raising awareness about sex offenses, should Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) be allowed in the pulpit?

Beit T'Shuvah's founder, Mark Borowitz, doesn't hesitate. He says that the Torah commands believers to forgive those who make a genuine t'shuvah, or repentance, through admitting to their crimes and ensuring the crime will not happen again. In practice, that means rehabilitation programs such as 12-step, through which Borowitz himself, a former convict and author of a best-selling addiction memoir, The Holy Thief, says he found salvation.

But salvation, in a religious sense, is one thing. In a medical sense, it means something else. "We don't say that word in 12-step programs," says Borowitz, when asked if Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) is "cured." "We say `recovered.'"

Still, not everyone is comfortable with phrases like "recovered" as applied to child-porn felons like Heschel, and other sex offenders. Vicki Polin, a trained social worker who runs a Jewish version of a sex-offender registry, The Awareness Center, raised the alarm after discovering in December that Heschel had started an Internet-based addiction-counseling service.

"Allowing [Heschel] (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) to provide counseling to others with sex addictions is totally inappropriate," Polin posted on her Web site in December. "To allow him to advertise in Los Angeles Jewish Journal is horrifying."

Heschel i(AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) s obviously torn about whether to defend himself, reasoning that the community itself must decide if he should be forgiven, or simply resign himself to the unlikelihood that he will find universal acceptance.

"Had I robbed a bank or been guilty of second-degree murder, I would have served my sentence, been on probation, and then been free," says Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) in a rare moment of frustration. "My reality is that having viewed these images of child pornography, I am considered a sex offender for life."

That is why Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) offers his services discreetly over the phone, mostly to Orthodox Jews on the East Coast who have also suffered from Internet porn addiction. Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) says that if his callers weren't allowed to remain anonymous — he knows them only by their client number — most would never come forward at all. Borowitz credits Heschel with bringing nearly two dozen individuals into Beit T'Shuvah's Sex Addicts Anonymous program.

"As with alcohol or drug addiction," Borowitz says, "the best sexual-addiction counselors are those who are in recovery themselves."

Nevertheless, Heschel says he misses having the rabbi's pulpit, and regularly sends out his résumé — without success. "When I send my résumés, it's my curiosity," he says. "Is this group willing to accept someone who has made genuine t'shuvah?"

After much agonizing, the synagogue where he worships decided to do just that, and allowed him to become an elder. For Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) , it was a moment of bliss.

And what about his recent date over coffee?

"I was surprised at how empathetic she was," Heschel (AKA: Rabbi Juda Mintz) ) says, turning upbeat. "It turned out to be a five-hour date."


Recovery Through Torah
January 19, 2014


Living the 12th Step
Guard Your Eyes - Jan
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