The Awareness Center closed. We operated from April 30, 1999 - April 30, 2014. This site is being provided for educational & historical purposes.
We were the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA); and were dedicated to ending sexual violence in Jewish communities globally. We did our best to operate as the make a wish foundation for Jewish survivors of sex crimes. In the past we offered a clearinghouse of information, resources, support and advocacy.
Jewish Stars in Texas: Rabbis and Their Work By Hollace Ava Weiner, Rabbi Jimmy Kessler (Reprinted by Permission)
BOOK: Cowtown's Front Page Rabbi
G. George Fox - Fort Worth, TX
The red-headed rabbi's pulse shot up—again. Try
as he might to distance his flock from Hell's Half Acre, in the autumn of
1913 Rabbi G. George Fox overheard ranchers muttering remarks about "Jew
whores." What's more, the Sisterhood at his synagogue of seventy families
was scandalized at the gossip. The women—chief among them his wife Hortense,
a third-generation American—wanted those tramps gone.
The Jewish prostitutes were Eastern European women
who had ventured to Fort Worth's red-light district by way of Galveston,
a port of entry for 8,000 Jewish immigrants since 1907. Fox's colleague,
the saintly Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston, was being lauded from Texas to
New York for greeting each refugee at the dock. But as far as Fox was concerned,
the refuse were riding the rails from the Gulf Coast to North Texas, bringing
social disease and dishonor to Jews in Fort Worth. "As rabbi, I could not
and would not escape the responsibility that was mine in this shameful business,"
the rabbi declared in his memoirs.
With the police commissioner and the mayor, Fox arranged
a raid on brothels within "the Acre," a seedy neighborhood of saloons, dance
halls, cathouses, and gambling dens. Madams were advised to surrender their
Jewish girls on charges of disorderly conduct, or face a shutdown. At the
jail, Fox confronted twenty women. Through a Yiddish interpreter, the American
rabbi warned them to turn to legitimate pursuits—or else. In response,
some tugged at the rabbi's heartstrings with sagas of children in foster
homes and hard-luck tales of hunger, violence, and deception driving them
into the "sordid business."
One showed me a lavaliere bearing a picture of her
father, so she said: an old, bearded, Eastern co-religionist. . . . One asked
me whether my rich, fat Jews would take her into their homes and give her
a job. . . . A third challenged us, in Yiddish, to give her a job in some
store. Of course we were stymied. . . . Two of the lot married the men who
were their pimps and went into legitimate business. . . . The rest left town.
When Christian clergymen asked the rabbi why his outrage
extended only to Jewish prostitutes, he advised his brothers in the Tarrant
County General Pastors Association to round up the gentile prostitutes
themselves. But Fox had more legal ammunition at his disposal. The
run-of-the-mill harlots were American-born. If arrested, they could be bailed
out by pimps and madams, or fined and returned to the streets. The Jewish
suspects, many masking their immigrant origins with American aliases, were
subject to deportation as "alien prostitutes." And so they were. Eighteen
Galveston immigrants—including young women such as Byley Salesky, who
went by the street name "Betsy Brown"—were deported to Europe, months
before the outbreak of World War I .
"The job made me unhappy, though I could see no other
way," Fox wrote. Although an advocate of social work—he was chairman
of the Fort Worth Charity Commission and an organizer of a state welfare
conference—Fox found it more prudent to remove than to try to reform
the women. Truth be told, "Jew whore" remarks stirred anti-Semitism among
the general public and insecurity among Jews, who prided themselves on being
law-abiding Americans with a family-centered religion. Fox and his generation
of upwardly mobile Jews wanted to retain their Jewish identity. Yet they
were eager to see themselves as part of the American mainstream, not a remnant
of the Old World like their unwashed, uncouth cousins pouring in from shtetls,
the small towns of Eastern Europe.
Prostitution among Jews—documented in muckraking
magazines and a federal immigration investigation—had prompted Jewish
communities nationwide to police their own. B'nai B'rith, the Jewish fraternal
organization, had helped the Justice Department apprehend Jewish prostitutes
who crossed state lines. Chicago rabbis had worked with the district attorney
and vigilantes to round up Jewish madams in the Windy City. Prostitution
was such a blot on Jewish morality that little attention was given to its
causes, its social solutions, or the men involved in the business. When whispers
of Jewish prostitution surfaced in Fort Worth's New York Café, Rabbi
Fox had precedents to follow.
Fox was not as bold, or grandstanding, as his Baptist
colleague, the Rev. J. Frank Norris, preacher at Fort Worth's First Baptist
Church. The year before, Norris had read aloud from the pulpit the names
of leading citizens who owned brothels. This led not to arrests but retaliation,
as arsonists set fire to the minister's church and parsonage. In contrast,
Rabbi Fox's action in ridding the community of Jewish prostitutes was met
with sighs of relief. He had distanced Fort Worth's Jewish residents from
the taint of immorality. He had gingerly worked with the authorities, without
upsetting the status quo. He had correctly gauged how far to stretch his
moral authority in a town closer to the frontier than the Bible Belt.
Bravado—always applauded in a boisterous western town—masked his
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Severe Animal Cruelty in Ohio Emphasizes Importance Of Felony Animal Cruelty Law American Humane Calls for Citizen Action to Stop Animal Abuse; Urges Prosecution
PR Newswire - September 25, 2002
DENVER –– In response to the horrific abuse case of a young coon-hound mix, now being called Trooper, the American Humane Association today called on authorities in Ohio to take animal cruelty seriously and urged residents to report animal abuse. American Humane, the only national organization dedicated to both child and animal protection, made this call in light of growing research indicating that adults and children who are violent to animals have the capacity to also be violent to humans -- a correlation commonly referred to as the Link.
As reported in the Dayton Daily News, the puppy suffered third-degree burns deep into muscle tissue all over his body after someone viciously attacked the dog with what it believed to be a blow torch. The puppy, which has been named Trooper by Town and Country Veterinary Clinic and the Preble County Humane Society, is expected to recover after weeks of intensive care. A milestone was reached today when the young pup lay down to sleep for the first time.
"Trooper continues to amaze his caretakers by how affectionate and trusting he is despite the horrible betrayal he so recently experienced," said Jodi Buckman, American Humane's director of shelter services. "Knowing that this little dog still trusts people shows his remarkable loving spirit. Our hope is that this crime will spur Ohio into adopting a felony animal cruelty law."
In the event that the perpetrator is found guilty, American Humane recommends the sentence include psychological evaluation, followed by professional counseling and, if age appropriate, incarceration with rehabilitation. Authorities are also asked to immediately take any remaining animals into protective custody and prohibit the abuser from owning or harboring animals in the future.
Historically, animal and child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse have been treated as unrelated events. However, research continues to emerge indicating premeditated torture or killing of animals often occurs in conjunction with, or as a precursor to, other types of violent behavior, such as child abuse, domestic violence, gang activity, and even satanic ritual. The evidence is so overwhelming (see attached fact sheet) that 36 states and the District of Columbia currently have felony level convictions for serious acts of animal abuse. Ohio is not one of these states.
"We're not saying everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, but animal abuse is a warning that action is needed to stop the cycle of increasing violence," continued Buckman. "Animal abuse must be reported to local authorities. Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions and treatment delivered. Not only do we owe it to the animals, we owe it to our community."
American Humane urges residents of Preble County to politely urge district attorney Rebecca Ferguson (937 456-8156) to actively prosecute the person responsible for this crime.
Founded in 1877, American Humane is the nation's only national organization dedicated to both child and animal protection. From its headquarters outside Denver, Colorado, and from regional offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, American Humane provides national leadership in the development of programs, policies, and services on behalf of children and animals who are abused and neglected. For more information on what to do if you suspect animal abuse, please visit www.americanhumane.org .
Recovered Memory: Unproven Strategy To Find Evidence Of Past Sexual Abuse
By Lisa Goodlin
The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) - September 24, 2002
While I am sure it was well-intentioned, I question the choice of Ellen Bassto conduct workshops Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 at Syracuse University and elsewhere for professionals who work with survivors of sexual trauma, and togive the featured address at an evening of healing for survivors.
Bass's book, "The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of ChildSexual Abuse," promotes the recovery of repressed memories of childhoodsexual abuse. This book encourages women to conclude that they were sexuallyabused as children, although they lack memories of abuse or corroboratingevidence.
In the words of Bass and co-author Laura Davis, "Many women who were abuseddon't have memories, and some never get any. This doesn't mean that theyweren't abused;" and "If you think you were abused and your life shows thesymptoms, then you were."
Serious questions have been raised regarding the "memories" recovered intherapy. The American Psychological Association's Working Group on theInvestigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse issued a report in 1995 thatnotes recovered memory is rare. It states that "there is a consensus amongmemory researchers and clinicians that most people whowere sexually abusedas children remember all or part of what happened to them, although they maynot fully understand or disclose it.
"At this point," according to the APA, "it is impossible, without othercorroborativeevidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one."Thus, says the APA report, a "competent psychotherapist is likely toacknowledge that current knowledge does not allow the definite conclusionthat a memory is real or false without other corroborating evidence."
In Britain, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has officially banned itsmembers from usingtherapies designed to recover repressed memories of childabuse.
Bass also presents information on "body memories" and "satanic ritualabuse," theexistence for which there is no evidence. By evidence I meandata that has been obtained using scientific methods.
Bass's book is filled with heart-rending and gut-wrenching stories, but itis important to remember that anecdote is not evidence. In response tofirst-person accounts like those found in "The Courage to Heal," FBI SpecialAgent Ken Lanning investigated more than 300 cases of alleged satanic cultactivity and found no evidence of the existence of such cults. He wrote,"Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the public should not befrightened into believing that babies are being bred and eaten, that 50,000missing children are being murdered in human sacrifices, or that Satanistsare taking over America's day-care centers or institutions. While no one canprove with absolute certainty that such activity has not occurred, theburden of proof is on those who claim that it has occurred."
Should this not make us question other "findings" of this type of therapy?In the "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse," Lanninggoes on to say that "it is up to the mental health professionals, not lawenforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don't seem tohave happened."
In the mid-1990s, after books like "The Courage to Heal" began to appear andtherapists started "training" in these methods, there was a rash, some wouldsay an epidemic, of abuse allegations by women who had recovered memories intherapy. Many of these women later retracted their stories - but not beforemany lives were destroyed.
It is because of these destroyed lives that it is imperative to providealternative information about recovered memory therapy so that Bass's ideasmay be tempered by the findings of scientifically conducted studies.
To learn more about recovered-memory therapy, I recommend these books: "TheMyth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse,"by Elizabeth Loftus, a well-regarded researcher of memory and professor ofpsychology; "Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and SexualHysteria," by Richard Ofshe, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and aPulitzer Prize winner; and Carl Sagan's chapter on therapy in "TheDemon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark."
On the Web you can find critical information at these sites: The FalseMemory Syndrome Foundation (www.fmsfonline.org/) and The Skeptics'Dictionary entries on repressed memory therapy (skepdic.com/repress.html)and repressed memories, (skepdic.com/ repressedmemory.html).
------------------------------------ Lisa Goodlin, of Syracuse, is president of Central New York Skeptics, anonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of science and reason, theinvestigation of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, and the improvementof standards for science education and critical-thinking skills.
Just weeks before the Maryland primary, the telephones at Ner Israel Rabbinical College were ringing with political hopefuls and veterans on the line.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wanted a private meeting, as did rival U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Comptroller William Donald Schaefer scheduled a luncheon. State Sen. Barbara Hoffman called to talk.
They didn't come to kiss babies or plaster their names on the walls of the 69-year-old Pikesville yeshiva before elections last Tuesday, Sept. 10. Like many times before, they each sought guidance and support from Ner Israel's president, Rabbi Herman Naftali Neuberger.
"He is truly one of the great thinkers in our community," says U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin. "He is a person we seek out for advice. He is in a class by himself, the person you go to when you talk about political issues."
Renowned for his insight, integrity and instinct, Rabbi Neuberger is the one person in Baltimore who commands the respect and devotion of community leaders as diverse in their views as they are in their titles. High-ranking Maryland politicians, communal officials, local Jewish clergy of every stripe, the archbishop of Baltimore — all call to bend his ear.
"He is so politically astute that he is five steps ahead of everyone," says Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. "He has a radar-like focus."
Rabbi Neuberger is no mere political observer. He is one of Baltimore's most influential and accomplished Jewish leaders, a complex man whose achievements speak not only of his success but how he has managed to defy categorization for more than half-a-century as Ner Israel's top administrator.
Just consider this: Although he is leader of a right-wing yeshiva, Rabbi Neuberger deals with non-Orthodox clergy. Open and tolerant, he is uncompromising in his religious principles. Powerful, he nonetheless shuns the limelight and publicity. Untrained as an administrator, Rabbi Neuberger has built Ner Israel's facility into a 90-acre campus, the largest yeshiva campus in the world. Uneducated in diplomacy, he spearheaded the escape of hundreds of Iranian Jews into Baltimore, where they have created a thriving Orthodox community. Driven and demanding, Rabbi Neuberger finds time to meet with any Jew in need of heads-on advice or in crisis, offering solutions when none seem possible, tapping into every connection to make things right. Intimidating at times, he has an Old World courtliness and warmth.
And, uncomfortable with praise, the devout rabbi prefers to credit the hand of G-d for his accomplishments even while lamenting what he has not achieved.
"G-d gave me the disata dishmaya [help of heaven] to accomplish whatever I did," says the Bavarian-born rabbi, who lives alone in a modest Ner Israel apartment. "I feel that I did what I could do. The only regrets I have are the limitations I face. There are not enough hours in the day."
Despite his age and workload, Rabbi Neuberger has only recently slowed down. At 84, he still travels to fund-raise, mediate a dispute or officiate at a wedding, returning the next day to run the yeshiva. Although he skied as a teen, there is little time to relax.
"Relax? How do you spell it?" he says, laughing. "I never fished or collected stamps. I don't even know if I would like it because I never had the opportunity. Retiring in Florida is the last thing on my mind. I have so much work."
The seat of power for Orthodox Baltimore is a corner office in Ner Israel's drab administration building. School has resumed for the year and as students rush to lectures, Rabbi Neuberger leans forward in his black chair, taking calls in between meetings.
A small man with a gray beard and piercing blue eyes, Rabbi Neuberger is interrupted by the eldest of his five sons, Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, 58. Rav Sheftel, as he is called on campus, is vice president and his father's right hand. He brings in a letter he wrote urging students to vote.
"My father is Baltimore's elder statesman," he says, referring to the unofficial honor dubbed on Rabbi Neuberger last year by Baltimore Magazine in its list of the city's 10 most influential religious leaders.
By all accounts, the honor is well-deserved. In addition to meeting with politicians and communal leaders, Rabbi Neuberger devotes himself to the everyday problems plaguing his community. "I try to help people whenever and wherever I can," he says. "I try never to refuse anyone."
The rabbi is often called upon when someone loses his job, is in need of a medical specialist, refuses to grant a Jewish divorce, is arrested. He mediates disputes in day schools and intervenes when Orthodox rabbis are at odds with their board.
"His personal agenda is to do good in the world," says attorney Lawrence Katz, dean emeritus of the University of Baltimore School of Law and a Ner Israel alumnus and board member. "He is a tremendous idealist who can see practical solutions to communal and individual problems. He is sought out for advice from around the world, from early in the morning to late at night. One wonders how he finds time to run Ner Israel."
But with an operating budget this year of $8.5 million, Ner Israel boasts a record enrollment of 855 students in its high school; bais medrash, an undergraduate program; and kollel, a program for married students that pays a stipend. "We are overcrowded everywhere," Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger says.
Ner Israel is building 12 apartment units to supplement its residential housing of 90 apartments and townhouses for faculty, administrators and about 60 kollel families on a stretch of road called Yeshiva Lane.
The elder Rabbi Neuberger also has worked to maintain Ner Israel's international prominence since the deaths of its three renowned roshei yeshiva, or deans. Ner Israel's founder, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, died in 1987; his son-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov S. Weinberg, died in 1999; and Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky died in 2000.
Last year, Rabbi Neuberger named alumnus Rabbi Aharon Feldman, a Jerusalem educator ordained by Rabbi Ruderman, as rosh yeshiva. "I've known Rabbi Neuberger for over 50 years," Rabbi Feldman says. "He doesn't look for power or prestige. He's a selfless person interested in the welfare of the Jewish people."
Rabbi Neuberger's work has earned him international recognition as well. In fact, says Darrell D. Friedman, president of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Rabbi Neuberger's name comes up on his travels to Jewish communities across the globe. "Wherever I go — Romania, Moscow — I mention his name and they know him," Mr. Friedman says. "His scope, influence and leadership extend worldwide."
New Land, New Language
Rabbi Neuberger's ability to walk in so many worlds is particularly remarkable considering he immigrated alone to the United States at 20, speaking only German and Yiddish.
Born June 16, 1918, in Hassfurt, a small Bavarian town along the Main River, Rabbi Neuberger is the youngest of Meir and Bertha Neuberger's three children. His father, a businessman, moved the family to the larger city of Wurzburg to hire a rebbe to teach his children when Rabbi Neuberger was 8. But just four weeks after Rabbi Neuberger's bar mitzvah, his father died.
In 1935, Rabbi Neuberger left home to study at the prominent Mirrer yeshiva in Poland. "I told them I want to learn in Mirrer," he recalls. "It was very essential. It gave me a background."
Rabbi Neuberger's elder brother, Albert, left for London in 1934 to study medicine and later became a prominent chemical pathologist. His sister, Gretel, immigrated in 1933 to Palestine, settling on a moshav in the Galil where she directed a children's school.
Just before Kristallnacht in 1938, when mobs destroyed synagogues and Jewish shops in Germany, Rabbi Neuberger's relatives in New York sent him papers to immigrate to the United States, while his mother settled in London.
During a visit to cousins in Baltimore that year, Rabbi Neuberger visited Ner Israel, located then at Tifereth Israel Congregation on Garrison Boulevard. He decided to enroll. "I liked the spirit of the yeshiva," he says. "I was fascinated by Rabbi Ruderman."
Rabbi Ruderman was brought to the United States from Slobodka yeshiva in Lithuania by his father-in-law, Rabbi Sheftel Kramer. Rabbi Kramer was spiritual guide of a New Haven yeshiva relocating to Cleveland and wanted Rabbi Ruderman to serve as a rosh yeshiva there.
But while fund-raising in Baltimore, Rabbi Ruderman was asked to serve as Tifereth Israel's spiritual leader. He agreed only if he could establish a yeshiva in the shul. Despite initial hostility from residents opposed to a yeshiva, Ner Israel opened in 1933 with five students.
In 1940, Rabbi Neuberger began working in the yeshiva office. "When he came he was a real greener — rosy cheeks, big ears, thin. But my father saw ability in him and was his mentor," says Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg, daughter of Rabbi Ruderman and widow of Rabbi Weinberg.
Although World War II started and supplies were scarce, Rabbi Ruderman was determined that his yeshiva operate out of its own building. New facilities were completed in 1943 along Garrison Boulevard.
In 1942, Rabbi Neuberger married Judith Kramer, the youngest of Mrs. Ruderman's four sisters. But six weeks before their wedding, Miss Kramer's father died following an emergency appendectomy. Her mother soon moved in with the newlyweds — as did a sister until she wed — and lived with them for 24 years. In 1968, Rabbi and Mrs. Neuberger brought his ailing mother from London to their apartment until her death in 1974.
Rabbi and Mrs. Neuberger, who died in 1994, have 36 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Besides Sheftel, their other sons are: Isaac, a Pikesville attorney; Rabbi Shraga Neuberger, a Ner Israel rebbe; Yaakov, a Greenspring attorney and trustee of Eastern Savings Bank; and Rabbi Ezra Neuberger, a Ner Israel rebbe and dean of its kollel.
The elder Rabbi Neuberger, who was ordained by Rabbi Ruderman, took on more administrative duties, becoming executive director and later vice president. By the mid-1950s, he was responsible for fund-raising and the yeshiva's physical operation. As the Orthodox moved up Park Heights, Rabbi Neuberger undertook relocating Ner Israel to Pikesville, where there would be more space and solitude. In 1964, the yeshiva purchased a 50-acre site on Mount Wilson Lane for $250,000.
Rabbi Neuberger borrowed $5,000 for the down payment, while his connections with influential bankers helped him raise the $850,000 mortgage to build. Development and building, which ultimately exceeded $10 million, was completed in 1968 with the assistance of associate director Jerome Kadden. Three more tracts were purchased and construction continued throughout the 1970s.
After Rabbi Ruderman's death in 1987, Rabbi Neuberger assumed the title of president.
Throughout his fund-raising, Rabbi Neuberger created emotional connections between donors and Ner Israel. "He had a grasp of a person's personality and philosophy that he uses to find some aspect of the yeshiva they could connect to," says Rabbi Abraham Pelberg, Ner Israel's national development officer. "Some liked that students go to college or there's a connection to life in Lithuania. So he started to accumulate large contributions from all over the country."
Rabbi Neuberger also projected Ner Israel as an extension of European yeshivot that — through the teachings of the roshei yeshiva — taught students how to relate to people and apply Torah principles to every aspect of life. "That's what distinguished Ner Israel," Rabbi Pelberg says. "It's not an ivory tower yeshiva."
Aiding Worldwide Community
During and after World War II, Rabbi Neuberger obtained visas to help Jewish refugees flee Europe. Three decades later, in another part of the world, he labored again to snatch Jews out of harm's way when Islamic fundamentalists deposed the Shah of Iran and Jewish life was threatened.
"Rabbi Neuberger rescued Iranian Jewry," says Rabbi Eliyahu Hakakian, director of Iranian students at Ner Israel, who escaped Iran in 1985.
Rabbi Neuberger became involved in 1975 when the shah sought to modernize his country and ban religious schools. At the time, nearly 100,000 Jews lived in Iran. Now there are less than 25,000.
The late Rabbi Zoldan Sassoon, an English businessman who directed the international Sephardic religious school system Otzar HaTorah, asked Rabbi Neuberger to accompany him to Iran to negotiate on behalf of his Jewish schools there.
Once in Tehran, Rabbi Neuberger saw that students attended religious school part-time and there was no secondary Jewish education. Back in Baltimore, he launched a pilot program with Rabbi Ruderman to bring young Iranian students to study at Ner Israel who would return to Iran to teach.
Rabbi Reuven Khaver, a Park Heights businessman, was one of six high school students from Shiraz who came here on a student visa in 1978. Five months later, the shah was overthrown and they remained at Ner Israel.
When young Iranian Jews could no longer obtain passports or student visas, they escaped to Istanbul to get refugee status from the United Nations so they could enter the United States.
Then in 1983, Rabbi Neuberger — with his close friend, the late Rabbi Moshe Sherer, a Ner Israel alumnus and president of Agudath Israel of America — successfully initiated political pressure on the U.S. State Department to recognize Iranian Jews as political refugees and allow them entry.
In 1984, Turkey, which shares a border with Iran, became an escape route for Iranian Jews, who risked being shot, jailed or returned to Iran as they fled through the Turkish mountains.
Despite the Turkish government's deal with Iran to close its borders, Rabbis Neuberger and Khaver — along with former New York congressman Stephen J. Solarz, then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Affairs, and attorney David Zwiebel, executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel — met with the Turkish ambassador to obtain assurances that Turkish authorities would look the other way.
The ambassador also agreed to allow Iranian Jews to stay in Turkey as refugees until they obtained tourist visas to Vienna before immigrating to the United States. The clandestine operation continued until 1994, when Iran issued passports.
When there was no more room at Ner Israel, Rabbi Neuberger convinced yeshivot in New York and Los Angeles to accept immigrants. He also helped bring out teen-age girls, arranging for Baltimore families to take them in.
"Kids were easier to get out than parents," Rabbi Neuberger says. "There was no future for them in Iran. After Germany, we knew anything could happen. I was fortunate that the One Above gave me the opportunity to help."
Over the past 23 years, more than 800 Iranian immigrants attended Ner Israel — on full scholarship. This year, 75 Iranian students are enrolled.
When the Iranians first arrived at Ner Israel, Rabbi Ruderman was adamant they maintain their religious identity and customs, encouraging them to conduct their own Shabbat and holiday minyanim.
"From day one, the yeshiva's policy was to bring out the best in us," says Rabbi Khaver, who was ordained by Rabbi Ruderman. "They said, 'Let us give them the tools and education to be leaders tomorrow.' Preserving Iranian Jewry was their goal. Today, when a boy in Iran has a dream of coming to Baltimore, it is of a yeshiva life here."
Students who maintained their traditions have become more effective leaders than those who attended other yeshivot and were Americanized, says Rabbi Hakakian. "Anywhere there is a flourishing Iranian Jewish community in the U.S., the majority's leaders are from Ner Israel."
Closer to home, much of Rabbi Neuberger's time is spent mediating disputes and quelling controversies within the Orthodox community. "Every craziness that happens in this town crosses his desk," Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger says.
He is often called when rabbis and their congregations have a falling out. "One party calls him and the other is willing to go because he could see the core of an issue very quickly and because of his reputation as being honest and straightforward," says Rabbi Ervin Preis, spiritual leader of Pikesville's Suburban Orthodox Congregation and president of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore.
Rabbi Neuberger also resolved brewing animosity between two families that was exacerbated when the husband did not want to grant his wife a get, or Jewish divorce. "Rabbi Neuberger didn't want to speak to any of the parties until he was sure a get was given," recalls Rabbi Simcha Shafran of Adath Yeshurun Synagogue in Randallstown. "His involvement [prevented] problems that would have occurred had he not prevailed."
Whatever the issue, Rabbi Neuberger's approach is to first get it out of the public eye. When problems go public, he maintains, opposing sides dig in their heels and refuse to compromise. He then tries to pinpoint the essence of the disagreement.
"I try to be positive, not negative," Rabbi Neuberger says. "It lessens the sharpness of differences. I'm not out to get every issue resolved, but resolved as best I can. There are misunderstandings, misstatements and stubbornness, all kinds of motivation. You try to address them one by one. I have a will and obligation to help people do that."
He is effective, he insists, simply because he is a good listener. "There's a whole art to listening," he says. "I try to listen for where there's an opening to solve a problem. You can understand them only if you let them talk freely."
Early on, both Rabbis Ruderman and Neuberger resolved to maintain a cohesive Jewish community by avoiding the infighting that pervades other cities. "I did more in terms of things that didn't happen than in things that did happen," Rabbi Neuberger says. "I tried to keep cordial relations with the total community — non-Orthodox and non-Jewish."
Rabbi Neuberger took the unorthodox route of establishing relations with politicians, non-Orthodox clergy and the Associated.
"I want to be part of the community and they are community representatives," he says. "They create situations which we all have to live with. I would like to give my input with what's helpful and what's not."
For decades, Rabbi Neuberger has invited senators, representatives, governors, communal leaders and rabbis of every denomination to Ner Israel for a chat over a breakfast of eggs and gruel or lunch. "You're nobody if you hadn't had breakfast with him in the Ner Israel executive dining hall," says Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh Synagogue in Pikesville. "We haven't always agreed, but whenever he sees me he has a big hug for me."
Although Rabbi Neuberger refuses to publicly endorse any candidate, most anyone seeking office in Baltimore will meet with him.
When Ellen Sauerbrey ran against Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Rabbi Neuberger hosted a meeting with her and the local Rabbinical Council. "We asked him whether this was meant to be an endorsement," says Rabbi Elan Adler of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation in Greengate. "Nine to 10 rabbis asked that in different ways. He didn't respond. But he wasn't interested in endorsing her. He wanted to give the rabbis the opportunity to meet her. His strength was in being silent."
If asked, Rabbi Neuberger will name who he is voting for. But he will not publicly endorse candidates to avoid alienating the opposition. "I'd like to talk to people after the elections — even if they are not elected," he says. "It's not my role to be a political adviser. I have no personal interest. But in order to help people I have to talk to them. But if an anti-Semite would run, I would come out against him."
When Ms. Townsend first ran as lieutenant governor in 1994, she was taken to Ner Israel by Mr. Abramson. "I took Kathleen to see him because she asked me," he says. "Everyone knows he's the man to go to for support. It's essentially like getting a rabbinical blessing. You want to go to him as a candidate so he can get to know who you are."
The gubernatorial candidate has since visited Ner Israel several times, touring the study hall and dining with Rabbi Neuberger. "He wanted to determine my seriousness of purpose and my understanding of issues important to the Jewish people," Ms. Townsend says.
Mr. Schaefer met with Rabbi Neuberger as mayor, from 1971-1986, and governor, from 1987-1995. "He acts like a leader, he talks like a leader and he is a leader," Mr. Schaefer says. "I always look to him for advice about matters concerning the Jewish community. I never would have won without their support and the rabbi was a great help to me."
When the yeshiva facility needed new windows, Mr. Schaefer found a way to provide them. "But if I couldn't, I would have put the windows in myself," he says.
Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski first met Rabbi Neuberger in 1982 when she was a congresswoman representing the Jewish community. "We hit it off immediately," she says. "He has been a friend and an adviser and an advocate. He is a holy and devoted man, very wise and very direct. In a day where everyone is worried about political images, Rabbi Neuberger says what needs to be said."
Ms. Mikulski even attends the annual Ner Israel banquet, often turning down other invitations. "I try to go to the banquet every year," she says. "One year, when Al Gore was vice president, he asked me to his residence for dinner. I said, 'Presidents come and go. I've got to go with Rabbi Neuberger.'"
Ms. Mikulski, who is Catholic, still gets teary recalling that after her mother died six years ago, both Rabbi Neuberger and Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger attended the viewing. "I was greeting neighbors when they came in," she says. "I get emotional talking about it. For them to be in this funeral home in East Baltimore in the Polish neighborhood ... it was really very moving."
Rabbi Neuberger's political intuition recently became apparent to Ner Israel alumnus Eli Schlossberg, past president of Shomrei Emunah Synagogue in Greenspring. In 1986, the rabbi invited him to a fund-raiser at the University of Maryland to meet a young, aspiring politician.
"That was Joe Lieberman," Mr. Schlossberg says. "He was running for the Senate. Rabbi Neuberger said, 'Eli, this man is going places.' I went. I met him. I thought he was a nice guy, but that was it. But when he got the vice presidential nomination, I said, 'I should have known all along.'"
Both Sides Of The Aisle
Because of his community service, Rabbi Neuberger is the only living lifetime member of the BJC (two others have died). He also serves on the Associated's board of directors.
"The partnership the federation has with the Orthodox community is a model," Mr. Friedman says. "Rabbi Neuberger doesn't want his community to be in isolation. While he is not reticent about coming to me about issues, he likes to do things privately. There are things he does to help people that people don't know about."
While serving on both boards, Rabbi Neuberger formed relationships with several local Reform and Conservative clergy. "You have to love a Jew regardless if he goes to a temple or a shtiebel [small synagogue]," he says.
He confines his dealings to communal matters and does not discuss theology. But the non-Orthodox rabbis recognize the political risks Rabbi Neuberger has taken because of their association.
"For him to have the relationship he has with non-Orthodox rabbis is unusual," says Rabbi Joel Zaiman of Chizuk Amuno Synagogue in Stevenson. "But he gets away with it on both sides of the aisle. It's not a question of talking. The issue is how one talks."
At BJC meetings, Rabbi Neuberger has argued over gay rights, abortion rights, school vouchers, the Palestinians, keeping the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills closed on Shabbat, and building a mikvah, or ritual bath, at the Conservative Beth El Synagogue in Pikesville.
"We've had a few tussles at the BJC — some spirited debates — but it doesn't mean we can't get along," says Rabbi Mark G. Loeb of Beth El. "We each made our points and were content to do it with great respect. We both believe in Judaism and the Jewish people, but express it differently."
Rabbi Donald Berlin, rabbi emeritus of Temple Oheb Shalom in Upper Park Heights, first recognized Rabbi Neuberger's stature at an American Israel Association event after moving here in 1976. "When Rabbi Neuberger entered the room I thought the governor had arrived because people were so happy to welcome him and attract his attention," he says.
They developed a strong bond while serving together on the BJC. "He is one of the highlights of my career in Baltimore," Rabbi Berlin says. "He has not only won my respect for him, but for how important it is to keep the Jewish community together."
Even as Rabbi Berlin would debate Rabbi Neuberger "to the very end," he explained Rabbi Neuberger's position to fellow board members.
Once a vote was taken, the board discussed whether the matter would divide the Jewish community. "If it would be strongly divisive, we would sometimes alter that so that the Orthodox community could live with it," Rabbi Berlin says. "He tried to find ways not to get into a divisive posture on issues important to the Orthodox community. He couldn't change his position because he was arguing Halachah [Jewish law] and we understood that. But he never shut down. He understood that if he walked out he would disrupt the community irrevocably."
Rabbi Neuberger also has collaborated on issues of mutual interest with Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, since meeting at a BJC event after the cardinal's arrival here in 1989. "I see he's got a gift of wisdom, insight into both issues and people," Cardinal Keeler says.
Rabbi Neuberger has been at Cardinal Keeler's office and the cardinal has visited Ner Israel, including for a luncheon last year. "I had the opportunity to eat kosher — real kosher — several times," Cardinal Keeler says.
The luncheon honored Richard Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, for successfully lobbying for a state program that made private schools eligible for secular textbooks.
The rabbi and cardinal also have worked on "moral" issues involving "protection of family and married life," says Cardinal Keeler. Rabbi Neuberger also accompanied him to the Baltimore board of education to protest the proposed distribution of condoms in a city high school.
Keeping The Shabbat Peace
One controversy that threatened to divide the Jewish community was a proposal by the JCC board in 1997 to open its Owings Mills facility on Shabbat. "The status of the community would be affected by a communal agency openly [in desecration of Shabbat]," Rabbi Neuberger says. "I was helpful in keeping it at the status quo."
In fact, Rabbi Neuberger orchestrated a massive telephone and letter-writing campaign by the Orthodox that culminated in a "Pro-Shabbos Rally" drawing nearly 4,000 people. Two days later, the Associated board voted to reject the proposal.
But Rabbi Neuberger denies that he has undue influence. "There are a lot of things I do which are not successful," he says. "But I have no hesitation to call anybody if I am unhappy with certain things and believe these people should get involved."
Rabbi Neuberger also works with local rabbis on congregational and communal matters. His knowledge of Maryland law helped Rabbi Chaim Landau of Greenspring's Ner Tamid Synagogue prevent the autopsy of a deceased congregant, while connections with county officials led to the construction of the Baltimore County eruv, or ritual enclosure that allows observant Jews to carry items outside their homes on Shabbat.
He will lend a hand even when it's unsolicited. Last year, after reading about a planned cremation — a violation of Jewish law — he rushed to Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home in Pikesville to convince the family not to, says alumnus Howard Tzvi Friedman, former BJC president. "How many 83-year-olds run to Levinson's to help people they don't know?"
He also helps those down on their luck. While Mr. Katz was visiting Rabbi Neuberger at his home two years ago, the rabbi received a frantic telephone call from a woman stranded at an airport. "He knew who she was — she was not a well woman," Mr. Katz recalls. "The first thing he did was pull out his personal credit card and get her a hotel room that night. That's him."
Local rabbis also confer with Rabbi Neuberger about their careers. Rabbi Adler met with Rabbi Neuberger before joining Moses Montefiore synagogue, while Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb discussed giving up his psychology practice for the pulpit at Shomrei Emunah.
When he was offered the post of executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Congregations in New York last year, he met again with Rabbi Neuberger, who urged him to stay in Baltimore. "I talked to him at length," Rabbi Weinreb says. "He recognized the role I played here. But he supported my decision and I still consult with him."
And there are times when Rabbi Neuberger is simply gracious. When Rabbi Weinreb chaired the 1998 convention of the centrist Rabbinical Council of America in Washington, D.C., Rabbi Neuberger invited the group for a Ner Israel tour and luncheon. Both Rabbis Neuberger and Weinberg spoke. "It was a very welcoming gesture," Rabbi Weinreb says.
Ner Israel alumni who move to other cities to establish new synagogues or kollel programs also call for guidance. Rabbi Jeff Wohlgelernter was in touch after founding a shul in La Jolla, Calif., out of a hotel in 1987. "Rabbi Neuberger was involved in everything," he says. "He pushed us to get into an office; he said a shul can't grow inside a hotel. Once we were in an office, he encouraged us to purchase property and then to build. Whenever I go to Baltimore, I see him. Whenever there is an issue, I call him."
The burden of raising their growing family fell squarely on Rabbi Neuberger's wife. But Mrs. Neuberger encouraged his work and made her children feel proud and part of it, say several of their sons who requested anonymity.
"As a child I felt special that Rabbi Neuberger is my grandfather," says Devora Krakauer, Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger's oldest daughter. "As I got older, I realized that specialness comes with responsibility. His life is to take care of the k'lal [community] and it's been passed down to my father and his brothers. And my grandmother was right beside him."
Rabbi Neuberger didn't drive carpools, attend PTA meetings or play catch with his boys, but he took his family on summer trips and was home for dinner if he wasn't called out of town. When traveling, he made a point of being home with his wife for Shabbat even if that meant sitting on a train all night. "I wanted to keep the family together at least once a week," he says.
He continues to dote on his family, says niece Dr. Aviva Weisbord, daughter of Rebbetzin Weinberg. "He has a gruff manner, but with his kids he is mush," she says. "If one of them has a cold, he will call 30 times to see how they are. He's not effusive, but he's fatherly, tender and caring."
Rabbi Neuberger also maintained strong ties with his siblings, who are now deceased. He frequently visited his brother in London although Dr. Albert Neuberger (honored in 1964 as Commander of the British Empire — one step before knighthood) — his wife, Lilian, and their four sons — including Sir David Neuberger, a high court judge — and daughter-in-law, Reform Rabbi Julia Neuberger, weren't Orthodox.
"Herman has a strong sense of right and wrong and is immensely tolerant," says Lilian Neuberger from her London home. "He is loyal and supportive, and has time for everyone."
At his office, however, Rabbi Neuberger is a demanding boss. "He is not easy," says Rebbetzin Weinberg. "But he has a lot on him."
Even so, when a staffer has a problem "everyone knows he will pull every string and won't rest — even if he barked at them earlier that day," says Dr. Weisbord, a Pikesville psychologist. "There is no contradiction. He encompasses all of it."
But with all his responsibilities and hopes for Jewish Baltimore, does Rabbi Neuberger ever feel overwhelmed?
As a 5-year-old in shorts peeks in looking to climb into his grandfather's lap, Rabbi Neuberger offers a sigh. "I'm always overwhelmed, but I feel I have to take the challenge," he says. "I do what I can do. When the telephone stops ringing, I go to sleep at night."
He pauses for a moment, then laughs. "But people on the West Coast forget the time on the East Coast.
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