Thursday, May 01, 2003

Condemning Abuse - Weinberg family takes action to protect victims of abuse

Phil Jacobs, Editor
Baltimore Jewish Times - May 1, 2003

On a mantel in Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg's home on the Ner Israel Rabbinical College campus sits an inscribed award. Called the Ima Shel Malchus (Mother of Royalty) Award, it was presented to Mrs. Weinberg in March by the National Council of Young Israel.

One particular line on the plaque stands out: "Klal Yisroel owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Rebbetzin Weinberg for raising the painful issue of domestic violence in the Orthodox community, both locally in her home city of Baltimore and nationwide. This widespread problem was kept hidden for too long by our own denial, but Rebbetzin Weinberg confronted the issue in a quiet, dignified and practical way, and rabbis, organizational leadership and lay people are now responding and taking action."

On a cool spring day when the founder and trailblazer of the Jewish domestic abuse organization CHANA and her therapist daughter, Dr. Aviva Weisbord, would have rather been talking about the upcoming Passover holidays, the discussions turned painfully too close to home.

"We strongly condemn any and all abuse by anybody against anybody at any time in any place in any form," said Mrs. Weinberg.

Her statement came amid the backdrop of improprieties allegedly committed by her son, Rabbi Matis Weinberg.  Her family is participating in the process of putting together a panel of rabbis and heads of yeshivot both in the United States and Israel to act as a clearinghouse for victims of abuse.

The Weinbergs, along with the rabbis, plan to produce a central phone number that can be used by those who feel victimized so that cases can be heard and investigated. "The idea is to protect people and to make them feel they can come forward," said Dr. Weisbord.

The Awareness Center wants to point out that there are inherent problems with the approach of dealing with allegations of sexual abuse suggested by the Weinbergs. We are firm believer that in any community (including the observant world), when an individual suspects child abuse and/or neglect, they should be mandated to call child abuse hot-lines in their community immediately. This will insure that evidence does not become contaminated.  

Calling law enforcement officals is the only way to be sure that there are no cover-ups or biases. This is one way to insure that individuals do not investigate allegations against friends, colleagues, and/or family members). Child Protection workers are highly skilled, highly trained professionals who know how to collect forensic evidence to determine if a case is valid and/or if there is enough evidence to press criminal charges. Child Protection workers know how to do forensic victim-sensitive interviews with victims of all ages (without accidentally asking leading questions).

It makes sense that variousJewish community may want to develop some sort of liason relationship with the child protection agency in their area. This is one way to insure that the workers have an understanding of our cultural differences For the sake of our children, we need to use the systems that are in place.

Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC
Executive Director - The Awareness Center

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