Friday, May 13, 2005

Rabbi Blau's Interview About Vicki Polin and The Awareness Center

Rabbi Blau's Interview About Vicki Polin and The Awareness Center
By Luke
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - May 13, 2005

I call rabbi Yosef Blau at Yeshiva University at 7:45am PST, Friday, May 13, 2005.
Rabbi Blau: "I just walked out of giving a class."

Luke: "The essential question that is being posted anonymously is that rabbi Blau was blackmailed into leaving The Awareness Center because there was damaging information about his son's divorce that he wanted to hide?"

Rabbi Blau: "That's nonsense. I've heard different versions of it.  "Number one. Anything that has has to do with my son's divorce is public record. There's nothing there. It was very unpleasant business. Life has unpleasant business."

Luke: "Were you blackmailed in any way to leave The Awareness Center?"

Rabbi Blau laughs. "I would not describe it as such.

"The other version of the story is that I was blackballed into joining it because of my son's story. Which way do they want it? That was in JWB2.

"Being on The Awareness Center is a complex thing because it is not an Orthodox organization. It takes on some difficult situations. It does some extraordinarily good work, and I'm not talking about what's written on the net []. I'm talking about how it has really helped survivors of abuse. That certainly has affected me as well. My wife has always wanted me to get out [of The Awareness Center]. I'm taking on a new area of responsibility starting Sunday. They're going to try to stop that too, I assume. I just don't have the koach (strength) to do it anymore.

"This is part of the desperate campaign to divert attention... I don't think there's any question about who's orchestrating this campaign. It's a desperation campaign. If they claim that people are being blackmailed, it doesn't say too much good about them.

"If you would ask Vicki Polin, she understands what is going on.

"That people are bringing this [his son's divorce] up on blogs is a sign of desperation. It's unpleasant."

Luke: "Is it true that you were going to leave anyway within a week?"

Rabbi Blau: "Yes, I had promised my wife that I would leave anyway when I became president of the RZA (Religious Zionists of America), which was this Sunday [May 15]."

Luke: "Have you lost a lot of friends over your being in The Awareness Center?"

Rabbi Blau:
"I don't think so. You'd have to define who are friends. Eversince I got involved with dealing with these kind of situations, the people whose accusations I feel are totally inappropriate have always had supporters. Their supporters have not been major fans of mine. This was before I even heard of The Awareness Center. I only heard about it a couple of years ago. That's a price one has to pay for this kind of thing. In the net of things, I don't think I've lost more friends than I've gained."

Luke: "How long have you known about Vicki's appearance on the Oprah Show in 1989?"

Rabbi Blau: "She told me right at the beginning."

"And did that cause you trepidation about aligning with such a person who made such claims?"

Rabbi Blau: "My sense of what it means to be a survivor of abuse, and what one goes through, and the process of healing, is such that I don't judge such people who did something like that."

"I don't think people understand that Vicki can be competent in her job and still be completely wrong in what she said on Oprah?"

Rabbi Blau: "Ok."

Luke: "What do you think?"

Rabbi Blau: "I made my statement.

"She comes from a non-observant [secular] background. Her knowledge of Judaism is only what she gained in the past couple of years. At that time [1989], was stuff she had only gotten from strange sources. That she had a distorted view then has nothing to do with what she's doing now."

In January 2005, Vicki Polin showed rabbi Blau the tape of her Oprah appearance. "It was clear that someone at some point was going to try to use it against her. I told her to speak to a reporter directly and have him view the tape. She did that [with Phil Jacobs, the editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times] but he never wrote the article.

"This [stuff such as] is all coming from people with an agenda to protect people who've appeared there []. They're swinging wildly. They've done it to you as well. You know it."

Luke: "Would you agree that people with no agenda who read a transcript of that tape would think that Vicki was nuts?"

Rabbi Blau: "Very possibly, if they didn't know the whole picture. That's why I told her to speak to a reporter."

I email Vicki for the date rabbi Blau joined The Awareness Center. She replies: "I don't remember the exact date, but it was when I first moved to Baltimore. I remember this because I had asked Rabbi Porter who rabbi blau was, and if he thought he was ethical and I should invite him to be on the board. Rabbi Porter said yes, and laughed because I didn't know who he was. I get that a lot from people."

Later, Vicki wrote me that rabbi Blau joined TAC board in February 2002. Vicki says she moved to Baltimore in October, 2001. She met rabbi Porter in December 2001 and rabbi Blau in early 2002.

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