Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rivka Karasik: The Religious Runaway

This is not the story of a survivor of a sex crime, yet what she describes is very similar to what many adult survivors who grew up in a religious community experience when they choose to assimilate into the secular world.

At 21, the age at which she was expected to marry, Ms. Karasik left the Lubavitch community of the Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY.  

New York Times
One in 8 Million - New York Characters in Sound & Images

Monday, May 18, 2009

Who Cares About Sexual Abuse in Baltimore?

Who Cares About Sexual Abuse in Baltimore?
By Vicki Polin
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - May 18, 2009

Alleged sex offender - Rabbi Yaakov Menken
On Sunday, May 18, 2009 in the Baltimore Community, there was a rally to protest the idea of the Owings Mills JCC being open on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath).  Though the notion of the rally was a good, what I personally find disappointing is that the orthodox community appears to care more about a JCC being open on shabbat then they do about protecting their own children being molested.  

If you look below at the photograph from the Baltimore Sun, it shows an orthodox child standing, with sea of men in black hats in the background.  Those who organized this rally are the same individuals who refuse to do anything about the sexual predators living within the Eruv (Jewish community).  In the orthodox world they believe there needs to be a seperation of man and women for reasons of modesty (to help control the sexual urges of men).  The problem is that it does not deter a sexual predator from committing sex crimes against children or adults.  One such alleged sexual predator who is known to have been at the rally yesterday is Rabbi Yaakov Menken (AKA: Ken Menken).  He is the director of an online kiruv organization (Jewish Outreach) called Project Genesis.  He also operates the web page,  It is on record that he was there because Rabbi Yaakov Menken was quoted in the following Batlimore Sun article.  

There have been several complaints made over the years that Rabbi Yaakov Menken allegedly uses his own personal grooming process to lure young woman into performing sexual favors.  

Rabbi Menken's modus operandi has been to become a father figure to vulnerable young women, replacing himself with their real family and friends, taking them into his confidence, having them spill their sexual secrets and questions only to him.  There was also one case in which he attempted to convince a woman that she was molested as a child by one of her family members, even though the woman had no memory of such abuse. 
 Yaakov Menken has no training as a psychotherapist.  His education is in the computer industry.

Rally at Northwestern High School

Here's some Youtube Video's of the Rally

(See article below)


Rally promotes idea of Sabbath

As JCC seeks Saturday hours, thousands say keep the day holy

By Matthew Hay Brown
Baltimore Sun - May 18, 2009

For Yoel Benyowitz, setting aside work at sundown on Friday, lighting the shabbos candles and spending the next 24 hours in prayer and fellowship with family and friends "recharges our batteries, both physically and spiritually."

It's an experience that he wishes more Jews enjoyed. The 47-year-old father of four, a computer information specialist with the state Department of Transportation, joined thousands of fellow Orthodox Jews in Park Heights on Sunday for a rally to promote observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

The event, the first of its kind in a dozen years, came as local Jewish leaders consider a plan to open a community center in Owings Mills on Saturdays.

Officials at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, which operates facilities in Owings Mills and Park Heights, say the move is necessary to meet the needs of the largely nonobservant community in the northwestern suburb. But the Orthodox, who refrain from labor, operating electrical appliances and other activities from sundown on Friday until nightfall on Saturday, say it would violate Jewish law.

"What one idea expresses our identity? What one concept expresses our heritage?" Rabbi Aharon Feldman, dean of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, asked the midday gathering outside Northwestern High School. "We are giving up our identity, everything we stand for, by compromising shabbos."

JCC President Louis "Buddy" Sapolsky, who was invited to sit on the dais but did not speak at the rally, said afterward that he had "unbelievable respect for the Orthodox leadership and for the crowd that turned out."

"Our board has a responsibility to serve the entire community," he continued. "Different people have different ways of observing. Some people don't observe at all. We feel that by giving them the opportunity to come to the center, it could be the beginning of a Jewish journey for them."

The JCC board voted 41-4 last week to open the Owings Mills facility on Saturday afternoons beginning in June. The final decision rests with the board of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, which is scheduled to vote on the matter next week.

Sunday's event recalled a similar rally in 1997, the last time the JCC sought approval for Saturday hours in Owings Mills. An estimated 3,500 Jews attended that gathering, according to a Baltimore Sun article, and the Associated rejected the proposal.

People who attended both the 1997 rally and this year's rally said Sunday's was larger. Men in black hats and women in long skirts stood in separate sections of the athletic fields outside the high school as a succession of rabbis spoke of the joy of the sabbath and its ability to bind Jews for thousands of years.

"The special and unique communal unity that we have, the clear expression of Jewish values that is inherent in how our communal institutions have observed the shabbos, has granted our community as a whole a strength," said Rabbi Moshe Hauer, spiritual leader of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion congregation in Park Heights. "A strength that exists across the spectrum of this community. A strength that we all benefit from."

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, director of the online Jewish learning organization Project Genesis, called the sabbath "the sign of the Jewish faith and the Jewish people."

"Even if on an individual level, people honor it in the breach, at a communal level, we feel a responsibility to keep that sign," he said.

Sapolsky says the JCC is attempting to address the needs of a diverse community. The Owings Mills center offers a range of fitness, cultural and educational programs on Sundays through Fridays; internal documents make reference to growing competition from gymnasiums that open on Saturdays and an "exodus" of members who wanted "a recreational facility that gave them a schedule that met their needs."

"Our membership-slash-customers have been saying to us, 'OK, you need to open Saturday afternoon, because that's the one day we have with our families,' " Sapolsky said. "We do feel for the JCC to be open where families can come together and be with other Jews, for many people that's their first entry into the Jewish community and becomes a way of us trying to reach them."

With the approval of the Associated, the JCC would begin opening its Owings Mills center on Saturday afternoons beginning on June 6. The later hours are intended to avoid conflict with morning synagogue services, according to materials circulated by organization officials. Jewish employees would not be compelled to work and there would be no cash transactions or food service on the premises.

JCC officials say there are no plans to open the Park Heights center on Saturday, given that community's large Orthodox presence, or to open either facility on any of the major Jewish holidays.

At Northwestern High School on Sunday, rabbi after rabbi rose under a banner that read "In honor of Shabbos" and lamented the current state of observance among the wider Jewish community. Rabbi Yissocher Frand of Ner Israel concluded his remarks with some instructions.

"If shabbos is indeed the precious gift that has sustained us for so many millennia, then let's do something about sharing it with other people," he said. "Most of you work in environments in which you see and meet and work for or work with nonobservant employees all the time. Invite them for a shabbos. ... Let them see and feel what it's all about. If their shabbos means so much to us, then let's show them how special it really is."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Romance in Frum Dating?

No Romance in Frum Dating?
By Michael J. Salamon, PhD

Much has been written about marriage and relationships. Some have suggested that, in the Orthodox world, we simply do not believe in romance, as real love supposedly happens only after marriage. While in many ways this is true, we are often left without defining just what that means. But the Talmud in Kiddushin (41a) states that prospective spouses must meet to determine their compatibility for a proper marriage to occur. And Rav J.B. Soloveitchik stated in his essays compiled in the text “Family Redeemed” that “one cannot form a friendship unless he finds in it the realization of a value long cherished by him.” Meeting, dating and getting to know one another, and especially becoming friends, is a time proven system for finding a spouse that Jewish tradition strongly adheres to. Unfortunately, there have been some changes to the system in recent years that have led to rising stress in a process that should contain both fun and excitement despite the seriousness of the goal.

Increasingly, in virtually all shades of orthodoxy, both men and women are segregated from one another even when it is unwarranted. This separation has led to a fear of socializing, a form of stage fright or anticipatory anxiety that causes young daters to not know how to act in a socially acceptable fashion with one another. I hear them talking about the “magic” of the opposite sex as if it were a truism, a fact that in order to understand how to even talk with one another they must unravel a secret magical code. While there should be magic, it is not of this type.

Even after marriage there is often a dearth of appropriate communication between the spouses. At a restaurant recently, while sitting next to a young married couple, despite trying very hard not to listen, I was amazed at how the couple was speaking about different topics and at cross-purposes to one another. True, this may be just one anecdote; however, more and more young marrieds are divorcing with the primary complaint that they simply did not know each other at the time of marriage and do not understand one another once married. There is, in fact, a growing body of evidence in the professional literature that this has become an expanding problem in Orthodox marriages even to the point of difficulty in developing a sense of closeness and familiarity within a marriage.

When we add to this mix the volatility that comes from being overindulged and overprotected well into the late teens and early twenties, we are left with young men and women who feel no need to even try to get to know anyone else. Many of our young men and women have placed themselves on a pedestal and want to marry someone who can keep them there, even in financially troubling times. The goal then is not a warm, affectionate, supportive relationship but a selfish, egocentric one. Who needs a romantic relationship with a spouse or even friendship with a spouse, as long as you get what you want?

There actually is somewhat of a scientific formula for the magic that causes the spark of romance. It is not a hard and fast rule like those often found in physics, but it does involve biology, chemistry and psychology. The actual cause of the magic in a relationship is a product of hormones, neurotransmitters or brain chemicals and developmental stages. These chemicals set the stage for real attraction and are activated by a process wherein the couple perceives a degree of familiarity between one another. The only way this similarity can be stimulated is by spending time with members of the opposite sex at the correct stage of development.

Young men and women go through a biological and psychological maturational change that is driven by hormones in their early to mid twenties. For some it begins a bit before, and for others a bit later. This process causes, among other changes, the desire to affiliate with a member of the opposite sex and develop an intimate relationship. To get to that stage, the psychological needs of earlier stages must be met. These include developing a sense of one’s own identity and being able to appreciate and manage social interactions. Once these challenges are accomplished, via chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which are primed to go off when the right person comes along, the sequence shifts to the next stage. Here too, this process is neither an immediate, perfectly successive nor a fail-proof one.

Several important psychological triggers have to occur. These include developing a degree of comfort in communicating with the other person, being physically attracted and sensing a degree of personality similarity. When these changes take place the couple begins to develop a sense of fun and passion about the relationship. This excitement does not always happen immediately and can take several dates. When it does kick in, and both report it, this is a clear indication that the relationship is set to go to the next level.

It may take as long as several months for the next level to develop but the next level is the most critical stage. The intensity of the first level of passion begins to dissipate and two different neurotransmitters start their work. These chemicals set the stage for a more balanced cooperative and affiliative feeling to develop. It is at this stage that the warmth and nurturing feelings of love, so necessary for a marriage to succeed, begin to occur. Perhaps this is the feeling that some have referred to as existing only after being married for a while. But, as we have seen, it may be critical to have this friendship, warmth and closeness before marriage occurs.

We all make decisions even though we are not always aware of the underlying cognitive processes involved. We do have an awareness of our reactions and it is important to allow ourselves to experience them and understand them. We also cannot hasten or bypass a natural process. The natural process of romance develops in stages beginning with learning how to socialize and proceeding from there. Let us allow young adults to find one another so they might develop the friendship so necessary to a successful marriage.

Dr. Salamon, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in Hewlett, NY and a Board member of The Awareness Center. He is the author of numerous articles and several psychological tests. His recent books include, The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures, published by Urim Publications and Every Pot Has a Cover: A Proven Guide to Finding, Keeping and Enhancing the Ideal Relationship, published by Rowman & Littlefield. His new book on Abuse will be available March, 2011.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Alicia Kozakiewicz Testimony on Sex Predators online

This is one of the most important films on youtube. Every parent should watch it.  The more we know, the more we can protect our children.

Alicia Kozakiewicz, 19, testified at the Judiciary Committee about surviving, and transcending, her own experience as a child victim of an Internet predator. Alicia is now a college student pursuing a career in law enforcement to help children. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Joel Engelman and Tamir Weisberg Share their stories with ABC News

Joel Engelman and Tamir Weissberg
Joel  Engelman, pictured as a child, and Tamir Weissberg said they were victims of sexual abuse by members of the Orthodox Jewish community.  They said they were told not to discuss the alleged abuse.
(Courtesy Joel Engelman and Tamir Weissberg).

The Awareness Center want sto thank both Joel and Tamir for the courage it took to tell their stories. It's been an honor getting to know both of them. In the following article, what Joel and Tamir are sharing is what has been happening not only in Jewish orthodox communities around the world, but in all religious communities of all faiths, and also in groups such as those who are anti-semitic and are white supremacist. According to statistics one out of every four children will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18, this includes children of those connected to hate groups.

Orthodox Jewish Community Struggles With Abuse Allegations

Alleged Victims and Advocates Say Sex Abuse Common, Rarely Discussed


ABC News - May 5, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

Mother’s Day Thoughts

© (2009) by Moreyn Kamenir

Moreyn Kamenir
On my fiftieth birthday I received a call from my mother who had been going through several life changes. During the conversation I kept offering to help in any way I could. Her response back to me was that she already had 'family near her' that had 'been a part of her life throughout this mess'. . . Oh, and happy birthday.  The 'mess' is my step-father. The man who put me out on the street at the age of fifteen.

Unfortunately, I'm kind of familiar with my step-father’s brand of terrorizing people and thought I might be of some assistance.  Being financially solvent for the first time in my fifty years of life, I thought perhaps I could chip in and help her find a place to live and also offer her some pocket money. Those were the things I really wanted to help with.

Thinking of all of this I can’t help but flashback to when I was fifteen-years-old.  No one was there to help me when my stepfather sent me barefooted and coatless out into the world.  The reality is that he took my suitcase from me as I left my home, and took out anything he might have bought for me. Nice, huh?

So now what to do about Mothers day? I really didn't want a repeat of my happy birthday call that really made my 50th birthday so memorable.  All I could think of doing was send a card. The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to find a Mothers Day card for a woman who just sat there and let her husband do what he did to her daughter.  A woman who for the last thirty-five-years has told me she would love to call me regularly, but that my step father wouldn't allow her to.  I often wondered why she just didn’t buy herself a phone card or go to a phone booth to make a call to say hi. I offered to send her a card more than once.

When I was in my twenties I was pretty stable.  From the ages of nineteen to twenty-four, I lived in the same place and had the same phone number. During that time period I used to make up reasons to call her.  I would call to ask, “How do you make this, Mom?”, “What should I do, Mom?”, etc.   I didn't really need her input, I just needed her to be my mother.  I did this hoping to open up the lines of communication.

So how do you find a Mother’s Day cards for the mother who didn't love you?  Every card I could find , goes on and on about “how the mother ‘was there for you' and 'always made you laugh'”.  They all speak of unquestionable love and maternal passions.

What card do you send to a mother who let her husband throw-out her fifteen-year-old daughter?

My sister ran away right after my step-father made sexual advances towards her.

My mother would make my step-father leave my room when he insisted on tucking me in at night.  She knew he would make me feel very uncomfortable when he did. There is more, but not worth going into. You don't need to know it all.

Skip ahead to high school. One day my step-father told my mother that he was going for a walk around the block, and when he returned he expected an answer from her.  My mother had to choose between me and him.  Then he walked out the door.

My mother sat there crying . . . just looking at me with eyes leaking tears.  She didn't want to be put into this position.

At the age of fifteen, I made her decision for her and decided I would leave.  Just at that moment my stepfather walked in the house.  He saw me packing my suitcase and took out everything he ever bought me.
When my mother and I spoke on my fiftieth birthday, she told me that none of that had ever happened.  That my step-father never threw me out.  This was an event that is burnt into my brain.  It was the turning point of my life.

I’ll admit that it is easy for me to make excuses for my mother.  I can understand that guilt, depression or whatever emotion it took -- managed to wipe this memory from my mother’s brain.  I get why people do that. Unfortunately, I've never been blessed with that ability. I remember being raped shortly after I left my parent home when I was fifteen. I remember it vividly.

I remember the beatings from both Bruce and David, who were my 'boyfriends' after leaving home.  Some things just plain stick with you no matter what you do. They call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The incident will replay as long as you live as clearly as it was a minute ago. Nothing changes. It is the same memory over and over. The same startling nightmares week after year -- it doesn't change, ever!  It can't, it’s replaying because my brain can't wrap around the realities I've endured. My mind is still trying to find a way to rationalize irrationalities. This will continue until I can understand the things I've been through and let go.  It will continue. And it does.

I guess it's time for me to finally live my own life.  This year I only sent the Mother’s Day card. No flowers. No phone call.  The impersonal piece of paper seems to be what might make her happy, so that's what I did. There are no pictures of me growing up. The old report cards have all been thrown away, everything from my childhood gone!

Twenty years ago I visited my mother while she was still living in Illinois.  I remember her  answering her telephone in the laundry room downstairs.  I was speaking to a woman who claimed to be my mother’s 'best friend'.  I’ll never forget the woman’s shock when she learned my mother had two children.   The woman only knew about my older sister. She never knew about me.

I can’t help but wonder why have I continued to try to communicate with my mother and older sister for the last 35 years?  It pains my heart thinking about how close the three of us were growing up. Those were the days it was us three against the world.  It's time for me to wake up and smell the coffee. There is no room in their lives for me.  It hurts so badly.  I didn't leave my mother’s home because I wanted to.  I left because I felt as if there was no alternatives. I could not stay in the hell that was her husband's life and keep my sanity.

My mother’s words play over and over in my head.  She told me she 'did the best with what she had'.

What she had? What she had was ME. It's not about a house or money, she was talking about me!  She did the best she could with the inferior product that was me. She still despises my real Father.  She has been unable to let go of old hurts, unable completely. Unwilling I should say. Gee we are a bit alike, but with me I have no choice. Something has short circuited in my brain. With her, she simply re-writes history and tells me things didn't even happen. They didn't according to her selective memory.

While I was in my twenties, I cried for about a year.  I can't remember the exact time, but I've already mourned the loss of my Mother. It's something you don't get over. You'll always miss your mother.  I'm just going to keep keeping on missing a woman that never actually existed.

It’s time for me to grow up. I am fifty-years-old now. I need to face reality. My family has gone on without me and does not want me to be a part of it.