Aug 6, 2008

was there a cover-up?

Over the past few days I have done a lot of research and investigating in the situation regarding the alleged abuse case.

I feel comfortable saying that I am pretty familiar with the various aspects and versions of the incident, having heard a number of different perspectives, and having spoken to a number of people very close to and very involved in the situation and the investigation.

While, again, I do not want to get involved in the details of the case - it is not my place to judge anyone, nor have I seen the evidence one way or the other, nor do I wish this to become a blog where I easily accuse people of things and spread rumors, I do want to make something clear.

I am convinced and confident that there was no cover-up by the Rabbonim involved. Whether you agree with some of the decisions made by the Rabbonim, whether you like or dislike how they chose to handle the case, everything they did was to clarify the situation with the express knowledge that if the accused would be found guilty, or even if the suspicions were not definitely guilty but would indicate guilt, the case would be brought to the police and authorities.

The purpose in going the route of holding a private investigation was to establish that there is reasonable suspicion before involving the police which would ruin the teachers life.

The investigation took its course, stretched out a bit, and ended where it ended for now.

I am also aware of the fact that the Rabbonim rejected the suggestion that the teacher would return to the class, because they knew the parents would object. In principal they considered it ok, after consulting with the investigator, because their was not yet enough to go to the police with, but the condition was that there would be no parental objection. Knowing that that would not happen, the Rabbonim said the teacher will not be let back in. That being said, somebody did take it upon himself to ask some of the parents whether they would or would not object. Why he did so I do not know, but it has been made clear to me that the Rabbonim had already rejected the idea.

The situation is very sensitive. the law calls for such things to be reported immediately. The system in the charedi community is to not go to the police right away, but to do an initial investigation first in order to vet the claims. If the claims are found to be true, or at least to bear strong enough suspicion, the authorities are then called in. Anybody can claim anything against anybody. Just because somebody says something, is not necessarily reason to destroy the life of the accused, which is what happens once the police get involved. It should first be investigated to see if the accusation has basis.

I am told that the police unofficially accept this method and approve. It is unofficial because it is illegal, but they approve of the investigator, the investigation, the methods used, and therefore prefer to allow it rather than fight with the charedi community. they allow the investigation to play out and only step in when the investigation is concluded.

The drawback with this system is clearly the violated child and his family. In a case of guilt, they cannot get the professional help they need, because any professional would be obligated by law to report it, until the police get involved.

The truth is that I see no real point in using this method of a private investigator. If the investigator declares guilt and sends the case to the police, everyone is satisfied that there was no cover-up. But any less than a statement of guilt and nobody will accept what he says anyway. They will say he is covering up the story and not accept his decision. So I see no real point in using such an investigator. Perhaps the purpose is to satisfy the determination of guilt and to justify sending it to the police, and not to determine innocence.

I, again, want to say that I have seen no suggestion of a cover-up. Whether you agree or not with the methods employed and the decisions made, they were done in good faith, and meant to clarify the situation, before going to the police (or not).

36 comments:

  1. It's not just that there is no point in using the investigator, rather the investigator is completely incompetent. I.e. not speaking to the alleged victim. What evidence did he expect to find?
    Perhaps the police reluctantly accept this, because otherwise they won't be able to get anyone from the charedi community to speak up.
    I think it is outrageous that the rabbonim thought that this was an acceptable way to investigate.
    If they want to investigate privately first, they had better get someone who knows what they're doing.

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  2. this is a good example of why I do not want to get involved in details. Everything done, can be argued and viewed from different perspectives.
    You say the investigation was flawed because he did not speak to the kid.

    I am told, even by somebody who was skeptical about the investigator, that he was right for not talking to the kid. That would have been considering tampering with evidence and when it would eventually get to the police (if it will), the investigator would be arrested for it. It is highly illegal and a very serious offense.

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  3. Rafi-

    I hear your "tzad" on this but have a question for you to think about.

    One of the rabbonim strongly suggested (I won't say forced or pushed) the notion of "projection".

    Projection is saying that the act did happen but it was done by someone else and "projected onto the alleged perp.

    I am a parent of the class and this idea was heavily suggested EVENTHOUGH other children in the class witnessed something happen from the rebbe.

    This "real" perp (a relative, etc. according to those who suggested it) must be pretty good (even a magician) if he could have it projected into the vision of other kids as well.

    Give me a break!

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  4. I had not heard about this projection theory. I don't know much about psychology, but it sounds like bunk to me!

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  5. The drawback with this system is clearly the violated child and his family.

    So why can't the child's family go straight to the police if they feel this system is unfair? Is it fear of being rejected from a social group which doesn't seem to concerned with their welfare to begin with?

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  6. if other children were affected, as people in the comments have been saying, I do not know why they did not go to the police. I have not spoken to other parents in the class and only know from their perspective what they have written in the comments.

    It seems to me the dealing of the case was focused around the one child. I do not know what that means in regards to the other kids - maybe they only saw? maybe they did not see? I don't know.

    As far as the family of the victim himself, they did not go to the police because they wanted to do things al pi daas torah, so they asked rabbonim what to do.

    What they will do now, now that the investigator is not involved anymore, remains to be seen

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  7. rafi,
    Apparently not reporting it in the first place to the police is illegal anyway.
    What evidence did he expect to find?
    Did he expect to get the teacher to confess? Was he planning to only use a polygraph? From what I heard the polygraph was only something that came later in the investigation.
    If he doesn't have the ability to do the investigation (because of legal or other issues) then he should not be hired to investigate.
    Here is another reason why you are correct that there is no point in the investigator. The investigator himself should not be presenting himself as someone who can investigate if he can't.

    I encourage every concerned parent to approach their children's schools and ask how they prevent abuse and what their policy is for handling it. If enough parents take an interest the schools might actually be safer and better prepared, and the parents can make a more educated choice of schools. If the schools plan their policy ahead of time, they can be saved from a lot of split second decisions and have the opportunity to discuss it with experts and rabbonim. Yafa shaa achas kodem.
    In this particular case if there would have been a large window on the classroom door or if the door would always remain open, maybe none of this would have happened!
    Pre-screening teachers is important but not foolproof. Simple protections such as windows, teachers not being alone with students, published rules about what type of touching is or isn't allowed (so there are no questionable cases) etc. can protect both students and falsely accused teachers (who also deserve protection).
    Parents, it is your responsibility to ensure that the places you are sending your children are safe.
    Stop trusting administrators to make the decisions on their own. There are too many well-intentioned administrators who are naive or oblivious to the dangers, or are too trusting of their teachers.

    As for the projection suggestion, that is why a proper investigation cannot be done without speaking to a trained mental health professional. Even if it was a reasonable possibility, it is only a possibility and the accusation still warrants a responsible investigation, if only for the fact that if he is projecting it then someone else abused him, and they need to find out who the real abuser is and take care of him.

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  8. I see the problem you describe as being defined like this: it is a charedi school, a charedi (more or less) neighborhood, charedi rabbonim that were approached to assist and advise in the situation, and a charedi system (as I described in the post - of not going to the police right away but going to an investigator) with a charedi approach to the problem. And then we are disturbed, rightfully so, when the charedi approach fails and demand a non-charedi approach.

    It turns out, as one can see from the developments of this case, the charedi approach is not necessarily right for a community like ours.

    We Americans come to Israel, and we try to define ourselves as charedi when we are really not charedi in the Israeli sense of the word.

    You cannot try to be charedi in every way, from who you follow, for whom you vote, for whom you emulate, for whatever, but then insist on using non-charedi methods (trust me - my wife reminds me of this all the time!) to live our communal life.

    Not that you can't hope for a better system. You can, and you can try to improve whatever the system is. But to try to insist on the system changing because it is flawed - that is more futile than knocking your head against the wall. The system will not change, and we are in no position to change it, other than in small teensy steps that take generations to make an impact. The system is a behemoth, and just because we think we know better does not mean we can change it. If that is the system we choose to use, than we have to figure out how to work within it.

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  9. Rafi,
    Your words are true (and painful).

    However that is why we choose Charedi-American (Charedi "light" if you will to guide us through this maze).

    It is when these Charedi "light" rabbonim begin acting as Israeli charedim that we have a major crisis.

    It is then when we feel leaderless and question what happened to the "American" sechel of our American rabbonim.

    These rabbonim should take a firm stand as where they are really "holding"

    This case will ensure that in the future even Charedi/American/light people will go directly to the authorities where there will be at least a possibility of justice and protection.

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  10. This is not just a charedi approach. This kind of stuff goes on everywhere -- witness Prof. Ben Ari from Hebrew University. There were complaints about him for years and the university did not deal with it.

    That being said, I think that the rabbonim will learn from this parsha that sexual abuse is way to complicated to deal with ad hoc. The police, for better are worse, have more experience in these matters.

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  11. not dealing with an issue like this is not what I was referring to. The route of going via a private investigator before using the police is what I was referring to...

    Buyt in general you are right. Perhaps organizations do not want to believe such reports about their teachers. after all he does a great job, came highly recommended, etc. It is the Sam Malone approach to problem solving (which I employ as much as I can on a personal level) - if you ignore a problem long enough it will go away. the problem is that it does not always go away.

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  12. There are enough normal Americans and other olim in RBS who send their children to schools largely populated by children of Americans, that if the parents decided to, they could exert enough pressure to force the schools to adopt prevention and accusation handling policies.
    I agree with you that there was no desire here to cover up a real molestation case, but there was too much of an assumption of innocence.
    Certain rabbis and certain parents couldn't believe that "such a nice wonderful holy guy" would do such a
    horrible thing.And besides it is just the mother's word.
    If the rabbis and administrators would have looked into it even by themselves, they would have seen very quickly that this was not projection and unlikely to be fabricated. Then they would have gone to the police. The reason they wanted to use their own investigator first is probably because they felt that if he is innocent (which they thought he probably was) then the police would not be fair to him and would make his life miserable during the investigation (something not unheard of).

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  13. We moved to a frum dati leumi community because we couldn't see any way to fit into an Israeli chareidi community. It seems to me that the frum dati leumi are much more similar to American frum then Israeli chareidi.

    The problem with regulating every aspect of a teacher student relationship is that it causes it to be less human. The teachers (all female) in my girls schools give hugs, taps and holds a kid when she needs it and other physical signs that they care.

    Is it worth giving up a human relationship because of a hundredth of a percent that the teacher is evil?

    On the other hand, maybe the pain of that one child makes the humanity that the other children receive not worth it.

    In terms of privately investigating before calling the police - my kid came home from school crying and said that a teacher hit him for no reason. We went to the principal and he investigated and after finding out the rest of the story and talking to witnesses, we were confident that the teacher hadn't done anything wrong. (If I remember correctly, he was climbing on something that he shouldn't have been and didn't listen (or didn't hear) when she told him to get down twice and then she grabbed his arm and pulled him down, which may have hurt and he considered as having gotten hit)

    My son, was telling the truth as he understood it, though he left out a lot of parts of the story. He is in first grade and certainly was not trying to get the teacher in trouble. He came home crying and when we asked him what happened he told his version.

    The teacher was very offended that we went to the principal instead of talking to her first. That kind of complaint against a teacher could easily ruin her career.feeqw

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  14. rock - welcome back after your long vacation...

    Your example is a very good one describing why the investigation has its merits.
    The Rav has to look out for everybody; the kid, the family, the classmates, the neighborhood, and yes also the rebbe. if there is a presumption of innocence, it makes sense for them to first investigate before letting it get further.

    Unfortunately, as one can see from the comments, [some of] the parents involved feel that everybody except the child was looked out for....

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  15. Painful and distressing. A response to Rafi: I don't think any of us want a 'charedi' approach; we want a Torah approach... We didn't choose a sociological affiliation--we chose a path which we think is tied to authenticity and emes... When Torah turns into sociology or political party, then it ceases to be Torah...

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  16. I really don't understand why charedi Americans come to Israel at all. Putting your kids into the charedi school system basically dooms them to a life of poverty or at the very least, lower income average israeli, which is especially cruel after growing up on American salaries here thanks to commuting dads. And then find out that they can't even manage a decent Israeli salary, thanks to their non existent education and inability to go to university or get any kind of professional training.

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  17. "I really don't understand why charedi Americans come to Israel at all."

    Baruch hashem, some people are idealistic :)

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  18. I would agree with you in principle if the rabbonim here were as supportive of the school's family as they were of the school itself.

    I am a class parent and have had NO contact about the welfare of my child, etc. from the school OR the rabbonim. As a matter of fact the only contact I had was from someone asking me if I'd be ok with the rebbe returning for the end of the year.

    From my understanding the family has not been contacted by the rabbonim with the exception of one call to try to persuade them to use a therapist.

    IMHO if the rabbonim are in this "lishma" they would have reached out to the family in some way.

    I believe that there is an agenda here on the part of our rabbinic leadership.

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  19. The fact that the rabbonim recommended a professional therapist, instead of thinking that they were qualified to counsel on their own shows a proper level of humility which is lacking in certain rabbonim who think that they are qualified to act as a therapist.
    Obviously, there is some place for rabbinical counseling, but it is limited

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  20. A family walked onto a Paris-bound plane Sunday with their luggage loaded and four children in hand and was in the air for Paris when they realized their three-year-old was standing by at Ben Gurion airport. The pilot of their Sun D'Or plane informed them 45 minutes after takeoff about their missing "baggage."
    Airport officials and flight attendants remained with the crying three-year-old girl, but she turned down offers of ice cream because she told them she eats only food that is certified kosher by hareidi rabbis. A steward accompanied her later in the day on the next flight. The girl's grandmother, who had accompanied the family to the airport, said she could not understand how the child was left behind.

    I posted this story because it shows how out of touch some
    Charedi families can be with
    reality. To leave a 3 year old
    child behind board a plane and
    not know he is gone until 45
    minutes into the flight when
    the crew tell you. Drive through
    Bet and see todlers crosing main
    thoroughfairs by themselves. If
    mothers care so little for their
    own children do think they have
    any concern for the children of
    others.

    I say this because these same
    parents would allow a child
    molester back in class to potentially abuse their
    children. They are more concerned
    about what the the outside world
    thinks.

    Let us worry about what that child
    that has been abused will go through and what his parents will
    go through for the near and far future and prevent it from haoppeng
    to others.

    Did not Hashem brand Cain so others
    would know what he did.

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  21. Anon said-

    "The fact that the rabbonim recommended a professional therapist, instead of thinking that they were qualified to counsel on their own shows a proper level of humility which is lacking in certain rabbonim who think that they are qualified to act as a therapist.
    Obviously, there is some place for rabbinical counseling, but it is limited"

    I strongly disagree. In this case the rabbonim tried to force a therapist
    not out of humility but to control a situation.

    Any therapist worth their beans would have to report. The rabbonim have people who are willing to not report "for the greater good".

    Humility has nothing to do with this.

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  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anon of 2:28 AM-


    How do you know?
    You're as sick as the molester.

    ReplyDelete
  24. a parent that knowsAugust 10, 2008 1:00 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  25. To the "Knowing Parent",

    Be glad it wasn't your child who was molested.

    And yes, remember that it is Tisha B'av. Consider the pain of those whose children were affected.

    You are concerned about the name of the "good" rebbe.

    To date no one has said his name.

    What about the neshamos of his innocent victims?

    Shame on you for causing pain to these families today.

    Keep your comments to yourself.

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  26. Heal Our Broken HeartsAugust 10, 2008 4:46 PM

    To the Insensitive Poster Denying Molestation,

    You have the right to your opinion. You may say that you think it didn't happen.

    But don't accuse innocent children and their families of making this up by stating NO molestation happened.

    Are you all seeing and all knowing?

    Do you think that several families conjured this up to get thrills?

    Do you have any idea what these families are suffering through?

    May HaShem have mercy on your sick soul and may you do teshuva before it's too late.

    Your lack of sensitivity is out of place on Tisha B'av.

    ReplyDelete
  27. it is extremely rare that I delete a comment. Unfortunately today I had to delete two comments that were in extremely poor taste. I at first thought they were being cynical and then chose to leave them on, but have decided they were too hurtful to the victims family and could not leave them.

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  28. The Catholic Church for many years
    instead of eliminating its child molesters buried them by moving them from city to city with little
    care for the victims. The problem
    that Catholics was the perpetrators were not only teachers
    but clergyman in who children and
    adults alike put their faith.

    The same is the case in our schools
    where are teachers serve a dual role.

    As with Catholics some people even
    those in prominence try to cover
    the molestation as the fear it
    will reflect on the community.

    As no one would use restaurant that
    wanted to do its own supervision.
    We put that task in hands of well
    trained professional. The same should go for an abuser

    I would like to take this opportunity to say that those
    who have attacked the parents and
    the children of those abused and
    suggested that the abuser is the
    victim are sick.

    The next time you want to see
    the home of a terrorist torn
    down to show future
    perpetrators to think twice before
    doing what they do. You must
    realize people have realize their
    family will also suffer from their
    actions and may control themselves.

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  29. Does anyone know what measures the various schools in RBS take to prevent abuse?

    ReplyDelete
  30. are there guidelines anywahere that were made up for schools to adopt?

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  31. WDK said...

    Painful and distressing. A response to Rafi: I don't think any of us want a 'charedi' approach; we want a Torah approach... We didn't choose a sociological affiliation--we chose a path which we think is tied to authenticity and emes... When Torah turns into sociology or political party, then it ceases to be Torah...

    ===========
    Agree 100%

    ------------------------
    I find it so interesting that these type of problems are coming up so much nowaday.

    I am almost sure it has to do with the tikkun habris and the closeness of Moshiach.

    I do hope it gets resolved in a more complete way (with comfort and healing for the children and their family and a more serious attempt at getting down to who committed the abuse).

    ReplyDelete
  32. As a parent that knows "both sides" ( a son who WAS abused- and being a friend of a family whose husband was "accused" of molestation)I think it is important to realize that there are many cases of suspected abuse that are simply exagerated or not true as well. To already accuse and judge a kosher Jew through this media is both wrong and against halacha.
    Of course- each case should be investigated by the proper channels, but to already judge the "perpretrator" can cause irreversable damage to their name,family and parnasa, when in the end it could come out that they are completely innocent.
    We live in a broken world, and there are many motives behind blame of this type- but we have to be aware that there could be an innocent person being judged for things that might have no reality.

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  33. concerned parentAugust 11, 2008 11:09 AM

    re: both sides now

    I personally know of a case some years ago where the family had some kind of grudge against the Rebi and actually accused him of abusing a boy in their class- and it was simply not true- but the Rebi's name was blackened and he could not get another job in chinuch.

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  34. I think that the police should be sent the link to this blog. By not passing on this information, you are just as guilty as those intimately involved.

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  35. So go pass it on, Mr. Anonymous.

    I have no idea what the law is, but as far as I can tell everything here is hearsay. But I am not involved other than in providing a forum where people have been able to talk about it. So while I have no information for the police, and I doubt they can take a bunch of anonymous comments that were posted here as evidence of anything, if it helps the situation, I have no problem with your forwarding this link to the police.

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  36. Again, there is more information based on unfounded trust of 'the system'.

    First of all, the 'danger' of going to a therapist starting a chain reaction because therapist would then have to report to the police.

    This is a myth. The therpist vets the claim before going to the police to see if it is credible, just like these chareidi investigators attempt to do. The only difference is, the therapist is much more an expert.

    Secondly, the myth that going to the police at all causes more of a problem for anybody.

    They are more discrete than the chareidi investigators are. The investigator disclosed details of the case which no police would have to me. Also they know who to ask. Anyway, who would they go tell?

    Thirdly, protecting the image of the chareidi community. Please. What image? The image is terrible already. At least do the right thing and don't lose respect from people suffering.

    Lastly, no amount damage control ever stops these things from getting out anyway. People talk. It never works to try and be discrete. The only chance to minimize is the talk (and why is talking about this issue a bad thing anyway?), is to handle it quickly and efficiently.

    -parent of child in Gan with first hand knowledge

    ReplyDelete

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