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Jun 26, 2012

Haredi Rabbonim Open New Child Abuse Hotline In RBS

An email was sent out the other day, and has since been passed around and spread further, announcing the formation of a[nother] organization in RBS that will deal with claims of child abuse. The organization, called "Maaneh" is more haredi in structure, presumably, and that is probably the main difference between it and Magen.

Here is the bulk of the information that was in the email. The rest of it, the part I am not including, was fundraising to get a base of support and help get it off the ground stably.
A few years ago, an organization was conceived of and formed by a few Rabbonim here in RBS, who also decided that it should remain "under the radar" as long as it is able to, and certainly as long as it is still organizing its structure and its manpower, and establishing its ties with the relevant governmental agencies.
The name of the organization is Maaneh, and it is dedicated to work towards prevention, education, and treatment of forms of child abuse which exist and occur.
BH, the organization is up and running for a while already, has the necessary ties with law enforcement and social governmental agencies, and has a highly professional team in place for all aspects of the problem, from a crises hotline to a treatment center, to a training center for counselors, to a community relations center which has informational forums for those who need to recognize the issues.
The Director of the Center is R' Aryeh Levi, who, together with Dr Ephraim Rosenbaum, work under the guidance of a Rabbinical Committee to have the Center function as it should.
I see this as a very positive development.

But first, let me add, I don't see here, and haven't seen elsewhere, contact information. What should someone do if chas v'shalom they are in a situation in which they must contact Maaneh? It does not say anywhere. I guess they can call Dr. Rosenbaum's home number as listed in the phone book. I guess they would have to go to their rabbi (assuming the persons rabbi is affiliated with Maaneh rather than Magen or perhaps encouraging the person to avoid both and just go directly to the police) and he would direct them to Maaneh. Or maybe they are just not yet ready to announce that info yet, and are still structuring the organization before announcing to the wider public.

I see this as a very positive development. For the most part.

Is there going to be a redundancy of services? Probably. Will there be confusion (e.g. who to call)? Perhaps, probably not. Will there be a division along lines of affiliation? Most likely.

But so what?

We have a redundancy of services and divisions already in every other locally provided service, whether public or private. And where we don't already have such inefficiency and redundancy, someone somewhere is striving to create it.  Be it shuls, tzedaka organizations, mikvas, shops, activists - we have too much of everything except clean streets and clean parks (and of course we don't have too many swimming pools or other forms of entertainment locally), so why not this too? That should be the worst of the problems.

This is a breakthrough. As someone said to me, this is probably the very first time a group of haredi rabbonim are acknowledging there is a problem and that it must be dealt with differently than the way it was previously dealt with. While before things were kept quiet, the rabbonim ran the investigation before involving the authorities, now they are working together with government agencies, counselors, etc. This is ground-breaking in the haredi world! Nowhere else in the world, that I am aware of, has a haredi community  even acknowledged the problem, let alone moved towards implementing such a solution.

The biggest problem I see, the thing about this that upsets me, is the possible perception now that there is so much abuse in the neighorhood happening that we need two organizations to handle the load!

Is this better or worse than Magen? I have no idea. Only time will tell, though I hope there will never be enough cases to get that much information. Will; there be a redundancy? Yes, but so what. If there is a lack of trust among different communities (or even if it's not a lack of trust but a sense of different communities do things different ways) , so just like each has its own kashrut organizations, mikvas, poskim, dayanim and whatever else, so now they each have their own child abuse hotlines as well. Nu nu. Redundancy of services should be the worst of our problems.

As said above, I hope both of our community organizations dealing with child abuse have to deal with a lot of boredom due to a lack of incidents.

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  1. Yes Rafi - this looks like dramatic progress.

    Just two years ago, such an email would not have been published by a haredi rov in RBS.

    Openly saying there is such a child abuse problem in haredi communities (!!), and that the problem cannot be "handled internally" (as has been always attempted by these rabonim in the past) - but requires the authorities, including the police, social services etc to be involved. Amazing!

    This dramatic turn-around is solely thanks to Magen's child-protection campaign over the past couple of years.

    These rabbonim have been pressured into (finally) making the right noises and (hopefully) doing the right thing.

    Such a pity they don't have the integrity to admit their past mistakes and to join forces with Magen.

  2. "A few years ago, an organization was conceived of and formed by a few Rabbonim here in RBS..."

    Bit disingenuous.

    Either "Maaneh" is a new organization (launched now in response to Magen's success)

    Or "Maaneh" has been around for "a few years" (in which case how come no-one heard of them till now?).

    Answer: they've been operating "under the radar".

    Oh come on.

  3. Rafi - my main concern with this new organization is that the Rabbonim involved are the same ones who tried to bury the issue in the past. I'm therefore afraid that they'll just use the mechanisms of this group to continue to prevent things from going to the police or other authorities - unless I hear from the authorities directly that yes, this is an organization they're working with. Absent this, I wouldn't trust this organization as far as I could throw one of their Pashkevilim.

    BTW, I'm still waiting for the public apology to David Morris from those who bashed him for bringing this issue to the fore. I'm not holding my breath, though. Somehow, the "emmes" part of "Haemes v'Hashalom Ehavu" seems to be de-emphasized when it comes to examining flaws in Chareidi society.

    An embittered parent.

  4. BTW, just to correct something I wrote, I have been told that the haredi community of RBS is not the first to create such an organization. I am told that Kiryat Sefer and Jerusalem have both created such organizations that have been operating successfully for years already..

  5. My question is what process do they plan to follow when a call comes in, and how would that be different from Magen, or for that matter from calling the Police directly?

    Also strikes me as reminiscent of the snubbing/blacklisting of L'maan Achai, which has hurt the efforts of an outstanding organization. Is this now to be the fate of Magen?

    I agree it's a good thing to see the Charedi community back this kind of effort - I just hope it's handled responsibly and cooperatively.

  6. Actually the more I think about it, the more prone to cynicism I tend to be.

    What would possibly be the point of creating a "charedi" abuse hotline in a location where an abuse hotline is already in place - if not to follow a different, more "acceptable" process, as in a "what happens in RBS stays in RBS", where abuse is dealt with "internally", without going through the usual channels of investigation, prosecution, etc.?

    Rafi, please help me out of my cynicism here!

  7. because if they are working with the authorities, they wont be able to. at least not completely. The authorities might give some leeway, considering cultural needs of the haredi community and the like, but they wont give so much leeway.

  8. What kind of 'leeway' and 'cultural needs' are we talking about?

    I'm sure you're aware of the scandal unfolding in NY where the DA refused to publicize names of accused child molesters in the frum community (even though that is standard practice elsewhere) out of the concern that the victims would be bullied/antagonized by other members of the community. In the end he has decided to publicize the names with consent of the victim's family.

    Personally, I don't know why names of the accused need to be publicized until the people have been found guilty (given that a false accusation of child molestation can ruin a person's life), but when you have 'leeway' in one community that's not afforded to another, this can often be a red flag.

  9. there are different cultural requirements with any sectoral community. I dont think it should be that way in such an issue, but the fact is that haredi rabbonim demand certain considerations. If the police are willing to take that into account and still work together, I am sure they are doing it in a professional manner. I cannot imagine that the police would allow them as a cultural need to run their own investigation, to damage witnesses or that kind fo thing, but perhaps other aspects have more leeway that they are willing to be flexible, or considerate, about..

  10. I hope you're right. I would still say that the public would be wise to keep a watchful eye out for any collusion between the rabbanim and authorities that results in obstruction of justice.

  11. Another problem with this new organization, is that the same people who are behind it (Rabbis Malinowitz, Kornfeld etc) are also running the schools, shuls, tzedaka fund, etc - and so have every reason to cover up child abuse in order to protect the good names of the institutions they've built up. This has been their policy till now.

    There will continue to be a natural tendency for Maaneh to protect the alleged perps who are "insiders". (Perhaps they will be willing to work with the authorities where the alleged perp is from outside their chevre?).

    It's a case of appointing the cats to watch over your milk.

  12. Aside from attempting to undermine Magen - what is Maaneh's purpose?

    Not only would I not give money to such a "cause" - I certainly wouldn't sacrifice my child's safety to it.

  13. A minor correction re: the Brooklyn DA's policy on revealing names - he was actually not even publicising the names of convicted abusers. The NY Times had to comb through public records to find the names of convited abusers, when such names are ordinarily announced as a matter of course.

  14. Don't be absurd. It's all about image; not one thing has substantively changed. Here's a scenario: Your child tells you the neighbor touched him/her. You call Maaneh (although how you would do this without contact info I don't know; but let's assume they get their phone info together) and give them the info. They consult with their Rabbanim and lo and behold! you are told not to report it--same as before; remember, you called Maaneh so the police have no idea about any of this--but you are sent to one of a variety of local professionals who operate "under the radar" for these Rabbanim, to get therapy for your child. The following week, of course, Maaneh will get another call about the same neighbor from a different family b/c they have done nothing to stop him from molesting children. So what's changed? Now they have a name and an amuta so they can fund raise. Oh goody, I feel safe.

  15. From the same team who brought you "DISASTER", now introducing.. "MAANEH"!!

    If Maaneh was serious about competently handling child protection & child abuse in our community, they would separate themselves from those rabbonim & askonim who have messed up so badly - and instead show the public that Maaneh are New, Independent, and Trustworthy.

    Chaval. Maaneh has already failed on all three counts.

    1. Maaneh IS those rabbonim and askanim.

  16. There is a serious financial crisis going on and yet rabbonim feel there is a need to open yet another organization that will just duplicate what Magen is doing?

    If Maaneh is on the "up and up" and won't be doing anything different than Magen then why burden the community?

    So it's either a case of "no we won't really be doing things properly" or "let's out Charedi yet another organization".

    In either case it just shows what these askanim are really about.

  17. Foxes Guarding the HenhouseJune 26, 2012 8:12 AM

    "A few years ago, an organization was conceived of and formed by a few Rabbonim here in RBS"

    This a total falsehood.

    I am the parent of a child who was molested by a member of the community. I went to one of the few "rabbonim here in RBS".

    He told us not to report to the authorities and to use his therapist and his therapist only. He told us that this must be contained within the Charedi community.

    B"H we had the sense to realize the danger that this man was causing to our child and ignored his directives.

    If this is who is running Maaneh then our children will not be safe!

    If you truly wish for the protection and welfare of your children stay away from Maaneh and those who are running it.

  18. Rafi this announcement doesn't impress me.

    The Torah world is being made a mockery in the comparison to the Catholic church regarding abuse issues.

    This late, lame statement by the very causes of the problem will simply further the smokescreen already placed by our "leadership".

    I firmly believe that the thinking people in Klal Yisroel should "wake up" and reconsider their blind following of certain rabbonim whose agenda doesn't include the best interests of the population.

    Thank G-d we have rabbonim and kehillos in our community that are wise, sane and don't push an agenda.

    We all have a choice.

  19. There is SOME good news here.

    1. These haredi rabbonim (Rav Malinowitz and Rav Kornfeld) have finally acknowledged that their response to child abuse allegations/crimes in our community was insufficient (some would say far worse).

    2. And they are now openly using taboo words like "authorities" and "police".

    So, now they've come around to these two important truths, after three years of David Morris campaigning for this, why don't they just work with Magen (aside from their pride)?

  20. I think that David Morris should close Magen and defer to Maaneh.

    If the rabbonim are now dealing with the issue why must there be 2 organizations.

    1. Because the Rabbonim in question have a Chezkas Tarfus when it comes to this issue.

  21. Rafi,

    I think that due to the importance of this post it should be moved to the top.

  22. Rabbi Malinowitz and Rabbi Kornfeld are clearly trying to hoist the Kupa Shel Tzedaka vs Lema'an Achai model, on the child abuse issue.

    If so, perhaps the results will be the same.

    The Hareidi Establishment will throw their money and political weight behind Maaneh, however, when people actually need help they will continue to turn to Magen.

  23. Rafi - can you find out from Magen if they actually help any haredim? Or is there indeed a need for a new organization (Maaneh) which will?

  24. I know they do. but with a new "more haredi" organization, maybe the haredi families with problems will go more to Maaneh than Magen in the future.
    People will mostly go to where their rabbi directs them. people turn to their rabbi when they need help, when they need comfort, when they need advice. In most cases, a religious, especially a haredi family, will first go to his rabbi when an incident happens. If the rabbi sends him to magen, thats where he'll go. if maaneh, then thats where he will go.

  25. "I think that David Morris should close Magen and defer to Maaneh.

    If the rabbonim are now dealing with the issue why must there be 2 organizations."

    The rabbonim are not dealing with the issue acceptably. They are still light years behind Magen. If Magen closed we would be in serious trouble. If Ma'aneh closed we would be just fine.
    David Morris and Magen are operating very differently, and for very different reasons, than Maaneh. David and Magen have shown that they are willing to look bad and take flack in order to protect our children's safety. They are only there to protect our children and offer support to families who have been hurt. The reason Magen started is because these very rabbonim were sacrificing our children to protect the image of the community.
    The reason for Ma'aneh is to try to get rid of Magen so they can have some of their authority back. As much as I respect the local Rabbonim, they have shown over and over again that protecting children is NOT their main concern. It is protecting their authority and the image of the charaidi community. Who would YOU go to if your child was hurt G-d forbid? I personally would go to Magen.

  26. In the "big" realm I see that Rav Yaacov Haber, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and Dr. Pelcovitz all support Magen over Maaneh (if Maaneh has been around for so long and yet these 3 associate themselves with Magen).

    These men have dedicated themselves to not only protecting children but also to keeping a degree of sanity in the Charedi world.

    If Magen and not Maaneh has their vote and support then it should have that of the rest of us as well.

  27. An Innocent BystanderJune 27, 2012 8:23 AM

    All of these comments are nice and some of them even "cute".
    This issue, however, is very serious.

    The rabbonim of RBS are not alone in their attitude in dealing with child abuse suspicion.

    Look around the Jewish world and you will see a pattern. Be it RBS, Brooklyn, Monsey, Lakewood, Baltimore, etc.

    The rabbonim feel that one should avoid the authorities and come to them first.

    In addition to being illegal it is highly immoral and irresponsible. Our children..YES YOUR CHILDREN are being put in harm's way.

    The lack of response to and sometimes even ignoring a suspect endangers every child who may come in contact with the suspected molester.

    Many of those who are blindly following these same rabbonim are either chozrim b'tshuva or those who left a MO life to become Charedi.

    No where is it written that one must leave common sense behind when joining the Charedi world. Why have your precious children, raise them and daven for their success then leave them in the hands of men who have an agenda that is far beyond their welfare.

    The time has come to stop and think about what you are doing and to whom you are subjecting yourselves. Charedi means to "tremble" before HaShem NOT before other people.

    The ways of the Torah are "Darchei Noam". If a certain practice or hashkafa doesn't seem normal then more than likely it isn't.

    If you won't wake up for yourselves then please do so for your children!

  28. Parent of a VictimJune 27, 2012 11:09 AM

    Neither R. Kornfeld nor R. Malinowitz have "got it" about child abuse in our community.

    They still solely see this as an issue of rabbinical control.

    They don't have control over Magen - and so have spent considerable efforts and public resources setting up a competitor Maaneh who they DO control.

    I have seen Magen at work, up close. Without exaggeration, they saved my family.

    The reason Magen is so successful is that Magen is bedavka NOT controlled by the Haredi Establishment.

    Magen is independent, non-aligned, solely focused on protecting our children - and not on any other community interest, power politics, protecting institutions, money, etc.

    Magen is immune to all that and cannot be intimidated, derailed or smoke-screened; Magen has shown time and again they are willing and able to go the full-nine-yards for our kids - they did for my kid - EVEN where this has unfortunately required confronting schools, rabbonim, askanim and of course the child abusers (however powerful or well positioned they may be).

    Please can someone get Rabbi Malinowitz and Rabbi Kornfeld to see sense, put their kovod on-hold, to meet with Magen in order reach a practical way for working together, without compromising kids safety, and without squandering public resources on setting up (at best) a me-too duplicate organization?

  29. for all you big fans of Magen I suggest that maybe Magen needs oversight, Rabbinic or otherwise. There was a recent case that Magen pursued of an accused abuser and were unwilling to look at the case realistically. the judge let him off after no evidence could be produced. In the meantime, in their zeal, they ruined a persons life.

  30. Anon,

    Magen does have oversight..Rabbinic and otherwise.

    Regarding the case to which you refer...update your facts..."it ain't over until...".

    This case is under review...

  31. As someone involved in the legal system, I can assure you that it is most unlikely that a case would reach a final verdict (which can take several years, with multiple reviews and procedures) when there was "no evidence".

    If you feel this case was indeed based on "no evidence", then your complaint is not at Magen (who are not authorized to conduct criminal investigations), but perhaps the police, legal system, prosecution, et al.

    These bodies have well developed channels for public recourse.

  32. Please dont start talking about specific cases. Almost nobody has access to the information and details that are relevant, so referring to a case is just throwing misinformation to the public (in any direction).

  33. To me it seems like another Badatz vs Rabbanut type of situation.

    Another organization achieves success and is not under the control of Charedi leadership out come the calls of "not Daas Torah", no Rabbinic support,not kosher etc.

    We in RBS have seen this with the mikve, Lema'an Achai, Shefa Shuk,Ulpana Gila and the list goes on.

    In this case however the stakes are much higher.

    We are not dealing with a few more shekel for a "holier" hechsher, more bedika at the mikve or a school with a stronger/weaker takanon.

    We are talking about child safety and protecting our most precious assets.

    David Morris and Magen have a track record of educating, advocating and assisting families suffering from abuse. To their credit predators have been caught and are under prosecution.

    Maaneh and its leadership have a track record of allowing suspects to continued access to children, bashing Magen and anything to do with Morris, tampering with investigations, intimidating victims and their families and by their own admission "remaining under the radar".

    So no it's not whether you'll eat that cookie or chicken...it's about how safe will your child and his/her friends be.

    I'll take my chances with Magen thank you.

  34. Rafi thank you for forwarding us Chaim S's enquiry.

    Chaim S: "Rafi - can you find out from Magen if they actually help any haredim? Or is there indeed a need for a new organization (Maaneh) which will?"

    95% of Magen's clients over the past two years are self described as chareidi, and we welcome clients of all religious/cultural backgrounds.

    We at Magen strive to handle every case according to the child's best interests, and always within the framework of best professional practice, the law, and cultural sensitivity.

  35. A Survivor's SiblingJune 27, 2012 2:00 PM

    I have been following this post with much interest.

    Although I am not a victim of molestation I am the much older sibling of a child who was molested.

    I can only say that my family and I wish that there was a David Morris and Magen around at that time.

    You see, my parents, as "Charedim" went to their rav instead of going to the police. The rav sent my sibling to a therapist, "Charedi of course", to deal with the situation.

    The therapist told my parents that there was no need to go to the police as suspected pedophiles are usually not prosecuted anyway and he would help their child get through this and move along. My parents asked him..what about other possible victims of this perpetrator, who happened to have easy access to children,...don't people have to be warned?

    The rav also told the suspected abuser who was complaining so we received threatening calls at home from all sorts of people.

    At that point the therapist asked my parents if they knew what projection was. He said that often a child will be molested by a parent or sibling (or other relative that they love) and because of the horror will project the blame onto an innocent third person such as a rebbe or morah, etc.

    It turns out that this "therapist" and his sponsoring rav were trying to convince my sibling that the abuse came from my brother. Other than the fact that geographically my brother was 6,000 miles away when this occurred there was another slight issue.

    It came to our attention that other children in my sibling's class were also complaining about abuse.

    After this my parents went to the authorities against the "orders' of the rav and therapist. We were told that there would be no more shidduchim, no more school choices, etc. for my family because of this.

    My parents wisely (and bravely) said..so be it. Better no more shidduchim and schools than more victims of this perpetrator.

    Today, many years and tears later, we are a healthy family with married children, grandchildren and a positive outlook on life.

    The one important detail that I saved until the end...both the Rav and the therapist in this story are BOTH very involved in Maaneh.

  36. I am a parent at Avi Ezri.
    Yes, there was an unfortunate allegation there - but the school handled it very responsibly and reported the teacher concerned to the authorities. The school informed the parents and even distributed books about child abuse for the parents to read through with their kids.
    I think Maaneh grew out from that experience - and I'm sure they will be responsible with future cases, chas veshalom.

    1. As a close friend of a family whose child was molested in Avi Ezri. It was MAGEN who informed the parents at the request of the parents of victims, which left the school with no choice but to behave responsibly or face the consequences. In the past when Magen wasn't around parents would not be told anything.

  37. From what I know, the school did not report anything. Some parents went to Magen and then reported the abuse to the police. After that the school dealt reasonably responsibly with the situation that was handed to them.

  38. Was An Avi Ezri ParentJune 27, 2012 3:39 PM

    Correct - Avi Ezri did not report the teacher. Some of the parents did that, without involving the school.

    After the teacher was in police custody, many of the parents discovered the situation, and these parents then invited Magen to address them. Once everything was out in the open, the school went into damage-limitation mode, and put a parent in charge of handling the whole situation. He seems to have done a reasonable job - given the circumstances he was placed into. All the parents and kids were brought into the picture.

    I don't think any of the other (I heard dozens of?) victims were properly treated, nor reported.

    If not for Magen, one can speculate how events may have turned out.

  39. Ma'ayan Yavo Ezri?June 27, 2012 6:20 PM

    Hmmmm...You mean Avi Ezri as in R' Kornfeld's school?

    Hmmmm... you mean R' Kornfeld as in Maaneh Rabbinic authority?

    Hmmmm...you mean something may be fishy here?

  40. Was An Avi Ezri ParentJune 27, 2012 8:21 PM

    Mayan, sorry, I don't follow the logic. Why is Avi Ezri, R.Kornfeld, Maaneh "fishy"?

  41. Magen "showed up" R' Kornfeld in his own school as many parents chose Magen over him.

    He comes out a short time later in a shiur saying that "magen is the problem, not the solution".

    Now an email comes out and says that Maaneh has been around for a few years.

    To me it seems that Kornfeld et al are trying to silence Magen so an Avi Ezri situation (where they go to Magen) will happen again.

  42. its getting out of hand. stop picking on Avi Ezri. what happened happened. Nobody wants another "Avi Ezri situation" to happen again. chas v'shalom.
    nobody wants kids to be abused. there is a difference in attitude and approach in how to deal with such an incident. Its fine to disagree with someone else's approach, but realize that nobody wants kids to be abused, not even the people on the other side who have the different approach..

  43. For the record - the person accused of abuse at Avi Ezri was completely exonerated by the court and the prosecution was criticised for bringing a case against him. The accused lost his job at the school as a result of the allegations.

    Given those facts (and the encouragement of Magen to prosecute) it is hardly a case to be trumpeting as the cause celebre of Magen.

  44. Anon of 12:00 AM

    Your facts are outdated.

    The case is back in the system.

    1. why is it back in the system? new complaints? new evidence?

  45. Rafi - I think there's a typo in Mayan's comment.

    He wrote: "to silence Magen so an Avi Ezri situation (where they go to Magen) will happen again."

    It seems to me he meant to write: "to silence Magen so an Avi Ezri situation (where they go to Magen) will NOT happen again."

    The sentence and context makes much more sense that way (Rav Kornfeld has created Maaneh in order to exclude Magen from involvement in the event of a future incident); as you say, clearly no-one wants an Avi Ezri situation to happen again!

    Mayan - can you confirm the typo?

  46. Parent. Thank you for the correction.

    I meant to say NOT

  47. Was An Avi Ezri ParentJune 28, 2012 10:43 AM

    According to the school there were dozens of victims.

    If the perp walked free due to lack of evidence - where did all the victims disappear to?

    Why were the parents of the victims not encouraged by the school to report to the authorities?

    Is the world really a better place when pedophiles are "completely exonerated" due to lack of cooperation from the community?

    1. Or maybe the story wasn't quite as sensational as it was made out to be...

  48. Anon,

    You are 100% on target.

    Abuse in chedarim and cover up by the school/leaders/rabbonim is no longer sensational in the Charedi world!

  49. Here's a novel idea. For child abuse, call the police. Do not call the rabbis. Given their track record, and the fact that rabbinic authorities are NOT trained to deal with criminal situations, do not have the power to arrest, do not know how to avoid tampering with evidence, or launch a proper investigation, calling the rabbis first would be a huge mistake. Given their track record of covering up and hiding the issues, there is absolutely no reason to trust them. This is not a good development, but rather another rabbinic attempt at a power grab - they're trying to make themselves out to be all powerful by giving the impression that they're better than the police.


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