Thursday, February 17, 2005

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman Ride To The Rescue Of Sexual Predators - By Luke Ford

I think it's important that we all thank Luke for writing this. I agree with him on this.


****************************************************

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman Ride To The Rescue Of Sexual Predators
By Luke Ford
http://www.lukeford.net

We live in a dark and crazy world where rabbis who confess to committing rape are sometimes exposed by members of the Jewish community such as The Awareness Center.

But fear not. Rabbis Telushkin and Berman (on the Left end of the Orthodox spectrum) have been working hard over the past eight months to see to it that Jewish clergy who use their religious office to sexually abuse the underage and vulnerable are no longer humiliated publicly by having their picture and stories told on the Internet.

I for one don't want to live in a world where a rabbi can't diddle kids to his heart's content without fear that somebody might write about them.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman for supporting sexual predator Marc Gafni and doing everything in their power to see to it that future Gafnis do not have to face the humiliation of having their actions exposed to the world.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman on behalf of sexual predators everywhere.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman for protecting the powerful and seeking to rip away the last bit of protection for those abused by Telushkin and Berman's rabbinic peers.

Won't somebody please think of the children? What kind of example are we grown-ups? We have evil gossip in our community. The reputations of sexual predators are being smeared right and left. Let us all make common cause with rabbis Telushkin and Berman so that their fellow rabbis can f--- kids for free.

Whenever I feel discouraged about the priorities of our rabbinic leaders, I like to reread this letter in The Jewish Week following its mild and partial expose of that wild and crazy guy Marc Gafni:

To the Editor,

Words can elevate and words can destroy.

There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt’s column (The Re-Invented Rabbi, 9/24/04).

The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from twenty-five years ago – when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi – in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question. Rabbi Gafni has a completely different account of what happened which was not clearly related in the article (including the fact that nothing even vaguely resembling sexual relations took place).

Furthermore, we can attest first hand that several years ago Rabbi Gafni made serious attempts to contact this woman in a therapeutically-mediated context—to clarify the huge gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected and the decision was apparently made that the press was a more appropriate vehicle for conversation.

The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations which are twenty-years old. The story critically omits the fact that the professional to whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz) was responsible at the time conducted an investigation, and drew the following conclusions in a formal report which was accepted by his superiors:

“I’ve known Rabbi Winiarz for the past six years, and I believe I speak of his character from a position of knowledge and reliability… In his work as director of Jewish Public School Youth, allegations were made as to his improper conduct with a teenage girl and a young female adult [referred to in the article as Judy and Susan]… For several months, in the spring and summer of 1986, I delved into the accusations and had numerous conversations with a number of people who were associated with Rabbi Winiarz both professionally and personally. I also talked to the accusing parties as well as members of their families, rabbis close to them and agency personnel involved in the work of JPSY. I also, of course, spoke at length to Rabbi Winiarz about these matters. It was my conclusion, based on clear and compelling reasons, that the accusations were not true and were not substantiated. I might add that this was also the view of a clinical psychologist who interviewed Rabbi Winiarz and the teenager after the alleged incident.”

We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months, and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who feel he has wronged them—even when he has a completely different account of the situation.

We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to persistent rumors. Our conclusion differs from that of Mr. Rosenblatt. We have collectively, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Rabbi Gafni. We have found them totally not convincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Rabbi Gafni’s public role constitutes a risk to Jewish women, or to anyone for that matter.

We pray that this unfair scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Rabbi Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy and The Book of Jewish Values
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh, author of With Roots in Heaven and
The Receiving

Curious about the exact number of kids a rabbi like Gafni should be allowed to rape before he loses his position as a Jewish leader, I left messages October 21, 2004, with rabbis Berman and Telushkin on their home phone numbers to talk about their defense of Gafni and their attacks on The Awareness Center. They've yet to return my call.

(I favor the number four. That way you don't jump all over a good guy like Gafni who's had a few indiscretions.)

But don't think for a second I feel neglected. No, I get warm and fuzzy when I treasure the rabbis' kind and thoughtful comments behind my back about my journalistic techniques.

It is important in these troubled times that we neither expose sexual predators nor assist their victims. No, we should follow the example of Telushkin and Berman (mavens of media studies) and focus our energies on a careful analysis on the background of a blogger in Los Angeles who allows victims of sex abuse to tell their stories (after fact-checking them).

I'm glad to know Berman and Telushkin are going to shut me down. It's only right. Who wants somebody writing without permission, without the proper credentials, without the proper servility to those with power and money?

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well.

Please stop me before I expose another rabbi-predator. The reputation you save, dear rabbinic reader caught in the cross currents of truth, might be your own. Best to join forces with your peers and preserve your privileges.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I agree with him on this."

You mean there actually exist a topic on which you don't agree with Ford?

February 17, 2005 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke,
Thanks for having the courage to tell the truth and for educating our communities of what's really going on.

February 17, 2005 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Going! I would have never known.

February 17, 2005 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great. Thanks Luke.

February 17, 2005 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect Berman and Telushkin a lot and actually think the concerns they've expressed about both The Awareness Center and Luke are legitimate. Of COURSE the community should be protected from sexual predators, but I think their concern is that Vicki and Luke's excesses are ultimately undermining the legitimacy of these efforts. For instance, the language Luke and Vicki use is so extreme; whatever Gafni may have done way back when, to imply that he's going around today raping children (or that there's any danger of that) is such an obvious distortion that it undermines any legitimate accusations that could be taken seriously.
I think if they stick to the truth without exaggeration, they won't attract these kinds of attacks.

February 17, 2005 1:11 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>For instance, the language Luke
>and Vicki use is so extreme;

So what?

>whatever Gafni may have done way
>back when

Sexually molesting children.

>to imply that he's going around
>today raping children

No one said this.

>(or that there's any danger of
>that) is such an obvious
>distortion that it undermines
>any legitimate accusations that
>could be taken seriously.

Nonsense.
1) The rabbonim have never taken the accusations against their friend seriously. That's why there's never been an independent investigation of him. That's why he moves from community to community with new last names.
2) Gafni/Winiarz/Winyarz or whatever his name is this week is a child molester. Of course he is an ongoing danger. He's a child molester.

>I think if they stick to the
>truth

They have.

>without exaggeration

What exaggeration?

>they won't attract these kinds
>of attacks.

Of course they will from Gafni enablers like you.

February 17, 2005 1:45 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>There was a time when the Jewish
>community too glibly and
>carelessly disregarded words of
>accusation of sexual abuse
>against clergy.

And apparently still does.

>The pendulum has now swung to
>the opposite extreme

The same nonsense Rabbi Matis Weinberg supporters claimed as does every child molester's defenders.

>“I’ve known Rabbi Winiarz for
>the past six years, and I
>believe I speak of his character
>from a position of knowledge and
>reliability…

So what? Child molesters have two faces, a public and a private one.

Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark recently found out that his friend of close to 20 years was attending NAMBLA meetings, had extensive computer archives of child pornography and claimed to have had sexual relationships with teenage boys. I'm sure Rabbi Goldmark could have said the same thing above about his friend before the revelations of the past few days.

see:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pastor16feb16,1,5455596.story?coll=la-headlines-california&ctrack=1&cset=true

February 17, 2005 2:21 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>The column reports an allegation
>concerning a relationship from
>twenty-five years ago – when
>Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and
>20 and not yet a rabbi – in a
>situation where he had no
>pastoral relationship with the
>person in question.

He was a rabbinical student raping a 13 year old.

>Rabbi Gafni has a completely
>different account of what
>happened

Duh.

>which was not clearly related in
>the article (including the fact
>that nothing even vaguely
>resembling sexual relations took
>place).

Give me a break, it's clear what he meant.

"She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her"

February 17, 2005 2:32 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Furthermore, we can attest first
>hand that several years ago
>Rabbi Gafni made serious
>attempts to contact this woman

Basically to shut his victim up and continue denying any responsibility for his actions.

"A couple of years ago, Mordechai asked one of his supporters to contact me, to see if we could meet. I was told that he wanted to make peace with me. I read a letter that he wrote, stating that he regretted that our "relationship" didn't work out, and that he wished he had waited for me to come of age and had married me. He really thought that we had a mutually consenting relationship, and that I was hoping that he would take me as his bride! There was no acknowledgment that he did anything against my will, and certainly no recognition of the gravity of his actions. He was trying to contact me because he knew I was telling my story, and he wanted to stop the bad PR, not because he wanted to make amends, do "teshuva", or own up in any way to what he did...."

February 17, 2005 2:35 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>and, if necessary, to apologize
>for any way in which she felt
>hurt.

But again, not to accept responsibilty for what he had done.

>This offer was rejected and the
>decision was apparently made
>that the press was a more
>appropriate vehicle for
>conversation.

If Rabbi Gafni has truly done teshuva, why hasn't he contacted the long list of innocent people he hurt and made restitution?

Rabbi Blau said he has spoken with a number of women "from the past who said they were victimized, and in no case do I know of his admitting direct responsibility or contacting them to express regret. So what teshuvah has he done?"

February 17, 2005 2:36 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>The story also reports
>unsubstantiated allegations
>which are twenty-years old.

So what? He left the state, altered his last name. Then he left the country and altered his whole name.

Is there any basis in Judaism for a Statute of Limitations on justice. It often takes abused children years to find the courage to go public.

February 17, 2005 2:39 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>The story also reports
>unsubstantiated allegations
>which are twenty-years old.

So what? He left the state, altered his last name. Then he left the country and altered his whole name.

Is there any basis in Judaism for a Statute of Limitations on justice. It often takes abused children years to find the courage to go public.

February 17, 2005 2:39 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>The story critically omits the
>fact that the professional to
>whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz)
>was responsible at the time
>conducted an investigation,

White-wash.

>and drew the following
>conclusions in a formal report
>which was accepted by his
>superiors:

Old-boys club.

>It was my conclusion, based on
>clear and compelling reasons,
>that the accusations were not
>true and were not substantiated.
>I might add that this was also
>the view of a clinical
>psychologist who interviewed
>Rabbi Winiarz and the teenager
>after the alleged incident.”

Sounds like every Catholic priest investigation before the media got involved.

February 17, 2005 2:41 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>We have collectively looked at
>this issue again in the last six
>months, and come to a similar
>conclusion.

The woman sexually assaulted by Winiarz when she was 13 attempted to contact Berman many times. He refused to take her calls and has never spoken with her.

Typical.

February 17, 2005 2:43 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have
>struggled with the question of
>what gravity to assign to
>persistent rumors.

More like they were struggling to dtermine how to shut everyone up.

February 17, 2005 2:44 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>We have collectively, over many
>years, spoken to virtually
>everyone who would speak to us

Exept those you refused to speak with.

>who was directly involved in
>order to examine the accusations
>against Rabbi Gafni. We have
>found them totally not
>convincing.

And your training to do such investigations.....NONE.

>Further, there is
>simply no evidence that Rabbi
>Gafni’s public role constitutes
>a risk to Jewish women, or to
>anyone for that matter.

And as his best friends you are really credible in making that determination.

February 17, 2005 2:46 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>We pray that this unfair
>scandalous moment will soon be
>forgotten

Never.

>and that Rabbi Gafni will be
>able to free his spiritual
>energy

Garbage.

>and formidable intellect

Give me a break.

>in order to help build Jewish
>consciousness and commitment.

We don't need or want the child molester.

February 17, 2005 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powerful article, Luke. Hope it has some effect,--are you also sending it in as a letter to the editor?

February 17, 2005 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Articles like this are very helpful. Even though I still what you do for a living Luke, thanks for this article. Its terrific!

February 17, 2005 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, Jewish Whistleblower? Methinks you are a little obsessed with this issue. Like, UNBELIEVABLY so.

Spurned lover of Gafni, perhaps? Maybe it's time to get over him and get a life of your own.

February 17, 2005 3:33 PM  
Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Um, Jewish Whistleblower?
>Methinks you are a little
>obsessed with this issue. Like,
>UNBELIEVABLY so.

So?

>Spurned lover of Gafni, perhaps?

No.

>Maybe it's time to get over him
>and get a life of your own.

I have a very nice and happy life, thank you.

I simply don't like child molesters. The only thing I hate more than a child molester? A child molester who's been tolerated and enabled by community leaders far too long.

February 17, 2005 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It amazes me the number of people who will support someone who admitted to having sexual relations with a 13 year old girl, and also a 15 year old. Gafni was 24 and married when he sexually abused a 15 year old. When is he going to be held accountable?

When is he going to finally enter into sex offender treatment with someone who is qualified to treat him?

I see both Jewish Whistleblower and Luke Ford as hero's when it comes to the Gafni case. Who else has enough integrity to do something to stop this man?

February 17, 2005 4:22 PM  

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