Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Is Rabbi Mark Dratch Trying to Recreate The Awareness Center?

Yesterday I picked up a brochure at the JWI conference. I was shocked when I read about a new organization being developed by Rabbi Mark Dratch called JSafe. I think it should be called J-UnSafe.

JSafe's mission and goals are extremely similar to that of The Awareness Center's. I have my concern that Rabbi Mark Dratch and members of the RCA are attempting to kill the messenger.

Back on November 11, 2004, Rabbi Dratch was interviewed by Luke Ford, and was quoted as saying the following:
"The website and its discussion groups are an invaluable resource for many people. I had been involved at supporting them at one point in time. Vicki Polin has done tremendous work. We had a disagreement about a year ago] over some of the articles published on there with regard to accusations made against individuals. Her feeling is that as long as there is an article out there it should always be public. I disagree with that. If there is no substantiation of the allegations after a period of time and the person may be innocent, those articles should not be there. As a result of that, we have parted ways. She remains an important resource for me and I imagine I am an important resource for her.
To the best of my knowledge The Awareness Center is much more then a website. It is a full grown organization. What a great way to disrespect an organization that you are trying to mimic. Belittle it and refer to it as just a website.

I know for myself when I've needed resources that I called and spoke to Vicki Polin, and was provided with information that I was unable to find else where. I've told friends and coworkers of mine about The Awareness Center, and they were able to locate a rabbi, connect with attorneys, find counselors who have experience working with rape and incest survivors.

I personally have had very bad experiences going to Jewish Family Services. The majority of therapists at two different JFS's I went to didn't have the experience in working with rape victims.

At one point I had to move to another state. I had the same experience in both states with JFS therapists. Reading the brochure of JSAFE, it seems like Jewish Family Services is where Rabbi Dratch is sending survivors. If you are a survivor don't go there! Because I live in a semi-rural area, Vicki had suggested I track down a local rape crisis center and be seen there, or ask them for the name of a therapist they would recommend. I also suggest the same thing.

In Luke Ford's article on Rabbi Dratch, Steven I. Weiss was quoted as saying:
"Luke - Dratch's argument against Polin, that she should remove old stories that have not been substantiated, comes in pretty neatly with the Michael Ozair story. Remember that in that case, only allegations against him had been printed, and the fact that he pleaded no contest in 2001 would have made the allegations three years old with no follow-up. It was precisely because his file was maintained on The Awareness Center's Website that we matched him up as Michael Ezra of KabbalahCoach.com, and that we did further inquiry into the matter, reporting his plea for the first time."
I don't want anyone to forget that Rabbi Mark Dratch mislead the survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler into believing what they said to him would be kept confidential. He also encouraged them to talk to the investigator who was hired by the RCA to conduct an investigation of the Tendler case.

The investigator wrote a report and provided it to the RCA. Rabbi Basil Herring, executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) decided it was only fair for Tendler (not his attorney) to have a copy of the final report, which had the names and contact information of the alleged survivors in it.

Rabbi Mark Dratch who was once an honored member of The Awareness Center's advisory board is now taking the ideas of another organization and running with them. The difference being is that Rabbi Dratch is closely tied to the organization that needs the most monitoring. It's almost like the United Nations monitoring the Saudi government.

27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but
I thought that his attempt was for working on the angle of prevention, and better education to those in leadership roles.

It would be a great thing if he works along with the Awareness Center. It seems that what he's doing, education and prevention, could actually take some of the burden off the Awareness Center so they can focus solely on survivors and reporting rabbis, no?
Just curious.

March 22, 2005 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From everything I've read about The Awareness Center, they are an educational organization.

I remember hearing Vicki Polin speaking at the JOFA conference last year or the year before. One of the goals of The Awareness Center was to create a certification program for rabbis.

I agree with you that it would be great if Rabbi Dratch and The Awareness Center joinned forces. I wonder if anyone bothered to ask Vicki if there was too much burden on her. When I've spoken to her on the phone she has mentioned the biggest burden is not having the needed funding to hire staff. She has also complained about not having the funding to hire an attoreny to help The Awareness Center get their tax exempt status. She also talked about using a student law clinic to achieve this goal, yet it has already taken 2 years.

The Awareness Center has little or no funds available. I know that donations made to the organization will be retroactive to the date of The Awareness Center's incorporation. If I remember correctly Vicki told me it was October 6, 2003. I remember this because I try to send donations when ever possible.

Wouldn't it have been much better for Rabbi Dratch to combine his resources with The Awareness Center?

March 22, 2005 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also spoken a great deal with Vicki Polin regarding The Awareness Center. Every converstation I have with her, she talks about not having funding to hire staff. Her burden is a financial one.

It's funny how politicians like Rabbi Dratch are so quick to "take the burden away" from those who are doing critical work, rather then asking them what they can do to help? I ask Vicki all the time. Her answer is always to find funding sources so she can hire staff, and also pay herself for the work she does.

I definately don't see how she does it. I could never do what she does. I think everyone who reads this blog should immediately get up, and write a check out to The Awareness Center. You want to help Vicki with her burden, send a check.

March 22, 2005 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am NOT an "alleged victim."

I am currently writing this from my hotel room at the JWI conference in Washington DC.

I also picked up the JSafe brochure. I'm going to see if I can track down Rabbi Dratch. I know he's here somewhere in the building.

I noticed that the brochure doesn't even use the correct terminology. Not once does it refer to those who were victimized SURVIVORS. I am NOT a victim. I am a Survivor.

March 22, 2005 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the goal of The Awareness Center to soley focus on survivors and reporting rabbis?

The Awarness Center has been doing much more then that. It's a coalition of many people coming together for a common goal, to end sexual violence in Jewish communities. I've spoken to Vicki, she does what she can do to help survivors achieve what ever it is they want to achieve. I remember talking to her on the phone and her saying "The Awareness Center is sort of like the "Make a Wish Foundation" for Jewish Survivors. Some times their wishes are to find good therapy, sometimes it's an attorney, sometimes it's to get a story published in an article, sometimes it's to help them find another survivor who was abused by the same person they were.

If you talk to Vicki you will find out that one of her biggest dreams is to create the first international conference to bring rabbis, educators, survivors, parents of survivors together. To have a summit of sorts. Vicki is big into education. She wants to make sure that all survivors and family members of offenders get the help they need, and that our communities reaches out to them. She also wants to make sure that offenders get the help they need. She's an activist and wants to make sure criminal charges are brought up against offenders only if that's the wishes of those who have been victimized. The first person who made comments obviously has never spoken to Vicki on the phone. It seems like they are making all sorts of assumptions.

March 22, 2005 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments, no need to get defensive though. Yes, have spoken with Vicki on the phone before and she's been of tremendous help to me.

It was a genuine question, and you've given me answers, so I thank you.

It will most definitely be a shame if the JSafe program ends up being a competition with the Awareness Center.

The person who pointed out the absence of the word "survivors" in the Dratch brochure --- that's telling evidence of where his mind-set is, certainly.

March 22, 2005 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all so sad. I wanted Rabbi Dratch to be a good person. What is the real reason why Rabbi Dratch left The Awareness Center? How can any survivor disclose any information to him? I definately can't. I was given his name and number several months ago, but have been trying to get the courage to call him.

Vicki gave me both Rabbi Dratch and Rabbi Blau's phone numbers. How is Rabbi Blau with confidentiality? Is he safe? Is he helpful?

March 22, 2005 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Vicki gave me both Rabbi Dratch and Rabbi Blau's phone numbers. How is Rabbi Blau with confidentiality? Is he safe? Is he helpful?"

I think all you have to do to know about Rabbi Blau is read what JS posted yesterday about all he said at the conference.

I felt when I spoke with Rabbi Blau on the phone that he took the issue very seriously. He seemed like a compassionate person who sincerely cares about these issues but most importantly about the survivors.

Rabbi Dratch on the phone though, felt more like a businessperson, unless I caught him on a bad day.

Talk to them both and see how you feel, you don't have to necessarily reveal your full name initially.

March 22, 2005 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vicki is doing many great things for survivors. However, she is hurting her reputation by insisting on posting unsubstantiated information about rabbis who have been accused, often falsely and unfairly, of some form of abuse. Because these unmonitored postings have become the most public and well-known aspect of the Awareness Center, she has unfortunately lost credibility in ALL areas, which may affect her ability to raise funding. This also is the reason why most members of the members of her board and advisory board resigned a couple months ago.

March 22, 2005 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with that post about the Awareness Center's credibility. They've definitely crossed the line way too many times, to the point where I now automatically disbelieve many of the allegations posted there, which is kind of ironic.
I think Dratch started the new organization after hearing so many complaints from various quarters about how the AC operates, and was worried that it was undermining the issue of sexual abuse by being unmonitored and so over the top.

March 22, 2005 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This also is the reason why most members of the members of her board and advisory board resigned a couple months ago."

Strange; if that is true, then why are all of her board members still up on the website?

March 22, 2005 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think Dratch started the new organization after hearing so many complaints from various quarters about how the AC operates, and was worried that it was undermining the issue of sexual abuse by being unmonitored and so over the top."

OF COURSE HE'S GOING TO HEAR 'COMPLAINTS'----from the perpetrators and their enablers! Duh!

It's sounding more and more to me like he's more concerned with his own political interests than he is contributing to help the Awareness Center succeed.

March 22, 2005 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Chava said...

"Strange; if that is true, then why are all of her board members still up on the website?"

Just a few months ago there were many more board members listed on the site. Apparently at least nine of them have resigned after learning more about Vicki Polin's lack of credibility and oversight.

March 22, 2005 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just a few months ago there were many more board members listed on the site. Apparently at least nine of them have resigned after learning more about Vicki Polin's lack of credibility and oversight."

How do you know that? How do you know they didn't resign due to more concern about their own political ambitions and image?

Just as survivors usually end up finding out the hard way (as did I), there are supporters who are with you only just so far. When the heat is on and they go public, many are astonished to discover the sudden disappearance of previous supporters.

In fact this was a phenomenom I asked Rabbi Blau about over the phone after being hurt by a few peoples' abandonment. He said it was quite common.

So perhaps it is a similar thing for Vicki and the Awareness Center.
When the heat is on they fly the coop.

Maybe we should be grateful to find out those that can't take the heat are gone. Perhaps stronger more dedicated individuals will take their place in the near future.

It's very clear that the enablers of some of these predators are quite capable of creating effective campaigns.

So to those who abandoned her board of directors because they supposedly don't like her "methods"---i.e, genuine concern about preventing further abuse by predatory rabbis---I say, good riddance.

March 22, 2005 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the whole thing is very sad. I want to talk to someone about what happened to me but now I don't know where to go to--until now I kind of thought that The Awareness Center is THE place to go and that the rabbis (who aren't offenders, because I can sure see why the rabbis who are offenders will try and shoot the website down) will surely support the efforts to help people like me. But now it feels like there's another organization and I don't want to get in the middle of a fight when I am finally getting my courage up to talk about what happened to me. Also, if people say not to trust The Awareness Center because some of their claims are supposedly unsubstantiated--what if my story, which believe me is true and affected my life terribly--is going to all of a sudden be considered "unsubstantiated"? After all, I can tell you for a fact that the rabbi who hurt me won't like, go and admit that he did to me what he did to me. In a way, what's happening now with the other organization maybe being more on the side of the abusers--with like having to first prove what happened or have the rabbi admit that he hurt someone or have a verdict and stuff--feels just like the words of the rabbi who hurt me coming true: "Make sure you keep your mouth shut because if you tell I'm going to make sure no one will believe you!"
Great. Now I feel trapped.
Can't this rabbi Dratch or the other rabbis people talked about on the blog who are like, doing politics on the backs of survivors, see that by fighting with other organizations who are trying to help survivors like myself they are actually working for the benefit of the abusers because as long as the organizations aren't focused TOGETHER against abuse, then the abusers win?
I'm scared. I think there's no place to go--The Awareness Center needs money and I have very little of it, and the other place has the money but doesn't want to help survivors only to do prevention.
I think this whole thing of competition makes the abusers win.
Does it mean that the rabbit who hurt me--like other rabbis who hurt other girls--was right to threaten me and really is the one with all the power?
This makes me want to quit.

March 22, 2005 6:14 PM  
Blogger Mara said...

i am a survivor and the best thing i did was speak to vicki polin and rabbi blau. don't be discouraged by the emergence of the jsafe and the politics. vicki really cares about survivors. rabbi blau also does. he is very courageous. all i can say is that i've yet to meet one person who regrets calling vicki or rabbi blau. anyone out there who has spoken to vicki and/or rabbi blau and regrets it?? anyone who, like me, gained a lot from speaking to both of them?

March 22, 2005 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm scared. I think there's no place to go--The Awareness Center needs money and I have very little of it, and the other place has the money but doesn't want to help survivors only to do prevention."

---------First of all, YOU don't need to send money to the Awareness Center to receive their help! People from all over should be donating whatever they can; not ONCE in any phone conversation did Vicki ever request me to send money, just to be clear.

I am a survivor as well and I can't urge you strongly enough to call both Vicki and Rabbi Blau. Vicki has been nothing but supportive in every conversation I've had with her. I wish I lived closer and could volunteer time to help her out.


"Can't this rabbi Dratch or the other rabbis people talked about on the blog who are like, doing politics on the backs of survivors, see that by fighting with other organizations who are trying to help survivors like myself they are actually working for the benefit of the abusers because as long as the organizations aren't focused TOGETHER against abuse, then the abusers win?

---I just had to take your insight there and 'bold' it----so that hopefully others who need to see it, see it!

Hang in there---- you are *not* alone. Please call both Vicki and Rabbi Blau sometime soon.

March 22, 2005 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was curious if anyone knows who's on the board of directors of the new organization (JSafe)? The Awareness Center lists their board member right where everyone can see?

I heard a rumor that one of the JSafe board members is the one and only Rabbi Saul Berman. I don't know if it's true or not, but if he is then he's one of Mark Gafni's strongest supporters.

As we all know Berman has started a smear campaign against The Awareness Center, in particularly against Vicki Polin. My gut is telling me that this new organization is getting funded by Gafni supporters. It sickens me to think that, but I have to trust my gut until I'm proven wrong.

March 22, 2005 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering if Rabbi Dratch had the courage to write a list of the cases that he believes The Awareness Center should take down. I think by doing that we can learn a lot about him. I also agree we need to take a look at who is on his board of directors. You would think that would be one of the first things he would make public. But he hasn't.

March 22, 2005 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was wondering if Rabbi Dratch had the courage to write a list of the cases that he believes The Awareness Center should take down. I think by doing that we can learn a lot about him."

------Great idea. Let's all call and/or write him.

March 22, 2005 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, everyone let's call or write Rabbi Dratch. Does anyone have his email address and telephone number?

I like the idea of asking him which cases he thinks should come down. But I also think we should also ask him who's on his board of directors. The public has a right to know both.

March 22, 2005 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His email address is MSDratch@aol.com

March 22, 2005 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi. thanks for encouraging me to not give up and to not give up. Also, thanks for letting me know that I don't need to send money to get help from The Awareness Center and stuff. I thought that the fact they had no funds would mean that they'd charge me or something. Its really nice of Vicki or Rabbi Blau never bring up the money thing as a condition for getting help because I guess that makes me feel a little safer that they totally understand that lots of survivors don't have a lot of money--the stuff I went through totally changed who I might have become, you know. I think I would maybe have more money because I wouldn't be having such a hard time all the time. I'd take giving money to organizations like that over being someone who like, needs their help, any time.
By the way, do I have to call both? everyone here mentioned that I should call them, but I don't feel comfortable talking to a man about any of this, let alone a rabbi, even if he's nice (you'd be surprised how many people will tell you that the guy who hurt me is a nice person, and not that this makes rabbi Blau an abuser or something, because that's not what I mean, only that I don't trust, you know?). I don't know if this makes sense. People are supposed to trust rabbis and all that, but I don't really trust anyone. Maybe I can try talking to Vicki--she sounds nice, and she's a woman, and maybe will understand how I totally didn't know what to do because I didn't have anyone to go to to complain and stuff.
I'm still scared.
I wish the fighting would stop and that the bad guys would be the ones who are like, in the hot coals, rather than survivors.
Does anyone know if I have to tell her my name and stuff--I think that'll make me scared because no one knows and what if somehow people who like the rabbi find out (like what people here said happened to the survivors from another rabbi when the committee or somethnig gave their names to the bad guy's friends) and then make me leave where I live and have everyone talk and look at me like I'm bad and stuff.
I hate this.
Why do they always have to win?

March 23, 2005 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, they don't always have to 'win'; look at what finally is taking place re: Tendler.

I understand where you're coming from about not wanting to talk with any other rabbi, let alone *male* about this. Neither did I. And you don't have to go into detail with any of them, either. But one thing became apparent after I did: It helped, in my mind, make it clear and differentiate between those who are "real" rabbis -- i.e, Rabbi Blau, and the fraud who manipulated me.

But you don't have to talk with Rabbi Blau or anyone else right away, talk to Vicki first. And if you can't reach her right away, be patient and don't give up. There were times I had to wait a day or so to hear back--remember she's swamped and has little staff help. But she will get back.

About worries of confidentiality/your name: In my months of contact/conversations with Vicki she has been thoroughly always very conscientious about keeping confidentiality. You have no worries there.

I wish sometimes there were a method on this blogging system that allowed for occassional 'members-only' discussion; ways to be of support to others which the public cannot have access to and especially those predators following this blog figure out who's who.
There are a lot of things I have learned in the past months about various aspects of manipulation techniques that certain abusers use that have helped me a great deal in my healing, and would like to write more on, in case they are helpful to others.

March 24, 2005 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we can ask The Awareness Center to start a network for those of us who use this blog? I know they have those other egroups going, and I know Vicki tries her best to screen offenders out. I know that since it's over the internet it's harder, but I think that might be a good idea?

What does everyone else think?

March 24, 2005 10:07 AM  
Blogger Avi said...

unfortunately, this is the Fox guarding the henhouse. Rabbi Dratch still has not taken responsibility for his mistakes in the Tendler case. This is too important to allow politicians play coverup and interfere with investigations. If Rabbi Dratch was serious he would have a board that was half survivors - even if that means he has to break down and allow woman to participate. ...Avi...

March 27, 2005 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding R' Dratch's JSafe and Vicki Polin's The Awareness Center I ask this: Isn't "our town" big enough and deficient enough in this area for us to spiritually, verbally, and financially do what we can to support both of thier abuse education efforts and resources for victims of varying ages and types of abuse?

As an abuse victim and survivor I understand respectful differences in preference to approaches and personalities, but I don't understand how this became suggestions that R' Dratch is not a "good person" or that he or his organization is iffy or untrustworthy in any way.

As for the JSafe wording in their literature, I AM a victim and a survivor of abuse, and either/or term is accurate. A victim is anyone who is harmed by an act perpetrated by another person or circumstance out of their control.

No one has to be an abuse survivor or related to a survivor to make a difference or be dedicated to this cause. Vast numbers of people professionally involved in abuse awareness and resource programs are not survivors or personally related to survivors.

R' Dratch is tactful and conservative with his words, yet I think any Rabbi must be in order to finagle acceptance or mere tolerance of abuse education and victim resource programs into our politically run synagogues, schools, and other community institutions.

I feel strong support, gratitude, and awe towards all the amazingly intrepid AC volunteers and Rabbi's helping Vicki Polin trailblaze victim advocacy, validation, freedom of speech, and abuse prevention in our community.

But everyone in this cause isn't personally ready or suited to address it the same way. People commited to helping must find thier own path and community role.

I pray to see the end to defensiveness and character aspersions and more unity in spirit and sharing of funds for all involved in our cause.

March 31, 2005 6:05 PM  

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