Thursday, May 18, 2006

Yawn!!! Jewish Week is attempting to care about sexual abuse

Gary Rosenblatt, Editor - New York Jewish Week
Ever since the new allegations have been made regarding Rabbi Marc Gafni I have been wanting to ask Gary Rosenblatt an important question.

I want to know if he every wondered if he could have done something differently a few years ago in hopes of preventing three more women from being sexually violated?

For those of you who don't remember, a few years ago Gary did an in-depth investigation into the old allegations made against the New Age, Jewish Renewal Guru - Mordechai Gafni. Rosenblatt had more then enough information to really make a difference in preventing anyone else from being harmed. Unfortunately Gary was more concerned about "lashon hara" and what his buddies would say (i.e., Saul Berman, Naomi Marks, Joseph Telushkin). Rereading his old articles and made aware of all the information he had, it doesn't appear he cared about protecting Jewish women from becoming the next victim. I personally believe Gary Rosenblatt owes Jewish communities around the world a public apology. He also should be held accountable for his lack of action.

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Facing Up To Abuse

Jewish Week (NY)
May 19, 2006


Two very different cases of alleged sexual misbehavior by rabbis were in the news this week, pointing to the ongoing need for the community to find a respected mechanism for investigating and dealing with these problems.

A major piece in New York magazine (“On The Rabbi’s Knee,” by Robert Kolker) focuses on Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a longtime rebbe at Yeshiva Torah Temimah of Brooklyn, who faces a $20 million federal lawsuit, alleging his sexual abuse of young boys in his charge in school and in summer camps going back more than 35 years.

One of the rabbi’s former students, David Framowitz, now 48 and living in Israel, brought the suit, which blames the yeshiva and its rosh yeshiva for “a campaign of intimidation, concealment and misrepresentation designed to prevent victims from filing lawsuits.”

It is a deeply disturbing story, particularly because of the alleged cover-up and the indication that it could be, according to the article, “just the tip of the iceberg” of “rabbi-on-child molestation” in the haredi community, which continues to deny the problem.

While some in that community would call the magazine piece a chillul Hashem, or desecration of God’s name, for publicizing the issue, many readers are certain to conclude that the real embarrassment is over the refusal of community leaders to address the situation.

In the meantime, the spiritual renewal communities in Israel and the United States are reeling from the news that Bayit Chadash, a New Age prayer and study group in Tel Aviv, has removed Rabbi Mordechai Gafni as its rabbinic leader after four women — his students and a staff member — filed complaints of sexual misconduct against him with the police. (See story, page 16.)

Rabbi Gafni is no stranger to such allegations, which have followed him, here and in Israel, for more than two decades. But in the past he managed to convince a number of leading Jewish educators that he was the innocent victim of a runaway rumor mill.

Several organizations and rabbis took it upon themselves to investigate the allegations and concluded that they were false and unfair, and that Rabbi Gafni deserved to have his name cleared. Now that he has admitted the pain he has caused, it is worth reflecting on the lack of professionally conducted and communally accepted inquiries to deal with charges made against religious leaders. What is required is the formation of a respected body of rabbis, community leaders and professionals versed in the legal and psychological matters at hand. Ad-hoc investigations simply are ineffective. And as spiritual renewal organizers acknowledged this week, efforts must be made to prevent rabbinic teachers from being looked upon as gurus, able to use their charisma to manipulate followers emotionally and otherwise.

Sadly, cases of rabbinic abuse and calls for a coherent communal response are not new. As noted by Rabbi Mark Dratch, founder of JSafe, an organization to deal with abuse in the community, the disconnect is that rabbinic authorities feel critics are out to embarrass them, when in fact the critics are disillusioned to find that some rabbis seem more concerned about protecting their colleagues than the children and others who are vulnerable. Until the situation is confronted more openly and directly, embarrassing cases of abuse are certain to continue, and to become public.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an email to Morbius cc'ed to others now.

Morbius' original post at: http://jewschool.com/?p=10616

Morbius, your ignorance of the Gafni case history and allowance of Jewish Renewal misinformation in this case is astounding. I understand your need not just to moderate my comments, but to block them outright.

You are welcome to check all my documents referred to here out with Luke Ford, Rabbi Blau or others.

I am not going to address the nature of the newest allegations at this time. As to the clear mal intent of Jewish Renewal leaders, I would note at this time Jewish Renewal leaders have not made apologies to the past survivors whose truths were attacked or their supporters who were publicly attacked.

You state:
Secondly, Jacob Ner David and Avraham Leader relied upon the investigations of Rabbis Saul Berman and Arthur Green who would have benefited in no way from staking their reputations on exonerating Gafni. I believe they acted appropriately and I retract my statement questioning Ner David’s hiring of Gafni.

Firstly, Rabbi Green never investigated Gafni's history and simply relied on others. In a 2004 letter to The Jewish Week defending Gafni, Green said that he had not investigated the allegations and had "no interest in doing so."

Secondly, how could Berman have properly investigated the allegations when he refused to speak to several of Gafni's survivors.

Thirdly as to Jacob Ner David and Avraham Leader now not claiming to have investigated Gafni please read this letter that was circulated by Gafni AND Jewish Renewal Leaders.

To The Jewish Community worldwide:

In this letter we the undersigned ask the Jewish community worldwide to reaffirm its commitment to the Torah, and to the ethical principles of Judaism. Although the specific focus of our discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, whom have known collectively for many years, the issues we address are universal and timeless.

A group of several people – none of whom know Rabbi Gafni personally in any real way, and none who has had any contact in the past twenty years – have undertaken a systematic campaign to besmirch his name. Their primary method has been to keep alive and distort two very old and long discredited stories. Their attacks have recently increased in volume and intensity. He has consistently and generously offered to meet with them, but they have refused.

Many people who know Rabbi Gafni well, as all the undersigned do, have individually and collectively examined the accusations about him that this group has been spreading. We have found their rumors and accusations to be either wholly without substance or radically distorted to the point of falsification. We conclude that the false and malicious rumors against Gafni constitute lashon hara – and that the dissemination of such lies is prohibited by the Torah and Jewish ethical principles.

Thus we must address and to make right the wrong that has been attempted in regard to Rabbi Gafni, and affirm our support of him as an important teacher and leader in the Jewish community.

We have worked with Rabbi Gafni in many contexts, ranging from colleague to employer. We have published his works in our collections, co-taught with him, and known him in a host of other close relationships. Over the years, we have also extensively discussed with him the different stages of his life and the decisions he has made in relationships, professional choices and more.

We affirm without reservation that in addition to being a person of enormous gifts, depth, and vision, Rabbi Gafni is also a person of real integrity. He possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity coupled with a genuine humility that comes only from having lived life fully – with all of its complexity, beauty and sometimes pain.

Leaders of his caliber and depth who are committed to ongoing personal development are few and far between. From our dual commitment to him as an individual, as well as to the most profound ethical teachings of the Torah, we urge you as the reader of this letter to reject the false reports about Rabbi Gafni, and to give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.

Sincerely,

Metuka Benjamin, Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple
Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program
Rabbi Saul Berman, Director, Edah
Zivit Davidovich, Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh
Rabbi Shefa Gold. Director C-Deep, composer and teacher
Rabbi Arthur Green, Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School
Rabbi Eli Herscher, Stephen S. Wise Synagogue
Arthur Kurzweil, former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club,
Avraham Leader, Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash
Stephen Marmer, M.D., Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School
Jacob Ner-David, Board Chair, Bayit Chadash
Peter Pitzele, Ph.D., Bibliodrama Institute
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbinic Chair, Aleph
Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author, Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom
Rabbi David Zaslow, Havurah Shir Hadash
Noam Zion, Hartman Institute

cc: canonist, luke ford

May 19, 2006 12:07 PM  
Anonymous It Hurts said...

"It Hurts"
By Jan Groenveld

IT HURTS to discover you were deceived - that what you thought was the "one true religion," the "path to total fredom," or "truth" was in reality a cult.

IT HURTS when you learn that people you trusted implicitly - whom you were taught not to question - were "pulling the wool over your eyes" albeit unwittingly.

IT HURTS when you learn that those you were taught were your "enemies" were telling the truth after all -- but you had been told they were liars, deceivers, repressive, satanic etc and not to listen to them.

IT HURTS when you know your faith in God hasn't changed - only your trust in an organization - yet you are accused of apostasy, being a trouble maker. It hurts even more when it is your family and friends making these accusations.

IT HURTS to realize their love and acceptance was conditional on you remaining a member of good standing. This cuts so deeply you try and suppress it. All you want to do is forget - but how can you forget your family and friends?

IT HURTS to see the looks of hatred coming from the faces of those you love - to hear the deafening silence when you try and talk to them. It cuts deeply when you try and give your child a hug and they stand like a statue, pretending you aren't there. It stabs like a knife when you know your spouse looks upon you as demonised and teaches your children to hate you.

IT HURTS to know you must start all over again. You feel you have wasted so much time. You feel betrayed, disillusioned, suspicious of everyone including family, friends and other former members.

IT HURTS when you find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed of what you were - even about leaving them. You feel depressed, confused, lonely. You find it difficult to make decisions. You don't know what to do with yourself because you have so much time on your hands now - yet you still feel guilty for spending time on recreation.

IT HURTS when you feel as though you have lost touch with reality. You feel as though you are "floating" and wonder if you really are better off and long for the security you had in the organization and yet you know you cannot go back.

IT HURTS when you feel you are all alone - that no one seems to understand what you are feeling. It hurts when you realize your self confidence and self worth are almost non-existent.

IT HURTS when you have to front up to friends and family to hear their "I told you so" whether that statement is verbal or not. It makes you feel even more stupid than you already do - your confidence and self worth plummet even further.

IT HURTS when you realize you gave up everything for the cult - your education, career, finances, time and energy - and now have to seek employment or restart your education. How do you explain all those missing years?

IT HURTS because you know that even though you were deceived, you are responsible for being taken in. All that wasted time........ at least that is what it seems to you - wasted time.

THE PAIN OF GRIEF

Leaving a cult is like experiencing the death of a close relative or a broken relationship. The feeling is often described as like having been betrayed by someone with whom you were in love. You feel you were simply used.

There is a grieving process to pass through. Whereas most people understand that a person must grieve after a death etc, they find it difficult to understand the same applies in this situation. There is no instant cure for the grief, confusion and pain. Like all grieving periods, time is the healer. Some feel guilty, or wrong about this grief. They shouldn't -- It IS normal. It is NOT wrong to feel confused, uncertain, disillusioned, guilty, angry, untrusting - these are all part of the process. In time the negative feelings will be replaced with clear thinking, joy, peace, and trust.

YES - IT HURTS BUT THE HURTS WILL HEAL WITH TIME, PATIENCE & UNDERSTANDING

There is life after the cult

May 22, 2006 9:26 AM  

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