Tuesday, July 04, 2006

JWB: CALL TO ACTION - Berman Protest Campaign

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Berman protest campaign
Call the JCC: 646-505-5708

I would note that Rabbi Berman plans on speaking at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St. on teshuvah. I call on the community and press to use these occasions to demand accountability from him just as was demanded from those who were involved in the Lanner cover-up.

See: Willig talk draws protests because of Lanner link

It is obscene that Berman whose dishonesty and lack of integrity has been exposed in the Gafni affair can speak publicly on the subject of teshuvah when past survivors of his pal Gafni know he has not done one ounce of teshuvah towards his mistreatment of them and their supporters, not privately, not publicly.

If Rabbi Berman is not held accoutable publicly for protecting Gafni then it would be clear that nothing has changed since Lanner. As such that cannot be allowed to occur.

Location: The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St. (Program room assignments will be available at the JCC Customer Service Desk, in the lobby of the Samuel Priest Rose Building.)

For more information, or to register, please call 646-505-5708.
3 times on Tuesdays
8:30 PM - 9:45 PM
Sep 5 - Sep 19

Session 2: Teshuvah: Repairing Relationships with Friends, Spouses, Children and Parents with Rabbi Saul J. Berman, director of Edah

This series will focus on Torah teachings about the character of healthy relationships. We will study biblical narratives and Jewish laws which reflect on some of the positive and negative elements in relationships with friends, spouses, children and parents, and examine the ways in which relationships can be repaired and strengthened within the framework of the principles of Teshuvah.

$25.00 - Member
$30.00 - Non-Member
$40/$50 for both sessions. Please call 646.505.5708 to get the discount.


Anonymous Example of Past Protest said...

Willig talk draws protests because of Lanner link


The Jewish Standard (Teaneck, NJ) - January 30, 2003

A controversy with its origin in the Baruch Lanner affair is arousing strong emotion in parts of the Orthodox community in Teaneck and next-door Bergenfield.

On Sunday at 8 p.m., Rabbi Mordechai Willig, a member of the 1989 bet din, or court, called by Rabbi Lanner, is scheduled to speak about chinuch habonim — loosely translated as Jewish parenting — at Cong. Beth Abraham in Bergenfield. Some current and former area residents are protesting his talk because of his connection with that case.

Willig and Rabbi Herschel Schachter are both listed as speakers at Beth Abraham; both scholars are on the faculty and roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. They are members of TorahWeb, a group of RIETS faculty members whose writings are available on the Internet. Their talk is being sponsored by Beth Abraham and congregations Bnai Yeshurun, Keter Torah, Rinat Yisrael, and Tzemach Dovid, all in Teaneck. Lanner is the former Orthodox Union employee who has been accused of sexually and physically abusing some of the teenagers with whom he worked for more than 30 years. In June he was convicted of sexually abusing two young women who were students at the Hillel Academy in Deal, where he had been principal, in the mid-1990s; he is now out on bail pending appeal. In 1989, Lanner sought to clear his name against allegations of abuse made by Elie Hiller, then of Teaneck, who had circulated a letter making public some of the charges that had simmered against the charismatic rabbi. The bet din, according to the NCSY Special Commission the OU had charged in 2000 with unraveling the story, "concluded that Hiller's allegations were `unsubstantiated or highly exaggerated,'" although it also concluded that Lanner had "kneed teens in the groin, used `salty' language and engaged in `crude talk with sexual overtones.'" According to the commission's report, when its members interviewed witnesses, "Many of the members of the OU and NCSY leadership familiar with Lanner, as well as all the members of the beis din, told the commission that, in their view, Lanner either engaged in conduct unbecoming a rabbi, was not someone they would have hired or was not someone they wanted their children to have as a role model."

The decision, or psak, of the 1989 bet din was not made public; instead, it was released on a "need to know" basis. Instead, misinformation abounded. The NCSY report found that "a senior professional of the OU and NCSY misrepresented the findings of the 1989 beis din as being an affirmative approval for Lanner to continue his employment with NCSY. This individual also falsely suggested that the beis din was responsible for continuing to monitor Lanner. This unfounded and exclusive reliance on the beis din caused the organization to abdicate its responsibility to investigate Lanner's conduct and to take action against him.

"The description of the beis din's September 1989 psak (the beis din chose not to issue its psak in written form) as a complete exoneration of Lanner and as a mandate for allowing Lanner to continue his work for NCSY was simply not true....

"These inaccurate representations about the findings and role of the beis din continued over the course of the next 10 years."

In 2000, Gary Rosenblatt of New York's Jewish Week wrote an article about Lanner; it caused an uproar. Lanner's employment with the OU ended the day after the article appeared; the OU commissioned the report, assembled by a group headed by Richard Joel, now head of Hillel and soon to become president of YU. The article led to changes at the OU and to the court case in Monmouth County.

When Willig's talk in Bergenfield was announced, a group opposed to his appearance tried to have it stopped. People on both sides set up a marathon meeting where they attempted to come to some understanding. Despite what have been described as good-faith efforts to reach a compromise, none was reached. People on both sides say they hope to continue the conversation, but so far scheduling difficulties are said to have interfered.

This weekend, The Jewish Standard obtained a copy of an open letter being sent to the presidents of Beth Abraham, Bnai Yeshurun, Rinat Yisrael, and Keter Torah. The letter, signed by 19 people, all of whom have had some connection with NCSY, says, "We are writing because, in light of Rabbi Willig's public history regarding parenting issues, we do not believe that he is an appropriate presenter on the topic [Jewish parenting] and we want to urge you to reconsider your shul's sponsorship."

The letter goes on to say that the 1989 bet din "demanded that Hiller publicly apologize for his statements, apparently prejudging the case in Lanner's favor. Had he permitted the Beit Din to function fairly, perhaps Lanner could have been stopped a decade and many victims earlier. More troubling is Rabbi Willig's silence since the proceeding, which fed (and continues to feed) the impression his Beit Din created: that the Beit Din vindicated Lanner and found against Elie Hiller....

"Actually," the letter continues, "the Beit Din found Lanner guilty on three charges, including physically abusing children entrusted to his care.... The Beit Din knowingly sealed its psak to protect Lanner's reputation, refusing to release its written decision publicly...."

The writers say that they have chosen to speak now because "Rabbi Willig has delivered several addresses over the last two-and-a-half years on issues of child-rearing and/or sexual abuse. He has had ample opportunity to share with the community the hard lessons of that Beit Din from long ago. But he has never sought to explain his actions or offer his perspective on what happened at the 1989 Beit Din and afterward, so that as a community we can make sure the mistakes are not repeated."

The Jewish Standard telephoned Willig to ask if he would care to address the situation. He faxed a statement to the newspaper. Signed by all three of the rabbis who sat on the bet din — the other two are Yosef Blau and Aaron Levine — it reads:

"Several weeks ago, we met at length with Elie Hiller and a group of concerned individuals to discuss their perceptions, concerns, and expectations. "The group conveyed to us then its strong feeling that some perceive that in 1989 our bet din had vindicated Baruch Lanner and vilified Elie Hiller. On the contrary, we never intended this regretful result. In fact, we informed the group that Lanner was guilty of a number of charges.

"Our commitment to meet with Elie and members of the group remains steadfast. We do not think it is appropriate to comment publicly at this time."

Over the phone, Willig said that he is not comfortable talking to the press, but Leon Meltzer, who has known all three of the rabbis on the bet din since the mid-1980s and counts them all as friends, acted as his spokesman. "About the three rabbis — these are three good guys," Meltzer said. "No malice was ever intended. They are respected by their communities, they are respected by their students, they are respected by their colleagues. They would never defend actions they had found to be wrong.

"Elie Hiller demonstrated a lot of courage in stepping forward," he added. "And unfortunately, in the aftermath of the din Torah he paid a price for his heroism."

Emphasizing the NCSY Commission's report on the bet din, he pointed out that the bet din, which met only for the Lanner case, had disbanded. It had no ongoing role as Lanner's overseer. What followed the issuing of the psak was miscommunication, according to Meltzer.

He said that the rabbis, who do not live in New Jersey and do not move in the circles frequently by NCSY members or their parents, did not know that their psak was misunderstood. "I never heard these stories either," he said.

"As far as I know, no one ever told them."

Two of the shul presidents who received the letters did not return the Standard's telephone calls, and one is out of the country. Mike Roth of Bnai Yeshurun did return a call. He said, "I would not pull my sponsorship. There's not enough time to investigate, and I feel no need to investigate. I don't feel that we have enough information at this point to do anything. This is opening up an old wound. It's finished. Lanner's going to jail. I would just drop it at this point. There's no proof in the letter, and no one in any other community is making an issue of it. Inasmuch as that's the case, we're not looking into it any further."

Rabbi Michael Taubes of Kehillas Tzemach Dovid, who is also menahel of the Mesivta of North Jersey, was forceful in his disapproval of the situation, and of this newspaper for writing about it.

"It seems that certain people have a grievance in terms of Rabbi Willig," he said. "The letter wasn't addressed to the newspaper, and it shouldn't have been sent to the newspaper. I'm sure lots of people write letters about lots of things that don't appear in the newspaper. In what way is this a public issue?"

He dismissed the controversy as having no merit. "I don't know if there is a real issue," he said. "It seems to me that people are looking for a platform to make a big issue. The letter indicated that the people who were involved spoke with Rabbi Willig in person. Okay, they weren't satisfied with the response. How does that make it a public issue? What does that have to do with the rest of the community?"

"Whoever sent in the letter sent it in because he or she or they knew that this is a way for it to become a public issue. I believe they're looking for a soapbox, and I find this is wrong."

The people who signed the letter are all connected to NCSY, mainly as former members or staffers. They are Deborah and Todd Baron, Teaneck; Robert Dinerstein, Commack, N.Y.; Daniel Geretz, Highland Park; Nechama Goodman, Bergenfield; Shayndee and Dani Hiller, Hollywood, Fla.; Jordan Hirsch, Teaneck; Mindy Chassin Horowitz, New York, N.Y.; Marcie Lenk, Cambridge, Mass.; Laurie and Steve Kurs, East Windsor; Tova and Avi Sacher, North Miami Beach, Fla.; Aubrey Sharfman, Beverly Hills, Calif.; Allen Sragow, Long Beach, Calif.; Howard Sragow, Bronx, N.Y.; Murray Sragow, Teaneck; and Daniel Wildman, Edison.

July 04, 2006 3:10 PM  

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