Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What The Rabbis In Baltimore Are Up To

Yesterday at Shomrei Emunah Rabbi Gottlieb gave a powerful speech about sexual abuse in the Jewish community of Baltimore. If any one has any more information about it please post it. I've also heard from a reliable source that all the frum rabbis of Baltimore are going to be passing out some protocols to parents in what to do if their children are abused.

The name you wanted from the Shomrei Emonah Speech
The Demilitarized Zone (David Zakar's Blog)
April 11th, 2007

The full article from the forthcoming Jewish Times article is floating on the web. In case you were wondering who it’s about: Ephraim Shapiro. Don’t worry about protecting your kids from him - he’s not alive anymore. The bad news is, there are some very convincing allegations against his son, too.

I’m trying to remember where I heard this stuff before, but I was eminently unsurprised when I saw that name. This isn’t the secret it’s been made out to be.

I have some things to say later, but for now: the rabbis in Baltimore need to realize that “taking a hard stance” a week before a damning article comes out is not exactly “taking a hard stance”. It’s damage control. Lying to your congregants that you’re somehow on top of this issue when it clearly and apparently just got forced out onto you is a heck of a thing.

(Out of respect to Phil Jacobs, who, I should mention, was an observant Jew last time I checked, I’m not reposting his article. Suffice it to say, I held him in great esteem before this, and moreso after.)


Anonymous Presense said...

Baltimore Rabbis Address Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community
Presense Blog
April 12, 2007

Just before the last days of Pesach, congregants of Shomrei Emunah received an email from R. Gottlieb that he would be addressing the entire shul on "a very important and timely issue confronting our community," over Yom Tov. Speculation abounded as to the topic, but most thought the issue at hand was sexual abuse in Baltimore community.

The second day of Yom Tov, R. Gottlieb did indeed devote his drasha to the topic of sexual abuse. The drasha came in advance of a letter that is being sent to the Baltimore community with a statement adopted by the Va'ad HaRabbonim of Baltimore on the issue of sexual abuse.

Since taboo and silence are the two greatest enablers of abuse, R. Gottlieb asked us to resist our natural inclination to do several things:

• To deny allegations are true.

• To hide behind the laws of lashon hara or chillul Hashem (*).

• To minimize the damage done to those that are victimized.

• To not talk about the issue of sexual abuse with our children.

R. Gottlieb acknowledged that, in the past, cases of abuse have been mishandled because of giving in to these natural inclinations, and that, even if the intentions were from a good place, that this resulted in even greater damage.

The Va'ad is in the process of putting together a systematic approach that will delineate proper behavior in an effort to prevent sexual abuse, such as guidelines for schools and educators. As an example, the Va'ad is looking to the city of Chicago, which recently formed a special beis din to address claims in an open and forthright manner. This will hopefully help prevent incidents of sexual abuse from occurring, as well as help ensure an open process of addressing incidents that do arise, God forbid. There is also the very real concern of false accusations, which, R. Gottlieb also mentioned, has occurred as well.

More details will be available in the letter coming sometime this week. R. Gottlieb is also in the process of formalizing his remarks and will make them available to those that are interested. My thoughts will follow in a separate post.

* By "ignoring" the laws of lashon hara, it is my understanding that R. Gottlieb did not mean that issues of abuse are open for public discussion, nor that one should readily believe anything that is printed in the press or on the web. Rather, if one knows of a case of abuse and does not investigate, or does not report it, or does not inform others of the potential danger, out of a fear of spreading "lashon hara," they are in error. There is no issue of lashon hara if you are protecting an innocent person from damage. This is commonly applied in the realm of shidduchim.

To me, one telling litmus test of how things will proceed from here on in, involves those abusers in the community who have previously been “dealt with” by having been “designated for re-assignment”. It could be that their acts may have been perpetrated in the past and they may indeed no longer be active predators. However, a more public adjudication is necessary not only to help their victims who are still haunted presently, but to instill a greater communal confidence in its leadership. And of course, it goes without saying that the identities of current abusers who have yet to be exposed, need to be dealt with in a forum that is more open that it has been in the past.
Although I have not yet seen the letter that will go out, it seems that based on Rabbi Gottlieb’s remarks that the Rabbinic leadership is finally coming to grips that in 2007, we (in Baltimore and the Orthodox community as a whole) are no longer living in Pollyanna-land. Plenty of people in the community know exactly what is going on now (and in the past), the identities of the perpetrators, who has been covering it up, and that the allegations are not merely part of some left-wing conspiracy theory to make certain people, institutions, and Torah Judaism look bad.
Posted by: Dr. E at April 12, 2007 10:11 AM

The problem with "designated for re-assignment" is that, essentially, it's not a punishment. "Don't do it again" is not a punishment. These acts deserve punishment of the harshest sort, the sort that our communal leaders can't hand out.

I am more cynical of you about the motivations for coming out (BJT story, anyone?) but if they can actually make progress on the issue, I'll be satisfied. But we really need more than just progress on this issue - Baltimore Jewish communal institutions need to fundamentally reform themselves in many ways to keep other such things from occurring.
Posted by: DMZ at April 12, 2007 12:10 PM

That was precisely my point on the "designated for re-assignment". I was suggesting a more public adjudication which would include punihment and restitution. But, your point is well taken that it remains a question as to whether there is ability and willingness to mete out anything meaningful. That's probably where the law enforcement authorities need to be brought in.
And I also agree that the local institutions will need to reform themselves, which would involve a more decentralized model.
Posted by: Dr. E at April 12, 2007 12:32 PM

April 12, 2007 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all BS. I wonder if this is all for show? With all the press Baltimore has been getting over the last few years, it way past time for the rav's to be doing something. How many more cases have to be exposed before they realize the answer is to tell everyone to call the police when a child is molested?

I would like the rav's of Baltimore to comment on the following minyan of cases that have a Baltimore connection.

rabbi Ephraim Bryks
rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau
rabbi Benyamin Fleischman
rabbi Solomon Hafner
Shmuel Juravel
rabbi Israel Kestenbaum
rabbi Yaakov (Ken) Menken
rabbi Ephraim Shapiro
rabbi Yisroel Shapiro
rabbi Aron Boruch Tendler
rabbi Matis Weinberg

April 12, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,

Please note that this Shabbos, Parshat Shmini, April 14th, I will be speaking at the conclusion of Davening on the topic of "Abuse In Our Community: Confronting Our Problems, Taking Responsibility & Creating A Better Future."

Kol Tuv
Rabbi Shmuel Silber

Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim
7504 Seven Mile Lane
Baltimore, Maryland
Office: (410)486-6672
Fax: (410)484-6224

April 12, 2007 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

April 13, 2007 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are they going to allow Eliezer Eisgrau to be a principal in charge of innocent children until he dies???? I would like to see the rabbi's demand that Eisgrau undergo an evaluation by highly trained experts in this field before he spends ONE MORE DAY WITH CHILDREN UNSUPERVISED. The Blto. Rabbi's write in there letter that they are refering to "credible" allegations. Who are these addmittedly IGNORANT rabbi's to decide which allegations are credible? Rabbi Lanner was brought to a Bais Din many years before the scandel broke and he was let off to abuse for a few more dacades. A therapist who has worked with survivors for many years told me that in his experience, "Where there is more than one or two smoke alarms, (allegations) There is ALWAYS fire. The truth comes out eventually.

April 14, 2007 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there a good support group for survivors here in baltimore?

April 15, 2007 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some good groups at the STTAR Center and also at Turnaround.

STTAR Center
410-290-6432, they have a 24 hour hotline too: 410-997-3292


I also go to a self-help group for survivors of clergy abuse. That meets once a month.

April 16, 2007 3:12 AM  

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