Friday, February 29, 2008

Avi Shafran Shows His True Colors - Did He Learn From the Catholic Church?
Ralph Underwager / Hollida Wakefield/ Rabbi Avi Shafran

From The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter:
Will anyone ever be able to set Rabbi Avi Shafran straight?

Once again, Rabbi Avi Shafran who is the public spokesperson (Director of Public Affairs) of Agudath Israel of America is speaking out on a topic he knows very little about.

A few years ago I went back and forth with Shafran in an e-mail exchange regarding various statistics and issues pertaining to survivors and sex offenders. Unfortunately, the folks Rabbi Avi Shafran was quoting included Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield. For those of you who are unaware of these two psychologists, they are well known for defending alleged and convicted sex offenders. They are both known to support the propaganda that "we should all be fighting to protect the civil rights of pedophiles as we fight for gay rights." Several years both Underwager and Wakefield provided interviews for Paidika - a European pro-pedophile publication (see links below). After going around in circles several times, I finally let Rabbi Avi Shafran know about the controversy behind his experts who he was quoting.
We need to demand that the news media require Rabbi Avi Shafran to show his credentials, proving or disproving his expertise in the sexual violence field, prior to publishing articles by him. I think we all deserve to read accurate information instead of theories created by a man who feels the need to defend the rabbonim of charedi community. His writings are very similar to those who defend the Catholic church after years of covering sex crimes.

Also see:

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC, NCC, ATR-BC - Executive Director
The Awareness Center, Inc.
(international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
From the Long Island Psychologist
Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Adult Developmental Center -
Senior Psychologist/Director
Executive Board Member - The Awareness Center, Inc.

As the Long Island psychologist Rabbi Shafran refers to I feel the need to respond. I should first make it clear that references were included in the Jewish Press article but were edited out by the editorial staff. It should also be noted that in addition to psychology I have an advanced degree in research and statistics. As far as the data is concerned, the approach being used to understand it by Rabbi Shafarn is, as I explained to him elsewhere, is completely inaccurate. We are dealing with a design known in the field as survey research. This is not a simple case of comparing two medications or two distinct groups, as Rabbi Shafran would have us believe. In order to perform a survey of this type, data has to be drawn from the population and examined on its own. In fact, there have been approximately seven such studies done since the 1980's all with similar findings. Further the CDC and the NYC Department of Mental Health compile data that is publicly available for analysis. Gathering this information requires something referred to as a multi-trait multi-method approach. In other words, if all the studies arrive at similar finding, regardless of the techniques used or the specific sub-sample, than conclusions are increasingly valid. Such is the case here. As far as being critical of frum society I find that a fallacious comment not worthy of responding to. What is, however, most troubling is how easy it is to miss the real point. There is a problem that is not being adequately addressed.
From Failed Messiah Blog
Will Rabbi Avi Shafran Ever Stop Lying?
Failed Messiah
February 28, 2008

Rabbi Avi Shafran again proves himself to be incapable of understanding the harm he does. Rabbi Shafran would have you believe…

…criticism of Shafran (and, by extension, of
Marvin Schick) for his behavior surrounding the New York Jewish Week's' coverage of the Michelle Friedman, et al, paper on women and sexual abuse in Orthodoxy.

Shafran, whose
Jerusalem Post column appears at first glance to be identical to a Cross Currents blog post from late last week, would like you to believe all criticism directed toward him is based on one idea – that sexual abuse in haredi society is at the same level as sexual abuse in non-Jewish (or Jewish but non-haredi) society.
But Shafran's argument is false.

Certainly, some people criticized him by claiming that Friedman's
AJP study proved abuse rates are the same in haredi society as outside of it.

Most people, however, criticized him for minimizing sexual abuse within haredi society and for giving short shrift, both to victims and their advocates.

Shafran's Jerusalem Post and Cross Currents pieces rely heavily on a
brief paper written by Dr. Nachum Klafter for Rabbi Gil Student's blog Hirhurim. Dr. Klafter notes:

This study provides no conclusive information about the rate of sexual abuse in our communities, and should not factor into Jewish communal policy decisions.

And this would seem to support Shafran – unless the entire paper is read as a whole. Because Dr. Klafter points out the failings in the arguments made by haredim like
Marvin Schick. Dr. Klafter also notes the study's authors themselves made it perfectly clear that no sweeping conclusions could be drawn from the study, and they did this before the Jewish Week wrote its article and before haredim like Schick and Shafran complained.

And Dr. Klafter concludes his paper this way:

…From my perspective as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I believe that there is still not enough being done in Orthodox communities to prevent sexual abuse of children. The areas which I believe would be the most productive are preventive education for parents and children, and mandatory criminal background checks for all employees of day schools, seminaries, yeshivas, and summer camps. My perspective is informed by the following: (1) an understanding of the devastating consequences of childhood sexual abuse which comes from in-depth psychotherapy treatment of numerous patients who continue to struggle with the consequences of it during adulthood, (2) being privy to numerous incidents of sexual abuse in Orthodox communities across North America which have been horribly mishandled when mental health professionals and law enforcement were not involved, and (3) seeing numerous incidents of sexual abuse in Orthodox communities where involvement of the legal authorities and mental health professionals was enormously helpful to victims and their families, as well as to institutions and communities as far as preventing further incidents of abuse.

This may be why Rabbi Shafran, the official spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America, failed to link to Dr. Klafter's paper (or mention its source, for that matter) in his Cross Currents post. The Jerusalem Post article also contains no link or mention of Hirhurim.

Shafran then draws a conclusion from the study that also cannot be drawn, for the very same reasons the study's authors warned that no conclusions should be drawn:

Both of the recent papers, moreover, noted that the study's data in fact yields the remarkable (yet somehow unremarked upon by the
Jewish Week) fact that the survey respondents who were raised Orthodox were 50% less likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those from non-Orthodox homes. Considering that the survey asked if abuse occurred at any point in respondents‚ lives, it is plausible if not likely that much of the abuse reported among those raised non-Orthodox occurred before they joined observant communities.

First of all, Shafran (intentionally, I believe) ignores what is the most likely reason for that disparity – ba'al teshuvas (BTs), people not brought up Orthodox but who have later adopted a haredi lifestyle, are more likely to speak about sexual abuse than women who grew up under the haredi system of Omerta.

Secondly,those same BTs are trained to despise the secular society they left behind. Speaking about abuse that took place in that non-haredi society reinforces their newly held religious beliefs. That means BTS are more likely to discuss sexual abuse that took place before they became haredi, while haredim are less likely to discuss abuse that takes place within haredi society.
Worst of all is this:

NONE OF which, of course, is to deny either that abuse exists in the Orthodox community (as it does in all communities) or that all communities, including the Orthodox, have a responsibility to put effective measures into place to prevent it. But the fact of its existence in the Orthodox world is no justification for drawing unwarranted conclusions about its extent there.

The background checks Dr. Klafter calls for have been rejected by Agudath Israel of America, which has fought mandatory background checks for all religious school employees in New York State. It refused to deal with the issues of sexual abuse and rabbinic pedophilia at its convention, and its
rabbis have been widely linked to cover ups of rabbi-on-boy sexual abuse.

Dr. Klafter wants measures taken to stop sexual abuse and pedophilia in haredi society. Rabbi Shafran opposes those measures, and his organization has done nothing significant to stop sexual abuse and pedophilia in the communities it claims to represent.

And that is the truth behind Avi Shafran's spin.

Download shafran_crosscurrents.pdf (warning: crosscurrents is owned and operated by alleged sex offender Rabbi Yaakov Menken -

AJP Paper


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't get it. Why does anyone pay attention to anything Shafran says? What makes him so important?

March 02, 2008 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. So he exxagerated. So you ae saying that all is fine in the Hareidi community.
Hashem help us!!!

March 04, 2012 1:42 PM  

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