Jewish-Orthodox Sexual Abuse Cases and Ultra-Media Bias

June 13, 2012 1:54 pm 1 comment

Orthodox Jewish men and children in Brooklyn. Photo: wiki commons.

Sexual abuse is not unique to any specific community. Secrecy, shame, stigma and fear pervade all sectors of society, including secular college campuses, as in Jerry Sandusky‘s case, and the halls of religious schools as in abuse survivor Joel Engelman‘s case. The issue needs to be openly discussed in every community.

The Orthodox-Jewish community in Crown Heights candidly confronted sexual abuse on June 10 when a forum was held to address the need to continue implementing rigorous policies in schools and camps and the need to report crime directly to the police.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, clergy abuse lawyer Irwin Zalkin, civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Zvi Gluck of “Our Place” and a local survivor and advocate Mordechai Feinstein were all members of the panel.

Discussion ranged from highlighting the Crown Heights Rabbinical Court ruling, which required that abuse be reported to the police, to schools implementing rigorous background checks on all employees and volunteers.

Despite the fact that the event had zero connection to the case of 1,000 Haredi men in Williamsburg rallying behind the accused pedophile Nechemya Weberman, media outlets chose to make that connection. Lucy Yang of ABC7, for example, conflated Crown Heights’ combating of sexual abuse with the Webberman case. Conflating the Crown Heights Jewish community to the members of the Orthodox Williamsburg Satmar sect that organized the Webberman fundraiser is tantamount to comparing mainstream Mormons like Mitt Romney with Mormon Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs. It lacks nuance and is inaccurate. They are different sects and different communities.

This lack of nuance and attempt to lump all Orthodox Jews into the same category is also reflected by the commonly used pejorative prefix “ultra” when referring to all Orthodox Jews, and even when referring to Orthodox Jews that require reporting abuse. The NY Post for instance reported how “members of the city’s ultra Orthodox Jewish community heckled Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes yesterday over his handling of sex-abuse cases…” Even victim advocates decrying Hyne’s policy of not disclosing names of Jewish Orthodox sex offenders are evidently “ultra” in this context.

What makes an Orthodox Jew “ultra”? Is it the black fedora, long beard, kippah head covering, or black suit? Even extremist sects like the Branch Davidian’s are not referred to with the prefix “ultra.” That would be as absurd as calling a Pentecostal “ultra-Catholic” or “ultra-Evangelical” or calling a non-Orthodox sect “ultra-Reform” or “ultra-Conservative.”

For the sake of accuracy and not marginalizing people by name alone, Orthodox Jewish sects should be called by their real sect names, whether they are Satmar, Belz, Bobov, Ger, Karlin, Skver or any other. Or as a whole they should be called by the term “traditional,” which more accurately reflects an unbiased characterization. This would certainly make it easier for people to distinguish between the widespread variance between the different sects when it comes to reporting sexual abuse and reflect a neutral descriptor of religious Jews.

There are a plethora of modern Orthodox rabbis and Chabad rabbis, for example, who unequivocally require that suspected or actual sexual abuse be reported directly to the police. Likewise there are rabbis from various sects that discourage reporting sexual abuse directly to the police. This wide variation would be better captured if Orthodox Jews were described accurately.

1 Comment

  • John Bernadyn

    11/4/2012
    United Advocacy Group, Inc.
    John Bernadyn, Managing Partner

    Troubled Jewish Teenager Describes Horrors of Sexual Abuse Growing Up in Foster Care
    John Bernadyn, UAG
    (CHICAGO) – As an innocent twelve year old boy, John Bernadyn was taken from his dysfunctional home and placed in to the youth welfare system of the state. “Freedom often comes with a price,” recalls Bernadyn.
    After spending many years lacking sleep, recalling horrible memories, and avoiding social situations he published a memoir entitled, Betrayed By The State: A Ward of the State Speaks Out. “These horrors won’t stop with me. Every parent needs to know that they are at risk of hearing these stories from their children – if the state so chooses to remove them from their home,” said Bernadyn. The statistics do seem to warrant his statement. While many organizations spend time campaigning or boasting about the positive outcomes for those having grown up in the foster care system, the silent majority go unheard.
    Shortly after arriving in his first foster care situation he contacted his child welfare caseworker to lodge a formal complaint. This started a six year journey of transfers from placement to placement that would ultimately land him in what he describes as ‘hell’ – including all the torments of physical and sexual violence. His final stop prior to exiting the system would be to live with youth from the department of corrections with serious problems. “I had to grow up rapidly in order to survive this situation.”
    In Bernadyn’s account he alleges that the child welfare system was unresponsive to his needs and the needs of those around him. In fact, he says, “They ultimately stopped taking my calls.” He is grateful to the final judge he met and ultimately released him from these horrors in a heart-wrenching and detailed account of the courtroom scenario.
    The successful twist is what does not get discussed in Bernadyn’s memoir. Bernadyn would later become a successful healthcare executive and managing partner of United Advocacy Group, Inc. Although calling Chicago his home, he travels extensively for speaking engagements and healthcare consulting. He may be reached at JBernadyn@UnitedAdvocacy.com or (312) 489-0632.
    ###

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    JNS.org – An Israeli-Arab microbiologist and mother of three won the fourth season of Israel’s most popular reality TV show, “MasterChef.” Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, 32, who holds a PhD in microbiology and is from the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, described winning as the “the most exciting moment in her life.” She said she plans to use the prize money to open up an Arab-Jewish cooking school. MasterChef is a popular reality TV show that originated in the U.K. It is [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Theater Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Jewish comedian and writer David Baddiel is seeking public support to help produce a musical based on his film about a British Muslim man who discovers his parents are Jewish. London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East is in development to premiere The Infidel in October, London’s Evening Standard reported on Wednesday. However, the theater needs another £55,000 on top of around £200,000 already raised in order to produce the show. Baddiel, 49, retained the stage rights to the story when he wrote the [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Relationships Love Guru Says Kaballah Practitioners Tend to Have ‘Less Satisfactory’ Relationships

    Love Guru Says Kaballah Practitioners Tend to Have ‘Less Satisfactory’ Relationships

    British relationship expert Andrew Wallas said Kaballah practitioners are likely to be less satisfied in their personal relationships than other couples, Britain’s Daily Mail reported Wednesday. “All the research is that individuals who have an interest in psychology or spirituality or who practice something like Kaballah (the branch of Jewish mysticism popularized by Madonna) are less likely to have satisfactory relationships,” he said. “A lifetime spent doing self-improvement workshops can just be a case of someone running away from reality.” [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Meet New York’s 6’7″ Jew Who Will Rap for You (VIDEO)

    Meet New York’s 6’7″ Jew Who Will Rap for You (VIDEO)

    He’s a 6’7″ Jewish freestyle rapper who roams the streets of New York delivering his rhymes to unsuspecting passersby. Te’Devan, who calls himself the “6’7″ Jew who will rap for you” was recently profiled by the Gothamist blog. In a video posted Monday on YouTube, as part of the website’s No Your City eight-part series created by Nicolas Heller, Te’Devan is seen rapping about “not trying to conform to the status quo” and his mission to “be what I’m supposed to be.” [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.