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 Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.