Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

NBC Misrepresents Chabad Rabbi on Sexual Abuse (UPDATE)

June 23, 2013 2:49 pm 0 comments

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz. Photo: Screenshot/NBC.

NBC recently ran an important story on Judy Brown’s heroic efforts fighting the culture of silence in her insular Hasidic community. The segment highlights her award winning book ‘Hush,’ which exposes sexual abuse in the insular Orthodox community of Williamsburg.

Here is what NBC misreported in the story.

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz says people are now acknowledging sexual abuse is happening.

“These type of crimes have to be eradicated,” He says. He insists, though, that the community can handle the problem internally. “We have to do it within the way the community knows how to solve its problems. Cause sometimes when you come banging with drums from the outside, the community becomes more insular.”

The implication of this parsed quote is that Rabbi Berkowitz is advocating reporting abuse to rabbis not the authorities.

Considering how uncharacteristic this approach is in Chabad and knowing Berkowitz personally, I decided to ask him exactly what he said.

It turns out Berkowitz was referring to educational initiatives on prevention not reporting of abuse.

In fact Berkowitz made it abundantly clear to the producer that he advocates reporting abuse to law enforcement; but NBC edited the interview to imply that he was referring to handling reporting internally.

In Berkowtiz’s words as stated on his Facebook page:

Myths and Facts: NBC explosively misused my words on dealing with Child Sex Abuse: They aired one line out of the five minutes we discussed Child Sex abuse in the over one and half hour interview. What I said regarding eradicating the crimes by dealing with it internally, I was speaking about prevention, that in order for it to be taught in the community schools it must be done with the Chassidic communities sensitivities in mind. Otherwise if it comes from the drums beating from the outside, “they can become more insular”. Before that line was said, I spoke in the interview that criminals must be punished by law enforcement and never be hidden or pushed under the rug.

Berkowitz’s view is of course consistent with the 2011 Crown Heights Rabbinical Court ruling, which requires that suspected abuse be reported directly to the police.

The media misreporting on Orthodox Jews in the context of sexual abuse reflects a lack of nuance when discussing different Hasidic groups, and perpetuates the false assumption that if they all have black beards and fedoras they must all have the same views on gender and sexual abuse prevention.

Another example of this was ABC conflating a Crown Heights’ seminar combating sexual abuse with the Weberman fundraiser. Despite the fact that the seminar 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.

UPDATE: Since reporting this issue, NBC removed the story and segment which grossly mis-portrayed Rabbi Avremi Berkowitz’s views on reporting sexual abuse and inserted an editors note to help clear up any misunderstanding.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →