This morning Vicki Polin put out an announcement on behalf of the Awareness Center that they were cutting all ties to Kal Holczer and his sex abuse oganization, Voices of Dignity (VOD).. I applaud Vicki for calling a spade a spade. I agree with her understanding of the facts and her analysis of the problem. I plan to write about it at more length in the coming days. However I wanted to share some of my first reactions. I posted slightly different version of the following comments on Failed Messiah, below Vicki’s announcement.
I too was once a booster of Kal and have now concluded that Kal must go. I encouraged the Jewish Star’s reporter, Michael Orbach, to seek him out when he went to the Brooklyn courthouse where Lebovits was being tried. To my subsequent regret, Kal got a flattering profile in the Jewish Star billing him as a rising star. I plan to write about him at more length in the coming days. His problematic traits include lying, spending money for which there are no plausible legitimate sources, playing every side of the fence, claiming to be all things to all people, and advocating sexual healing to survivors by having sex with him.
For weeks now I have largely limited my direct communication with kal by phone and email to two main issues: why refer to a hotline that does not report suspected abuse to the police; why support the idea of using a community beth din or vaad when even the ultra orthodox Jewish establishment had admitted that this is an approach that does not adequately deal with sex abuse.
He is charming. He listens well or seems to. He promises to think about these issues. He promises to investigate the facts. He promises to “kick ass” on the other end to put things right. He promises. At the same time he promises other things to other factions. At the end of the day he is still promising. Yesterday, knowing that he was at the end of the line with me, he finally addressed my points in detail articulating them very well in a long email. He then promised to look into it. I no longer want to waste my time time talking to him because he has repeatedly and deceptively wasted my time with lies and promises. But not wanting to work with someone is not a reason to tear him down publicly.
He re traumatizes survivors. He betrays their trust in him for personal sexual gratification and he lets individuals who are abused go to hot lines that are dark holes from which their stories will never reach the authorities.
We survivor advocates have correctly faulted the charedi establishment for protecting their own. Well, we can’t levy the charge without taking the unpleasant responsibility for policing ourselves. I have many disagreements and criticisms with one or another survivor advocate, just as they no doubt have about me. I have never to date publicly criticized another survivor advocate in public. I go to great lengths to work together with all sorts of folks. But this is not a petty spat. This is about the principled question; do we cover up for our own to avoid embarrassment or do we do right by survivors and call a menuval a menuval. Kal is a menuval. I sympathize with him about his personal travails. But he has cannot be one of the leaders or public voices of the movement to fight sex abuse. It is not dignified and he is not honestly giving voice to our values. Voices of Dignity is a sham. We have to say it publicly or we are in no position to criticize others who cover up sex abuse.