Pelcovitz and Leading Orthodox Rabbis Line Up Behind Sex Offender Evan Zauder

Guest Post by David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz is a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey. He is also the founder of a new non-profit organization, Mi Li – Who Is For Me, designed to educate the Jewish community about sexual abuse of children and provide support to victims and their families.

About a year ago I came forward in the pages of The Jewish Week and shared my experience as a victim of sexual abuse by a senior member of the staff at Camp Dora Golding in 1979. I also had the opportunity to address the annual conference of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) on the topic. In both instances and in other articles and venues, I spoke about the challenge that we face in the Orthodox community regarding a pervasive tolerance of sexual abuse of children.

This is not limited to any corner of the Orthodox community – It exists in the Modern Orthodox world just as it exists in the Ultra-Orthodox world. And while there is a growing recognition of this scourge, there has been little progress in addressing the underlying culture that tolerates abuse and excuses Orthodox pedophiles. Indeed, when someone is accused of abuse, and even found guilty of committing heinous acts of sexual abuse against minors, many communal leaders continue to bend over backwards to show Rachmunus (mercy and empathy) to the perpetrators, and little regard to the victims.

Evan Zauder

Evan Zauder

The terrible phenomenon has been highlighted once again this past week, coinciding with the scheduled sentencing of Evan Zauder. Evan Zauder, was a teacher at the Modern Orthodox Day School Yeshivat Noam located in Paramus New Jersey. Zauder also had a long history of working with Jewish youth, including as a synagogue youth director and participant in numerous youth related programs. In 2012, Zauder was arrested for possessing child pornography, and was subsequently found by the US Government to have distributed child pornography as well. He was also found to have engaged in illicit sexual relationships with underage males that involved graphic discussion, mutual masturbation, and oral sex.

Once caught, Zauder pleaded guilty to his crimes. As stated in a press release issued by the FBI on January 22, 2013,

Evan Zauder, a former sixth-grade teacher at a private school in New Jersey, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity and to receipt, distribution, and possession of child pornography.

The sentencing document offers graphic disturbing details:

Pursuant to the May 1, 2012 search warrant and a subsequent search warrant, agents recovered from Zauder’s apartment, among other items, two Macintosh laptop computers and a Memorex DVD belonging to Zauder. As set forth in detail in the PSR, forensic examination subsequently revealed hundreds of images and videos of child pornography on these devices, and revealed that Zauder had used Skype file transfer to receive and transmit multiple images and videos of child pornography, including child pornography involving prepubescent minors and child pornography containing sadistic or masochistic material. See PSR ¶¶ 17-19. …

One of the minors who has been identified, Minor-1, engaged in a Skype text chat with Zauder on or about April 14, 2011, in which Zauder asked Minor-1 if he wanted to meet in person with Zauder. PSR ¶ 20. Zauder and Minor-1 met in a car in a park in New Jersey, and Zauder received oral sex from Minor-1. PSR ¶ 20. In a text chat with a third party two weeks after the encounter with Minor-1, Zauder described convincing Minor-1 to perform oral sex on him. PSR ¶ 21.”

(Note: The above public link has been inconsistently available. However, all documentation cited is available on the PACER System of the United States Courts System, Docket Number 12-CR-659)

As bad as Zauder’s crimes were, perhaps, more disturbing for the community, is that when it came to the sentencing, many Modern Orthodox leaders lined up to write personal pleas for leniency. Major figureheads, including senior leaders of Yeshiva University, were keen to support an egregious Orthodox sex offender. They include:

  • Rabbi Kenneth Brander

    Rabbi Kenneth Brander

    Rabbi Kenneth (Kenny) Brander, Yeshiva University Vice President (Exhibit 4)

  • Dr. David Pecovitz, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. He is also special assistant to President Richard M. Joel. In addition, Dr. Pelcovitz is an instructor in pastoral counseling at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Exhibit 33)

Rabbi Brander and Dr. Pelcovitz are designated by Yeshiva University as the point men charged with creating anti-sexual abuse policies.)

  • Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Rabbi, Congregation Bnei Yeshurun or Teaneck New Jersey (Exhibit 34)

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva University (Exhibit 36)
  • Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Dean Yeshivat HaKotel (Exhibit 42)
  • Rabbi Baruch Taub, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Avraham Yosef of Toronto Congregation (Exhibit 43)

Some of these character endorsements have been largely “milquetoast” boiler plate, such as the note from Rabbi Brander. But others, like the note of Dr. Pelcovitz, go so far as to suggest an almost diagnostic note of support. Excerpts from Dr. Pelcovitz’s letter include:

…I spent most of my career treating the victims of child sexual abuse in the specialized clinical and research program that we has at the North Shore University Hospital, which was then part of the NYU School of Medicine. In light of this expertise and the qualities I saw in Evan when he was my student, I hope that this letter can provide a perspective that can help justice be tempered with mercy when Evan is sentenced.

Dr. David Pelcovitz  (Prof of Education & Psychology, YU)

Dr. David Pelcovitz
(Prof of Education & Psychology, YU)

In my interactions with Evan during and after class, what came through most, was his warmth, empathy, concern for others and genuine commitment to serve the community. In my meeting with him after his arrest he wasn’t in the least bit defensive about his actions. He expressed sincere regret and remorse, wishing that he has the strength to get professional help for his problem before they reached the disastrous proportions that brought him to your courtroom.

In over thirty year of practice, I have had the opportunity to treat many individuals with issues in the area of controlling their sexuality. As you know, the prognosis for sustained change is often guarded. In the case of Evan, however, I believe that he possesses many of the ingredients that I have come to associate with sustained change and potential to be a valuable member of society…

Note by Yerachmiel Lopin: you can see the entire Pelcovitz letter in page 21 of this sentencing document which was submitted to the court.

Other letters focus on Zauder’s character and “likeability” amongst students. The following from Rabbi Tarragin of Yeshivat HaKotel,

Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Yeshivat Hakotel

Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Yeshivat Hakotel

My relationship with (Zauder) continued even after he left yeshiva as he has been instrumental in helping other students grow both personally and as part of our alumni association. This Alumni Association was founded by Evan in 2007 and he has been directing the associations ever since, raising funds and running alumni events…

“Beyond Yeshivat Hakotel activities, Evan has been and major leader in a number of other student organizations line B’nei Akiva. He ran an Israel program for them last year in which he was responsible for over one hundred teenagers. Many of the teenagers and staff members he worked with have told me about how caring and responsible a leader he was…”

What is it, exactly, that makes leaders of the Orthodox community have Rachmunus on the perpetrators, but be insensitive to the needs and feelings of the victims?

I would suggest that perhaps in cases such as this, when one knows the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family, one has worked with the perpetrator, or perhaps sat next to him in synagogue for years, the individual feels an empathy for the perpetrator who is accused or is about to be incarcerated.

scales of justice and childHowever, since they do not know the victims – not in person and perhaps not even by name – there is no such empathy. They are nameless, faceless, disembodied characters who have contributed to the travails of the perpetrator. Little or no thought is given to the short and long-term impact on the mental and physical health of the victims, the fact that the victims are likely to suffer from depression, relationship problems, substance abuse, or other problems throughout their lives. The fact that the victims carry within them a lifelong time bomb that may ultimately result in severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I know. I carried such a time bomb.

Would Rabbi Brander or Dr. Pelcovitz or Rabbi Pruzansky or Rabbi Schwartz or Rabbi Taragin or any of the other letter writers have written the same notes of character endorsement if they had known the victims of Evan Zauder? Would they have shown the same Rachmanus to Zauder if the child captured in the graphic pornography, or the adolescent who engaged in graphic sexual discussion via Skype, or the adolescent who performed oral sex on 27 year old Evan Zauder in a car after meeting him on the internet was a neighbor of theirs, a student, a relative, or their own child or grandchild?

What will it take for our Orthodox Community to recognize that sexual abuse of minors in our community is a plague that has long-term destructive impact on victims? When will the Orthodox leadership begin to recognize that Mitzvot Bain Adam LeChaveiro require you to consider the victims, the misfortunate, the silent and the silenced, and not just one’s friends and family and prestigious members of the community? When will these Orthodox leaders start having Rachmunus on the victims instead of on the perpetrators?

Until that time, one must question the underlying judgment and integrity of the individuals who would advocate for such abusers, and the institutions that they represent.

And what can we do? We can call out bad behavior. We can speak out with our voices. And we can speak out with our dollars.

THIS MUST END.

 

Download Zauder sentencing letters A

Download Zauder, Evan sentencing letters B

Download Zauder, Evan sentencing letters C

Download US Sentencing Memorandum Zauder, Evan

Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Yeshivat Hakotel

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111 thoughts on “Pelcovitz and Leading Orthodox Rabbis Line Up Behind Sex Offender Evan Zauder

  1. When a granddaughter of one of the satmar rebbes will be raped, mesira will become a mitzva in Brooklyn or Monroe.

    Substitute BMG roshai yeshiva for satmar rebbes and mesira will become a mitzvah in Lakewood.

    Substitute REITS for BMG and mesira will become a mitzva in Teaneck.

    • Actually, a son of the Shomrei Emunim Rebbe zt”l [who was a son of the original R’ Arele of toldos aharon] was convicted for wrongdoings with his niece IN the house of his father the Rebbe. The Rebbe has died and left a will that all his sons would become rebbes only after the convicted son was released from jail. You may remember that he tried his luck in Monsey. Then the US govornment found out he lied on his visa application. You know the part about not having been convicted of any felonies.

      So one can committ the aveira and be promoted to Rebbe. Why did the former rebbe believe his son and not his granddaughter?

  2. Dave Pelcovitz of course grew up in the 5 Towns area with his father R’ Ralph the long time rabbi of the White Shul. Isn’t Dave’s sister married to the disgraced former Rockland DA, convicted criminal & pervert Kenny Gribetz? After the 10 year disbarment and regaining his law license, Gribetz now defends every Chassidish child molester he can find.

    Dave Pelcovitz stood by silently at a public event when Lawrence NY resident David Mandel of Ohel advocated not reporting child molesters to law enforcement. Mandel knows how to protect his nearly half million dollar salary while Pelcovitz plays either side depending on what suits him at any given moment.

  3. In 1960 i was molested by our mohel shohet in a town in hungary the shohet was in his 60 s survived the holocaust i was 10 years old never told my parents it is very traumatic for me to hear this going on in this country on such a massive scale it is beyond beleive that in usa this has been going on for so many years thousands od children,we used to go to mikva since there was no indoor plumbing in the town this was in the summer on winters my mother bathed me the shohet fondled me under the water while other kids were right next to ,if our religious elders cannot protect us then the whole religion is worthless.

  4. Very Important post by David Cheifetz regarding convicted sex-offender Evan Zauder. In the body of the article, you can find links to the relevant documents. Suffice to say, they are horrifying.

    Some Brief Background on Zauder:
    Evan Zauder was recently sentenced to Federal Prison. Zauder was a teacher in New Jersey and very involved with children through YU and various other youth organizations. As is typical, the predator is very charming, beloved by parents, and well-regarded by the community. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    Initially, Evan was charged with possession of a large amount of child pornography. While out on bail and while being monitored remotely, Evan continued to search for and view child pornography. His computer was searched and chat logs were located indicating that Evan had actual contact with minors for the purposes of sex. He also had communication with minors over Skpe and other social media platforms. Further investigation revealed that Evan had in fact transferred much child pornography, including sadistic and masochistic materials. His bail was revoked, and Zauder was held until his plea & sentencing.

    The police were able to interview 3 minors that Evan contacted. One admitted to meeting with Evan and engaging in oral sex. The remaining two confirmed engaging in online video sex with Evan. Evan had other interactions with minors, but they were not located. (Remember, this was all while he was out on bail, facing child pornography charges. It is wholly reasonable to presume he engaged in this activity prior to his initial arrest as well, but that data wasn’t located).

    Letters of Recommendation:
    Eventually (and facing the prospect of an enormous jail sentence) Evan pled guilty. At his sentencing, many letters of recommendation or requests for leniency were submitted. Among them was Dr. Pelcovitz who utilized his positions of Doctor and CSA-Advocate to assist the predator (not the victim!)

    He wrote as a treating physician and sex-abuse advocate. His goal, obviously, was not to protect or assist victims, it was to assist the predator. While I recognize the need for that, a self-proclaimed advocate and expert for CSA should have a fundamentally different focus; it’s to assist victims solely and to hold the predator responsible – not help them minimize their own exposure.

    Furthermore, Pelcoviz wrote a medical opinion that is blatantly wrong or gross-negligence. His letter claimed that he met with Zauder who recognized his misdeeds and was sorry for them. Obviously, this meeting occurred prior to the second arrest. Thus, Pelcovitz’s claim was proven completely wrong. Pelcovitz’s intentional or unintentional failure to familiarize himself with the facts of the case, illustrate an untrustworthy doctor. If he took the witness stand in defense of Evan, I would have crushed him on cross-examination. It is an unacceptable letter.
    It is outrageous that a doctor would write a letter requesting leniency on such a predator and psychopathic individual. Evan didnt just view child pornography; he distributed it, he groomed children, he molested children, he engaged in sexual conduct with children, he communicated sexually with children. Moreover, all that was done while Evan was out on bail with a pending case. We can only shudder in horror at what he did prior to this.

    His claims that Evan has “concern for others and genuine commitment to serve the community” is remarkable. Of course Evan does! It’s his method of obtaining victims. I would be shocked if this was said by a regular member of the community. All the more so if stated by a doctor with Dr. Pelcowitz’ credentials.

    I am truly astonished and amazed at the doctor’s actions. I find them completely reprehensible and inexcusable. Evan didnt express remorse for his actions. He expressed remorse for getting caught. And, even after he got caught, when he was being scrutinized, Evan viewed child pornography, groomed children and molested them.

    That’s just my opinion. I have no patience or concern for a predator, nor for anyone that sticks up for them.

  5. They take a circle-the-wagons approach where all those outside are evil and all inside are above being judged by default no matter what they’ve done and that’s that. Total moral bankruptcy. Sickening to contemplate and distressing to read about as one commenter has already noted. One problem as I see it is that nothing will change the minds of those within the community and since they’re so spectacularly insular. Word seldom leaks out about these stories and those outside the community, especially non-Jews, are unaware of the extent of the problem. So it festers on and they honor the criminals and destroy the victims’ lives. My fellow Jews? Not really.

  6. Get ready for another flow chart.

    Baruch Taub who learned in Ner Yisroel & Chaim Berlin was head honcho at NCSY in the early days of Baruch Lanner’s molestful career. Much of the current & former NCSY network that continues to protect Lanner worked under Taub.

    Later at the largest orthodox shul in Canada, Taub protected child molester Amram Bendahan who is a fugitive from US authorities.

    Taub is related to one of the most infamous characters in recent history, Leib Pinter, who sold non-kosher meat-cheese as “kosher” and stole hundreds of millions of dollars over the span of 4 decades. (Pinter authored a MUSSER sefer! published & still distributed by Artscroll). The sum total of Pinter’s thievery has not yet been determined and remains under investigation. The latest phase is money laundering through the Pinter family’s Bikovsker institution which most of Pinter’s extended family including Taubs are being investigated.

    Pinter is also related to Tress.

    Pinter tried to destroy the life of Rabbi Slifkin and the Tress family was reportedly involved in hounding a victim of Yossi Kolko out of Lakewood.

    Coming on the heels of revealations that Tress patriarch Mike was also the patriarch of all Agudah connected molesters, this report is rather interesting:

    http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2013/08/jews-for-money-without-any-shame.html

    Keep reading for several lines until you get to the more current Tress “contribution” to protecting molesters in the frum community, one way or another.

    • Rabbi Taub did not participate in the Lanner cover-up. He was not related to the case at all. Further, linking him to a criminal such as Pinter does not prove R’ Taub’s guilt. Amram Bendahan has never been charged, arrested, tried, or convicted with any sexual abuse, and is most certainly not a fugitive from US authorities.

      I welcome you to prove me otherwise. Please stop spreading your lies, misinformation, and mindless hatred.

      • Miami Beis Din headed by R’Yerucham Bensinger ruled he was a Roidef Yeledim. This happened after Bendahan sued his old shul for firing him for not revealing a previous incident of child sexual abuse when he applied for his job. After he lost in Beis Din, he then went to civil court, and lost again.

      • Bendahan was charged with aggravated child abuse and fled the country.

        This is also a matter of the public record in Broward county in Bendahan’s suit against the Hollywood Sephardic synagogue.

        The owner of this blog has the court papers, arrest warrant and the sworn testimony of the expert witnesses and Rabbi Feldman in Atlanta

  7. What disgusts me most about this is the hypocrisy; I speculate, but I assume that all of these Rabbis would be vehemently against homosexuality, especially in the Jewish community. Nonetheless, they back Zauder, who himself is a homosexual.
    A pregnant teenager would be excommunicated by her Rabbi. Her sin is no greater than Zauder’s. So what’s the difference?

    • Sorry but liking children, even if they’re the same sex as the predator, does NOT a homosexual make. Homosexuality and child rape are not on the same category in any world. Not even the world of Orthodox Judaism, it seems.

    • Sorry, but liking children, even if they’re the same sex as the predator, does NOT a homosexual make. Homosexuality and child rape are not the same thing in any world. Not even the world of Orthodox Judaism, it seems.

  8. Benny Forer shared this additional thought with me:

    “btw, another excellent point was brought to light. If the FBI didnt do a forensic investigation of his computer and locate possible victims, and then find and interview those people, Zauder would have no known victims. i.e., no victim has stepped forward on their own, yet we know they exist. I find it unfathomable to believe that he doesnt have victims in jewish institutions in which he worked. They should all be required to do a through analysis of all the institutions, in an effort to locate victims and right the wrongs. “

  9. Baruch Taub has a 40 year history of protecting abusers, as he was NCSY National Director during the late 1970’s, when Baruch Lanner’s crimes were already being reported.
    The Lanner case is instructive in this regard as well: there, the rabbis who protected the predator actually did know the victims, and yet could not make the leap that one of their own commited any wrongdoing. It comes as no surprise that without knowing the victims, these supposed leaders have failed so miserably. This piece is a timely and crucial cri de coeur that deserves wider distribution.

    • I deeply doubt it. Before Weinberger became rabbi of Shaaray Tefila he was the Assistant Rabbi at the White Shul under Rabbi Ralph Pelcovits, the father of Dr. Pelcovits. Rabbi Pelcovits loathed Weinberger, judged him unfit for the rabbinate and made sure that there was no chance of Weinberger ever succeeding him. Now it is possible that the psychologist Pelcovits chose to work with Weinberger, but I doubt it. Given the cirrcles they moved in they were bound to cross paths occasionally. But that is not the same at partnering or collaborating.

  10. Thank you David, for this excellent and vital post. I wanted to add a note re Dr. Pelcovitz. He evidently used to be the “go-to” therapist for all orthodox parents who discovered that their child had been abused. A chassidic family in my community years ago took their son , (who had been abused by another boy on the Yeshiva bus), to Pelcovitz. That is how i first became familiar with his reputation. What I do know, is that subsequently, he stopped seeing private patients, and was not only unavailable to my acquaintances, but his answering machine gave no further information, no referrals to other therapists working with victims of CSA. IMHO, being that his was the only name, it seems. that circulated in that community, it is reprehensible that he was not forthcoming with referrals of any sort. He did a total black out. Strange?.

  11. After reading your article, I became disgusted and outraged that community leaders would support such a reprehensible individual. So I reaches out to Dr. Pelcovitz and requested an explanation. He stated that his letter was written BEFORE there were any charges relating to a specific victim. He had only been made aware of the possession charge and asked the judge to be lenient in sentencing. I don’t personally agree with the decision to write a letter even in that case, but what Dr. Pelcovitz is being accused of is infinitely worse and undeserved.

    • I would have assumed that Pelcovitz would have been very cautious upon advice from his top echelon, major NYC FIRM, lawyer wife Lonnie. She may come in handy in the future, but I believe that real estate of some sort is her expertise.

    • Know Your Facts” wrote: “He [Dr. Pelcovitz] stated that his letter was written BEFORE there were any charges relating to a specific victim.”

      Here is an excerpt from the press release issued by the United States Attorney on January 22, 2013:

      http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/January13/ZauderEvanPleaPR.php

      “Between April and November of 2011, ZAUDER used the Internet to entice a minor in New Jersey who was 14 to 15 years old at the time to engage in sexual activity, and to attempt to entice the minor to do so a second time. ZAUDER also received and distributed files containing child pornography from his desktop computer between December of 2010 and May of 2011, and possessed hundreds of images and videos of child pornography on four devices that were seized from his Manhattan apartment in May of 2012.

      “ZAUDER, 27, pled guilty to a Superseding Information charging him with one count of enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, one count of transportation, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.”

      The full text of the criminal information can be found at:
      http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/January13/ZauderEvanPleaPR/Zauder,%20Evan%20S1%20Information.pdf

      Unfortunately, the date is blacked out on the letter written by Dr. Pelcovitz. It is highly unlikely that the letter was written before Mr. Zauder pled guilty. If I am correct, Dr. Pelcovitz had (or should have had) available the fact that Mr. Zauder “used the Internet to entice a minor in New Jersey who was 14 to 15 years old at the time to engage in sexual activity, and to attempt to entice the minor to do so a second time.” That seems to me to be a charge relating to a specific victim.

      But even without the enticement of a minor, for Dr. Pelcovitz to claim that there is not a specific victim is not true under any circumstances. The production of child pornography involves the victimization of many children. How could a psychologist of the standing of Dr. Pelcovitz think, much less say, something to the contrary?

      Dr. Pelcovitz should have exercised more due diligence before writing his letter and should have been watching for additional developments. If he learned of the additional facts later on, he should have written a new letter to supersede his old letter. Many in the orthodox community rely on his professionalism which implies due diligence. This episode calls his reputation into question.

  12. i’m absolutely DISGUSTED by thoes so called rabonim ym”sh who protect child abusers especialy gay ones! aren’t they aware that in the times of a beis din smichim gays would be given chenek (-death by throttling)???!!!! who do they think they are those lowlifes??!! are they greater than rav eliyashiv or r’ moshe halberstam z”l who clearly wrote to go to the police??!! (“google yeshurin reporting abuse pdf”) i remember a friend of mine telling me his story how he was molested and raped for months 3-5 times a week! and if he didn’t cooperate with that sicko bastard he would be beaten, threatened and even got his clothes ripped numerous times! good job he doesn’t know the guys name or where he lives today otherwise me and him would probably have killed him with our bare hands! sickos!
    if my son/duaghter would be molested ch”v i would probably not go to the police… i would break every bone in his body and write with permenant ink on the guy in HUGE letters I AM A CHAZER! i think that would be just the right deterrant!

    • Disgusted Chusid,

      Thank you for your letter of support.

      Let us separate the topics of homosexuality and child sex abuse.

      As we know, homosexuality is a key social topic in modern society. Obviously it is not a new topic in society overall. I know many homosexuals, male and female, and consider them fine, law abiding, upstanding productive members of society, who would never knowingly hurt another human being.

      Sexual abuse is a different topic entirely. Whether it is an adult male with underage girls or underage boys, or an adult female with underage girls or underage boys, it is a crime that scars victims for life, that leaves lasting trauma, and implants in victims the feeling of being tormented again and again throughout their entire lives. It is a form of murder — just murder of the soul. Victims suffer in various ways, often throughout their entire lifetimes.

      In addition, most abuse is not reported, and since abusers tend to be serial predators, there are many more victims out there than we typically know about. The ball park statistics are that one in four women by the age of eighteen has been abused, and one in six men. And those numbers are anecdotally higher in certain segments of the Orthodox population.

      Rabbinic support of child sex abusers is not just an affront to Halachah on a terrible crime of Bain Adam LeChaveiro. It is supporting a serial predator, a Rodeph.

      The whitewashing of such abuse must end. And the enablers and defenders of abusers should be held up to the light of day.

      David Cheifetz

      • Mr. Cheifetz,
        First of all i apologise if my post looked as if i was attaking only homosexual molesters. I would like to make this clear, my personal opinion is that child molesters OF ALL KINDS, GAY OR STAIGHT should be beaten and hanged on the highest tree in town!

        The reason why i picked gays are;
        1. Most child molsters – certainly in the jewish community ARE gay
        2. Raping a girl – a penia would mean a nida de’oireisa and a chiuv koros, but not misas b”d.
        3. I am a teenage boy and my friends are boys so most stories i’m hearing are sick gay ones.

        Now about your comments regarding homos. You are totally WRONG about this! I don’t care what the low class liberal media or poloticians have to say about it, but we are jewish and gay is regarded as the outmost WORST aveirah in the torah! How can you even say something in defence of this big killer?! I’m SHOCKED that a {frum}( – your name sounds it) jewish writer on a jewish blog can even write such kfira!! Gays are the lowest crap of society! The scum of the earth! Well of course only second to sexual offenders….
        It’s a shame on us that frum jewish poloticians can vote for same gender marriage – for a bit of money! Yes you guessed right… they are endorsed by the same so called rabbis/crooks/pigs/extortionists who protect abusers. The reason, they are MENUVOLIM NOT RABBIS at all. They will ALL be punished in the world to come!! Yes this includes YOU! Stop respecting homosexuals! I urge u to apologise – to G-D in public and ask for forgiveness for publicly writing something against his torah!

        Once again I’m making no differences to gay or straight rape.

        A Chusid Who Bleeds.

  13. Mr. Cheifetz:

    The thesis of your post is terribly off the mark. If you want to make the point that there continues to be a horrible and inexcusable problem with sexual abuse and under-reporting in the community, that is one thing and it is a subject on which you have broad and deep support. But to attack these folks for writing letters of support and for asking for justice tempered by mercy and for asserting that to do so lacks “integrity” is reprehensible and makes you appear to be just a very bitter man – however understandably so, based on your own experience – and it makes your post appear to be just an excuse to put forward the important underlying thesis. In this case you undercut the thesis with this attack. You offer no evidence whatsoever that any of these writers turns a blind eye to sexual abuse; but you attack each of them personally. I know some, but not all of them. I have absolutely no question whatsoever that while asking for some measure of mercy for Mr. Zauder, Rabbi Taragin, for example, even more strongly condemns sexual abuse and would advocate with all his energy for victims in this case and everywhere else.

    Finally, your attack is undermined by the failure even for a moment to recognize the terrible disease that torments Evan Zauder – I focus on him only because he is the immediate subject of this article. I have known both Evan and his lawyer for many years and know something about the case. It does not in any way diminish or sideline compassion or even greater compassion for victims to also cry for the shattering of Evan Zauder’s life forever. There can be victims and tragedy on both sides of an equation and here there is. The forum at issue was Evan’s sentencing. It is natural and appropriate for letters of support to be filed and for letter writers who condemn sexual abuse to ask for mercy for a young man who is mentally ill, who has gone through personal tragedy before engaging in this conduct and who has been an absolutely wonderful young man in every other aspect of his life.

    No objective observer could question that there is a problem in the religious world in the area of sexual abuse. In my view there should never be even one example of sexual abuse among “religious” people and never any pressure against acting against it. But thank G-d for religious folks also willing to stand up for mercy and who have the courage to be associated with seeking mercy for Evan Zauder in such a situation.

    As an aside, I will tell you that I successfully represented a class of indigent, homeless convicted sex offenders in a landmark case in Alabama, striking down a law which punished them more harshly because of their status. I will, however, put my sense of outrage, horror, and anger at anyone who in any way abuses a child against anyone’s. Compassion, tempering justice with mercy, and a recognition of mental illness’s role quite often in the equation are all rational and fair responses.

    • I don’t think anyone here is claiming that the letter writers are acting out of some blind evil impulse.but the nature of Zauder’s crimes are serious enough to wonder what kind of contribution to society some of them claim he is capable of making by not receiving the fullest sentence is possible? I agree that he must be suffering mentally, but all the more reason to realize that the Jewish community is safer with him incarcerated than living among it. It may in fact be a cruel test that sets him up for failure. Communal leaders who ignore the possible negative outcomes in the name of mercy, no matter how well intentioned , are neglecting their greater responsibility in favor of a lesser responsibility.

      • And by the way, now that it has been made clear in the case that the crimes for which his bail was revoked were committed after the first arrest and are of a more immediately dangerous nature, those who stood up for him need to reexamine their support and decide where they want to be on this issue. Calling them out in public is the responsible thing, inasmuch as we whom they serve have a right to know what they think and can gauge their response.

    • Justice tempered by mercy. What lovely words. But the devil is in the details. The details must be accurate, and they weren’t when Pelcovitz wrote his letter. Justice and judges misled does not lead to the right balance. Some of the rabbis spoke of Zauder returning to youth work when he leaves jail. Are they nuts. Would they really take that risk. Not one of them spoke of the need to have his plot a future that does not involve him working with kids.

      I understand the difficulty being objective when Zauder is your friend. I can sympathize with the ambivalence. But a professional responsible for the protection of youth must rise above that in crafting a response. Moreover, I am surprised at your failure to express betrayal, to say, the Evan who did these things was clearly concealing an ugly side and deceiving you about his essential character.

      I happen to agree that American law is too draconian when it comes to sex abusers. But I am not sure it applies in this case. He is clearly a highly-impulsive, highly-serial offender. Precisely those qualities that make him attractive to many are what make him dangerous. He is social, gregarious, energetic, helpful, and good with kids. Apparently, he is also very good at manipulating kids(including, perhaps, many youth inside the orthodox world) into sexual encounters. He is not the poor guy who committed one youthful indiscredition and is paying for it decades later. He is a fortunate man from a wealthy family, with a broad social network that likes him, who repeatedly used his advantages to exploit children.

      • I don’t feel betrayal because, having spent a great deal of time studying the phenomenon, although not an expert by any means, I recognize the role mental illness has played here. If I believed it were volitional, I would feel betrayal. I was my kids’ camp counselor for a couple of Summers. Never ever ever any sign of any such behavior with more than ample opportunity for professional kids experts to observe. Something snapped. As for the doctor – don’t know him; but he is a doctor giving his best professional opinion, not a fortune teller. Our justice system, as you know, is an adversarial system. No judge sentenced him on mistaken information. There were aggressive prosecutors in this case seeking very very stiff punishment and educating the court through their advocacy. But the bigger picture that led me to comment was not limited to a doctor’s mistake, it was a wholesale indictment of good people who asked (their words, not mine) for justice tempered by mercy. Do you really see no role for that in the system? Nothing about that means they don’t just as adamantly seek justice for victims, whether or not they know the victims.

        • Why are you so sure it was a one-time case of something snapping? Maybe, like many adept molesters, Evan Zauder is a talented deceiver and manipulator. Those are the most dangerous type. they are even more dangerous when you combine a compulsion for sex with children, a lack of impulse control, and social skills that conceal those traits from their colleagues, friends and family.

          • I wrote that there never was any sign of this at camp because I am intimately aware of the details of the investigation. Further, I have spoken with people who knew him in every setting all through the course of his young life. As I wrote, I am no expert on the underlying condition or cause. I know enough to know this is a mental illness and gave no warning. I also know that he went through unbearable personal tragedy in his family immediately preceding this whole matter. Don’t know if that is relevant or any sort of explanation; I just know it is a fact and I know that anyone on this site would consider it to be an unbearable tragedy too – although some may have undergone the same and certainly did not become sex offenders. Do I know 100 percent this never happened with him before? No. It is my belief based on the evidence and some level of investigation.

            • In asserting that this was probably a new development precipitated by a personal tragedy. Did you read his statement. Clearly he had these problems going back at least to when he was a student at YU.

            • I was referring to the evidence and how his problems manifested themselves (or did not) before some life-shattering events. However, I have little doubt that many responsible psychs would say the problems had to go back much longer, perhaps repressed, and he didn’t transform overnight from one thing to another.

            • With all due respect counselor, you are nogeiah bidavar, you have a conflict of interest that could compromise your judgment. You have made it clear you are a friend and fond of him.

            • I started the conversation by advising that I know Evan. I would like to consider him a friend. I know him as my kids’ camp counselor and thought he did a terrific job. As I also mentioned, I am friendly with his lawyer. Indeed, coincidentally, he is a very close friend of mine and a lawyer I work with on other matters. I didn’t know he knew Evan or would be representing him until I read about it. I do not think I can be fully objective and that is why I made sure to indicate my relationship. If I didn’t know something about him or the situation, I would not have engaged in the discussion. But none of that has any bearing on what you asked. You asked me something like why I believed the investigation his camp did in order to uncover whether there was any indication of such behavior was a good investigation. I answered that I was aware of the methodology and the results. That is accurate and is not in any way affected by my knowing Evan. The people who run the camp and many, many of the families sending campers there are my very dear friends and their welfare would be a priority to me. I am fully satisfied that the camp contacted and made fully inquiry of every person who ever came into contact with Evan in the camp context and provided several forums for inquiry or comment to anyone who ever had witnessed anything relevant regarding Evan’s conduct at camp (or elsewhere) that gave any indication of this, immediately upon learning about it. Here, my personal interest or “conflict” if you prefer, runs the other way. I still send kids to this camp and nothing in my life means more to me than the welfare of my children.

    • You didn’t have to boast about your courtroom success just to let us know you are a lawyer.

      Your ideas are so twisted your license to practice law was on full display.

      The torch commands us save a nirdaf from a rodaif. It doesn’t command us to have the rodaif undergo psychiatric testing first.

      I too care deeply for this sick soul. I care deeply enough to want to see his misery end. If castration doesn’t due the trick his sickness can be treated by electrocution, hanging, lethal injection or one well placed hollow point bullet.
      SNIP! ZAP! BAM! No more uncontrolled impulses or desires. No more misery.

      (Yes, I seriously advocate executing convicted repeat child molesters and their enablers and protecters. Two strikes and you’re dead.)

    • You can lecture others only after molestation happens to youre children or if you youreself went throught it until then keep youre mouth shut.

      • Brilliant remark, Amazing how people like to appear, comment, or engage in some discourse under pseudonyms and feel compelled to bring down the level with nasty, personal comments that are completely absurd. The discussion should only be limited to people who personally have suffered from the matter under discussion, otherwise no point of view is legitimate? Is that your position on all matters of policy? That would lead to a rather skewed universe of policy makers or lawmakers if it extends that far. Or is this something reserved for child molestation. It isn’t any of your business, of course, nor does it make me any more qualified a commentator; but I don’t exactly come at this from a detached perspective. On the one hand, I know the people involved and it is a tragedy all around. On the other hand, just about all of my day is devoted to childrens’ issues. I represent every emotionally disturbed child in foster care in the State of Alabama, I advocate for children’s rights in a variety of settings, I have done a lot of work with victims of all kinds of abuse, physical and mental, and I work with kids as a coach just about every week of the year. As for telling me to shut my mouth – that is inappropriate in any forum and I am sorry to say the moderator does a very poor job by allowing that kind of comment here. One of the many reasons, I should have recognized how foolish it is to engage in a discussion in this kind of forum.

        • Yes, there was one offensive, obnoxious phrase in a cri de coeur of someone affected as a victim or a relative of a victim of abuse. And it wasn’t an obscenity. As an attorney who works with victims of abuse you must be aware of the raw anger and hurt. In fact, when it is advantageous, I would expect you, as a competent attorney, to channel it, albeit within the proper bounds for courtroom conduct.

          If you choose not to engage, so be it. But don’t blame it on one angry phrase.

          As a moderator, I have to balance representing competing intense emotions with limits. It is a tough call, I make on a comment-by-comment basis. I think, if you look over the back and forth you will see it is largely reasonable, with some rowdiness. Given the issues and stakes involved, with all problems, I think most outsiders would say this is a pretty reasonable back and forth.

          If you don’t want to engage, I am sorry to see you go, but don’t blame it on one phrase or lousy moderation.

          • First of all, I only saw that the guy wrote that he was a victim himself after I wrote. That was in an earlier comment he wrote (I think before I engaged) and I apparently only clicked on the link that sends me comments to emails that I write – I have never engaged in this kind of forum before. I saw his earlier comment though afterwards when I looked on the website or blog. Having seen that, I still don’t think it is appropriate to tell me (or anyone) to keep my mouth shut. I don’t speak that way to anyone and don’t expect to be spoken to that way; but that can remain my problem. I think though that any level of anger from anyone who believes he has been abused is understandable and maybe even acceptable. For example, I think I believe a Holocaust survivor can say or believe just about anything after enduring that experience.

            On the question of moderating, I have no experience; but I am entitled to my view on what should be allowed as appropriate discourse. I don’t mean to say you shouldn’t allow it – I happen to be just about an absolutist on free speech issues (and I am sure many of your guests would lambast me for my work in that area ironically – having represented the KKK, etc.); but I do think that the moderator should make it known that there is a level of language, comments, etc. That are not acceptable and some of these comments go beyond what I would like to think people would write. I think in the end, though, you probably are right that the answer is not to refuse to print them. The onus should be on me to sign off and unsubscribe, if I don’t like it and you make that clear as an option. I suppose these folks have just as much right (or perhaps more) to use whatever language and take whatever position they like on any issue and to express it on any forum they can as I have to disengage and that is how it should be.

            • thank you for your response. I do make a distinction between profanities and obnoxious language, between incidental usage and a barrage. I will admit, I am somewhat inconsistent but I aim for an appropriate balance between some tension and some civility.

  14. Unacceptable. The man should be sentanced to death. When a person takes reponsibility to educate children and turns that into a way to satisfy their desires they destroy countless others. Hell, it seems will not be lacking in Rabbis, and I hope that these animals have their souls condemned to hell forever. I went to Yeshiva and I remember the constant “Chilul” reasoning to cover up crimes, I say it never should have been nor should it be acceptable. YU is a joke, its Semicha program is heresy , and it is no wonder that Judaism continues to dissolve when our leaders act like gangsters.

    • I happen to be opposed to capital punishment in most of the cases where it is used. However, I agree with your criticism of leaders indulging abusers. I do not believe the RIETS semicha program is heresy. There must be a great change in the culture of protecting reputations of individuals and the community at the expense of victims of abuse.

  15. These behaviors by these “Rabbis” are one of the reasons that it is very hard for victims to come forward.

    In addition to the rabbis in this article we should not forget about the rabbi who let this person live in our community (west orange) while they were being investigated without alerting the community to this fact. He felt it was safe enough for the community that this monster had to wear an angle bracelet and was under “house” arrest. The rabbi made the decision to protect the family housing the monster and the animal himself over the safety of the community. .

  16. In stead of lining up to support him, these rabbis should have lined up to stone him. The rabbis who have supported him have diminished their credibility in any area of Halacha.

  17. VERIFICATION PLEASE: Okay, I’m all for calling out the Rabbis for this. Honestly, I’m sick and tired of seeing our religion gutted by our supposed leaders, who continue to punish the victims – over and over again – by calling for leniency. It’s a chillul HaShem. It’s high time we had a zero tolerance policy for it. HOWEVER, I need to be sure that the Rabbis who wrote these letters – really did so – as it being claimed. Is there some place this can be verified? Otherwise, I just have to take “the web’s word” on it. Are their so-called pleas for leniency available somewhere???? How can we call them out on this, if this can’t be verified in the first place.

  18. NEVERMIND: I just found R. Brander’s letter. It’s real. Honestly, these Rabbonim are totally out of touch. While they may have spent years studying our Holy Torah, there is a sad disconnect with reality, in terms of how to apply what they have learned. It reminds me of someone fresh out of school. He may have the book smarts (and even good intent), but when it comes to the “school of hard knocks” (ie: life), he is clueless of how to apply his vast learning. And although R. Brander’s intentions may be good (at heart), he accomplishes the EXACT opposite of his life’s stated mission(s) – and severely damages our faith as whole and as a people. I say now that if we don’t stand up to this garbage (whether they are ill or not), with a strong ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY TOWARDS SEX OFFENDERS, it will come back upon our heads (halilah), and the entire Jewish people will suffer (in the court of below and above) because our SILENCE. The ramifications (in the court of public opinion) are not insignificant either. And R. Brander (and others) should know that he is participating in it, and in my opinion, the Rabbis should be warned by the KLAL to stop this practice immediately. You are placing us all at risk. And at the risk of sounding dramatic, “Justice Justice shalt thou (WE) Pursue”. Shame on anyone that continues this practice. I don’t think he realizes just how much damage he is causing our people (in the world of integrity), by going to bat for these sex offenders. He is damaging the average Orthodox Jew in the streets. Please know one thing, he doesn’t speak for the streets, and I pray that HaShem brings him to his senses as soon as possible. ZERO TOLERANCE… It’s the only way to be fair and stop future incidents.

    • Ami,

      If you know R. Brander or any of the other rabbis and professionals who wrote to the judge, please consider contacting them to let them know how you feel.

      Dorron Katzin

  19. David Schoen,

    Thank you for your comments. Your conflict of interest on this issue — your prior relationship with Evan Zauder and your experience as an attorney advocating for convicted sex abusers — places into question your comments, your argumentation, and your judgment. You acknowledge that in your subsequent comments.

    When a large number of rabbis and other anchors of the Orthodox community line up to defend a pedophile — one who committed heinous crimes against minors — it signals that there is something fundamentally broken in Orthodox society. There is a very long track record of ignoring abuse — either the result of cognitive dissonance or protecting one’s friends or more base ulterior motives. This is a culture that enables abuse and abusers. This must end. Our community is strewn with sex abuse victims, where the communal leaders failed to act or served as obstacles to action, thereby serving as enablers. This must end.

    Two caveats:

    1) A number of the letter writers are relatives or long-time family friends of Evan Zauder. I would not begrudge a family member from appealing for “tempering justice with mercy”. That is quite understandable. However, community leaders, rabbis, and prominent psychologists concocting pseudo-diagnoses of what may perhaps be in ten years or so? This rings of cronyism.

    2) With regard to sympathy for the perpetrator: The Orthodox establishment has TIME AND AGAIN shown sympathy for the perpetrator, and has long ignored the fate of the victims. This must end. I hope perpetrators are cured. However, longitudinal studies about recidivism are far from encouraging. So if I weigh concerns about the perpetrator/ Rodeph versus concerns for the victims (those known and unknown) and potential victims, my concern ultimately must reside with the victims.

    The MO leaders in questions have failed that ultimate test, in my opinion, of putting victims first. Therefore, their moral credibility is sorely lacking, in my humble opinion.

    David Cheifetz

    • Do you think there is ever a time a community leader or Rabbi can write as a longtime friend, or the nature of his position and power within the community makes this impossible?

      • If a community leader or Rabbi is writing as a longtime friend, the letter should be couched in those terms; speaking personally and not as rabbi. The letter should not be written on personal stationery rather than that of an organization.

        In contrast, the letter written by Dr. Pelcovitz invoked his professional experience in support of his contentions. Please don’t rely on my assertions. Earlier, I posted links so that anyone who wishes may download the relevant documents and read them.

        “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants….” Louis Brandeis

        • I would like to point out that Rabbi Schwartz did specify these were his personal reflections. “Allow me to share some personal reflections” He did not write on organizational stationary, he did not mention the name of the institution where he was Evan’s teacher or synagogue where Evan was a congregant. He did not sign his email as Rabbi.

    • Mr. Cheifetz:

      Not sure why you want to make it personal instead of dealing with the facts of this case and the issues. You choose to lead with the assertion that the fact that Evan was my kids’ counselor, that I am intimately aware of an investigation that included contacting every single camper and parent who ever had contact with him indicated no previous evidence of such conduct – at least as far as camp goes – and the fact that I have advocated for convicted sex offenders – a case in Alabama that challenged a 99 year sentence for homeless and indigent sex offenders who committed shoplifting, their sex offense (broadly defined) and who then failed to provide a home address more than 90 days before their release from prison – a case in which an ultraconservative Alabama court struck down the law as punishing the status of being poor – creates a “conflict of interest” which “places into question” my judgment, my arguments (I haven’t made any) and my comments. Really? I suppose another way of looking at what you perceive to be a disqualifying “conflict of interest” from a discussion, would be to consider that I know Evan Zauder and you don’t. Is there even the slightest possibility that maybe I know something about him or the facts that could possibly inform the conversation or would you know much better about that too? Would the other participants who call for his death and castration better inform the discussion?

      You introduce your piece that started this discussion by identifying yourself as a guy who exposed himself publicly as the victim of sexual abuse. That undoubtedly took great courage. But I haven’t suggested that that horrific unforgettable impossible to move beyond lifetime experience or the fact that you nobly have dedicated yourself to helping and advocating for victims of self abuse, creates a “conflict of interest” for you that makes your judgment or your contribution to the conversation suspect.

      In substance you bring to this discussion about whether Orthodox Jews, or rabbis or a doctor should ask for mercy about a specific sex offender who they learned about or who they knew well for many, many years and whose life effectively is over, to whether there has been a pattern of horrible behavior in the Orthodox community (you focus on the Modern Orthodox community – which is itself horribly misguided, for you of all people, as someone who works in this field must well know how bad the problem is in other parts of the Orthodox community, but that is beside the point here) and because there has been, no one religious should speak up for Evan Zauder.

      I see that another reader has asked you, in effect, whether your thesis is that no Orthodox Jew and certainly no one in their capacity as an Orthodox Jewish leader ever should speak up and ask for mercy for a Jewish convicted/admitted sex offender. Your answer, based on all you have written in this discussion, has to be “no.” You clearly have many fellow travelers on this blog; but in my view, questionable as it might be, based on your criteria, is that is an absolutely horrible misguided perspective and would appear to be a function, perhaps entirely understandably, of your own experience as a victim. I don’t suggest for a moment that you should be able to divorce yourself from victimhood. No one can or should ask that from you.

      In my conflicted view though, thank G-d that Ben Brafman had the courage to stand up in court for someone who are complete pariahs (or put more concretely, who people who like and agree with your writing, think should be summarily killed or castrated). Thank G-d also, not for rabbis who cover up sexual abuse or who do it themselves; but for rabbis and others who have the courage to ask for mercy from an Evan Zauder whose redeeming qualities they know and who know they do so at the risk of having to themselves be subjected to the kind of abuse they face here and elsewhere.

      One is not disqualified, Mr. Cheifetz, from discussing this subject, because he advocates for sex offenders. I also represented the leader of the KKK in Mississippi; but I hate everything about him and what he stands for and I made sure he knew he was being represented by a Zionist Jew when I represented him and won in an anti-masking and anti-marching case. I represent people the government claims are the leaders of organized crime families in NY, and all over the world. I am as anti-crime as anyone I know. I know what my personal reaction would be if, G-d forbid, anyone ever hurt anyone in my family and I would take whatever consequences came with such action; but policy should not be made on my gut reaction or on anyone else’s and Evan Zauder’s case should not be judged on Baruch Lanner’s or on the YU/MTA folks who even today have gotten away with what they did. There is without a doubt a problem; but it is also a major problem to excoriate people of conscience (I’m referring to the letter writers, not me) who asked for justice calmed by mercy.

      • You called Ben Branfman courageous for standing up to represent a predator in court? Really?

        That comment truly reflects the mindset you are coming here with. The hero is the AUSA. The hero is the FBI agent that tracked down the victims. The hero is the victim that chose to tell the truth.

        Had the FBI investigator not caught Zauder downloading CP 3 weeks after his first arrest, Zauder would have no victims. In fact, Zauder would be claiming a simple misunderstanding and a promise that he’ll never view CP again. It’s typical defense manuvering. Now, he got caught grooming multiple children, engaging in cyber-sex, and arranging meeting opportunities. The investigator was only able to track down one victim that admitted having oral sex with Zauder. Without a doubt there are multiple more victims. Without a doubt, there are victims within the religious institutions that he worked. We are all aware of the multitude of reasons victims dont ever, or choose a long time to come forward.

        You are coming with a typically warped defense attorney perspective. You dont care for the victims at all; you care about the predator. Youve made this point repeatedly throughout your posts.

        In the present case, most of the “letter writers” appear to be wholly unaware of the majority of facts in this case. For some, its not their fault – they too were groomed by Zauder (yourself included). For others, it is gross-negligence. For a doctor like Pelcovitz who proclaims to be a victim-advocate and an experienced doctor, writing a letter like he wrote is malpractice, disingenuous, and irresponsible. How you cant understand that is explained by the defense-tinted glasses that you wear.

        • What a horrible world and horrible justice system (it already is pretty bad) if everything thought like you. Do you limit your views to defense lawyers who represent sex offenders. Surely not. A lawyer who represents a murderer must be even more devoid of anything good than one who represents a sex offender.

          And on and on.

          Again, I don’t think my personal practice matters at all to your agenda, although it doesn’t stop you from drawing conclusions or from personal attacks; but for whatever it is worth, I have spent a career representing victims in civil actions, in addition to criminal defense work. Don’t let the facts get in the way of your agenda that I don’t care about victims. I am sure you would know my views and practice far better than I.

          I suppose these blogs are self-selecting and that accounts for these views; but man, I haven’t heard these kinds of things – kill this one, castrate that one, criminal defense lawyers are by definition warped, someone who represents a convicted person is disqualified from speaking on that subject, etc. What a world if everyone were required to have the same view as you or is a horrible person.

        • Well done. You neatly avoided everything and made it about you. Respond to your Branfman comment. Respond to the Zauder investigation. Respond to Pelcovitz writing a professionally inadequate letter.

          The point I was making was to illustrate the reason for your position. In your mind, a multi-millionaire lawyer that seems to represent multiple sex offenders is courageous. That truly explains your position.

      • The problem is that these particular Rabbis were not really asking for justice with mercy, as David implies. On the contrary, they were only focused on asking for mercy. That just isnt going to fly anymore. But more significantly, these particular Rabbis continue to shamefully focus on the perpetrators- while ignoring the victims. One can only wonder if they wrote apology letters to the victims and their families, as the previous Rabbi did, apologizing for the embarassment they feel for the current direction of some of our Rabbinic leaders. David…with respect, your attempts to be even handed here seem laughably disingenuous to me…

        • First of all, I’m not trying to be “even-handed,”. I was just trying to have a discussion with a lynch mob and that is what is laughable. Secondly, you are the one who provided the text for the letters and hopefully who are aware of Ben Brafman’s arguments, piggy-backing on the letters. If you don’t see them asking for justice with mercy, then it doesn’t seem you are reading. What on earth do you thing their agenda was? Do you think they are profting from this? Do you think they want to come forward to be attacked by people like you?

      • David… Stop defending our Rabbis when they do wrong. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil… At least some of our Ravs are willing to call it what it is. Look David…maybe you’ve seen the inside of the beast, and seen up close how many bodies (so to speak) have been left behind (hurt) by this tragedy on all sides. But what absolutely sickens me is your willingness to approve of actions which clearly blur the moral lines of what is right and wrong here. And thats exactly what Rabbinical calls for leniency are doing. If you are really that interested in helping this situation, then I strongly suggest you help, identify and listen to the rest of the other victims this animal got his hands on, and make sure they themselves don’t turn into perps themselves, as abuse victims are sometimes prone to do. Especially in a world where people seem to care more about purps than victims. Being “merciful” now is not helping to stop the problem. Your focus is thus misplaced. Ze ma she yesh…

  20. I am ashamed as an Orthodox Rabbi to be associated on any level with rabbis and others who in anyway support molesters like Evan, such evil-doers should be punished to the full extent of the law without rachmonus.

  21. I have no doubt that such men have no chelek in the world to come, Teshvuah is beyond their reach.
    I hope the rabbis to come to their aid will beg forgiveness of the victims to avoid a similar fate.

  22. Those of us who consider ourselves Orthodox Jews should learn and follow what the halacha says in such cases. The halacha with regard to a rodef (predator) is that before he commits the act of rape or murder he should be stopped even at the cost of his life if need be. Once a crime has been committed, in the time of the Sanhedrin he would be tried and if convicted be subject to severe penalty; if need be, the kippah would be used to starve someone to death.

    The Gemarah discusses a case wherein a Tanna or Amora (I forget which) turned in tax evaders to the Roman government, as I recall, despite knowing that they may very well be executed for this civil offense. His rationale was that he was “pruning the crops” (or something along those lines).

    Here there is the known risk that somehow this individual will if allowed to do so to harm other children. His contributions to society mean nothing in terms of halacha.

    Putting a convicted child sexual molester in an American prison will likely result in horrific suffering or if he’s lucky immediate death for the perpetrator, who himself might very well have been sexually abused as a child (a not uncommon scenario).

    Ben Brafman is an extremely well paid criminal defense attorney. He has represented mafiosos. He is representing an admitted serial child molester. My guess is he is not doing this for free. That is his choice to make. He’s doing his job in trying to get his client (whether a Mafia murderer, gun-wielding celebrity, or in this case a child predator) either acquitted or the most lenient sentence.

    I strongly doubt, however, that his brother, a talmid chacham and baal mussar of the first ranke, would agree.

    When halacha weighs matters that so strongly involve the safety of children, to the extent that one would be obligated to kill this person to prevent further acts, the consequences to the perpetrator are essentially of no halachic significance, to my knowledge (and I say that having discussed this very sugya with leading poskim).

    It is a shame that some of our rabbinic leaders only follow halacha when it suits their agenda.

    Having said all this, permit me to say that my heart goes out not only to the victims but to all those affected by this tragedy. I feel terrible about the plight and likely future for this predator in our prison system. He is a Yid. He has a neshama. His life is in many ways ruined. His family will never recover.

    But all that is irrelevant to the pressing need to protect our children, and to send a message to would-be molesters in our community: we will not support, defend, or in any way help you if you commit an act of sexual molestation. We will not support those who enable you. We will not look the other way when professionals use their association with YU in such an unprofessional fashion. We will not be silent. There will be consequences.

    • Yes, of course, Ben Brafman works for money, very good money. In this case there was a plea bargain. So once that was done the main thing left was soliciting letters that might influence sentencing and doing the sentencing brief.

      Ben Brafman also defended Michael Jackson. I heard a story where someone insulted him for defending Jackson as a chillul hashem. He replied: “No! Defending Jackson is my parnassah. But when I defend a frum criminal, that is when there is a chillul hashem.”

      In my book, Ben topped the chillul hashem scale in procuring these letters on behalf of Zauder.

      • Not death…but castration or sterilization (although not Jewish or Noahide concepts that I know of) certainly seems more than merciful in cases like this. Suggestion: Let’s bring back the Sanhedrin and add on a new method of punishment. Honestly, I’ve heard more than enough from these perp lovers. No one gives a rat about the victim… I’m glad this is all coming out now. We should have cleaned our Jewish house of garbage long ago. Barukh to the people who started this stuff! Time to put a stop to this.

    • Well-said.

      It’s a tana. Rabbi Eliezer ben Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai. His actions were permissible. The only issue that the Chachomim had with him was that the punishment was so inconsistent with Biblical perspectives of punishment (i.e., a thief returns the item, pays double, triple or quadruple. A thief doesnt lose their hand or ever get executed).

  23. David Schoen,

    It is clear from your writing that you have empathy for sex abusers, defense lawyers and have represented alleged mobsters and leaders of the KKK. You are certainly entitled to your opinion and your Parnassah.

    What I have failed to detect in your lengthy writing on this blog is any empathy for the victims of sexual abuse.

    I feel sorry for you.

    David Cheifetz

    • Mr. Cheifetz:

      Clearly it was a mistake for me to attempt to address your article or to write on this blog, in a lengthy manner or otherwise. It has been a terribly wasted day and I don’t know what on earth possessed me to do it or has possessed me to continue to respond.

      I am afraid though, that your failure to see anything from me on the victims’ side is more a function of your selective reading – I suppose only those things which support your agenda or insults – than something lacking on my end.

      For example, I wrote early on that I represented all of the emotionally disturbed children in Alabama against the State’s foster system. This was a landmark case that went for years. It would be fair to say that many, if not most, of my clients were victims of sexual abuse (at home, in foster homes, somewhere in a very broken system). That was my life for a long time and thank G-d, we succeeded in getting the system struck down as unconstitutional and changed a lot a young lives around beyond their victimhood. That was not for parnassah. You also would have read, had you cared to, that a bulk of my practice is devoted to representing victims – of all varieties of abuse. I believe this to be every lawyer’s obligations as, in my experience, a large majority of victims of sexual abuse and other abuse, don’t have the means to afford a lawyer or any other way to have their voices heard. As for children more generally, I spend just some time just about every day of the year coaching children in various sports, learning something with them, etc. I care deeply about children and feel more strongly than you can imagine about anyone who would hurt a child in any way. The only case I ever have turned down in my entire career – because I did not think I could do a good job – was a request to represent a child abuser in a criminal case. To the disgust of your followers, I have great respect for someone who can; I just don’t think I have it in me and a defendant deserves better. While I represented the class of sex abusers to which I referred, it was in the context of challenging the constitutionality of a law I thought was wrong. None of my clients was a sexual abuser of a child; but in the context of that case, I believe I could have and would have represented such a class member as well.

      To your followers who attacked me earlier for responding as if I were the issue, I am responding personally only to personally directed comments.

      Let me summarize: I know Evan Zauder as my kids’ camp counselor several years ago. He was a wonderful counselor and a wonderful young man with a very bright future. The kind of young man about whom I believe we should all be very proud. I was consulted by the camp regarding their investigation into his conduct at camp – a subject about which they responsibly wanted to be pro-active, rather than trying to sweep their previous association with him under the rug. I was consulted because I am a parent at the camp and because they knew I have a great deal of experience with sexual abuse victims (notwithstanding your conclusion). I felt their approach was terrific, seeking out every camper and student who ever had had any contact with Evan to see if there had been even the slightest indication of such conduct at camp.

      I am close friend’s with Evan’s lawyer, for reasons having nothing to do with Evan’s case. We have been co-counsel in several cases together.

      Contrary to your devoted fellow travelers who have indicated a belief that every Jew, rabbi, doctor, and I suppose Indian Chief (if Jewish) who thinks it appropriate to seek mercy for Evan should be killed, castrated, ostracized, fired, or whatever, I am very glad to live in a world in which such people, out of no personal agenda, would stand up for a pariah who effectively has ended his life as he knew it.

      Nothing about any of that demeans a single victim or in any way, shape, or form indicates a failure by them or by me to recognize that the true victims in this case are the children. Nor does any of this fail to recognize the terrible problem going on for many years within the Orthodox community of covering up sexual and other abuse and sexual and other abusers. One of my best friends has been a leading attacker of YU for the underlying conduct and for what he views as their continuing lack of appropriate response.

      I find it shocking that especially among a group of what I assume are Jews I have encountered the kind of language and demonization of rabbis who have done some great things and made some great community contributions or of criminal defense lawyers; but that might just reflect my own naivete. I am disappointed by all the personal insults and attacks and the level of discourse; but that will remain my problem. It has been a real eye-opener for me and I can chalk it up to experience.

      I admit that I am incredibly surprised that not one writer even begins to acknowledge the role mental illness plays in such situations. That is a very sad commentary and ignores reams and reams of scientific evidence in a field I think I know pretty well.

      To see Jews ready to condemn and want to kill, castrate, or worse so readily is a new experience for me. To see rabbis condemned because other rabbis have misbehaved terribly and covered up horrible crimes is very very sad.

      You have neen through a terrible experience no one ever should go through. That doesn’t give you license to mischaracterize what I have written or what my views are; but you are, of course, free to do so. I wish you cared about the actual facts more than just pursuing an agenda and characterizing them to suit that agenda; but you are entitled to so whatever makes you happy. Part of what makes this a great country.

      • So let me get this straight, those that wrote letters for a vicious predator are courageous and decent people, but those that stick up for a survivor of abuse that expresses moral outrage to said letters are a gang of irrational and abusive people. Gotcha! Like I said before, you are illustrating the mind of a twisted defense attorney that spent too much time thinking of ways to assist a criminal regardless of detriment to society. I find your perspective repulsive.

        • Mr. Lopin:

          Perhaps it helps your blog to be incredibly rude and mischaracterize. I have no idea; as I wrote earlier, this is a new experience for me. To the extent I raised objections about what your followers wrote, it was based on the extreme language (killed, castrated, etc.) Especially without knowing any of the people involved in this situation. It was also the demonization of criminal defense lawyers and rabbis who dared to write on behalf of Evan Zauder. Your use of the word “twisted” seems to be projecting. Nothing in anything I have written has even remotely suggested that only the defense lawyers or Zauder’s supporters are courageous and the supporters of victims are irrational or abusive. People who use the kind of language used here are absusive, at least insofar as they use that language. People who think everyone who engages in abhorrent conduct, whether or not the product of mental illness deserve to be summarily killed or castrated, along with the rabbis who support them are irrational. I will gladly put my record of support and advocacy and actually making a difference for victims of abuse (sexual and otherwise) against yours or anyone else on this blog any day. Let me return to my original impression: you have no business being a moderator of a blog based on what you have just written, both in perverting and intentionally misrepresenting what I have written, and in resorting to the choice of words at the end.

          I do not know how to navigate around the website; so if you would please take care of “unsubscribing” me, I would greatly appreciate it and you would be spared any further repulsion.

          • David,

            You are confusing me with others. I never used the word twisted, nor did I suggest castration, etc. In fact I am clear that I do not support capital punishment, prison rape, etc.

            In fact, I clearly support a defendant’s right to legal representation. I have never criticized relatives who wrote letters. I think that a rabbi, as someone responsible for all of his community, should balance the legitimate interests of a defendant with the need to protect vulnerable members of his community.

            I support David’s critique, especially of Dr. David Pelcovitz. His representation was disingenuous. He touted his professional credentials to imply that Zauder is a good candidate. He seems to have conveniently ignored a lot of information suggesting otherwise. His handling of the information in this case suggests a bias to the well connected over the protection of children.

            You are of course welcome not to come back here. If you have subscribed to emails, wait till you get your next one and exercise the the UNSUBSCRIBE option. It is an automated function built into WORDPRESS.

            • Right you are! My apologies once again. I just don’t have the hang of this thing. I saw the heading that said something like a new comment by you; but what I missed is that I was actually responding to a post by “Benny” and mistakenly thought it came from you. I should have recognized a very different style and choice of words; but I did not.

      • Mental illness is a terrible plague, and we should all have rachmonas on yiddim so afflicted. That being said, it is “criminal” to allow such afflicted souls the possibllity of ever being the rodef again. It is painfully difficult to weigh the agony of a mentally ill Rodef against that of his victim. That is false, actually.. The protection of the nirdaf is always of paramount concern. We can not use rachmonas for the rodef as an excuse to allow him to continue violating others. I don’t give a rat’s ass, if he was locked in a closet as a child. Now is now. cause and effect,. well, yes, but primary concern is preventing further violations of innocent children by a fxxked up “good guy who everyone loves”. Save me from such crap.
        This is not about psychology or causes of former trauma, (read please Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery”), this is about protecting our precious Jewish children now. Chaval al ha’rodfim whose background may have given rise to their criminal acts. Ma she’haya haya. We all have painful burdens. That does not give us a ‘get out of jail free’ card”.
        It happened, the recidivism rate for pedophiles is extraordinarily high. Block them out, however possible, to prevent them from ever violating another child.

      • David:

        -Early on I qualified my post by saying “ill or not”. Also, I mentioned that victims are more likely to become perps if unaddressed. Clearly, I acknowledged mental illness in this mess. But that was never the point. How much mental illness plays into this can be argued for life times -back and forth. I 100% believe that this type of behavior is controllable in the majority of cases, and that for now, deterrence with strong consequences – taught at an early age will definitely help our community. Short of creating huge secured mental hospitals (on islands) for these folks that may or may not rehabilitate.. depending on the person, I just dont see any other way but jail. Until we can remove that gene, if it even exists….its got to be jail. Although chemicals that remove the drive should also be explored… if they exist. So what you saod about people ignoring mental illness was untrue or mistaken… you can choose.

        – In spite of the good work you sound like have done (besides the KKK defense and over focus on sex offenders), this issue deals with that of moral clarity. Unfortunatly, when you mix Rabbis into this situation, you cant dance at two weddings. You have taken a moral stance. And to be honest, I was really disappointed to see someone with as much experience as you touting the standard line, in defense of the leniency position. I can only hope that others out there like you remain strong, in terms of maintaining a clear moral code. For without a moral code, society historically disintegrates. And our children are depending on us to do the right thing. And if you (we) dont do it, who will? In some ways, you too were victimized by this situation. It was very personal and close to you. I do believe it hurt you. But even so, leadership has been thrust upon you..or perhaps you chose and earned it. Either way, the day is short and the ledger is open. Leave the consequences alone.

        • Sorry I didn’t see the reference to mental illness in your post. Thanks for the benefit of the doubt. I don’t agree that the behavior is controllable and I have of course seen studies that support my view; but as I wrote early on, despite my work on the law side of the issue, I do not consider myself an expert on causation whatsoever. It is a phenomenon I simply am not capable of understanding.

          However, he is going to prison and for a long time. That has never been a question – at least not since his plea. So there is no real question about that here.

          In terms of moral clarity, I hope that I meet your standards. It is an important issue to me; perhaps at the end of the day, as important as any. The irony of the course of this whole blog experience today, is that it was a rabbi friend of mine who sent me the first post. I had never heard of the blog before. He has been at the forefront of attacking YU for its response (or lack of response) to the history of abuse at MTA, we spoke before the first lawsuit was filed about having me represent certain victims, etc. And he knows I have followed this case some. His biggest beef on this issue is Dr. Pelcovits and we have discussed that. But moral clarity and our mutual disappointment with the conduct of certain rabbis – including a noteworthy case near me of fraud, the use of multiple personalities to attack others and support his own work, etc. And what that reflects, as well as very serious complaints from victims of Batei din are the subjects of our discussions daily. But I see the rabbis’ letters here as a different animal and not part of a cover-up of abuse or an attempt to excuse such conduct or in any way an affront to victims. They were simple calls by clergy for mercy for a Jew who will, in any event, be very severely punished. I want rabbis to take that role. If they engage in fraud or cover ups that allow further victimization, then I don’t want them to be rabbis. For me it is as simple as that. I don’t understand the vitriol today, except to say that those who write as victims have some right to be bitter forever; but for thinking people to argue that asking for mercy for Evan equates with not caring about victims is beyond me.

          As for your caveats about my practice, I am not sure I would do the KKK thing again. I find the underlying Free Speech issue critically important to me; but I never had a more despicable client (the Grand Wizard actually was a Jew who converted out; so I made sure he knew I was Jewish. I told him I didn’t want to put in over 100 hours pro bono, as I did, and then hear I don’t want a “Jew lawyer.”. He said that was horrible, but better than a “Zionist Jew.”. I gave him the rest of the bad news on that; but he finally gave me the “honor” of representing him, despite wishing I were “white and Christian.”. Winning was no fun in that case as the cartoon in the newspaper the next day captured; but I felt the issue was important and bigger than the klan.

      • Just so you don’t think that there are just 2 or 3 posters who find your work and comments repulsive, I would like to join them. Two of the most offensive points that you make are:
        1) Congratulating and honoring defense attorneys for defending and protecting child molesters and,
        2) Condemning those of us who criticize morally bankrupt orthodox rabbis who viciously attack anyone who tries to stop orthodox child molesters from preying on orthodox kids.

        Re: #1 – Only in law school can you be surrounded by people who think it righteous and noble to try to get child molesters their freedom so that they can attack and victimize other children. Does our law allow a lawyer to try to prevent justice from being served on a heinous criminal? Yes, you have the right to try to free the most despicable, degenerate people on earth. That is our legal system.

        Does that mean that you should do it? Does that make you a moral super hero? Would you write a letter to a judge pleading for leniency for a man who raped your son? Would you temper justice with mercy then? Probably not. So why do you praise others who beg for leniency for a child molester? Because you aren’t the victim or related to the victim?

        If you feel so bad for Evan’s plight and believe he deserves leniency, then I’m sure you would agree that it would only be fair and proper for him to first name every single child that he ever contacted inappropriately and report that to the judge. He should also beg forgiveness from each child and the child’s parents for destroying the kid’s life. He should then offer to fully compensate the victim and the victim’s family. Only after all of that occurs, should the judge even consider letters requesting leniency. Don’t you agree?

        But no child molester does that, do they? They lawyer up and try to get out of jail without taking any responsibility for their crimes or making any effort to apologize or compensate the victims. And you glorify the lawyers who make that happen.

        Re: #2 – The primary reason so many serial orthodox child molesters and child rapists are free or serve minimal sentences, if at all, is because orthodox rabbis protect them. I know close to 10 orthodox child molesters personally. Many of them are rabbis themselves who have been known to be child molesters for decades by their rabbinic colleagues. The rabbis who know about these molesters keep their mouths shut and refuse to take any action to protect their communities from these monsters.

        However, these rabbis go one step further and will work relentlessly to destroy anyone who dares accuse the molester of being a child predator. For those of us who know how dangerous these molester-protecting rabbis are, we honestly don’t give a damn how learned in Torah they are or how well they can speak at a wedding or funeral. We care that they put the community’s interest before orthodox child molesters’. Unfortunately, few rabbis care more about protecting orthodox kids than their own careers so they brutally attack the victims.

        If you had any experience with molester-protecting rabbis and the unspeakable damage that they do to our children and communities, you might better understand our attitude towards and criticisms of them.

  24. Pay close attention to what I am about to write:

    Pay no attention to lawyers. Many prosecutors want somebody behind bars for as long as possible. (Exhibit A; the case of Dr. David Benjamin.) They couldn’t care less about the true facts.

    Many Defense lawyers argue the facts when the law is not on their side.
    They argue points of law when the facts are not on their side.
    They argue whichever which way will benefit their clients (which many hope will result in more revenue, by referrals from one mafioso to another, for example). Exhibit A: Alan Dershowtitz, trying to defend a convicted child molester.
    They’re like magicians, trying to distract the audience to fool them. Or used car salesmen, frankly.
    Well paid magicians. Well paid used car salesmen.
    Pay no attention to lawyers. Even well meaning ones. They’re biased. That’s how they make a living.’

    Pay no attention to supposed mental health professionals who are solicited by family members, friends, people to whom they owe favors, whatever– and who don’t even take the time to learn basic facts before sending off a letter to a judge on a matter of such grave concern.

    Do pay attention to their employers, who might be interested in looking into grossly unprofessional conduct.

    Rabbis? As Berel Wein has said, one can find a rabbi who will agree to anything. Exhibit A: this case. Don’t pay attention to each and every rabbi. They’re not necessarily saints. They learned basar v’chalav, taaruvos, etc. But they cannot — or will not — see something that is blatantly an unkosher act.

    Do pay attention to gedolei ha’poskim such as Rav Elyashiv ztl whose rulings in so many areas of life have been accepted across the spectrum but whose ruling regarding child abuse is conveniently ignored. Many choose not to pay attention to elderly sages who seem out of touch but who so often are right on target in their understanding not only of halacha but of human nature.

    Do pay attention to the crux of the matter: we must protect our children. That means we see to it that there is no way a molester can harm any child again.

    Do pay attention to the tremendous chillul HaShem that occurs when people perceived as Orthodox Jews write letters and take actions to defend convicted child molesters. The outside world does not know what to make out of the bitter reality that so many of our purported leaders and community members rush to the defense of predators. This alone causes a chillul HaShem of enormous magnitude.

    Keep your eye fixed on the target: protecting our children, all children, from animalistic predators. Obey gedolei ha’poskim and understanding their priorities in such cases. Realize the enormous, perhaps irreversible chillul HaShem in this case.

    Don’t let anyone distract you.

  25. Pirkei Avos tells us not to become lawyers. Masechta Shabbos expands on this pointing out that lawyers LIE.

    Schoen defends scum of the earth Israeli drug lords who he smugly refers to as “so called Israeli mafia”. How many children & families have been destroyed by the drugs?

    Schoen & Ben Brafman have a mutual arrangement to pat each other on the back. Has Brafman ever turned down a lowlife crook, rapist or murderer with deep enough pockets to shell out the massive retainer that Brafman requires just to sit down at the table?

    Schoen funnily enough has haskama from an Avi Weiss disciple, you know, that crowd with the big show of phony moral indignation.

    “Justice tempered by mercy”? What Talmudic source does Schoen have to apply that to a monster like Zauder? Sounds almost as perverse as the twisted garbage that Yudi Kolko’s lawyer Schwartz claimed to have derived from daf yomi. Here’s a real Talmudic source for you, if you have mercy on the cruel, you will end up being cruel to the merciful.

  26. Hi Covet Up…Yes…this really says it all.

    ” if you have mercy on the cruel, you will end up being cruel to the merciful.”

  27. Steve Pruzansky seems to been overlooked in the back & forth. He has a history one might say. There is that pro-molester drivel he once posted to the internet. He may have still been at the Queens Vaad when they initially decided to cover up for Ephraim Bryks. The caustic but seemingly always accurate blogger Joe Izrael has alleged that Pruzansky turns a blind eye to all kinds of adulterous scandal among his congregants. It is also said that a big child victim advocate has Pruzansky high up on his list of bad guys.

  28. What else about Rabbi Taragin? Is he covering up for his predator colleagues from Yeshivat Hakotel, Motty Elon and Aharon Bina?

  29. Not to change the subject, but does anyone have any input on how worried fathers should be right now, about sending their teen sons to Orthidox Jewish Sports camps in the North Eastern USA. I mean, the level of denial here seems so sttong, I am actually considering canceling my son’s plans this summer…and erring on the side of safety… Is this the gorilla in the room or has all this stuff caused most camps to seriously vet their staff – based on legal fears of being sued?? Any practical advice would be appreciated.

    • One should be very worried with most of the camps. As we saw with Camp Dora Golding, they tried to hush up an incident of abuse, though they did try to get rid of the counselor rather than keeping him on. But clearly they were trying to avoid criminal prosecution and they did not do a good job of quickly trying to determine if there were any other victims. I am not up on the particular camps. I know that Agudath Israel of America co-sponsored a training for camp directors that was more focused on avoiding legal liability than avoiding abuse. I am not saying that is of no value. A fear of lawsuits helps sharpen the mind. But there is much more to maximizing child safety.

      Readers- can any of you offer thoughts about camps which you know have good training practices, policies, and vigorous responses to all actual episodes of abuse?

    • His ‘explanation’ is unbelievable. Read this only if you have a vomit-bag nearby. It’s really sickening.
      At best, he just doesn’t get it.
      Furthermore, his claim that these heinous crimes do not merit more than a 10-year prison sentence is reflective at best of ignorance of basic piskei halacha in such cases.
      The Gemarah includes a tale of a rav handing over 2 tax evaders (as I recall) to the Romans for execution, and justifying his action by stating he was just clearing out the bad weeds.
      Do those who wrote asking for compassion for this unrepentant child molester know better than the Gemarah?

    • Rabbi Pruzansky,

      1. You keep balancing justice and mercy. But as a well known, law-and-order, right winger, what’s about deterring further molesting by keeping him away from kids.

      2. You keep arguing about too long a sentence. Can you enlighten us on what is the mininum sentence you felt was necessary. Would you have been OK, for the sake of mercy, with no time in jail? Why not, even a short jail sentence is painful for Evan Zauder and his family.

      3. Rabbi Pruzanksy- in writing a letter you indicate a concern for balancing justice and mercy. How does your calculus in this and other cases factor in the unknown victims of this molester.

      4. Did you read the indictment or did you just rely on representations by Zauder’s attorneys? Because if the former, all your talk about thoughtful balancing lacks substantive justification.

      • Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is no friend of victims or survivors of abuse. He is a friend of the worst parts of our establishment that have thrown out compassion and justice for victims and survivors of abuse. The same elements that routinely silence the abused and twist and corrupt Judaism in order to protect the abusers:

        Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in his own words: “Victims Who Choose Silence When They Could Prosecute Have A Moral Obligation To Remain Silent When They Can No Longer Prosecute,”

        See: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/12/victims-who-choose-silence-when-they-could-prosecute-have-a-moral-obligation-to-remain-silent-when-they-can-no-longer-456.html

        • Typical Rabbi Steven Pruzansky:

          Critics Charge Rabbinic Court Covered Up Lanner Abuse
          By NACHA CATTAN
          FORWARD – JANUARY 30, 2003

          Nineteen critics of convicted sex offender and former Orthodox Union youth leader Rabbi Baruch Lanner have signed a letter excoriating a respected rabbi, saying that he withheld for more than a decade a 1989 rabbinical court ruling that found Lanner guilty of abuse.

          he letter urges the four Orthodox synagogues in New Jersey to pull their sponsorship of the February 2 lecture unless Willig apologizes and addresses these matters. The other three synagogues, all located in Teaneck, N.J., are Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Congregation Keter Torah and Congregation Bnai Yeshurun. Bnai Yeshurun has refused to pull its sponsorship, according to the synagogue’s rabbi, Steven Pruzansky. “It’s not even being considered,” he said. Pruzansky called the letter “highly inappropriate.”

          Meanwhile, a rabbi at one of the four synagogues sponsoring the lecture said the criticism of Willig is unfair.

          “To try to impugn anyone associated with Lanner is outrageous,” said Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of B’nai Yeshurun in Teaneck. “Not everyone acted improperly or unethically just because they were unable to rein him in.” The Lanner case, which came to light several years ago, has been a dark chapter in the Orthodox community. Lanner, a former resident of Fair Lawn and Paramus, was a teacher at The Frisch School in Paramus and served as regional director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth.

          When the allegations against him finally became public, an Orthodox Jewish commission found that his colleagues in the Orthodox Union knew of his abusive personality but failed to stop him.

  30. Rabbi:

    What a nice letter you just wrote, justifying your empathy for sex offenders. Just curious… do you ask for leniency for all Jewish offenders, or only for those who commit sex offences? Hmmm

    Also, I wasn’t sure what you meant by the need to “validate the victims”. While its nice to speak of validation, that type of language sounds a bit third-partyish. Honestly, it just doesn’t sound like real empathy on your part… if its just to validate.

    Have a nice validated Shabbas
    Ami

  31. As a lawyer I did a bit of criminal defense work. I would have to say that writing letters such as these is extremely common. I am not minimizing what the guy did. I have zero tolerance for anyone that would hurt a child and I agree that this man needs to be punished. However, in any criminal case it is common for lawyers to ask friends, relatives, etc. to write letters to the judge before sentencing. This is very common and I don’t think it is so bad that they did so. They are not excusing what the did. They are simply asking the judge to take into account other mitigating factors and to weigh this in the sentencing phase. This happens all the time and the law provides for these type of pre-sentencing letters. I am not sure its fair to assume that a guy who wrote such a letter is, therefore, condoning or minimizing the horror of child sexual abuse.

    • Tim,

      To many of us, there is a difference between the letters written by friends and relatives and those written by professionals. I would draw your attention in particular to the letter written by David Pelcovitz, Ph.D., who is considered one of the leading experts in the Orthodox Jewish community with respect to child sexual abuse. Here is the full text of the letter:

      Dear Judge Kaplan

      I am a clinical psychologist who has been in practice for the last thirty years. I have also served as Director of Psychology at a large hospital center and as a professor of clinical psychology in several medical schools. I am writing this letter, in my capacity as a former teacher of Evan Zauder’s in a Pastoral Psychology course he took with me. I also gained some insight into Evan’s many positive qualities in a meeting I had with him shortly after his arrest.

      I spent most of my career treating the victims of child sexual abuse in the specialized clinic and research program that we had at North Shore University Hospital, which was then part of the NYU School of Medicine. In light ofthi5 expertise and the qualities I saw in Evan when he was my student, I hope that this letter can provide a perspective that can help justice be tempered by mercy when Evan is sentenced.

      In my interactions with Evan during and after class, what came through most, was his warmth, empathy, concern for others and genuine commitment to serve the community. In my meeting with him after his arrest he wasn’t in the least bit defensive about his actions. He expressed sincere regret and remorse, wishing that he had the strength to get professional help for his problems before they reached the disastrous proportions that brought him to your courtroom.

      Cn over thirty years of practice, I have had the opportunity to treat many individuals with issues in the area of controlling their sexuality. As you know, the prognosis for sustained change is often guarded. In the case of Evan, however, 1 believe that he possesses many of the ingredients that I have come to associate with sustained change and potential to be a valuable member of society. A combination of an unusually supportive family coupled with Evan’s advanced capacity for self-awareness and empathy should serve to improve prognosis for becoming a valued member of his family and community. Please consider this aspect of Evan’s potential and temper justice with mercy by imposing on Evan the lowest sentence permitted under the law.

      Respectfully,
      David Pelcovitz, Ph.D.
      Clinical Psychologist

      • Hi Tim…

        That these letters are quite common in the larger community, as you admit, is quite disturbing and disgusting – but not surpising. The problem is like this… there seems to be an overabundance of high profile leaders ( especially in our Jewish community) who focus on writing letters for sex offence cases – even as they shut up the victims. This has to stop. And honestly, the effort to stop it is not going to just go away. If the Rabbis (and your fellow lawyers) really care about these families – as they claim, than they need to concentrate on other areas, so this problem will slow down. Covering for clients at all costs is now going to hurt your legal reputation, because it is going to be exposed (pardon the pun) 1) The Rabbis (and you) need to let it be known that they can not (in good conscience) write such letters anymore, because they themselves now have a zero tolerance policy towards lessoning the punishment for such hideous crimes. 2) Start helping victims of this crime to psychologically recover, as sometimes untreated victims can turn around, and commit abuse (heaven forbid). Leniency letters only fuel this. 3) Help proactively educate and address this problem in our community, by identifying factors that contribute to this early on. 4) Stop covering up and admit the problem.

  32. The assistant preschool director of YNJ as well as a long-term YNJ Board member also wrote letters requesting clemency.

  33. In the context of sexual abuse (ושלחה ידה והחזיקה במבשיו), the Torah’s position, Devarim 25:12, is quite clear – לא תחוס עינך, loosely translated – have no pity.

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