The Height of Chutzpah

Judge Gustin Reichbach

Judge Gustin Reichbach, ZTz”l

In October 2009, right after Yom Kippur, molester, Yona Weinberg, was up for sentencing. This is  Hella Winston‘s account of the sentencing in the Jewish Week.

Judge Gustin Reichbach said he found it “troubling” that the community “seeks to blame, indeed punish victims.”…Making his comments before a courtroom packed with supporters of the 31-year-old Weinberg – among them, school principals, two rabbis and civic leaders – the judge spoke of receiving more than 90 letters attesting to Weinberg’s character and innocence. None of the letters, the judge noted, “displays any concern or any sympathy or even any acknowledgment for these young victims which, frankly, I find shameful.” Judge Reichbach referred to a letter expressing sadness “that Weinberg’s love of humankind has turned against him,” as “the height of chutzpah.”

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

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

This is the same disturbing pattern that showed up in the case of Evan Zauder as discussed by David Cheifetz in his post, Pelcovitz and Leading Orthodox Rabbis Line Up Behind Sex Offender Evan Zauder. I have to wonder, how often did David Pelcovitz and these rabbis ever take the effort to write letters advocating for victims and in the interest of protecting children in the community.

Dr. Pelcovitz and these rabbis owe the community a cheshbon (reckoning) of exactly how they balance their rachmonis (mercy/pity) for molesters and their rachmonis on behalf of victims.

As the single most prominent orthodox mental health professional addressing child sex abuse, Dr. David Pelcovitz ought to tell us how many letters he has written to mitigate sentences versus the number he has written from the victim’s point of view.


10 thoughts on “The Height of Chutzpah

  1. Why does Dr. Pelcovitz owe anyone anything? He has no paid or official communal involvement in any of these cases. He has developed his reputation by counseling, lecturing and being the go-to person for the abused and those in need. The fact that you got hold of a letter of general support that may have written before all the information and continued behavior was evidenced is meaningless in the grander picture of the man’s career and reputation.

    I liked this blog because I thought you were fair. One possibly bad and premature call (out of hundreds) does not deserve this treatment.

    • You say, “One possibly bad and premature call.” If that is what it is, he can apologize, learn his lessons and move on. But I am asking, was it only one?

      You think Dr. Pelcovitz has no paid or official communal involvement. Do you not realize he sits on YU’s committees dealing with this issue, he is deeply associated with Ohel Children’s home and is the single most widely used speaker on this topic in the orthodox Jewish world. He is not merely a private figure.

      You say he may have written this information before all the information came in. A genuine professional either gets his facts or makes sure to include a disclaimer about not knowing them. I don’t know when he wrote the letter, since the date on the letter is redacted or he wrote the letter without dating it. Either is strange since most of the letters have visible dates in the files released by the courts. So this raises a question that he can answer, and I hope he will.

      • Your criticism is wrongheaded. This was not a public defense of this man so that he be rehired or re-accepted by the community.

        People who write letters to a judge are clearly attempting to paint a person in the best possible light, not because the person is innocent, or because you do not feel that the person deserves punishment, but because sentencing is an arbitrary thing. I am sure you would agree that just because a person is guilty of such crimes that doesn’t mean the person should rot in jail forever. They will eventually be released and deeply limited by the sex-offender label. How many years they suffer in jail is important to you? Or the safety of kids?

        To bundle Dr. Pelcovitz with those who you usually – rightfully – criticize is just wrong and very unappreciative of how far he has brought our community around on these issues.

        • Why SHOULDN’T he rot in jail forever???

          Will his victims’ suffering end any sooner???

          You have some pretty strange ideas about who does and who does not deserve mercy. Like most of the overstuffed hot air bags who defend the indefensible with lofty ideas, only having it happen to one of your own will cure you.

  2. I think your two highly question marked questions contradict each other. Please check your logic.

    Universally, every government sentencing guideline disagrees with you. Is everyone but you overstuffed with air?

    • You are very good at changing the subject to divert attention from your defense of the indefensible and re framing questions to make the slap on the wrist treatment of child abusers seem downright respectable.

      You an attorney? If not, you should consider a career change. There is big money to be made by smooth talking slime deviod of morals.

  3. The longer a pedophile is in jail the safer our kids and community. The only effective mechanism I have seen for protecting or monitoring pedophiles and keeping children safe from them is prison. When Evan Zauder reemerges from prison a decade from now much of his current support system have moved, aged or died. Once the constraints of prison are gone Evan will almost certainly go back to his old patterns and preys on minors. In a decade memories will have faded and Evan will likely reestablish himself anonymously in a Jewish community. As there is no organization in our community that monitors and warns the community of people like Evan, we will once again be in danger. That`s the scenario I see again and again once the initial publicity dies down after 10 years. People like Evan are normally manipulative and pathological. Evan is a native of Toronto, Canada so he will likely be able to avoid the public sex abuse registry requirements and publicity by simply moving back to Canada. Chisdai Ben-Porat of Ottawa (son of Rabbi Ben-Porat, dean of Ottawa Torah Institute Yeshiva High School and of Machon Sarah High School for girls) will do the same once he is released from jail in a few years. How many of you still remember alleged and convicted child molesters like Tuvya Rokach (son of Rabbi Rokach, principal of Associated Hebrew Schools at the time) returned from Monsey to Toronto and then reportedly fled again to California), Shlomit Acciaroli (Hamilton), Haim Cohen (Toronto), Cantor Alain Oziel (Toronto), Mashgiach David Douglas Webber (Edmonton and Calgary), Rabbi Ephraim Bryks (Winnipeg) or those involved in child pornography like Leeore Batshaw (Winnipeg), Vitaly Levshi (Toronto), Director of Kashruth Gary Dolovich (Winnipeg), and Rabbi Juda Mintz (Kingston). Don`t worry about Evan`s parnasah, alleged pedophiles in Toronto have parnasah for life. Just ask Rabbi Heshi Nussbaum how he fared for decades after he was finally removed from Eitz Chaim and the Agudah camps.

    There are only limited public sex abuse registries in Canada almost none in the major Jewish centers.

    But perhaps with the upcoming 3 trials of alleged Orthodox pedophiles Rabbi Heahi Nussbaum (Eitz Chaim, Toronto Jewish Boy`s Choir, Camp Agudah), Harvey Erlich (Hillel) and Martin Hyman (Humber Regional Hospital) and the trial of alleged child pornography aficionado Benjamin Levin (politically connected and possibly the most senior Jewish civil servant in recent Canadian history, Levin attacked background checks for those working with children in a journal article he authored), we will get a sense of how our neighbor to the North has produced such imports as Rabbi Heshi Nussbaum (returned to Toronto after allegations in the US decades ago) Evan Zauder, Tuvya Rokach and Chisdai Ben-Porat.

    I do think it is very important that the sentencing letters by made public. Marvin E. Schechter, Benjamin Brafman, Kenny Gribetz, Nathan Dershowitz, Alan Dershowitz and other lawyers that represent abusers in our community have to be put on notice that it will be harder to get these letters for sentencing from our leadership. These lawyers need to know they will no longer be able to obtain these letters by not fully informing the writers of the full allegations against their clients. The writers of these letters need to know in advance that their letters will be public and not just seen by the court and that they better inform themselves fully of the charges and the case.

    It would be interesting to know how many of the letter writers knew of the full charges in the case. Were there people who refused to write letters? I don`t believe I saw a letter from Paul Shaviv (Evan Zauder`s high school principal now at Ramaz), for example.

    Moreover, I think its time to identify the lawyers representing pedophiles in our community and to start monitoring court dockets and publicizing their clients. Let`s shine the light of day on the protective net of those who protect and enable the pedophiles in our community and silence and marginalize their prey. Let`s break the net and clear our community of the rot.

  4. A professional known for his work on child trauma who writes a letter asking for a lenient sentence for a child molester sullies the reputation of his academic institution and the names of those who endowed his ‘chair’.

    Lawyers and professionals who protect child molesters and put our children at risk should be ostracized. They should be unwelcome at professional meetings. If they speak at community events, they should be publicly challenged.

    Wouldn’t we do the same for a rabbi who labels pork as kosher? We’d run the rabbi out of town.

    Do our children deserve any less?

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