Agudah Follows the Romans For the Same Dirty Reasons

Zweibel and Cardinal

David Zweibel of Agudah and Cardinal Dolan

Only two important groups stand in the way of strengthening legislation against child sex abusers in New York State: the Roman Catholic Church and its pipsqueak partner, Agudath Israel of America (aka Agudah).

Both groups decry sexual immorality, preach protection of the weak, and rhapsodize about their children. Yet they both have long, ugly histories of helping their molesters escape prosecution and financial reparations.

In 2010, Governor Andrew Cuomo badly wanted to legalize gay marriage in NYS. As always, the obstacle was the lobbying of the RCC and Agudah. So he cut a deal with them. They would denounce the act but not pressure legislators. In return they got his off-the-record promise not to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse. Instead, NYS would continue to have one of the shortest SOL’s in the US, requiring survivors to file criminal and civil complaints before their 23rd birthday.

Most survivors need more time before they are ready to confront their own demons and take on their abusers. He also protected them from what they feared, a window allowing survivors to sue for abuse that happened before the SOL’s were changed. Such windows expose abusers and force culpable individuals and institutions to compensate victims. They are embarrassing and costly for institutions that long covered up abuse, such as yeshivas, camps (e.g., Camp Agudah), and the RCC.

That deal has stuck. Every year since then, SOL reform legislation gets passed in the NYS Assembly and dies in the NYS Senate. Last year Cuomo promised to get such legislation passed. But it again died in the legislature. When Cuomo really wants something, it gets passed.

It seems to be happening again this year. A bill passed by an overwhelming margin in the Assembly and various SOL extensions are proposed by senators, but none seems likely to succeed. All sorts of spurious arguments are offered. The RCC and Agudah insist it would cost too much to comply and would bankrupt their institutions. As Marci Hamilton points out, the only bankruptcies were engineered by Catholic dioceses to shield assets. I have no doubt, that if a window is opened for suing for abuse in the past, some yeshivas and camps will also try to go down that route. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz in fact floats the idea of exempting institutions with new management. He conveniently ignores how easy it is to change the formal management while leaving the same players and beneficiaries behind the scenes.

If you are upset about all this, contact Governor Cuomo and your NYS senators and let the know this is your big issue. Unless they are committed to get an SOL reform passed, let them know you will vote against them in the primaries and elections if they fail this test. Act now because there is only about a week before the legislature goes into recess on June 23.

Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Fax:(518)474-3767
Tel:(518)474-8390
email: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us
web: http://www.state.ny.us/governor

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR NYS SENATOR: If you don’t know who your senator is, go here to find out. But don’t waste your time on a written message if you can spare 5-10 minutes to call. That has much more impact. So now go to this site to find your senator by name. Click on their name, then on their contact tab. They will list their offices and their phone numbers. For good measure, call all their offices. Then get ten of your friends and family to do the same. There is only one thing certain about 99% of politicians. They want to get reelected. Let’s make them earn it.

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Purim Can Be Risky

purim_binge_drinking_640_29Purim is fun. Purim is drinking. Purim has people coming and going in all sorts of places. Purim means too many kids who are not sufficiently supervised.

Purim is paradise [pardes and the English paradise are Persian words] for sex abusers. They themselves may be less inhibited while under the influence. Giving alcohol to younger boys can make them less resistant to influence and to abuse. Afterwards, the offender can claim it was silliness, not as claimed, abuse. I have heard too many stories of abuse that happened on Purim, typically involving older boys or young men with teens. Similar stories also happen other times of the year in Chabad with its ubiquitous vodka. That elixir of kiruv (outreach) knocks down boundaries and restraints.

Parents need to monitor settings where kids are, or be sure some other responsible adult is monitoring. They also need to regulate alcohol use. I am not puritanical about alcohol for under-age kids on Purim. But it becomes dangerous beyond limited quantities.

Alcohol kills in large enough quantities. Hatzolah organizations around the country report deaths and serious emergencies after Purim. Don’t let it happen to your kid.

Be funny, be smart, be happy afterwards.

Chag sameach! Happy Purim

Enough with the “Penetration Fallacy”

We have a serious problem when people say, “But it wasn’t rape,” or “Sexualizing a child without touching is creepy but not sexual abuse.” Creepy is practically a synonym for sexualizing.
Sex crimes should be seen from the point of view of harm to the victim/survivor, not in terms of the mechanics and body parts. There is what I call a “penetration fallacy” where the halachic and legal criteria of severity ignore the psycho-emotional harm.
Professionals report profound harm including suicides and overdose deaths because of sex abuse that did not involve penetration  of any sort. As long as the sexual dimension is apparent enough to make it creepy, it becomes possible for it to seriously harm a child. Not every child. Resilience varies. Some can come out pretty well from horrific things while others are deeply harmed by lesser things.
Even the law recognizes the victim’s perspective by considering victim impact reports and statements in setting sentences. The law bases the amount of civil judgements on the basis of the effects such as subsequent functional impairment, not just the acts. This is correct because some children are more harmed by fondling than others are by penetration.

Jewish law has explicit categories for harm: nezek, tzar, ripui, sheves and boishes. Sex abuse, depending on the particulars can include all five: physical harm, pain, medical healing costs, incapacitation, and shame.

Even those who don’t know technical halacha ought be sensitive to the ethical concern woven through rabbinic teaching about the grave sin of shaming others or even speaking hurtful words. It ought to be so much more obvious that violations of intimacy and tznius in ways that shame are especially grave sins and deeply harmful.

Yeshivish guys, stop asking, “Is she still a besulah (virgin).” It is almost never of any halachic consequence for their future marital status. It is true that a cohen gadol (high priest) can only marry a besulah. But even the most highfalutin schadchanim (matchmakers) are not offering any of them up.
There is a problem of discrimination against survivors of abuse who are open about their victimization. But the cure is not halachic, it is waging war on abusers instead of stigmatizing victims.
The rabbinical community should educate the public to understand these many aspects of the harm of child sex abuse. Instead we still hear echoes of the claim that it was nisht geferlich (not terrible) because there was no penetration. It is time to replace the penetration fallacy with a victim-centered understanding of the harm. It is time for more rabbinic leadership to give attention to these grave tznius violations instead of obsessing about the gauge of stockings and the length of skirts. A longer skirt is of no consequence if it can be lifted and removed with impunity because there is no penetration.

 

Beware of Moshe Friedman: Your Stomach Will Turn After You Read the Police Report

Moshe Friedman got a sweetheart deal which kept him out of jail and off the sex offender registry when he pled guilty on February 1, 2017 to a misdemeanor charge of “child endangerment” (NY Daily News).

Some of his defenders will say he didn’t really do anything serious. Maybe he just slapped a boy who was misbehaving. But you won’t say that after you read the police report with allegations of a string of sadistic sexual tortures that led to his indictment for multiple felony acts which could have put him in prison for decades.

According to the signed and sworn police report which was the basis of his indictment: The People of the State of New York County of Kings v Moshe Friedman:

…Between September 01, 2013 … and June 06, 2014 … at … [a yeshiva in Boro Park], the defendant … on multiple incidents per month

  • Did strike the informant’s hand with defendant’s hand when informant’s hand was injured and treated with a cast
  • Did place defendant’s hand on the informant’s exposed buttocks
  • Did grab the informant’s penis,
  • Did insert the defendant’s finger into the informant’s anus
  • Did insert a banana into the informant’s anus
  • Did put the defendant’s mouth on the informant’s buttocks
  • Did place the informant’s penis inside the defendant’s mouth
  • Did bite the informant’s penis with defendant’s mouth
  • Did tie a string around the informant’s penis
  • Did shove a rag into the informant’s mouth
  • Did tie the informant’s lips shut with string
  • Did display a gun to the informant and state to the informant in sum and substance, “you’d better not tell your parents, or I’ll kill you and your family.”

The … [boy was born in] 2007.

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