“The 19th century Italian rabbi … Elijah Benamozegh teaches in the Em Lamikra (on Genesis 43:9) that in some biblical contexts, the punishment is the sin itself. In other words, despite the overwhelming narrative of forgiveness in Jewish texts and Jewish practice, some sins stay with us forever. Not because others do not forgive us, but because some transgressions are so deeply heinous that we can never forgive ourselves. Continue reading
The best essay on the topic for this time of the year appears in the Washington Post. Danya Ruttenberg says it all and well in today’s article “Famous abusers seek easy forgiveness. Rosh Hashanah teaches us repentance is hard.”
Forgiveness is up to the victim and the victim alone. Atonement is up to God. As such, a conversation about sexual predators attempting to return to the public eye should begin with the question of whether they have made real, earnest tshuvah.
The perfunctory public apologies that we have so often seen in the wake of allegations could, at best, be considered part of the first step toward repentance, taking ownership of the harm done. But they must reflect a genuine ownership of all actions taken — not “if I did behave then as he describes ,” as Spacey said; not complaining about the impact on their work (Keillor), fans (Batali) or family (Lauer), with minimal focus on the victims; not minimizing the complaints as Rose did, blaming Godas O’Reilly did or guessing what the victims might have thought, as C.K.’s initial statement last year did. Issuing such superficial and narcissistic public statements is the only thing that any of the above-named men have done to signal any sort of repentance process, at least publicly.
We would see something like the work of Rabbi Yosef Blau, who, after understanding his complicity in enabling a sexual abuser to continue his work with as both a high school principal and youth group leader, has dedicated much of his life and work to advocating for victims of sexual assault.
Just this last Saturday (8/18/18) an announcement was read out in a number of Cleveland’s orthodox synagogues on behalf of their rabbinical association warning members to beware of Akiva Meir Hersh as a potential child sexual abuser. They used vaguer language but the message was clear. The message was promulgated on behalf of the Vaad HaRabbonim of Cleveland, the orthodox rabbinical council. It is not clear if all synagogues in the council spread the message, but three different sources tell me it was definitely read out in most of them or posted on bulletin boards. Continue reading
Rabbi Ephraim Bryks (born around 1954) was accused of sexually abusing boys and girls in Canada in cases that got a lot of publicity on CBC and American media. He dodged conviction but also lost libel cases against the networks that broadcast the story. Eventually, his former synagogue in Winnipeg stripped him of his emeritus title. and removed a plaque commending his service to them.
After returning to the US he ran a yeshiva for children from the former Soviet Union.
Eventually he was cut off from pulpit positions because of his reputation. He was also induced to resign from the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) in 2003 and the Rabbinical Board of Queens (Vaad Harabonim) rather than face charges according to a report in the Jewish Week (NY) in 2010.
Nevertheless he presents himself as a rabbi, a marriage counselor and a convener of his own rabbinical court (though no other rabbis are listed by name). Stories of his attempts to use these roles to sexually exploit women are widespread on the grapevine.
Approximately ten years ago, Rabbi Yosef Blau, the senior spiritual advisor at the Yeshiva University seminary, publicly declared:
Ephrayim Bryks has become a rabbinic marriage counselor. The term marriage counselor or life coach can be used by anyone. He is not the only “rabbi” suspected of sexual abuse using one of these titles to access vulnerable individuals or couples both here and in Israel. Consulting actual professionals is expensive and unless the community publicly warns against going to these charlatans (often worse) many innocents will continue to be hurt.
Rabbi Blau confirmed to me that he still stands by that position in emails and discussions over the last 3 months.
Malky Wigder posted (6/10/18) on Facebook this description of his sex harassment and behavior after he offered her free help in dealing with a rabbinical court in connection with her divorce. With her consent I am posting her full account.
Malky Wigder’s Account
About a year after my divorce, my ex-husband summoned me to bais din [rabbinical court] (a pattern of court-bais din- rinse-repeat that lasted for about a decade). I couldn’t afford a toen [rabbinic court lawyer], which is why I had been stuck with an atrociously unfair and unenforceable separation agreement in the first place. At that time I somehow got in touch with an attorney who was doing pro bono work for women in need of a get [religious divorce]. She referred me to a toen whom she recommended highly, and indicated he sometimes reduced his fees for single moms. I reached out to him, and he said that in my case, he would waive the fee altogether. We agreed that he would pick me up from my home to appear in front of Bais Din.
His name was Ephraim Bryks.
On the day of the hearing, as I was getting into his car, out of habit I went to sit in the backseat, as I always would with an unrelated male driver. He told me he wasn’t a Chossid and I should go sit in the front. That must be normal for more modern people, I surmised, and complied (compliance was a lifelong habit I had yet to kick).
As we drove to the bais din, he said something strange. “Let’s make a deal,” he proposed. “I won’t believe anything they say about you, and you won’t believe anything they say about me.” RED FLAG RED FLAG! Well… not to naive, innocent, twenty-eight year old me. I didn’t even wonder what they might be saying about him. I knew my ex was going around saying I went to “bad places,” and when pressed he admitted it was the Lakewood Public Library. So I wasn’t too concerned. Continue reading
Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani (Senior Spiritual Advisor) at the seminary of Yeshiva University issued this advisory about Rabbi Ephraim Bryks of Kew Gardens, Queens, NY. Continue reading
In February, Rabbi Aryeh Goodman of East Brunswick, New Jersey, was charged with using an underage prostitute. Earlier this week the US Department of Justice (NJ office) took over the case and charged Goodman with sex trafficking. The 35-year-old repeatedly transported the girl over state lines in 2015 for their encounters, making it a federal crime. Continue reading
Hanging in the place of honor, in front of the Torah ark, is a paroches (curtain) donated by convicted child molester, Daniel (Gug) Hayman. On the last line of the embroidered gold dedication is his name in Hebrew.
Hayman’s crimes were covered up for many years by Chabad in Australia, and the subsequent cover up was faciliated by Debbie Fox, who heads Magen Yeladim (children’s shield).
According to the Australian Jewish News, when he was a 24 year-old counselor in a Jewish camp he molested a child he lured off into the woods and engaged in prolonged skin-to-skin contact of a sexual nature. He was convicted of “indecent assault” of a fourteen-year-old boy. Hayman also made payments in the past to buy secrecy and immunity from civil suits. Continue reading