The OU Owes Baltimore an Accounting of Their Handling of Krawatsky

The OU claims they notified Beth Tfiloh about their decision to terminate Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky as the leader of their Yachad Program because of suspicions of child sexual abuse. Beth Tfiloh denies it. The OU should publicly support their claim by providing phone or email records demonstrating the relevant contact.

But there is something more they owe the public: an explanation of how he came to be hired in the first place. A check with Maryland’s protective services would have shown there were allegations of abuse. Continue reading

OU Featured “Sauna Bonder” Rosenblatt at Rabbinic Mentoring Events

Rabbi Steven Weill

Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU 2009-2014

The Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University were critical of Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt’s practice of mentoring boys and young men in extended mutually nude interactions in showers and saunas. However, the Orthodox Union (OU) used Rosenblatt for rabbinic mentoring events starting in  2009 and 2010. These events ran through 2013 but it is not clear if he was used for all of the remaining events, though the OU did not claim otherwise when I inquired.

According to a 2010 email by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil,

In Toronto I attended a three-day conference for over 30 rabbis from large, medium and small shuls across North America. This is part of a regular series of gatherings organized by the OU, which occur on-site in numerous locations; last year, the rabbis met in Chicago, while next year’s conclave is planned IY”H for Kansas City.

Many of the rabbis who participate in this group are relatively new to the pulpit (within the past decade, but most newer). They are mentored by more experienced rabbis, foremost among them Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the Riverdale Jewish Center. This event was held at Shaarei Shomayim, following which, I was privileged to remain behind in order to serve as Shabbat scholar-in-residence. (emphasis added).

Continue reading

A Guide to the Perplexed About Leniency Letters

Imagine a letter written on behalf of a rapist we will call Hershel Shvantz.

letters illustrationTo the Honorable Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman,

I am writing you about Rabbi Hershel Shvantz who pleaded guilty to raping my daughter 3,000,000 times. I have known him for years and have seen nothing but good in his work on behalf of children in our community. Whenever I called him for help, he responded. I was shocked to learn he raped my daughter. That is not the Hershel I know. He admits he made some mistakes. But I believe you should also consider all the good he has done. Please be lenient in proposing his sentence. He has the potential to do a lot of good in the future.

Rabbi Keiyn Rachmonis

William rapfogel sheldon silverAlright, I realize some of you can’t buy the idea of someone raping three million times. But bear with me. Many orthodox Jewish leaders wrote letters to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requesting leniency for William Rapfogel. He was a man with a $410,000 annual salary for running Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (aka Met Council) who stole over $3,000,000 from Met Council. This same clique raised over $3,000,000 so he could pay back the stolen money, thereby reducing his prison time without giving up his apartment or second home.

All the letters can be seen here. But let me save you the trouble and summarize their main points. Continue reading

How To Succeed in Kosher Without Really Trying

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

I am reposting this year-old item (5/26/13) about the 2013 Doheney Kosher Meats scandal in LA from the Frum Follies archives because because the Passover season’s kosher concerns are upon us and Belsky is again in the news, this time for defending yet another rabbi crony from charges of sexual misconduct (Five Towns Angry at Belsky Over His Defense of Disgraced Rabbi Weinberger).

This post argues that Belsky, once again, violated fundamental ethical guidelines about avoiding conflicts of interest and issued a ruling for LA that conferred enormous financial benefits on his son-in-law, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz.

Owning a well-run, established business in a growing market is nice. But a monopoly in the same market – now that is splendid. Los Angeles may be heading to a kosher meat distribution monopoly.  Until shortly before Passover 2013, LA was divided into two kosher meat silos. Most of the kosher supervision (hashgachah) in town was provided by the Rabbinical Council of California (RRC). Every restaurant, caterer and retail shop under the RRC had to buy their meat from the RRC certified distributer, Doheney Kosher Meats. The smaller Kehilla Kosher certification (under Rabbi Avrohom Teichman)  required their establishments to buy meat from Western Kosher.  In effect, there was a meat distribution monopoly within each hashgachah.

Then a tsunami overturned this tidy arrangement. According to the LA Times,

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How the Mighty Have Fallen

Charles J Hynes after he lost reelection photo by Arthur DeGaeta in The Brooklyn Paper

Charles J Hynes after he lost reelection
photo by Arthur DeGaeta in The Brooklyn Paper

As an activist against child abuse I am used to hearing well-meaning people tell me, “You are right, but nothing can be done. So and so is too powerful to be dissuaded or dislodged.” That attitude is defeatist and ignores the reality that social change is happening all the time.

For the longest time Brooklynites insisted District Attorney Charles Hynes could not be removed from office because he had the support of the Hasidic voting block. Well, he had that block’s endorsement on Tuesday and he lost by 11% in a two-way contest against Kenneth Thompson.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Others insist that Rabbi Yisroel Belsky can get away with vile slander and witness intimidation in his defense of convicted, Lakewood, child-molester Yosef Kolko. They say, he cannot be dislodged as the Senior Posek (rabbinical authority) for the Orthodox Union’s (OU) Kosher Division. I disagree. Continue reading

QOTD: Belsky Must Go

QOTD=Quote of the Day

The editor of the Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt drew attention to Rabbi Heshie Billet’s article about child sex abuse. Heshie Billet is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere and was President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest orthodox association of rabbis in the world with approximately one thousand members.  According to  Rosenblatt:

f93b3-unknownRabbi Heshie Billet… wrote,…  “Not Enough Progress By Rabbis, Leaders On Dealing With Sexual Abuse,” [which] described the role Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a major kashrut expert and halachic consultant to the OU [Orthodox Union], played in publicly defending a confessed sexual abuser, Rabbi Yosef Kolko, who taught youngsters at a Lakewood, N.J., yeshiva.

Further, Rabbi Belsky accused the parents of the victim of going to the police, and wrote that one who does so is guilty of being a moser, the rabbinic term for a Jew who informs on another Jew, and, wrote Rabbi Belsky, “has no share in the world to come.”

Under communal pressure, the boy’s parents moved away from the Lakewood community.

“The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky,” Rabbi Billet wrote, calling on the major Orthodox group to “publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU,” which say child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

“Principles must trump kashrut revenues in Continue reading