Ohel Endangers Children by Employing Alleged Child Molesters to Work With Children (see update at bottom)

The latest such scandal involves one Rabbi Yoseph “Yossi” Ungar, Learning Rebbe at @CampKaylie, is alleged to have sexually abused multiple boys in his 1st grade class at a New York school. He is still employed at the camp, which begins Monday, 6/27. Netanel Zellis-Paley has done research and brought this matter to light on his Twitter account, @WordPaley

Camp Kaylie is operated by Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services (@OhelFamily) an agency with a long sordid history of protecting abusers. They are now the subject of multiple lawsuits for this conduct.

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Let’s Talk about Policy Instead of Whether Rabbi Shmuel Tal Did Teshuva

Context

asherlovy052

Asher Lovy

The guest post that follows by Asher Lovy is a response to the debate about whether Rabbi Shmuel Tal truly repented of his egregious manipulation of woman he was counseling to get her to divorce her husband so Tal could marry her. A beit din declared he could retain his position heading a yeshiva because he did repent. I posted about the episode (and included a statement by Rabbi Yosef Blau). Subsequently there were also posts by Rabbi Blau in the Times of Israel and by Hannah Katsman on her blog, A Mother in Israel. All of us utterly dispute the claim that he repented. 

Asher Lovy is the Director of Community Organizing at Zaakah, and an activist who played an important role in securing  in some legislative victories involving child abuse in New York State.

Guest Post
Let’s Talk about Policy Instead of Whether Rabbi Shmuel Tal Did Teshuva
by Asher Lovy

I respect Rabbi Blau and appreciate his his article, Rabbi Shmuel Tal’s Authority is Intact; Everybody Should Be Asking, Why? But, I feel like the discussion around this issue has been allowed to veer into the morass of our particular religio-communal-cultural discourse around sexual impropriety, and that we’ve lost objective focus of this issue.

Last week, Rabbi Elli Fischer wrote a post that generated an intense discussion. In that post he said that he felt the beis din was correct in not stripping him of his position because he could understand the possible frame of mind in which Shmuel Tal did this to that woman, and that since nothing else otherwise incriminating was found on his computer, and we don’t have a long record of Tal doing things like this, the conditions set by the beis din that Tal could no longer counsel women or claim to have Ruach Hakodesh, while still maintaining his position as rosh yeshiva, were fair. (Note- Rabbi Fischer has since removed his article from public viewing on FaceBook after a lot of online criticism). 

To me this whole discussion is missing the point. It’s not relevant whether or not he did teshuva. It’s not relevant whether or not stuff was found on his computer. We need to start looking at these cases not as individual cases to be adjudicated individually, but as broad matters of institutional best practice. Continue reading

Malky Wigder Alleges Sexual Harassment by Rabbi Ephraim Bryks

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. Continue reading

R. Yosef Blau on the Role of Rabbis in Confronting Abuse

I thank Harry Maryles for letting me put up this post which first appeared on his blog, Emes Ve-Emunah. Rabbi Yosef Blau is mashgiach ruchani (spiritual adviser) at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University (YU). He is an experienced administrator who was a principal for the schools of Rav Pinchas Teitz (Elizabeth, NJ), Rav Aaron Soloveitchik (Chicago), and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Boston) and he is a former Vice President of Torah Umesorah.

For decades he has been one of the most articulate and active voices in the effort to confront and root out sexual abuse in the orthodox world. Though this post does not use his name, it is clearly written in the context of and with some reference to the Meisels’ seminaries scandal.

The Role of Rabbis in Confronting Abuse in the Orthodox Community
by Rabbi Yosef Blau

Rabbi Yosef Blau

Rabbi Yosef Blau

Sexual abuse is criminal behavior and the police should be contacted. This does not imply that there is no role for the rabbinate and the community leaders in confronting abuse. In many cases the victims are unwilling to cooperate with the police often because of community pressures. Even when they do there is a need to remove an accused offender from a position where he is a potential danger before the slow process of a police investigation and prosecution is completed.

The recent case of the head of a seminary in Israel accused of sexual misconduct with students is an example of the need for rabbinic action. While according to Israeli law the behavior is illegal it is unlikely that American students, who have returned home and know little Hebrew, will go to the Israeli police. Only pressure from an external בית דין  (religious court) will cause the offender to resign his position.

Since he created the school and chose its staff a thorough investigation of the circumstances is necessary to determine if others were negligent and guilty of enabling the abuse or covering it up. This would require speaking first to all the students who were abused or witnessed any questionable behavior and to ascertain if they informed anyone on staff of their concerns. Continue reading