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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Join the Protest Against Agudath Israel’s Protection of Child Sex Abusers on Sun. 6/25 @ 3 p.m. in Midwood, Brooklyn.

This event, which I heartily endorse, was announced on the Hareini blog of frum anti-abuse activist, Asher Lovy. It is sponsored by Zaakah, the group that organized the protest against the pidyon shvuyim fund raiser for now-convicted child rapist, Rabbi Nechemya Weberman.

Agudath Israel of America (aka Agudah) continues to deter reporting orthodox sex abusers by misrepresenting the halacha and claiming one must always consult with a rabbi before reporting child sex abuse to the police. In an unholy alliance with the Catholic Church they lobby state governments to make it hard to prosecute and sue abusers. In his post, Protest Agudah’s Abuse Enabling and Opposition to SOL Reform,” Asher lays out the case against Agudah.

Novominsker Rebbe

Novominsker Rebbe – Yaakov Perlow

I have often written about Agudah’s disgusting culpability in protecting those who desecrate our children with its horrendous effects on child victims, and adult survivors. In fact, I stumbled into blogging because I was angry enough to write a trenchant satire of an imaginary Agudah speech on abuse (Moetzes Gedolim Speak About Znus Affecting Children) This was back in 2009. Since then they have actually openly spoken about abuse. While their speeches have not been as funny, they have been as evasive and destructive. See for example the most recent speeches by the head of their moetzes (Council of Torah Sages), the Novominsker Rebbe, Yaakov Perlow.

This must stop. But it will only happen when enough frum Jews let Agudah know they want the change. Save the date, help share the message, and take the time to attend this protest in Brooklyn.

Be there at 3 PM on June 25th, at 1146 East 9th street in Midwood, Brooklyn, 11230

Below is the full text of the original announcement of the protest:


Author’s Note: Here is a link to the protest event, which will be taking place at 3 PM on June 25th, at 1146 east 9th street in Midwood, Brooklyn: https://www.facebook.com/events/1861272087529969

Agudath Israel, headed by Chaim David Zweibel, as been opposing and lobbyig against the Child Victims Act, which would protect children from sexual abusers by eliminating the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse. Currently, according to the New York Statute of Limitations laws, child sexual abuse survivors can’t prosecute or sue their abusers in court once they’re older than age 23.

According to many studies, it takes, on average, between 10 and 30 years for victims to even come forward about being abused sexually. Agudath Israel, the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and Chaim David Zweibel know this, and yet they continue to oppose legislation which would eliminate the Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse, and open a 1 year retroactive window for old cases, thus allowing survivors of child sexual abuse to get justice from their abusers and the institutions that protect them.

Furthermore, it is the official policy of Agudath Israel of America, The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and Chaim David Zweibel, to forbid victims of child sexual abuse and the parents of victims of child sexual abuse to go immediately to authorities to report child sexual abuse. They require that victims and their families first consult a rabbi who can choose whether or not he wants to give them dispensation to go to the authorities.

This law is not just grossly illegal, but it also ensures that coverups continue unchecked in the Charedi community that constitutes Agudah’s base. Thousands of children are put at risk, and scores of abusers are protected, by this policy. Abuse is routinely covered up, and abusers are routinely protected by this policy as a matter of course.

That’s why ZAAKAH will be protesting outside of the house of Chaim David Zweibel, 1146 east 9th street Brooklyn, NY 11230, at 3 PM on June 25th, to send a message to him, and the other members of Agudath Israel of America, that they don’t get to escape the damage they’re causing by supporting these harmful and illegal policies. Their policies continue to make homes and communities unsafe for victims of child sexual abuse, so we’re bringing the issue to their homes and communities, and confronting them there where they can’t avoid it.

The only way we will ever truly end child sexual abuse in the charedi community is by making Agudath Israel of America, headed by the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and Chaim David Zweibel, change this harmful, illegal policy, and support legislation that will end the Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse, and give existing victims the window they need to get restitution for their suffering from the people and institutions that abused them.

For more information, please contact Asher Lovy at Asher@Hareiani.com.

QOTD: Institutions Exaggerate the Impact of SOL Extensions

In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing, [Yeshiva University Professor of Law, Marci V.] Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their role in endangering children.” Continue reading

Markey Bill Dies in Committee

The proposed bill to extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in New York State sex abuse cases was defeated in the Senate Codes Committee 9-6. All seven Republicans  and two of the nine Democrats voted no.

Sadly, this is progress. According to Assemblywoman Margaret Markey: “Our bill has never even come to a vote before in the Senate. So we feel this was an important step.”

The ultra orthodox Jewish leadership in cahoots with the Catholic Church orchestrated the opposition. For good reason they are afraid of having past misdeeds exposed and having to accept financial responsibility for the healing of victims.

Why Not the Markey Bill?

What New York owes victims of sex abuse:The Pope’s regret is not enough to protect children

NY DAILY NEWS, Op-Ed Opinion

By Marge Markey and Marci Hamilton

The Pope, on his first international trip since the scandal over his alleged complicity in priest-abuse scandals began dominating headlines, is meeting with victims and expressing “shame and sorrow” about their plight.

His statements are welcome – but, with all due respect, they don’t mean much to the many victims of priest sex abuse who have yet to experience anything approaching justice. Victims of these heinous crimes, including many right here in New York, have suffered for years in silence.

The childhood sexual abuse scandal is epidemic, with GermanyBrazilBritainthe Netherlands and Norway being added to the already lengthy list of countries where there is evidence of such abuse by clergy. Since the Vatican‘s responses continue to lag well behind the world’s demands for accountability, it is up to governments to take action. Already in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel launched an in-depth investigation into the abuse of her country’s children.

The U.S. is uniquely positioned to take more aggressive steps. One promising path: amending the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws to include institutionally facilitated child sex abuse. These laws could then be used against any organization, religious or otherwise, that has knowingly allowed children to come into harm.

But more importantly and more immediately, states should reform their statutes of limitations for child sex abuse so that arbitrary time barriers no longer keep child predators in business and victims from pursuing justice in the courtroom. It is estimated that one in four girls and one in five boys are sexually abused – a stunning number. Yet only 10% of victims ever go to authorities. It is also fact that survivors typically need decades to come forward and the legal system offers the only viable means of identifying child predators who are operating under the radar against our children.

Lengthening or even eliminating statutes of limitation is a costless way for the states to do right by victims. AlaskaMaine and Delaware simply got rid of their time requirements. In California, lengthening the statute of limitations yielded the identities of more than 300 previously secret predators.

New York has yet to act – and it must correct this oversight now. The Child Victims Act would extend statutes of limitation for childhood sex abuse by five years, so that victims will not have to file charges before they are 23 or civil claims before they are 28. The bill also sets an age cap on victims, so those older than 58 will not be able to bring a claim.

Even more important, the bill would create a brand-new window of opportunity of one year for victims who previously have had their statutes of limitations expire, enabling them to file claims in court against those who caused their abuse. That’s an approach that has worked in other states – in exposing not just abusers in the priesthood, but perpetrators in other religions and nonreligious groups as well.

Since the coverup of the Catholic Church’s secret handling of child sexual abuse by its priests first broke eight years ago, thousands of victims here in New York and across the U.S. have demanded accountability. Before yet another year passes without justice, our state needs to stand up for child abuse victims. Silence and inaction are simply not an option.

Markey, a Democratic assemblywoman from Queens, is the founding sponsor of the New York State Child Victims Act. Hamilton is a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University and the author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children.

Markey Revived: A Wishful Mistake

Note- I goofed big time in posting this story. I got my wishful thinking up about Markey being relaunced, got eager to post before I left the house and didn’t notice that the dateline for the Jewish Week story was in March. So I leave this behind  as a record of sloppiness on my part and a reminder that the possibilities of Markey once raised hopes. Perhaps we will soon enough see it revived. The need remains. Continue reading