Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dov Hikind Takes Step in Right Direction on Molesters


Vos Iz Neias Article About Dov Hikind on Molesters in Yeshivas

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind took a meaningful step in the right direction in combating the problem of molestation in yeshivas. On his Saturday night radio program, Hikind outlined cases in which he was trying to get help for victimised individuals and their families. This tragic problem has of course led to drug problems and other types of self destructive behavior among victimised youth. What I found most substantial was Hikind's stated willingness to picket yeshivas that continue to harbour abusive employees.
There is a sense of shame among victims of this type of crime that is not unique to the Orthodox Jewish community. Combined with this is the belief that Jewish problems should be handled in a Jewish way, through rabbinic courts and Torah law. Unfortunately, there is no unified system of Jewish courts that covers all Jews in a geographic area. If someone does not like a ruling, he can shop elsewhere. Also, there is no real way a Jewish court can deal with hard core criminals.
There are absolute scoundrels who take advantage of Orthodox Jewish reluctance to go to government authorities. Some are scammers. Some are molesters. In my opinion, victims of molestation should go straight to the government. The idea that you can punish a criminal by throwing him out of Boro Park and making him move to Williamsburg is absurd. That is like driving your garbage across town and putting it in front of someone else's house. Shame and civil sanctions are appropriate for educational institutions that harbour abusers. But the only thing that will send the proper message to abusers themselves is the knowledge that they will face heavy jail time.
To have a Jewish community that is self sufficient is a beautiful concept. It would be nice if we could handle all of our own social problems within Jewish law and within Jewish institutions. Unfortunately that has not happened. The criminals who think that a beard and a yarmulke provides immunity from the consequences for their actions should have a rude awakening that they face criminal court and long jail sentences if they prey on our communities.
Hikind conveys the proper sense of urgency in dealing with the problems of abuse in Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods. With a proper sense of resolution and a clear plan of action, perhaps the healing can begin.

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Vos Iz Neias Article on Dov Hikind

Brooklyn, NY - A hard-hitting follow-up to the subject of sexual abuse and molestation in the Orthodox community was heard on Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show this past Motzoei Shabbos.

Hikind opened the first of several sharply-worded salvos heard throughout the program against perpetrators in the frum world.

After expressing his admiration for cheder rebbis for making a difference, Hikind asserted that “My office is committed to doing something. I have actually assigned staff members to work on this. We are going to stick with this. Those who are abusing our children, doing inappropriate things, I’m coming after you in every single way. Quit before your name is released and your family is embarrassed! I will not be silent or shy away.Hikind then introduced a Williamburg mother whose son had been molested by his menahel at age 8.5 and left Yiddishkeit at 19 as a result. Most significantly, the mother related the years of devastation, isolation, shame and lack of trust in Torah authority figures. “It was a betrayal of his beliefs,” reports the mother.

After a lengthy discussion on how the victim’s family tried to get the menahel to treatment without embarrassing his own family, which didn’t work, the mother reported that even though the menahel failed a lie detector test and was temporarily removed from his position, he has been returned to teaching in summer school and will be returning to yeshivah in September.

Throughout the program, an audibly outraged Hikind raised his voice and said (among other things):

· “…How can one of the most prominent yeshivos, that educates tens of thousands of kids, know they have a molester destroying people’s lives! How can they continue with him? How’s that possible? … Well, we are going to stop him, okay? … We are going to stop that from happening. Period. But that’s not the point. The point is: What is their thinking? Where is their religiosity and their commitment?”

· “Is there anyone out there who accepts abuse of children? This mother tried to do things in a beautiful way, and they betrayed her son again. They just hoped she would go away. Her son felt, ‘Maybe I accomplished something, maybe I got rid of this skunk!’ Then he finds that a person who is sick and who should never be with children again is back on his job? How do you face G-d now? How do you pray in the morning?”

· “My office is devoted to this. We are asking people to come forward… We have staff working on this. We are building cases and cases and cases. The stories that I have heard this week, all from our communities from Lakewood to Monsey to Borough Park to Flatbush.”

· “You know, I gotta tell you. You ask me, ‘How are you?’ I must be honest. I have not been okay since last Shabbos night since doing this show. Because it affects me profoundly to listen, to listen and to listen. And you know what’s putting a dagger through my heart? It’s that people are more interested in protecting the perpetrator than dealing with the victim! That’s the part that’s putting a dagger through my heart and soul.”

The show concluded with the mention of Beth Israel’s new Sexual Abuse Hotline, 212-844-1495, and several calls from supportive and grateful abuse victims.

Of particularly notable mention was Hikind’s reaction to a caller named Yitz, who asked the mother, “Why don’t you go to the police? And why is this sub-human still on the streets?” Hikind replied: “In her case, they are trying to get him out of a classroom. It’s about getting him away from kids, and I have spoken to quite a few rabbonim and you have every right to do this legally. The first objective is to get this guy out of the classroom. If I have to go public, if I have to hold a press conference outside the yeshivah, I will do that! This guy is not going back to the classroom in September. We will make sure that will not happen.”

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