A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Posts Tagged ‘Ultra-Orthodox’

Israel’s Fading Democracy – NYTimes.com

In News, Politics, Really?!? on August 5, 2012 at 12:34

Israel’s Fading Democracy 

WHEN an American presidential candidate visits Israel and his key message is to encourage us to pursue a misguided war with Iran, declaring it “a solemn duty and a moral imperative” for America to stand with our warmongering prime minister, we know that something profound and basic has changed in the relationship between Israel and the United States.My generation, born in the ’50s, grew up with the deep, almost religious belief that the two countries shared basic values and principles. Back then, Americans and Israelis talked about democracy, human rights, respect for other nations and human solidarity. It was an age of dreamers and builders who sought to create a new world, one without prejudice, racism or discrimination.Listening to today’s political discourse, one can’t help but notice the radical change in tone. My children have watched their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, kowtow to a fundamentalist coalition in Israel. They are convinced that what ties Israel and America today is not a covenant of humanistic values but rather a new set of mutual interests: war, bombs, threats, fear and trauma. How did this happen? Where is that righteous America? Whatever happened to the good old Israel?Mr. Netanyahu’s great political “achievement” has been to make Israel a partisan issue and push American Jews into a corner. He has forced them to make political decisions based on calculations that go against what they perceive to be American interests. The emotional extortion compels Jews to pressure the Obama administration, a government with which they actually share values and worldviews, when those who love Israel should be doing the opposite: helping the American government to intervene and save Israel from itself.Israel arose as a secular, social democratic country inspired by Western European democracies. With time, however, its core values have become entirely different. Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations. Its capitalism has erased much of the social solidarity of the past, with the exception of a few remaining vestiges of a welfare state. Israel defines itself as a “Jewish and democratic state.” However, because Israel has never created a system of checks and balances between these two sources of authority, they are closer than ever to a terrible clash.In the early years of statehood, the meaning of the term “Jewish” was national and secular. In the eyes of Israel’s founding fathers, to be a Jew was exactly like being an Italian, Frenchman or American. Over the years, this elusive concept has changed; today, the meaning of “Jewish” in Israel is mainly ethnic and religious. With the elevation of religious solidarity over and above democratic authority, Israel has become more fundamentalist and less modern, more separatist and less open to the outside world. I see the transformation in my own family. My father, one of the founders of the state of Israel and of the National Religious Party, was an enlightened rabbi and philosopher. Many of the younger generation are far less open, however; some are ultra-Orthodox or ultranationalist settlers.This extremism was not the purpose of creating a Jewish state. Immigrants from all over the world dreamed of a government that would be humane and safe for Jews. The founders believed that democracy was the only way to regulate the interests of many contradictory voices. Jewish culture, consolidated through Halakha, the religious Jewish legal tradition, created a civilization that has devoted itself to an unending conversation among different viewpoints and the coexistence of contradictory attitudes toward the fulfillment of the good.


The Prosecutor Uses Different Rules, the Ultra Orthodox Abuse Scandal Explained- NYTimes.com

In News on May 11, 2012 at 08:21

For Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Abuse Cases, a Prosecutor Uses Different Rules 

This is the fourth post I have had on this in the last three weeks, because I really don’t understand how this could possibly have happened.  The politics involved are shameful. Both religious and civil leaders have engaged in repugnant behavior.. and it needs to be exposed 

An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible.The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority. But the district attorney “expressed no opposition or objection,” the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zweibel, recalled. – Seriously? Honestly. You reprehensible scumbag!

In fact, when Mr. Hynes held a Hanukkah party at his office in December, he invited many ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the advocacy group, Agudath Israel of America. He even chose Rabbi Zweibel, the group’s executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party. (Yes, you read that right)

Mr. Hynes has won election six times as district attorney thanks (large?) in part to support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who lead growing communities in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Crown Heights. But in recent years, as allegations of child sexual abuse have shaken the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, victims’ rights groups have expressed concern that he is not vigorously pursuing these cases because of his deep ties to the rabbis.

Many of the rabbis consider sexual abuse accusations to be community matters best handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their conclusions to the police.

In 2009, as criticism of his record mounted, Mr. Hynes set up a program to reach out to ultra-Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse. Called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice in Hebrew), the program is intended to “ensure safety in the community and to fully support those affected by abuse,” his office said.

In recent months, Mr. Hynes and his aides have said the program has contributed to an effective crackdown on child sexual abuse among ultra-Orthodox Jews, saying it had led to 95 arrests involving more than 120 victims. (Let’s take their word for it?? ) 

But Mr. Hynes has taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program — even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This policy of shielding defendants’ names because of their religious status is not followed by the other four district attorneys in New York City, and has rarely, if ever, been adopted by prosecutors around the country.

Pressure mounts on Brooklyn DA over Orthodox sex abuse cases- guardian.co.uk

In News, Politics, Really?!? on May 10, 2012 at 19:05

Rabbi Yehuda Kolko

Pressure mounts on Brooklyn DA over Orthodox sex abuse cases 

Another article on this disgraceful situation. Hynes’ special treatment for abusers in the Orthodox Jewish Community MUST end!! 

This story needs more coverage. As far as I’m concerned it should be on the cover of every newspaper in the world. It’s systematic failure . If this were to be happening in a some  anarchist , secessionist cult / militant group in the Pacific Northwest, it would be dealt with IMMEDIATELY .  Politicians are being bullied into having double standards. Sickening

Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes is under mounting pressure to respond to criticisms over his handling of child sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Victims advocates and bloggers lined up on Thursday to demand that Hynes reverse his policy of special treatment for abusers in the largest Orthodox population outside Israel.

The Guardian reported in March that Hynes stands accused of failing to stand up to community leaders to tackle a culture of cover-up and intimidation that has gone on for years.

The DA refuses to release the identities of the “over 90” Orthodox child molesters he claims to have arrested through his controversial Kol Tzedek outreach programme, citing the “unique nature” of the Orthodox community. Hynes’s office said it was protecting the identity of the victims.

Requests under New York’s freedom of information law submitted by the Jewish Forward newspaper and the Guardian have been turned down by the DA’s office.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported on the community intimidation levelled against victims of abuse and the pressures they come under to pull out of prosecutions. Its story adds to the growing media attention on the issue.

Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has campaigned on this issue, said it was time that Hynes responded to his critics. “He needs to answer our questions.”

“The DA has done some very good stuff. There is absolutely no reason why he should not be talking to all of us and answering everyone’s questions, unless there’s something to hide or there’s something he feels uncomfortable with. If one has absolutely nothing to hide, you talk, you share.”

“I think it’s important to talk to the public that elected him.”

Hikind said he couldn’t understand why Hynes refused to release the names of perpetrators.

“When the DA says he’s not releasing names because he wants to protect the victims – that confuses me very, very much. What about future victims? If my next-door neighbour is a perpetrator and I don’t know about it, how are my kids being protected?

“If there is legitimate reason in some situation not to release certain information, I think we can live with it. But as a general policy, I don’t understand it.”

Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, a victims advocacy organization, said: “He needs to say to victims: ‘I am in charge of the law in Kings County. I’m going to deal with this the way I deal with all crimes. No more special treatment. Bring me your complaints, we’ll protect you and we’ll prosecute.'”

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse – NYTimes.com

In News, Really?!? on May 10, 2012 at 18:03

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse 

This leaves me lost for words. To say it is a shameful disgrace just don’t go nearly far enough. The authorities turn a blind eye to it, likely because of the size of the electoral block. The federal government should step it. Knowing about child abuse and not reporting it should be considered a federal crime. – if it’s not already… 

The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested.

Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg. Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment. Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew. And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis’s mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she “did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?”

By cooperating with the police, and speaking out about his son’s abuse, Mr. Jungreis, 38, found himself at the painful forefront of an issue roiling his insular Hasidic community. There have been glimmers of change as a small number of ultra-Orthodox Jews, taking on longstanding religious and cultural norms, have begun to report child sexual abuse accusations against members of their own communities. But those who come forward often encounter intense intimidation from their neighbors and from rabbinical authorities, aimed at pressuring them to drop their cases.

Abuse victims and their families have been expelled from religious schools and synagogues, shunned by fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews and targeted for harassment intended to destroy their businesses. Some victims’ families have been offered money, ostensibly to help pay for therapy for the victims, but also to stop pursuing charges, victims and victims’ advocates said.

The New York City area is home to an estimated 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews — the largest such community outside of Israel, and one that is growing rapidly because of its high birthrate. The community is concentrated in Brooklyn, where many of the ultra-Orthodox are Hasidim, followers of a fervent spiritual movement that began in 18th-century Europe and applies Jewish law to every aspect of life.

Their communities, headed by dynastic leaders called rebbes, strive to preserve their centuries-old customs by resisting the contaminating influences of the outside world. While some ultra-Orthodox rabbis now argue that a child molester should be reported to the police, others strictly adhere to an ancient prohibition against mesirah, the turning in of a Jew to non-Jewish authorities, and consider publicly airing allegations against fellow Jews to be chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name.

As far as I’m concerned these “Holier than Thou” Rebbes should be drawn and quartered. At least there should be a cramped prison cell filled with evenly disgusting right-wing, anti-semitic thugs.

How can this go on?

More on the Story: Brooklyn’s Orthodox child abuse cover-up- guardian.co.uk

In News, Really?!? on March 30, 2012 at 07:24

Rabbi Baruch Lebovits

Silence and self-rule: Brooklyn’s Orthodox child abuse cover-up 

How can the community not stand by Mordechai?? It’s sickening and disgraceful.

When Mordechai discovered his mentally disabled child was being molested, he reported the crime to the police. A local man was arrested and charged with repeatedly raping the boy in their synagogue’s ritual bath. When news of the arrest got back to their Brooklyn community, the neighbours launched a hate campaign. But the object of their anger wasn’t the alleged perpetrator, Meir Dascalowitz, it was the abused boy’s father.

For the last two years, Mordechai says he’s been hounded by his community. “The minute this guy got arrested I started a new life, a life of hell, terror, threat, you name it.” There were bogus calls to the fire department resulting in unwelcome late night visits, anonymous death threats, banishment from synagogue, even a plot to derail his move to a new apartment. “I lost my friends. I lost my family. Nobody in Williamsburg can talk to me. Nobody means nobody. We are so angry, so broken.”

Mordechai’s persecution is part of a widespread cover-up of child sexual abuse among Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jews. With echoes of the Catholic priest scandal, for decades rabbis have hushed up child sex crimes and fomented a culture in which victims are further victimised and abusers protected.


Brooklyn DA accused of failing to tackle Orthodox Jews’ cover-up of sex abuse | World news | guardian.co.uk

In News, Politics on March 30, 2012 at 07:21

Rabbi Yehuda Kolko

It’s’s not just the Catholics, Orthodox Jews’ cover-up sex abuse too

Why do these communities not revolt against this disgraceful stance?

A systemic cover-up of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclaves continues to obstruct justice for young victims, despite claims by religious leaders and the Brooklyn district attorney that the problem is in hand.

A long-standing culture of non-cooperation with secular justice by Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jews keeps many child sex offenders out of the courts and at large in their communities.

Victim advocates say Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has failed to wrest control from rabbinic leaders, who continue to hamper efforts to uncover abuse. Hynes’ recent claim to have radically increased prosecution rates for these crimes has drawn scorn from critics.

Brooklyn’s Jewish communities, home to the largest number of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, are insular and close-knit. They maintain their own shadow justice system based on religious halachic law, enforced by religious courts known as the beit din. In recent years, they have also established their own community police force, the Shomrim.

Like the Catholic bishops before them, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis who lead these communities are charged with the concealment of crimes stretching back decades, and of fostering a culture where witnesses are silenced through intimidation.