By: Surie Herskovics
August 20, 2012
(Surie Herskovics is a freelance writer and advocate for victims of sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish Community)
It is quite shocking that the knee jerk reaction of the K’lal is automatically conditioned to be appalled at accusations and feel sorry for the accused without first thinking for even a moment about the horrendous implications for the victim. Let me back up a second, that is if the accused is another member of the K’lal of course. However, if the same victim is abused, attacked or molested from a secular Jew or a non-Jew then of course they are believed immediately and there is uproar in the community. How dare they touch one of our own? How dare they violate this entire community?
Did I say shocking? Truly I meant reprehensible. It is still the same ben or bas Yisroel who was violated, humiliated, hurt, abused, used, disgraced, harassed, threatened and victimized and by turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to their pain and their truth YOU, yes ALL of YOU, their brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends, teachers, mechanchim, Rabbonim and role models who choose NOT to believe them are victimizing them all over again. You not only double their pain, you compound it over and over again on a daily basis for each and every one of you who don’t believe them and worse who support the abuser.
You who so nonchalantly make obtuse comments like “look who the accuser is….”. So why don’t we take a look at who the accusers are? But first lets take a look at who the abusers are. What do you really think an abuser looks like? Do you think an abuser walks around with a sign on them that says “Be smart, stay away from me, I am an abuser”? Do you think an abuser has a certain look about them? Do you think they LOOK like the scum of the earth that they are?
An abuser looks like……..a father, a brother, a neighbor, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, a grocer, a baker, a sofer, a plumber, a school bus driver, a rebbe, a singer, an accountant, a lawyer, a computer geek, an author, an artist, a cop, the person that sits next to you on the bus, the train or next to you in shul. It could be anyone and there is no way for you to know from the way they look, the way they speak, or the way they act in public. So just because you know the accused you can’t vouch for them in any way, shape or form. Because you are NOT with them 24/7; you are NOT their shomer, and you are not in their head. Would you have believed that the Principal of a girls’ yeshiva would be molesting his own daughters at home; not only he but his sons as well? Lets understand this and understand that this happens. It really happens even though we don’t want to believe this. It is a horrendous thing to think about and to have to believe about people. But there are countless numbers of children and adults who had gone through this in their own homes, who feared their own rooms and beds because of this.
A few years ago I spoke to a man from Williamsburg who was running for a political position. I asked him what he planned to do about the molestation issue. He looked at me curiously. Then he said, “Some of his son’s best friends were molested”. I was shocked. He said it as if it was a right of passage and an accepted form of child rearing. I of course asked, “You knew your son’s friends were molested and you did nothing?” I was shocked.
Lets understand that what happens in the outside world happens in our world too. We are all human and our people succumb to yetzer horah the same as all human beings do. We are afflicted with the same illnesses as outside our society. And just because it hurts us and it feels dirty and makes us uncomfortable we can’t just ignore it in hopes that it will go away. It doesn’t go away, it gets worse. If we really want it to go away, we have to acknowledge it, address it and work on it to make it go away.
So now lets look at the accusers, the victims. Abusers never choose victims that anyone would believe. Get it? Let me say that again, abusers/molesters choose their victims very, very carefully. They look for the most vulnerable victims. Who would you believe if they came forward? Would you believe the Rosh Yeshiva’s child? Probably, right? That’s why they would never prey on the R”Y’s children. Would you believe the children of the wealthiest man in the neighborhood? Those kids are pretty safe. Would you believe the kids from the most dysfunctional family in the neighborhood? No? Why not? Oh, you would say, the family is all mixed up, the kid is probably lying. That is the kid he befriends. That is the kid he grooms and goes after, because he knows that if the kid tells, no one will believe him. How do you feel now about not believing the child? How do you feel now about being tricked by the abuser even before he attacked the child? He was thinking about YOU first. He was thinking about how to fool YOU before even choosing the victim. His thought process was first how to FOOL THE OLAM so he can get away with it.
That is the mindset of the molester. He plans everything out. He plans about tricking all of his supporters, and he plans on molesting his victims. He doesn’t just do it happenstance. He is a phony, a pretender, a trickster and monster. But YOU think you know him, not the molester, of course not, the one he pretends to be. You all know the saying: you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool Hashem. Hashem is all seeing and all knowing. Da Lifnei Mi Atah Omed! We all stand before Hashem 24/7. HE does not take vacation, lunch breaks or coffee breaks. He sees everything. And without a doubt he does not turn away for 20 minutes while these so called “tzadikim” and “chashuva” people do their dirty crimes. HE will not forgive or forget like YOU are all so willing to do.
There is a reason why more and more victims/survivors are gaining the courage to come forward and that is only because Hashem is imbuing them with that courage. Without Hashem’s help there is no possible way that they could do it. Without their emunah and bitachon that Hashem would help them, there is no way that they would risk exposing themselves in such a fashion. What do they gain from this? Do you ask yourselves this? Why are they coming forward? To save other children from these monsters, to put them out of business and to save others from going through the nightmares and torture that they themselves went through. Could you do that? Could you be such a hero? Yes hero, because they have suffered terrible repercussions for doing what they are doing. Would you want your personal business exposed for all to see? Do you think it is an honor to walk around with a flag that proclaims I am a victim or survivor of abuse? Do you know how emotionally damaging being victimized like that is? Do you have any idea how one’s world is turned upside down by such trauma? Try to imagine just being frightened by someone breaking into your home and then magnify that a million times. Would you enjoy being controlled, abused, manipulated and threatened and being forced to keep that all to yourself with no one to turn to? Now imagine that it was your innocent young child going through that and you not even knowing. These victims/survivors are putting themselves on the line to try and save YOUR kids from it happening to them.
Personally I take tremendous offense to all the shmutz and lies that are made up to shmeer the reputation of these victim/survivors. Personally it makes me sick when people vouch for the abusers even though they don’t know them and certainly cannot vouch for them because they weren’t there when the abuse took place. Only the abuser and his victim were present and the only other witness was Hashem. Of course as each victim of the same abuser comes forward, it becomes more and more ridiculous how the K’lal finds more reasons to find fault with the logic that we must protect others from him, but finds reasons to back him and call the victims liars. The ridiculous question “were is the evidence?” The evidence is the eyewitness reports from the victims. Do you really think the molester is going to invite guests to watch what he does so there can be witnesses or leave evidence behind? Does a thief leave a thank you note at the bank he robs?
The bottom line is this. Our children are way too important to play this very dangerous and foolish game. Adults with this illness have a choice. They can get help for themselves before they go out and hurt innocent victims or they can act on their taivos and hurt others. That is their choice. Victims have no choice. They don’t choose to be victims. They don’t ask to be abused and victimized. We as a society have a choice too. WE can face the truth and support the victims in these cases and teach ALL these abusers that WE will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. This will send a clear cut message to all those with the same inclination to get help for themselves and stay away from our kids; because we will believe the kids and we will NOT protect the molester, we will remove them from society no matter who they are.
Right now the case in front of us is very clear-cut if you choose to believe the truth. It is unfolding right before our very eyes. If we choose to ask the appropriate questions then there is no doubt that the victim is telling the truth and that the accused has a lot to hide. Many violations are right out in the open beginning with Yichud. Any frum man who can violate the laws of Yichud cannot be trusted in any way, shape or form in my humble opinion. There is more than one victim stepping forward at this time. IMHO, the community is really trying to support and protect the school more than the molester and feel that they are doing so by supporting him first. It is very questionable why a girl’s yeshiva who won’t even hire male teachers in an environment where they can be supervised would send a young vulnerable girl to be counseled by an untrained, unlicensed, unsupervised “male” counselor. He was neither required to counsel her in the school nor in her home, but was permitted to do as he pleased which was at his discretion in his very “private” office without the benefit of a secretary (shomeres), or on road trips. This is right out of Monstrowitz training books. Obviously the school can and most likely will be considered an accomplice to the crimes since they forced these sessions on the child and family with the threat of expulsion. As of this time, the school has not complied with the request from the court for documents; they are at risk for contempt of court. The question remains what are they hiding and why are they not cooperating? In what way do those documents compromise them? Furthermore, in what way are they complicit in the crime?
Additionally, the latest information released by the accused’s attorney to the court is a claim that the victim is only seeking revenge for the accused “guiding” the father to make a video of an alleged inappropriate encounter the young girl had. This is another eye opener. If there were any truth to this at all, why would the accused be in possession of such a tape and not the father himself? Why in the world would the father allow him to hold on to it, and what right would he have had to hold on to such a video? If this video truly exists what has he been doing with this video since he took possession of it. Why did he hold on to it if he was no longer connected to her? This is truly the most vulgar and the most disgusting evidence of all. It truly reflects the truth of his crude inclinations and intentions. Any decent human being would have destroyed it or at least returned it to the parent when he stopped “counseling” their child, or in the best scenario suggest to the father to rent a safe deposit box and keep it off premises. But to keep it himself only proves what a menuval he truly is.
It is sad that any frum attorney would stoop this low and engage in such a chilul Hashem.
This victim and her family have suffered enough by the hands of her abuser, her former school and her community. Every person who chooses to support her in any way will be doing a tremendous chessed and mitzvah not only for her but also for themselves in the fight against this horrible machlah in our society.
Some tips for protecting your kids:
· Put labels with your cell numbers in your kids’ shoes, coats and knapsacks so they can call you in an emergency or if lost.
· Teach them if anyone claims that Mommy or Tatty sent them to pick them up to ask for their cell phone and call to verify
· After pre-school when there are no longer 3 to 4 teachers in the class, teach your boys that they are never allowed to sit on the Rebbe’s lap, if asked they are to say “my mommy doesn’t let”.
· Teach the boys to maintain 6 inches of body space. If the Rebbe pats back, or shoulders, give a handshake and say “my mommy doesn’t let”.
· Explain “good touch, bad touch” and personal space to all children.
· Explain the “buddy system” and never going off alone with anyone, ANYONE for any reason
· Adults don’t need help from children, if an adult tries to call you to their car or house keep walking away very quickly
· If kids separate from their parents accidentally teach them to go over to women with children for help
· Teach your kids if someone makes them feel uncomfortable they should stay away from them.
· If your boys go to the Mikveh use a buddy system. Never go alone, and one watches the other while they toivel and immediately hands them a towel (and of course never linger there).
· And the most important rule is NEVER, EVER KEEP SECRETS FROM MOMMY!
· All rules apply for camp and school, for home and away. As far as camp is concerned. If anything happens at camp, tell your kids to go to the camp nurse, she is a mandatory reporter.
Yes, I believe the Leiby murder could have been prevented if proper caution and care were taken prior to the kidnapping and certainly if the rescue effort was more professional. I am detailing this with other cases in my book “Chasing Justice – I am my Brother’s Keeper.”
The insular orthodox community which breeds insular crime feels that a collective appearance which influences both public and private funding is more important than the individual no matter what the misery. Pedophiles and domestic batterers have a good life knowing that there is little chance their victim will come forward out fear of the community’s religious psychological terror campaign against anyone who threatens the ban of approaching the secular courts or press.
Many in the religious leadership indoctrinate their congregants and followers that they would be in violation of Jewish law if they would turn in any Jew to an outside jurisdiction namely our secular courts regardless of their crimes against their community. They fail to realize they are not living in ancient sovereign Israel as they have no jurisdiction in criminal matters as they openly violate the law of our land which by itself is a violation of Jewish law and this is accomplished and facilitated under the protection of many politicians kowtowing to their strong influence from block voting.
Beyond the public congratulations between the volunteer’s community’s security patrol known as the Shomrim and the NYPD there are deep feelings of mistrust and resentment emanating from both sides. The NYPD knows that the Shomrim are not accountable to anyone, have little or no professional training, hinder serious criminal investigations and yet the community has more faith and trust in them as they often seem to show up the NYPD on many occasions.
The Shomrim experiences regularly the often reported headline news of the NYPD’s incompetency, laziness and outright refusal to take and investigate complaints as the rest of us know. While disdain runs both ways their relationship is cemented by a larger common interest – keeping the statistics low anyway possible regardless of violations of law. This complicit relationship often means people like the murderer Levy Aron often stays out of harm’s way until there is a body count. The police keep crime down when they don’t report it and Boro Park keeps their image.
Every second is crucial in a missing child’s case. There is no time to guess during an emergency. The following information comes from multi-media reports, interviews with reporters, parents in Boro Park, the Shomrim, canvassing volunteers and with members of the NYPD on the abduction and murder of Leiby Kletsky. I am convinced more information will come out shedding light on the debacle of the case. This is a brief oversimplification of the problems of the Leiby kidnapping/murder case which collectively contributed to this human tragedy.
There is no parent training in Child Safety for most of the community and since most do not watch television or use on the internet for fear of being over exposed to the bad influences of the world they do not have access to much public information on the subject.
There is no community preparation for the obvious, missing kids, awareness of sex offenders in area, terror attack etc. As a result ignorance overwhelms many people. Most people I spoke with still believe that a child has to be missing for 24 hours first before the Police get involved which is not true. The Jewish civilian patrol Shomrim like most civilian patrols have little or no professional training and often practice rescue searches during the emergency itself. Rabbinical pressure on the community to call a rabbi first or their designees in this case the Shomrim regarding crimes are a must with full knowledge of the NYPD. This includes missing child cases as the rabbinical leadership does not desire unwanted scrutiny in their community which is fodder for another article.
Leiby’s mother waited an hour before calling for help and then she first called the Shomrim. The Shomrim then waited another three hours to notify the police thereby losing precious time where if the NYPD was brought in right away other resources could have been deployed. Additionally the Shomrim keeps records of suspected criminals/pedophiles which the police department has no access too opening legal consequences from the right and left and while they have access themselves they have no authority to do anything with it without involving civil and/or criminal activities. Finally thousands of dedicated volunteers showed up with no clear direction.
When police finally arrive it became a fanfare of high profile imaging where commanders flaunt their political friendships without the proper investigative tactics which ultimately could have saved the boy’s life. The hero here is a man name Yakov German who initially had the idea to check the video surveillance cameras from the stores surrounding the school/camp area where Leiby was walking from.
Why weren’t the police detectives and commanders many who are getting paid over $110,000 a year and many with only a high school diploma pouring through these videos like Yakov German did right away? Even when they first got Yakov’s video showing Leiby’s last whereabouts it took them hours longer to bring in another detective who specializes in identifying cars to identify the car of Levy Aron. From reports in the media and from volunteers who were there validated my own assumption from my prior experiences as a police officer with these cases involving the NYPD.
Complacency with no immediate sense of urgency resonated from some officers believing that little Leiby will turn up later as what happens in most cases they work on. The “Here we go again attitude” where the belief is that Leiby is probably at a friends house where he fell asleep. This is very similar to when officers answer commercial and residential burglar alarms. With so many being false the police often become lax in their response and investigation. They need to treat every case as real and think of the false alarms as practice for when the real thing happens.
Even more insidious is the belief by many in the community and by some of the officers working there that the Chassidic orthodox Jews have too much clout which negatively affects their police performance. One cop asked me, “Do you think the police brass with all their helicopters and squads of detectives would have come if there was a missing black kid? Two weeks after this diabolical murder the police in the 66 precinct in Boro Park still have not received any additional training about missing children or dealing with the local public as was reported to me by officers in the command. In short the police need much retraining in thinking and investigating.
After Leiby’s murder the Jewish community had a hug fest thanking the police and other groups for their sincerity in helping to find Leiby. Hugh ads were taken in the Jewish press. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I am sure everyone sincerely wanted to find Leiby alive and well. However their lack of training and lack of professionalism precluded this. I sincerely hope that there was an error in the media when it reported that members of the police department said that the time factor of receiving the videos depicting where Leiby was last seen wouldn’t have made a difference. According to the medical examiner Lieby wasn’t murdered until Tuesday.
Time was essential.
Leiby could have and should have been found alive and there is plenty of blame and blood to go around!
In my recent meetings with NY State Senator Marty Golden, NYC Council Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone, Congressional candidate David Weprin and NYS Assembly Dov Hikind’s legislative staff member I detailed some practical and legislative recommendations to protect our children and community. These are recommendations I have made in the past regarding protecting us from child abductions, terrorism and crime.
High grade cameras installed around businesses near schools and Houses of Worship which are accessible in real time from the internet so there is no waiting hours to access fuzzy video footage.
Video footage needs to be monitored regularly so we can detail hostile surveillance from potential abductors. If a pedophile is hanging out at a school or camp it can be detected before a situation arises. Police reports mention that this was a chance encounter by a loner. We don’t know that and there is a real possibility that Levy Aron as with other abductors was tracking Leiby and that he could have been working with another accomplice.
Technology has come of age where we can outfit every child with a tracking device on their person like we put on our cars. Every kid seven and older can carry a cell phone programmed to call only their parents or 911. Alarms can be programmed and placed on children that go off when they separate at a certain distance.
We must train and deploy a citizen detective program training parents how they can assist and facilitate police investigations very much the auxiliary police do with patrol.
Compel professional training to volunteer community patrols like the Shomrim who are dedicated to keeping their community safe or they should lose all funding.
Enforce mandated reporting of educators and specific community leaders including clergy with criminal and civil penalties for not reporting suspected crimes against t children and with cases of domestic violence.
Schools, camps and youth programs should not release kids except to a parent or a responsible adult approved by the parents.
Make available the listing of all residential sexual offenders in the community.
Legislation needs to be passed that in the investigation of any child abduction or terror attack the police do not need the permission of any owner to access the video saving hours of time.
Mandating parochial schools and camps for all their staff to be fingerprinted and go through a similar background check as the NYC Department of Education puts their teachers through.
Creation of a NYS license called “Child Safety Specialist” where every public and private school and camp would be mandated to have a Child Safety Specialist training kids, parents and educators a few times annually before, during and after school starts.
Anyone who is aware that a child is missing within the first hour and doesn’t report it to their police department should face felony charges.
Offer tax credits for those who spend funds on safety for their children from martial arts classes, Safety Instructional DVDs, safety cameras to child safety classes.
Creation of our Clergy 911 program where all clergy would be trained in crisis intervention and mandating reporting.
A government, religion and community are judged by how they protect the weakest in their society; the sick, the poor, the victim and the oppressed. The bible is replete with statements like “Justice, Justice You Should Pursue and “Don’t Stand Idly by the Blood of your Neighbor” and much more. Denying justice to the weakest for some warped sense of community/religious image is a threat to justice everywhere. Since most of the leadership is either complicit or missing in inaction we are appealing to mothers to rise up and protect your children, yourselves and Jewish and American law.
Our group the Child Safety Initiative made up of professionals in the health, medical, educational, police, legal and rabbinic fields are calling for a federal civil rights probe leading to hearings to determine which mandated organization, educational institution, community group and individuals working with the minority Jewish community were/are coercing individuals not to assert their rights in reporting crimes and testifying in court against their assailants. We implore victims and those who are aware of victims in the community to come forward to us. We can offer those coming forward protection by working with the Department of Justice. We are also calling for any rabbi or community leader who espouses their congregants and people to go to a rabbi first in the event of a suspected crime bypassing the police should face criminal and civil rights charges.
Lastly as I strenuously try to apply my grief and anger management techniques to myself my advice for my own orthodox community is I pray you awaken from your coma soon. Don’t wait again for a body count. Take your energies, money and resources and invest it in practical preventive and therapeutic care. The community doesn’t need more dedications of Torahs and synagogues in memorials. We need more safety and security for our children in our communities.
We at the Child Safety Initiative have been offering child safety seminars and martial arts classes regularly. We are completing our first Child Safety DVD which will be available shortly and we are hosting a Child Safety and Health conference at the last week of August at the Kutcher’s Hotel. In September we are holding our first annual Child Safety and Health Legislative forum. Don’t be reactive be proactive.
As the Jewish New Year approaches and Jews around the world become more reflective of their lives I kneel before God scratching the floor weeping in agony looking towards the heavens with shouts from my heart – Why?
I can almost hear whispers of, “Don’t ask God - ask Man!
Rabbi Gary Moskowitz Director of Child safety initiative firstname.lastname@example.org www.martialartstherapy.org