By Hollace Ava Weiner, Rabbi Jimmy Kessler
(Reprinted by Permission)
BOOK: Cowtown's Front Page
Rabbi G. George Fox - Fort Worth, TX
• In the wake of public allegations last year that a high-ranking professional in the Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth had sexually abused more than 20 teen-age girls, sexual abuse has become a household world among centrist Orthodox Jews. The O.U., which had been accused of protecting Rabbi Baruch Lanner, the alleged abuser, underwent an investigation by an independent commission, made some key staff changes and has vowed to implement policies to prevent future abuse.
• Four years ago, at the request of the Brooklyn District Attorney, Ohel — which already treated Jewish survivors of sexual abuse — created the first- ever treatment program specifically for Orthodox sex offenders. More than 30 people, half referred through the criminal justice system and half through rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, have received evaluation or treatment through the program; more are on a waiting list.
• At its convention this year, the Rabbinical Council of America, which represents 1,100 mainstream Orthodox rabbis, held an open and detailed discussion about sexual abuse led by Dr. Susan Shulman, a pediatrician who served on the O.U.'s commission investigating the Lanner scandal and lectures frequently about sexual abuse.
• According to the RCA's immediate past president, Rabbi Kenneth Hain, the rabbinic group is in the "embryonic stages" of creating a system for dealing with members accused of sexual misconduct.
• In the aftermath of two publicized cases of pedophilia — one concerning a rabbi teaching at a day school and another concerning a kosher butcher — the Chicago Rabbinical Council recently created a special Beit Din, or rabbinical court, to address sexual abuse. The court, which has four rabbis from different sectors of the local Orthodox community, consults with a team of psychologists, social workers and lawyers. It is believed to be the only permanent North American Beit Din focusing on this issue.
• According to David Mandel, chief executive officer of Ohel, Orthodox schools and other institutions increasingly are hosting workshops educating parents and teachers on how to prevent abuse against children and identify the symptoms indicating that a child may have been abused. In the past year, Ohel participated in more than 12 seminars or conference sessions on the topic, about twice as many as in previous years.