Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Case of Rabbi Mark Dratch

Case of Rabbi Mark Dratch
Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) - New York, NY
Chairman, Task Force on Rabbinical Improprieties, RCA - New York, NY
Orthodox Caucus, Rabbinical Council of America - New York, NY
Rabbi, Camp Morasha - New York, NY
Yeshiva University - Washington Heights, NY
Webbe Rebbe (Ask the Rabbi), Orthodox Union - New York, NY
Rabbinical Council of America - New York, NY
JSAFE - West Hempstead, NY
Congregation Agudath Sholom - Stamford, CT
Shaarei Shomayim Congregation - Toronto, Canada
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun - New York, NY
Founding Rabbi - Boca Raton Synagogue, Boca Raton, FL
Congregation Beth Israel - Schenectady, NY
Anshei Shalom, Delray Beach, FL

Over the years Rabbi Mark Dratch has been very helpful to women who have been battered or trapped within abusive marriages, yet several allegations have been made over the years that Rabbi Mark Dratch had been enabling alleged sex offenders connected to Yeshiva University and used his position at the Rabbinical Council of America to do so.   He is the son-in-law of Rabbi Norman Lamm, who served as the head of Yeshiva University since 1975.

Rabbi Mark Dratch was the first rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue.
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Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.


Table of Contents:

1985
  1. Keeping a Kosher Kitchen (11/22/1985)
  2. The Faith Keepers (11/22/1985)

2005
  1. Is Rabbi Mark Dratch Trying to Recreate The Awareness Center? (03/22/2005)
  2. Rabbi Mark Dratch and NOT Rabbi Gafni/Winiarz/Winyarz was 1st Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue (01/22/2005)

2006

  1. Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa (05/19/2006)

2007
  1. Awareness Center a clearinghouse of concern - and controversy (01/10/2007)

2010

  1. Does Rabbi Mark Dratch Practice What He Preaches (01/10/2007)


2012

  1. RCA Facing Leadership Challenge (06/12/2012)


2013
  1. Yeshiva University, Rabbi Mark Dratch and JSafe (03/22/2005)
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Keeping a Kosher Kitchen
By Pat Kingcade
Miami Herald - November 11, 1985

The congregational family at Temple Anshei Shalom keeps a kosher kitchen.

When the Conservative congregation in Delray Beach designed its new temple, it included a dairy and a meat kitchen in the
plans. And to complete the cooking centers, the congregation appointed Steve Greenseid as its exclusive kosher caterer. It is the only facility of its kind in Palm Beach County.

"People had to go to Fort Lauderdale or Miami (for this service) before," Greenseid said.

All Orthodox and most Conservative Jews observe kosher dietary laws, said Jack Levine, the temple's publicity chairman. Foods served at weddings, bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs, circumcisions and other religious affairs are kosher.

To keep a kosher kitchen means separating not only the meat and dairy foods but also the dishes and utensils used to prepare the foods. All the ingredients carry a kosher seal and only the forequarter of a cud-chewing animal with split hooves can be used, said Mark Dratch, the supervising rabbi. No shellfish is eaten. And at Anshei Shalom, the meat kitchen is locked and can only be opened by Greenseid or Dratch.

"This is to prevent anyone from bringing nonkosher food in," Greenseid said.

Keeping kosher is important for reasons of cleanliness and tradition, said Dratch, who must oversee the preparation and serving of all the food.

Ben Simon, the temple's building chairman, suggested putting in the kitchens to the congregation. A retired building contractor, Simon had built two similar kosher kitchens before. The kitchen opened hours before Passover this year and the caterer immediately started preparations for a a public seder for 200 people.

"There are four temples in our area. None of the others wanted to do it," Simon said.

The kitchens, which cost about $125,000 to install, serve the 1,300 members of Anshei Shalom as well as other congregations and groups wanting or requiring kosher food, Simon said. For some events the food is prepared and served at Anshei Shalom, Dratch said. Other times Greenseid, supervised by Dratch, prepares the food at the temple and then serves it at a hotel or meeting place.

When the meals are served out, Dratch, who spent a year at rabbinical school learning kosher procedures, must supervise purification of the hotel's kitchen.

"Boiling water is poured on all the counters, the dishes and dishes are immersed in boiling water and the ovens are scoured and burned," he said.

As the demand for kosher-catered events increases, more and more hotels now set aside separate ovens and dishes for kosher events, Greenseid said.

Dratch, who says he has to be "part cook and part chemist," is also involved in supervising a kosher bakery in Boca Raton.

Because of the rise in the Jewish population "there is more of a demand now for kosher foods," he said. "There are also a lot of people who have been here a long time who had to go to Miami Beach for their kosher meats and breads.

"We want them to know that they can come to us and be guaranteed that all of the requirements are being met."

Dratch is spiritual leader at Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation. He became involved in Anshei Shalom's facility because he had to, he said.

"I had no other choice," Dratch said, "There was a demand
from my congregation."


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The Faith Keepers
Miami Herald - February 22, 1985
by Herald Staff

NAME: Rabbi Mark Dratch.

TEMPLE: Boca Raton Synagogue. Orthodox services at held on Saturday mornings at Verde Elementary School, 6590 Verde Trail, Boca Raton ... formed in 1984 ... 45 families.


GOOD WORKS: Involved with the Task Force on Jewish Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties ... belongs to several rabbinical associations ... is involved in building a new Orthodox congregation in Boca Raton ... "We are the only Orthodox congregation servicing young families in this area."

QUOTE: "Being a rabbi is a challenge. It is a challenge to teach and a challenge to become a community builder. This position in Boca (building a new Orthodox congregation) is especially appealing to me."

PERSONAL: Came to Boca Raton Synagogue in July from Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Conn ... educated at Yeshiva University in New York City ... has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in education ... 26 years old ... married ... is an avid reader ... loves bicycling ... "I ride to meetings on my bike when I can"... spends time with his wife, "which is very important."

We're looking for Faith Keepers. If you know of an outstanding person who is active in his or her religious life and would like to recommend that person to be featured in The Faith Keepers, please write The Faith Keepers, c/o Pat Kingcade, The Miami Herald, P.O. Box 3623, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33402.

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Is Rabbi Mark Dratch Trying to Recreate The Awareness Center?

Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - March 22, 2005

Yesterday I picked up a brochure at the JWI conference. I was shocked when I read about a new organization being developed by Rabbi Mark Dratch called JSafe. I think it should be called J-UnSafe.


JSafe's mission and goals are extremely similar to that of The Awareness Center's. I have my concern that Rabbi Mark Dratch and members of the RCA are attempting to kill the messenger.



Back on November 11, 2004, Rabbi Dratch was interviewed by Luke Ford, and was quoted as saying the following:

"The website and its discussion groups are an invaluable resource for many people. I had been involved at supporting them at one point in time. Vicki Polin has done tremendous work. We had a disagreement about a year ago] over some of the articles published on there with regard to accusations made against individuals. Her feeling is that as long as there is an article out there it should always be public. I disagree with that. If there is no substantiation of the allegations after a period of time and the person may be innocent, those articles should not be there. As a result of that, we have parted ways. She remains an important resource for me and I imagine I am an important resource for her.

To the best of my knowledge The Awareness Center is much more then a website. It is a full grown organization. What a great way to disrespect an organization that you are trying to mimic. Belittle it and refer to it as just a website.


I know for myself when I've needed resources that I called and spoke to Vicki Polin, and was provided with information that I was unable to find else where. I've told friends and coworkers of mine about The Awareness Center, and they were able to locate a rabbi, connect with attorneys, find counselors who have experience working with rape and incest survivors.



I personally have had very bad experiences going to Jewish Family Services. The majority of therapists at two different JFS's I went to didn't have the experience in working with rape victims.



At one point I had to move to another state. I had the same experience in both states with JFS therapists. Reading the brochure of JSAFE, it seems like Jewish Family Services is where Rabbi Dratch is sending survivors. If you are a survivor don't go there! Because I live in a semi-rural area, Vicki had suggested I track down a local rape crisis center and be seen there, or ask them for the name of a therapist they would recommend. I also suggest the same thing.



In Luke Ford's article on Rabbi Dratch, Steven I. Weiss was quoted as saying:

"Luke - Dratch's argument against Polin, that she should remove old stories that have not been substantiated, comes in pretty neatly with the Michael Ozair story. Remember that in that case, only allegations against him had been printed, and the fact that he pleaded no contest in 2001 would have made the allegations three years old with no follow-up. It was precisely because his file was maintained on The Awareness Center's Website that we matched him up as Michael Ezra of KabbalahCoach.com, and that we did further inquiry into the matter, reporting his plea for the first time."

I don't want anyone to forget that Rabbi Mark Dratch mislead the survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler into believing what they said to him would be kept confidential. He also encouraged them to talk to the investigator who was hired by the RCA to conduct an investigation of the Tendler case.


The investigator wrote a report and provided it to the RCA. Rabbi Basil Herring, executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) decided it was only fair for Tendler (not his attorney) to have a copy of the final report, which had the names and contact information of the alleged survivors in it.



Rabbi Mark Dratch who was once an honored member of The Awareness Center's advisory board is now taking the ideas of another organization and running with them. The difference being is that Rabbi Dratch is closely tied to the organization that needs the most monitoring. It's almost like the United Nations monitoring the Saudi government.

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Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa
Forward - May 19, 2006

An Israeli-based spiritual institute has fired its main rabbi over sexual abuse claims, less than two years after several prominent American religious figures rallied to defend him against earlier allegations.

At least five female students and staff members have come forward to accuse Rabbi Mordechai Gafni of luring them into sexual relationships through intimidation, psychological manipulation and deception. Late last week, Gafni, an Orthodox-trained rabbi who has become a star of the New Age-style Jewish Renewal movement, was dismissed from his position as the head of Bayit Chadash, a center on the Sea of Galilee that he co-founded six years ago.

Gafni subsequently issued a public apology for having “hurt people I love,” and said that he would seek in-patient treatment for what he called “a sickness.”

A number of prominent American rabbis who publicly backed Gafni when allegations surfaced in the fall of 2004 have said that they now regret their previous support. Among those voicing regret are Rabbi Saul Berman, the leader of the liberal Orthodox organization Edah; Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, an Orthodox author best known for his accessible books on Judaism; Rabbi Arthur Green, dean of the rabbinical school of Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., and former president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, leader of Congregation Nevei Kodesh, a Jewish Renewal community in Boulder, Colo., and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia and a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement.

In recent years, the Orthodox Jewish community has suffered several high-profile sexual abuse cases. It also has been accused by some critics of being insufficiently alert to the nature of abuse and overly protective of leaders at the expense of alleged victims. The dismissal of Gafni — who had been dogged by a welter of rumors and allegations over the past two decades — has shone a similar spotlight on the responses of a number of individuals on the liberal end of the Jewish spectrum and in liberal Orthodox circles generally untainted by previous scandals.

“The saddest part of the story is that there were these women from the past who had the courage to speak up despite their isolation and their own pain, despite being threatened by him repeatedly, and nobody came forth to give them support,” said one of the current accusers at Bayit Chadash, who did not want to be identified by name. “People in this culture [chose] to support the male predator rather than…the women’s voices that were alone.”

Earlier this week, Jacob Ner-David and Avraham Leader, the two other founders of Bayit Chadash, sent out an open letter announcing that Gafni would be seeking intensive therapy for his “sickness” and that they would be contacting all organizations to which he has been connected.

Gafni, who is in his mid-40s and been married three times, was born Marc Winiarz and moved from the Midwest to New York for high school and college. He was originally ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Israel more than a decade ago, after leaving posts in New York and in Boca Raton, Fla., amid rumors of sexual misconduct. He assumed an Israeli name and transitioned into the world of Jewish Renewal.

In September 2004, as Gafni’s profile was rising again back in the United States — where he had become a frequent guest lecturer and visitor at several spiritual centers and synagogues — the editor and the publisher of The Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt, wrote a column reviewing some of the long-standing allegations against him.

Rosenblatt said he had interviewed about 50 supporters and critics, including two prominent Orthodox leaders — Rabbi Yosef Blau, spiritual mentor at Yeshiva University, and Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat — who had known Gafni since the 1980s. Blau and Riskin, who both criticized Gafni, told Rosenblatt that over the years they had spoken with a number of women who had complaints about the rabbi.

Rosenblatt interviewed several alleged victims. One was a woman named Judy, who first accused Gafni of molesting her in 1986, when she was a 16-year-old member of a youth group he directed. Shortly thereafter, Gafni left New York for a pulpit job in Florida. Another woman, Susan, who was an adviser for the group at the time, said that Gafni had threatened her when she tried to intervene on the girl’s behalf.

When asked about the allegations, Gafni told Rosenblatt that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.

But he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with another girl, when she was 13 and 14 and he was 19 and 20, studying to become a rabbi.

“I was a stupid kid and we were in love,” Gafni was quoted as saying in The Jewish Week. “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”

The woman told Rosenblatt that Gafni had “repeatedly sexually assaulted her” when he stayed at her house for the Sabbath. The rabbi also told her that she would be “shamed in the community” if she told anyone.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who is widely credited as the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, went on the record in Gafni’s defense.

“If you want to find fly specks in the pepper, you can always find them,” Schachter-Shalomi told Rosenblatt. “But I’ve watched him teach. He is learned, exciting and charismatic.”

In the weeks after Rosenblatt’s column appeared, several Jewish communal leaders vigorously defended Gafni in letters sent to The Jewish Week and attacked the newspaper for running the story. Berman, Telushkin and Firestone wrote a joint letter stating that together they had conducted a thorough investigation and found all the accusations against Gafni “totally unconvincing.” This week, in a statement to the Forward, the three rabbis said that they are “deeply regretful of our prior support of Rabbi Gafni.”

In a subsequent e-mail to the Forward, they argued that “it is vital to distinguish between past accusations against Rabbi Gafni and the current situation.”

Green, who in 2004 penned one of the most vociferous letters in defense of Gafni, agreed that the new batch of allegations were different from the ones that plagued the rabbi two years ago.

“The stories were from long ago, and he had rejected and outgrown that side of himself,” Green said in an interview with the Forward. “These are now new cases and new investigations.”

In a 2004 letter to The Jewish Week defending Gafni, Green said that he had not investigated the allegations and had “no interest in doing so.” This week, Green told the Forward that he felt “victimized” by Gafni’s lies and actions, while acknowledging that the accusers have suffered more.

Less than a month after the four rabbis wrote their letters to The Jewish Week in October 2004, the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported allegations, dating from 1994, that mirror the current accusations against Gafni. According to an Orthodox couple interviewed for the lengthy Ma’ariv profile on the rabbi, he sexually preyed on their 23-year-old daughter while serving as a visiting rabbi in Kfar Saba. He went so far as to tell her that he wanted to leave his wife and marry her.

“We taped him saying to our daughter, ‘I love you very much. I dream of the day we will be together,’” the couple told Ma’ariv. “When the story became known, Gafni left Kfar Saba.” The couple’s daughter told Ma’ariv that she subsequently found out that Gafni was having similar relationships with other young women.

The Bayit Chadash accuser contacted by the Forward said that the five women who recently came forth had all been told by Gafni that he wanted to marry them — and the accuser said that all the women had been dumped shortly after being told he was committing himself to celibacy.

In response to an e-mail from the Forward asking if he ever contacted anyone connected to the Ma’ariv story as part of his investigation, Berman wrote that the “article was no more than a repetition of earlier allegations which had been part of our original inquiry.”

Rabbi Mark Dratch, who last year founded JSafe, a new organization to help counter sexual abuse in the Jewish community, said that the lesson of the Gafni case is that rabbis do not have impartiality or the expertise to conduct professional investigations involving friends or colleagues.

Dratch said that, in his view, the rabbis who investigated Gafni were handicapped by their own lack of understanding regarding the nature of sex crimes.

One misconception among rabbis, Dratch said, is that their knowledge of someone as a friend or colleague gives them insight into whether he or she is a sex offender. Another mistake, Dratch said, is discounting incidents based on when they occurred, since “what studies show us is that recidivism is very high.”

The Bayit Chadash accuser who spoke with the Forward said she hopes that by sharing her experience, she has helped spare other women pain. So far, four of the original five accusers have made sworn statements and three have filed complaints with the police. And since then, three more women have come forward in the Bayit Chadash community, along with three women from Jerusalem.

The line between teacher and perpetrator, the woman said, is far too easy to cross, and any violation of boundaries must be taken seriously as a red flag for abuse.

“Seduction and education, they come from the same root as educe, which means to draw forth,” she said. “So with education, you’re drawing someone forth and helping them see themselves. With seduction, you’re drawing someone forth and leading them astray.”

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Awareness Center a clearinghouse of concern - and controversy
By Eugene L. Meyer and Richard Greenberg
JTA News - January 10, 2007

Vicki Polin, at her Baltimore home office.  Photo by Murray Levin
NEW YORK - There is no unabridged database of rabbinic sexual abusers. But there is the Awareness Center.

It's not a physical place, but a Baltimore post-office box, cell-phone number and Web site - www.theawarenesscenter.org - where online surfers can find a listing of scores of Jewish clergy and hundreds of otherJewish officials in positions of trust or authority who are alleged tobe sexual predators. Some of them have been convicted of crimes; somehave not even been charged or sued.

Vicki Polin, 47, is the nonprofit organization's executive director and only full-time staffer.  A licensed clinical professional counselor and an art therapist, she founded the Awareness Center in 2001 after becoming fed up over what she deemed to be inaction in bringing perpetrators to justice and protecting the public.

Her biggest weapon: exposure of alleged wrongdoers.

Her efforts have won her loyal supporters and harsh critics.
Rabbi Yosef Blau

"Vicki's site is very valuable," said Rabbi Yosef Blau, religious adviser at Yeshiva University and a vocal advocate for victims of rabbinic sexual abuse and other forms of sexual misconduct. "Since you can't get people arrested and there are no court cases, you have to use a standardthat's reasonable and [disclosure] works in that context."

The Awareness Center's outing of alleged and confirmed abusers has inspiredan army of Jewish bloggers eager to discuss the topic, with anonymous postings appearing on Web sites such as the Unorthodox Jewthe CanonistJewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com and Lukeford.net.

"In the Orthodox community, it is much harder to be heard, so people go online instead of going to police and the rabbi," said a woman now living in Israel who reported being abused as a child by her father, an American rabbi who is principal of an Orthodox school on the Eastern seaboard. "The blogs are safe for survivors."

The Awareness Center and the bloggers not only have brought this sensitive subject tothe attention of a wide audience, they have also stirred up considerable controversy over issues of fairness, attribution and transparency.
Rabbi Avi Shafran

"The blogorai, as I call it, is the new way of making irresponsible accusations," charged Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesperson for the fervently Orthodox advocacy organization AgudathIsrael. "Using a blog is a very easy and effective way of casting as persions on people."

Blau said blogs are a mixed blessing.

"Since they are anonymous, they can say almost anything," he said. "On the other hand, until the community is more willing to deal with issues, I can understand why writers won't reveal their identity."

One blog-intensive case listed on the Awareness Center site involves Mordechai Tendler, a disgraced modern Orthodox rabbi from Rockland County, New York, who was accused of having illicit sexual relationships with several women who had come to him for counsel.

ex-Rabbi Mordecai Tendler
The charismatic scion of distinguished rabbinic scholars, Tendler ironically was known as a strong advocate for Jewish women who wereunable to obtain a get, or religious release from marriage, from their husbands.

Tendler was expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America in March 2005 for "conduct inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi." The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance praised the RCA "fortaking these issues seriously and instituting formal procedures to deal with them." Those procedures included hiring a Texas-based private investigative firm to conduct a probe of the matter and convening anin-house ethics panel to rule on the case.

In April, Tendler was fired from the congregation he had helped establish in the mid-1980s, Kehillat New Hempstead. Undaunted, he held High Holiday services this year in a public elementary school directly across the street from his former shul.

Tendler, married and the father of eight, has consistently denied the allegations against him, but did not respond to inquiries seeking comment. His attorney, Glen Feinberg, said his client retains a large following in Rockland County. JTA asked Feinberg to encourage Tendler's supporters to contact JTA, but none did. 

The scandal has spawned at least three lawsuits, including one filed by Tendler against his former congregation for alleged breach of contract.  That suit has been dismissed, but the ruling is being appealed. The litigation filed against Tendler has publicized the sort of mattersthat once would have only been whispered about in private.

For example, a lawsuit filed in December 2005 by former congregant (NAME REMOVED) states that Tendler, who portrayed himself as "a counselor and advisor with expertise in women's issues," advised 
(NAME REMOVED)  to have sex with him so that "her life would open up and men would come toher," and she would then marry and have children.

The suit also claims that Tendler told 
(NAME REMOVED) that he "was as close to God asanyone could get" and that he "was the Messiah." And when the relationship ended, the suit contends, Tendler encouraged congregants to "harass, threaten and intimidate" (NAME REMOVED) in an apparent attemptto discredit her accusations.

As for Tendler, his legal filings included petitions submitted in Ohio and California seeking to forcethe disclosure of the identities of anonymous bloggers who had been attacking him publicly for his alleged conduct. But he withdrew both petitions.
Paul Levy

In the California case, a judge ruled Oct. 12 that Tendler must pay the bloggers' legal fees - a decision that was praisedby attorney Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, who represented three ofthe bloggers involved in the case.

"The right to criticize anonymously on the Internet is a fundamental free-speech right and animportant tool for whistle-blowers and consumers who speak out aboutthe misconduct or corruption of big companies or public figures," Levy said in a press release.

A letter from Tendler to the judge who had ruled in the California case was posted Nov. 15 on a victims'advocacy blog. In the letter, Tendler asked the judge to reconsider hisdecision on attorney's fees, adding: "I have been the subject of aconcerted and constant Internet campaign to destroy my reputation, livelihood, and family. Disgusting allegations of sexual impropriety,all of them false, have been circulated about me and amplified in suchhorrific proportions as only can happen on the Internet. These allegations and threats have, in fact, destroyed my reputation as arabbi and teacher and have caused me hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in actual and future damages."

The letter described the bloggers as being "like poisonous snakes" who "want to continue to do their damage and spread their filthy vicious lies withno accountability."

The Awareness Center, also known as the Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault, has its own confidentiality policy regarding victims of sexual misconduct and others.

"As a victim advocate, I never name the survivors," Polin said.

The Awareness Center no longer names its board members, either, "due to harassment," according to Polin, who said she herself has been threatened repeatedly with physical harm and once was spat on by awoman who was angry over an Awareness Center disclosure.

Rabbi Mark Dratch

In 2003, Polin said, a supporter of an alleged abuser named on her site did background checks on her advisory board members, "found something about them or someone they cared about and threatened to make it public." Half a dozen resignations ensued, she said.

Among those who were formerly listed but resigned for other reasons is Rabbi Mark Dratch, who chairs the Rabbinical Council of America's Task Force on Rabbinic Improprieties and has founded the organization JSafe to deal with sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

Dratch said he left the Awareness Center board in "disagreement with [Polin] on the standards required for publishing on her Web site. I wasn't satisfied with the threshold of verification. There are people who've been victimized and others who've been subject to false reports also being victimized. The big problem we have in this area is verifying theallegations and moving forward."

As of early December, the Awareness Center site still listed 236 "supportive rabbis." Polin said more than 500 people receive her e-mail alerts, and the Web page averages around 35,000 visitors per month.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
One of the e-mail recipients is Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union and a trained psychologist.

"I read everything with a grain of salt," he said. "On the other hand," Weinreb said, the Awareness Center and the blogs "have served the purpose of keeping thisin the public spotlight and keeping the pressure on established institutions to police their constituencies."

As of late December, the Awareness Center was in danger of closing for lack of funds, according to Polin, who was seeking donations to keep the organization afloat.



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Does Rabbi Mark Dratch Practice What He Preaches
October, 2010

Does Rabbi Mark Dratch really practice what he preaches?  Rumor has it he does not make hotline reports when he suspects child abuse.  Instead he investigates cases on his own.  The following film clip was recorded at a conference in Chicago.


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RCA Facing Leadership Challenge
Discord reported over executive choice as opposing slates vie for control of Modern Orthodox rabbinic council

By Adam Dicter
New York Jewish Week - June 12, 2012

In what appears to be a sign of the increasing ideological stress within Modern Orthodoxy, the rabbinical arm of the Orthodox Union is facing a serious split over the direction of its future leadership, The Jewish Week has learned.

In a highly unusual development — some are calling it an insurrection — the proposed slate of officers set to continue in their lay posts to lead the 1,000-member Rabbinical Council of America for another year is being challenged by a group reportedly opposed to the choice of executive vice president, the only paid position and one that calls for directing the day-to-day operations of the organization.

A leader of the challengers, however, insists the executive choice is not a cause of the rebellion.

The post, most recently held by Rabbi Basil Herring, who stepped down last summer, is a non-elected position appointed by the board.

The critics are said to feel that Rabbi Mark Dratch, who was named after a long selection process to succeed Rabbi Herring, is too liberal for the job, though they have not publicly articulated their specific reasons for that conclusion.

Rabbi Dratch, who lives on Long Island, has worked at congregations in New York, Toronto, Connecticut and Florida. He now teaches Jewish studies and philosophy at Yeshiva University and founded an organization, JSafe, which advocates for Jewish victims of sexual abuse.

He has formerly served as a vice president of the RCA and headed a task force to formulate rules about investigating allegations of improprieties against members of the RCA.
The Jewish Week has learned that the proposed slate challenging the incumbents is headed by Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., as candidate for first vice president.

The nominees for regional vice presidents are Rabbi Avraham Gordimer, a rabbinic coordinator of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut department; Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Beth Israel in Omaha, Neb.; and Rabbi Eliezer Langer of Tiferet Israel of Austin, Texas.

The other alternative candidates are Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills (treasurer), Rabbi Eli Krimsky of the Young Israel of Stamford, Conn., (recording secretary) and Rabbi Dov Fisher of the Young Israel of Orange County, Calif., (financial secretary).

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Jeshurun of Teaneck, N.J, who is on the far right of the Modern Orthodox spectrum, is on the alternative slate for executive committee.
The only position not being challenged is that of president, held by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah of Englewood, N.J., who was elected last year.

Rabbi Goldin’s current top officers are Rabbi Leonard Matanky (first vice president) recording secretary Rabbi Gedalya Berger, (financial secretary) Rabbi Reuven Tradburks and Treasurer Rabbi Daniel Cohen.

Contacted during a visit to Israel on Tuesday week, Rabbi Freundel declined to comment on specifics of the differences between the two slates.

“We have a different position on many issues, which are internal issues, not a single issue,” said the rabbi. But he stressed that the potential hiring of Rabbi Dratch is “not one of the issues on the platform.”

But some, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid creating a further rift in the organization, said there is increasing pressure from right-leaning members over issues such as the possible inclusion of rabbis ordained by Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT), an institution that was founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale and that describes its philosophy as “open Orthodoxy.”

Currently, rabbis ordained by YCT are not permitted membership in the RCA unless they also have been ordained by a more traditional rabbinical school.

“People have concerns, issues and fears regarding the direction the organization is shifting to,” said one RCA leader who asked not to be identified.

“There are objections to Rabbi Dratch on the basis of concerns that he might be too liberal,” said another member. “They are making assumptions about him.”

The RCA has been grappling with the diverse views of its membership for years, confronting such issues as organ donation, the role of women in synagogue leadership and conversion, particularly regarding the strict standards of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

“There is tremendous tension in the community, both from the left and from the right,” said Rabbi Goldin in his speech to the RCA convention on assuming the presidency last year, as reported by The Forward. “The issue of trying to hold the community together becomes extremely important. I would find it unfortunate if we were to split into splinters.”

The tension within the RCA comes at a time when a new study of the New York Jewish community by UJA-Federation of New York shows a strengthening of Orthodox life and a falling away from Judaism by close to 40 percent of the community, suggesting that the Modern Orthodox could play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the community.

One RCA member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would have preferred if the membership were presented with a choice of candidates for executive vice president.
Rabbi Goldin noted that the idea of presenting candidates to the general membership — the way a synagogue search committee might present candidates for a rabbi to board members — was considered by the RCA executive committee and rejected.

“We assume the search committee looks carefully and comes up with a recommendation, and they did.” He added, “It is not the executive vice president’s job to make decisions. The decisions are made by the rabbis who run the organization.”

When he entered office in 2011, Rabbi Goldin expressed willingness to explore the issue of including rabbis in the RCA who were ordained by Rabbi Avi Weiss at YCT, an issue that is still being discussed and has generated strong views on both sides. The institution does not enroll women, but Rabbi Weiss has recognized a woman, Sara Hurwitz, as a rabba, with similar duties to a rabbi, which created controversy within the RCA.

YCT has since withdrawn its application to have its rabbis accepted by the RCA.

In a brief phone interview on Monday Rabbi Dratch declined to comment about the controversy.

Rabbi Goldin, in an interview, framed the controversy as not unusual given the organization’s diverse membership. “We pride ourselves in representing many different points of view,” he said. “None of this, to me, is unexpected.”

But he acknowledged that the current situation was unprecedented.

In past years the election has taken place at the RCA’s annual convention, with voting rights extended only to those in attendance. This year voting is being allowed by mail and e-mail.

He said the process of appointing the executive vice president is now being delayed until after the board election, which means that a new slate could rescind the job offer extended to Rabbi Dratch.

On the other hand, rejection of the new slate could give Rabbi Dratch a strong mandate in the post.

Steven Bayme, director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department at the American Jewish Committee said while he was not privy to internal RCA politics, “The larger issue is that Modern Orthodoxy needs to play a very critical bridging role between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Jewish community. In that sense, the people it appoints to leadership positions, would, I hope, fulfill that role.”

He said Rabbi Dratch “has been a positive force in his work in Jewish education and at his pulpits. He is very much a person who is open and willing to work with others. His [appointment] would be a very positive step.” 

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Yeshiva University, Rabbi Mark Dratch and JSafe
By Vicki Polin
The Examiner - July 10, 2013

Yesterday the New York Daily News published the article “Yeshiva University High School former students file $380 million sex abuse law suit” by former students who were allegedly sexually abuse by both Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon. This is just two of dozens of cases in which Yeshiva University (YU) attempted covered up sex crimes over the course of several decades.

I’ll admit I have my own personal biases regarding YU due to the degree of harassment, bullying and attempts at extortion I have personally experienced by various rabbonim and community leaders who have ties to this highly respected establishment. It appears the goal of both the RCA and YU has always been to distract from the real issues –– that sex crimes occur within their systems –– by discrediting and silencing both the survivors of sex crimes and those working with them.

Nearly fifteen years ago The Awareness Center (the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault) was founded and has been a pioneering force in Jewish anti-rape movement ever since. They were also the first Jewish group to publish a Jewish sex offenders registry of both alleged and convicted sex offenders.

The flack against The Awareness Center began back in 2004 after the case of Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winarz, Mordy Winarz) was published.

It was at this time that attempts by highly respected rabbis and community leaders who were associated with both Yeshiva University (YU) and theRabbinical Council of America (RCA) would do anything possible to protect this confessed sexual predator. The question has never been answered why Mordy Winarzwas so important to them.

During The Awareness Center early years, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Senior Mashgiach Ruchani (head spiritual advisory) at Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school asked to be on their executive board and then served as the organizations Vice President.

At Rabbi Blau’s urging, Rabbi Mark Dratch became a member of The Awareness Center’s international advisory board. Mark Dratch is a son-in-law of Rabbi Norman Lamm (the past chancellor and head spiritual advisor at YU). Dratch was also the chair of the Rabbinical Council of America’s Task Force on Rabbinic Improprieties.

Rabbi Dratch had also been working in the Jewish domestic violence movements many years, ever since his sister-in-law was involved in an ugly divorce from Rabbi Simcha Weinberg.

For several months Rabbi Dratch supported the idea of The Awareness Center’s sex offender’s registry and verbalized his admiration of this list at the 2004 -JOFA conference (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance).

Late in 2004 the ties between The Awareness Center and Rabbi Dratch began to crumble. The alliance started to deteriorate after the RCA publicly published its first draft of protocols in dealing with allegations of sexual predators –– and then completely tore apart after The Awareness Center refused to take down the information they had on Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winarz, Mordy Winarz). It was at this moment in time that the war against Jewish activists working with survivors of sex crimes began by Jewish religious leaders.

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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."-- Margaret Mead

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