Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Note to Saul Berman, Avi Weiss, Joseph Telushkin and the rest of the Gafni Gang

Wouldn't it be great to start 2007 with a clean slate?

If you know any of the individuals listed below please encourage them to apologize directly to those they attacked for exposing Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.

Marc Gafni came out publicly back in May that he assaulted more women in Israel. To this day Saul Berman, Joseph Telushkin, Dr. Steven Marmer, Naomi Marks, those at ALEPH and others who supported Mordechai have not make an apology to those they harmed.

Saul and Joseph, pick up and write an apology letter to all of the survivors of Gafni, Vicki Polin, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Luke Ford and the rest of the people you harmed. It's been suggested as part of your teshuva process you all should start fundraising for The Awareness Center for at least the amount of revenue they must have lost because of your denial and attacks.

I think you should contact all the rabbis and other individuals you contacted in the past and let them know of your horrible mistake and request they put their names back up. I know this may be a difficult task to attain, so an easier way would be to take an add out in all Jewish papers in the US and Israel with your apology, naming the survivors of Mordechai Gafni, Rabbi Blau, Vicki Polin and Luke Ford.

Here's the list of Characters that need to apologise directly to those they attacked for exposing Marc Gafni as a sexual predator. If you know any of these people please call them and encourage them to do the right thing.
  1. Metuka Benjamin (Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple)
  2. Rabbi Phyllis Berman (Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program)
  3. Rabbi Saul Berman (Director, Edah)
  4. Davidovich (Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television)
  5. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (Congregation Nevei Kodesh)
  6. Rabbi Shefa Gold (Director C-Deep, composer and teacher)
  7. Rabbi Arthur Green (Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School)
  8. Rabbi Eli Herscher (Stephen S. Wise Synagogue)
  9. Arthur Kurzweil (former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club)
  10. Avraham Leader (Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash)
  11. Stephen Marmer, M.D. (Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School)
  12. Jacob Ner-David (Board Chair, Bayit Chadash)
  13. Peter Pitzele (Ph.D., Bibliodrama Institute)
  14. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (Rabbinic Chair, Aleph Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University)
  15. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (author, Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom)
  16. Rabbi David Zaslow (Havurah Shir Hadash)
  17. Noam Zion (Hartman Institute)

This is one of the many letters the above individuals signed and sent out in attempts to destroy The Awareness Center.
To The Jewish Community worldwide:
In this letter we the undersigned ask the Jewish community worldwide to reaffirm its commitment to the Torah, and to the ethical principles of Judaism. Although the specific focus of our discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, whom have known collectively for many years, the issues we address are universal and timeless.
A group of several people. None of whom know Rabbi Gafni personally in any real way, and none who has had any contact in the past twenty years have undertaken a systematic campaign to besmirch his name. Their primary method has been to keep alive and distort two very old and long discredited stories. Their attacks have recently increased in volume and intensity. He has consistently and generously offered to meet with them, but they have refused.
Many people who know Rabbi Gafni well, as all the undersigned do, have individually and collectively examined the accusations about him that this group has been spreading. We have found their rumors and accusations to be either wholly without substance or radically distorted to the point of falsification. We conclude that the false and malicious rumors against Gafni constitute lashon hara and that the dissemination of such lies is prohibited by the Torah and Jewish ethical principles.
Thus we must address and to make right the wrong that has been attempted in regard to Rabbi Gafni, and affirm our support of him as an important teacher and leader in the Jewish community.
We have worked with Rabbi Gafni in many contexts, ranging from colleague to employer. We have published his works in our collections, co-taught with him, and known him in a host of other close relationships. Over the years, we have also extensively discussed with him the different stages of his life and the decisions he has made in relationships, professional choices and more.
We affirm without reservation that in addition to being a person of enormous gifts, depth, and vision, Rabbi Gafni is also a person of real integrity. He possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity coupled with a genuine humility that comes only from having lived life fully with all of its complexity, beauty and sometimes pain.
Leaders of his caliber and depth who are committed to ongoing personal development are few and far between. From our dual commitment to him as an individual, as well as to the most profound ethical teachings of the Torah, we urge you as the reader of this letter to reject the false reports about Rabbi Gafni, and to give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.
The following letter was written by Rabbi Saul Berman and distributed widely by Rabbi Gafni and his supporters over the past 18 months:
To Whom It May Concern,
I have had occasion during the spring, summer and fall of 2004 to conduct an extensive personal inquiry in response to accusations which have been made against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and publicized on the Internet. A more balanced version of these same issues than that on the Internet was raised in an editor's column by Gary Rosenblatt published in the Jewish Week newspaper, in which Rosenblatt asserted that he was unable to draw either a negative or positive conclusion about these issues, calling his extensive research into the issue an "investigation without a conclusion"
I have invested literally hundreds of hours in talking to parties directly and indirectly related, reading public statements posted on the Internet, and following the unfolding of this issue. I have come to a number of clear and unequivocal conclusions.
First, as I have written in a public letter together with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, we have found the decades-old accusations against Rabbi Gafni to be unconvincing now, as they were dismissed in responsible contemporaneous investigations. We believe that these accusations have been intentionally distorted, kept alive and circulated by a small group of people who have waged a vendetta-like campaign against Rabbi Gafni, creating a false and unfair impression of his character.
Second, the material posted on the Awareness Center website and related Internet blogs is not credible. Both in regard to Rabbi Gafni as well as to other cases posted there, the Awareness Center has grossly distorted facts and blatantly lied. Indeed, working together with a small team I have collected a host of examples of such behavior on the part of the Awareness Center. While the Awareness Center does address an issue critical to the Jewish community, that of sexual harassment and abuse, the center itself has unfortunately become an abuser itself of the first order.
The major other Internet poster of accusations against Rabbi Gafni is a certain Luke Ford. Luke Ford, who poses as a journalist, also runs a pornography site. He is a discredited Internet gossip columnist for the pornography industry, who, by his own written admission, regularly publishes libelous material as truth without even the slightest attempt at verification.
Third, I have urged Rabbi Gafni to continue actively writing and teaching his communities of students around the world. I have done so based on my firm conclusion that he poses absolutely no danger or threat to anyone. Indeed, I firmly believe that the notion suggested by Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center that he poses any danger whatsoever is patently absurd. While in some areas I would take issue with Rabbi Gafni's thought, particularly in areas where he departs from classical Orthodoxy, the work he is doing is serious and is of great benefit to the Jewish community worldwide.
I urge the readers of this letter to continue to support Rabbi Gafni's work, including his public teachings, writings, television projects and social activism. We are in need today of hearing the emerging voices of the next generation of Jewish leadership, and Rabbi Gafni's voice is one of them. I look forward to learning what he has to teach in the decades to come.
(Director, Edah)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Rabbi Considers Appeal Kaye Sentenced for Sex Crime Charges

By Eric Fingerhut
Washington Jewish Week - December 6, 2006

The lawyer for the rabbi caught in a hidden camera sting of online sexual predators said Tuesday that he and his client are still discussing whether to appeal his conviction on sex crime charges.

A notice of an appeal must be filed within 10 days of last Friday's sentencing of David Kaye, in which Alexandria U.S. Court Judge James Cacheris sent the Rockville rabbi to prison for 78 months.

Kaye was found guilty in September of "coercion and enticement" and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor. Those charges were brought after Kaye was featured in a broadcast of the Dateline NBC "To Catch a Predator" series.

Kaye lawyer Peter Greenspun said he was pleased with the sentence considering that the government had originally asked for a term of 121 months. But, the lawyer said, "that doesn't mean it's not a difficult and harsh ... sentence."

Federal sentences are determined by a system that assigns a certain number of points for a specific crime and and then adds or subtracts points based on various enhancements and reductions.

Prosecutors asked for three enhancements, but the judge only accepted one, for obstruction of justice. Cacheris ruled that Kaye had commited perjury by testifying that he had gone to the house in Herndon expecting to meet with a young adult. For that reason, the judge also rejected the defense request for a sentence reduction based on his acceptance of responsibility for the crimes.

Kaye testified at trial in August that he believed his chat partner had been lying about being 13 years old and was engaged in a "role play."

In fact, his chat partner was an adult and a member of an organization called Perverted Justice, a controversial group whose volunteers pose as children online in order to expose potential Internet predators and then turn over chat logs and other information it gathers to the police.

The group was working with Dateline NBC, and Kaye was confronted on camera by a Dateline reporter when he arrived at the Herndon house.

Kaye, who served for more than three years as vice president of program at the Rockville-based teen educational group Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, resigned from that post just days before the Dateline segment first aired. Until 2001, he had been a rabbi at Potomac's Congregation Har Shalom for 16 years.

His time in prison is likely to last about five more years. His sentence includes the more than six months he has already served since his May indictment and can be shortened by 15 percent with good behavior.

Once he serves his time, though, he faces an additional 10 years of supervised release. He will be required to register as a sex offender and banned from accessing the Internet and being alone with children under the age of 18 without the prior approval of a parole officer, among other conditions.

Cacheris also recommended that Kaye be admitted into the Sex Offender Treatment Program at the federal prison in Butner, N.C., although he said that Kaye may have to wait a while. The program is currently full.

In congressional testimony in September, Andres Hernandez, director of that program, said that therapy at Butner includes about 15 hours of treatment activities per week that "help offenders manage their sexual deviance in an effort to reduce sexual recidivism" by teaching "effective self-control skills."

Charles Onley, a research associate at the Silver Spring-based Center for Sex Offender Management, said that he wasn't familiar with the specifics of Butner's program. But, he said that such treatments often teach offenders to identify "triggers" for their behavior and make them much better prepared for re-entry into society.

In his statement to the judge at Friday's hearing, an emotional Kaye acknowledged his father and others family members in the courtroom and asked the media ‹ specifically citing Washington Jewish Week by name ‹ to "keep this private."

He then said that the Dateline incident was "my cry out for help," and while it may be a cliche, "sometimes cliches are true." (Major media outlets have already reported details of Kaye's statement.)

Reactions to Kaye's sentence were mixed. Vicki Polin, executive director of the Awareness Center, which tracks sexual abuse in the Jewish community, said she thought Kaye received a "fair sentence," considering that there was no evidence presented in court that he had contact with a child.

Congregation Shaare Tefila's Rabbi Jonah Layman sees the sentence as a "positive thing for him and his family," given it is "a lot less that he could have gotten."

"I hope that this can begin the process of David's healing and his family's healing," said the Silver Spring rabbi, a friend of the Kaye family.

Agudas Achim Congregation's Rabbi Jack Moline, a longtime friend of Kaye's, said he was less concerned with the sentence than with the vigilante methods used to catch him.

"I can't defend what he did. I don't think that's the issue," said the Alexandria rabbi. "Whether or not he should have been doing [it] ... the man was convicted by NBC," which was "interested in the most sensational story."

"It's not about justice, it's about ratings," and "it's a terrible way for justice to be served," he added.

Moline noted that NBC continues to rerun the video of the Kaye sting and the video can be viewed on the program's Web site.

"Now that he's convicted and sentenced, what is the purpose of ... keeping it up on the Web site?" he said.

Dateline did not respond to a message requesting comment. Meanwhile, the show has scheduled a program with "updates" on those caught in its "To Catch a Predator" series for this Saturday night.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Surviving Hanukkah: Jewish Survivors of Childhood Abuse

© (2005, Revised 2006), Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC

Hanukkah is for many a time filled with wonderful memories of rushing around to purchase gifts and cards for loved ones; of families and friends getting together, lighting the Menorah, eating potato pancakes, and singing the traditional songs.

However, for survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), this festive time can be a time where painful memories reemerge. It is not unusual for survivors to need to make decisions about how to best keep themselves safe during the holiday: some may need to spend time with friends who understand their conflicted emotions toward the holiday, some may need to limit their time with their families, while others may not feel safe spending the holiday with family at all. Even for those who make alternate plans, there is often a sense of loss of the loving, healthy family they never had or the memories they wish they'd had. Hanukah--like other times where families traditionally get together--can be a difficult time for those who no longer have contact with family members due to the degree of dysfunction that was (and often still is) in their family.

This is a time of year when a survivor may find it safer to retreat than to participate in holiday functions--the associations and memories may be too painful, too emotions too close to the surface. This is not a failure or wrongdoing, but can be seen as yet another aspect of the aftermath of abuse in the family. It is important that each individual survivor finds what works best for him or her so that they can optimize their ability to stay emotionally healthy. If you decide to be with your family and are nervous about how you'd feel about it, it can be helpful for you to designate ahead of time a 'safe person' with home you can debrief afterwards or call if things get tough while with family. It is vitally important that each person be kind to themselves about the decisions they make for holiday plans. The rest of us need to respect the survivor's decisions, and to understand that they may decide not to participate in Hanukah events.

If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse, maybe you can take upon yourself to check in with them over the eight-day holiday. Maybe invite the survivor to your house for lighting the menorah or a family meal, and if they say no let them know they can change their mind and come at the last minute. Remind them they are not alone, that you are there. That you understand.

Holidays are often times for families to get together. School may be out, vacation days may be taken; routines are changed. In many families there is--along with the excitement and happiness of getting together--an added stress of cleaning and preparing meals, sometimes financial issues over not being able to afford the kind of holiday celebration one might want.

It is a reality that some parents have difficulties managing their own stress and are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges. Such parents are often even more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety, close quarters with their own family of origin (and it's pressures), and holiday stress. Though clearly not all stressed-out parents abuse their children, many survivors of childhood abuse do report that their abuse became more intense around and during holidays.

If you know parents who struggle to manage stress, see if you can discretely and gently offer them your support: Maybe offer to take care of the children for a bit, to take them on an outing or host a meal; maybe provide the parents with information about resources available in their community (such as parental hotlines in your community). Be a friend. By allowing the parents some time for themselves and offering venues for relief, you can greatly assist in the parents in managing their anger and stress.
If you are a survivor, remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to re-emerge even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. If holiday times are difficult for you, you may experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide, may be an issue. The crucial thing for you to remember is that these feelings are about the past; that the abuse is over and it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself. To stay safe.

Over the years we've spoken to many adult survivors who admitted that they find it very painful to even think of being around family members, even around friends. This is sad, but it is OK. Someday you may feel different--many survivors do with time--but if the pain right now is too intense, you need to do what is healing for YOU and set boundaries to what feels safe for you.

One survivor shared that she felt uncomfortable not doing anything for Hanukkah, so she'd rent movies that she found carried an empowering theme for her. Another survivor invited other Jewish Survivors over to his home and together they created their own 'tradition' that felt healing and empowering.

Whatever works for you is OK. You are not alone; not wrong; not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and if to celebrate the holidays. Look into yourself and see what you need, then do what you can to do it, and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.

Todah Rabah for Surviving!

Suicide Prevention
The National Hopeline Network

National Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-4-A-CHILD (24 Hours a Day)

National Runaway Switchboard