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Crown Heights Ultra-Orthodox Jews Meet to Combat Child Sex Abuse

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes addresses the public meeting. (Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

Mordechai Feinstein felt obligated to tell his story. The 19-year-old stands nearly 6-feet-tall with square shoulders and an unmistakable Brooklyn inflection in his voice. When he was 15, he joined a group led by a local rabbi in Crown Heights who mentored at-risk youth.

“I went there for Sabbath meals. He was the spiritual guide and mentor I would go to when I had questions. He helped get me into different religious schools,” explained Feinstein. “So in effect, he was my personal rabbi.”

This rabbi also became his abuser.

Feinstein shared his story with the approximately 100 ultra-Orthodox that attended the public meeting at the Ohel Nosson Shul in Crown Heights on Sunday. He joined a panel of speakers, including Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, child advocates and rabbis, to talk about how to prevent child sex abuse in the community — and what people could and should do when faced with it.

This isn’t the first meeting of its kind, but it comes at a time where the Brooklyn D.A.’s office faces increased scrutiny for its handling of child sex abuse cases within the ultra-Orthodox community. Hynes has consistently defended his office, pointing to intimidation from within the ultra-Orthodox community itself — on par or beyond that of organized crime cases — that stymies sex abuse prosecutions.

But in Crown Heights, home to the Chabad-Lubavich Hasidic community, an awakening may be emerging. Last year, the local rabbinical court ruled it was forbidden not to report cases of child sex abuse to secular authorities, breaking a long-standing tradition within the community where people sought the counsel of their rabbi before engaging with law enforcement.

“If I could get religious courts around this county adopting that policy, we’d be a much longer way towards solving this problem,” Hynes said, referring to the large ultra-Orthodox communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park.

Last month, Hynes set up a task force to address intimidation in the ultra-Orthodox community. The second meeting of that task force is Monday.

While prosecution is an important element of cracking down on child sex abuse, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University said the community itself needs to understand the severity of the problem.

“Does the community understand that victims are victimized again and again when they get no support from the community, when they are seen as the troublemakers, when people are afraid to be whistle-blowers,” Blau said. “The mentality of the community has to change.”

In some ways Feinstein was lucky. His case was successfully prosecuted by the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, and with the help of civil rights lawyer, Norman Siegel, he had a say in how his perpetrator was punished. But Feinstein is no longer part of the Crown Heights community. He now lives in Miami, Florida.

“It’s been painful, very painful at times,” Feinstein told the audience. “If you care about the community, do something positive for the children.”

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Comments [2]

Nahid Hasan from bangladesh

As I am quiet new in Jewish, looking around for some Jewish information> Got something important here. Nice to get it.
Have you seen this video goo.gl/Fvyjz ? It helped me get over my internal anger.
Thanks for advance..

Jul. 04 2012 02:14 AM
Judy Jones from Missouri

Something to keep in mind-

Child predators are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into their victims and sometimes even their family members.

They also appear to do a lot of goods things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse

Sexual predators are often powerful and well-loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us ‘the willies’ or ‘the creeps.’ They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. At a party, the predator isn’t some oddball sitting alone in a corner because others feel uncomfortable with him. Most often, the predator is the guy throwing the party.

We must overcome the dangerous myth that because someone is successful or warm or caring, he or she “couldn’t have done that!
Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he’s automatically “safe.” It’s just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is “harmless” simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane. These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.

It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Hopefully if anyone has knowledge or may have been harmed within the Jewish community, will contact the police.

Also keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
snapjudy@gmail.com
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org).

Jun. 11 2012 12:28 PM

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