Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
June 8, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 2     (2 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 2     (2 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
June 8, 2012

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 8, 2012 By JTA Staff NEW YORK (JTA)--Pres- sure is growing on the Brook- lyn district attorney and the country's major haredi Orthodox umbrella organiza- tion to change the ways they handle allegations of sexual abuse and molestation in the Orthodox community. A series of recent reports by The New York Jewish Week, the Forward and The New York Times have brought new scrutiny to the special program that Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes established in 2009 to handle sex abuse al- legations among haredi Jews in New York. Under the program, Kol Tzedek, perpetrators' names were kept confidential and Hynes apparently gave Agu- dath Israel of America, the Orthodox umbrella group, the impression that he sanc- tioned the practice of rabbis reviewing allegations before they were brought to police. A firestorm of controversy has surrounded the program in recentweeks, in part due to a pair of front-page stories in The New York Times detail- ing the communal pressure Hynes' shift on sex abuse cases puts him on collision course with Agudah D.A. Charles Hynes Official Website Brooklyn District At- torney Charles Hynes has warned Agudath Israel's leaders to advise haredi Or- thodox Jews to speak to police before speaking to rabbis in suspected child abuse cases. that alleged victims of sex crimes face in the haredi community. Hynes now appears to be taking a tougher and more explicit position against the practice of rabbis screening sex abuse allegations. The longtime D.A. told reporters that he will push for New York State to enact a law making it mandatory for rabbis to report sex abuse allegations, and The Jewish Week reported that Hynes will create a new intra-agency task force to deal with haredi sex abuse allegations. The shift comes as David Zwiebel, Agudah's executive vice president, reiterated his organization's position that sex abuse cases should be reviewed by rabbis within the community before they are passed on to the police. It is not unusual in haredi communities for members first tc consult rabbis on matter,, that could involve non-Je,ish authorities or have legal implications. In an interview with the Forward, Hynes reportedly said that he was in "sharp disagreement" with the Agudah's position, arguing that the rabbis "have no experience or expertise in sex abuse." The Forward quoted Hynes as saying that he stressed his opposition in a telephone call with Zwiebel two weeks ago. Zwieel "still thinks they have  responsibility to screen,' Hynes said. "I dis- agree." Meanwhile, Hynes spokes- man Jerry Schmetterer told The Jewish Week that Zwiebel "risks having the rabbi pros- ecuted for obstructing a law enforcement investigation." The shift puts Hynes' of- rice at odds with the haredi Orthodox community--a problem the Kol Tzedek pro- gram was supposed to solve. Cases against haredi sex abusers face a host of unique hurdles. Reporting a sus- pected sexual predator in the community to the police is seen by many haredim as a hostile act that threatens the community, and as a sin--"mesirah," turning a fellow Jew over to the secular authorities. Agudah officials reportedly have said that someone who has personally experienced or witnessed abuse could go directly to the authorities, but other allegations should be evaluated by a rabbi before being passed along to the police. In some cases, alleged perpetrators have enjoyed broad communal support, including community fund- raising for their defense, The New York Times reports made clear. For their part, haredi victims of sex abuse face communal pressure to stay silent. Even if they succeed in putting a perpetrator behind bars, victims may be ostracized or stigmatized, viewed by their community as tainted. They and their children may be shunned as unworthy partners for marriage. Hynes' Kol Tzedek pro- gram, by working with com- munity rabbis and granting special anonymity to both victims and perpetrators, was meant to circumvent these problems. In a recent interview with the New York Post, Hynes cited the insularity of Brook- lyn's haredi community and the need to protect sex-abuse victims from intimidation as the reason for not releas- ing the names of about 100 accused molesters from the community. "Within days, people with- in this relentless community would identify the victims," he told the Post. "Then the intimidation would start." Hynes' office has boasted that the Kol Tzedek program has helped result in convic- tions in the haredi com- munity while other district attorneys have failed to bring convictions. But an investi- gation by The Jewish Week showed that many of the 99 prosecutions claimed by Hynes' office in fact predated the Kol Tzedek program. Three weeks ago, Hynes said he would chair a new intra- agency task force on haredi sex abuse consisting of his office's chief investigator and the heads of his Sex Crimes and Rackets divisions, The Jewish Week reported. The task force could involve the New York Police Department and members of the anti-abuse advocacy community, Hynes' spokesman told the newspaper. After Zweibel said his group would resist increased public pressure to lift its requirement that parents obtain rabbinic permission before going to the police, Hynes and the haredim appear to be on a collision course. "We're not going to com- promise our essence and our integrity because we are nervous about a relationship that may be damaged with a government leader," Zweibel told the Forward. Jewish, Navaj ) spiritual leaders speak of sacred lands Edmon J. Rodman Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld (1) and Navajo medicine man Johnson Dennison exchange spiritual and emotional views on their people's homelands. By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--A Reform rabbi, a Navajo medi- cine man and a professor walk into a museum. It sounds like the opening of a joke, but on a recent May Shabbat at Window Rock, Ariz., capital of the Navajo Nation, it's the beginning of a cross-cultural discussion that pondered the question "What makes land sacred?" The dialogue featuring the spiritual leaders of two tribes, Navajo medicine man Johnson Dennison and Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of the Reform Congregation Albert in Albu- querque, N.M., was held at the Navajo Nation Museum. Anthropologist Gordon Bronitsky moderated the event with an audience of more than 40 Jews and Na- vajos. It was the second in a series of Navajo-Jewish exchanges. The first program was held in November at Congregation Albert, where the duo wrestled with how each group managed living in "Two Worlds"--one of tradition, the other of con- temporary life. Bronitsky, the program organizer and a longtime resident of the Southwest, took a Navajo language course in college and knew some Hebrew. The former univer- sity professor suspected that when it came to land and sacredness, the two unlikely desert neighbors had some views to share. Before the second event, Bronitsky observed that the Navajo have a phrase, "dineh bikeyah" (the people's land), that expresses a feeling of rightful ownership. It is similar, he said, to when Jews say"Artzeinu" (our land)--as in the "Hatikvah" verse, "Lihyot 'am chofshi be'artzeinu," "To be a free people in our land." Opening the discussion with "Shabbat shalom," the kippah-wearing, white-beard- ed Rosenfeld explained that the Hebrew word for "holy" was "kadosh," and that the word for profane, "chol," was the same as the word for "sand"--something, an audi- ence member later pointed out, that both groups had seen much of. "The biblical land of Israel is sacred land for the Jews," Rosenfeld said, sidestepping the charged issue of bound- aries. "It is sacred because God promised it," added the rabbi, who in his previous pulpit in Anchorage, Alaska, had worked with native peoples. Dennison, wearing a tur- quoise necklace typical of the Navajo, greeted the audience in both English and his na- tive language. "You are all welcome to the Navajo land, it is a sacred place," he said. For Dennison, a medicine man with a master's degree in educational administra- tion, Navajo land is both a homeland where he found "harmony and beauty" as well a place where, he related later, his family could raise a flock of sheep and a herd of goats. "There is a spiritual and emotional connection to the land," he said. Dennison defined Navajo land as lying between "four Edmon J. Rodman Window Rock in Arizona, where the spiritual leaders of two tribes met at the Navajo Nation Museum to talk about sacred lands. sacred peaks" that "were es- tablished by the holy people as the cornerstones of Navajo country": Blanca Peak to the east, Mount Taylor to the south, San Francisco Peak to the west and Mount Hesperus to the north. The Window Rock for which the area is named--a wind- swept, red rock opening that stands about a half-mile from the museum--illustrated the connection. Taken at its physical geo- graphic description, Window Rock is simply a 200-foot-high natural arch of Middle Juras- sic Bluff Sandstone. But as a sacred place, according to, "portal to the Navajo Internet," "It was one of the four placeswhere Navaj o medicine men go with their woven water bottles to get water for the ceremony that is held for abundant rain." Adding emotional attach- ment to Window Rock is the Navajo Code Talkers Memorial at the base of the arch. The Code Talkers, made famous in the film "Windtalkers," were a group of Navajo-speaking U.S. Marines who during World War II devised a Navajo-based code that the Japanese were unable to break. As for the Jews' attachment to their holy land, Rosenfeld pointed out that "you don't have to live on it." At the same time, he stressed--quoting Psalm 137, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither"-- Jews are not allowed to forget their attachment. Both speakers saw rays of sacredness emanating from the east. Dennison remarked that the traditional Navajo home, the hogan, was to this day oriented with its entrance to the east. "The tip of light of where the rising sun first strikes is considered sacred," he said. "First light enters our whole being." Rosenfeld saw "spirituality coming from the east," east being the symbol of Jerusa- lem. "Jews face east when they pray," he said. Several audience members, speaking in Navajo or in English with a bit of Hebrew, also spotted similarities in experience and ritual. Navajo Lydell James saw a connection between his tribe's Long Walk and the Holo- caust. The Long Walk, known as "Bosque Redondo," was an 1864-66 forced relocation of the Navajo from their historic tribal lands to an area around Fort Sumner, N.M. "The hurt doesn't end," he said. Laura Jijon, who is Jewish and works with the Navajo as an adult education adminis- trator at the University of New Mexico Extension in nearby Gallup, N.M., citedasimilarity to the spiritual significance that Dennison placed on the four directions and the six directions that Jews wave the lulav on Sukkot. She also pointed out that "the hogan and the sukkah are both sacred dwellings." As to the generational challenges facing each group, the rabbi and medicine man acknowledged that their re- Sacred on page 19A