By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
January 25, 2014
The Jewish news website, Vos Iz Neias (VIN) just posted the headline “DA Thompson Names Sender To Manage Jewish Affairs.” They go on to report:
[Wolf Sender will] oversee Jewish affairs in Kings County……
“I will be working with the Jewish community for the District Attorney’s office,” Sender told VIN News. “I am here for whatever the DA needs. I hope to accomplish whatever I can for our Kehilla…..”
It is unknown at this time if Sender will take over the duties of Henna White who served as a liaison to the Jewish community under District Attorney Charles Hynes.
The critical question is whether Mr. Sender will serve the interests of select Jewish “leaders” at the expense of justice. Henna White, purportedly using her wisdom about what was practical and doable, became a lobbyist for leniency toward Jewish pedophiles. Supposedly she represented the community. In fact, she betrayed the children of the community by denying them the full protection of the law. The trouble with the idea of a liaison is that they turn into shtadlanim (interceders) on behalf of the leadership of the community, not of the rank and file, and certainly not of the tormented and the abused. Sadly, the ultra-orthodox leadership, like the Roman Catholic hierarchy, cares more about its reputation than the plight of its abuse victims. The difference is that the RCC only extends itself to protects its employees. In contrast, the Jewish leadership goes all out to protect every last one of its members. Most of the leadership believes no Jew should be in jail, no matter what. The mission of the DA is to prosecute criminals. There is no way to reconcile those two goals.
It is true that the ultra orthodox Jewish community can be strange and mysterious to those not used to it. I can see the appeal of a point person to illuminate its culture and politics when that becomes pertinent to dealing with cases. Unfortunately, the history of liaisons in NYC government is overwhelmingly a history of special pleading. That is what the community expects and wants of someone like Mr. Sender. He lives in and is part of that community, and is obviously susceptible to its influence.
It is possible that Henna White started out thinking she could both serve Mr. Hynes and the community. It only became possible to harmonize those goals under Hynes because he sold the soul of justice to political expedience. DA Thompson promised to protect Jewish children as well as other children are protected. Does Mr. Sender have it in him to push back at the community; to tell them, any attempt to secure special treatment will put you in my doghouse? I doubt it. Will Mr. Sender be able to say, “Steer clear of all the known hucksters in the community, whatever their stature, even if they are part of the political alliances to which I was party in the past?” I doubt it. Will Mr. Sender be able to say, steer clear of publicists like Yossi Gestetner? I doubt it.
I do know what sort of Jewish resources the office of the DA should draw on if it wants to succeed in fighting child abuse. For starters, there are dozens of orthodox, and some ultra-orthodox, Jews who work for the District Attorney, many as ADAs. They should be the first-line source for cultural information. Then there are there are the anti-abuse activists who are not part of the ultra-orthodox leadership. None of the true activists can be part of the ultra-orthodox leadership because the leadership continues to oppose consistent criminal prosecution of abusers. At best they are willing to do it in some cases but not others. I can name a half a dozen anti-abuse activists who know the issue well, know where the bodies are buried, can illuminate the organizational and personal politics of the community, and most important, will never be swayed from supporting a victim and supporting prosecution. Some of their names are known and others work behind the scenes. Will Mr. Sender make it his business to be in contact with those individuals and support them in working collaboratively with the DA’s office? I doubt it.
I am eager to be proven wrong. Time will tell.
In the coming weeks I will be monitoring the evolving role of Mr. Sender who starts work on February 3. Stay tuned.
Update 1/25/14: According to the New York Jewish Week, Part of Wolf Sender’s baggage includes participating in a seemingly illegal scheme to confer tax deductions for non-tax-deductible political advertising expenses. This was done on behalf of Dov Hikind, his patron, and an important backer of Ken Thompson in the Primary, who defended Thompson from David Greenfield’s scurrilous antisemitism charges. The vehicle for this ruse was a charity operated by convicted fraudster, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum.
Update 1/26/14: See Rudi Stettner: “An Open Letter To Kenneth Thompson About the Office of “Jewish Liaison”“ His arguments include:
The idea that a “Jewish liaison” is automatically my advocate or that of any Jew who walks into the office of the Brooklyn DA is profoundly disturbing. There are Jews who run the spectrum of Jewish observance, from anti-religious to chassidic. There are Jews who speak Yiddish, as well as Jews who speak Hebrew or Arabic. Many Jews speak only English Even within chassidic groups are groups that fight fiercely with each other.
What worries me most about a “Jewish liaison’” is the fact that there are class divisions within the Jewish community. Will the “Jewish liaison” who works in your office truly represent every Jew who walks through the door? Or will they represent only the powerful and the politically connected? Because receiving a visit from a “Jewish liaison” can be like being mugged a second time. One crime victim I know who received a visit from the “Jewish liaison” for Charles Hynes told me “Whenever she walked in the room, you knew that the fix was in. She was going to try to strong-arm you into dropping charges, or watering them down. If she walks in the room, tell her to leave…”
The dispensing of justice is not a political favour, but the most basic and elementary function of government. Under Charles Hynes, we were presented the misguided and malignant notion that it was a favour from the powerful. Hopefully, under your direction, this trend will change.