Mrs. Pearl Engleman responds to Ami Magazine's Train Wreck Journalism dealing with child abuse

By Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn (Daas Torah blog)
June 12, 2014

Ami Magazine (May 29, 2014) recently published an article "How to turn a Journalism Discussion into a train wreck" - dealing with a forum on child abuse at John Jay College. Its focus and theme was to show that journalists dealing with child abuse as well as child abuse activists - are more concerned with bashing the chareidi community than dealing with the reality of abuse. Ironically the reporter who was attacking alleged distortions of truth by journalists -  instead of acknowleding the true dynamics of abuse, suppression of reporting and dealing properly with the issue in our community - pointed out the abuse and coverups in the military and colleges. Furthermore he asserted that contrary to the views of the journalists and advocates - abuse coverups are often done by the families of the victim because of concern for shidduchim- rather than rabbis or community leaders. (A deceptive statement which ignores the primary role of rabbis and community leaders in this matter.) Instead of  acknowledging the postive changes that have occured only because of the actions of journalists and advocates, he attacked reporters for making false or ignorant statements about the chareidi community. In short this was another example of Ami Magazine's greater concern with damage control for the chareidi community - by trying to kill the messenger -  rather than providing constructive reporting about what is going on. [update; See previous article in Ami 2011 by Pinny Taub] Here are some excerpts from the article.

     I looked at the names of the panelists. More disturbing than Winston’s inclusion was the inclusion of Ben Hirsch of the group Survivors for Justice on the list of panelists. An advocate with an axe to grind against the community, Hirsch wouldn’t be an expert on the techniques of journalism or investigating; he’d be there to tell over the crimes and misdemeanors of the community. I checked my calendar. I had time for an outrage. p76

    In fact, reporting and congressional investigations that have gone on this year about abuse in the US military and on college campuses across the country, including at the most prestigious Ivy League colleges, has shown that horrific coverups of abuse go on in those institutions to a level no rational observer believes is happening in the Jewish community. p77  [DT - this is not child abuse]

     Yet the vilification of the community still continues, and the narrative that the chareidim are a sinister, “insular” group that as a whole evilly victimizes victims is still one that reporters have a  hard time letting go of. p77

     Mark Appel, the head of the group The Voice of Justice (a rival group to Hirsch’s Survivors for Justice), oozed into the seat behind me. p77

    The lineup of panel members had been changed a bit. Ben Hirsch wasn’t coming, but he’d sent another member of his organization, NYPD captain Daniel Sosnowik, a frum Jew. Then there was Hella Winston, as moderator; Julia Dahl, the author of the fiction book being promoted, who reports for CBSNews.com; Reuven Blau, a frum Jew and reporter for the Daily News; and Jennifer Molinari, a retired NYPD detective who specialized in abuse crimes. The discussion, supposedly about reporting and investigating, quickly turned into a recital of the community’s supposed crimes.  p77

    Two of the audience members subtly undermined the general tenor of the discussion. One young woman discussed her sister’s abuse by a neighbor; a young man discussed his own abuse. Both of them said that worries about shidduchim, either for their own family members or for the family members of the abuser, were why their parents didn’t go to the police. p78

    Those turned out to be bad decisions with tragic consequences, because they left the abusers free to prey on other children. But these stories had a different narrative from the one that the panel had been promoting. Instead of evil rabbis engaging in backroom machinations—the image that one would have gotten from much of the panel’s discussion—these speakers were pointing out, perhaps unintentionally, more subtle factors that exist in many cases. Yet in the context of the entire discussion, that point was probably lost on most listeners. p78

    As the panel discussion had made clear, the issue of abuse is one that can inspire a wholesale assault on the community, and it is fertile ground for manipulation by activists with an agenda to, in the eloquent words of Mark Appel, put the community in its “deathbed.” It’s entirely possible that some of the journalists, as Winston and Blau told me after the discussion, aren’t interested in sinking the community. They may simply be out to write a good story and find the community a good subject. But activists, who create a narrative of villainous rabbis and nefarious communal organizations, certainly use that to their own ends. And that is an outrage. [page 79]


The following is Mrs. Pearl Engleman's response to the article

    My purpose in writing the essay was twofold.  1) not letting Ami get away with denigrating victims and advocates - there's been way too much of that already and   2) challenging them to take the initiative in bringing about a healing process for the victims/survivors (and their families).
    In the 6 years I've been involved as an advocate for victims/survivors I myself can't believe the degree to which molestation has affected our children.

    In a group of 5 Yingeleit, 3 of them said they were molested.  Many, many young adults admit to being molested as young boys, but see it as a rite of passage r'l!  There are so many dysfunctional husbands and fathers - way out of proportion to normal standards.  It begs the question of why - what happened in their lives to turn them into ogres - frightening their wives and children?
    Truly it is a matter of great urgency to do something to rectify the situation.

    With appreciation,

    P Engelman

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“…….And That is an Outrage”
(Last sentence in Ami Magazine, article 5/28/14, in reference to activists against CSA using community bashing as a means to their own agenda!)

6/8/14
Really? What shall we call the following?

It is now exactly 6 years since our son Yoely courageously revealed to the world the story of his childhood molestation by his principal in his Talmud Torah when Yoely was 8 years old. Sharing with the world his account of anguish and suffering was actually not his original plan nor was it our plan. The original plan was to have his former principal, now rebbi (not to be confused with Rebbe) of the same age boys, remove himself from the classroom in an honorable way – not his honor so much as the honor of his large innocent family. To achieve this, my husband hand delivered a letter to him before Pesach ’08 asking him not to come back to teaching children after Yom Tov. In the letter we explained the terrible reasons for this request and also said if he would leave quietly, we too would keep quiet. (How naive we were!) Yoely’s and our main objective was to protect young boys from this pedophile; we also mentioned that if he would not comply we’d have no choice but to take this further – and he would risk great shame and agony for his family.

Within a day of delivering the letter, the entire apparatus of the Talmud Torah was harnessed to cover-up and protect the rebbi and deny all allegations. Of course it didn’t happen in one sentence. The massive, horrible betrayal of Yoely began at first with the Talmud Torah pretending to be sooo concerned, talking to Yoely, explaining their attitude of zero tolerance, going so far as to give the rebbi a lie detector test. When he failed the test they promised Yoely that the rebbi would have no more employment with them, neither in the Talmud Torah nor in their summer Bungalow Colony, where he’d been both principal and rebbi, and they did not allow the rebbi to return to the classroom after Pesach (April) ’08.

Two months later, on June 24th Yoely turned 23. This is the age where a victim can no longer legally pursue a molester. To our shock and horror, one week later, on July 1st , the Talmud Torah rehired the rebbi at their Bungalow Colony! Two months later, at the beginning of the school term in September ’08, he was reinstated as rebbi again for 8-9 year old boys.

The enormous, heartless betrayal of Yoely was the beginning of a huge tsunami of relentless negative media attention of our community’s handling of child molesters. Sadly, much of it well deserved. And even more sadly, much of it preventable.

When the rebbi was rehired and I saw the terrible pain and anguish and torment Yoely was going through I knew (because Yoely told me) what was coming. I, together with one other Askan desperately tried to head off the impending tsunami. I contacted Moshe Dovid Niederman of UJO, I contact Rabbonim in Boro Park, I contacted the 3 Dayanim in the Bungalow Colony – telling them the whole sad story and frantically trying to explain to them that a Chilul Hashem of the greatest magnitude was going to befall us and it was up to them to prevent it from happening. Nothing….. No reaction from anyone, only a deafening silence.

The Talmud Torah believed Yoely when he gave them the details of his molestation. How could they not, after the rebbi failed their polygraph? Additionally, they heard from other parents whose children were molested by the same rebbi. And in the summer of ’08, Assemblyman Dov Hikind publicly announced that a father of another child molested by the same rebbi came to talk to him about it. Where was their responsibility to the children? Didn’t they have a conscience……

Shockingly, one of the ‘advisors’ to the Talmud Torah I met in late August ’08 told me when I asked how they could re-hire this rebbi “Let me ask you Mrs Engelman, on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad was the molestation? There was no skin to skin contact, it was through clothing, it was maybe a 2 or a 3? Therefore it was decided to re-hire him!” Never mind that in New York State it is a felony crime to molest a child under 11 through clothing! Never mind that on a scale of 1 to 10 the aftereffects for Yoely were off the charts. Never mind that they rehired a molester by their own standards!

And you, dear writer at Ami Magazine dare to complain about the “vilification of the community”?

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Here’s another one:

In 2011 the Williamsburg Vaad Hatznius were well aware of an Avreich preying on young Bochurim (male teenagers) and they were closing in on him. In one memorable occasion, after finding him with a young bochur in his own apartment during the time his wife was recuperating at her mother’s home after giving birth to her baby, they gave him a good beating! Then, in a ludicrously misguided attempt at protecting Williamsburg children, the Vaad Hatzniyus printed a flyer for distribution to all Mikvas. The flyer advised all those in charge of Mikvas to be warned not to allow ‘so and so’ into the Mikvas and they included a photo of him!

Lest we get carried away with admiration for the Vaad Hatznius, please note: The Vaad Hatznius of Williamsburg consisted of responsible individuals, individuals who were perfectly aware of his criminality. They should have immediately turned him over to the proper authorities! THE LIVES OF CHILDREN WERE IN DEADLY DANGER FROM THIS PEDOPHILE. WHAT MEASURE DID THE VAAD USE TO WEIGH A PEDOPHILE’S WORTH AGAINST THE LIVES OF CHILDREN? Instead they took matters into their own hands and as a result ‘so and so’ was protected, covered-up for, and allowed to continue to strut the streets of Williamsburg, Boro Park, etc. free to go after more victims.

When the Avreich molested a young Bochur in a Beis Hamedrish in Williamsburg the week of March 26 - April 2, AND MADE HIM SIGN A CONSENT FORM - the Vaad Hatznius went ballistic! They put up a letter in (only) 2 Shuls (not mikvas this time) warning people about him! And they also pressured his family to send him to Israel for treatment! What treatment? When treatment? Some time later he was seen at different venues in Israel with young bochurim surrounding him and following him…..

And you, dear writer at Ami Magazine dare to complain about the “vilification of the community”?

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How about this one:

I get a call from a mother in Monsey whose 6 year old little boy is in one of the large Chassidish Moisdes in Monsey. The child’s rebbi put his hands down the little boy’s pants and fondled him. In a fury the mother runs to the Cheider and lets the principals have it – demanding they fire the rebbi! No! they tell her, they will not dismiss the rebbi and if she says one word to anyone, all of her other sons in different classes will be expelled and she will have to find new yeshivas for all of them…… For those of us who are Chassidish we know this is practically an impossibility – to which other Chassidus can she send her children? Who will accept them? Besides, she will be branded as a troublemaker and no one will touch her or her children with a ten foot pole. So the poor lady keeps quiet and surreptitiously calls people like me to vent her despair and helplessness and dare I say it – outrage…..

And you, dear writer at Ami Magazine dare to complain about the “vilification of the community”?
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To quote your article again “the issue of abuse is one that can inspire a wholesale assault on the community”. Is it any wonder? Why must we, with our inexcusable behavior supply them with material? And irony of ironies – do we really need the help of an agency such as OJPAC, with a mission statement of helping “enhance the standing of the Orthodox Jewish community in the media and in the eyes of the general public”?

Nothing is of greater benefit to “enhance our standing” than this: We need only to behave as the Torah teaches us: “Sur Mairuh, V’Asai Tov”. If we as a community have covered up for the pedophiles amongst us and in doing so have shunned, shamed, ostracized and excluded their victims, it is required of us to admit it! And to right the wrongs we have done to these precious Neshamos! With the exception of that one courageous Tzaddik in Passaic, Rabbi Yitzchok Eisenman, who gave survivors a life affirming boost by giving them a platform in his wonderful Kehilla, NOT ONE OTHER group of Yidden has followed suit and given survivors the time of day, let alone any show of support.

And almost nothing is of greater benefit to “enhance our standing” in the eyes of our mushrooming OTD population - who are so finely attuned to sniffing out hypocrisy - than in our being paragons of sincerity and Emes in these situations.

You, Ami Magazine, are in a unique position to change the situation. It behooves you to spearhead a movement to end the vilification of the Orthodox Jewish Community; to restore our luster and our light, and not by bashing activists, victims and survivors, but by showing the world that we Chareidim are honest enough to admit we were wrong, strong enough to institute changes, and humble enough to make amends with those we have sadly let down.

Pearl Engelman