Jewish Week to Ohel: Where's The Beef?

Gary Rosenblatt (The Jewish Week)
March 2, 2011

The Jewish Week finds itself, unfortunately, in a war of words with Ohel Children's Home and Family Services.

To be clear: we have no animus toward the Brooklyn-based social service agency or any other Jewish organization; our mission and goal is to report the truth and inform and strengthen the Jewish community. Sometimes that makes for hard feelings.

Over the years we have reported allegations that Ohel's policies in dealing with sex abuse has put the community's children at risk. As a result, the agency appears to have concluded that we are biased against them, and worse.

A few days ago the CEO of Ohel, David Mandel, sent out a staff directive to staff saying that the agency would be "launching an editorial and informational campaign in print, online and through the various social media, rebutting" a Feb. 25 Jewish Week investigative report, "Abuse Case Tests Ohel's Adherence To Reporting Laws."

The memo went on to assert that the article "once again demonstrates a complete disregard for fact driven by a very misguided agenda," and that "The Jewish Week's accusations are an affront to every Ohel employee, every Ohel client and the community at large."

Most of the charges against The Jewish Week contained in a full-page ad Ohel placed in this week's paper are addressed and refuted in a news story we published this week ("Ohel Says Jewish Week Accusations 'Unfounded'").

But I want to point out something that may be lost in the blizzard of verbiage in the Ohel ad, which is entitled "The Jewish Week Has It Wrong, Again."

Nowhere in it does Ohel deny the salient facts of our report, which described several controversial cases dealing with the agency's actions.

The central point was that the staff of Ohel, on the advice of its attorney and quality control officer, did not report to the city's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) a suspected case of child abuse by an Ohel client who disclosed that she thought she "may be" sexually abusing her five-year-old son. In subsequent sessions with those treating her, she disclosed that she was abusing her son.

New York State law says that people designated as mandated reporters – such as social workers, psychologists and mental health professionals, like those at Ohel who dealt with the woman – are required to make a report when there is "reasonable cause" to suspect a child is being abused.

Ohel did not.

We stand by our story.