September 20, 2019

SAR: Safe Haven For Sexual Abusers, Not For Kids


SAR ACADEMY: SAFE HAVEN FOR SEXUAL ABUSERS

SAR has had at least 5 alleged and/or convicted sexual abusers on their rolls or associated with them that we know about:

1. Stanley Rosenfeld (1970s-1980s)
2. Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz (1970s-2018)
3. Jane Doe, female staff member in High School (-2012)
4. Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick (2018-2019)
5. Plus the "Sauna Rabbi" from the Riverdale Jewish Center (~1986-2016)

In my opinion, SAR has become a safe haven for child sexual abusers as they have kept hiring the perverts. SAR is what they call an open school, and in their attempt to literally tear down the physical walls inside the school, they very likely have opened up the school to the child sexual abusers who use their openness physically, socially, and technically to enable and facilitate sexual abuse. Perhaps after all this, word is out on the street that SAR is the place for sexual abusers who go for easy access to students in an open school system with a history of lax enforcement. SAR has got to do a better job in its vetting process and in ongoing monitoring for inappropriate contact. 


SAR'S NARCISSISTIC "RESPONSE" HANDLING AND AVOIDANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY

SAR's reaction has been heavily focused on the public relations to buttress themselves and in essence their very strategic messaging has been over and over that "they've done everything right," including from a Rabbi working for them for ~20-years that said self-servingly just that the other day for the newspaper. However, from my perspective, the truth of the matter is that they have done virtually everything wrong.

From what I've seen and read, it's more like 90% of SAR's response has been about their "response." rather than on expressing any contrition or regret for what has happened under their watch, rather than on introspection for where they keep going wrong, rather than on working to fundamentally understand how they keep on hiring pervs and getting fooled for so long, and rather than genuinely strategizing on what they can do better to protect the children before it happens again. Is their policy and training working if the latest Skolnick incident happened just a few years after the prior incident in the high school and while they were still investigating the Rosenfeld/Schwartz one in the middle school? SAR's response that they have done everything right in responding and of course, patting themselves on the back is like a mortician praising themselves for a great job cleaning up the dead bodies that they themselves facilitated.

Further, why is everyone talking about SAR's response rather than prevention? And why is no one talking about the victims? For example, why is no one talking about the poor 14-old boy from SAR that was allegedly exploited by Skolnick or the other 20-25 victims? SAR is conveniently bringing in their own self-serving investigators and "experts" (at least one of which is alleged to have asked for leniency for the child abuser in a prior child sexual abuse case). It certainly seems like they are doing everything but holding themselves accountable for their mistakes of judgement and process.  Further, 1) why are they not cleaning house of any additional abusers that are still hiding in their ranks, and 2) starting with their leadership holding Rabbi Krauss accountable for the errors that were made with Skolnick's hiring. 

Moreover, rather than SAR taking responsibility, I've heard plenty of blaming the child victims from gaslighting pundits who in my opinion should absolutely have their licenses revoked. These reprehensible, morally vacant "child victim advocates" aren't holding the abusers accountable, but rather blaming the child victims with insane causative conclusions that it is because the children weren't empowered, assertiveness or strong enough that's why they were sexually abused. Truly, this is the age-old fraud of telling the rape victim that it's her felt that she was brutally gang raped because she didn't yell loud enough or fight back. Make no mistake, a little child is not ever going to be assertiveness or strong enough to fight off a perverted grown adult who has been patiently planning and grooming their victims. In fact, that's why they call them children! It's highly unfortunate that these people don't see what it's like until perhaps G-d forbid they are the victims themselves. I hope G-d open's people eyes so that positive change can finally be made and children don't have to suffer anymore from this.


WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD

From their response, it is clear to many that for SAR this is about their image and reputation and not truly about Jewish education and a safe learning environment. Unfortunately, as long as SAR is more focused on protecting the institution of SAR and their jobs, rather than on protecting the kids in creating a safe learning and true Torah environment then nothing will really change for the better or safety of these children. 


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September 19, 2019

Prepare to Survive!

Picture from active shooter training today. 

Saw a great (and scary) video on RUN, HIDE, FIGHT (from http://www.readyhoustontx.gov) -- link to video is here.

Other take-a-ways:
  • Always have a plan A, B, and C. 
  • If you can't run or hide, fight with everything at your disposal--engage and neutralize the shooter!
  • Survive, you're not done until your done!

Please G-d, we should never have to deal with the horror of this, but it's good to learn to be always ready. ;-)

(Credit Photo: U.S. Marshal Service)
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September 18, 2019

Aging Gracefully

So as we age, we've got to cope with a different reality.

Our bodies and minds may start to deteriorate. 

We can't do all the same things we used to do (even as we can maybe do others). 

There can be a deep sense of loss as abilities, things, places, and people that were critical to us for many, many years may no longer be present with us. 

When I used to speak with my aging father about he and my mom getting older, he would joke and say:
Yes, we're getting older--what's the alternative?

Then the other day, I ran into a nurse from the Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA). 

We chatted briefly about the good work they do in helping so many elderly and handicapped people.

And then she says to me about how she herself is starting to feel what it's like to get older, and that she often tells her mom that everything hurts to which her mother responds:
You're not supposed to leave this world alive!

Putting these together: 

I suppose we all need to do the best we can to age graciously ourselves as well as help others in the process--because there is no alternative to aging and no one leaves this world alive. ;-)
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September 17, 2019

SAR -- A THIRD Round of Child Sexual Abuse Scandals

What a NON-surprise from SAR in Riverdale.

The Judaic Studies principal (grades 6-8), Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick has been arrested for "production of child pornography."

This after numerous child sexual abuse scandals in the Jewish community in Riverdale, and at SAR in particular!
  • Now for a third time in 2019, SAR's 2018-2019 newly appointed Middle School Principal of Judaic Studies is arrested for production of child pornography and SAR's principal is stunned at how this could be happening: "It is shocking to know that someone who we have trusted with our children has been accused of harming them. Despite the practices in place to protect our children, we are not immune to breaches such as the one that seems to have taken place at SAR."

Clearly there is a PATTERN OF BAD BEHAVIOR AND NEGLIGENCE here (i.e. like a repeat offender) and at a certain point, the patience and excuses completely runs out!

This latest sexual abuse debacle with Rabbi Skolnick (where was the vetting process on hiring him?) occurring AT THE VERY SAME TIME that SAR was conducting and publishing the results of it's earlier sex scandal with convicted sexual offender Stanley Rosenfeld and SAR's statement in their October 5, 2018 message releasing their report that:

Continuing our conversations with our students and faculty on preventing and addressing sexual abuse. In 2014, SAR implemented an Anti-Harassment Policy:www.saracademy.org/antiharassmentpolicy. Training is done annually for all staff as well as appropriate training for high school and middle school students as part of their advisory program. Emphasis of the training is on awareness and reporting of any potential abuse as well as setting appropriate parameters for student-staff interactions. We are fully committed to the safety of our students and to continuing to implement best practices in these areas.  

As anyone can see that the words by SAR are nothing but cheap and empty as demonstrated by the facts of their now THREE TIMES REPEATED sexual scandals as reported!

How SAR could be "shocked" after three times the same types of sexual abuse occurring under their watch should be a complete mystery to any reasonable, thinking human being with a soul.  

Where is the outrage by the Riverdale community and by the current board of directors of SAR?  And where is the REAL action by them to correct their now half century HISTORY of abuse against the children in their completely negligent care?

Of course, let us also not forget the other sexual scandal allegations in the same community at the Riverdale Jewish Center and the chorus of denials and lack of accountability that went on with their prior "Sauna Rabbi" of thirty years who finally stepped down in 2016. 

Would the Riverdale community and SAR in particular like to offer up any new denials today and provide any more cheap words about their Anti-Harassment policy and phony "commitment to the safety of our students"? 

Less than two-weeks before the Jewish New Year 5780, will SAR finally take RESPONSIBILITY for the abuse to their past students and REALLY do what it takes to protect its current and future children.
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September 16, 2019

Sometimes You Just Want To Say...

It funny, sometimes you just want to say...

Exactly what this ladies shirt says. 

My father used to say when certain people were nasty to him, he would just be nice to them.

And when they would still be really nasty to him then imperceptibly, quietly under his breath, he would say "F*** You."

Ah, maybe not always so imperceptibly. LOL

Sure, we can't always just come out and say it like this lady does boldly on her shirt.

Maybe it doesn't help to use expletives, but sometimes some people can be such jerks that just saying it quietly is cathartic and truth-telling. 

Perhaps more important, saying it let's you know that you still have  a moral compass and personal integrity, even if others around you have seriously compromised on theirs. :-)

(Credit Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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September 15, 2019

Ghosting - How Rude!

So when I listen to the Kane Show in the morning on 99.5 FM, they frequently do this thing where they call someone to find out why they've ghosted their lover or friend. 

Invariably, it often turns out that there is someone else in that person's life. 

The person is usually either too scared to confront the other person or is just a cheater and doesn't want to tell the other person, instead wanting to "have their Kate and Edith too."  LOL

So "ghosting" is where the person just disappears, cuts off contact, or goes incommunicado. 

It's sort of an avoidance strategy. 

This leaves the other person not knowing what happened or why. 

It's like the line just goes dead between the two people.  

Sometimes, one person is clingy or forces themselves on another in which case, the other person may feel smothered, and therefore repels or wants to run in the other direction. 

Other times, how do you tell someone that you just don't like them anymore? 

Worse is if the person is cheating behind the other person's back, hiding it, and denying it--that's unforgivable!

When a person ghosts another, it's sort of like at work when someone get's marginalized. 

No one wants to give honest feedback to the other person, so instead for some people it's just easier to avoid them and the topic  altogether. 

I think the point is not to hurt other people. 

The question is how do you cut the strings with someone you don't like without getting into a huge, ugly confrontation?

Honesty is the best policy, and treating people the way you would want to be treated. 

But for some people who don't take no for an answer, it's understandable that you may just want to have the phone on busy signal or you attempt to break contact.

Relationships are tough, and when they go bad, ghosting without at least trying to end it nicely can not only be rude, but also it's chicken to break it off as a ghost, and not a person. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 14, 2019

Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah."
In a sense, we all live at least two lives–represented by the two faces we wear: The first is the happy face, where we portray ourselves as if everything is going so well, almost near-perfect in our lives (our vacations, accomplishments, celebrations, and so on), and this is the face that we routinely show to the world. Then, there is the second face, which is essentially where everything is not (always) quite so rosy, where life’s challenges, troubles, and hardships take their tangible toll, and this is the face that we learn to keep private and regularly hide from the world. Usually, it comes down to a rationale that goes something like this: just imagine what would people think of us if they really knew us for who we are and what we were actually going through? Yet the funny thing is that everyone is going through something–that’s life!
In a couple of weeks, when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, we come knowing that there is no mask to be worn in front of our Maker, and truly, we are naked before Him in all our thoughts and deeds. We can’t pretend anymore that our lives or ourselves are perfect, but rather this is the time for true and earnest reflection, repentance, as well as judgment for the New Year based on what each of us is really all about. May each of us have the courage and conviction to face our real selves, to learn, grow, improve, and ultimately to self-actualize, and may we receive G-d’s mercy and blessings for a happy and healthy New Year!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 12, 2019

What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "What's Your Fantasy Synagogue."
We all go to synagogues that we like in some ways and don’t like in others, but have you ever thought about what your fantasy synagogue would be like if you could make one?Last Shabbat, we were invited for lunch by some wonderful friends who had been sports writers, and the topic of fantasy football came up, where people compete for coming up with the best team by picking their own players and forming their ideal team. I said, half jokingly, wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing with synagogues and pick the best aspects of each and make an ideal house of worship for ourselves where we could pray, learn, grow, and experience holiness and community. 
In the article, I detail "the best of the best" when it comes to synagogues and the ultimate ideal synagogue is of course, in the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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September 11, 2019

Family and Friends

So I heard this interesting saying yesterday, which goes like this:
Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far off.

I looked it up and saw that it is actually from Proverbs 27:10.

Thinking about it a little, I understand that obviously people that are close by can more easily be there and help one another than someone else who is far away. 

At the same time, I always learned growing up that:
Blood is thicker than water.
Family is family, and friends are friends.  Family is forever, but friends can come and go. 

Yet you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. 

There are some friends that go back decades to childhood and they are almost like family. 

Also, there are sometimes family that are disassociated or even "black sheep" of the family. 

I guess in the end what's most important is how we feel about each other, treat each other, and are there for each other.  

Whatever the designation--family or friends--we need each other.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 10, 2019

Cash Is King

This was a funny shirt this lady was wearing on the Metro. 

It mimics the Sweet 'N Low artificial sweetener logo and says:
Fund R' Low
Need a Sugar Daddy

This was one of those shirts that gets your attention. 

It's different.  It plays off a familiar brand.  It bright pink, red, and blue and stands out.  And it could certainly have a sexual connotation.  

Anyway, this was a pretty bold shirt to wear into conservative Washington, D.C. 

But I guess wherever you go, fashion, sexuality, and cash is king. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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September 9, 2019

Pastrami Sandwich @Char Bar

Yesterday, at the museum (The Phillips Collection), we went to Char Bar Kosher Restaurant in downtown DC. 

I ordered the 5th Avenue Sandwich:

Pastrami with mushrooms and onions and deli mustard on a french roll. 

Comes with the salty fries and ketchup. 

Pretty good.  

I would grill the pastrami and caramelize the mushrooms and onions to improve on it. 

Also add a little mayo. 

But overall, it was a nice experience there.  

Wait time on Sunday was really nothing...in fact, I couldn't believe how quick the food was o the table. 

Wouldn't mind, at all, if they opened one of these in our neighborhood.  

I think I'd be a frequent customer there at the right sandwich price. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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September 8, 2019

@The Phillips Collections














(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 6, 2019

What If Israel Lost?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "What If Israel Lost?"
What if, G-d forbid, Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbors and lost? It’s an almost unthinkable thought, yet it is actually a complete miracle that Israel, surrounded and vastly outnumbered by its enemies, actually wins and survives in a very tough neighborhood.

Despite these miracles that we have been blessed to witness, we can’t let down our guard militarily or spiritually. We must do good deeds, act with kindness and charity to our fellow man, and worship Hashem to continue to merit the success over our enemies and our settlement of the land of Israel.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 5, 2019

Favorite Chocolate Pastries

So these are my favorite chocolate pastries. 

They are liked over-sized or really supersized Rugelach. 

When these come out of the oven, the soft, hot pastry dough interspersed with overflowing, dripping layers of chocolate are unbelievable!

This mound of chocolate pastries is from Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. 

OMG, I can't wait to visit again and have one (or more) of these--totally lose all self control! LOL  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 4, 2019

G-d Is Good


What a cool barber shop in downtown Miami called, The Spot Barbershop.

When you are lying back in the chair, look what you see on the ceiling:
G-d Is Good.

The other day we went out to eat with some folks. 

And the question came up whether you think most people are good or bad. 

Interestingly, most of the people at the table thought either they are predominantly good or at least that they have the potential for good. 

Really, it is G-d that is the ultimate good. 

And to the extent that we are created in His image and have the opportunity to choose good from evil, then we too can be good. 

G-d is inherently good, but man is a toss up based on which direction he goes. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 3, 2019

Cheesecake Heaven

So I never met a piece of cheesecake that I didn't like. 

This was an awesome display of the varieties of it at the Cheesecake Factory.

I remember my mom used to make a pretty darn great cheesecake (and a lot of other good food)!

I still can see the graham cracker crust with the sweet hot creamy cheese filling coming out of the oven. 

Unfortunately one of the conundrum of life is that all the good tasting things are so darn fattening and bad for us. 

I think though if they can make fake burgers like Beyond that taste like the real thing, then surely at some point they will figure out how to make a skinny cheesecake that tastes good. 

There are still some mysteries left in this universe for us to unravel. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 2, 2019

@Renaissance Festival 2019












(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 1, 2019

Is That An Olive Branch Or A Gun

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Is That An Olive Branch Or A Gun."
Our adversaries have become adept at terrorizing with one hand and painting themselves as victims with the other....The subterfuge of calling for peace, but seeking to murder has been going on for decades. The PLO charter that calls for the “liberation of Palestine” and the destruction of Israel was supposedly changed in the Oslo Accords, but it was never ratified. And the terrorist tactic of gaining ground (Gaza, West Bank, etc.) to further their strategic aim to attack and destroy Israel is well understood. Arafat became a master of this chicanery already decades ago when he came to the United Nations in 1974 with a “freedom fighters gun” on his hip and an “olive branch” in his offering. Today, the run of the mill terrorist continues this duplicity having become proficient at holding human shields (women and children) in one hand, and a gun or bomb to attack in the other. Similarly, organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have cunningly split their missions of terrorism and murder of Israelis on one hand with social welfare and political cause for Palestinians on the other. They raise sympathy and seek to gain immunity at the same time as they continue to delegitimize Israel and conduct economic warfare and rampaging killing sprees.

In this regard, I wanted to share two sayings about not letting down our guard when it comes to the safety and security of Israel and our people. One, from the Romans, “If you wish for peace, prepare for war” also known as “peace through strength.” The second saying from former President Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify” also know as “respect them but suspect them.”


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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