Showing posts with label Riverdale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Riverdale. Show all posts

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 Jewish Link NJ. 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" (supposedly one of these 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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October 5, 2018

Part 5 - Riverdale Sex Abuse

Please click the photo to enlarge or you can go straight to the link at the SAR website.

The summary findings from the investigation on the child sex abuse at SAR Academy found the following regarding Stanley Rosenfeld and "Rabbi" Sheldon Schwartz:

T&M uncovered the following regarding Rosenfeld's tenure and behavior while at SAR:
  • Rosenfeld was an administrator at SAR from 1974 to 1977 and he was also employed as a teacher by the school during the 1986-87 school year. The precise circumstances of his departure and rehire remain unknown.
  • Twelve former SAR students and one non-SAR student reported that Rosenfeld sexually abused them during his time as an SAR Academy faculty member.  
  • According to two victims, Rosenfeld's misconduct was reported to at least one member of SAR's administration at the time of these abuses.  
  • The investigation could not conclusively determine whether the administrators involved in the rehiring of Rosenfeld were aware of the nature of the allegations at the time of his rehire.  

T&M uncovered the following regarding Rabbi Schwartz's behavior while at SAR:
  • According to multiple victims, details of Rosenfeld's behavior were, at the time, raised directly to Rabbi Schwartz, who not only failed to act on the information appropriately, but was also alleged to have been present at and/or to have brought students to Rosenfeld's home for Shabbat visits during which abuse took place.
  • Separately, through the course of this investigative effort, several students came forward alleging Rabbi Schwartz had acted inappropriately with them.  

Rabbi Schwartz served as a Judaic studies teacher until he was suspended in January 2018, once allegations concerning his knowledge of Rosenfeld's behavior were brought to the attention of SAR. His employment has since been terminated.  Current members of the SAR administration were not aware of the allegations regarding Rabbi Schwartz until the commencement of the investigation.

T&M's findings and the fact that Rosenfeld appears to have worked at and abused children at multiple schools and camps in the New York area gives all of us reason to pause and consider whether we are truly doing enough to protect our children. 

For those of you who sincerely listened and believed the cries of the many victims, thank you.

For those of you who were complicit and even continued in the denials, I will just say to you that G-d sees all!
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April 28, 2018

Part 4 - Riverdale Sexual Abuse

So this part 4 of my posts about the sexual misconduct inflicted on the children in Riverdale. 

This is a follow-on to my post of January 10 regarding a message from Salanter Akiba of Riverdale (SAR) Academy about the exploits of one of its former teachers and administrators who "pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree child molestation."

I agreed to be interviewed by the SAR investigator about my experience as a 7th-grade child who had been lured for a Shabbat to this monsters home. 

Rabbi Rosenfeld was never my teacher, and I would have never ended up at his home for Shabbat if not for this person, who invited me there, drove me there, and listened to my cries in the next room. 

It was extremely painful to recount in detail the childhood memories of sexual assault as she asked me question after question about every detail, and without malice, but basically forced me to relive the events of so long ago.

What is incredible to me is that the enabler/facilitator of that Shabbat invitation and course of events, I have come to understand, MAY STILL WORK IN THAT SCHOOL!

How many other children were lured to Rabbi Rosenfeld's home by this person--who was being paid and given benefits, as well as provided harbor and shelter, by this school (perhaps unknowingly) for decades and decades. 

But now if it is true, that this person is still there, the school has an ethical and I am certain, legal duty to protect the children that go there. 

No child should be abused sexually or otherwise or be part of such atrocities by former or current staff. 

I was one of the children who suffered in silence for too long. 

But now I understand that one of my purposes in this world is to help make things right. 

To the Riverdale community, to the board and leadership of SAR, I ask you, what is your role and responsibility?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 10, 2018

Part 3 - One More Of The Abusers Caught

Above is excerpt from email (forwarded to me) sent out by SAR Academy (now with high school, but previously elementary and middle school only when I was growing up). 

It is incredibly horrible what this pedophile Rosenfeld did to the innocent children there and elsewhere. 

Now one more of the abusers has been caught and the truth has come out--even if after almost 40 years!

Here is a quote from blog of Luke Ford (2009) that sheds light on this evil creep:
"Stanely Rosenfeld is a former cantor and spiritual leader at Temple Am David who received a 10-year suspended sentence after pleading no contest to molesting a 12-year-old boy he was tutoring. He grew up in New York City and worked in the New York public school system for about 20 years, and worked about 10 years at a private Jewish academy in New York. In a recent lawsuit it was alleged that other Jewish synagogues had problems with Rosenfeld, but he was allowed to move from one to another and offend again. In previous probation reports Rosenfeld acknowleged constantly having to ‘fight his desire for boys.’ He said he often looks at children when driving and had ‘considered what it would be like to pursue a child’ but that he has never acted on this desire." The report also says that, "When asked if he had molested both male and female children, [Rosenfeld] responded that his ‘preferred prey’ is adolescent boys." Rosenfeld has acknowledged other victims within Rhode Islands well as victims in different states, demonstrating his clear propensity to commit these crimes against minors. Rosenfeld also told stated in past probation reports that he had molested boys when he was in New York, but he was never charged. Hopefully, this is the end of the line for pedophile Rosenfeld who will now rot in jail."

How was this allowed to continue for so long and no one did anything?

Victims in those days were questioned like they were crazy or told they just imagined it or "had a bad dream"!

But to the contrary, it was very real nightmare.  

#MeToo.

Fortunately, I wasn't harmed as bad as others--as thank G-d, I woke up in time!

Yes there were others who definitely seemed to facilitate it--was it knowingly or unknowingly? Not really sure how they couldn't have known.

People are beasts, although some have and exercise a moral conscience--others apparently don't have the integrity or inner strength to do the right thing--or they just don't care or dare to. 

For the victims--it's painful to see it again so real like it was just yesterday, but it's good to know that on some level truth and justice do come out, even if too little to late. 

There is much more work to do in our society to acknowledge what has gone on and been given a blind eye or even a wink and a nod instead of a resounding outcry and complete moral outrage.

It is long past time to demand the end of this ongoing evil in our communities, workplaces, and to our dear children. ;-)

(Source Email: SAR Academy)

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September 24, 2017

Those Were The Days

Wow, this was incredible.

Check out this photo of me (right) and my teacher and mentor Robert doing martial arts back in the day. 

This was at the Jewish street fair on Johnson Avenue in Riverdale, New York. 

Recently, in the last few weeks, I reconnected with Robert after almost 27 years.  

He made Aliyah to Israel and I got married, but I always remembered how much I learned from him and the fun times growing up. 

It was great to catch up on the phone with him for about 2 1/2 hours and I think we could've gone on schmoozing all evening. 

Then just this weekend, I received 3 large wall photos in the mail from a friend from Riverdale--out of the blue--just like my reconnecting with Robert. 

Both events came almost simultaneously after 3 decades!

Time and space are just fabrications, as G-d Almighty is eternal, and for me I am essentially the same person that I was back then. 

My body is getting (a little) older, but my inner self is still me. 

And the people who mean so much to me in my life, after G-d, that is everything to me. ;-)

(Source Photo and with gratitude to Sura Jeselsohn)
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August 19, 2015

Part 2 - Birds Of A Feather

An open letter to the Board and members of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and the Bronx District Attorney's Office:

In my May 30th blog, G-d is Good, (Some) People Not So, I wrote about the accused Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the RJC, the now known "Sauna Rabbi," who the New York Times disclosed about having some unorthodox and usual practices of getting naked with children and young adults. 

Yesterday in the New York Times, I read the follow up to the story that Dr. Donald Liss, the Chairman of the Board, overruled the board who demanded that Rabbi Rosenblatt leave the synagogue, and now many of the board members are resigning over this travesty of justice and members are leaving the synagogue to start break-away prayer services. 

At the end of my last blog on this subject, I wrote: "One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved."

One of the others involved, guess who?

Yes, the Chairman of the Board who overruled the community and is protecting Rabbi Rosenblatt. 

I grew up in Riverdale from the age of 10 when my family moved from the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended SAR Academy, the local yeshiva. My family had many lovely friends in this community and we attended the RJC where we were members for over 20 years.

Dr. Donald Liss significantly older than myself and my friends growing up frequently invited us to his house in Riverdale to "learn" Torah and for Shabbat meals, although the learning frequently turned into talk and banter and "wrestling." Dr. Liss, as a doctor of rehabilitative and sports medicine, claimed great interest in my physical fitness as a youth and my practice of martial arts. He started to run and workout with me and my best friend and this at times lead to more "wrestling" matches.

Later Dr. Liss provided me a Summer job in his and his brother's practice at Englewood Hospital. Dr Liss was quite well off and took advantage of me that my family was less so and I needed a job. He provided me the opportunity to work out there in their "gym" during lunch and then when I would change in the locker room, he would invariably show up to talk with me. 

Other times, he invited me to go on vacation with his family to the Poconos to babysit his kids.  I remember one particular time, I went running on the trail there, and he came.  When we got back to the house we were staying in, he dropped all his clothes in the kitchen area in front of me and his wife and totally nude just started talking. 

Other times, when I would work out in my apartment in Riverdale with weights or stretching for karate, even during the day, Dr. Liss would show up. And he would also invite my friend and I to his home to lift weights and more "wrestling".

As I got older and smarter, I realized Dr. Liss's behavior was not normal, and his interest in my workout and my Torah learning did not seem innocent any longer. I stopped getting together and taking his phone calls. His calling, hang-ups, and messages increased.

I met Dr. Liss one last time to put an end to his harassment, and I confronted him that I thought despite his being married with kids and his professing of religion that he had abnormal tendencies, and I wanted him to stay away from me.  He pretended to be shocked at my allegations as a Jewish man who sat towards the front of the synagogue and was learned. 

When I moved to DC, the only contact I had from Dr. Liss was when he tried to friend me on Facebook, which I promptly cut him off. 

That Dr. Liss would now protect Rabbi Rosenblatt and overrule the wishes of the Riverdale Jewish Center is a Chillul Hashem and travesty of justice. 

Every word in this blog is true, and I hope it helps the community and the victims to get over this tragedy and desecration of G-d. The good people who wish to grow up and pray without unwanted advances of some sick individuals hiding behind many veils of religion and family deserve their community back. 
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May 30, 2015

Part 1 - G-d Is Good, (Some) People Not So

I am quite disabled after hip surgery, but I am livid. 

There was an article in the New York Times about a Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt who likes to take children and young adults naked to the sauna and Mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) and watch!

Some even reported that he "gawked at a naked 12-year old," "invited a 15-year old for intimate night time conversations during which he frequently put his hand on the boy's leg," and invited himself into a 17-year old's living room and tried repeatedly to persuade him to change into a bathrobe."

The article describes how this has been going on for around 30 years and the Rabbi was asked in various forms to stop by the Riverdale Jewish Center synagogue, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and even investigated by Yeshiva University (YU). 

Interestingly, this is happening after the "2012 sex scandal involving top Rabbi's from Yeshiva University, another with Rabbi Baruch Lanner with "sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of scores of teens" in his charge in the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and most recently, the 6-year sentencing for "videotaping more than 150 women" (going to the Mikvah) of Rabbi Freundel of Kesher Synagogue (right here in Washington, D.C.). 

All of these sex scandals involved highly prominent rabbi's (and I feel sick to my stomach even using that esteemed word for them), and at the time this abuse was going on and for years after, no one wanted to believe this was happening!

A friend posted this article about Rabbi Rosenblatt on my Facebook page --we both know this Rabbi from Riverdale, NY where we grew up--and asked "What have you to say to this?"

Well let me tell you...many have come forward for the NYT's article and others on my Facebook page and behind the scenes to confirm knowledge of Rabbi's Rosenblatt's gawking and other inappropriate behaviors with children.

- "I refused to consider having him perform my marriage ceremony because of this and another of his 'unusual habits.'"

- "Not only was this common knowledge personally--it was known institutionally, by both YU and the RCA."

Yet others choose to continue the disbelief (some excerpts):

- "I believe these rumors to be vicious slander."

- "I want to believe some weird habits are being blown out of proportion."

So let me tell you that not knowing something is happening or not wanting to believe does not make it so. 

I and others I have spoken to remember children being invited to play racquetball as I remember it (squash in the article) and to go to the Sauna with the Rabbi afterward. 

As someone described for the NYT article about going to the Mikvah with the Rabbi, I can attest that this similarly happened to me PERSONALLY. 

Before I got married, the Rabbi accompanied me to the Mikvah for the ritual bathing which he said was needed before marriage, and just as the 15-year old victim in the article described, the Rabbi was "watching me" and I remember the Rabbi also telling me that he had to in order to see my whole body immersed.

I also remember feeling his look at me being off and feeling sick afterwards, like I just wanted to wash again and again. 

However for others referenced in the NYT article, it was much worse, "The routine was always the same: 'Always the hand on the shoulder or the leg, always the hand touching some part of your body'…The rabbi’s touch 'was very seductive and it was very manipulative in a way.'"

Unfortunately, as is typical, it is easier to blame the victims or disavow them, then acknowledge a deep-rooted sick and evil in our society by some who are at the top of the pecking order religiously and otherwise.

To be completely clear, the chilul Hashem is NOT with the victims, but RATHER it is with the man who for over 30 years continued this sick ruse, even after he was asked repeatedly to stop his inappropriate behavior with children and young adults. 

For those who choose to continue to look the other way, say how nice and scholarly these Rabbis are, and make every excuse in the book, rather than demand a FULL investigation and justice, all I can say is they are being complicit! 

One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved.  

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 30, 2012

What Number Are You?


This is an amazing video that has won 15 awards and was translated into 27 languages. 

It is an animation film and moves a little slowly from my perspective, but the message is terrific!

The short film is about us--all people--we live in the ever present "caste" society, not of yesteryear, but of all time. 

It is about where people are (or aren't) in the pecking order of life and that despite our "place," we can still find success. 

Some are born "Zero's" and live a life of prejudice, persecution, bullying, and torment. 

Others are born high numbers, and they are the elites in society--given the best educational and professional, materialistic, and networking opportunities. 

Many in our age have recognized that this trend continues unabated--only now it's called things like Occupy Wall Street and referred to as the 99% and 1%.

In the past, it was variations of slaves and masters; fiefs, vassals, and lords, and now-a-days even average workers and the C-Suite.

In the video, "A Zero is a zero"--he is bullied in school, and thrown into the gutter as an adult by "the higher numbers."

I am certain that many of us can relate to this...in fact, this video has been viewed almost 1.3 million times on Youtube already.

Only when Zero meets another zero and has a baby--who is born an "infinite," does everyone else stop and literally bow down. 

While I believe that we all need to work hard and contribute and in no way, believe that anyone who is able to contribute should be given a "free ride," I do believe firmly that we are all human beings, G-d's children, and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. 

Everyone has a value in society and from nothing (or Zero) can come something amazing, if we only give people a fighting chance.

Personally, I am a child of Holocaust survivors, and my family came over with nothing. My grandmother cried that they didn't have a chair to sit on when they came to this country.  

The Nazis took everything, lives and things. As the presumed high and mighty "Aryan race," everyone else was zero fodder for the ovens in the concentration camps or to be shot through the head while begging for mercy on their knees. 

Like my grandparents, my uncle by marriage and his brother came over on a children's transport train, alone and completely on their own, to try and "make it," after being orphaned by Nazi murderers.

In the holocaust, the Nazis treated all their victims as Zero's by tattooing numbers on their arms to dehumanize them.

This is part of a long historical plot of the strong and the weak, the haves and the have nots--the high numbers and the zeros in this world.

When as a 10-year old, we moved to Riverdale, New York, a very affluent neighborhood in the Bronx bordering Westchester, most of my classmates lived in million-dollar mansions, while we lived on "the other side of town."  

I grew up understanding that I had to be determined, work hard, and pray hard to try and climb up the ladder and it's numbered stairs--in fact, like "Rocky," I used to run the stairs--hundreds of times!

But to me, determination and hard work seem to come natural--thank G-d--but even more important to me was not monetary success but decency, integrity, speaking truth, and working for the advancement of all on as level a playing field as we can get. 

I will not bow to "infinity" as the others in the movie and in real life have done, but I will try and help make infinity a place that we all can aspire to.

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