Jewish Sexual Abuse


Months After HUC Resignation, Zimmerman Hired By Birthright, JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), April 5, 2001

"A rabbi recently suspended from the Reform movement's rabbinic organization because of sexual impropriety has been hired to a top position by a program that sends thousands of young Jews on free trips to Israel. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, who resigned as president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in December, will become executive vice president of Birthright Israel USA, Inc., based in New York. He was recruited for the position by Michael Steinhardt, the hedge fund manager-turned-philanthropist who co-founded the Birthright program. Zimmerman's hire is raising some eyebrows in the Jewish community, though many leading figures praised the appointment ...

Susan Weidman Schneider, editor of the feminist Jewish magazine Lilith, said, 'Although the specific nature of Zimmerman's actions have not been made public,' his hire 'seems to repeat a pattern in Jewish life where male rabbis known to have transgressive behaviors in their past have not often suffered professionally for it.' The appointment comes on the heels of another controversy surrounding the program: the fact that two of Birthright's top lay leaders wrote pardon letters on behalf of [fugitive] financier Marc Rich, who gave $5 million to the organization."

Sexual Abuse by Rabbis. Lilith [Jewish Womens' Magazine] No date.

"The denials and cover-ups by religious authorities in the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner closely parallel a report Lilith Magazine has published, investigating accusations of sexual misconduct by the rabbi and popular singer Shlomo Carlebach. Lilith, the independent Jewish women's magazine, exposed 'The Paradoxical Legacy' of the late Rabbi Carlebach, known around the world for his neo-Chassidic spirituality, his charm and his music.

Like Lanner's, Carlebach's alleged sexual misconduct was denied, ignored and covered up by his partisans. And like the Jewish Week's editor, Lilith's staff was beseeched not to publish, for fear that the allegations brought against Carlebach would undo all the ostensible good he had done." NOTE: Shlomo Carlebach didn't make the online journal Jewsweek's "Most Influential Jews in America" list, but it still publishes the following at their "Most Influential Jews" introduction page: "Why I Think Reb Shlomo Carlebach Should Be On This List, by David Sacks • Reb Shlomo is one the 50 most influential Jews, because he blazed a new path in serving G-d, thereby transforming the way Jews approach their spirituality today. The awareness that Judaism is spiritual is revolutionary enough. But most thought that aspect was the domain of the Hassidim only. Through Reb Shlomo’s melodies, and the Torahs he rescued from the vanished worlds of Kotzk, and Ishbitz, of Belz, Breslov, Karlin and Riminov (to name but a few) Jews from across the entire spectrum of religious observance are realizing that a Jew’s heart has to be on fire in the service of their Creator, that for a Jew to be superficial today is a criminal offense, that it’s not enough to define your Judaism by what you’re against—you have to be for something!"

Rabbi Robert Kirschner Apologizes. Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, October 18, 1996 [Rabbi Robert] Kirschner was once a rising star in the Reform [Judaism] movement. While still in his 30s, he became the religious leader of one of the two largest synagogues in Northern California and the youngest rabbi ever to head such a sizable Reform congregation. He was destined for a major leadership role in the Reform movement. Some say he would have been on the short list of candidates to succeed Rabbi Alexander Schindler as president of the movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations. But after serving Emanu-El for 11 years, Kirschner suddenly resigned from his pulpit on New Year's Day 1992 amid accusations from three congregants and a temple employee that he had sexually exploited or harassed them. Eight other women later came forward to the temple board to complain about the rabbi's conduct, including members of his congregation and two students from the Graduate Theological Seminary in Berkeley. According to parties involved, at least three of the accusers later reached financial settlements with the temple's insurance company."

No Longer Taboo. Jewsweek [from JTA], August 2001

"Orthodox pedophiles? For years, most people in the Orthodox world assumed their religious way of life and tight-knit communities insulated them from problems rocking the larger world, like sexual abuse. There is still a great deal of resistance to discussing the issue, and a lingering feeling among many victims and advocates that Orthodox institutions are more concerned with protecting the reputations of men accused of sexual abuse than with believing or helping victims ... In the wake of public allegations last year that a high-ranking professional in the Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth had sexually abused more than 20 teen-age girls, sexual abuse has become a household world among centrist Orthodox Jews

Four years ago, at the request of the Brooklyn District Attorney, Ohel — which already treated Jewish survivors of sexual abuse — created the first- ever treatment program specifically for Orthodox sex offenders. More than 30 people, half referred through the criminal justice system and half through rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, have received evaluation or treatment through the program; more are on a waiting list ... In the aftermath of two publicized cases of pedophilia — one concerning a rabbi teaching at a day school and another concerning a kosher butcher — the Chicago Rabbinical Council recently created a special Beit Din, or rabbinical court, to address sexual abuse ... But there are certain aspects of Orthodox life that make such problems uniquely challenging. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the wall of silence and denial."

Sex Scandal Shakes Ground Under Barak's Government. The Independent [Great Britain], March 8, 2000

"First corruption allegations, then a defeat in parliament and now a sex scandal. The ground under Ehud Barak, Israel's Prime Minister, seems to be slipping by the day. The latest blow came yesterday, when the Transport Minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, who deputises for Mr Barak in his absence, suspended himself pending an investigation into accusations that he sexually assaulted a female civil servant."

Leading Journalist Arrested on Sex Charge.Haaretz, [Israeli newspaper], August 15, 2001

"The director-general of the Israel Journalists' Union, Tuvya Sa'ar, has been arrested on suspicion of having intercourse with a minor and coercing her for sexual favors. Sa'ar, 65, a resident of Tel Aviv, was detained two days ago and remanded in custody yesterday ... The charges allege Sa'ar got to know the minor two years through an Internet chat room and they began meeting at his home and in hotel rooms in Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva. Although she was 15 years old at the time - a year below the age of consent - Sa'ar is suspected of having had intercourse with the minor and of using his position as a public figure to cajole and coerce her ... Sa'ar was previously director of Israel TV."

'Healer' Convicted of Sexual Assault and Rape. Haaretz [Israeli newspaper], June 4, 2001

"A 44-year-old man from Ma'aleh Efraim who passed himself off as a rabbi and healer was yesterday found guilty by the Tel Aviv District Court of sexually assaulting two women and raping one of them ... Cohen claimed to have been blessed by God with healing powers and met with people suffering from a variety of ailments, physical and otherwise, twice a week in a room in a house in Rosh Ha'ayin."

Miss Universe Rapist Receives 16-Year Sentence
. Jerusalem Post, December 29, 1999

"Shlomo Nur, who was convicted this fall of raping Miss Universe beauty queen Linor Abergil, was sentenced today to 16 years in prison by a Tel Aviv district court. Shlomo, who was convicted on two counts of rape and another two counts of sodomy, received a suspended sentence of another four years. Shlomo raped Abergil while the beauty queen was in Italy last year working as a model after receiving her crown. The judges, legal observers said, were persuaded that Shlomo had entrapped the young woman unwillingly at a period when she was alone in a foreign country and vulnerable to his approaches."

11% of women have been beaten at home in a widening cycle of violence, by Ruth Sinai, Ha'aretz (Israel), November 4, 2002

"R.K. is one of 214,000 battered Israeli women - 11.2 percent of the women in the country - who have been assaulted by their husbands. About 142,000 of them were beaten this year, 40,000 required medical treatment and 15,000 were hospitalized. Some 146,000 women were raped at least once and 2 percent of these were threatened with murder in the past year, according to the most comprehensive report to date on domestic violence in Israel. The report was compiled by the Minerva Center for youth research in Haifa University with the participation of 2,841 women and 510 men. It was released by Labor and Welfare Minister Shlomo Benizri. The findings on child abuse are even worse than those on violence against women. Some 417,000 children up to the age of five (57 percent of the children this age) have suffered moderate corporal punishment such as being shaken, pushed or slapped, while 46,000 - 6.3 percent - suffered more harsh punishment including blows from fists or being beaten with a stick or belt. Of the six to 18 year olds, more than 550,000 - 39 percent of all the children - suffered moderate violence in past year, while 115,000 (8 percent) suffered severe violence. Professor Zvi Isikovitz and Professor Gidon Fishman, who conducted the research, say the use of harsh violence toward children increases with age. Isikovitz says he was less shocked by the findings about the scope of violence than the willingness of the victims to justify it." ... Benizri asked Education Minister Limor Livnat to increase education about violence from a very young age, and especially to make children understand that women are not a punch bag for men, and to undermine the tendency of women to justify violence against them."

Polanski: The Predator. Recently unsealed grand jury minutes detail 1977 sex assault,, March 11, 2003

"It's been 26 years since Roman Polanski's arrest for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl, but the director's Oscar nomination and the success of his film 'The Pianist' has again focused attention on the March 1977 crime that prompted his French exile. Polanski, 69, will not discuss the case and his victim, Samantha Geimer, now 39, has recently said that the sex assault should not color his chances with Academy Award voters. But that, of course, does not lessen the severity of the crime, which is graphically detailed in the following grand jury testimony, which was quietly unsealed four months ago by L.A. Superior Court Judge David Wesley. Two weeks after Polanski plied her with Champagne and a Quaalude, Samantha Gailey appeared before an L.A. grand jury and recalled Polanski's predatory behavior in a Mulholland Canyon home owned by Jack Nicholson. The teenager's troubling--and contemporaneous--account of her abuse at Polanski's hands begins with her posing twice for topless photos that the director said were for French Vogue.

The girl then told prosecutors how Polanski directed her to, 'Take off your underwear' and enter the Jacuzzi, where he photographed her naked. Soon, the director, who was then 43, joined her in the hot tub. He also wasn't wearing any clothes and, according to Gailey's testimony, wrapped his hands around the child's waist. The girl testified that she left the Jacuzzi and entered a bedroom in Nicholson's home, where Polanski sat down beside her and kissed the teen, despite her demands that he 'keep away.' According to Gailey, Polanski then performed a sex act on her and later 'started to have intercourse with me.' At one point, according to Gailey's testimony, Polanski asked the 13-year-old if she was 'on the pill,' and 'When did you last have your period?' Polanski then asked her, Gailey recalled, 'Would you want me to go in through your back?' before he 'put his penis in my butt.' Asked why she did not more forcefully resist Polanski, the teenager told Deputy D.A. Roger Gunson, 'Because I was afraid of him.' Following his indictment on various sex charges, Polanski agreed to a plea deal that spared him prison time (he had spent about 45 days in jail during a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation). But when it seemed that a Superior Court judge might not honor the deal--and sentence Polanski to prison--the director fled the country. Below you'll find links to Gailey's grand jury testimony, the heart of which runs 36 pages (we've broken the transcript into two 18-page sections for easier navigation)."

Bibliography of Sources on Sexual and Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community. Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse [linked from Women in Judaism, Winter 1999].
A listing of articles -- 25 paper pages long -- that addresses this subject