Saturday, February 18, 2006

Elliot B. Pasik Esq. Speaks To The Jewish Community

February 16, 2006

Dear Chaverim,

Because I am an attorney who has long been involved in advocating a program for protecting our children from sex abuse, I feel the need to publicly comment in the forum of this blog (unorthodoxjews.blogspot.com/) on the allegations being made against a rebbe at Yeshiva Torah Temimah.

Over the past several weeks, I have read various posts of alleged victim accounts which have given dates, places, type of sex abuse, and other factual detail.

In addition, the blog administrator ("UOJ"), a frum Jew and a musmach, has mailed thousands of letters to frum Jews in Flatbush and Borough Park. He has demanded that this rebbe's employment at the yeshiva be terminated.

I have also spoken to several adult individuals who confided in me their stories of childhood sex abuse committed against them by this man.

The allegations are serious, but there are solutions, and I will present them in this letter. In addition, concerned community members have been in contact with the yeshiva, and I hope and pray, b'ezras Hashem, that a resolution will be reached, along the lines to be outlined here.

For a fair amount of time, I have been advocating a two-part approach for eradicating the problem of child sex abuse in our yeshivas, day schools, camps, and other youth settings.

First, we need to perform fingerprint-based criminal background checks on all of our employees and volunteers, and in this way, we will avoid hiring convicted sex offenders, drug offenders, violent criminals, and other dangerous predators.

I have previously written in my letters to Torah U'Mesorah, Agudath Israel, the Rabbinic Council of America, the Orthodox Union, and the National Council of Young Israel that 42 out of 50 states now require their public schools to perform fingerprint based criminal background checks on their employees (including New York State); 10 states require their nonpublic schools to perform such checks (not New York). In addition, after too-numerous child sex abuse incidents, every major youth group in the U.S. is performing background checks: the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Little League of America, the American Youth Soccer Organization, Pop Warner Football, the Civil Air Patrol.

In the wake of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has required employee and volunteer background checks for all Catholic schools and youth groups since April 2003, whether required by law or not.

Even private corporations whose employees do not have regular access to children are voluntarily performing criminal background checks. An August 26, 2004 Wall Street Journal article reported that 80% of America's 400 largest corporations are performing background checks on their employees. Wal Mart, the nation's largest employer, joined this group after two convicted sex offenders working in their South Carolina stores were alleged to have molested children on store premises.

All of these background checks have weeded out thousands of convicted sex offenders and other dangerous criminals who would otherwise constitute a grave danger to children.

How great is the danger? The U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education most recently addressed the school sexual abuse problem in a lengthy June 2004 report entitled, "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature", authored by Hofstra University Prof. Charole Shakeshaft, a leading expert. This report informs us that nearly 10% of U.S. students are targets of contact and noncontact sexual misconduct during their K-12 years. Among the security recommendations are that all public and private schools perform fingerprint based criminal background checks. This report is available on the U.S. Department of Education website.

Another good resource for people who want to educate themselves about the problem is a book called, "Predators" (2004), authored by Dr. Anna Salter, a Harvard College, Harvard Medical School-educated psychiatrist, who presents a mountain of evidence that establishes the great danger that child sex abuse presents. Dr. Salter has also written the two leading textbooks in use in our country on the treatment of sex offenders. Dr. Salter proves through her evidence that sex offenders should never work near children. Pedophiles are actually never cured, and they are in need of lifetime therapy.

In addition, there is also a mounting body of medical evidence which proves what we already intuitively know: that childhood sex abuse has long-term consequences. Medical studies have established that people who have suffered childhood sex abuse are at a greater risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

Our own community has not ignored the child sex abuse problem. In May 2003, for example, both Torah U'Mesorah and the RCA, at their respective conventions, addressed the issue. I have listened to the audiotapes. A psychologist prominent in our community for specializing in this problem spoke at each convention, and described an incident in a yeshiva where a janitor with a criminal record for sex abuse attacked our children. In addition, the psychologist stated that we have suffered an unconscionable number of suicides of children who have been sex abuse victims.

Hashem yerachim.

I have made some progress on achieving my goal of having every yeshiva and Hebrew day school in New York State perform fingerprint-based employee background checks. The New York State Senate is drafting a bill, which I hope to have in my hands shortly. State Assembly sponsors will then be needed, and hopefully the Governor will support the bill, and it will pass.

But background checks are only one part of the overall solution. What do we do about the vast majority of sex offenders who never see the inside of a courtroom? Most child sex abuse victims never report the crimes done to their bodies, and unfortunately, even when they do, they are often not believed. More unfortunate, even when they are believed, successful criminal prosecutions are difficult, particularly where there is an absence of physical evidence.

Clearly, our yeshivas and day schools need to unite to form our own internal disciplinary system and registry, which will record the names of those individuals, who after a hearing conducted under careful rabbinic auspices, are found guilty of either violence or sex abuse, and will then be forever barred from employment in our mosdos.

Such a disciplinary system and registry would be neither novel, nor difficult to establish. Every public educational system in our country has such a program in place, as does the Catholic Church. We Jews therefore have numerous models to follow, and we should quickly establish our own disciplinary system and registry. In fact, the registry concept was specifically discussed and spoken of very approvingly at the May 2003 Torah U'Mesorah Convention.

In addition, I approaced the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of approximately 1,000 rabbis, and proposed and drafted for them a Resolution endorsing background checks, and a disciplinary system and registry for all of our 700 yeshivas and Hebrew day schools that teach 200,00 Jewish children in the United States, including 100,000 in New York State. The Resolution passed at their May 2005 Convention, you can read it on rabbis.org, and I credit this Resolution for the great progress I am making in the New York State Senate for achieving a law that will allow fingerprint based criminal background checks to be conducted in our schools.

Our yeshivas and day schools do need to be concerned about laws that protect our children, and performing background checks, and having an internal disciplinary system and registry, will accomplish that goal.

Some New York laws that come into play are: Education Law section 3204, which provides that a nonpublic school teacher must be "competent". It is highly questionable, to say the least, as to whether a teacher who is a child sex abuser is "competent".

New York State Education Law section 549(1) provides that "the state has a primary responsibility to ensure the health, welfare and safety of children attending both public and nonpublic schools."

New York State Penal Law section 2601.10 is entitled, "Endangering the Welfare of a Child", and provides that it is a misdemeanor for a person legally charged with the custody of a child to fail to exercise reasonable diligence in preventing such child from becoming "abused". Statutes like these have been used in prosecutions of cases against the Catholic Church.

New York State Social Service Law section 413 makes it a misdemeanor for a school official not to report sex abuse to the New York central registry of childhood sex abuse.

In addition, New York courts have, on multiple occasions, declared the duty that a school owes to a child, sometimes referred to by the ancient Latin phrase, "in loco parentis", in place of the parent. When a parent transfers physical custody of his child to a school, the school stands in place of the parent, and assumes the same duty. Thus, just as parent would never hire a sex offender as a babysitter, so too should a school never employ a sex offender as teacher. See, e.g., Pratt v. Robinson, 39 NY2d 554 (1976).

The Torah has much to say about this situation, which time and space do not allow here, but suffice it to say that the Torah commands, Lo sa'amod al dam ra'echa, Do not stand upon the blood of your brother. This is a positive mitzvah that requires one Jew to save the life of another. In addition, the Torah tells us, V'shmartem nafshosachem me'od, You will guard your lives exceedingly. The Torah also tells us, Tsedek, tsedek tirdof, l'maan tichyeh. Justice justice shall you pursue, in order that you may live.

Certainly, if the individual accused of sex abuse at Torah Temima declines to resign, or if the yeshiva declines to terminate his employment, an evidentiary-type hearing, in my opinion, should be held. The alleged victims should testify, the accused abuser can also testify, and a decision should then be rendered by the professional panel of judges - unbiased rabbis and lawyers from our community.

Barring resignation or termination, the hearing may be the solution to our current
problem. This hearing can be the first step taken towards establishing our own internal disciplinary system and registry. Gam zu l'tovah.

This process and verdict can also be a refuah for the alleged victims who have suffered in silence for so long, at cost to their physical and mental health. They are entitled to some small measure of justice.

The establishment of our own disciplinary system and registry can also be a first step in teshuvah and recovery for the accused individual.

In the future, cases like these need not be addressed through anonymous mass mailings, blogs, and public letters from a lawyer such as myself. Our own genuine justice system, which will itself act as a deterrent, can properly handle such problems.

Together with our own hishtadlus, may the ribono shel olam endow all of us with the kochus and chochma that we will need to resolve our current situation.

Very truly yours,

Elliot B. Pasik
Attorney at Law
145 West Olive Street
Long Beach, New York 11561
efpasik@aol.com

13 comments:

Das Torah said...

The starting point in analyzing this situation from a Torahdike point of view is the well known psak that a child molester has a Din Rodef.

“Viailoo Shematzilin Oisum Binafshum Harodef Achar Hazochor.”

The Din Rodef is not a Din in Bais Din but a Mitzvah Al Kol Yisroel to be Matzil the Nirduf Bnafshi Shel Rodef. Obviously this Psak only applies to someone who is actively molesting children. The Kolko defenders argue that notwithstanding his past conduct, to their knowledge he hasn’t molested anybody recently. However, the question as to whether he constitutes a danger to children is clearly not resolved. Kolko has clearly lost his Chezkas Kashrus by virtue of his past conduct and based on medical knowledge of recidivist behavior among child molesters he poses a present danger to children.

Some talk about Teshuvah. However, when it comes to Bain Odom Lechaveiro there is no Teshuvah, Ad Sheyaratzeh Es Chaveiro. There can be no talk of Mechilah until Kolko compensates all of his victims in full. He’s never even tried. And for good reason. “Hachovel Bechaveiru Chayiv Bechameesha Devarim: Nezek, Tzaar, Reepoi, Sheves and Boishes.”

Do the math.

As Esther Hamalka said “Ein Hatzar Shoiveh Binaizek Hamelech.”

Kolko's defenders cry Loshon Horoh. The issur of Loshon Horoh has no application here whatsoever since Loshon Horoh is clearly Muttar Litoyeles. There is no greater Toeles then saving Jewish children from abuse. Not only is it Muttar, it is an absolute Chiyuv Al Kol Yisroel, Lhatzil Es Hanirdofim – our defenseless Jewish children.

In fact, anybody who does not do everything in their power in this situation to save our children is over a Lav Doraysa of Lo Saamod Al Dam Reyacha. This includes spending your own resources to save another Jew.

They who sit idly by are also being Mivatel the Mitzvah of Ubearta Hara Mikirbecha which is the absolute Chiyuv Al Kol Yisroel to remove evil from our midst.

There can be no greater evil than a man who has been Mazik the Goofim and, Rachmana Litzlan, the Neshomos of hundreds of Yiddeshe Kinderlech; Hashem Yishmireinu.

As the Posuk says by Shimon and Levi’s killing of Shechem, “Ki Nevulu Usisa Biyosroel Vichain Lo Yaoseh.” Those who would keep Kolko in a position to be further Mazik children are being Machzik Yidei Ovrei Aveirah and are Oiver the Lav of Lifnei Eevair Lo Seetain Michshol.

They are also Oiver the Lav of Lo Sosim Domim Bivaisecha, which applies to any Davar Shel Sakana. There is no greater Sakana then keeping a child molester around children.

The claim that this matter has not been well known is utter nonesense. The accusations against this man are the biggest Kolo Diloi Posik for over thirty years and there are Kamah Eidim to his Nevulos.

The people who are trying to save our children from this evil should be lauded like the true Kanoim in the Torah who took action while everybody else cried. They cried because Nisalmoh Meiham Halachoh.

When it comes to the problem of molestation it appears that we suffer from a collective Nisalmoh Mee Menu Halacha.

How can Torah be learned Kitzurosoh in a Mossad that harbors such a Menuval.

The true Roshei Yeshivah, Rabbeim and Bnai Torah in Yeshivah Torah Temimah should stand up as one and say Tzai Tumai, go out from among us unclean one, so we can learn Torah Al Taharas Hakodesh and not be compared Chas Visholom to one who is Toivel Visheretz Biyodo.

Interested said...

"The alleged victims should testify, the accused abuser can also testify, and a decision should then be rendered by the professional panel of judges - unbiased rabbis and lawyers from our community."

If I understand you correctly, you believe that determinations as to whether someone should be put on the registry should be made by a quasi-Beis Din, quasi-secular court, presided over by "professional . . . unbiased rabbis and lawyers" from our community. It seems that such a body would have no independent authority in Halacha or the secular legal system. What rules of evidence would such a body follow? And, other than the threat of placing someone on the registry without a hearing, what would compel litigants to appear before the judicial body you describe. As a lawyer, I'm sure you can imagine the numerous problems that will arise without having a binding legal system to turn to.

If I am mistaken in understanding your proposal, and you are merely advocating that such matters be determined by a bona fide Beis Din, with decisions made by Dayanim and based solely in Halacha, I think you will find much support for your ideas.

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

The bais din system does not work. There are way too many batei din under the influence of the locals with gelt.
This should be a panel comprised of frum attorneys guided by a board of rabbonnim that are approved by the lay leaders, not the other way around.

MD said...

OUJ,

That makes a lot of sense, if you assume that frum attorneys and lay leaders cannot be swayed by outside influence and are trusted by every person in the community.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Every person has his or her own biases and opinions. This is something you should recognize, OUJ, since you are quick to cast aspersions on individuals in the community that others look to for counsel and guidance in every aspect of their lives.

I am not trying to preach here; I am just pointing out the reality: one man's lay leader is another man's scoundrel, and one man's "frum attorney" is another's sheister.

Fortunately, we have a system we are obligated to follow, adhered to for generations, and designed by G-d himself. We simply do not have the authority to conclude that this system "does not work" and should be abandoned becuase it does not reach our desired outcome on every occasion.

Secular courts often hand down decisions that scream of injustice yet no one - even the aggrieved party - calls for the dismantling of the Judiciary as we know it.

Dayanim must be honest, G-d fearing, and not afraid of litigants, but they must be Dayanim and they must be sitting in a Beis Din. There is simply no way around this.

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

MD,

Would you trust dayanim to make decisions on issues like the safety of the "O" rings that failed in the space shuttle?

My point is we need EXPERTS in this field, whether they are attorneys with experience in sex abuse cases, or medical experts; without denigrating ALL batei din, they clearly are NOT capable of psak halacha in issues that they have no real knowledge of.

Anonymous said...

In Chicago, in dealing with a sex abuse incident there, a "beis din" of rabbis and other knowledgeable professionals, including lawyers, was put together. Rabbi Levine from Telz spoke about this at the May 2003 Torah Umesorah Convention.

Further, Rabbi Steven Weil from L.A. spoke about the same thing in his city at the May 2003 RCA Convention.

So there is precedent.

Elliot B. Pasik, Esq.
Long Beach, New York

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

"OTHER KNOWLEDGEABLE PROFESSIONALS"
are the key words, Elliot.
Thanks!

gross said...

md,

Do you really believe that the system of Batei Dinim as we know it was designed by God? Ha!

Anonymous said...

Child sexual abuse litigation will probably not generate anything like the settlements for, say, asbestos claims ($54 billion to date). But, like asbestos litigation, it has the potential to snowball, with profits from early settlements financing the recruiting of an ever-widening ring of plaintiffs. Among the cases in this gold rush:

* In Florida, a lawyer who has filed numerous suits against Miami's Catholic archdiocese filed a class suit on behalf of up to 100,000 Native Americans who allegedly were mentally, physically and sexually abused in government-run boarding schools. Attorney Jeffrey M. Herman says the suit, filed in April in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., asserts that damages could run as high as $25 billion. Canada faces a similar claim from up to 18,000 Native Americans and estimates it will spend $1.2 billion (U.S.) to settle it.

Anonymous said...

Elliot,

"Rabbi Levine spoke about it At the Torah Umesorah convention in May 2003"

I'm waiting to hear the ending........NOTHING HAPPENNED!!!!
IT'S ALL BULLSHIT!

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

WE WERE HACKED-GO TO:
THEUNORTHODOXJEW.BLOGSPOT.COM

Anonymous said...

Has to be a bais din as defined by halachah. For particular expetise, either the dayanim need to be trained in teh area of expertise, or we need a reliable pool of expert advisers.

Worried that we'll get "bad" dayanim? True. That cuts both ways -- we don't want dayanim who will sweep the dirt under the carpet, nor dayanim who will be kenim to either prove the opposite or because matters such as these appeal to us rachmonim b'nei rachmonim.

So how do we solve that? By choosing unimpeachable dayanim to begin with. It should be a bais din whose sole purpose is to review abuse cases, and the dayanim on it sould be selected by other unimpeachable rabbonim. We do have a few of those. More than a few -- here I think UOJ is either wrong or has at least skewed the picture. Especially on Rav Dovid.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF ORTHODOX RABBONIM ARE GOOD PEOPLE. Of course, on a hot topic such as this, you have to be extra careful.

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

I definitely agree with your last statement!