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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It Is Time to Overhaul Ohel and Dismiss David Mandel

It Is Time to Overhaul Ohel and Dismiss David Mandel

by Yerachmiel Lopin on February 28, 2011
I wrote an article, Is Ohel a Leaky Tent? in which I concluded that Ohel was a leaky tent. Ohel has repeatedly failed to report sex abuse to the authorities. They made therapy referrals to the serial rapist of boys, Avrohom Mondrowitz.  As Vicki Polin has documented on video, David Mandel publicly advocates circumventing mandatory reporting requirements.  Hella Winston reported last week on a case where Ohel’s professional mental health staff were aware of sex abuse and wanted to report it. Once again the corrupt management of Ohel overruled professional staff. Once again, Ohel failed to protect an abused child. This cannot go on!
It is time to patch the leaky tent.  David Mandel is not the man for this job; he has built his career on ripping holes in the roof to oblige his patrons. Incredibly, he has not even bothered to respond to the latest allegations, even though the article by Hella Winston quotes former employees of Ohel. If the charges were false I am sure he would have said something. In the past he has taken out full page ads to burnish his reputation. Mandel is not shy; he is corrupt.
Honorable, charitable men and women sacrificed to create and fund Ohel it  in its earliest years. It was opened to fulfill the sacred obligation of a Jewish community to care for its orphans and others in need. Ohel should not be a  private fiefdom operated for the  financial benefit of it managers and manipulated to protect the image of powerful men and organizations.
Those of you who serve on the Board of Ohel  hold a sacred trust. I appeal to your conscience and your self interest. Do not let yourself be implicated in the illegal and immoral misconduct of your Director, David Mandel. You are responsible for oversight. You can no longer trust David Mandel. You must authorize an independent set of investigators to evaluate the performance of Ohel. You must empower these evaluators to have full access to all relevant information. You must charge them to make recommendations, up to and including the dismissal of guilty staff, the reporting of criminal conduct, and the revamping of policies and programs. Then you have to find the courage to follow up on those recommendations.
If you take these steps with rectitude and courage you will deserve credit for your work on behalf of children. If you retreat in cowardice or indifference you may fool some people in the short term. But it will weigh heavily against you on the day of your final reckoning. Divine justice is not indifferent to the anguish of tortured children.
Hat tip to Voice of Justice for issuing a comparable call for action whose text  is presented below, in its entirety.
Call for OHEL Leadership Change
The recent revelations about OHEL Jewish Children’s Home and Family Services in Brooklyn written by Hella Winston of the Jewish Week on February 24, 2011 were, without question, profoundly disturbing, but sadly, not entirely unexpected.
For many years OHEL has been awash with rumors and allegations regarding their staff not reporting incidences of sexual abuse to proper authorities as required by law. In addition, many supervisors at OHEL have reportedly instructed staff not to report the allegations of sex abuse.  These allegations of OHEL’s non-compliance with Federal and state reporting guidelines put the entire organization in jeopardy of losing its government funding and non-profit status.  It also puts senior staff and Board of Directors in jeopardy of possible criminal prosecution.
Further, serious concerns have surfaced in the community concerning the partnership and relationship between OHEL and KOL TZEDEK, which is a project of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, created to combat sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community.  KOL TZEDEK’s mission statement calls for providing support and assistance to victims and their families. Unfortunately this relationship appears to be a political one, without any substance at all. OHEL, a major partner with KOL TZEDEK, has not provided any emergency support to victims or families of the victims, especially in the recent high profile sex cases in the community, all of which resulted in convictions.
Neither David Mandel, the CEO of OHEL, nor any one of OHEL’s staff, have ever been present at any of the court trials relating to sexual abuse in our community, nor have they reached out to any of the families involved with any compassion or assistance. OHEL, which is one of the largest non-profit agencies in the New York City area, providing mental health and foster care services, should have reached out and offered its services to victims, alleged victims, and their families. .
As Rabbi Yosef Blau, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, pointed out, OHEL is an extremely important institution in our community and operates vital programs that are crucial and needed for the families in our community. However, these troubling issues cannot be swept under the rug. They must be dealt with in order to banish the dark clouds that impede OHEL’s overall effectiveness and compliance. We respectfully ask OHEL’s Board of Directors to initiate an external investigation. A team of independent professionals, not associated with OHEL, must be invited in to carry out these duties. The external investigation and the implementation of their suggestions will hopefully bring about reinvigorated and honest leadership to the helm of OHEL. This investigation should be similar to the investigation of the Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU) wherein confidence was successfully restored, (specifically after the Baruch Lanner scandal), resulting in the hiring of a new executive leader.  We hope for similar results in this matter. 
We firmly believe that bring new leadership to OHEL, specifically a CEO with clinical experience, to guide the agency through this pivotal and difficult period in the agency’s history, will help to restore OHEL’s original vision and vital mission of protecting Jewish children and strengthening Jewish families.
One Comment
  1. Another honorable mention should be inserted in the above post. CALA NY has learned from

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