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Mark Meyer Appel, Rabbi Yosef Blau and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
TALKLINE WITH ZEV BRENNER,
JUNE 30, 2012
MIDNIGHT – 2:00 AM
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LOSERS OF THE WEEK
Vito Lopez – The powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman can rest knowing that he punched out an old rival, Rep. Ed Towns, and helped pave the way for Hakeem Jeffries’s victory, but he badly miscalculated challenging Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who trounced Councilman Erik Dilan by a nearly two-to-one margin. Two years is an eternity in politics, but Dilan may be questioning another run in 2014 based on those results. And Velazquez’s progressive allies are smelling blood. Now they’re going after Dilan’s father, state Sen. Martin Dilan, in September, which could force Lopez to spend more resources on what he likely considered a safe seat. But as Shakespeare wrote in King Lear, “Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”
Rabbi David Niederman – The most influential rabbi inWilliamsburg’s Hasidic community tried everything to get his Satmar faction to put Erik Dilan in Congress. He urged residents to vote in columns in Der Yid, the neighborhood’s largest Yiddish language newspaper, sent hundreds of Orthodox Jews to staff the polls during primary day, and even helped convince yeshivas to extend their school year. But he was unable to pull enough votes for Dilan among the Satmar Zalmanite community to counteract Velazquez’s support throughout the congressional district. Niederman remains the top political maven in the Zalmanite community, but politicians who visit South Williamsburg now must also meet with his bitter rivals, the Aronites, whose power continues to grow with each election cycle. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
should thank the Aronite faction of Williamsburg’s vote-rich Satmar religious sect for fending off a strong challenge from Councilman Erik Dilan in yesterday’s primary, according to Velazquez supporters.
The south Williamsburg Satmar Jewish community is split between two rival brothers, Zalman Teitelbaum and Aaron Teitelbaum — who control the community’s Zalmanite and Aronite factions. The brothers have been at odds for years over control of the Satmar empire, previously led by their father, Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaumm and even got into a war this year over control of upstate Hasidic summer camps, which oddly played into the congressional race.
The Zalmanite faction, which is larger and has asserted greater political power in the past, has been affiliated with Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, who was supporting Dilan. But the Aronite faction appeared to show new political strength this election, according to its leaders, though Dilan appears to have won the overall vote among Satmars. Velaquez’s campaign estimated a 60-40 split in favor of Dilan.
Still, Aronite leaders say that yesterday’s turnout was a benchmark for their community.
“We turned out a huge block vote for Nydia,” said Gary Schlesinger, executive board chairman of UJCare, an Aronite social services group.
The Orthodox community printed several editorials in Yiddish-language newspapers several weeks before the election, urging Hasidic families to vote in the primary. And Williamsburg yeshivas even delayed the end of the school year to ensure that residents would stay in New York in late June.
At IS 71 on Heyward Street, perhaps the busiest poll site in the district where 2,619 voters cast their ballots, Velazquez received 947 votes and Dilan recorded 1,622 votes.
Poll watchers said that Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the influential United Jewish Organizations group and a Zalmanite leader, and Ira Harkavy, Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s legislative right-hand, camped out at the site for much of the day.
“This was the center of their effort and it shows that there’s increasing diversity in the Hasidic community,” said Brooklyn Legal Services’s Marty Needelman, a Velazquez ally. “It also shows that Vito’s deal with the UJO isn’t decisive in controlling elections.”
Both Diana Reyna and Lincoln Restler narrowly defeated challenges from candidates that Lopez backed in 2009 and 2010 respectively, in districts that included Satmars. But Councilman Steve Levin, a Lopez ally, prevailed in 2009 in part because of his Satmar support.
In a state committee race this fall against a Lopez-backed candidate, Restler could benefit from the split in the Satmar vote.
“The enthusiastic support for Velazquez in the Williamsburg community was key to [Velazquez's] dominant victory,” said Restler.
VITO LOPEZ DAYS ARE OVER AS A POLTICIAN WHO OPPOSES LAWS TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM ABUSE
WILLIAMSBURG — US Rep. Nydia Velazquez easily fended off her Democratic primary challengers Tuesday to win a chance at an 11th term in Congress.
With 97 percent of the districts reporting, Velazquez had a commanding lead with 58 percent of the vote, compared to City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan's 31 percent. The other two challengers, Dan O'Connor and George Martinez, received just 8 and 3 percent of the vote respectively.
"It's a victory that belongs to the people," Velazquez said in her victory speech at the East River Bar in Williamsburg Tuesday night. "The constituents and the voters sent a clear message that they are the ones who decide who represents their communities."
Dilan, who is being term-limited out of the City Council, was believed to be Velazquez' most threatening primary challenger in years.
While Velazquez received endorsements from a host of high-profile Democratic politicians including President Barack Obama, Dilan was backed by Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez and has deep ties to the district's Orthodox Jewish community, which some pundits predicted would give Dilan a boost.
The 7th Congressional District covers parts of Brooklyn, Queens and the Lower East Side.
There has been no shortage of child sex abuse scandals during the legislative session that is going into its final week in Albany — the Penn State case and the cover-up trial of Msgr. William Lynn in Pennsylvania and, closer to home, the abuse allegations at Syracuse University and the private Horace Mann School in New York. That makes it all the worse that lawmakers have done little to fix New York’s weak laws for protecting children from sexual predators and providing victims with justice.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo could have done a lot more to lead the way. On Friday, he appeared to reach agreement with the State Assembly and the Senate on a new measure to require coaches in sports programs at universities in New York to report child sex abuse both internally and to law enforcement officials, beginning to fill a glaring reporting gap in state law.
All the more disappointing, then, is that Mr. Cuomo has declined to get behind a more urgent and politically challenging step: expanding New York’s egregiously short statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, which tilts the legal playing field against accountability, fairness and public safety.
Recent highly visible allegations of sex abuse are a reminder that victims can easily be many years into adulthood before they are ready psychologically and emotionally to talk about what was done to them. This is especially true when they are up against powerful institutions — like the Roman Catholic Church or Penn State — bent on keeping secrets buried.
Faced with this reality, many states have liberally extended the age for filing civil lawsuits. New Jersey is now considering completely eliminating its statute of limitations on the civil side. In Pennsylvania, the age limit for filing child sex abuse cases is 30 for civil cases and 50 for criminal cases.
In New York, Margaret Markey, a Democratic assemblywoman from Queens, has proposed a measure that would give an accuser 10 years after turning 18 to make a claim instead of the current five years. No less important, it would create a one-year window for victims to file previously barred civil claims, similar to filing windows enacted by California, Delaware and, just two months ago, by Hawaii.
Earlier versions of the Markey bill have passed the Democratic-led Assembly several times. By refusing to rise above intense lobbying by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Orthodox Jewish officials and fight for Ms. Markey’s changes or offer a strong bill of his own, Mr. Cuomo has played it politically safe.
The final days of the session may be too late for the governor to force lawmakers in the Assembly and the Senate to take a vote on the Markey bill and let voters know where they stand. But he should try. Even if the bill should lose in the Senate, as it likely would, it would raise the issue’s visibility and set the stage for a sustained campaign to pass it next year.
New York will continue to lag in protecting children until it brings the statute of limitations into line with the reality of late uncovering of child sex abuse.
Jews of all backgrounds will be protesting outside of Hynes' office, at 350 Jay St. Brooklyn, NY 11201, on June 20th at 4pm, to DEMAND that the DA immediately and publicly object to the Rabbinical policy that abuse allegations are vetted by a Rabbi before being brought to the police, and that he apply the same standards of transparency and justice to Jewish abuse cases as are afforded to any other case in his district.
The District Attorney of Brooklyn, NY is the highest local government authority tasked with ensuring justice. Yet evidence is mounting regarding his alleged long history of cooperating with Rabbinical authorities to enable the cover up of child abuse in the Ultra Orthodox community.
As a result, molesters have remained free to victimize children at will. The protest is being organized by Zaakah (Zaakah.com), a grassroots organization that arose from the protest, "The Internet Is NOT The Problem", an event that drew over 300 protesters and was covered by the New York Times, NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the BBC and others.
Zaakah believes that press and communal attention is required to make changes within the ultra-Orthodox community with regard to child abuse. To that end they stage lawful and peaceful protests, as well as support victims when their cases come to court. They seek tangible reform in the following areas: Rabbinical authorities unequivocally assert that ALL abuse allegations are brought directly to appropriate authorities; children and families are educated on abuse prevention and how to properly handle abuse incidents; all school, camp, and mikva employees and volunteers are fingerprinted and subjected to background checks.
Crown Heights Ultra-Orthodox
Jews Meet to Combat Child Sex Abuse
DA HYNES UNDER EXTREME PRESSURE TO CHANGE
At a public event on sunday the Crown Heights Community joined together to continue its hard fight to clean up the community from the monsters that attack our children.May this begin a historic change to save our children from harm and abuse.
THANK YOU CROWN HEIGHTS WATCH
DA CHARLES J HYNES
Feinstein felt obligated to tell his story. The 19-year-old stands nearly
6-feet-tall with square shoulders and an unmistakable Brooklyn inflection in his
voice. When he was 15, he joined a group led by a local rabbi in Crown
Heights who mentored at-risk youth.
went there for Sabbath meals. He was the spiritual guide and mentor I would go
to when I had questions. He helped get me into different religious schools,”
explained Feinstein. “So in effect, he was my personal rabbi.”
rabbi also became his abuser.
shared his story with the approximately 100 ultra-Orthodox that attended the
public meeting at the Ohel Nosson Shul in Crown Heights on
Sunday. He joined a panel of speakers, including Brooklyn District Attorney
Charles Hynes,, child advocates and rabbis,
to talk about how to prevent child sex abuse in the community — and what people
could and should do when faced with it.
isn’t the first meeting of its kind, but it comes at a time where the Brooklyn
D.A.’s office faces increased scrutiny for its handling of child sex abuse cases
within the ultra-Orthodox community. Hynes has consistently defended his office,
pointing to intimidation from within the ultra-Orthodox community itself — on
par or beyond that of organized crime cases — that stymies sex abuse
in Crown Heights, home to the Chabad-Lubavich
Hasidic community, an awakening may be emerging. Last year, the local
rabbinical court ruled it was forbidden not to report cases of child sex abuse
to secular authorities, breaking a long-standing tradition within the community
where people sought the counsel of their rabbi before engaging with law
enforcement.“If I could get religious courts around this county adopting
that policy, we’d be a much longer way towards solving this problem,” Hynes
said, referring to the large ultra-Orthodox communities in Williamsburg and
Last month, Hynes set up a task force to address
intimidation in the ultra-Orthodox community. The second meeting of that task
force is Monday.
While prosecution is an important element of cracking
down on child sex abuse, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University said the
community itself needs to understand the severity of the problem.
the community understand that victims are victimized again and again when they
get no support from the community, when they are seen as the troublemakers, when
people are afraid to be whistle-blowers,” Blau said. “The mentality of the
community has to change.”
In some ways Feinstein was lucky. His case was
successfully prosecuted by the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, and with the help of
civil rights lawyer, Norman Siegel, he had a say in how his perpetrator was
punished. But Feinstein is no longer part of the Crown Heights community. He now
lives in Miami, Florida.
“It’s been painful, very painful at times,”
Feinstein told the audience. “If you care about the community, do something
positive for the children.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ justification for not disclosing the names of sex abuse defendants in the Orthodox Jewish community as a way to protect victims and witnesses — a revelation of which much has been made lately in the press — is unpersuasive.
“I haven’t seen this kind of intimidation in organized crime cases or police corruption,” Hynes told the Daily News last week. “Nobody gives a damn about victims (in the Orthodox community). All they care about is protecting the abusers.”
Prosecuting sex abuse cases is always tough — and the closed-off world of Orthodox Judaism does pose its own challenges. But that is no excuse for the kind of lax (some might even say nonexistent) prosecution that Hynes oversaw for some two decades — at least until becoming more aggressive in recent years.
And then there is Hynes’ nondisclosure policy, which remains unchanged despite calls for openness. Hynes has been steadfast in his position that disclosing the names of arrested sexual predators from this insular community will discourage future victims from coming forward.
What makes Hynes’ position indefensible is that, while he has long protected Orthodox Jews accused of sex crimes, he has no hesitation releasing defendants’ names in similar cases when it comes to other groups.
For instance, on Jan. 26, 2011, Hynes announced the indictment of two men (neither an Orthodox Jew) who forced teenage girls into prostitution. One of the victims filed a report that resulted in the arrest of two named defendants.
A year later, in another press release, Hynes’ office announced the indictments of 43 gang members, disclosing the names of the gang leaders charged and describing the crimes perpetrated against the unnamed victims.
Any of the violent gang-affiliated defendants who were charged could have easily figured out the identity of the victims and witnesses by simply reading that press release.
These in-the-open prosecutions demonstrate the imbalance of Hynes’ practice of disclosing only the identities of certain charged defendants who live in certain communities — while keeping the public in the dark about other defendants, perhaps those who come from powerful voting blocs whose support Hynes needs.
After all, gang members and pimps do not simply “shun” a victim who reports a crime, as is supposedly done by the Orthodox. Instead, they often intimidate, threaten, coerce and, in some cases, kill, witnesses and victims.
Even without publicly disclosing an Orthodox defendant’s name to protect a victim, the extremely personal nature of a sex abuse allegation usually means that the victim’s and witness’ identity is discernible to an alleged sex abuse defendant and his lawyer.
All they have to do is to read the factual portion of a criminal complaint and review other material furnished by the prosecutor.
And while the criminal case is pending for months, nothing stops a criminal defendant from disclosing that an informant lives among them, thus opening the floodgates of intimidation.
In other words, Hynes’ “discretion” does nothing for the very victim he purports to serve. It just garners him favor from a group that does not like attention drawn to itself.
But that’s not how our criminal justice system should work; the rule of law requires equal treatment for all individuals. A district attorney who represents the people of Brooklyn compromises the mission of his office by serving one community’s self-interest for secrecy. This unequal treatment is unacceptable no matter how you justify it.
Kriss, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney who challenged Hynes in 2005, has also served as a Police Department deputy commissioner for trials. He is currently in private practice in Manhattan.
The Law Offices of Arnold N. Kriss
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Charles J. Hynes, having once embraced silence on the question of his vigor in prosecuting sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, cannot stop talking now.
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
William Plackenmeyer, a former Brooklyn police officer, recounted how in 1994 he ordered a rabbi’s arrest against the wishes of the district attorney.
In columns, in interviews, and even in an exchange with former Mayor Edward I. Koch, Mr. Hynes, the veteran district attorney in Brooklyn, has insisted that he is one tough prosecutor. He will handcuff and arrest anyone who tries to intimidate an ultra-Orthodox family into silence.
If he allows ultra-Orthodox rabbis to act as gatekeepers, determining which child was and was not molested before turning to prosecutors, and if he agrees to keep secret the names of the molesters, who could argue with the results? Since 2009, he says, his office has prosecuted 99 sex abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community. (When my colleagues Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera diced Mr. Hynes’s numbers in a series of articles, they found at least one quarter of his prosecutions had little to do with child sex abuse.)
But let’s forget the numbers.
Mr. Hynes contrasts his prosecutorial vigor with the bad old days, when his prosecutors could not persuade the insular community to speak up.
The problem, though, is that sometimes, in dealing with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, it was Mr. Hynes himself who seemed to want these cases to go away.
In 1994, William Plackenmeyer was a New York Police Department division commander in Borough Park, home to one of the city’s fastest growing ultra-Orthodox communities, and a key voting bloc for Mr. Hynes.
A few years earlier, a charismatic ultra-Orthodox rabbi, Shlomo Helbrans, had agreed to tutor an Israeli couple’s 13-year-old boy, Shai Fhima Reuven, in preparation for his bar mitzvah.
Instead, the rabbi kidnapped the boy and persuaded him to reject his family and embrace a zealous form of Hasidism. The police had the rabbi cornered. But the Brooklyn district attorney’s office did not want a confrontation; they argued that Shai was just a runaway.
“I listened to my detective’s account and I said, ‘No, no, this is a kidnapping,’ ” Mr. Plackenmeyer recalled. “Of course, this was Borough Park, so I’m talking lose-lose.”
By which Mr. Plackenmeyer meant that the local rabbis made splendid political bosses. Republican, Democrat, they can direct the votes of their adherents with striking ease.
Mr. Plackenmeyer ordered his men to make the arrest.
Two former law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed key aspects of Mr. Plackenmeyer’s account.
Within 24 hours of the arrest, the captain said, two assistant district attorneys paid him a visit. They were apologetically emphatic: Your case might be strong, they told him, but our boss, Mr. Hynes, wants you to void the arrest.
Are you saying, Mr. Plackenmeyer asked, that I don’t have probable cause?
We’re not saying that, they replied.
The prosecutors soon released the rabbi. Mr. Plackenmeyer and the boy’s mother, Hana Fhima, drove down to the district attorney’s office, seeking a meeting. They sat there for hours but never got past reception.
“I was a division commander,” he recalled. “I’m there with a woman willing to testify about this rabbi who kidnapped her son, and no one wants to speak to me.”
Soon enough, the F.B.I. took a look at it, along with federal prosecutors. They had a meeting, there was a fair amount of yelling, and, with help from federal officials, the district attorney felt the urge to prosecute.
That was not the end of it. In March 1994, Mr. Hynes’s office agreed to let Rabbi Helbrans plead guilty to kidnapping in exchange for five years of community service. Mrs. Fhima was furious, and complained bitterly to the judge of swinging-door justice.
A State Supreme Court justice, in an unusual move, agreed with her. He overturned the plea bargain. The family, he said, had given him the sense “that this is a political ploy, because Joe Hynes is running for” state attorney general, according to newspaper accounts.
Michael Vecchione, the prosecutor on that case, got on the phone on Monday, for an interview at high volume. To suggest Mr. Hynes’s office was less than vigorous is a calumny, he suggested. “There’s no way,” he says, “based on how I practice law, that I’d agree” to probation.
Told that contemporaneous accounts in The New York Times state otherwise (“The plea was part of an intricate arrangement with the Brooklyn district attorney,” the newspaper’s March 8, 1994, account states), Mr. Vecchione amended his statement.
“I don’t recall, honestly,” he said.
In the end, Mr. Helbrans was convicted of kidnapping and shipped off to prison. He was eventually deported to Israel, and made his way to a hamlet in Quebec, where his black-clad female followers are known by some other Hasidim as the Jewish Taliban.
Mr. Plackenmeyer is content to have seen justice done. “None of the rest makes sense unless you take politics into account,” he says.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York is keeping quiet today after his old diocese, the archdiocese of Milwaukee, confirmed that under his leadership the church paid individual sums of $20,000 to priests accused of molesting children.
Dolan, who became a cardinal in February and serves as the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is recorded discussing the payments in the minutes of financial committee meetings in 2003, documents released as the Milwaukee archdioecese goes through bankruptcy court in Wisconsin.
The archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday that the church paid the priests money to voluntarily sign papers to leave the priesthood because it was cheaper and faster than removing them by other administrative routes, which would have included going through the Vatican.
"In 2002, the Church affirmed that priest offenders should no longer be functioning as priests in any capacity and having someone seek laicization voluntarily is faster and less expensive and it made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible," Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf told local news station WTMJ-TV.
The Milwaukee diocese did not return calls from ABC News today seeking comment.
that when you're fired from your job because of a criminal act, you get paid to leave your job," Isely said. "Obviously something is profoundly wrong with this system that they say is fixed. You're paying off a child rapist; you're giving them a bonus check; it's a bonus basically."
The archdiocese contested that claim, saying the payments were used to quickly move suspected pedophiles out of the priesthood, according to the AP. Spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the payments were to help the men transition to lay life without completely losing access to needs such as health care.
Dolan declined to comment on the matter, but the archdiocese of New York told ABC News today that Dolan "has read and supports the statements that came out of Milwaukee."
Isely said that up until at least 2010, priests accused of pedophilia were still being paid the money, typically divided into two payments of $10,000 - one when they began the process of laicization, and one when they completed it.
Dolan left the Milwaukee archdiocese in 2009 to become archbishop of New York, the second largest diocese in the country, and in 2010 became the head of the conference of bishops, the most visible Catholic role in the country. Isely, of SNAP, wondered if Dolan now presided over similar arrangements in other dioceses.
"Is this a nationwide policy by U.S. bishops to pay off priests? To dump them quietly into the community, and when they do this, they don't tell people who these individuals are," Isely said.
Months after Dolan left Milwaukee, the archdiocese there filed for bankruptcy, after more than 570 alleged victims came forward claiming abuse by priests.