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Child Abuse Prevention Takes Center Stage at Crown Heights Seminar

By Vos Iz Neias news
June 11, 2012

Approximately one hundred people gathered yesterday in Crown Heights for a town hall style meeting addressing the subject of child abuse within the Jewish community.

The meeting, which took place at the Ohel Nosson synagogue on Crown Street, was moderated by child abuse activist Tzvi Gluck of Our Place and featured a panel of speakers including Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, Rabbi Yosef Blau, senior spiritual guidance counselor at Yeshiva University, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, clergy abuse attorney Irwin Zalkin, Crown Heights activist Eli Federman and Mordechai Feinstein, a nineteen year old former abuse victim.

Emotions ran high as angry participants exchanged heated remarks with Hynes about his office's refusal to disclose names of abusers in an effort to protect victims from possible threats and intimidation. While Hynes defended his office's record in prosecuting abusers within the Jewish community, saying that over one hundred and thirty victims have contacted his office since the Kol Tzedek program went into effect three years ago, one member of the audience shouted out "Not true, not true! Your policy is failing!" to which Hynes retorted angrily "My policy is succeeding!", according to reports in the New York Post.

Hynes pledged to continue his assault against would be intimidators, with his newly established task force dedicated to the prosecution of anyone glwho threatens or otherwise intimidates abuse victims who seek legal recourse, likening the intimidation that goes on in the Orthodox community to that of the Mafia. The district attorney also praised the Crown Heights community, citing a rabbinical ruling issued last year saying that all cases of child sexual abuse must be reported to the authorities and expressed hope that other Jewish communities might follow suit with similar rulings.

Rabbi Blau called upon community members to support abuse victims, saying that it is vital to contact the authorities, not rabbis, in cases of suspected child abuse, adding that while some consider it to be a Chilul Hashem to contact the secular authorities, having the District Attorney say that the Jewish community is worse than the mafia is a far greater problem.

Feinstein, a former Crown Heights resident who relocated to Miami, spoke about his personal experience with an abuser four years, telling attendees that the first line of defense against child abuse is good parenting and urged all those present to confront abuse instead of pretending that the problem does not exist.

Gluck called the meeting a success, yet acknowledged that the threat of backlash against those who speak up against child abuse is very real, saying that the individuals who set up the meeting chose to remain anonymous, concerned about possible retribution from forces who prefer that the issue of child abuse continue to remain a subject that is off limits.

"The point of this forum was to bring awareness of these issues to the forefront and give parents both knowledge of what is going on and the tools they need to deal with the realities of this situation," Gluck told VIN News.

Gluck gave concrete suggestions to participants on how to keep children safe from abusers, recommending the Project YES/Artscroll book, Let's Stay Safe, which deals with child safety issues and calling on parents to stand together and demand that schools create policies and guidelines for dealing with abuse, which will protect not only students but teachers and schools as well.

A meeting to be held at 8:30 tonight by Magen will further address child safety issues at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, 150-05 70th Road.