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BETRAYING THEIR SACRED TRUST ľ End Notes

[1]         The National Association of Jewish Chaplains dealt with one of its own rabbi/chaplains. Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum violated the NAJC bylaws regarding Ethics.  As explained in the November 2003 NAJC News Letter:

The “NAJC Board of Directors voted to remove Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum’s Certification to function as a Jewish Chaplain, and to expel him from the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.”

 In that same News Letter, the “Statement of Findings concerning Rabbi Kestenbaum” explained that:

3) On August 12, 2003 Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum pleaded guilty to "Endangering
the Welfare of a Child," and "Attempted Dissemination of Indecent Material to a Minor in the First Degree." Further, he agreed to register as a sex offender as part of these pleadings.
4) Some of the acts to which Rabbi Kestenbaum pleaded guilty were allegedly conducted at the location and during the hours which Rabbi Kestenbaum was the director of the New York Board of Rabbi's Jewish Center for Spiritual Care.  This, on its face, is an ethical violation of the NAJC by-laws.
5) Pleading guilty to child endangerment and being placed on probation, on its face, are also clear violations of the NAJC ethics as defined in our by-laws.
6) On October 8, 2003, the NAJC Board of Directors found Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum in violation of the NAJC by-laws regarding ethics.
7) Notice is hereby given that the NAJC Board of Directors voted on October 8, 2003 to remove Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum's Certification to function as a Jewish Chaplain, and to expel him from the National Association of Jewish Chaplains (emphasis in original).

 

In the investigation, it was reported that Rabbi Kestenbaum made these phone calls during work time, and he used the phone that belonged to the New York Board of Rabbis.  Further, he gave out the office number of the New York Board of Rabbis, as the place to contact him. 

[2]          There has been occasional reportage about individual rabbis and sexual boundaries violations in the popular press.  For examples see bibliography in Charlotte Rolnick Schwab Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking A Sacred Trust (Bloomington, IN: 1st Books, 2002) as well as  www.TheAwarenessCenter.org.    

[3]           Michele Samit, No Sanctuary: The True Story of a Rabbi's Deadly Affair, New York: Birch Lane [Carol Communications], 1993. This book purports to document the "true story" surrounding the murder, and subsequent trial and conviction of the husband, of a woman [Anita Green] who served as a congregational president who was having in affair with her local rabbi.  See also Eric Francis, Broken Vows, New York: St Martins, 2002, which deals with the trial and conviction of Rabbi Fred Neulander, convicted for hiring people to murder his wife.

[4]           Authors write about a large amount of anecdotal material of which they are aware. Though he offers a caveat to his remarks, Jeffrey Salkin notes that "Rabbi-congregant affairs have been responsible for a seemingly unprecedented amount mobility in the rabbinate. Presumably, many of those dalliances did not occur in the counseling setting."  Jeffrey K. Salkin, "Response" [to article by Rachel Adler, "A Stumbling Block Before the Blind: Sexual Exploitation in Pastoral Counseling.” CCAR Journal Spring 1993.] The CCAR Journal is the official publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis - the Reform rabbinate.

Adler in her article likewise refers to the fact that "All available information about the problem is anecdotal," 41, n. 14.

[5]           To its credit, in 1994 the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis sponsored a symposium on the subject of clergy sexual boundary violations.  Four papers were delivered:

  Fox, Karen L. "Hearing the voice of survivors of sexual misconduct" Paper presented at a symposium at the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis titled "Rabbi's Sexual Misconduct: Collegial Response and Methodology of Teshuvah [Repentance] and Communal Healing." January 1994

Karlin-Neumann, Patricia "Dealing with Rabbis who have committed acts of sexual misconduct" Paper presented at a symposium at the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis titled "Rabbi's Sexual Misconduct: Collegial Response and Methodology of Teshuvah [Repentance] and Communal Healing." January 1994

Lawson, Martin S. "Duty of Rabbi to disclose knowledge of sexual misconduct of a colleague" Paper presented at a symposium at the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis titled "Rabbi's Sexual Misconduct: Collegial Response and Methodology of Teshuvah [Repentance] and Communal Healing." January 1994

Marx, Jeffrey A. "Healing the congregation in the aftermath of clergy sexual misconduct" Paper presented at a symposium at the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis titled "Rabbi's Sexual Misconduct: Collegial Response and Methodology of Teshuvah [Repentance] and Communal Healing." January 1994

 

[6         Arthur Gross-Schaefer, a Reform Rabbi who has pioneered writing in the area of rabbinic sexual boundaries violations (see Bibliography) suggests that there have been several incidents where elements in the organized Jewish community consciously repressed information about sexual boundaries violations. Too often things have been kept “quiet in an attempt to do 'damage control.' Fear of lawsuits and bad publicity have dictated an atmosphere of hushed voices." Arthur Gross-Schaefer, “Sexual Misconduct: Crying Out for a Communal Response," The Reconstructionist, Volume 63, No. 2, Spring, 1999, 59. 

[7]            Na’ama Yehuda, and Vicki Polin, ”When Melodies, Torah Scholars, and Abuse Collide.”  The Awareness Center, May 4, 2003, http://www.TheAwarenessCenter.org/melodies.    

[8]           Sarah Blustain, “A Paradoxical Legacy: Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s Shadow Side” Lilith Magazine, Volume 23, No. 1/Spring, 1998.

[9]           Marcia Cohn Spiegel, “Survival and Recovery”, in Rachel Lev, Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community, Northeastern UP, 2003,147.

[10]           The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s “Model Guidelines for Congregational Policy against Harassment” can be accessed at www.uscj.org.  

            Though recognized as a good beginning, critics noted that the policy does provide a mechanism for alerting the national leadership, and national placement services, as well as not distinguishing between harassment and sexual abuse.

[11]           Adler, 15-16, 22, 23, 27, 35 ff.

             In addition to Adler, the CCAR Journal published additional materials. See bibliography, as well as the 1994 article by Rabbi Janet Marder, in the lay magazine Reform Judaism. The Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis sponsored a symposium on this subject in 1994. Furthermore, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion [the Reform seminary] sponsored an educational workshop titled "Sexual Abuse in the Professional Relationship" in March, 1994 with the internationally recognized "expert" in this field, the Rev. Marie Fortune as the keynote Speaker.

 It should also be noted that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association at its annual conference in 1994 dedicated an entire afternoon session to a workshop on "Clergy Misconduct: Sexual Abuse in the Ministerial Relationship." Rabbi Julie Spitzer presented the program.  She was active in this field for many years.

[12]          Howard Kosovske, “Sexual Exploitation: A Jewish Response" CCAR Journal, Summer 1994, 5-20.

[13]          Stephen S. Peace, “Betrayal, Sex, Power, Trust, and Unfinished Business” CCAR Journal, Fall 2001, 68-86.   Pearce’s article features a fine bibliography on relevant books dealing with the subject of Sexual Boundary violations.

[14]           Gross-Schaefer, “Sexual Misconduct: Crying Out for a Communal Response," 60. 

[15]           Rachel Lev, Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community, Northeastern UP, 2003. 

[16]           David J. Zucker, American Rabbis: Facts and Fiction, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998, 90 f.   See also Roger Herst, Woman of the Cloth, Rockville, MD: Shengold/Schreiber, 1998;

[17]           Matas, Carol.  The Primrose Path, Winnipeg: Bain and Cox, Publishers, 1995.   The title for The Primrose Path comes from Ophelia’s soliloquy in Hamlet, “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, / Shew me the steep and thorny way to Heaven, / Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, / Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede.” 

            I regret the title, only because it too skillfully hides the ugly truth of the subject.

[18]           What is even more disturbing is that the description of the rabbi in this novel, The Primrose Path, and the reaction of the community to the alleged sexual abuse has a real-life counterpart in the accusations leveled at Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, formerly of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and more recently of Queens, New York.  In 1994, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a video, “Unorthodox Conduct” which narrated the sordid history of Rabbi Bryks. Though challenged in court by defenders of Rabbi Byrks, this video by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has withstood litigation against its public viewing.

The video does contain graphic material.  For further information see http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/offender/brykslq.rm

[19]           Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “Victims of rabbinic sex abuse suffer pain of communal denial.”  JTA Daily News Bulletin (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), September 19, 1996, 1.

[20]            The video does contain graphic material.  For further information see http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/offender/brykslq.rm

[21]           Vicki Polin to the author, December 4, 2003.  Also see www.TheAwarenessCenter.org.  

[22]           Arthur Gross-Schaefer, "Breaking the Silence: rabbinic sexual misconduct" in Sh'ma 24/47 (1994) 3, 5.      

[23]           In "the area of rabbinic [cantorial and chaplaincy] sexual . . .  misconduct . . . [the Jewish community is] far behind other religious denominations in terms of developing educational material, guidelines, response procedures, and. . .  [a] willingness to confront this issue.”  Arthur Gross-Schaefer in a letter to the author, June 26, 1994.

[24]           Sources quoted include Sifra Leviticus 19:14; Mishna Avot 5:18; Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 6a-b; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b; and Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 17a.

[25]           Adler, 27.

[26]           Rev. Marie M. Fortune, “No Healing Without Justice,” December 2001, quoted in materials of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (CPSDV) now the FaithTrust Institute.  http://www.cpsdv.org/Articles/index.htm

 © 2004 David J. Zucker

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