NY Jewish school officials knew of abuse by teacher who molested 12 students

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

NY Jewish school officials knew of abuse by teacher who molested 12 students

Outside investigation finds that administrators at SAR Academy were warned about Stanley Rosenfeld’s sexual assault of young boys, but re-hired him a decade later anyway

A view of SAR Academy in the Bronx, NY, June 2018. (Google Street View)

A view of SAR Academy in the Bronx, NY, June 2018. (Google Street View)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Officials at a New York Jewish day school knew of allegations against an administrator who abused at least a dozen of the school’s students, according to an investigation.

The report, which was published Friday, found that Stanley Rosenfeld sexually abused at least a dozen students at SAR Academy, a Modern Orthodox school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Another teacher, Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz, was found to have acted inappropriately with at least four students.

Rosenfeld, a convicted sex offender, has admitted to molesting hundreds of boys throughout his life, including at SAR, according to the report.

JTA has reached out to Schwartz through his attorney seeking comment on the accusations against him.

T&M Protection Resources, an external firm with experience investigating sexual assault allegations, conducted the probe that examined allegations of child sex abuse by Rosenfeld, an assistant principal at SAR in the 1970’s who also taught English there a decade later. The school commissioned the investigation in January, soon after learning of the allegations.

The firm interviewed nearly 40 witnesses, as well as both Schwartz and Rosenfeld. T&M was able to interview Schwartz, however, only before hearing allegations of his inappropriate behavior.

Illustrative photo of an empty classroom. December 10, 2014. (Maxim Dinshtein/FLASH90)

“We want to extend our most sincere gratitude to the individuals who came forward to report instances of inappropriate behavior and abuse,” SAR’s leadership wrote in an email sent Friday linking to the report. “We remain heartbroken that our alumni suffered abuse while in SAR’s care, but we also are deeply inspired by their bravery.”

SAR’s announcement of the inquiry in January prompted two other Jewish day schools that had employed Rosenfeld to launch their own investigations: the Ramaz School, an elite Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Manhattan, and Westchester Day School, in New York City’s northern suburbs. Ramaz published its external investigation in August, which found that administrators learned of Rosenfeld’s abuse after he had left the school but failed to act on the information.

Rosenfeld, now 84, was convicted of child molestation in 2001 for abusing a boy while employed at a Rhode Island synagogue. The Forward, which has investigated Rosenfeld’s abuse in a series of articles, discovered that he is living in a nursing home and is a registered sex offender.

The T&M report found that Rosenfeld would abuse young boys by inviting them to his home for Shabbat, where they would sleep over for one or two nights. At night, he would hover over their beds and fondle their genitals or other parts of their bodies. Some former students said Rosenfeld would stop the abuse after boys made it clear that it made them uncomfortable. Others reported laying motionless until the ordeal ended. Former students said the abuse caused them emotional suffering.

“One former student explained that during the night, he awoke to Rosenfeld’s hands on the former student’s penis inside the former student’s pajama bottoms, that Rosenfeld quickly removed them and then justified his presence in the twin bedded room where the boys were sleeping by saying that he heard the former student make a noise and wanted to check on him,” the report said.

The report also says that former students remember feeling as if Rosenfeld had drugged them while sleeping at his house. During those sleepovers, the report says, former students remember Rosenfeld urging them to wrestle with him while both he and the student were in their underwear. Rosenfeld would use the wrestling as a way to molest the boys. He also molested boys on the weekend retreat he would hold after they graduated from the eighth grade.

Rosenfeld, according to the report, also would abuse boys while at school, in addition to molesting at least one girl there. He asked a student to sit on his lap, where he fondled him, and also drew close to students or would corner them in public spaces before molesting them. In addition, the report says he physically abused students, slamming them against the wall and, in one case, grabbing a student’s face and putting it in the snow.

“Some of these students also reported that they heard their classmates talk about Rosenfeld and comment that they had also been touched or fondled by him and heard others more generally joke with one another about Rosenfeld’s fondling of boys,” the report says.

Illustrative: Until New York State passed a new law, most Jewish private schools were at a disadvantage when it came to funding for classroom technology. (Courtesy HAFTR)

T&M found that at least one faculty member alerted the principal at the time, Rabbi Sheldon Chwat, that she had seen Rosenfeld touch a boy’s groin in a school office. In addition, the investigation found that two parents of former students may have told SAR administrators about Rosenfeld’s misconduct, though no parents reported that directly to T&M. Chwat left the school in 1983 and died in 2014.

It is unclear whether Rosenfeld left the school in 1977 due to these reports. But someone the report identified as a “senior member” of SAR recalls Chwat saying that Rosenfeld was leaving because he was “the kind of person that has a proclivity or interest in students” and “not the person who should be with kids full-time.”

Regardless, Rosenfeld was rehired to teach sixth-grade language arts part-time in 1986 for one year. SAR’s assistant principal at the time, Rabbi Joel Cohn, asked the principal at the time, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, if there were any concerns regarding Rosenfeld. Cohn recalled that Fuld, who had been an associate principal while Rosenfeld was employed at SAR, eventually said “for a short amount of time, I think it’s OK.”

Fuld does not recall that exchange, nor does he recall Rosenfeld returning to teach at the school, the report says. It is unclear whether the administrators who hired Rosenfeld in 1986 knew of the abuse allegations. Fuld no longer works at the school and now lives in Israel.

In addition to its findings on Rosenfeld, the report found that Schwartz, a Judaic teacher, acted inappropriately with at least four students during the 1970’s. The report said Schwartz would wrestle with boys and also draw uncomfortably close with students and have them sit on his lap.

Rabbi Yonah Fuld, the former principal of the SAR Academy in New York, in 2018. (screen capture: YouTube)

Schwartz, according to the report, also would act as an enabler for Rosenfeld’s abuse, urging students to stay with Rosenfeld for Shabbat while frequently staying there himself as well. Two former students said they separately told Schwartz that Rosenfeld had abused them — one following a Shabbat and the other immediately after the abuse occurred.

In both cases, the former students recall Schwartz telling them that the experience was a dream. In the latter case, Schwartz played board games with the student to calm him down.

Schwartz’s attorney told JTA that he fully denies having known about Rosenfeld’s abuse.

Schwartz taught at SAR until January, when he was suspended pending the investigation. He was later fired and is now suing SAR for wrongful termination.

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Henry Ford Sr. And His Hatred Of Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

The International Jew, the four-volume, virulently anti-Semitic tract, written and self-published by Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford Sr. in the early twenties and said to have inspired Adolf Hitler (may his name be erased) to write Mein Kampf, is partially true. And though I’m certain it wasn’t the intention of the author, I must tell you, the ‘partly true’ part of the book left me feeling more proud to be Jewish than anything I’ve read since… well, perhaps since Leon Uris’s Exodus.

It’s a well-established idea in Judaism that nothing can exist if it doesn’t contain at least a modicum—some homeopathic dose—of pure truth. This past summer I spent a Shabbat at a friend’s house in Minneapolis and it was by complete surprise that I happened on a bit of that truth. As they always do in the northern latitudes of Minnesota, that mid-July Shabbat day seemed like it would never end. Sometime around 7:00 p.m., with the sun still high on the horizon, I reached up and discovered a dog-eared copy of The International Jew on a crowded bookshelf.

I grew up in Minnesota, a place that for all its liberal leanings was the original home of the National Socialist Movement in 1974. Knowing this fact, and having felt acutely the effects of anti-Semitism as a boy, I was curious.

For historical context, just think what it might have felt like to be Jewish if Apple founder, Steve Jobs, had used his economic power and social standing principally to spread Jew-hatred. Like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford was wildly popular and a much-beloved figure among most Americans at the time The International Jew was first published. And imagine if Steve Jobs had written a similarly anti-Semitic screed and put a copy of it on every new iPad!

As frightening as that sounds, Henry Ford did much the same thing in his day. Ford used his money and influence to finance The Dearborn Independent, a nationally distributed newspaper, dedicated in large part to the propagation of his anti-Semitic worldview, in which he first published excerpts from The International Jew. With a circulation that reached 900,000 by 1925, it was second only to The New York Daily News in scope. The effect of Ford’s widespread hate mongering on Jews, both in America and worldwide, was so devastating it is nearly impossible to overstate.

The International Jew is rife with outlandish proclamations such as:

Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.

But alongside them, and the malevolent ignorance of the book’s overall conceit, in which a mysterious cabal of super-Jews are using their devilish ingenuity and international reach to destroy the world—there was one idea that Ford kept coming back to:

There is lacking in the Gentile a certain quality of working-togetherness of intense raciality, which characterizes the Jew. It is nothing to a Gentile that another man is a Gentile; it is next to everything to a Jew that the man at his door is another Jew.

It was as if that very notion had pained him, not just in some general or academic sense, but personally. Ford couldn’t seem to wrap his head around why Jews—Jews who’d never met one another, Jews who didn’t share a common language or a cultural heritage, could be so immediately at home with one another. How was it, he wondered, that the Jews, a people that had been in exile for thousands of years and virtually cut off from each other, could create such an immediate sense of trust and familiarity?

What Ford could never fathom was what we Jews know as “Ahavat Yisrael,” the innate love a Jew has for a fellow Jew. This, of course, is not to say that a Jew doesn’t have, or is not capable of having, G‑d forbid, love for others. In the same way that I love my brother more than my closest friend, and my closest friend more than a mere acquaintance, this hierarchy of loves is actually instructive in how to love in a larger sense.

But what is the glue that binds one Jew to another? Is it a cultural or culinary connection like a love for the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer or gefilte fish? Or is it a shared language—Yiddish or Ladino, for example? What I have come to understand is that the Torah itself is at the root of the deep, almost mystical affinity of one Jew for another.

Now some might say they don’t accept its Divine origins, some may dispute the present-day relevance of certain of its laws, still others may consign the entire Torah to mere historical artifact. But one thing is indisputable: Unlike any other people on the planet, the Jewish nation has remained intact throughout its 2,700 years of diasporic existence. I believe it is only possible because we were given the Torah, a Testimony of laws, and highly specified codes of morality, that we have been able to accomplish this miraculous feat.

But even with all our differences, whether political, religious, or cultural, when the Torah is removed from the ark on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the day we celebrate having been given this precious and unifying document, we will rush as one to kiss it, to embrace it, and to dance with it—as if the Torah were a beautiful child.

In that moment we won’t be holding parchment scrolls; we will be carrying history itself. We will dance, not just with our friends and community members, but also with our grandparents, many of whom died to uphold the Torah.

And when we raise our voices to sing on Simchat Torah, we will sing for our children, those born and those yet to be born, and for brothers and sisters so distant it’s unlikely we will ever meet them—and perhaps most of all, we will sing for departed loved ones who can no longer sing for themselves. On Simchat Torah, we will celebrate the joy of having been given nothing less than the embodiment of God’s Will.

Throughout the millennia it has been our shared sense of mission to that “Will,” along with the connection to one another that sense of mission inspires, which has been the cause of so much enmity among our adversaries.

But on Simchat Torah, and during the coming year, I won’t be dwelling on hatred. Instead, I will focus my mind and heart on kindness, on unity, and on a renewed sense of Jewish pride —a pride that emerged from the unlikeliest of sources —the unadulterated animus of The International Jew, among the most ruthlessly anti-Semitic works of the 20th century.

An Aussie Intern in Israel – Part One: The Personal Experience

 

An Aussie Intern in Israel – Part One: The Personal Experience

I once thought that I fell for a young man, a love completely against my will and every subjective, objective, emotional thought I had and yet there he was plaguing my mind despite me. The facts are that he certainly has a ridiculous personality, divided between his willful submission to societal norms caused by a desperate need for approval and his frustrated anxiety to be who he wants to be. In fact, he claims to be a determinate as a way to escape his own will and freedom due to the intensity of his self-doubt and yet plays deceitful games, lies and tricks the people around him to satisfy his ego and covert the misery he feels for being such a coward. His life is an image creation and though he despises such mediocrity, he tames the desire for freedom by creating fictional characters and stealing the experiences from others. This, and finding happiness in other peoples’ misery. I desired nothing more than to see him embrace his freedom as I could sense a purity or goodness within him beyond what I had ever seen before but time and time again, despite every comment made, every lesson thrown in his direction, he always withered back into his shell, hiding himself behind the shadows. In all the bad he did to me – all of which I knew as I knew what he was – I realized I fell in love with the belief in his potential to break out of this repetitive stupidity, to become honest to himself which is the only way to obtain what genuine morality provides; everlasting peace. But last Christmas, seeing him only worsen I realized to my immediate disappointment that his refusal to better himself was much stronger than I could impress and being profoundly saddened at his failure to a point of making myself seriously sick, to save myself from the heartache I decided to search elsewhere for what I had hoped to find in him.

And I think I found him. His name is Israel.

From the soundless alarm made from the gentle, orange sunrise piercing through the giant tree outside my bedroom window that form shapes on the wall to the random crazy man shouting for no apparent reason on the side of the street. The impolite service, the politics, history, feeling lost in the maze of an unknown language as I stand in shock as people ride hand-made motorized bicycles in the middle of a busy, disorganized road. The combination of young, perfectly tanned girls wearing short dresses that expose their tattoos to women dressed modestly in long skirts and shirts with a scarf over their heads. The dilapidated buildings and infrastructure that is nevertheless functional and the sudden silence during shabbat. On one end I see an overweight, bearded man wearing a payos and hat with a gun strapped around his thigh and on the other I see young, attractive men sipping beers in their board shorts. I am lost in the chaos, overwhelmed by the constant honking of the horns, the failure to understand where to go or what bus to catch. And I love every minute of it.

It goes against every rational, subjective, emotional understanding I have of a place to call home, living in Melbourne – the most livable city in the world – and having an attitude of refined simplicity and quality. Such is the appeal of this country, with the ridiculous personality divided between a strong, almost mad ego and a genuine goodness. There is so much to learn, so much to change for the better and I want to play my part, to flow in the chaotic tide of its beauty and terror even if multiple barriers causes him to reject me, trick me or hurt me. I have fallen in love with the endless possibilities that Israel has to offer.

 

Desert Queen

At the onset of my Masters degree in Human Rights Law, I was told that there would be opportunities to pursue international internships funded by Monash University and noticed several availabilities in Israel. Though I had yet to apply, something told me that I was going and I could only go if I was offered the funds to do so since financial constraints would prevent me from visiting independently. You could imagine how overwhelmed I felt the moment I received the ‘congratulations’ letter, but certainly not as accomplished and confident the moment I stood on the balcony at my Tel Aviv apartment knowing that throughout October I will be in the most complex, beautiful place in the world. Since completing my studies in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies several years back at the Australian National University, I have always wanted to come and experience everything that I had learnt about the Arab/Israeli conflict and about Middle Eastern politics in general, of Islam and Judaism and the legal and social issues – something I shall write more about in Part Two: The Political Experience of this blog post. But my love of history and of biblical history in particular was the source of what really compelled me to this region.

Interestingly, however, I though it would be in Jerusalem that I would find a sense of belonging but – as I had experienced in Rome – it was certainly not what I had anticipated, on the contrary. I unwittingly found a love of the rustic and almost cruel Negev region and also in restricted and abandoned streets of Bethlehem. Perhaps it was simply just a string of bad luck, yet I was hoodwinked on several occasions in Jerusalem, losing a substantial amount of money to a taxi driver who intentionally dropped me off at the wrong place, from staying in a terrible apartment though the images showed it otherwise, to be given incorrect directions from a mini-market employee when all I needed to do was walk less than thirty seconds away from the location, I became confused and a little disgruntled. The attitude to Tel Aviv – where I am primarily based – is a liberal city, left-wing and youthful and yet here I have felt welcomed, the vibe being that of kind solicitation, a warmth and eagerness. When I was in Rome, a similar and overwhelming experience had occurred just the same and I felt a strong desire to leave the city and return back to Tuscany where I felt at home in the hills with its peaceful culture, music, art and the medieval architecture. Perhaps, as I said, it was just bad luck and I will endeavor to try Jerusalem once more in anticipation of a better experience.

It was nevertheless unexpected that traversing the Judean Desert, from the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, from Eilat and even to Jordan where experiencing Wadi Rum since watching Laurence of Arabia would have been as appealing as it has to me. Like most adventurers, some find it appealing to climb mountains, others hiking forests or out at sea, for me it would seem that there is a desert appeal, the richness of archaeological and historical artifacts and stories, the cruelty and beauty.

Mar Saba Monestary
masada
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Staying in Israel until the end of October, I also find myself being a part of the most celebratory month of the year. Though I have rented an apartment near the beach and so locally there appears to be options to buy groceries or visit a cafe despite the public holiday, I still want to get myself involved and learn more about the customs and traditions. At the moment, the celebration of Rosh Hashanah is underway or the Jewish New Year and Jews all over the world traditionally eat apples dipped in honey to promote a sweet new year. I wish for nothing more than the sweetest New Year and being an avid – perhaps way too avid – fruit lover, I spent a portion of my funds on apples, pears, plums, honey and pomegranates for the two-day holiday. Oh, how I love fruit so I thank Rosh Hashanah for the excuse to eat it all! In the Book of Leviticus, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of the Trumpets is traditionally a way of reflecting over the past year, to be penitent and to ask God for forgiveness for any wrongdoing made in addition to celebrating the beginning of the harvest. Challah bread – which is circular – is also traditionally served to symbolize the cycle of the year. Shanah tovah u’metukah

Following Rosh Hashanah will be the celebration of Yom Kippur, considered the holiest of holidays for the Jewish community all around the world. Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement require fasting and prayer over the day and night, asking for forgiveness and atoning for any sin or wrongdoing. This is followed by Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles and is a celebration of the exodus through the wilderness as signified in the Book of Leviticus as well as marking the agricultural year from the Book of Exodus. It ends over a period of seven days on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. To be a part of a country celebrating these festivities, I feel honored to be present during October.

A Personal Journey of Recovery

I went through the worst year of my life last year. I found myself being bullied and harassed, I lost all my savings and ultimately my dreams, I had a car accident, I was seriously threatened, physically injured and ill with rapid weight loss, amenorrhea and severe angina, twice hospitalized where I nearly died. All this while I was alone. It felt like the whole world hated me and all I really wanted was one person, a friend, to say that I was going to be okay, only it was the contrary. There were days that I spent hours in physical agony from the angina that I never left the house and to avoid the severity of the situation, I would utilize social networking sites as a way to pretend that I was not as incredibly vulnerable, confused or afraid as I was. It was only when the angina suddenly disappeared to the dismay of my doctor and myself that I was able to slowly stand from the distress and work my way out of the sense of emptiness and hurt. Though I permanently injured my left leg and without a car, despite the pain I forced myself to walk and get groceries, to catch two trains to my new job and back. Slowly but surely and now with an income and employment that gave me purpose, I moved into my own unit and took control of my life once more. I started a master’s degree and began writing my own blog, making a pact with myself that 2016 will be a New Year that will never repeat what I had experienced previously. Step by step, struggle-by-struggle, I gained the strength and did so with independence, hard work, a strong will and my faith in the loving-kindness of God.

In saying all that, the terrible experiences awakened a part of me that I had long kept hidden. I never realized how much my family had hurt me until the recent events because – being alone for so long – the severity of the experience made me realize that I did not want to be alone anymore, which made me question why I was. After a childhood spent being rejected from my parents and relentlessly told by my siblings that I was ugly and stupid, unawares, I believed it and pushed all men away as I kept myself hidden from the fear of being hurt just the same as I never had ambition professionally since I thought I was never good enough. Though no one would know of my inherent isolation, year after year was lost in the acceptance that I was less worthy than everyone else. All these experiences has in a cyclic fashion encapsulated everything that I have decidedly become. Though it was incredibly difficult for me, a photo in my swimsuit at Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea was an effort to express in symbolic format that I will no longer believe that I am ugly and that beauty is the confidence to have self-respect, to commit to a life of moral worthiness, to be genuinely kind and to love with all my heart and though I have not yet been in a relationship, I am no longer embarrassed or afraid neither do I nor will I ever believe in other people’ viciousness. I have conquered hate. My passion now lies in children and my philosophy will remain that every child deserves a childhood. My mother, being a victim of severe domestic violence, failed to adequately care and I know that a childhood can only develop correctly with a mother who is of right mind. Thus, by extension, women’s rights is fundamental to the rights of children. Though I myself can never have children, my fierce maternal instincts, genuine sense of love for all of humankind, honor in my person and respect for myself has led me to commit myself to this purpose. I am also learning to appreciate beauty both physically and subjectively.

Which is why my purpose was found on the day I decided to travel into Bethlehem, the West Bank. Encountering the Palestinian/Israeli conflict directly, it was quite overwhelming to hear stories of Palestinian children being shot dead, something that reaches deep into my soul as completely and unequivocally unacceptable. The restrictions particularly with movement and self-determination, the poverty and lack of opportunity will certainly impact on the well-being of mothers. To change the conditions of society, to prevent the growth or maturation of a negative culture, children need to experience love, happiness, freedom. It was in Bethlehem that I met the founder of the organisation Alrowwad For Culture and Arts, a wonderful organisation in the UNRWA managed refugee camp Aida that provides both women and children with hope through creativity and education.

BanksySpraying on the wall West Bank Wall Aida Camp GraffitiMe with Palestinian Children

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Aida Camp is managed by UNRWA and with more than 3000 inhabitants covering a mere 0.070 square kilometers, it is one of many camps in the region that is susceptible to violence being in a vulnerable location and overcrowded. Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour gave me a plethora of information regarding the work of the organisation and I was so moved by its validity that I have decided to establish Australian Friends of Alrowwad when I get back home to Melbourne as a way of supporting the organisation and the children in the camp. I am apolitical and will ensure that it remains so, my only concern being the rights of women and children despite Israel and Palestine being divided withe a long and intricate history of violence and fear among other delicate issues. My personal experience with hardship and my current state of subjective peace was only possible when I stopped focusing on the evils of the past but took the necessary steps to develop change for the better. It is unfruitful and unproductive otherwise as all experiences should never be forgotten but it is essential to overcome.

I want to end with a quote that I believe stands at the heart of this personal post of mine.

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Rusted Honey

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