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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Press Release - Ohel Jewish Childrens Home and Family Services

Call for OHEL Leadership Change

CONTACT:The Voice of Justice - VoiceOfJustice613@gmail.com
FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
Sunday, February 27, 2011

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.***

Excerpts from The Jewish Week's piece by noted author Hella Winston PhD:

Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani (spiritual adviser) of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and a longtime advocate for abuse survivors, told The Jewish Week referring to the mother’s case as well as others of which he has knowledge.

“They have been the point men for the community [on this issue] and they have accepted the approach of the community, which is never to go to the police. They endlessly [hide] behind technicalities,” Rabbi Blau continued.

“Because [Ohel is] an agency that does wonderful things for children,” Rabbi Blau added, referring to the homes and services Ohel provides for foster children, it is not an agency he would like to see disappear. However, with respect to the handling of child sexual abuse, Rabbi Blau believes that Ohel “is the problem, in a nutshell. They [have shown that they are] not able to deal with the situation that they are legally required and morally required [to deal with]. The workers are all sincere people,” the rabbi added. “Solutions [to the current problem] would involve changing [Ohel’s] leadership. [And] you will know there’s change when they start reporting.”

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