Does Talmudic Law Require Jews To Report Sex Crimes?

The case of Nechemya Weberman, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man accused of sexually abusing a young woman, has not just spun a secretive community into international spotlight: It's also prompted questions about how Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities handle sex offense accusations, since victim and witness intimidation and shaming are common.

Indeed, even Charles Hynes has come under intense scrutiny, after reports came to light indicating the Brooklyn District Attorney's "apparent complicity in an effort by Brooklyn's Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic leaders to cover up sex abuse in their communities."

So you might wonder: Is this seeming cover-up culture part and parcel to Judaism?

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Grace Perez, Domestic and Sex Offense Expert, on Nechemya Weberman and Ultra-Orthodox Jews' Reactions to Sex Abuse Allegations

If you have been following the story of Nechemya Weberman, an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man accused of being a child molester, you might have thought that it sounds all too familiar.

Weberman, 53, had been working as an unlicensed therapist in the uber-insular community. One of his patients, a young girl who attended "sessions intended to promote her religious practice," accused him of sexually assaulting her beginning when she was 12, according to the New York Times. The community has rallied behind him, it seems, with thousands attending a fundraiser for his legal defense Wednesday evening and a mere hundred people protesting in defense of the victim, who has been lambasted as a "liar."

Rewind to May 2011. The Voice detailed a similar saga taking place in El Barrio: Juan Caceres, a prominent leader of the Mexican community, had been convicted of repeatedly raping his own daughter. Instead of rallying behind her, they publicly villified her.

The Voice wanted to get a better understanding of why this shaming takes place. So we reached out to Grace Perez. She has worked as a sex abuse and domestic violence victims advocate in the New York metropolitan area for some 30 years and organizes the annual Brides March. What did she say?

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Beyond The Bris: Website Unites Anti-Circumcision Jews

Rebecca Wald
When the Brooklyn District Attorney's office announced that it would investigate the death of an infant who got herpes during a controversial circumcision practice, many decided to revisit the tradition, and ask whether it still has a place in modern society.

Now, this particular case deals with a very rare technique called metzitzah b'peh -- which is when the individual performing the procedure, the mohel, uses his mouth to suck blood away from the baby's penis.

Metzitzah b'peh tends to take place only in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, but New York has nevertheless tried to educate parents about the health risks of the practice: The New York Times reports that in 2003 and 2004, three cases of circumcision-linked herpes were reported to the City, one of which resulted in death.

Runnin' Scared caught up with Rebecca Wald, founder of Beyond the Bris, a multimedia forum for anti-circumcision Jews. Wald talked to us (and our sister paper!) about the practice and how this case has affected American Jews.

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Congregation Rachel Degel Israel, Kew Gardens Synagogue, Burglarized

One or more thiefs attacked Congregation Rachel Degel Israel recently -- stealing silver Torah ornaments -- and cops want your help catching them.

The crims hit the Kew Gardens synagogue, located at 144-02 68 Drive, sometime between 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The perps pilfered three silver Torah crowns and mini-crowns, three breastplates, four pointers, and one cup. 

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Are the Mets Not Playing Kosher?

If some can claim that Barack Obama violates religious freedom by forcing insurance companies to provide birth control, then what can we call the situation developing at Citi Field?

Yesterday, Judge Jack Weinstein tossed out a lawsuit brought by Kosher Sports against the New York Mets for prohibiting them from selling kosher hot dogs, sausages, knishes, pretzels, and peanuts from four different carts on Friday nights and Saturdays -- the Jewish Sabbath. Which means, if this holds up upon appeal, no Kosher dogs on the Mets' first Saturday home game on April 7 against the Braves. Apparently, Mets officials "at the highest levels" -- the phrase used in the Mets' press release --  are worried that the sale of kosher food on the Sabbath "undermines credulity with Sabbath-observing fans." 

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There Are Sukkahs in Times Square to Celebrate Sukkot

DNA Info
Sukkot is an eight day-long Jewish holiday that this year goes from October 12th to the 21st. One of the traditions of the holiday is the building of a sukkah, a walled, tent-like structure covered in plant material. The sukkah is intended as a memorial of sorts of the time the Israelites spent in exile in the desert, and is designed to eat meals and sleep in during Sukkot. And now there's one in Times Square, memorializing the Israelites next to M&M World and Scores.

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Elderly Jewish New Yorkers May Hold Secret to Long Life

woody allen.jpg
Cornell University researchers are about to begin studying the stem cells of a dozen elderly Jewish New Yorkers to figure out how they manage to live so long. There's evidence of a "longevity gene" which protects against heart disease and cancer; a lot of these seniors are living to 100 despite bad habits like drinking and smoking. Are smoking, drinking, eating fatty foods, and being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent the secrets to long life? (I've got four out of four, what about you?)More »

Menachem Schneerson's Ghost Roils the Art World

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Rebbe Menachem Schneerson
​Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is rearing his ghostly head from a grave on Long Island, sending shudders of frustration through the halls of the New York art world.

A complex legal dispute over Schneerson's Library — a collection of 12,000 books and 50,000 religious documents assembled by members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement — is causing Russian art institutions to cancel scheduled loans of world-renowned artworks to American art institutions.

The impact is immediate: Russia is holding back on shipping a Cezanne painting that was to have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next week. The Russians are afraid that the Chabad organization will ask a court to seize art from Russia and hold it hostage in the dispute.

Considered by some Orthdox Jews to be the Messiah, Schneerson died 16 years ago, but he "remains as powerful a presence in death as in life," as the Times noted last year. Many of his followers don't even think he's dead, as we pointed out in 2008.

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Dreidel-Spinning Students Break World Record; Jobless Benefits Expire for Holidays; Fire Chief Suspended for "Sex Object" on Truck

• Those Yeshiva University students gunning for a Guinness Book nod for getting a record-breaking number of people to simultaneously spin dreidels did it. 618 people spun dreidels on Tuesday night at their "Dreidel-palooza," held on the Upper West Side, effectively breaking the old dreidel high of 541 simultaneous spins. Guinness must certify the new record, of course. In related news, Hanukkah begins today at sundown. It's also Woody Allen's birthday. Mazel tov! [ABC]

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Yeshiva University Students Try to "Top" Dreidel-Spinning Record at Dreidel-Palooza

Dreidels pictured here not "made out of clay"
Yeshiva University students are aiming to set the record for "most dreidels spun at one time" at an event they're calling Dreidel-palooza, to take place tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Max Stern Athletic Center on YU's campus. According to organizers, the event will "help raise Yeshiva University undergraduate scholarship funds" while also, ideally, snagging the participants a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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