SAR has had at least 5 alleged and/or convicted sexual abusers on their rolls or associated with them that we know about:
1. Stanley Rosenfeld (1970s-1980s)
2. Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz (1970s-2018)
3. Jane Doe, female staff member in High School (-2012)
4. Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick (2018-2019)
5. Plus the “Sauna Rabbi” from the Riverdale Jewish Center (~1986-2016)
In my opinion, SAR has become a safe haven for child sexual abusers as they have kept hiring the perverts. SAR is what they call an open school, and in their attempt to literally tear down the physical walls inside the school, they very likely have opened up the school to the child sexual abusers who use their openness physically, socially, and technically to enable and facilitate sexual abuse. Perhaps after all this, word is out on the street that SAR is the place for sexual abusers who go for easy access to students in an open school system with a history of lax enforcement. SAR has got to do a better job in its vetting process and in ongoing monitoring for inappropriate contact.
SAR’S NARCISSISTIC “RESPONSE” HANDLING AND AVOIDANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY
SAR’s reaction has been heavily focused on the public relations to buttress themselves and in essence their very strategic messaging has been over and over that “they’ve done everything right,” including from a Rabbi working for them for ~20-years that said self-servingly just that the other day for the Jewish Link NJ. However, from my perspective, the truth of the matter is that they have done virtually everything wrong.
From what I’ve seen and read, it’s more like 90% of SAR’s response has been about their “response.” rather than on expressing any contrition or regret for what has happened under their watch, rather than on introspection for where they keep going wrong, rather than on working to fundamentally understand how they keep on hiring pervs and getting fooled for so long, and rather than genuinely strategizing on what they can do better to protect the children before it happens again. Is their policy and training working if the latest Skolnick incident happened just a few years after the prior incident in the high school and while they were still investigating the Rosenfeld/Schwartz one in the middle school? SAR’s response that they have done everything right in responding and of course, patting themselves on the backis like a mortician praising themselves for a great job cleaning up the dead bodies that they themselves facilitated.
Further, why is everyone talking about SAR’s response rather than prevention? And why is no one talking about the victims? For example, why is no one talking about the poor 14-old boy from SAR that was allegedly exploited by Skolnick or the other 20-25 victims? SAR is conveniently bringing in their own self-serving investigators and “experts” (supposedly one of these is alleged to have asked for leniency for the child abuser in a prior child sexual abuse case). It certainly seems like they are doing everything but holding themselves accountable for their mistakes of judgement and process. Further, 1) why are they not cleaning house of any additional abusers that are still hiding in their ranks, and 2) starting with their leadership holding Rabbi Krauss accountable for the errors that were made with Skolnick’s hiring.
Moreover, rather than SAR taking responsibility, I’ve heard plenty of blaming the child victims from gaslighting pundits who in my opinion should absolutely have their licenses revoked. These reprehensible, morally vacant “child victim advocates” aren’t holding the abusers accountable, but rather blaming the child victims with insane causative conclusions that it is because the children weren’t empowered, assertiveness or strong enough that’s why they were sexually abused. Truly, this is the age-old fraud of telling the rape victim that it’s her felt that she was brutally gang raped because she didn’t yell loud enough or fight back.Make no mistake, a little child is not ever going to be assertiveness or strong enough to fight off a perverted grown adult who has been patiently planning and grooming their victims. In fact, that’s why they call them children! It’s highly unfortunate that these people don’t see what it’s like until perhaps G-d forbid they are the victims themselves. I hope G-d open’s people eyes so that positive change can finally be made and children don’t have to suffer anymore from this.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD
From their response, it is clear to many that for SAR this is about their image and reputation and not truly about Jewish education and a safe learning environment. Unfortunately, as long as SAR is more focused on protecting the institution of SAR and their jobs, rather than on protecting the kids in creating a safe learning and true Torah environment then nothing will really change for the better or safety of these children.
Now for a third time in 2019, SAR’s 2018-2019 newly appointed Middle School Principal of Judaic Studies is arrested for production of child pornography and SAR’s principal is stunned at how this could be happening: “It is shocking to know that someone who we have trusted with our children has been accused of harming them. Despite the practices in place to protect our children, we are not immune to breaches such as the one that seems to have taken place at SAR.”
Clearly there is a PATTERN OF BAD BEHAVIOR AND NEGLIGENCE here (i.e. like a repeat offender) and at a certain point, the patience and excuses completely runs out!
This latest sexual abuse debacle with Rabbi Skolnick (where was the vetting process on hiring him?) occurring AT THE VERY SAME TIME that SAR was conducting and publishing the results of it’s earlier sex scandal with convicted sexual offender Stanley Rosenfeld and SAR’s statement in their October 5, 2018 message releasing their report that:
Continuing our conversations with our students and faculty on preventing and addressing sexual abuse. In 2014, SAR implemented an Anti-Harassment Policy:www.saracademy.org/antiharassmentpolicy. Training is done annually for all staff as well as appropriate training for high school and middle school students as part of their advisory program. Emphasis of the training is on awareness and reporting of any potential abuse as well as setting appropriate parameters for student-staff interactions. We are fully committed to the safety of our students and to continuing to implement best practices in these areas.
As anyone can see that the words by SAR are nothing but cheap and empty as demonstrated by the facts of their now THREE TIMES REPEATED sexual scandals as reported!
How SAR could be “shocked” after three times the same types of sexual abuse occurring under their watch should be a complete mystery to any reasonable, thinking human being with a soul.
Where is the outrage by the Riverdale community and by the current board of directors of SAR? And where is the REAL action by them to correct their now half century HISTORY of abuse against the children in their completely negligent care?
Of course, let us also not forget the other sexual scandal allegations in the same community at the Riverdale Jewish Center and the chorus of denials and lack of accountability that went on with their prior “Sauna Rabbi” of thirty years who finally stepped down in 2016.
Would the Riverdale community and SAR in particular like to offer up any new denials today and provide any more cheap words about their Anti-Harassment policy and phony “commitment to the safety of our students”?
Less than two-weeks before the Jewish New Year 5780, will SAR finally take RESPONSIBILITY for the abuse to their past students and REALLY do what it takes to protect its current and future children.
Unfortunately, we are living in a time when many people are “destroyed” from various forms of abuse: physical, verbal, and emotional. This frequently occurs to those that are more vulnerable in society (e.g. exploited children). It is especially tragic that children–those that are still innocent and defenseless–are made to suffer at the hands of those that are bigger, stronger, and authority figures in their lives (teachers, clergy, etc.).
At the most basic level, we need to:
Listen (carefully), empathize, and be supportive.
Don’t be dismissive, make assumptions, or jump to conclusions.
Yes, everyone deserves a fair hearing and for the facts to be known.
No, we can’t as a community run from this uncomfortable issue any longer!
Please click the photo to enlarge or you can go straight to the link at the SAR website.
The summary findings from the investigation on the child sex abuse at SAR Academy found the following regarding Stanley Rosenfeld and “Rabbi” Sheldon Schwartz:
T&M uncovered the following regarding Rosenfeld’s tenure and behavior while at SAR:
Rosenfeld was an administrator at SAR from 1974 to 1977 and he was also employed as a teacher by the school during the 1986-87 school year. The precise circumstances of his departure and rehire remain unknown.
Twelve former SAR students and one non-SAR student reported that Rosenfeld sexually abused them during his time as an SAR Academy faculty member.
According to two victims, Rosenfeld’s misconduct was reported to at least one member of SAR’s administration at the time of these abuses.
The investigation could not conclusively determine whether the administrators involved in the rehiring of Rosenfeld were aware of the nature of the allegations at the time of his rehire.
T&M uncovered the following regarding Rabbi Schwartz’s behavior while at SAR:
According to multiple victims, details of Rosenfeld’s behavior were, at the time, raised directly to Rabbi Schwartz, who not only failed to act on the information appropriately, but was also alleged to have been present at and/or to have brought students to Rosenfeld’s home for Shabbat visits during which abuse took place.
Separately, through the course of this investigative effort, several students came forward alleging Rabbi Schwartz had acted inappropriately with them.
Rabbi Schwartz served as a Judaic studies teacher until he was suspended in January 2018, once allegations concerning his knowledge of Rosenfeld’s behavior were brought to the attention of SAR. His employment has since been terminated. Current members of the SAR administration were not aware of the allegations regarding Rabbi Schwartz until the commencement of the investigation.
T&M’s findings and the fact that Rosenfeld appears to have worked at and abused children at multiple schools and camps in the New York area gives all of us reason to pause and consider whether we are truly doing enough to protect our children.
For those of you who sincerely listened and believed the cries of the many victims, thank you.
For those of you who were complicit and even continued in the denials, I will just say to you that G-d sees all!
I agreed to be interviewed by the SAR investigator about my experience as a 7th-grade child who had been lured for a Shabbat to this monsters home.
Rabbi Rosenfeld was never my teacher, and I would have never ended up at his home for Shabbat if not for this person, who invited me there, drove me there, and listened to my cries in the next room.
It was extremely painful to recount in detail the childhood memories of sexual assault as she asked me question after question about every detail, and without malice, but basically forced me to relive the events of so long ago.
What is incredible to me is that the enabler/facilitator of that Shabbat invitation and course of events, I have come to understand, MAY STILL WORK IN THAT SCHOOL!
How many other children were lured to Rabbi Rosenfeld’s home by this person–who was being paid and given benefits, as well as provided harbor and shelter, by this school (perhaps unknowingly) for decades and decades.
But now if it is true, that this person is still there, the school has an ethical and I am certain, legal duty to protect the children that go there.
No child should be abused sexually or otherwise or be part of such atrocities by former or current staff.
I was one of the children who suffered in silence for too long.
But now I understand that one of my purposes in this world is to help make things right.
To the Riverdale community, to the board and leadership of SAR, I ask you, what is your role and responsibility?