Ohel, Where’s The Beef?
Tue, 03/08/2011

The Jewish Week finds itself, unfortunately, in a war of words with Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. To be clear: we have no animus toward the Brooklyn-based social service agency or any other Jewish organization; our mission and goal is to report the truth, as best we can, and inform and strengthen the Jewish community. Sometimes that makes for hard feelings.

Over the years we have reported allegations that Ohel’s policies in dealing with sex abuse has put the community’s children at risk. As a result, the agency appears to have concluded that we are biased against it, and worse.

After our investigative report, “Abuse Case Tests Ohel’s Adherence to Reporting Laws” (Feb. 25) was published, Ohel CEO David Mandel sent a directive to staff saying that the agency would be “launching an editorial and informational campaign in print, online and through the various social media, rebutting” our story.

The memo went on to assert that the article “once again demonstrates a complete disregard for fact driven by a very misguided agenda,” and that “The Jewish Week’s accusations are an affront to every Ohel employee, every Ohel client and the community at large.”

Most of the charges against The Jewish Week appeared in a full-page ad Ohel placed in last week’s issue and were addressed and refuted in a news story we published last week (“Ohel Says Jewish Week Accusations ‘Unfounded’”).

This week, Marvin Schick, in his paid column, broadens the critique of The Jewish Week, citing our report on Ohel as part of an “endless attack on the Orthodox.” He acknowledges that he does not know the facts of the case we focused on — even suggests Ohel may have erred — but insists that matters less than pointing out that The Jewish Week “constantly publish(es) material hostile to the Orthodox.”

We view such charges as ad hominem attacks that question our motives, agenda and beliefs — everything but the veracity of our reporting.

How sad that when we report that a respected Jewish social service agency appears to have broken the law and, as a result, may be endangering children, the response from at least part of the community is not, “let’s address the problem,” but rather, “kill the messenger.”

What may be lost in the blizzard of verbiage from both Schick and Ohel is that nowhere in their ads do they deny the salient facts of our report, which described several controversial cases dealing with the agency’s actions.

The central point was that the staff of Ohel, on the advice of its attorney and quality-control officer, did not report to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) a suspected case of child abuse by an Ohel client who disclosed that she thought she “may be” sexually abusing her 5-year-old son. In subsequent sessions with those treating her, she disclosed that she was abusing her son.

New York State law says that people designated as mandated reporters — such as social workers, psychologists and mental health professionals, like those at Ohel who dealt with the woman — are required to make a report when there is “reasonable cause” to suspect a child is being abused.

Ohel did not.

We stand by our story.

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Comments

I was wondering if there will be a city / state investigation into the allegations that if Ohel suspected child abuse and didn't report it shouldn;t their organiztion be fined and the case worker held responsible for not doing the most basic part of their job- looking out for the welfare of children?

I am astonished by Gary Rosenblatt's comment that I acknowledge that I do not know the facts of the Ohel case which JW reported on. There is no such statement in my column. There is the view that JW is constantly hostile to the Orthodox community. I wish Gary would address a single point: The column by Asher Lipner which included the claim that the Orthodox community lags behind the Catholic Church in dealing with sexual abuse. Twenty-one priests were suspended yesterday in Philadelphia in connection with a massive sexual abuse scandal, with credible charges made by a grand jury that the Church had covered up. Isn't it time for the Jewish Week and its Editor to at least once admit that with respect to the Orthodox, the newspaper was wrong and is willing to apologize.

Marvin Schick

I HAVE BEEN A READER OF THE JEWISH WEEK FOR MANY MANY YEARS. I FIND THE PAPER TO BE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY CRITICIZER OF ALL DENOMINATIONS. WE TEND TO NOT CARE IF OTHER DENOMINATIONS ARE HELD TO THE FIRE, BUT ARE INDIGNANT WHEN IT AFFECTS OUR DENOMINATION. I SUSPECT THAT IF THE PAST IS TRUE TO FORM, WE WILL BE IN SURREAL FASHION BE TOLD THAT THAT THE JEWISH WEEK IS ANTI-SEMITIC. AT SOME POINT MEMBERS OF A GIVEN COMMUNITY, BE IT ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR WHATEVER, MUST ACTUALLY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNT FOR THEIR DOINGS. AND ABOVE ALL ELSE TO RECTIFY WHERE WRONGS HAVE BEEN MADE.

PUTTING UP WALLS IN ORDER TO INSULATE BECOMES MISDIRECTED AND ACTUALLY HURTS THE COMMUNITY IN THE LONG-RUN.

I MAY NOT LIKE EVERYTHING YOU WRITE BUT DEFEND AND APPLAUD YOUR WILLINGNESS TO DO SO.

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