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July 08, 1994 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SIDEWALK SALE

Many victims have told rabbis
that all they wanted was for the
accused to repent, a basic tenet of
Judaism.
Dr. Ian Russ teaches the HUC
course on psychological issues rab-
bis and educators will confront.
Like Rabbi Gross-Schaefer, he is
looking for ways of prevention for
what he sees as a growing prob-
lem.
"Priests and rabbis are no
longer on the pedestal that they
have been on in the past," he said.

siders himself a best friend of the
rabbi.
"But the rabbi knows more
about the congregant, including
his or her entire medical histo-
ry. It's an unequal relationship.
There's a violation of peoples'
sense of goodness. If this is what
religion does, who needs it?"
The same feeling of change in
the relationship between, in this
case educator and student, is held
by Jewish educators as well. Ira
Wise of Temple Emanu-El said
he has become less "touchy
and feely" over the years.
He also keeps his door open
during consultations with
females. He is reluctant to
put his arm around a stu-
dent in private. A student
may "need a hug" for emo-
tional support, but Mr.
Wise is at times reluctant
to give one.
"I don't rebuff anyone
who hugs me," he said. "I
just don't hug tightly back.
I don't want a student to
feel I'm rejecting her. I'm
Rabbi Sherwin Wine: Appropriate for leaders to
show friendly concern.
very concerned how some-
one walking down the hall
"Synagogues, rabbis and priests will see it."
can be sued and held accountable
As a student, Mr. Wise was
for their very human actions. hugged regularly by rabbis and
People have abused that impor teachers. A teacher who didn't
tant power for a long time, and hug was considered strict.
we're trying to sort it out. It leaves
"Do we run around in fear of all
us uncomfortable. But rabbis do of this? No.
need to consider carefully when
"It is not on the tip of my mind,
and how they touch a congregant but it's something that I'm care-
and when they are alone with a ful about," said Mr. Wise.
congregant. A person in power
For Fresh Air Society
needs to be hyper-aware not only Executive Director Harvey
of what his intent is but how it Finkelberg, the issue is a major
is received by another person. priority. He devotes an entire ses-
They might hold off before they sion to teaching counselors about
hug."
appropriate touching. Counselors
Both Rabbi Gross-Schaefer and may touch lightly on the back and
Dr. Russ insist that they still want at the shoulder. That's it. If boys
rabbis to hug. They just want and girls hold hands with coun-
leaders to be sure it is being done selors, that's fine, also.
appropriately.
However, camp counselors can-
"I'm concerned that if it goes not find themselves alone with a
too far, rabbis no longer will hug camper in the washroom or show-
or kiss," Rabbi Gross-Schaefer er. Counselors go through crimi-
said. "I'm against that. Society nal background checks during
is more and more of a lonely place. their employment application. If
Rabbis should hug appropriate- a counselor touches a camper in-
ly. Even asking a person if it's OK appropriately or strikes a child,
to hug. I've had people tell me 'no.' he is fired.
"Dr. Russ said that a peck on the
"It's certainly different than
cheek is an appropriate kiss from how we dealt with kids in the
a rabbi, even to a close friend in 1960s and 1970s. Then, coun-
public. No rabbi, he said, should selors were more physical. I don't
kiss anyone on the mouth.
want counselors grabbing or hit-
Rabbi Debra Orenstein of the ting kids. This is now, and these
Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy are the rules now," said Mr.
Studies found, during research Finkelberg.
for an upcoming book, that many
For 25 years, Arnie Weiner has
women had experienced sexual worked with the Michigan B'nai
abuse from men in leadership po- B'rith Youth Organization. He,
sitions.
too, has seen the emphasis in
"It came up in peoples' study- touching change over the years.
ing to convert to Judaism," she As executive director, his goal is
said. "One told me that she was to make BBYO a safe place for the
abused during an introduction- teens who participate.
to-Judaism course she took dur-
He is aware that teen-agers
ing conversion. This abusive might have a crush on an adult
touching is everywhere. I think adviser. And on at least one oc-
it's real. A rabbi has to be with casion, Mr. Weiner has had to dis-
you during very intimate, per- miss a male adviser for being too
sonal settings. And everyone con- TOUCH page 20

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