- According to Israeli Law, for a legal matter to proceed, a defendant must be present in court.
- There is a legal debate in Israel whether this law is only applicable in local Israeli matters or also in international cases.
- This is the first time the Israeli legal system has been faced with this scenario – it has never had to deal with an extradition case being stopped due to the apparent mental health of a defendant.
- Currently, one judge in the case has ruled that the Leifer extradition case may proceed even though Leifer is apparently unable to be present in court, while another judge has ruled that Leifer must be fit to attend court. At this stage, the third judge believes it is unnecessary to give their ruling on the matter and that it should be resolved through government legislation.
- It is important to emphasise that, as per the court ruling, Leifer has monthly psychiatric assessments by a psychiatrist from the Israeli public service (the ruling is for 10 years). There have been two such psychiatrists involved in this monthly process.
- As per the court ruling, every six months, a three-member government-appointed psychiatric committee (a member from the legal fraternity and a psychiatrist from both the private and public sectors) reviews the information from Leifer’s monthly assessments, sees Leifer briefly and makes a determination as to her current mental state. This committee is the sole decision-maker (not the Judge or the Court).
- At this stage, the Israeli judicial system is precluded from getting directly involved.
- There are two options that would force Leifer to face the much-sought extradition hearing. First, if her psychiatric assessors state that Leifer’s mental health has improved to a satisfactory level. Second, if there is sufficient evidence that she has been misleading the court and/or her psychiatrists regarding her mental state.
- Nothing can be done at this stage to prevent Leifer from teaching in Israel or being in contact with children, as the matter is no longer before the court.
- Significant work is continuing by many stakeholders, publicly and privately, to ensure justice is achieved and that Leifer is not a risk to children around her.
As a follow-up to my recent blog post titled Some caution regarding the Malka Leifer case, where I argued against blaming the Israeli government for the Leifer scandal, I have now been provided with the following additional important information:
Last week on Thursday (20 July), the Jerusalem District Court sentenced (Rabbi) Aharon Shlomo Lisson to a minimum of seven years for sexually abusing three brothers. Later that day, one of the courageous victims/survivors, Yaakov (Yankie) Rainitz, wrote a powerful public post in Hebrew about what transpired. Below is the unedited English version (published with Yankie's permission):
I don’t know where to start, from the beginning or maybe from the end. You have heard a lot about me. You have seen me flickering across your TV screen on news sites where they refer to me as ‘Y’! I have decided to reveal my identity. I am Yankie Rainitz and I am 21 years old. I studied for many years with a respected teacher who will go to jail next month for a very long time!
My life story has been paraded during the past two years numerous times on national television and on different internet sites. But today, I have decided for the first time to remove the cloak of secrecy and to reveal my identity through my Facebook page, to reveal a little of the stormy ocean in my life. I am doing this to encourage, strengthen, uplift and give hope to all those children and young people who are going through the abuse behind closed doors which I experienced.
I was 12 years old when I started Year 8, where the respected, righteous and revered Rabbi Aharon Shlomo Lisson was teaching. This man, known as ‘Rav Lisson’, would consistently praise me in front of my class mates and the Talmud Torah staff. He would give me presents and send notes of satisfaction home with me to my parents. In the community and at home, this man was known as something rare and special, a real angel.
As a child in the Charedi community, I had never heard the words ‘sexual abuse’ before. My parents always warned me about ‘sick dangerous people’ that touch children, and if someone were to approach me in the public park to touch me, I should scream and flee, run straight home and tell them what happened. If a strange, sick person tried the same stunt at the mikveh, I should know that it is dangerous and I should shout out and run away. But even in my worst nightmares, I never dreamed that they could be referring to this special man, Rav Lisson, whom I adored. He was my most revered rabbi and teacher, he was my whole world, I trusted him through difficult times, he was the most lofty character for me as a small child. And this man exploited me dozens of times for his own sexual satisfaction!!! And when, over time, my little body wasn’t enough to satisfy him sexually, there were always my three younger brothers.
He asked me to take upon myself the words from the verse in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) ‘acquire for yourself a teacher’ and so he became my own personal mashpia (mentor). A mashpia in my community is someone who you turn to in a spiritual crisis. He provides you with a wide range of solutions for all kinds of problems and you stay in touch with him always! A kind of godly figure.
And this godly figure took advantage of me and hurt me dozens of times and more. My two brothers directly beneath me also experienced the same kind of abuse, but none of us knew what was happening to the others. And as for the question “why”, it has long shrivelled up and disappeared within the sheer despair of ever finding an answer. Why did we deserve this? A question that has reverberated for many years, one with no answer.
Not only did he abuse my body for his own sexual pleasure whenever he wanted, but he also strangled the life out of me. He squeezed every drop of air containing natural oxygen out from me and after every incident, left me ruminating about the fact that he had just done the most wonderful thing in the world, especially for me. And all because he loved me and cared about me. Because I was the best in the world, the most exceptional, righteous and beautiful person in the world, the only one deserving of such a privilege … just me, all because of me.
During the years that Lisson abused me, I was a small and delicious piece of meat in his eyes and I served his purpose loyally. There was no desire on my part, but he completely controlled me. I did not understand what was happening; red blood just never burst forth from me. Like a corpse that you can kick and even tear the skin and tendons, but the dead person doesn’t feel it. And even if he did, he would never be able to sound those alarm bells. This is how I experienced those years of abuse, from a living being I turned into a dead person. So much blood left my body, but it was never red, so I could never yell out.
The second period of abuse occurred after I made a complaint to the police. Many voices were heard, of rabbis and people in the public arena, of friends, neighbours and acquaintances, from the neighbourhood and from school. There was a lot of anger and fury, ironically directed at us, the ones who complained. How can I describe the sorrow and disappointment, the sense of anger and betrayal I felt when teachers and rabbis who taught me for years, day after day, people I trusted and relied upon, appeared in front of me in the witness stand in court glorifying and praising this popular rabbi?
My life changed completely, from a place on high, a place of safety surrounded by friends in a loving environment, the centre of attraction and oozing self-confidence – to a low point that was unfamiliar to me. To the depths of hell scorched by a burning fire that completely destroyed everything. Everything I had … everything I dreamed of! In my dreams, the future was beautiful and bright, secure and promising. I didn’t even think how my life changed at that moment. It happened so quickly that I couldn’t tell, think about or express this cruel and dramatic change.
The only ones that were there, that saw and knew about the terrible things I was going through were him and G-d. And G-d surely froze on the spot. How could he not?! The truth is, I also froze. Only he didn’t freeze. He worked energetically, heatedly and with endless cruelty. He peeled away layer after layer of innocence and childhood laughter, happiness and youth. Light. Normality. Humanity. Regular lifestyle. He made a monster out of me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. The only one who could explain it to me was him. And he did so willingly.
In hindsight, what he explained was a double whammy and a painful slap, the intensity of which continues to reverberate in my soul until today. I can’t let it go. But then, I had to accept it because that’s how it was. He told me that he loved me, that I was the best in the world. That I have a special heart. And just because of that I was ‘privileged’ to have him do these things to me. Enough!! I can’t continue because my brain is about to burst. From pain, anger and helplessness.
When I was 18, my younger brother started Year 8. At this point, I decided to approach the principal of the school and tell him what had happened, so that he would get rid of the teacher. We met late at night; he surprised me and was absolutely amazing. He promised me that I was doing the right thing and that I even deserve a gold medal for my courage. He gave me strength and supported and encouraged me (something which has continued till today). We went to the police and filed a complaint … and from that day on, my life became a cruel and black nightmare that gained momentum like a powerful and painful ball with no inhibitions.
Giving evidence in court was one of the most difficult events throughout this process. A small, innocent boy up against a top lawyer, a shrewd and experienced lawyer whose single aim was to break my spirit -and he succeeded. And when I burst out crying on the witness stand, he did not get confused but shouted at me that everyone knew that I’d practised my tears at home. The accused, who had once been my whole world, sat and vigorously wrote little questions and facts to pass over to his counsel so that he could use them to fire questions at me … it was terrible. There are no words to describe it. I have described here about one percent of the agony I experienced during the trial.
One of the most difficult stages of the trial was when they did ‘character witnesses and defence witnesses’. This is the part where the accused gets to bring forth witnesses who will testify in his favour – which meant against us. He brought tens of witnesses, all of whom I knew. The vast majority were teachers and rabbis who had taught me at the yeshivah throughout the years, many of whom I loved, respected and valued. And they all appeared there on one day. At first I was shocked. And then came another deliberation and another well-respected rabbi, and then another deliberation and another well-known mashpia… and I got used to it. Or rather, I switched off. I switched off emotionally from thoughts of the past, from my innocence and from my respect towards these people. It’s hard for me, but I didn’t cause this. I pray that this storm will pass, or at least that the ship will hold out and not fracture, G-d forbid. Because right now, my life is happening in a fragile boat in the middle of a furious and stormy sea, a boat that can break any minute and get lost at the bottom of the sea.
Perhaps in a few years, it will be possible to describe this period in my life as over, but not done. Because this story does not have an ending. The wounds will bleed forever because no tweezers in the world will ever be able to reach the deep psychological levels that Lisson touched., hurt, burnt. And the parts of me that this despicable human being succeeded in touching, groping and feeling will never be the same again.
I am using this opportunity to reach out to all the other children who were abused by the man who hurt me, and by others. Please, help yourselves. I won’t lie to you, the road to reaching the point I am at today is hard to navigate. No words in the world are enough to describe the real difficulties that this road is fraught with. But it’s worth it! In the end, truth reigns supreme.
First and foremost, I want to thank the Creator of the world who knows what is best for me, even if it is difficult to understand and sometimes seems not to work out.
To my dear amazing parents. Mom and Dad! I know that this saga has robbed you of many years of life. But we won! Because of the fortified wall you became for us, even when the earth shook beneath us and threatened to destroy our lives, you never gave up. And thanks to you, justice has prevailed. Perhaps there is no way back from the havoc wreaked – both financially and in terms of health (physical and mental) – but we won!
To our wonderful and special lawyer/prosecutor Yifat Pinchasi, you were an angel from heaven. It’s not just a slogan, we saw those who came before you … and you, with sensitivity, great wisdom and endless love, managed to bring forward this victory for us.
To Yifat Sasha-Biton, Member of Knesset, who has been by my side throughout this journey. At any time of the day no matter what, you always have time to put in a kind, loving word and strong encouragement for the future. You are a special person. Thank you for blazing the trail with wonderful laws that will protect our children. There are no words!
To lawyer Limor Etziyoni, really something special. Life became easier when you entered the picture. You are one of a kind. Thank you for your advice and guidance which came from genuine and sincere concern. We still have a lot to talk about in the future.
To the amazing Ori Tal and Tal Nissim! Thank you for the hours and hours you spent with me. You always listened, allowing me to offload, to complain about what was going on and to be updated. Yours is the warmest home I have ever been in. You are legends!
There are too many names to mention here of all the many people who have helped, encouraged, supported and held me. It is because of you that I was able to reach this day. I love you!
In conclusion, it is no secret that I am a Lubavitcher Hassid. And it is no secret that some of the pillars of the Chabad community have caused me and my family terrible injustice. Injustice that will never be forgotten.
Many people have asked me how I managed to remain who I am despite the foul mouths I have witnessed from people who call themselves mashpi’im (spiritual mentors), rabbis and educators? I must tell the truth, there is one person who stopped me from deviating from my path. He is the Lubavicher Rebbe whom I love dearly. Lisson, you took everything away from me. The emotions of my childhood and the joys of my youth. You put inside of me a sense of obscenity and evil and you cut me off from the path of Judaism. But if you thought for a moment that you could take the Rebbe away from me – you made a big mistake!
Today I am a Chabad shaliach (emissary) in Hong Kong. I try to breathe deeply, to help and assist, to learn with whomever necessary … and mostly, to take time out when I need. And as for you, Mr Lisson, I have no idea what will enable you to heal all of those septic wounds that you created in so many children that never even knew what a sin was before you came along. So off you go to jail, you miscreant, but for G-d’s sake, enough holding your head up high – it won’t help.
Today is not a happy day for me. It is a day of introspection, a day of sorrow, a day of closure.
An update regarding the Malka Leifer case (a letter from the Israeli Prosecution):
Yesterday was the hearing of the psychiatric panel regarding Malka Leifer.
The psychiatrist that treats her recommended to extend the court order for her treatment for additional six months, since she is at a psychotic phase at the moment.
However, the panel decision will be given in the near future, and then I will be able to update you regarding the decision.
As I said in our phone conversation, we are fully committed to take any possible step in order to make the extradition of Mrs. Leifer to Australia possible according to the Israeli Law.
Please don’t hesitate to call at any time.
Tonight I had the honour to meet this courageous Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) family currently (literally) battling it out in court to bring the alleged perpetrator of their young boys to account (he is a prominent member of their community). The parents reached out to me in the hope that I will provide them and their children with the strength to continue their struggle for justice.
I am not sure what they gained from our encounter, which included my parents, but I certainly walked away both heartbroken and determined to continue my struggle on behalf of them and so many others.
Incredibly, the trial has been underway for around a year and a half - apparently, there's still another year to go, including another four months of periodic hearings for the defendant to bring witnesses, some as character references. Serious questions have again been raised regarding the Israeli judicial system.
Predictably, their community has turned against them. They are referred to as "massers" (collaborators), they've lost all of their friends, and have endured many other consequences based purely on their courageous decision to press charges against their alleged abuser.
The kids are suffering. The entire family is suffering. Immensely. They've endured this additional injustice for years. They feel helpless.
The rabbinic leadership must immediately and unequivocally take a public stand on this injustice. They must intervene in any way possible. Their silence to date has been deafening. Thankfully there are several individuals who have stood by them, including accompanying them to the many court hearings.
It was heartbreaking to hear the youngest victim describe when he saw his former spiritual mentor - a man he greatly admired and respected - attend the court in support of his alleged perpetrator. It had a profound detrimental impact on him.
I am not entirely sure what else there is to say or write. Sadly, this family is not the first to experience such callousness - especially from ostensibly righteous leaders and community members, and they won't be the last. So this is a reminder of what many prefer to ignore: Kids are being sexually abused in staggering numbers. And when they attempt to pursue justice, often they and their families are re-victimised - by their former friends, community and even the justice system.
This is happening. Today. The question is what are we going to do about it.
Conspiracy of silence: A Beitar Illit father abuses his daughters for 20 years [an English translation of a Hebrew article in bhol.co.il*]
Resident of Beitar Illit, abused his four daughters for 20 years • Lawyer Shwartz: "There are children among us who have been ‘burnt alive’ in their homes"
23 March 2015
Once again it happened: a resident of Beitar Illit, abused his four daughters for twenty years, without them being able to protect themselves. This morning, he was indicted for serious crimes.
Serious charges were laid this morning against a 49-year-old Beitar Illit resident. It is alleged that for 20 years he sexually and otherwise abused his four daughters. What is especially appalling is that the defendant, who freely admits to carrying out his horrific deeds, is blaming his daughters.
This is apparently a perfectly run of the mill married man who is respected within his community. But behind the mask there a person who seriously abused helpless children.
Jerusalem District Attorney Office, represented by lawyer Lizu Wolfus, submitted the charge sheet, and filed a request to keep the man in custody until the end of proceedings.
"The accused’s response to the police allegations revealed a highly warped mode of thinking” the prosecution submitted as part of request to keep the man in custody. “That clearly indicate that he presents a serious danger.”
About a month ago, a Haredi man from the centre of the country was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for severely abused three of his daughters, on hundreds of occasions for over two decades since 1988. The abused continued from the time they were six and a half to 11 years old till they got married at age of 18-19.
In a precedent-setting ruling, his wife, the mother of the girls, was sentenced to three years in prison for keeping silent while being aware of the abuse. The girls had told her about it, and in response she told them that it was happening in every second home. She further persuaded them not to contact the police or welfare authorities, asserting that these institutions were “destroying families."
Burnt children alive for 20 years
Lawyer Rebecca Shwartz, who founded Min Hameitzar, an organisation devoted to providing legal aid to victims of crime in the Haredi community, responded to the verdict. She told Behadrey Haredim: "This is a terrible case which cannot even be imagined; how a father would do that to his own children. We were horrified to hear that seven children were burnt [in Brooklyn] and everyone cried over it, while at the same time fathers burn their children every day within the walls of their home. This was a comparison which I discovered while reading the transcript.”
Shwartz says that one reason for the abuse is, "the perpetrator’s ignorance. I keep on encountering this motif in many cases, including this one. The perpetrator tends to rely on the notion that the victims contributed to the abuse". According to her, they don’t understand that any cooperation by the child is totally meaningless. "Widespread exposure of the cases and the dealing with them to the full extent of the law would cause other potential abusers to know, that the consent of the child does not diminish the severity of the offence, ignorance would be removed and there will be a deterrent."
Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service Melbourne Australia.
*Original Hebrew article is available at http://www.bhol.co.il/article.aspx?id=81508&cat=1&scat=1.