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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals, ed. by Amy Neustein, PhD

This book review by Anne Grant originally appeared in the Providence Journal on Sunday, May 10, 2009.

For decades, while victims of child sex abuse fought Roman Catholic bishops in New England, dozens more in Brooklyn, N.Y., met a wall of resistance from District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes and the informal council of Orthodox Jewish leaders who assured Hynes’ long tenure in office. Jewish victims feared reprisals against their families in Orthodox communities even after five non-Jews, beginning with an Italian-American boy, persuaded a grand jury to indict a charming yeshiva administrator, child therapist, and rabbi, Avrohom Mondrowitz.

The New York Times gave the story a few lines in 1984, when Mondrowitz, charged with sex crimes against children, disappeared. The Times reported nothing further for 23 years. This book skillfully gathers the voices of those who struggled against official silence to speak truth and demand justice in this case and others.

The editor, sociologist Amy Neustein, has midwifed an endangered subject matter to safety in the Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, & Life. She dedicates the book to the memory of her father, an Orthodox rabbi.

Among the startling histories recounted is the case against Rabbi Solomon Hafner in 2000, when a Yiddish-language newspaper in Brooklyn published a full-page notice signed by 50 prominent rabbis. They reminded readers of the “severe prohibition” against informing non-Jewish authorities against another Jew. This included reporting child abuse to police. The ad warned in religious Hebrew that such a mitzvah [positive commandment] entitled any Jew to kill the informer.

Mitzvahs like this defended against Czarist goons and Nazi storm troopers. But what if a rabbi sets up a fraudulent yeshiva to scam Pell grants? If secular authorities and media pursue these crimes, will they be smeared as anti-Semites? What if authorities allow Jewish leaders to assault Jewish children with impunity? How will modern ethicists parse the caveats of the people who gave us the Ten Commandments?

Neustein’s fascinating collection includes perspectives from rabbis, lawyers, psychotherapists, social workers, and educators who seek to empower children against predators. One chapter tells the parallel history of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“In a place where no one will take responsibility,” advised the sage Hillel, “try to be responsible.” Attorney Michael Lesher pursued Mondrowitz to Israel, where authorities arrested the rabbi in 2007. If the Israeli Supreme Court denies his appeal, the prisoner will return to Brooklyn to face his accusers. This book helps us begin the discussions we have resisted too long.

Blog Archive

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: