Shalom

I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176


09 March 2014

International Women's Day 2014

Sunset in the Mountains of Germany - Photo by A.Stahl

Yesterday was International Women's Day. Since 1977, women and men all over the world have taken one day (March 8th) out of all days in the year to recognize women and women's issues.

This year's theme was "Equality for Women is Progress for All". Google had a special doodle with video this year.


Just before International Women's day, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has highlighted the issue of abuses against women within the European Union. You can find information on this study under "Violence against Women: every day and everywhere" and "Fundamental change needed to help combat violence against women". You can download the PDF fact sheet in English here, and the survey results here.  If you do not have time to read the articles right now, I would highly suggest watching these two videos from FRA.




The survey asked women about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, including domestic violence. Questions were also asked about incidents of stalking, sexual harassment, and the role played by new technologies in women’s experiences of abuse. In addition, the survey asked about respondents’ experiences of violence in childhood.
Drawing on the survey responses, some of the key findings show that:
  • 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. That corresponds to 62 million women.
  • 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner.
  • 5% of all women have been raped. Almost one in 10 women who have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner, indicate that more than one perpetrator was involved in the most serious incident.
  • 43% have experienced some form of psychological violence by either a current or a previous partner, such as public humiliation; forbidding a woman to leave the house or locking her up; forcing her to watch pornography; and threats of violence.
  • 33% have childhood experiences of physical or sexual violence at the hands of an adult. 12% had childhood experiences of sexual violence, of which half were from men they did not know. These forms of abuse typically involve an adult exposing their genitals or touching the child’s genitals or breasts.
  • 18% of women have experienced stalking since the age of 15 and 5% in the 12 months prior to the interview. This corresponds to 9 million women. 21% of women who have experienced stalking said that it lasted for over 2 years.
  • 11% of women have experienced inappropriate advances on social websites or have been subjected to sexually explicit emails or text (SMS) messages. 20% of young women (18-29) have been victims of such cyberharassment.
  • 55% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment. 32% of all victims of sexual harassment said the perpetrator was a boss, colleague or customer.
  • 67% did not report the most serious incident of partner violence to the police or any other organisation.
    FRA: Violence against Women: every day and everywhere

Here is some news coverage about the study:

"What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women's lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities," said FRA director Morten Kjaerum.
Press TV: One third of EU women suffered abuse in lifetime: Study
"Yet, as an illustration, only 14 per cent of women reported their most serious incident of intimate partner violence to the police, and 13 per cent reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence to the police," Mr Kjaerum said.
He said that "violence against women, and specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women, is an extensive human rights abuse that the EU cannot afford to overlook".
TheJournal.ie - One in three European women have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15

The report calls on EU countries to treat domestic violence as a public, not a private issue. It says laws and policies relating to sexual harassment should be reviewed.

The survey asked women about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, at home and in the workplace, as well as stalking, sexual harassment and violence in childhood.
BBC News: Violence against women: One-third of EU women affected - survey
 
Almost a half of women have experienced some form of psychological violence by a partner, such as public humiliation; forbidding a woman to leave the house or locking her up; forcing her to watch pornography; and threats of violence.
Serious incidents of partner violence are rarely reported, with only 67 per cent taking it to the police or other organisations.
The Telegraph UK - Violence against women: a third of women assaulted in the EU
  Just 23 percent of women in Germany had seen or heard of a campaign against violence against women. This put the country right at the bottom of the list – only in Austria was this number lower.
TheLocal.de - One in three women experience violence
The emotional and psychological consequences of physical and sexual violence "can be long-lasting and deep-seated," the survey said.
Over a fifth of the victims of sexual violence suffered from panic attacks, over a third became depressed and 43 percent spoke of difficulty in subsequent relationships as a result.
There are sizable differences when the survey's findings are broken up by country, although the report said higher levels of gender equality could lead to more disclosure of violence in some countries.
Al Jazeera America - One-third of EU women suffered physical or sexual assault, report says

When the data was broken down by country, the findings showed that Denmark and Finland were among the countries with higher rates of women indicating they had experienced physical and/or sexual abuse (52 and 47 percent respectively). Women in Poland reported the lowest levels of abuse. The report authors suggested this might be because increased gender equality could lead to more disclosures of violence.
TIME: Study: One Third Of E.U. Women Suffer Abuse


The report also found that 55 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment, 18 percent had been stalked and 11 percent had experienced inappropriate advances on social web sites or had been subjected to sexually explicit e-mails or texts. Among women between 18 and 29, 20 percent said they had been victims of such “cyber-harassment.”
France24: A third of women in EU have suffered 'sexual violence'
There were surprising differences between countries, although the FRA stressed that this could be due to a number of factors and not necessarily because levels of violence were higher.
The Raw Story: One-third of women in EU are victims of physical or sexual abuse, report shows


08 March 2014

Lev Tahor Homeschooling case - part 3

Tanakh and heart - photo by J. Stahl

If you are unfamiliar with Lev Tahor, you may want to start here and here where I previously blogged about the community and their ongoing hearings in Canadian courts.

I would definitely recommend watching the following before reading on:

 16X9 ran an informative one hour inside look at the Lev Tahor group in Quebec as did Fifth Estate on Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.

Here is the latest and some news I may have missed:


The former member cannot be named, but the tale of his experiences living with Lev Tahor between 2009 and 2011 can be now be made public. They helped convince the Quebec family court judge to rule that 14 children from the community should be taken into foster care.
Lev Tahor: Former member’s testimony into sect is released

Jewish agencies in Montreal are ready to place 13 Lev Tahor children in appropriate temporary homes after an Ontario court ruling ordered them back to Quebec and into foster care, a Jewish community representative says. 
Jewish agencies ready to foster Lev Tahor kids




Brudzewsky has also been in regular contact with the Sûreté du Québec, who are conducting a separate investigation. Details of that investigation are expected to be released Friday. That probe may also be the reason Brudzewsky sent a mysterious email Sunday to the Star and other media outlets that have been closely following the case.

“I am sorry to inform you that I must immediately cease contact with all media for an unknown period, possibly indefinitely. Rest assured that this is not done because of fault on the media’s sides, but because of reasons that are beyond my control and that I cannot reveal,” he wrote.
Adam Brudzewsky: Lev Tahor whistleblower or paranoiac?

Moscowicz is worried about the 18-minute video Rabbi Helbrans released on Feb. 14, in which he accuses child-welfare workers, the courts and other authorities of persecuting Lev Tahor, going so far as to charge that they are the victims of attempted “genocide.”

Moscowicz has not seen the video, only heard about it, but said, “We have to answer that video. We are not fighting with Quebec, and Quebec is not fighting with us. Youth protection is not against Lev Tahor. They are trying to help the children, and we have to be thankful.”
Foster parent of ex-Lev Tahor kids speaks out

About 40 people passionate about human rights braved freezing cold winds to wave signs at passing motorists on Grand Avenue West in Chatham Tuesday afternoon.
Their aim was to draw public attention to the treatment of a Jewish group who recently settled in the area.
Jewish group humbled by rally, which included area residents

The leader of the fringe haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor may have used false evidence to gain refugee status in Canada, a Canadian documentary reported.

Ottawa’s granting of refugee status to Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans was based in part on testimony paid for by the sect, a boy involved at the hearing told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. program “the fifth estate.”
Documentary: Lev Tahor leader lied in refugee application to Canada



An Immigration official has confirmed to BlackburnNews.com that three adults and six children took a West Jet flight from Toronto on Monday.
Lev Tahor Members Flee

Some members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect appear to have fled Canada amid a child abuse scandal that has followed the roughly 40 families from their former home in Quebec to their new community in Chatham-Kent, Ont., and now to Trinidad and Tobago.
Lev Tahor: 5 questions answered on the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect fleeing Canada  
The members of the controversial Lev Tahor ultra-Orthodox Jewish group who tried to flee Canada this week would have made a clean break but for the fact that some showed up late at Pearson International Airport, an official says.

The two ultra-Orthodox families, who are facing a court order to place their children in temporary foster care, tried to travel to Guatemala on Monday. However, nine of them missed their scheduled departure.
Late airport arrival costly for Lev Tahor members trying to flee Canada
Immigration authorities said the sect members were in transit to Guatemala, but officials in Trinidad and Tobago have prevented the members from flying to Central America after the authorities allegedly found some inconsistencies in their responses.
Members of Lev Tahor sect flee Canada, intercepted in Trinidad
Chatham-Kent police confirm 12 children have left the country, two are unaccounted for.
UPDATE: More Members Likely Gone
The disappearance of the two children is the latest twist in the international caper.
Two fugitive Lev Tahor families — to which the children subject to the protection belong — were on their way to a “vacation” in Guatemala when they fled Ontario earlier this week.
Two Lev Tahor kids set for foster care now missing, too
The children are the subject of a court proceeding in Ontario. The judge’s order to seize them applies to three families within the controversial Jewish sect, who were prohibited from leaving the country. The judge directed that the children be placed in the temporary care of Chatham-Kent Children's Services.

Chatham-Kent police, who are leading the apprehension effort, said that 12 of the children in the order have left the country. The location of the other two remains unknown. As of Thursday afternoon, no children have been apprehended.
Judge enlists police, border services to apprehend Lev Tahor children

Members of  children services, along with police, visited a number of homes in town Wednesday night as well as more than a dozen homes in a complex belonging to t Lev Tahor.
Child services search for two Lev Tahor children; 12 have left the country

Officers told sect members who answered the door that they were there because of a “court order” and that they were looking for children. The officials refused to answer reporters’ questions.

A court official told the Star that a judge had issued an order for the children after Lev Tahor parents failed to show up in court on Wednesday.
Canadian Lev Tahor Sect Ordered To Turn Over 13 Children
Meanwhile, an emergency motion was filed in court by children services on Wednesday afternoon, but the context and content of that motion is unknown since the media was not allowed to be present at the time of court proceedings.
Police, Child Services Examine Homes of Lev Tahor to look for Children

Lawyers for the Toronto Star and other media outlets are fighting an order that excluded the media from a hearing that allowed a judge in Chatham to decide in secret to remove 14 children from three Lev Tahor families.

Media lawyers fight exclusion order in Lev Tahor children case

The ultra-orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor says members of the sect who left for Guatemala weren’t fleeing their community. Rather, they were trying to obtain some relief from what they say is constant harassment by police and child services.
“Lev Tahor elders say their time here in Chatham has been a nightmare,” member Yakev Weingarten told CTV News.
Lev Tahor member says 'peaceful life is almost gone' in community

On Wednesday evening, Ontario's Superior Court issued an order that the children be apprehended and returned to Canada, where they will be placed in the custody of Chatham-Kent Children's Services.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said the children will be placed in homes in Toronto while they go through court proceedings. The appeal that was to be held Wednesday has been rescheduled for next month.
Child protection officials to push for custody of Lev Tahor children
The Canadian Press obtained an email from a member of the community to supporters, detailing how two of the families at the centre of the order left Canada ahead of an appeal. The email indicates they were not eager to return willingly if the appeal did not go their way, though they had return tickets for March 13.
Lev Tahor members leave Canada before appeal, email reveals
Hope said immigration authorities met with Canadian Embassy officials Thursday to “appraise the Canadian authorities on the ongoing developments regarding Lev Tahor and to advise with the consultation of the Canadian authorities on the way forward.”
Lev Tahor families in Trinidad, Guatemala as authorities work to resolve stalemate

Ontario authorities should have expected members of Lev Tahor to flee and should have taken custody of 14 children sooner, according to Quebec’s Youth Protection Services.

Twelve members of two families involved in a custody battle with the Ontario and Quebec courts fled their home in Chatham, Ont., ahead of their scheduled court appearance on Wednesday.
Lev Tahor: Ontario should have seen flight risk, Quebec says

Members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor fled the country this week with 13 children, days before they were to have appealed a judgment ordering them into foster care.
The children, [range] in age from six months to 15 years...
Once removed, caring for children of Lev Tahor will be no easy task
A Quebec child protection official fears the rest of a runaway Jewish community is planning to bail from Chatham for Guatemala — and is urging Ontario to take action to protect the 120 children still living in Canada.

...Six children are in Guatemala, while six others, with three adults, have been stopped in Trinidad and Tobago before they were able to board a connecting flight to Panama, and ultimately Guatemala. They are still there in immigration limbo...
Mass Lev Tahor exodus feared
Nine members of a fringe Jewish sect have filed an appeal against a decision by authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to deny them entry, the country’s attorney-general said Friday.
Lev Tahor members appealing denial of entry, says Trinidad official  
The judge ordered child protection officials in Chatham-Kent, Ontario to use the resources of local, provincial and federal police, and the Canada Border Services Agency, to locate the children and return them to Canada to be placed in the temporary care of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. The order applies to three families.
Canadian judge calls for law enforcement agencies to apprehend Lev Tahor children
Canadian child protective services intend to seek the removal of all 127 children from the fringe ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor group, often referred to as the "Jewish Taliban," several local media outlets reported Thursday.
Canadian authorities to seek custody of 127 'Jewish Taliban' children

 Nine members of a fringe Jewish sect have filed an appeal against a decision by authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to deny them entry, the country's attorney general said Friday.
The latest challenge will likely delay any attempt to return the members of Lev Tahor to Canada, where a court has ordered the children placed in the care of children's aid.

Lev Tahor members appealing denial of entry to Trinidad, says country's AG

The group are currently staying at the Piarco International Hotel, which is under hea­vy security, while they await a decision on the appeal. The front door to the hotel has been locked. Persons arriving at the ho­tel are questioned by security.
Attorney General Anand Ram­logan yesterday confirmed the appeal and expressed confidence the Chief Immigration Officer would deal with the matter “expeditiously”. Ramlogan however expressed “extreme concern” a child protection order is currently being breached in the matter.

Jews appeal order: under lockdown


"We're talking about innocent people, very responsible parents," he said. "They have no case against them, zero case against them, not in Quebec and not in Ontario...It has to deal with the fact our community is a Jewish religious community who is anti-Zionist who do want to be old fashioned and this create a lot of hate."
12 Lev Tahor kids left Canada: police
Denis Barabay with the Quebec youth protection agency is trying to spearhead the initiative after 12 Lev Tahor children and their parents fled the country. Barabay fears the remaining community members in Chatham-Kent will leave soon, too.

“I don’t know what action can be done,” says Barabay. However, Barabay says it could just be a matter of obtaining the children’s passports.
Quebec officials want to prevent remaining Lev Tahor children from leaving Canada

Allegations have appeared in a number of media reports that homes in the Lev Tahor community are filthy and the children are dirty, that children sleep on urine-soaked mattresses, that they do not have basic math skills, that corporal punishment is used for discipline, that Melatonin is dispensed to calm children,  that marriages are forced, teenaged girls marry under the legal age and that children are removed from their families as punishments. Goldman said the allegations are all false.
Quebec authorities threaten to apprehend all Lev Tahor children
I will keep a close eye on this from here out. I'll keep you posted once there's more than a handful of articles out.

07 February 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany - Part 15

Photo by A. Stahl

This week, there have been two audio clips released covering the Twelve Tribes case. The first is from Augsburg TVNote: For whatever reason, the link below is not going directly to the video. In the search box on A.TV's site - pop in "Zwölf Stämmen" and it will be the second result in the search results at the bottom of the page. (pay close attention, I missed it twice this morning!)


a.tv|mediathek: Natürlich Gemeinsam - die ehemaligen Schüler von Klosterzimmern melden sich zu Wort
[Naturally together - the former students of Klosterzimmern speak out]

Reporter: The Twelve Tribes community in Donau-Ries always wanted to seem like they had nothing to hide. In the previous months and years they have released videos on [their website www.zwoelfstaemme.de] the internet in which the members of the sect release commentary about their every day lives in the community.

[member] The most important thing in life is that my children - for me, is that my children walk in the same faith walk I also have been walking in and raised in.

Reporter: The sect was founded in the 1970s in the United States. Since then, there are groups all over the world - in total 2,000 people living in [Donau-Ries]. There have been problems for a while in Klosterzimmern. The first, due to the compulsory school laws being rejected.

Stefan Rößle (CSU) County Commissioner in Donau-Ries: I have been dealing with the question the Twelve Tribes since I've become county commissioner in 2002. In the past, there were bigger activities such as enforcing our compulsory school laws by sending police to escort the children to school, but in the end it wasn't very promising. The children did not take part in classes - they were there in person due to being escorted but not there in spirit.

Reporter: In the last year the Twelve Tribes have been implicated in first-hand accounts of corporal punishment in the Klosterzimmern community.  However, not much happened. The authorities attempted to, but, sadly without results.

Stefan Rößle: This is an experience that has been made in other places, that when it comes to sects, there is a clannishness environment [among the members]. The children that we have interviewed, even without their parents, will not admit that they have received corporal punishment. They were instead very quiet and have been pressured and raised to not talk to any outsiders about it.

Reporter: In the public, the sect presents itself as very child-friendly. Happy children are seen at a play. What actually happens behind closed doors is only now coming to light.

Stefan Rößle: We have tried everything in our power to resolve the situation. It has taken a very, very long time but I'm glad about these film recordings [RTL's Wolfram Kuhnigk's detailing the life in the sect and the corporal punishment that happens regularly] which was the cause of it. That we now have concrete eye-witness statements and court decisions - that at the least, after all these years is able to terminate this state of affairs.

Reporter: The children are living in foster care at this time. The responsible sect members need to brace themselves for indictments. The state prosecutor in Augsburg has reopened the case. This time they are assured that they can close the case with an actual court sentence. 

The second news article was released by the Südwestrundfunk. The summary of the story was "All is not quiet in the "Twelve Tribes" community of faith. A 13-year-old has run away from his foster parents with whom he had been housed since his biological parents had been accused of child abuse. The Court of Appeals has now decided in Augsburg that the 13-year-old must return to his foster parents. For one 13-year-old it is all just to hard to understand. And when he heard all charges against his parents he said they also suffer."
Eltern der Glaubensgemeinschaft "Zwölf Stämme" im Interview - Schwaben Radio - nachgehört | 5.12.2013, 14.36 Uhr[Parents of the religious community "Twelve Tribes" are interviewed by Schwaben Radio]
*musical intro* The best from the Swabian Radio as a podcast

Reporter: The point of meeting is the farm store in Klosterzimmern. This is a public store where bread, tea and cosmetics are available to purchase. More and more members are joining the group. Interview by Cheri and Stefan Pfeifer whose two children are also in foster care since the police raid in September.
Stefan: The worst is that we haven't seen our children very much and know that they would also like to see us more but the Child Protective Services are very strict about our visitation.

Reporter: It's been three times they've seen their 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son since then. For each an hour and only under strict surveillance. At the last meeting in Nördlingen, their mother, Cheri was shocked at the state of her children.

Cheri: They only want to return to their parents and they were not abused! The suffering that they are enduring right now is out of proportion to what they accuse us of doing to them.

Reporter: However the former sect members have told us, and the TV reports have showed us, children who are beaten and being abused very badly. Small children who are beaten in dark cellars with switches. Stefan Pfeifer, who is on the elders board of the Twelve Tribes says regarding these accusations:

Stefan: The film that was shown was a propaganda film. And it contains partial truths which we do not want to deny but it also contains many lies and the whole reason behind this is that they want to destroy the community.

Reporter: Stefan Pfeifer does not deny that the children were beaten but that was not done systematically, but only when the parents say that it is necessary.

Stefan: To raise children properly, you have to set limits. It's been hundreds of years that children have  gotten spanked on their butts. It didn't hurt anybody to bring up children to a certain age when the heart of the children turn towards the parents completely - to which they don't need spankings any longer.

Reporter: But even spankings are not allowed by our laws in this country. The basics of raising children is the same for everyone in the community. They refer to the bible regarding this, says Stefan Pfeifer.

Stefan: This is from the bible. We read this and believe it is the right way and we see ourselves confirmed in this as we see our children to be wonderful and they love us and their good fruits prove to us that this is a good method. We are happy for a higher court to check into that. However, in the meantime, the children are supposed to be with us and not somewhere else with strangers where they don't feel secure.

Reporter:  Four children have returned to Klosterzimmern. For some, the courts have decided to  keep in foster care. For others, the decision has yet to be made. Though the many members of the sect have announced that they will continue to fight in court,  it will still take months until the children have a permanent home. However, what the current well-being of the children is - that every party seems concerned with - is really a hard question to answer.

In addition to these two audio stories, I had a news story from Katholisch.de passed to me entitled "Wie frei ist die Religion?" [How free are our religious rights?] It can of course be run through Google Translate from German to English - just keep in mind that "switch" is translated as "tail" for whatever strange reason and there are hiccups in bringing over everything. The last paragraph closes things out with the current state of affairs concerning the Twelve Tribes' bid towards homeschooling quite well:
Wittreck, an attorney, was is skeptical: "The German government has been so far in my opinion well advised to proceed and remain restrictive against home schooling." He pleads for public school: "Children should be confronted there with the whole of life."

I have also been notified of a new documentary by Erika Fehse that is a 45 minute documentary due out in Germany on April 7th on ARD entitled Wer seine Kinder liebt, der züchtigt sie…[Those who love their children, physically chastise them...] you can see the trailer for it here:







The basis of the documentary was the book "Die geprügelte Generation – Kochlöffel, Rohrstock und die Folgen" [The spanked generation - wooden spoon, cane and the consequences]


I am nervously looking forward to this. I'll be recording it to watch when the children are not around and hopefully will be able to give an update on it then. It will not be directly discussing the Twelve Tribes, but I am sure it will be discussing the consequences of corporal punishment which is key to understanding why the rulings are as they have been in this case.



If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10,  part 11, part 12, part 13 and part 14 to be better informed on this issue.