JFF refuses film on child abuse among Jews

The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (JFF) has refused to screen renowned Hollywood producer Scott M. Rosenfelt’s film ‘Standing Silent‘. The film is about child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community.

The film, which features interviews with several victims of sexual abuse by Baltimore-area Orthodox rabbis, is slated to be screened at several Jewish film festivals across the United States. However, Hilary Helstein, chief JFF wrote to other directors  that while the film was well made, “Our committee felt with a community that reveres it’s rabbis this was not something they wanted to show“.

An infuriated Scott Rosenfelt sent an e-mail to Hilary Helstein on March 22, 2012, saying: “The idea that a festival chief would go behind the back of a filmmaker and do this gives me great pause to ever recommend your festival to anyone. As you know, I’ve produced films such as ‘Home Alone,’ so I know a couple of people in the business. I plan on letting everyone I know to stay away from you and your festival, because you are clearly not someone who supports filmmakers“.

Rosenfelt concluded by calling Helstein “a disgrace to Judaism, and not only that, a disgrace to all humanity“.

The film ‘Standing Silent’ is based on the investigating reports of Phil Jacobs, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times. Phil Jacobs who himself is an Orthodox Jew, was raped as a young boy. Some Jews have accused him of lashon hora, the Hebrew term for negative speech that harms another Jew, a serious sin.

Jewish film festivals have always been a targets of the Jewish lobby groups when it comes to screening films or documentaries critical of Jews, Zionism or Israel. In San Francisco in 2009, a documentary about the American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from destroying Palestinian homes, sparked a furious and divisive debate when it was shown at the local Jewish film festival.

In December 2011 – 83 Jewish men and two Jewish women were arrested on charges of child sex abuse. The arrests were part of an investigation on behlf of 117 male and female victims in Brooklyn New York since 2006.

Religious Jews are forbidden to report child sexual abuse, drugs and other crimes among the Jewish communities to the law enforcement agencies without the permission of their rabbis.

On May 15, 2011 – a one-day “Halacha Conference for Professionals,” was held in Brooklyn. Some speakers elaborated on a recent ruling by Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, one of ultra-Orthodoxy’s foremost authorities on Jewish religious law, or Halacha. Elyashiv recently decreed that Jews with reasonable suspicions that a case of sexual abuse has occurred are permitted to go to secular law enforcement authorities, notwithstanding traditional religious prohibitions against mesirah, or informing on fellow Jews.

Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been a topic of public debate for at least a decade, but word of molestation in the Orthodox Jewish community has been slower to emerge (only 16% of the victims), often because its members have had a tendency to keep such scandal under wraps.

A 2002 study conducted by US Bishops’ National Review Board stated that 4,392 clergymen – almost all priests – were accused of abusing 10,667 people, with 75 percent of the incidents taking place between 1960 and 1984. it said. Sex-abuse related costs totaled $573 million, with $219 million covered by insurance companies, said the study done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.


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