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Brooklyn, NY - Dov Hikind Keeps His Promise: Hires Respected Hasidic Ph.D. Benzion Twerski To Spearhead New Abuse Task Force

Published on: September 4, 2008 12:22 PM
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Benzion Twerski, Ph.D., graduated with a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Pittsburgh in 1985. He studied in Yeshivos in Scranton, PA, Baltimore, and Jerusalem. He has been one of the leading professionals in youth-at-risk and addictions in the Jewish community.Brooklyn, NY - “Molestors will not find sanctuary in our community any longer,” declared Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D- Brooklyn) in launching the Sexual Abuse Task Force. “A predator who exploits our children does not cease his victimization with one child. Left alone, without supervision and/or psychological intervention, a pedophile will continue to abuse children. The threat of being discovered won’t deter him, because he can not control his sexual interest in children. Why would any one want to shield the perpetrator?”
In the four weeks since the mother of a molested victim appeared on the Assemblyman’s radio program, Hikind’s NYS Assembly office has been inundated with calls from victims, many of whom had never addressed the trauma and now decades later are struggling with the psychological ramifications of their exploitation. “It has been overwhelming. I have assigned a staffer to deal with sexual abuse in our community, and I am formalizing a new Sexual Abuse Task Force, spearheaded by Benzion Twerski Ph.D.  “I look forward to bringing my skills to this new opportunity to serve the klal,” said Twerski.
Dr. Twerski’s role as Hikind’s Special Adviser on Mental Health Policy is intrinsic to the development of a new model and public policy protocol in tackling abuse. “I have repeatedly heard the refrain about an alleged molestor being ‘such a nice guy…it can’t possibly be true.’ The profile of a pedophile is generally not the strange-looking individual in dirty and disheveled clothing. The violent unspooling of the fabric of the victim’s life usually comes at the hands of someone likable, respected, and within his/her inner circle. That is why it is all the more devastating. These are the nicest guys….who harbor the most horrible of secrets…that they can not control their sexual interest in children.” said Hikind.


Benzion Twerski, is a graduated with a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Pittsburgh in 1985. He studied in Yeshivos in Scranton, PA, Baltimore, and Jerusalem. He has been one of the leading professionals in youth-at-risk and addictions in the Jewish community. He has been a member of the Professional Advisory Board for JACS for many years. Dr. Twerski published numerous articles in many magazines and Jewish newspapers. He is a member of Nefesh International, and has presented many lectures and workshops on topics of addictions, family harmony, and spirituality. Benzion is the son of famed author and speaker Dr. Abraham Twerski

Mr. Hikind also announced that this weekend Motzei Shabbos September 6th on his DOV HIKIND Radio Show, he will interview a survivor of sexual abuse, a frum Chasidic man about the torment of his abuse fifteen years ago, as a child, at the Hands of Two Community Members.

You can listen in on WMCA 570 AM Saturday night @11:00 PM, or via internet at http://www.talklinecommunications.com/ 

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Read Comments (50)  —  Post Yours »


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Rabbi Twerski is a good man but we should have two people, one to overlook the other…


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:33 PM Anonymous Says:

Excellent choice.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:36 PM filter ed Says:

אין אפוטורופס לעריות


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:45 PM formerly known as yodea sefer Says:

A task force of this type should not be trusted to laymen, and certainly not to politicians. Untill we see a RESPECTABLE rov calling for such action, these people should be (dis)regarded as attention seekers.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:49 PM Anonymous Says:

To me Reb Bentzion is a respectble rov, btw which rov do u have in mind that should spearhead this? can u name any of them?


 Sep 04, 2008 at 12:59 PM formerly known as yodea sefer Says:

anon 12:49
It does not mention anywhere that he is a rov. All it says is that he is a hasidic man with a Ph.D. There is a reason that we don't hear about this publicly from rabbonim.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:02 PM Lock & Load Says:

I Agree with Anon: 12;29

We should have more then one Ph.D. on this case.....


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:03 PM Chaim S. Says:

If Dov Hikind does nothing else in his tenure as an elected official but this, he will surely have Olam Haboh. I think all readers should also read Rabbi Horowitz's article today on this site. Dov couldn't have chosen a better, more quualified, more responsible professional than Rabbi Dr. Benzion Twerski to spearhead this project. My only concern is that the "rah"bonim of Boro Park and Flatbush who have stuck their heads into the proverbial sand for all these years won't be big enough to admit that something needs to be done. Dov understands quite well that this project should not be run by a politician and that's why he chose Rabbi Dr. Twerski. Dov keep pushing. You have many respected voices and people behind you.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:04 PM Wondering Says:

I have a question to all.

Klal Yisroel is the oldest among all people. This issue is very specifically addressed to in the Torah so it's not something that appeared on the "goldene medine's" horizon.

How come we as a Klal never publicized it to deal with it publicly? Why was it always (ALWAYS as in Thousands of years.) kept under wraps?

Are we in 2008 smarter and none of our leaders in past generations, the TRUE GEDOILIM, RABBONIM, ROSHE YESHIVOS AND REBBES saw it fit to handle it this way?

Why in the world can we trust our institutions to train thousands upon thousands of boys and girls along the Derech Hatora and leave all schooling up to their judgement and when it comes to a few problems all of a sudden this has to be vented on radio shows, talk shows, hotlines, etc. to be MEVAZE KLAL YISROEL AND MAKE chilul hashems which remains perpetual and all SONEI YISROEL, both jewish and not, gleefully enjoy every minute of this spectacle.

Are we indicting ALL schools, principals, Rabbonim, Rebbe's, Teachers and Mechanchim in saying they're all .................

Is henceforth Dov Hikind gonna run Klal Yisroel and tell the SCHOOLS what to learn, not to learn, eat not to eat, dress not to dress, etc. ?

Think about THIS!

P.S. I'm not in Chinuch not even close to it. A parent just like you!


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:10 PM Joseph Says:

You can't get better than the Twerskis. They're very down to earth and are renown to be quite knowledgeable when it comes to all kinds of addictions and psychology, especially R' Avrohom. So this Yodea sefer character has zero idea of what he's talking about.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:11 PM Anonymous Says:

Rabbonim are not equipped to handle such cases. They should be dealing strictly with halachic issues. We need professionals like Dr. Twerski and perhaps some professional detectives to head up such a panel to investigate abuse claims.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Dr. Twerski is not a rov and does not claim to be one. He is a mental health professional who is dedicated to a cause. As a chassidic Jew who is committed to halacha, every step he takes is and will be guided by rabbonim. He has not presented himself to Dov Hikind as a rabbinical authority. And, no, he is not attention seeking.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:29 PM future101 Says:

One question I have, and that is if he is profecient in Hilchos loshon Hora, You can destroy many people while trying to help a few. if you are not clear what can and can't be made public you may be in more trouble then the solution your are trying to remedy. none of the sins committed are recognizeable, if the person did sincere tshuva. the only thing he has to do is apologize to the individual not to the community. Yet on the other hand shaming someone in public is something no teshuva will ever help,
"IN Lo Chailik B'olam Habo. Mr. Hikind may be trying to do good, but continues failing to get the nod from rabbonim. We are busy making fun of our gedolim, but i warn you we will pay a price.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:31 PM Yitzchok Says:

To form.. Yodea Sefer. You are not hearing anything from the Rabbinic communitty because hopefully they have buried their faces in shame that any of their own would do somethisng as despicable as what is being alleged here. The Rabbi's are doing what they do best, ignoring the situation and hoping that all this will just go away.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:39 PM Anonymous Says:

The Rabonim have been deafeningly silent on this issue and for whatever reason don't SEEM to be stepping up to the plate - maybe it's too messy
maybe they feel they are not qualified etc.
We needed SOMONE/ANYONE with the pleitzes to address this significant issue which has been
hushed up for too long. Kol Hakovod to Dov & Yanki
and for stepping in - may they have siyata d'shmaya and be the shluchim to help iradicate this horrible scourge from Klal Yisroel.
Alas, we needed these blogs etc. to draw attention and awareness to this shanda I don't think anything would have happened without that.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:40 PM David Says:

I know the esteemed doctor and his great father personally he is cool fair and balanced, the perfect man for this issue which is not only a great sin but also a “psychological and addictive” matter he is well suited to act on all 3 dimensions of this known atrocity (חטא הידוע) .


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:42 PM Anonymous Says:

The goal of the project is to promote safety for our children, not to destroy more lives. The media is not an intended tool of the mission. If a rebbe will experience some shame because of what was done, that will be a side effect that is probably unavoidable. This is not about looking for people to punish. It is about making sure that our schools will be places where our children are safe. It is about knowing we can place our children into the responsible hands of the school or yeshiva where there will not be damage to his/her emotional health or neshoma.

Knowing Dr. Twerski, he does not issue press releases. Knowing Dov Hikind, he has been collecting information for several weeks, speaking to survivors and their families. Has he publicized a single name? No, and there are no such plans. I am sure that if a loshon horo question arises, a posek will be consulted. Meanwhile, that is not an expected issue since spreading rumors about individuals is not part of the program.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:43 PM formerly known as yodea sefer Says:

all who say rabbonim are not equipped:
Our rabbonim know by themselves whether or not they are equipped to deal with these issues. They are responsible enough to call for outside help if they feel it is needed. The point is that if there is a need for a task force they will decide if they should institute it or not. When you have a politician who is absolutely not qualified to decide on such issues doing things on his own accord it is at best a recipe for chilull shem shomaim.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:48 PM Dov Ber Says:

Raboisa ::: Its time to take matters in our own hands. I have five baseball bats in my basement. Nu want to join me?


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:49 PM McCain-Palin 08 Says:

Kudos Dov & Yanky


 Sep 04, 2008 at 01:54 PM Anonymous Says:

The rabbonim of Baltimore admitted last year that they are not equipped in handling these cases.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 02:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Are rabbonim equipped? Some are, some are not. The challenge is that some believe they are when they are not. This is less of a problem with paskening shailos. Most seem to be well aware of whether they have competencies in areas such as shailos noshim, hilchos Shabbos, kashrus, shchita, mikvaos, chosen mishpot, etc. However, many feel they have the knowledge and experience to address issues that are beyond them, and they need to be educated and informed before getting involved. In earlier generations, there seemed to be no problem with referring certain shailos to someone else with specific areas of expertise. Something changed, and this seems to be less prevalent. Is everyone the all-round expert?


 Sep 04, 2008 at 02:30 PM Logic Says:

Yes, lets have the rebbeim handle it. They have done such a stellar job up until now.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 02:31 PM Anonymous Says:

When you have chest pain do you run to your Rav? When you're bleeding do you run to your Rebbe? This isn't a shiur to debate. People are suffering. G-d forbid someone's wife was molested or raped. You want to debate it with a Rav or a Rebbe?

Dov Hikind is brining in Dr. Twerski to deal with the Mental ramifications for the victims. Let me repeat...VICTIMS. How can Jews be so self hating. Do we blame ourselves when there's an anti-semetic attach. Let's solve it before it's your son or daughter. We're bleeding..,


 Sep 04, 2008 at 02:39 PM anonymous Says:

Future101 says
"none of the sins committed are recognizeable, if the person did sincere tshuva. the only thing he has to do is apologize to the individual not to the community".

It's really sad when people dont realize that this issue is not a Rabbinic nor a religious issue the pedophile is SICK and can not be cured by doing Teshuva on the other hand the victim will not be helped by an apology....


 Sep 04, 2008 at 03:14 PM anonymous Says:

We know the rabbonim are not equipped to deal with this issue. The greatest of our rabbonim have been informed of these issues for decades and have done nothing to protect our children from harm, or in some cases have actively perpetuated access of pedophiles to our children.

Let's pass on the ideology and let people who know what they're doing actually work to solve the problem.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 04:03 PM Anonymous Says:

I hope that they also address the rampant physical abuse prevalent in the yeshivas, especially in the hasidic yeshivahs, where rebbeim feel no compunction about beating children without oversight or consequences.

I went to a Hasidic Yeshivah, and am still, Borukh Hashem, a Hosid, but the level of abuse administered by these rebbeim was incredible. The abuse was constant, sadistic and often vindictive.

Physical abuse of any kind should not be tolerated in a yeshivah, a mokom of Torah and Tefilah. If there is a behavior problem, it should be addressed with the parents or through other non-abusive measures.

I do believe and the literature supports that physical abuse is a stepping stone to sexual abuse, especially when children are threatened with one if they don't capitulate to the abuser's demands.

All of yiddishkeit will benefit when children know they are free from abuse in yeshivah and can truly enjoy Derokheihu Darkei Noam.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 04:33 PM Motty Says:

Dr. Twerski is a close relative of mine. His knowledge and experience in the field is endless and I wish him a lot of hatzlocha. Now, for Dov Hikind, all I can tell you is that you chose the right person to handle this issue. You won't regret it. Thank you for all you do for our community.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 04:49 PM Joseph Says:

The rabbonim weren't equipped to deal with a concert, how will you trust them to deal with pedophiles???


 Sep 04, 2008 at 05:51 PM bigwheeel Says:

---as Yodea Sefer 12:59PM. ...There must be a reason we don't hear about this [subject] from the Rabbonim, publicly!... ...What, do you think is the reason ?! Also, in your previous post 12:49PM, you oppose the actions by Dov Hikind and, specifically, the appointment of DR. B. Twerski?!?!?!


 Sep 04, 2008 at 06:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Thank You Reb Nachum Rosenburg!!!

May you be zocha to see nachas from your children and grand children and great great grandchildren in the zchus of what you did for the future generations

Yehi chelki imuch beolam habah!!!


 Sep 04, 2008 at 07:00 PM not-wondering Says:

In answer to wondering, most likely children have been victims since time began but in addition to "funny uncles" they also dealt with the cantonist army, being apprenticed out to cruel masters, the churban, etc. Most likely it was all looked at as something to try and survive. How many kids survived to become adults to begin with?
Obviously today we are shocked when children do not live to adulthood chas v'sholem and we would never dream of sending a 9 yr old to work or even apprentice and there is no more draft in the US and even when there was one, it didn't involve small children. Today we have the possibility of protecting the child's psyche; something that didn't exist for children of other generations. Because of the possibility of being blamed when innocent, adults should never become too affectionate or be alone with children that are not theirs. A principal of a school should never close the door when with a child and adults and children should not use the same bathroom in schools. Parents should stay with children if they use the bathroom in shuls or simcha halls. Public schools are full of rules about these things and situations when children must have their clothing changed must have 2 adults present.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 07:02 PM Lock & Load Says:

Funny how one man turned this Issue into a Big Case....
Lets hope the suffering will end......


 Sep 04, 2008 at 07:26 PM Anonymous Says:

Dov Hikind- your reward in shomayim is enviable. You took on a risky dirty unenviable task and are not shirking responsibility. Thank you.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 07:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz deserves credit for stepping in and recognizing this generation's "bruch". With the help of Hashem, and shiluchim like Dov Hikind and Rabbi Dr. Twerski we will put an end to this galus. I hope and pray that Rabbi Dr. Twerski doesn't yield to pressure from "Rabbis" and quit on the job.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 09:33 PM Anonymous Says:

"Al Shnei Eidim Yakum Davor" What are you going to do when you or someone close to you is falsely accused of such an atrocity.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 09:38 PM Anonymous Says:

No one seems to recall that one lone "nut" stood his ground on this issue for the past 4 years and can take direct credit for all the awareness and action taken by others. Many open and hidden "actions" taken to defend the innocent over the last few years were taken by those working at the behest of and direction of the great one, UOJ.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 09:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Shnei Eidim Yokim......

That old one was tried by the Amei HaAretz rabbonim for the last 30+ years. I wont waste my time debating amei'haaretz like you. Suffice it to say that real rabbonim, the likes of the rambam, the maharal and rovs of today like Elyashiv, Wozner Senior and junior AND Rabbi Herschel Schachter (who can wipe the floor with the 33 rabbonim who banned Reb Nuchim Rosenberg) all declared that in situations of rape, incest, molestation and sodomy either a child or woman HAS FULL NE'EMONUS. If you are truly in search of the truth go open some seforim (start with the countless gemarahs on this topic - see the talmud dealt openly with it) and you will realize how stupid you sound quoting mamers with no relevance to these halachos.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 10:18 PM Anonymous Says:

It is a posuk in the Torah. Your disrespect for Rabbonim is despicable.


 Sep 04, 2008 at 11:03 PM Anonymous Says:

take it up with your own rabbis if you have a problem. Elyashiv and wozner are still alive. Go ask them to explain this to you or sit down and learn why chazal said al pi shneiyim does not apply here. Mesectes Gittin is full of situations where al pi shneiyim does not apply. You are the despicable one for calling into question the teachings of chazal. You Tzidoikim will disregard the torah in order to follow the daas shoitim of some of our local yokel rabbis.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 12:25 AM Anonymous Says:

It is HaRav Elyashiv Shlit"a and HaRav Vozner Shlit"a


 Sep 05, 2008 at 12:56 AM Mandated Reporter Says:

Important to note that since Dr twerski is a psychologist he is a Mandated reporter.

That means if he resonably suspects abuse her is required by law to contact the appropirate authoroties. Not speak to a rav, nor a Rosh Yeshiva nor a Posek.

He goes directly to the appropriate governmental authority.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 04:38 AM Anonymous Says:

Unfortunately, most rabbis born before the'60s regard the entire 'child molestation' issue as nothing more than
post '60s politically correct pseudo-babble right up there with Attention Deficit Disorder. Back in their day, a
rebbe who fondled a student was regarded
as, at worst, a 'chazer', not a criminal.
And anyone who suggested that the 'victim'
would suffer 'lifelong psychological scars' would themselves be considered candidates for the nut house.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 03:48 PM Annonymous, LMSW Says:

To those who are concerned about the possible false accusations that could take place against "innocent" adults I ask this?

Why is it that you would error on the side of caution to protect an adult over protecting a child?

Though I sympathize greatly with an adult who has been wrongly accused of such an act and the pain it puts his family through it does not compare with the life long struggle and pain a victim of these acts goes through. You can move, change your name and wait out the time it takes for people to forget but a defenseless child who is molested can never get away from what happened to them. As a professional who works with Troubled Youth I have seen the devastating impacts of this horrible blight on our community.

We must protect every Jew, but doesn't the Torah provide more responsibility on the Klal to defend those who are defenseless, like the orphan or the Ger.
Care needs to be taken to guard against Lashon Harah but more care needs to be taken to guard these children. The molester, who is most times very ill themselves, is a Rotzayach, with his single act he murders the child spiritaully and mentally. Since when does the Rotzayach get the benefit of the doubt. By the way if you doubt the Retzichah involved in this act I have myself known a number of individuals who commited suicide or died of drug over doses because of anguish related to and stemming from their molestation and the resultant horrors they went through because of it, I realize this is anecdotal but these are Yidden, they were someones children, and to the commentor above who asked about what we will say when we or others are falsely accused, what will you say when your son or daughter or one of their friends, chas Veshalom, is a victim.

Another Point to ponder: Studies have shown that molesters have a high likelihood of being victims themselves. If this is true the mental anguish they go through in perpetuating these acts has to be inconceivable. By outing them you are not only helping the victim you are giving them a chance to live a life not steeped in the worst kind of aviera.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 04:18 PM Annonymous, LMSW Says:

A question for some of the esteemed commentors who posted before who clearly have mare daas then myself as to the halachik ramifications on this matter

Why is the issue of Ne'emanus so central to this conversation, doesn't the Chofetz Chaim clearly state that even if information is obtained in such a way that it can not be believed the person who heard it is still obligated to act on it in protection of himself and others even though he is obligated not to believe that it is true?

Is the issue that others will believe it?
In hilchos lashon harah am I obligated to keep myself in a position of risk because acting to protect myself or others on a matter would cause others, who have no regard for Lashon Harah to believe them as fact?

Who cares if the guy did it or not, (ie whether ne'emanus exists), aren't we obligated to take measures to protect based on information that we have provided it is in the realm of believability?

Isn't this commission just responding to this halachik responsibility to protect possible victims?


 Sep 05, 2008 at 04:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Rabbi Twersky said it correctly, that he shudders to err either way. I totally agree with that statement. Yes take all measures to protect our children, but do not ruin a persons name and family just because someone said; that is "retzicha". If someone was only touched by someone fully clothed, then sorry, I wouldn’t destroy that person’s life based on a new interpretation of retzicha, proportion please.


 Sep 07, 2008 at 06:14 PM Y Says:

--LMSW asks:"Why is it that you would error [sic] on the side of caution to protect an adult over protecting a child? "

The issue is not the choice of protection adult vs. child, the issue is the 'scope' of these investigations, when and how they are done, as well as the 'unknown'.

To start, there is no question in any normal person’s mind, of the great need to address the issue of pedophiles in the community, [not limited to people in chinuch, as one commenter hinted].

The level of awareness has been rising in recent years to some degree, and people have therefore been speaking out more frequently. Consequently, as more victims come to the forefront with their horrifying experiences, the public is made aware of the trauma that many have had to endure. But it is not enough. This kind of awareness has to be increased.

Not by politicizing, nor by publicizing, neither by bashing and harassing will awareness be achieved. Speaking out and debating the issues in this or that forum, does not promote the awareness needed, neither does it set the right tone in which manner these things should be addressed.

Awareness and understanding will only be attained through education & counseling. Mechanchim & Mechanchos should be taught to understand what a victim goes through emotionally, and trained to notice any signs exhibited by an abused child. There is also a lack of heimishe askonim or even chareidi-sensitive psychologists trained in the area of healing and helping this type of victims.

Additionally, an action plan has to be established, how to act when a suspicion arises. Sadly, we cannot and should not rely on the current system of reporting, either because of their insensitivity to modesty and lack of perception our way of life, or because of the tremendous [negative] bias there is to an accused along with terrible unfair consequences, as well as many other reasons.

I therefore call upon anyone who really wants to change the current situation, to refrain from all the debating and pandering, but rather talk to your Rav, Mechanech, Mechaneches, Askonim etc. about your feelings and the need to be more proactive in training and awareness.

May HaShem help us in these trying times & take us out of this golus.


 Sep 08, 2008 at 10:39 AM Anonymous Says:

Just because Dr. Twerski is a PHD does not mean he is qualified for the job.Has he acturlly treated survivors of sexual abuse? What will he actually be doing as head of the task force. what will the task force be actually doing?


 Sep 09, 2008 at 02:40 PM Anonymous Says:

The Task Force is not going to be a treatment or evaluation program. The goal is to assist yeshivos,schools, and communities in dealing with the problem by having a system to address each individual case before it explodes into things that are distasteful for all involved. It will be guided by poskim, and not law enforcement. Reports to authorities will be only upon psak halacha. The Task Force will not be doing the reporting.


 Sep 10, 2008 at 09:12 PM Anonymous Says:

BH,get them rats out in the open.It should be handled by gdolim,


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