Marvin Schick, Haredim and Libel

Do haredim get a raw deal in the media? Some, Marvin Schick and Agudath Israel’s Rabbi Avi Shafran most prominent among them, believe they do.

Schick writes a regular advocacy piece published in the New York Jewish Week. This ‘column” is in reality an advertisement and is paid for by a donor. The Jewish Week refuses to disclose the donor’s name or affiliation. For a period of months, Schick’s ad ran without the requisite disclosure that it was in fact an ad and not editorial copy. (The Jewish Week claims this is an error, and that it will – or already has been – corrected.)

Schick used one of these unlabeled ads to libel (and I do not use that word lightly) Hella Winston, the author of The Unchosen, a book documenting the plight of haredim who seek to leave the fold.

Schick hates Winston, and he does little to hide that animosity. In a column dedicated to ‘proving’ that there is little sexual abuse in the haredi world, written under the headline, “Group Libel Is Also Abuse,” Schick accuses Winston of “claim[ing] that her book deals with sexual abuse among Chasidim,” and links her to anti-haredi abuse.

I challenged Schick to provide even one citation where Winston claimed her book is about or focused on haredi sexual abuse. He was unable to do so.

Schick also claimed that Winston relied on “unreliable sexual abuse statistics.” It turns out those statistics come from a then-unpublished study (not conducted by Winston) that failed to factor in the presence of ba’alei teshuva in the community. Schick’s contention, in effect, is that ba’alei teshuva suffer more abuse and themselves abuse more often than born haredim. Even if this were true, it would barely change the statistical outcome. Nonetheless, Winston told me she added a clarification regarding this in the paperback edition of the book, due out this November. This is all the more remarkable because, in Schick’s own words, Winston’s book contains “no more than a brief reference” to abuse.

Schick then gets dirty. He writes, “I will add that her dissertation advisor told me that the original manuscript was far more hate-filled than what appears in print.” William B. Helmreich, Winston’s dissertation advisor, told me this is absolutely false. Helmreich only saw the manuscript – which is not Winston’s dissertation – a few days before it was finalized by the publisher. He made no changes. Winston’s publisher, which, unlike Helmreich, saw earlier versions of the book manuscript, has no idea what Schick is talking about. There were no edits made to remove hateful or bigoted material.

But what is most shocking is the context of the ad, written by Schick to respond to New York Magazine’s story on the thirty-year alleged sex abuse and child molestation carried out by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, and the ongoing coverup surrounding it. Look again at the tile Schick himself chose for this ad: “Group Libel Is Also Abuse.”

Schick has no words of comfort for the alleged victims. He heaps venom on Robert Kolker, journalist who wrote the New York Magazine piece, and on Hella Winston, whose excellent book does nothing more than what it claims to do – document a small subset of haredim who choose to leave.

Schick’s own family has itself been at the root of several scandals of note, including the riots caused by his brother’s childish reaction to being stopped for a traffic violation in Boro Park. That brother’s son was arrested, charged and pleaded guilty to conductiong a ponzi scheme that bilked dozens of haredim out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Schick has not, to my knowledge, written about either episode.

Marvin Schick has done much good in his life, but that good does not excuse his venom, his bias, or his libel. Consider this post to be a stub. Much more on the Schick family to come …



Filed under Haredim, Marvin Schick

10 responses to “Marvin Schick, Haredim and Libel

  1. S.

    Speaking of Helmreich, in one of R. Aharon Rakeffet’s audio lectures at he mentioned that a certain rosh yeshiva was very grateful to him for chosing not to include anything about sex in his chapter on deviancy in his book The World of the Yeshiva(I honestly forgot whom it was, so I cannot say).

    As for the substance of Schick’s charge, the book frankly did visit and revisit the theme of sexual abuse–mostly anecdotal and speculative–constantly.

    I do not think her book was a hit job at all, although this post is.

  2. avrohom

    Dear Shmarya,

    I hope you had an easy fast. May you have a successful year in all your endeavors.

    With regards to your present post: Please understand that Marvin and others have a different viewpoint than yours. They would love to combat particular situations that need correction (And Marvin has been a strong inner critic in the group in many issues), but Shmarya, understand:

    that it is not TRUE and it does not do anyone any good, by writing and conveying a message that this is a problem that is solely existent in the frum haredi circles. In fact, many will argue, that these problems of sexual abbuse exist much less in haredi circles than in non haredi circles.

    When you or anyone else uses the (many -every one is too many-) cases to besmirch an entire group of people when that is not true then you are being a person who is saying a false hood and bearer of a lie. And it does not serve the positive purpose of your ideals and ideas.

    One think that i may agree with you isL: that when they do happen there is a machine of coverup. and that is tragic and criminal. But otoh: when you and/or others attempt to use these cases as a proof that the system and the ideology s rotten because of the leading cases, it is again: 1) A LIE (and that is against the will of G-d and against revealing G-dlines in this world) and is immoral and does not serve other ideals that you are wuilling to teach and impart upon others. 2) it does not serve your purpose because people will (rightly) identify your messages with a high dosage of bias andperhaps “causeless hatred” for exxagerating at these problems and making them a insitutional problem when they are not so.

    With blessing for a shana tova,


  3. shmuel

    Please press “post” only once, not five times.

  4. Schick is a bafoon. He is constatly attacking the credibility of those who want to deal with the issue of abuse in the Orthodox community. A problem that there are no statistics that indicate that the problem is any different than anyother religion, community or group. Can he bring any evidence that “ba’alei teshuva suffer more abuse and themselves abuse more often than born haredim.”? Can he prove that anymore than he can disprove that “ba’alei teshuva are targetted more often by sexual predators in the Orthodox community that FFB”? Or that “off-derech children are targetted more often by sexual predators in the Orthodox community that on-derech”

    Dude, sexual predators target the most vulnerable. Who’s more vulnerable the child of a baalei bayit or a ba’alei teshuva who is now isolated from their non-observant family?

    Here’s a few of his ignorant rants, minimizing the problem and attacking those who try to improve the situation:






    Marvin Schick who apparently will defend anything that has the outward appearance of Orthodoxy before making basic inquiries:

    Case in point: Rabbi Shlomo Erez Elbarnes AKA Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans – Lev Tahor cult leader
    see (a few comments down):

    But then Schick lends his name to low-life blogger Rabbi Menken “don’t let your young daughter work for him” of cross-currents who has attacked the motives of Gary Rosenblatt in reporting on Rabbi Lanner. But then again, Menken is protcted by the Rabbinical protection squad of Baltimore as well. See:

    Let’s also not forget Avi Schick, Esq., deputy counsel to NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, part of board that hired pedophile to work with elementary aged Jewish children.

    David Schick “Mr. Agudath Israel ethics” is a common theif who embezzeled funds including those of KEREN MEOR YITZCHOK TRUST OF BNAIHATALMUD, AMERICAN FRIENDS OF THE SHEMAYA SCHOOL FOR DEAF CHILDREN IN ISRAEL, INC., CONG. PRI.

    Folks, these people are the problem, not the solution.

    Pheh on the Schick family. If they can do no real teshuva and refuse to confront the real abuse that exists in my community, then may they and theirs continue reaping what they’ve sown.

  5. When I posted my comment, it asked me to confirm twice and then posted it twice.

  6. TypePad is again experiencing “degraded” service. Expect more difficulty posting until they can get a temporary handle on it and declare victory until the next incident, which will probably occur tomorrow or Thursday. These guys just don’t have a clue …

  7. S-

    You’re wrong about the book. Schick himself says the book only briefly mentions it. My book will be much more expansive. I hope you’ll like it.

  8. Henech

    What chutzpa you have to slander Yaakov Menken based on the anonymous nonsense spewed by your friend, the bitter and twisted Luke Ford. Anyone reading your blog — and believe me (you won’t, but maybe some other person stumbling on your nonsense will), I have no dog in any of these fights, I’m just a Yid and I have no problem criticizing hypocrisy and venality — but any person reading this with an ounce of objectivity can see that you are driven by a pathological hatred of goodness coupled with an astonishing self-image of self-righteousness.

  9. What Luke has written about Menken has been confirmed by those you would call gedolei Baltimore. Menken has admitted his conduct to them privately. The full details of his conduct has been fully confirmed to me.

    Feel free to contact gedolei Baltimore and ask them if your young daughter should work for Menken. Better yet, get it in writting that he is fit.

    Based on what I can confirm, Menken is unfit to do kiruv, to counsel women and in my opinion unfit to hold the title Rabbi.

  10. In fact if you truly have “an ounce of objectivity” feel free to contact Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer directly:

    Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer
    Shearith Yisrael (Glen Ave. Shul)
    410-367-9183 fax

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