“Brooklyn Girl”

In May of 2001, I attended a small conference in Soap Lake, Washington, where some thirty former Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) were gathered. The conference was sponsored by the late Richard Rawe. Richard was part of a group of former JWs who met once a year since the early 1980s to discuss Bible doctrines and other subjects related to their former religion.

In March of 2001, I had been interviewed for a TV documentary to be shown on NBC’s Dateline program which would reveal a cover-up by JWs leaders of child sexual abuse carried out by Witness molesters.

I first learned about this problem in 1992 when I was a staff member of the Writing Department working inside the Watchtower’s world headquarters in Brooklyn, NY.

The Dateline TV documentary was thought to air a few months after the interview but it was not broadcast until over a year later on May 28, 2002. Because of not knowing when the documentary would be shown, those in attendance at the conference agreed to keep my name confidential until I came out publicly with my accusations on Dateline.

While at the Soap Lake conference, I spoke to the audience a number of times. One of my talks was about the “Brooklyn Girl” which was recorded on audio tape. You can now listen to it on the audio link provided  below.

During the introduction you will hear me discuss Rabbi Baruch Lanner who was a Jewish educator and an official of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). NCSY was a youth group run by the Orthodox Union, the central communal organization of Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Lanner had physically, sexually and emotionally abused kids in the group for over three decades. Throughout his tenure at NCSY, the organization had received numerous complaints about the rabbi but did little to investigate the accusations. Nor did they do anything to control Lanner’s behavior – let alone take action to bar him from working with children.

“But why didn’t they?” you ask. Because the goal was recruitment of non-orthodox young Jews to bring them to Jewish orthodoxy and Lanner was immensely successful in his mission.

This is exactly what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was guilty of doing. Over six decades or more, Watchtower leaders around the world had received thousands and thousands of reports and complaints of abuse of children; yet, little or nothing was done to put kids’ interests first.

The emphasis of Witness leaders was always on the JW message; the proselytizing to attract new members; concerns for the organization, and for literature placements. Anyone who complained of child sexual abuse committed by prominent JW leaders – who were successful in getting out the JW religious message – was discredited.

In the experience I relate in the  “Brooklyn Girl” you will hear how JWs, including their leaders, had fallen into the trap of applauding proselytizing and the proselytizers no matter what the cost, just like the leaders of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) did.

In my introduction, I am quoting Michael Kress, author of an article titled “Higher Calling,” that was posted on the Internet on Salon.com on July 19, 2000.  [ Link to Salon.com article… ] [ PDF of original article ]

In spite of ongoing denials that there is any real problem – fifteen years later, child abuse continues within the conservative Jewish community – as it does within the worldwide Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Will it ever end?

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