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Ohel, Where’s The Beef?

Ohel, Where’s The Beef?

The Jewish Week finds itself, unfortunately, in a war of words with Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. To be clear: we have no animus toward the Brooklyn-based social service agency or any other Jewish organization; our mission and goal is to report the truth, as best we can, and inform and strengthen the Jewish community. Sometimes that makes for hard feelings.

Over the years we have reported allegations that Ohel’s policies in dealing with sex abuse has put the community’s children at risk. As a result, the agency appears to have concluded that we are biased against it, and worse.

After our investigative report, “Abuse Case Tests Ohel’s Adherence to Reporting Laws” (Feb. 25) was published, Ohel CEO David Mandel sent a directive to staff saying that the agency would be “launching an editorial and informational campaign in print, online and through the various social media, rebutting” our story.

The memo went on to assert that the article “once again demonstrates a complete disregard for fact driven by a very misguided agenda,” and that “The Jewish Week’s accusations are an affront to every Ohel employee, every Ohel client and the community at large.”

Most of the charges against The Jewish Week appeared in a full-page ad Ohel placed in last week’s issue and were addressed and refuted in a news story we published last week (“Ohel Says Jewish Week Accusations ‘Unfounded’”).

This week, Marvin Schick, in his paid column, broadens the critique of The Jewish Week, citing our report on Ohel as part of an “endless attack on the Orthodox.” He acknowledges that he does not know the facts of the case we focused on — even suggests Ohel may have erred — but insists that matters less than pointing out that The Jewish Week “constantly publish(es) material hostile to the Orthodox.”

We view such charges as ad hominem attacks that question our motives, agenda and beliefs — everything but the veracity of our reporting.

How sad that when we report that a respected Jewish social service agency appears to have broken the law and, as a result, may be endangering children, the response from at least part of the community is not, “let’s address the problem,” but rather, “kill the messenger.”

What may be lost in the blizzard of verbiage from both Schick and Ohel is that nowhere in their ads do they deny the salient facts of our report, which described several controversial cases dealing with the agency’s actions.

The central point was that the staff of Ohel, on the advice of its attorney and quality-control officer, did not report to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) a suspected case of child abuse by an Ohel client who disclosed that she thought she “may be” sexually abusing her 5-year-old son. In subsequent sessions with those treating her, she disclosed that she was abusing her son.

New York State law says that people designated as mandated reporters — such as social workers, psychologists and mental health professionals, like those at Ohel who dealt with the woman — are required to make a report when there is “reasonable cause” to suspect a child is being abused.

Ohel did not.

We stand by our story.

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