Did Mass Panic Lead to False Accusations in Nachalaot Pedophile Ring?

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playground structureI’ve translated several articles about the large number of children who testified that they had been sexually molested by neighborhood residents in the close-knit Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachalaot.

Today, Tablet Magazine published an article by Menachem Kaiser called Panic in Jerusalem. Kaiser did not find much evidence of molestation, and notes that the case is similar to others in which large numbers of children made accusations that turned out to be false:

This history is relevant because, to borrow Lanning’s (an FBI expert’s) term, a multi-dimensional sex ring has never once been substantiated. Never, despite the enormity of the crimes in question, and despite the numbers of times they’ve been alleged, has any independently corroborated evidence been found. Many of the children who testified in these cases have, as adults, recanted their testimonies, and courts have, over the years, turned over convictions that were based purely on children’s testimonies. In the most famous of these cases—the McMartin preschool trial in California, which ran from 1984 through 1990 and in which more than 350 children claimed they had been abused at their daycare center—every single allegation was thrown out.

The idea that there was a ring of pedophiles seemed fantastical to me, but the news reported initial evidence of molestation. According to the article, even that might be in question.

The article concludes with a quote by Lanning:

“One of the real tragedies of these cases is that once contamination takes place, you can’t undo it,” said Lanning. And it is clear that the case in Nahlaot has been contaminated—in other words, the facts can no longer be reliably determined—whether by the parents, whom police say are at fault for asking their children leading questions, or the police, whom the community says provided no guidance and were generally incompetent. “I believe that in most of these cases, maybe not all of them, there are seeds of truth, something happened here,” says Lanning. “And then through a complicated process, however sadly and unfortunately, the whole thing got exaggerated and embellished, and the sad result may be that someone who did bad things to children may now get away with it.”

Here are the previously published articles on the topic:

Nachalaot Pedophilia: Yisrael Hayom report

Nachalaot Pedophilia Case: At Least 100 Victims (updated)

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Comments

  1. Some wild stuff going on in the comments there. I think another issue is that number of people involved in this case who aren’t mentally stable. (both parents of victims and alleged perpetrators.)

    • Until I saw those comments I didn’t realize that this thing was being driven by someone e named Ruth who is obviously unstable.

      • children, unfortunately, were abused, but that abuse was 3 years ago and the pedophiles were jailed. the continued hysteria surrounding it is unfounded. my kids lived in nachlaot at the time and up until 5 months ago and know all of the people and what happened and what didn’t. the people that started the whole mass hysteria have been working at destroying lives and anyone that goes up against them has been “bought by the church”.
        i would be happy to discuss the FACTS with anyone who wishes to understand and know the reality.

    • From what I have seen and read it is not the parents who are mentally unstable. The people speaking up in public- who seem to have mental health issues are residents of the community whose public statements are so outrageous that one tends to think the whole story is nonsense. It is therefore hard to sift through the “wild ” stuff and realize no matter how absurd it sounds, some of the outrageous claims are very close to the truth. It reminds me of the puzzles where you have to find the words among a jumble of letters. The words are all there. So too the truth lies mixed in between all the nonsense and rambling in some of the comments here and in other articles on the internet. The parent I spoke to, was sane, sincere, and spoke simply of the abuse inflicted on his children. That person did not speak of pedophile rings, or cults, or christian converts and so on. but did say there were times that there were several adults in the home of the man that abused the children, when they were molested and that they were photographed and videoed. Terrible things happened in Nachlaot. That is the simple truth. One should not let the fact that there are people with mental health issues speaking louder than others take away from that simple truth.

  2. Maybe I do too much victims’ services stuff (and hear about awful pedophelia) but the Tablet article did not convince me that none of this happened. . I think that perhaps not all the outsiders and misfits are pedophiles, but I believe that at least some of the abuse occurred. I think it is quite possible that parents missed physical cues. I am generally skeptical about conspiracy theories, so it may be possible that there is not a big ring–but I think that as much as we would like to think that our communities are safe, there are sick people out there. And would I let my child go the house of and play with a rather odd person? It may seem unfair, but I absolutely would not. This kind of game playing is often the way a pedophile grooms his victims. I wish the Tablet article would have addressed that.

    • But that was the author’s entire point- something bad probably did happen, but because the case has been become bloated to fantastical proportions, we will probably never know who the real criminals are. My guess is that some charedi kids were abused, and instead of taking the normal steps of seeking therapy and making proper police reports, it morphed into ritual abuse at the hands of priests in secret tunnels and included all the strange people in the neighborhood that nobody really liked anyway.

      • ruth cohen
        Twitter:
        says:

        wrong again. a haradi mother who does not want to go public did all that had to be done, social workers, police reports, experts and the evidence was buried. i was not allowed to give evidence to the police and i was the only adult who had heard the death threats by one of these men who then fled the country. wrong wrong wrong. they did everything they were told to do by the law and got screwed all over again as i told them. now they are working out of they system like me. and the dirt we are digging up about the rabbinim, judges, police protecting the perverts, for big bucks, kiddie porn. folks its worse not less. give the children the benefit of the doubt here so tthat the fury of hahsem does not strike at your cold hearts.

  3. There is much we don’t know, and I doubt we will ever really know the complete story. But, one of the few things that is pretty clear is that the police did mishandle the situation from day one.

    I think, however, that the comparison to the McMartin case is not a good one, and weakens his case. In that case, there was never any physical evidence, and the social workers were brought in the very beginning of the case – and in fact they were instrumental in building the case. More, they actually were instrumental in “discovering” much of the supposed abuse. Beyond that, the accusations included things that were simply not possible. (Some of the more outre accusations were kept from the jury, which was one of the reasons that the accusations gained some traction in court.)

  4. The author of the article says there’s no physical evidence in this case as well. Do you know otherwise?

  5. The headline of the original article “Parents in a tight-knit neighborhood believe a pedophile ring is terrorizing children. What if it doesn’t exist?” implies that there was probably not a” pedophile ring”
    My first thought on reading the article is WHY? Why is a writer from Brooklyn wondering if there was a ring of pedophiles or not? Shouldn’t the focus be on what happened to the children and how it could have gone unnoticed for so long? I have spoken several times both to Altea Steinherz who is the therapist quoted in the article helping the families and to one of the parents who was interviewed for the article. I have also met and heard some of the people who are trying to expose all of this and yes- they seem like lunatics. It is unfortunate that there are mentally handicapped people in Nachalot involved in this affair- on both sides- the accused and the accusers- because they are drowning out the truth and the cries of the children. Altea Steinherz is a hero and the parents interviewed in the article are living with the trauma their children have experienced and the guilt that they did not realize what was happening sooner. Personally I heard enough to believe that one or more persons gathered several mentally handicapped people together in one home where abuse took place. Is that a pedophile ring? I don’t know . It does not matter. What matters is that it happened and it could happen again- and parents need to be less naive and trusting. Articles and comments should focus on that.

    • What is sad is that over a year has gone by and the Nachlaot community is still finding new Pedophiles to accuse. With accusations close to 70 now, it seems to me that something is amiss.
      Perhaps the small number of accusers should be examined for their mental stability. Or perhaps their is something in these families that they need to project their insanity on the outside world.

  6. ruth cohen
    Twitter:
    says:

    i am ruth the unstable thank you thank you.
    i warn all who put out info denying this story to take a huge step back. the judge agrees with me and my lawyer that something terrible is going on.
    i keep saying i have the court papers. now deny court papers and show what fools you are.
    soon the media will be here yom rishon and the court documents will be on our tvs and media.

    unstable. yes how lovely to shut up the only one who is doing this. great. congratulations. so the way the system works and the professionals has had good results right. of course.
    kiddie porn is growing. raped children are growing by the moment but your way is the right way. right of course right

    all the men of god in the torah were crazy. they said crazy things. we never had a normal prophet in israel. yael chopped of someones head, jonah in the whale, should i continue. noah and the ark. you fool noah building a ark when there is no rain. right of course right.

    i am getting v ery sick of the fools blocking me and putting me down. shut up already. i am doing a holy work and the children are very happy with me. if you curse me in your heart then hashem will pay you back as he protects the fools and the children of which i am both

    jewish mom and i are very good friends, she is totally acceptable to all societys. so shut up already and get the facts because i will start legal action against those who mock me. its enough. shut the hell up and learn from the master and then pass an opinion.

  7. What I know is that parents who are concerned about abuse their children have suffered often seem like crazy hysterics. Who of us would not be a crazy hysteric if we discovered that our children (has ve’shalom) had been abused?

  8. This is fascinating. I can’t decide which version makes the Nahlaot Haredim look more awful – the one where they let over 100 children be abused repeatedly for years right under their noses, or the one where they instigated a witch hunt based on fantastical accusations against the outcasts of their society.

  9. It seems to solve the problem the concerns of all kids, parents and also the social outcasts need to be addressed
    Allan Katz recently posted..How Children succeed – Paul ToughMy Profile

  10. Interesting post. It was actually something that I wondered about at the time, but it seems as though it’s politically incorrect to question whether an accusation of abuse may not be the whole story. Sobering.
    Laurie recently posted..Chanukah and KabbalahMy Profile