Pamela Anderson and Shmuley Boteach pen Op-Ed on dangers of porn

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and former Playboy model Pamela Anderson wrote an Op-Ed together on what they called the “devastation” caused by ubiquitous online pornography.

Boteach, an Orthodox rabbi, and Anderson, a sex symbol also known for her role in the ’90s television series “Baywatch,” linked their piece to the latest Anthony Weiner scandal. Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin announced Monday that she was separating from him after reports uncovered a suggestive photo indicating that the former congressman was continuing to engage in the “sexting” activities that forced him to resign in disgrace in 2011.

“From our respective positions of rabbi-counselor and former Playboy model and actress, we have often warned about pornography’s corrosive effects on a man’s soul and on his ability to function as husband and, by extension, as father,” the pair wrote in the article, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

“This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays,” the Op-Ed continued.

The pair do not distinguish between the commercial production and consumption of explicit videos and web sites, said to be a $10-$12 billion industry in the United States, and the personal sex messaging that Weiner indulged in with women on the internet. But they do assert that Weiner had a “porn addiction” and “personal psycho-pathologies” that led him to share images of himself.

“Yet his behavior squares with what we have observed with all too many men, especially in the U.S. or other Western countries that enjoy liberal values and material prosperity,” they write.

Boteach, 49, a onetime TV reality show host and Republican congressional candidate, is the author of “Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy,” a guide to how modesty and restraint can enhance sexuality within marriage. In 2001, he participated in a public debate on pornography with Lindsey Vuolo, Playboy’s first Jewish model.

Anderson, also 49, was involved in a sex tape with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, her then husband, which was stolen and leaked to the internet in 1995.


Jenna Jameson has company: 7 of the most famous Jews in porn

Last week the news surfaced that “Queen of Porn” Jenna Jameson is converting to Judaism. Jameson, who has been married twice before, is engaged to Israeli Lior Bitton (who works in L.A.’s diamond business and has been charged with stealing merchandise from his stores). Jameson’s Instagram page is filled with photos of challah and other kosher dishes she’s been cooking up; she’s even dropping  Hebrew words on Twitter.

As it it turns out, Jameson will be in great company — several other members of the tribe are (or have been) major stars in the adult film industry. In honor of Jameson’s high-profile conversion, we give you seven of the most famous Jews in porn.

You might not want to Google them in an office or other public place.

Ron Jeremy
Real name: Ronald Jeremy Hyatt

Jeremy is arguably the most famous porn star of all time. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Queens, Jeremy went on to star in well over 2,000 adult films. He’s also been featured in almost every realm of popular culture since the 1980s — through small parts in films such as “Ghostbusters” and music videos for bands like Sublime and Guns N’ Roses — even if he now looks more like your goofy Jewish uncle than a porn legend.

James Deen
Real name: Bryan Matthew Sevilla

Deen is the most famous Jew — and one of the most famous people, period — working in the adult film world today. His unassuming “nice guy” demeanor has even won him female fans outside of the industry. He has also been very open about his Jewish upbringing (among other things, the public now knows he lost his virginity at a Jewish summer camp).

Nina Hartley
Real name: Mary Louise Hartman

Hartley, now 56, is a bona fide porn legend, having starred in over 1,000 adult films and directed 18. After winning eight Adult Video News Awards throughout her career, she’s now a sex educator and speaker.

Joanna Angel
Real name: Joanna Mostov

Joanna Angel is believed to be the first porn star to enter the industry after living in an Orthodox home. After working at a kosher restaurant in Teaneck, New Jersey, and attending Rutgers University, she founded her own porn website and became one of the leaders of so-called “alt-porn” movement.

Michael Lucas
Real name: Andrei Treivas

Lucas — who was born in Russia and has lived in New York and Israel — has been one of the more successful Jews in the industry, as both a gay pornographic actor and an entrepreneur. His company Lucas Entertainment is the biggest gay adult film company in New York and has made some of the most expensive gay pornos of all time. He is fiercely pro-Israel and pro-gay rights, and in 2009 his film Men of Israel was the first adult movie to feature only gay Jewish actors.

Real name: Naomi Russell

Russell, who was one of the more popular porn starlets in the late 2000s, has stated that her father is a rabbi. She was born in Los Angeles and has Israeli ancestry.

Seymore Butts
Real name: Adam Glasser

Butts – or Glasser, take your pick – was born in the Bronx to Jewish parents, whom he has said were involved in the “shmattah business.” As the Showtime reality series “Family Business” pointed out, his mother Lila has also been involved with the production and distribution of some of his films.

Teens and Internet Porn: What a Parent Can Do

When parents catch their children — typically boys — looking at porn online, they usually become alarmed. That’s understandable. But those who respond by turning to filtering and blocking software should realize this strategy only does so much.

The flood of female images will likely make its way through somehow. And if you manage to slow it down, there are still friends and their computers to contend with.

Kids, whether they surf or not, live in a larger culture that relies on sex, and uses the objectified female form to engage them. So what can concerned adults do? How do we deconstruct the cultural pressures imposed on growing girls and boys? How do we counteract the insidious effects of these forces?

To begin with, consider Internet porn within the larger social and cultural context. Although our collective tendency is to blame parents or to evaluate whether a teen’s behavior is prurient, this problem is larger than the family. There are outside forces at work. We live in a culture that infuses sex into everything we see, hear and know. And it does so in distinct ways for each gender.

As boys grow up, they learn from the images they absorb. They discern that they are the leading men in their life stories and that others are there to enhance their sense of identity. Some boys are helped to resist these lessons. But for the most part, by the time they reach adolescence, boys have learned to objectify the “other” — and in the case of the female body, to break it down to component parts for their pleasure. The female is not fully human. She is an object. The goal is not to know her, but to possess her, use her and move on, with variety as the aim. Boys are learning to be consumers of female bodies.

Girls internalize these same influences; there is no avoiding them. These messages are organized and pervasive, established through networks of power, namely, media in all its manifestations, including advertising, as well as consumerism, fundamentalism and biological essentialism. Girls, as a result, become self-objectifying. They act against themselves via anorexia, cutting, self-scrutiny, excessive body-beauty concerns and comparisons to other girls. These are the effects of living within this cultural matrix.

How do we take on such issues that are larger than we are? The problem may seem so daunting, powerful, and ubiquitous that nothing can be done. But adults can help in several ways.

First, we should acknowledge that there is no avoiding the matrix. As pure as our children start out, they have entered the world and been shaped by it. But it’s not as though they have disappeared or have been inextricably saturated by these cultural influences. Their better selves can re-emerge with intentional force. The key rests in dialogue. Young people can speak with the adults in their lives about the things they believe in and want out of relationships.

A recent clinical experience with a 14-year-old boy shows how this works. The boy had been caught viewing porn by his father. He described his parents’ worry and their demands that he stop. He expressed every intention to continue. That led to a discussion about what effects this habit was having on him.

At first, the boy insisted he was unaffected, but he eventually acknowledged that he had, in fact, begun to view girls differently, becoming more focused on their bodies. This was the first of many conversations in which, over time, he slowly reconnected with his best intentions toward girls. This is not to suggest that he stopped viewing porn or that his parents did not continue to feel the burden of worry. As we continued to work with his family, we acknowledged with them the complexity of his world, striving to help him hold onto his different intentions.

When we ask teens to speak to their values and intentions, they learn as they speak, in a reflexive process. The goal of dialogue is not to lead kids toward or away from a normative standard, but rather to make space for them to explore their own personally held commitments. With these aims in mind, adults — meaning parents, other family members, counselors or friends — can help teens by engaging them in questions such as the following:

• What effect does viewing porn have on your ideas about girls and women?

• What are the ideas you hold about girls and women that are not represented by pornography?

• What, besides their bodies, do you notice about the girls and women you know?

• How hard would you say it is, given the environment we live in, for girls and women not to be preoccupied with body image?

• What values do you hold that are still in place?

If the engaged adult isn’t a parent, there are questions whose answers can help teens reconnect with their parents. Some examples are:

• How can we begin to include your parents in this conversation?

• How might we assist your parents in the worry they might experience?

As teens begin to enter into dialogue with their parents, their faith and their teachers, they articulate values and intentions in regard to girls and women. Our purpose as professionals is a goal that’s shared with other adults involved in the lives of teens. We want to keep them fully engaged and connected to their worldview in a way that ultimately supports a more three-dimensional view of girls and women.

David Marsten is the director of Miracle Mile Community Practice and is in private practice in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Inez Tiger is a licensed marriage and family therapist and middle school counselor at Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy. She can be reached at


The Agonizing Toll of Sexual Addiction

One Friday night 33 years ago, when Yisroel Richtberg was 12
years old, an older boy sneaked into his dorm room at his Chasidic yeshiva in Israel,
pulled off Richtberg’s pajama pants and raped him. The same thing happened the
next Shabbat.

The boy told Richtberg (not his real name) that if he ever
told anyone, the two would be blacklisted at all the yeshivas, and the attacker
said he would kill himself.

Richtberg didn’t tell.

Instead, he sank into a cycle of depression, shame and
isolation, one that would lead to a 20-year addiction to prostitutes,
pornography and drugs, fronted by a double-life as an upstanding Chasidic
rabbi, businessman and father of 12.

Today, Richtberg is alive to tell his story because he got
help from therapists and 12-step programs. He has made it his life’s mission to
help others conquer an addiction so coated with shame that it resides at the
very bottom of the hierarchies of addiction.

Identified in the 1970s by Patrick Carnes, author of “Out of
the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” (Hazelden, 2001), sex addiction
has the same psychological and physiological underpinnings as alcoholism, drug
abuse and other addictions, but cultural proscriptions against openly
addressing sexual behavior problems have made it one of the least understood of
the addictive disorders. Addicts are either feared as offenders, which only a
small percentage are, or mockingly revered with a that-sounds-like-fun wink.

But addicts say there is no pleasure in being a slave to a
compulsion so strong that it affects the body and mind as acutely as a drug.

“There is still this judgment of ‘what a sleazy guy,’ but
what they don’t understand is that the addict has a psycho-biological disorder
in which he is seeking a drug that he himself produces,” said Robert Weiss,
clinical director of the Sexual Recovery Institute, on Olympic Boulevard, just
outside Beverly Hills. “He is literally dosing himself with his own
neurochemistry, like a drug addict with a needle in his arm.”

Whether acting out by compulsively masturbating to
pornography, having serial affairs, frequenting prostitutes or habitually
seeking homosexual or heterosexual one-night stands, sex addicts sink into a
pit of shame and self-loathing, often threatening their families and

It is difficult to determine whether the incidence of
addiction is higher or lower in the Jewish community than in the general
population, where Carnes estimates that about 5 percent to 8 percent of adults
have a sexual compulsivity disorder. Conversations with several mental health
professionals who work with the Jewish community, from ultra-Orthodox to
unaffiliated, revealed that all had a significant number of patients dealing
with sex addiction, including several rabbis. Several pulpit rabbis revealed
that congregants had sought counseling from them about sex addiction.

Weiss believes the vast majority of sex addicts are men, and
pointed out that female sex addicts might be too embarrassed to seek help, or
might be getting paid to act out as prostitutes or exotic dancers.

Weiss estimates that about 20 percent of addicts are sexual
offenders, usually engaging in exhibitionism or voyeurism. Occasionally addicts
are guilty of molestation or rape, but not all sex offenders are addicts.

In a world where clothing styles, entertainment and
marketing have stripped away sexual inhibitions, triggers are everywhere for an
addict. Free-flowing pornography on the Internet has added to the mix a population
of addicts who never showed such tendencies before (see Web, p. 11).

The changing reality of cybersex has forced Jewish community
leaders, educators and rabbis to begin battling a seemingly inbred denial and
acknowledge that the community must aid its addicts.

In Los Angeles there are indications that awareness is
growing. A Jewish Federation conference on addictions in the fall of 2001
attracted 250 people.

This year, 880 people attended the annual dinner of Beit
T’Shuvah, a residential rehabilitation organization in Los Angeles that uses
Judaism at the core of its treatment — the only such facility in the country.

With the help of Rabbi Juda Mintz, himself a recovering
addict to Internet pornography, Beit T’Shuvah and the Board of Rabbis of
Southern California recently co-sponsored a series on addictions. It was at the
session on sex addiction, and in private conversations with The Jewish Journal,
that Richtberg told his story.

Addiction or Just Bad Behavior?

Richtberg is a Chasid with a scraggly beard, wide-brimmed
hat, long coat and knickers tucked into his thin black socks. Thick glasses
cover his tired blue eyes, and his Yiddish accent belies his American birth and
Israeli upbringing.

Two years after Richtberg was raped, his parents transferred
him to a new yeshiva in Jerusalem, hoping to reverse his baffling
transformation into a depressed and isolated C student.

A rabbi at the new yeshiva, an ad hoc counselor for boys who
have sexual problems, was the first person Richtberg told about the rape and
his subsequent behaviors: compulsive masturbating, viewing pornographic
materials and a sexual relationship with another boy. (Years later, Richtberg
found out that the boy, after he married and had a family, committed suicide.)

While the rabbi was more compassionate than others in the
yeshiva system who scolded and blamed Richtberg, he was not a mental health
professional and was more interested in getting Richtberg to stop his behaviors
than in healing him. Richtberg said he would promise the rabbi that he would
stop, but then would come back crying in shame when he didn’t.

“Today I know I was an addict from the start because I had
so much pain, and I didn’t have a person to talk to about my pain, and I tried
to do something to cope,” Richtberg said.

Experts say his symptoms — compulsive, self-destructive
behavior, followed by shame and heartfelt-but-futile promises to stop — were
classic signs of addiction, whether caused by an acute trauma or more subtle
emotional trouble.

“All addiction is caused by a hole in one’s soul, and a need
to fill it with something,” said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, spiritual leader of Beit
T’Shuvah. “It’s about loneliness and emptiness. We turn to addictive behaviors
and substances as a solution to this experience of not fitting in, of not being
good enough.”

Despite an understanding that the addiction is destroying
his life, the addict’s attempts to stop will fail until he gets outside help,
experts say.

“An addiction becomes the center of your life,” said Rabbi
Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism and an expert in Jewish
medical ethics. “It becomes like an idol, theologically speaking, and
everything in your life is centered around it, and most other things that are
really important get lost.”

While society has come to accept an individual’s
powerlessness in relation to drugs and alcohol, because of the brain’s chemical
dependency on these substances, the terminology of addiction seems harder to
justify in reference to gambling, overeating or sex, which most people can control.

However, experts report that sex addicts have the same
genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior as other addicts. And once an
addict gets hooked on a behavior, his body treats it — and the pursuit of it —
as a drug.

“Neuropsychological research shows that the exhilaration
that people feel when in pursuit of the object of their addiction can
approximate the high in and of itself, so that not only are they seeking the
thrill through the drug or illicit behavior, but even the pursuit is generating
an exhilarating high,” said David Fox, a clinical psychologist and rabbi.

Just how to classify sex addiction is still a matter of
debate in the medical community. Sex addiction made its way into the DSM III,
the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual, in 1980, but was
pulled with the release of the DSM IV in 1994. Weiss is confident that current
research has quieted most debate and that the diagnosis will be reinstated in
the next edition.

All of this makes it difficult to use sex addiction as a
legal defense, and Weiss notes, it is hardly a defense that conjures much
empathy among jurors.

The Double Life

Mark Altman (not his real name), a 40-something married
professional, who was a sex addict for more than 20 years and has been in
recovery for five, was raised by two alcoholics and suffered a childhood trauma
that set off his addiction.

He began sexually acting out as a teenager, “numbing out” by
compulsively masturbating, he said. Starting in college, he sought sexual
liaisons with men at sex clubs, bathhouses and park restrooms, while in his
public life he dated women. He continued his double life through 15 years of
marriage, raising three children and belonging to a Reform temple.

“Every New Year’s, every birthday, every Rosh Hashana, every
time there was some sort of event when I could make a resolution, I would swear
to myself I would stop, because it was killing me,” Altman said.

“I was leading a good family life, I was there for my kids,
I was there for my wife,” he continued. “I just carried on this charade, and I
was dying inside. And I couldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried.”

At one point, he planned suicide. He sought therapy, but it
didn’t give him the tools to stop. At the height of his addiction, he was
acting out almost daily — adult bookstores, cybersex, phone sex and cruising
for sexual encounters.

Altman knows now that what he was searching for was
validation — the comfort of believing, however fleetingly, that someone else
thought he was worthy of love and attention. It was never about the sex, he

“The thing I was really looking for was somebody to hold me
and rub my back and tell me I’m an OK guy, not such a bad person,” he said.
“You feel so bad about yourself, and as an addict, you look to the exterior to
find something to fix you.”

But the fix never lasted long.

“I would act out,” Altman recalled, “then feel really crappy
about it afterward, saying, ‘I can’t believe I did this,’ then go home to my
wife and kids, and feel awful and shameful and guilty and horrible, and the
only way I knew to make it stop was to act out again.”

Experts say the cycle Altman described is characteristic of
all addictions and is usually augmented by what is referred to as boundary
crossing, where increasing levels of the substance or behavior are needed to
achieve the same high.

Richtberg can mark each of the milestones in his life with
another boundary crossing. When he was 19, on the advice of the rabbi who was
counseling him, he married. His first introduction to the female body quashed
his desire for men, but enhanced his addiction.

He stayed clean for three weeks after he married. But the
first night his wife cooked dinner, he took a bus into Manhattan’s redlight
district instead of going home.

“I cruised the streets and went to some peep shows,”
Richtberg recalled, “and came home about 3 a.m.”

It was his first time at a live show. “Today, I know it was
too hard for me to deal with my life, and I had to run.”

He celebrated the birth of his first daughter by seeing a
prostitute for the first time. As his habit grew more expensive, he left
kollel, where he was studying full time to earn rabbinic ordination, and
started a business.

At around that time in 1983, his third child was born, a son
with a serious genetic disease. “I knew for sure that Hashem is punishing me,
and that’s why he gave me such a sick child,” Richtberg said. “And I kept
promising myself that I’m going to stop.”

Two years later, another child was born with the same disorder,
and two years after that another child was born with a different chronic
illness. Another child died in infancy.

With each trauma, Richtberg crossed another boundary. He
began to use drugs — first marijuana, then cocaine, then crack.

“At a certain time, it’s hard to say exactly when, I gave
up,” Richtberg said. “I stopped making promises and decided to live a double
life. My goal was to make a lot of money and to make sure that my two worlds
don’t mix.”

Getting Help

Getting into drugs killed Richtberg’s illusion of control.
Within a year and half, he lost his business and started bouncing checks within
his own community. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to business fraud for which he
later served a 20-month sentence. His double life was falling apart.

It took a well-timed external kick to finally induce
Richtberg to get help. The nurses who lived at Richtberg’s home to care for his
disabled children told his wife that they thought he was on drugs. His
brother-in-law brought him to a clinic.

Richtberg yo-yoed through the first few months of therapy,
which focused only on his drug problem, until his therapist insisted that he go
to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and intense outpatient rehabilitation.
Richtberg went on his last cocaine binge in October 1991.

Richtberg said he stayed away from prostitutes for a full
year. But then one day, he found himself in Manhattan, in tears and with a
prostitute. The next day, he and his therapist came up with one last hope: Sex
Addicts Anonymous (SAA).

Richtberg went to a meeting that day and has been clean

“Treatment for any addiction is directly related to
motivation, so if someone is really motivated to change, it is possible, but it
is an active process,” Weiss said.

Unlike gambling, drugs or alcohol, sex cannot simply be
sworn off. Rather, sex addicts construct parameters in which they can have sex
— with a loving partner, for instance — and still stay on the path toward their
life goals.

Altman went to his first SAA meeting after he was arrested
at a park where men hung out to pick up sex partners.

“I never really thought that I could ever find a group of
people talking about the kind of things that I was sure nobody else did,”
Altman said. “Twelve-step gives you tools you can work with to stop these
behaviors, to really live your life. It’s not just about stopping the sexual
activity. It’s about living your life with integrity and honesty and being
accountable for your actions.”

Spiritual Treatment for a Spiritual Malady

Borovitz of Beit T’Shuvah, himself a recovering alcoholic,
believes that spiritual counseling, prayer and Torah study are essential to
integrating all the elements of a Jewish addict’s soul.

“One of the things that most people speak about in recovery
is finding their authentic soul and how important it is that they can take a
breath and be who they are, rather than who everyone else expects them to be,”
Borovitz said.

He said addicts need to harness God’s power to make their
recovery successful.

“Turning my life and will over to God’s care is a statement
by me that the creative energy of the world is available to me to learn and to
follow the derech [the right path],” Borovitz said.

While some might mistake admitting powerlessness for
relinquishing responsibility, Borovitz said the admission brings a renewed
sense of moral culpability.

“Once I have a connection with God, I have to accept the
yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” he said. “I can’t lie to myself anymore.”

Both Altman and Richtberg had to re-envision their
relationship to Judaism and God to succeed in SAA’s 12-step program.

“When I was first forced to go to AA meetings, I felt that
it’s goyish, it’s not for me,” Richtberg recalled. Meetings are often in
churches, God is invoked as the higher power and sessions end in “The Lord’s

Richtberg wove together the 12-step process with the Jewish
path of teshuvah (repentance), growing closer to God and stronger in his
Judaism as he made amends with himself and others.

“This is like a cancer, my addiction, and based on the
prognosis, I can’t stay sober,” Richtberg said. “But there is a God who can
help keep me sober if I turn to him every day,” he said. “Every day, I get up
in the morning, and I say, ‘Tati [Daddy], I’m powerless, I can’t stay sober and
I’m asking you for a toivah [favor]. Please keep me sober for today. I’m not
asking more, just for today.’ That has been working for 10 years.”

Altman, a self-described atheist who grew up in a
“spiritually empty” family that belonged to a Reform temple, said he had “to
get away from a lot of initial religious baggage before I could develop my own
concept of a higher power.”

Altman now has a “constellation of ideas” that constitute
his higher power. One of those ideas incorporates the ongoing conversation in
his own head between what he calls “my addict” and the person he was born to be
— the one who can discern right from wrong, the one who can learn to love
himself for who he is.

“The program consists of people helping each other,” he
said. “Two people are always stronger than one person alone, so I cannot deny
that that is a power greater than me.”

With Help, Hope

Altman is honing his new conception of God with Rabbi Paul
Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Agoura Hills, who has worked with addiction
for years.

“Every rabbi should have the big book of Alcoholics
Anonymous, as well as some of the Jewish recovery books, on their shelf just
over their shoulder, so everyone knows that we’re here, and that we’re open,”
Kipnes said.

Harriet Rossetto, CEO of Beit T’Shuvah, said that opening
Jewish opportunities for recovery is especially vital for rabbis, who often
have no one to talk to about the conflicting realities of their public image
and what goes on inside them.

“It’s time to address rabbis as human beings and acknowledge
that they have these issues and provide treatment, rather than putting them up
on this pedestal and knocking them off and stepping on them,” Rossetto said.

Beit T’Shuvah, with Mintz’s help, is putting together an
anonymous 12-step group for rabbis.

Mintz said that working to raise awareness of addiction in
the Jewish community has become his tikkun — a mission of healing that is his
life’s purpose.

Richtberg, who hides his secret from his Chasidic community
and the small congregation he runs, believes his ordeal also has a divine
purpose. He makes himself available to rabbis, doctors and mental health
professionals. He started an SAA group in Israel and he often runs the minyan
at international SAA conventions.

And if in his past life his milestones were marked with
sinking deeper into his addiction, he said they are now marked with saving more

On the very day last year that his son, disabled from birth,
died as a teenager, Richtberg got a call from an Israeli friend who was in the
United States and needed the support of a fellow recovering addict. With
Hatzolah paramedics still in his home, Richtberg at first explained that he
just couldn’t. Then he called back and told the man to come right over.

“My son left in the spirit of somebody who was reborn,” he
said. “I helped somebody recreate a new life and another one left.”

In the 10 years that he’s been clean, Richtberg and his wife
have had three healthy children. On their anniversary this year, his wife, who
considered leaving him when he revealed his secret, told him she now treasures
each minute she is married to him.

“If you ask me what is the basic change that has happened to
me in the last 10 years, it’s that 10 years ago, I did not believe I had
anything to give, that there would ever come a time in my life that I would
have something to give,” Richtberg said.

“Now people feel that I’m something,” he said. “People value
me. Sometimes I still have a hard time believing it.”

Web Can Ensnare Victims Quickly

In his 35-year career, Rabbi Juda Mintz established a Jewish
youth group in Montreal, founded a traditional congregation and a campus Hillel
in Atlanta and led more than 50 missions to Israel — all without the aid of a

But when he was hired at a Mount Freedom, N.J., synagogue at
the age of 56, his board felt the rabbi should have a computer.

It didn’t take long before Mintz stumbled upon Internet
pornography. For 18 months, he spent several hours a day numbing out in front
of the computer.

Now in recovery for two and a half years, he continues to
uncover underlying reasons for his addiction: parents who were distant, his own
dysfunctional marriage of 36 years.

But it is also true that without Internet pornography, Mintz
may never have acted on his emotional disturbances.

Like a growing number of people, Mintz became addicted on a
medium that can snare its victims within a matter of weeks.

Robert Weiss, who co-authored “Cybersex Exposed: Simple
Fantasy or Obsession” (Hazleden, 2001) with Jennifer Schneider, said he is
seeing a significant increase in the number of people addicted to cybersex,
even among people with no history of addictive behaviors.

“Something about the intensity and the accessibility and the
affordability of the Internet made it more arousing and a more immediately
compulsive medium than any of the other outlets for sex, and therefore more
addictive,” said Weiss, clinical director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in
Los Angeles.

Weiss said that about 60 percent of all Internet traffic
involves a sexual purpose. An estimated 2 million users are addicted — meaning
they are ashamed of what they are doing, it is impacting their life, yet they
are unable to stop.

In a small number of cases, the behavior moves out of
virtual reality and into real life.

Just last week in New Jersey, Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum, who
founded and directed the Jewish Center for Spiritual Care for the New York
Board of Rabbis and was named the board’s Chaplain of the Year for his work at
Ground Zero, pleaded not guilty to charges that he was having sexually explicit
e-mail conversations with a 13-year-old girl, who turned out to be an
undercover police officer, according to The New York Times.

While it is hard to cull out how many cyberaddicts are
Jews, mental health professionals agree that there is no reason to believe the
proportion is any different among the Jewish population than the general

“The Web site has become the opiate of the 21st century.
It’s a wonderful way to stay in your secret world, your fantasy world,” said
Donna Burstyn, a psychotherapist who has many Orthodox clients.

In the last two months before he was caught, Mintz’s
addiction spiraled down to child pornography, for which he could face up to
three years in federal prison. For now, he is living at Beit T’Shuvah, running
a weekly 12-step minyan at Kehillat Israel in Beverlywood and working to alert
community leaders — and especially educators — to the allure of Internet

“I don’t think any rosh yeshiva or teacher or rebbe for boys
or girls is in denial that this is a humongous plague facing these kids,” Mintz

Natural adolescent curiosity now has an outlet that is more
convenient, prolific — and addictive — than magazines hidden under the

Many Jewish families, especially in more observant circles,
use heavy filters, none of which are foolproof firewalls. Others use commonly
encouraged approaches, such as keeping the computer in a common area and
monitoring when and for how long kids are on computer.

But the most effective tool, said Scott Perloff, assistant
director for education technology at Milken Community High School, is keeping a
culture of openness around the Internet.

“You should really be engaged with the kids when they are on
the Internet,” he said. “Use it as an opportunity for helping kids develop
judgment about what is appropriate and inappropriate material.”

If kids do happen upon explicit material, don’t overreact,
Perloff said. Teach kids to close the image, or just turn off the monitor, and
alert a parent or teacher to what they have seen.

“When parents are faced with a 9-year-old boy who mistakenly
ended up on a porn site, that is a teaching opportunity the parent dare not
avoid,” said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism and an
expert on ethics. “Because if they do avoid it, children may deduce that this
is perfectly fine, or they may deduce that the parents are so uncomfortable
with it that is a taboo subject which they are not to talk about with parents.”

The Great Debate

It was billed as a championship heavyweight bout, the great debate between Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler and other pornographic magazines, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of “Kosher Sex” and other major works.

As it turned out, it was more like an old Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton two-reeler, with the skinny and nimble Boteach furiously bobbing, jabbing and weaving, while the heavy-set Flynt sat there placidly flicking off the jabs and occasionally throwing a punch of his own.

The referee was Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer, who tried, with indifferent success, to point Boteach back to his corner at the end of a round.

Joining as an unannounced wild card was Roseanne, television personality and student of kabbalah, who sat between the two combatants and did little to raise the coherence level of the Monday evening debate.

Nevertheless, the 750-strong, mostly youngish audience apparently got its $15 worth, applauding the best punch lines and peppering the speakers with questions, some even more far out than the debate itself.

Stripped of its persiflage, Boteach’s main argument was that pornography degrades and dehumanizes both men and women and causes marital dissatisfaction because few wives can equal the abundantly endowed and uninhibited porno queens on video.

Delving into his bag of statistics, Boteach asserted that 84 percent of men fantasize about other women while making love to their wives.

Flynt, who was introduced by Scheer as “a hero in the constitutional and First Amendment struggle for freedom of expression,” took a swipe at Boteach as a “Jewish Jerry Falwell,” before delivering his central message.

“It’s O.K. to have values if they work for you, but it’s a big mistake to impose your morality on others,” said Flynt. “The church has had its hands on our crotch for 2,000 years. Let’s give each other a little more space.”

Roseanne interjected that both religion and pornography were about controlling women, but, since she had reached a menopausal stage, sex was of little interest to her.

Cleverly weaving in a Passover theme, she observed that “Being liberated from sex, I’ve been freed from slavery and the land of Egypt.”

During the question period, one man wondered how the rabbi had become an expert on pornography without perusing the stuff. Another audience member asked Boteach, an Orthodox rabbi, to work toward the ordination of women rabbis and the abolition of the prayer in which men thank God for having made them men.

These observations, however, were topped by a lady who identified herself as the executive director of Coyote, a trade association for prostitutes, who sought the panel’s help in legalizing prostitution.

“Being a prostitute is the best job I ever had,” she asserted. “Before that, I worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for 10 years, and that job really sucked.”

The debate was presented by the Sephardic Educational Center (SEC), and not everybody was happy about the sponsorship.

Several synagogues declined to host the event and Dr. Jose Nessim, president of the center, acknowledged that a number of rabbis had protested Flynt’s appearance.

One note, which the center made available, was from Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple. “Flynt ought not to be given the sponsorship of a Jewish educational institution,” Wolpe wrote in part. “He does not merit it. His life is devoted to the dissemination of pornography, to the objectification and degradation of human beings. Rabbi Boteach ought not to demean himself by appearing on the same platform, and you ought not to demean yourself by sponsoring it.”

Apparently, no one objected to the fact that Boteach himself packaged the debate and then presented it to the Sephardic center.

Nessim shrugged off the criticism, noting that “to Sephardim little is taboo, and perhaps we can learn something useful.”

Neil Sheff, chairman of the SEC’s Young Adult Movement, who organized the evening, observed that the debate would help familiarize many young people with the Sephardic center.

As the crowd left the Wilshire Theatre after the debate, they encountered a sidewalk preacher with perhaps the final comment on the evening.

The man was wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Jesus Is Coming in 2000?” on top. Printed below was the warning, “God’s Judgment Is Coming.”