Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

LAPD investigating Harvey Weinstein over rape allegation

Harvey Weinstein is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after an unnamed actress is claiming that Weinstein raped her in 2013.

The 38-year-old Italian actress told the Los Angeles Times that she once met Weinstein in Rome, where she rebuffed his invitation to his hotel room. She ran into him again in February 2013 at the Los Angeles, Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest, where at first it seemed like he didn’t remember her.

Later that evening, Weinstein asked the actress if he could meet her in her hotel room. The actress declined and suggested meeting downstairs instead, but Weinstein “bullied his way into my hotel room,” according to the actress.

“Once inside, he asked me questions about myself, but soon became very aggressive and demanding and kept asking to see me naked,” the actress told the Times. “He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do. He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.”

The actress added that Weinstein “acted like nothing happened” when he left.

“It was the most demeaning thing ever done to me by far,” said the actress. “It sickens me still. … He made me feel like an object, like nothing with all his power.”

She confided to a few people after the alleged rape occurred, but didn’t initially report it to the police out of fear of Weinstein’s power. The actress is now reporting it after her children told her she needed “to be strong.”

The LAPD announced on Twitter that they were in fact investigating Weinstein:

Journalist Yashar Ali suggested that there is more to come:

The Times notes that Weinstein could face legal trouble over this rape allegation since it wouldn’t have expired under the statute of limitations.

There has been a torrent of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Weinstein, who is also facing being investigated for sex crimes in New York and London. The full list of his accusers can be seen here. Weinstein has recently been fired from his company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the Producer’s Guild of America.

Weinstein has denied ever engaging in sexual intercourse that wasn’t consensual.

Las Vegas - April 7. 2017

Rape, Recovery & Celine Dion

When I was in my 20’s I was the victim of a violent crime while living in Toronto. I spent a year in and out of the hospital, followed by a year in and out of court. My attacker was convicted of kidnapping, forcible confinement, aggravated assault, and rape. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, never received parole, and when he served his sentence, was found to be a continuing danger to society and deported to his country of birth.

I have never written in detail about what happened, and never will. It was violent and continues to haunt me. It changed who I was, and while the scars will physically and emotionally never go away, I was not broken and have managed to not only survive, but do things I thought would be impossible, including getting married and having a son. I invested in myself, and years of therapy, to build a life blessed beyond measure.

Important to note what I went through is not the subject here. I share it only to give context. I do not share the details because they don’t matter, not because I am ashamed. I fought hard to recover from my attack and my advice to anyone with a similar experience, is to get help. There are people who will support and believe you. Do not carry it on your own. Be brave and get the help and justice you deserve.

When I was taken to the hospital, going in and out of consciousness, I was aware of what had happened and was trying to get as much information to the police as possible. I remember being naked on a table, having a rape kit done, and crying. It is the moment I remember most vividly. The nurse was trying so hard to make the situation manageable. She put music on to bring calmness to the room. That choice changed my life.

I heard what can only be described as the voice of an angel. She was singing in French and even though I did not understand anything she was saying, it felt as if she were singing directly to me. As I floated above my own body, watching it being violated again, I listed to the singer and felt embraced. I didn’t know what she was saying, yet felt like she was there to help me. It was the exact moment Celine Dion became a part of my life.

When I was in the hospital she was all I listened to. I learned all the words, to all her songs, in French. I don’t speak French, but I can sing in French! I made up the translations of what she was saying. Sometimes the songs were loving and encouraging, other times they were about revenge and killing my attacker. It was quite fabulous. Without any hesitation, and with complete certainty, I can say Celine Dion saved my life.

Since that fateful day, she has been a constant companion. Every milestone since then has included Celine. I danced to Celine Dion with my father at my wedding, and I listened to her when my son was born. She sang the mother-son dance at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, and is the background music on his montage video. She sat up with me the day my son got his driver’s license and I waited for him to get home. She walks with me every day.

I listen to Celine Dion when I am happy, sad, worried, tired, energized, strong, and weak. I have literally not spent one single day in the past 28 years without her being a part of it. Sometimes for just a minute, and other times for hours, she is always with me and I listen every day. I love her in ways only I can really understand. She was the light on my darkest day and I will love her for the rest of my life. She matters to me.

When I was first married my husband took me to see her in concert. She was opening for Michael Bolton and it was the first time I was going to see her in person. I cried throughout her show and found it difficult to breathe. Being so close made me happy, but sad. I don’t remember much of the show, other than the fact I knew every word, to every song, and looked like a creepy super fan who was certain nobody loved her like me.

I never saw her in concert again. It made me nervous to be near her, and ultimately gave me flashbacks that were very difficult. I loved her privately and continued to share my life with her. I sent her gifts to mark the birth of her children, and sent a birth announcement for my son. I wrote her when she married her beloved Renee, and again when he passed away. I wrote her when my attacker went to prison, and again when he was released.

It never bothered me that it might be weird or stalker-ish. I was simply reaching out to the person who brought me back to life. When I was diagnosed with cancer I decided to go and see her in Las Vegas. I was certain if I saw her she’d help heal me again. Ridiculous to be sure, but I knew it would make me feel better. My cancer was a beast, and I never made it that year. I turned 50, and again planned to go to Vegas to celebrate.

The ultimate gift to myself after surviving cancer would be to see Celine, but cancer returned and I was sidelined. I felt everything would be okay if I could get to her. Months ago I told my son I was finally going to see her, on my 51st birthday, and he wanted to come with me. He knows how much she means to me, and why, and wanted to be there for what would be an important moment in my history, so we made plans.

I bought airplane tickets, booked a room at Caesar’s Palace, and counted down the days until my birthday. I had waited years for this moment, and to share it with my son, the most important person in my life and the reason my heart beats, was everything. The day finally came and I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I was working in London and flew back just for 3 days so I could make the trip to Vegas with my boy. I was tired, but thrilled.

When we walked to the theater and I saw the first glimpse of a picture of her, I started to cry. I cried walking in, I cried when I sat down, and I cried continuously for the next 5 hours. Long after the show was over, I was still crying. Celine was remarkable and I would go back and see it every day for the rest of my life. Celine has an incredible voice and my son and me sat in awe of how wonderful she looked and sounded. Amazing.

I sang along with Celine and at the end of the show the woman next to me said it was impressive I knew all the words as there were songs she wasn’t familiar with. I sat holding my son’s hand, taking in the powerful moment. I had waited so long to see her, and wasn’t disappointed. She was everything I knew she would be and felt proud when my son told me she was insanely talented and he was blown away by her. It was a magical night.

At one point in her show members of the audience were able to go up by the stage. She shook hands and engaged with the crowd, but my legs were frozen and I couldn’t do it. I somehow felt I could not be that close to her or I might faint, or perhaps vomit. It was hilarious. All these years later, being close to her was overwhelming on some levels, and beautiful on others. It left me feeling thankful and excited for many things.

I’m not sure why I shared this today. Perhaps it is just as simple as wanting to say thank you. Thank you to Celine Dion for everything she did for me. I have always had the ability to count blessings and pride myself on being a compassionate and empathetic human being. I feel proud of the life I have built for myself, and my son, and now look at life with a new perspective having seen Celine.  I am better for having loved this woman.

If my sharing today helps one person, that squashes the fear of writing it. I am listening to Celine’s Falling into You album and feeling brave and free. It feels good.  I will probably regret writing it at some point, and want to delete it, but I will try to remain brave because I hope this inspires someone else to be brave. Trauma can be debilitating, but only if we allow it to be. It is important to let others know that blessings will come.

Thank you Celine. You saved me and I am grateful. It was an honor to see you in person, am blessed my son was by my side, and thrilled he is now a fan not only because of what you did for me, but your amazing talent.  I wish for you and your children all that you wish for yourselves, and more.  I still think I probably love you more than anyone else, but am happy so many love you. With love, admiration, and thanks, I am keeping the faith.

Letters to the editor: Jesse Owens, Donald Trump, Dennis Prager and more

Jesse Owens’ Winning Ways

I had the pleasure of attending a dinner where Jesse Owens spoke about his experience in the 1936 Olympics in Germany (“This Week in Jewish History, July 29). He said, “Hitler died on a Jewish holiday.” Throughout the predominately Jewish audience, you could hear, “Huh?” “What holiday?” “It wasn’t a Jewish holiday.”

Mr. Owens heard this, and waited. Then, with impeccable timing, he explained, “Any day that Hitler died is a Jewish holiday.” Laughter resounded in the room. He had us in his pocket with his wit and gentle charm and grace.

Susan Cohen via email

Taking Rape Seriously

I recognized that Danielle Berrin was poking fun at Donald Trump’s bigotry in her most recent article when she remarked about how she and her sister saw no rapists when they traveled to Mexico (“Where Are the Mexican Rapists?” July 29). However, I was disappointed that, in her attempt at humor, Ms. Berrin perpetuated some common misconceptions about rape. She reported, “[M]y sister and I were so utterly ignored by the country’s infamous rapists that my sister remarked early in our journey, ‘Nobody’s even hitting on us!’ ” Ms. Berrin then facetiously admitted to “the possibility that we have an inflated sense of our own attractiveness,” but that she expected more attention from the Mexican men with whom she came in contact. This pairing of a woman’s attractiveness and the likelihood that she will be raped is a fallacy. Rape is a crime committed not out of sexual desire, but out of a lust for power. Furthermore, rape is not on an extreme end of a continuum that begins with flirtation. This fact makes Trump’s accusation all the more repugnant.

Guy Handelman, Sherman Oaks

Berrin responds: Thank you, Mr. Handelman, for making this important point. I intended to suggest that, far below rape, even harassment, which is common, wasn’t something that my sister or I experienced.

Trump Supporter Speaks Out

I read Rob Eshman’s screed and I am a Jew (“All Together Now,” July 29). You will be surprised the morning after the election when the Chicago Tribune repeats its monumental bold headline blunder, the one that read “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Remember to email me.

What bias makes your head so thick? Did you get paid to write that? If yes, who paid you?

Martin Kessler via email

Hold the Movie ‘Kreplach’

As much as I admire David Kipen and his wonderful Libros Schmibros bookstore, I take major exception to his calling “Tiempo de Murir” a “kreplach Western” simply because its director and studio heads were Jewish (“ ‘Kreplach Western’ Screening a New Frontier for Boyle Heights Lending Library,” July 29). By this skewed, ethnocentric logic, American Westerns by the likes of William Wyler and Anthony Mann or any other Jewish director working for a Jewish-headed studio would have to be so designated, as well. In keeping with the “spaghetti Western” geo-culinary template, I suggest “arroz con pollo” Western instead.

Vincent Brook, Los Angeles

Prager and the Police

The propaganda penned by Dennis Prager is the type of rhetoric that divides the country. The idea that only the people on the left side of the political stratum are responsible for police brutality and the deaths of police officers is absurd, to say the least (“The Left Has Cops’ Blood on Its Hands,” July 22). 

Prager’s attack on Michael Eric Dyson, an esteemed professor of sociology, is typical stereotyping, suggesting that if a Black man projects an opinion that is contrary to his own beliefs, then he must be a Black radical. Prager quoted a paragraph of Dyson’s article and used it out of context. One should read the entire article to fully understand the positive message of Mr. Dyson. 

Prager’s position on having the police vigorously patrol Black areas to reduce the murder rate is unreasonable and lacks meaningful solutions. To that, I quote Michael Eric Dyson: “Black people protest, to one another, to a world that largely refuses to listen, that what goes on in black communities across this nation is horrid, as it would be in any neighborhood depleted of dollars and hope — emptied of good schools, and deprived of social and economic buffers against brutality. People usually murder where they nest; they aim their rage at easy targets.” I fear that the only person who is filled with “anti-isms” is Prager himself.

Bervick J. Deculus, Tarzana

Prager responds: Any response to Mr. Deculus would simply involve restating the facts and studies I cited in my original column. Therefore, I will respond only with a heartfelt suggestion — that Mr. Deculus read Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Jason Riley, Larry Elder, Jesse Peterson and other Black writers and scholars who, unlike Michael Eric Dyson, do not blame whites for most problems afflicting Black life, and who feel immensely blessed to be American.

Choice for Israeli army’s chief rabbi renounces statements on rape

The choice for chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces renounced statements he made a decade ago that appeared to justify rape during wartime.

Col. Eyal Karim, 59, was nominated Monday by the IDF’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot.

The following day he was summoned to the IDF Personnel Directorate over statements he made in Hebrew on a religious website a decade ago that came to light in 2012.

Replying to a reader’s question on the Kipa website, Karim said: “Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime (under the conditions it stipulated) out of consideration for the soldiers’ difficulties. And since our concern is the success of the collective in the war, the Torah permitted [soldiers] to satisfy the evil urge under the conditions it stipulated for the sake of the collective’s success.”

On Tuesday, however, he told the Personnel Directorate, according to Ynet: “There is no license in times of peace or war to sexually assault women.”

The IDF said in response to accusations that Karim condones rape: “Col. Karim asks to clarify that his statement was issued as the answer to a theoretical question and not in any way whatsoever a question of practical Jewish law. Rabbi Karim has never written, said or even thought that an IDF soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war — anyone who interprets his words otherwise is completely mistaken. Rabbi Karim’s moral approach is attested by his years of military service in command, combat, and rabbinical positions in which he displayed complete loyalty to the values and spirit of the IDF, in particular the dignity of the person.”

Karim also said he supported and believed in women serving in the army after saying on Kipa, according to Ynet, that women should not be conscripted due to the damage to modesty that would be done to the woman and to the IDF.

On Tuesday, Karim pointed out that he was part of the committee that established the protocol that requires soldiers to be present at events where women sing. He said he has ordered soldiers present at such events not to leave.

On Kipa, the rabbi had said he believes that according to Jewish law, female singers should not perform at IDF events, Ynet reported.

“It’s desirable to create a ceremonial post that respects the views of all those present at the ceremony, and, to that end, to bring a male and not a female singer,” he wrote. “When this would not be possible, due to various reasons, those whose sensitivities would be offended must be excused from attending the ceremony.”

Israeli military chief rabbi-designate under fire over remarks on rape

Israel's military has nominated a new chief rabbi who seemed to imply in a past religious commentary that its soldiers are allowed to rape non-Jewish women in wartime.

Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim's remarks 14 years ago stirred controversy at the time and remain on an Israeli religious website today, along with a link to a clarification he published on the same site in 2012 in which he said his words had been taken out of context and rape is forbidden “in any situation”.

Karim's appointment, which still has to be approved by the defense minister, drew criticism on Tuesday from women's groups and a prominent female politician. They pointed to a reply Karim gave in 2002 to a question about the Bible's attitude toward rape during war, in the “Ask the Rabbi” section of

He responded that in the interests of maintaining warriors' morale and fighting fitness during armed conflict, it was permitted to “satisfy the evil inclination by lying with attractive Gentile women against their will”.

His nomination on Monday as the military's head rabbi by its chief of staff revived public debate over Karim.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's best-selling newspaper, weighed in with a front-page headline that read: “New chief military rabbi: rape is permissible in a war”.

Issuing a statement on Tuesday on Karim's behalf, the military spokesman's office said he wanted to clarify that his writings in 2002 came in answer to a theoretical question and did not relate to “practical Jewish law”.

“Rabbi Karim has never written, said or even thought that an Israeli soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war, and anyone who interprets his words otherwise is completely mistaken,” the statement said.

Zahava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, called on Facebook for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the appointment. She described Karim, 59, as morally unsuitable for the post of chief rabbi in a military in which thousands of women serve.

Karim has, according to Israeli media reports, come out in the past against combat roles for women, who like men are drafted into Israel's military at the age of 18.

The mixing of sexes in Israel's armed forces is a sensitive issue for Orthodox Jews. Religious men and women can request an exemption from compulsory service

Jewish porn star James Deen ‘baffled’ by rape claims

Jewish porn star James Deen denied all of the nine sexual assault allegations leveled against him.

Deen, once known as the “nice Jewish boy” of the porn industry, broke his silence on the list of assault claims in an interview Tuesday with the Daily Beast.

Asked why his ex-girlfriend Stoya, the first adult film actress to come forward with claims about him, would accuse him of rape, Deen said he was “completely baffled.” Stoya accused Deen of rape in a tweet in late November.

The adult film actor also said he “can’t speak to her motivations.”

“There are public articles all over the Internet, written by her, that make the exact opposite claims,” he said.

Nine porn stars, including Jewish actress Joanna Angel, another of his former girlfriends, have accused Deen of some form of sexual assault since Stoya tweeted her claim. Angel, who grew up religiously observant, said in a radio interview that Deen was a “scary person” who would choke her in her sleep.

In the Daily Beast interview, Deen blamed the “messy” circumstances around his breakup with Stoya for her accusation.

“The reason Stoya made this claim could be as simple as her finding out that my current girlfriend and I are moving in together,” he said.

Deen also claimed that his job requires him to engage in what he termed “rough sex.”

“When I am on set, I am under instruction of the company who is paying me,” he said. “I could describe the events of the scene I was in the other day and it could be just as dramatic.

“I have no desire to blame people who consider themselves victims or throw stones. I will just say this: My job as a performer for rough sex companies is to engage in certain acts. If at any point I pushed boundaries past the point of comfort, I am sorry. I have always tried to respect peoples’ limits and safe words and operated within that space.”

Jewish porn star James Deen accused of raping ex-girlfriend, sexually assaulting 2 others

Jewish porn star James Deen has been accused of raping his ex-girlfriend and sexually assaulting two other adult film actresses.

On Saturday, Deen’s ex Stoya, a fellow porn star, accused him on Twitter of raping her.

On Monday, adult film stars Tori Lux and Ashley Fires came forward and accused Deen of assaulting them on film sets on separate occasions. Lux, in a statement on the Daily Beast, wrote that Deen pinned her down and hit her in the face multiple times in June 2011.

“A few people with whom I’ve shared this story over the years have asked me why I didn’t call the police as soon as it happened, or publicly speak up about it shortly thereafter,” Lux wrote. “The reason for that is because people — including the police — tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted.”

Fires told the Daily Beast that Deen “almost raped” her in a shower and told her a year later “stop telling people about it.” She said that she has to repeatedly deny offers to work with him.

Deen said on Twitter that the claims against him were “false and defamatory.”

“There have been some egregious claims made against me on social media,” he said. “I want to assure my friends, fans and colleagues that these allegations are both false and defamatory.”

Deen, 29, born Bryan Sevilla, had been called a “feminist hero” and the “boy next door” of the porn industry for his average stature and boyish looks. An often-cited magazine profile describes him as “polite,” “self-deprecating” and someone who “speaks well of everyone,” in contrast to other male porn stars who sport “neck chains,” “unreasonable biceps” and “tribal tattoos.”

In the same article, Deen calls himself someone who cracks Jewish jokes and has an “overanalytical Jewish brain.” He has also elsewhere called himself a feminist.

However, he has a history of joking about rape on Twitter.

Stoya and Deen dated from sometime in 2013 to sometime in 2014.

3 more women file sexual assault complaints against Safed rabbi

Three more Israeli women have filed complaints of sexual assault against a Safed rabbi.

The new complaints filed Monday night bring the total to eight against the rabbi, who was arrested Thursday night at Ben Gurion Airport on his way to Brazil. The arrest was based on an accusation by a woman who claimed that she was raped by the rabbi several years ago.

A gag order was placed on the case, including the name of the rabbi, identified as a yeshiva head from the Safed area who belongs to modern Orthodox Zionist circles.

His name will be released on Wednesday, a Nazareth District Court judge ruled on Tuesday, pending an appeal by the rabbi to the Israeli Supreme Court, Haaretz reported.

The rabbi reportedly denies the accusations.

On campus sexual assault, Jewish groups have taken lead

Jewish campus groups were ready for the painful national dialogue that took place in the wake of murky rape allegations at the University of Virginia.

That’s because organizations such as Hillel and historically Jewish Greek houses, such as Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Delta Tau, had been having the conversations for months before the explosive Rolling Stone story made national headlines — first for the brutality of the alleged gang rape detailed in the magazine, and then for the subsequent evidence of flawed reporting on the part of Rolling Stone.

Zeta Beta Tau last year joined Sigma Delta Tau and Jewish Women International in launching a workshop called “Safe Smart Dating.” Hillel International is a partner in the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign against sexual violence, and the network of Jewish campus centers has also dedicated to sexual violence a stream of its “Ask Big Questions” program, which organizes lectures and salons on topics of Jewish interest.

Meanwhile, Alpha Epsilon Pi features sessions on consent at its conclaves and a fraternity brother, Matthew Leibowitz, launched the “Consent is So Frat” movement this year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

“The prevention of suffering is what we do as Jews, and making pathways for people to heal if they’ve been traumatized is also what we do,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, the editor of the anthology “The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism” and the director of education for Hillel’s “Ask Big Questions” program. “We need to take care of our own in creating a world in which consent is non-negotiable.”

The Rolling Stone story has been unraveling as the magazine revealed that it had not reached out to the alleged assailants in the attack that was the article’s centerpiece, and friends of the alleged victim have since told the Washington Post that they had been misrepresented.

Revelations of the article’s problems had just begun to trickle out during this reporter’s recent visit to the campus, but students and Jewish officials said the broader issue of whether women were safe on campus remained a pre-eminent topic of conversation among students at the school. Weeks earlier, in the wake of the article’s publication, students took part in large-scale protests in front of the fraternity where the alleged crime had taken place.

Since 2011, the University of Virginia has been under federal investigation for allegedly not treating adequately complaints of sexual misconduct, and the Rolling Stone article broadly addressed the complaints.

Madison Orlow, 19, a first-year pre-med student, said the school’s initial reaction to the allegations did not reach far enough and led her to question its honor code. The code, first formulated in the 1840s, mandates permanent dismissal if a student lies, cheats or steals.

“The honor code does not encompass all of the things that are needed,” said Orlow, volunteering at a Challah for Hunger booth on a chilly Thursday afternoon on the university’s fabled lawn, which was designed by the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson.

“It doesn’t cover sexual assault,” offered her fellow volunteer, Patricia Garvey, 20, a student of environmental science. Volunteers for the group bake and sell challahs to students just before Shabbat; the proceeds go to the needy.

“There was an initial sense of ‘this needs to be dealt with,’ ” said Jake Rubin, the director of the university’s Hillel, the Brody Jewish Center, describing reactions by university administrators to the article. “It certainly is a problem at the University of Virginia, but it is not only a problem at the University of Virginia. It has moved to, ‘What do we do, how do we fix this issue?’ — [by] being absolutely committed to really taking a hard look at the community and trying to figure out steps forward.”

The University of Virginia is not a destination university for students who want deep Jewish involvement, although in recent years, the school has increased its Jewish profile. This year, it added graduate courses to its Jewish studies program; three years ago, the school opened a new Hillel building.

Among the 21,000 students overall at the university, there are 1,200 to 1,400 Jewish undergraduates and 400 to 600 Jewish graduate students, according to Rubin.

The modern Hillel building is not particularly distinctive-looking. It sticks out on University Circle, a street just off Rugby Road, the leafy, winding causeway where many of the elegant Victorian fraternity houses are situated and ground zero for what the Rolling Stone article described as an out-of-control culture of drinking, sexual aggressiveness and worse.

Rubin said venues like Hillel provided a homey refuge for students dealing with what has been a traumatic semester, including the alleged kidnap and murder of a student and two suicides, in addition to the allegations described in Rolling Stone.

“Frankly, students are overwhelmed,” he said. “To have a resource for them that’s comforting in a sense, just to be there for them, that’s been our first priority.”

Jewish fraternities are among those taking the lead nationally in addressing sexual assault on campus.

Leibowitz, a 22-year-old recent Wesleyan graduate, started “Consent is So Frat” this year in part because of reports of fraternity-related sexual assaults at Wesleyan during his undergraduate years. AEPi chapters at other campuses, including Rutgers, have spread the program.

The initiative developed and distributes a curriculum on consent that is aimed at members of fraternities and sororities.

Ruttenberg said the notion of sexual consent is rooted in Jewish texts.

“It’s deeply embedded in our tradition,” she said. “In the Talmud, consent is one of the great non-negotiables in any sexual encounter. The Talmud forbids marital rape, which is astonishingly forward-thinking, considering it took until 1993 for North Carolina to ban it. The Talmud says that if a woman is raped and has an orgasm, she is still raped.”

Jonathan Pierce, a past president of AEPi International, said the fraternity solicits advice on sexual consent from groups such as Jewish Women International, inviting its experts to speak at its annual conference, and from its own board of rabbis.

The AEPi website links to broad restrictions mandated by the Fraternal Information and Programming Group, to which it is affiliated. According to the guidelines from the national risk management association, fraternities “will not tolerate or condone any form of sexist or sexually abusive behavior on the part of its members, whether physical, mental or emotional. This is to include any actions, activities or events, whether on chapter premises or an off-site location, which are demeaning to women or men, including but not limited to verbal harassment, sexual assault by individuals or members acting together.”

Pierce said the best programs arose from grassroots efforts, citing “Consent is So Frat.”

“This is where real learning takes place —  you have your own members coming up with programs,” he said.

Jeffrey Kerbel, president of the University of Virginia’s AEPi chapter, said its consent education begins with pledges and is sustained throughout the brothers’ university career.

“This responsibility and this education are also stressed to our probationary members — first through formal trainings and then through further emphasis within the chapter,” he said via email. “Our aim is to emphasize these points consistently and frequently; otherwise we risk growing vulnerable to the social and cultural influences that can diminish the value of consent and the place it must have in society.”

The “Safe Smart Dating” workshop was scheduled before the Rolling Stone article for an upcoming University of Virginia appearance.

The two-hour presentation starts with students texting their encounters with sexual assault, firsthand or otherwise. The texts are projected on a screen, prompting discussion in smaller groups.

Case studies also are included, including the 2010 murder of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love by George Huguely, also a lacrosse player at the university, as well as more ambiguous outcomes, such as the acquittal of Taylor Watson, a Minnesota man who had sex with a friend who was in a drunken stupor. Jurors accepted the defense’s argument that the woman had deliberately intoxicated herself before asking to sleep at Watson’s apartment.

Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Delta Tau train campus facilitators to run the program.

“It’s starting conversations that people are often uncomfortable with and unwilling to have,” said Dana Fleitman, the director of prevention for Jewish Women International.

Included among the hypotheticals handed out to participants on slips of paper are scenarios of digital abuse through online harassment, she said.

“The girlfriend who texts all the time and gets mad if you don’t respond” is one scenario, she said.

Laurence Bolotin, the national director of Zeta Beta Tau, said the program does not “reinvent the wheel” but guides students on how to use existing resources, including sexual assault responders on campuses. A focus of the programs like the one Hillel directs is how to be an “active bystander,” or to intervene when witnessing what appears to be sexual assault.

“It’s not a Greek issue, it’s a college issue,” Bolotin said in an interview.

Pending investigation, police temper claims of ‘Jewish’ motive in Paris rape

French police are tempering reports that anti-semitism was behind the rape of a 19 year-old Parisian woman following a home break in  Monday night. 

According to Le Parisien newspaper, three hooded, armed assailiants broke into a home in the Paris suburb of Créteil late Monday afternoon armed with a pistol and a sawed-off rifle.

Inside, they demanded that the woman and her partner, a 21 year-old man, give them their bank ATM cards and PIN numbers. 

While one of the trio went off to withdraw money, the remaining two split the couple up, and one of the attackers raped the woman. 

Police apprehended two of the attackers after they fled the scene.

According to the victims, the attackers said their home was targeted because they are Jewish. 

“They came to rob everything, especially the cash,” JSS News Service quoted one of the victims as saying.  “They kept asking for more money and made it about the fact that we are Jews.” 

“My brother and his girlfriend had their feet and wrists bound, and their mouths taped. They were pointing at them with guns. They shouted and insulted them, and they ransacked the apartment. Everything was destroyed in every room,” a brother of the male victim told Le Parisien.

A police investigator told Le Parisian that it is “too early to know” if the victims’ Jewish faith  played any part in the attack .

Miss World encourages rape survivors to speak out

In 1998, when Linor Abargil, the reigning Miss Israel, was crowned Miss World in the oldest of all international beauty pageants, she shed tears — perhaps of joy, maybe of anger, possibly a mixture of both.

Seven weeks before her coronation, the 18-year-old beauty had been brutally raped at knifepoint by Shlomo Nur, a trusted travel agent, while a passenger in his car.

Most rapes end in shamed silence or the indifference of authorities, but Abargil, born in Netanya into a Moroccan Jewish family, was made in a different mold.

With strong backing from her parents as well as a growing number of supporters, she set herself two goals: to see that her attacker would be brought to justice and that she would become a global advocate in the fight against sexual violence.

Five years ago, Abargil met filmmaker Cecilia Peck, daughter of actor Gregory Peck. Over the following years, the two women traveled together in Africa, Europe, Israel and the United States, filming meetings with rape victims — or, rather, “survivors,” as Peck calls them.

After another year for editing, the result of their work is the award-winning documentary “Brave Miss World,” which opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 15.

According to Peck’s research, cited in the film, the sheer number of victims of sexual violence worldwide is staggering, although survey results vary widely.

“In the United States, one in five college women are raped, but only 12 percent of them ever report the assault,” Peck said.

One common reason for maintaining silence is given in the film by a Chinese-American girl, who says that if the rape became public, “Mom would be so disappointed.”

The victims are not only women — Peck cites statistics that one of every six men has been sexually abused during his lifetime.

The film does not show graphic footage of rapes, but its on-camera testimony by survivors is horrifying enough.

One girl describes how between ages 6 and 11, she was repeatedly raped by her father.

There’s also a blind woman, whose criminal complaint was dismissed because she could not describe the features of her assailant.

In South Africa, dubbed “the rape capital of the world,” a woman tells how a rapist first attacked her and then, later, her daughter.

Women students from Princeton and UC Santa Barbara charge that university officials ignored complaints against the attackers.

Actresses Joan Collins and Fran Drescher, both rape victims, testify to the profound traumas of the attacks, despite later success and “normality.”

Among the long-term aftereffects described by the victims are an inability to enjoy normal sexual relationships, persistent tiredness as well as sleeplessness, anorexia or extreme weight gain and alcoholism.

The trauma is often made even more unbearable by the frequent indifference or skepticism of police, courts and clergymen, and, worst, by blame heaped on the victim by parents and relatives, Peck said.

As an example of a positive response, Peck cited the reaction of Abargil’s mother, Aliza. When she received her daughter’s call about the rape, the mother responded immediately with, “It’s not your fault. Don’t take a shower, go to a hospital and file a report with the police. We’ll support you.”

 Abargil has now enlisted thousands of women in her campaign against sexual violence and is expected to reach many more through screenings of “Brave Miss World.”

Her second goal — to bring her attacker to trial — has taken a long time, and it is not yet over. The rape occurred near Milan, Italy, and Italian authorities dismissed her complaint. Eventually, Nur was tricked into returning to Israel, where he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

However, after serving a brief part of his sentence, every six months Nur comes up for a parole hearing, during which the whole case is rehashed once again.

Despite all this, Abargil has created for herself a full, new life. After a short-lived marriage to a Lithuanian basketball player, a member of an Israeli team, Abargil is now married to an old boyfriend, with whom she has twins — one boy and one girl — and in late October of this year she gave birth to a second baby girl. That happy event kept her, among other things, from giving an interview for this article.

Professionally, Abargil went to law school and is now working as a lawyer for the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office.

Personally and spiritually, the onetime model and beauty queen has turned to a strict Orthodox lifestyle, including long, modest dresses and strict kosher observance.

Peck fervently hopes that many men will view the film and that their girlfriends or wives will bring them along.

“Women already know this story, it’s the men who are shocked,” Peck said. “Men must realize that rape changes the victim’s life forever, and fathers must teach their sons to respect women.”

The film’s executive producers are Lati Grobman, Irving Bauman, Christa Campbell, Regina Kulick Scully, Orna Raiz, Howard Rosenman and Geralyn Dreyfous. Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer scored the movie with Ben Harper and Martin Tillman.

“Brave Miss World” opens Nov. 15 at Laemmle’s Town Center in Encino and Nov. 16 at the Monica in Santa Monica. Co-producers Cecilia Peck (director), Inbal Lessner (editor) and Motty Reif will participate in Q-and-A sessions following selected screenings. For details, visit

Katsav again appeals rape conviction to Israeli Supreme Court

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav has appealed again to Israel’s Supreme Court for a retrial on his convictions of rape, sexual assault and harassment.

His new defense team filed the appeal on Monday, claiming there was a “distortion of judgment” in the original ruling.

A previous appeal to the Supreme Court was turned down, as was a request for clemency from his successor, President Shimon Peres.

Katsav has served two years of a seven-year sentence after being convicted in 2011 in Tel Aviv District Court. He is the first Israeli president ever sentenced to prison.

Judge loses Netanyahu support for Likud post after rape comment

A judge in the running for the presidency of the Likud Party’s court has lost the support of the prime minister after saying at a court hearing that “some girls like to be raped.”

Judge Emeritus Nissim Yeshaya made the statement on Monday during a hearing in Tel Aviv District Court. The comment was first reported Wednesday morning by Army Radio.

Later on Wednesday, Yeshaya asked to be relieved from serving on legal panels, The Associated Press reported, citing a joint statement from Israel’s justice minister and the president of the Supreme Court. He had retired from the Tel Aviv District Court in 2009 at the age of 65, but continued to serve on the panels. Lawmakers and rights organizations had called for Yeshaya to be suspended from serving on panels.

Yeshaya was presiding over a closed-door Social Security appeals committee hearing in which a woman who was raped six years ago by four Palestinian youths from the Shuafat refugee camp was appealing a Defense Ministry decision not to classify the rape as a terrorist attack. She was 13 at the time of the rape.

The judge said through a court spokesman that his words were taken out of context, and that they were said in the context of providing an example of a reason that it could not be classified as a terrorist attack.

“During the hearing, a question was raised regarding the proof of a causal relationship and in the heat of the hearing things were said in this spirit,” the spokesman said. “There was no intention for these words to hurt or disrespect, heaven forbid, rape victims. The judge apologizes for these words.”

Yeshaya is a candidate for the president of the Likud court, which handles internal party matters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday withdrew his support for Yeshaya in light of the statement.

The Courts Administration said it would summon Yeshaya to clarify his statement.

Israeli judge resigns after rape comments

An Israeli judge resigned from a government appeals board on Wednesday after public uproar over reports he had told a courtroom that some girls “enjoy rape.”

Nissim Yeshaya headed a three-member panel hearing a young Israeli woman's appeal for recognition as a victim of a nationalist attack for having been raped when she was 13, in a crime blamed at the time on four Palestinians.

He had remarked during a session on the case that “there are some young girls who enjoy rape”, an attorney representing the woman told Israeli radio stations on Wednesday.

The reports prompted swift calls from women activists and politicians for him to resign, followed hours later by a statement from the Israel Courts Authority saying Yeshaya had decided to quit.

It said he had “expressed his regret” for the remark, adding “he had had no intent to offend anyone or express an opinion”.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the highest-ranking woman in Israeli politics, praised Yeshaya's decision to step down for what she called a “grave” expression of what she called “a twisted and unacceptable idea women have been fighting against for years, of blaming the victim for being raped”.

“Judges must also realize that when a woman says no that's what she means,” Livni said.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Andrew Roche

You are a felon

“You are a felon.”  Those were the words texted by one high school kid to another after the boy bragged via text about raping an unconscious 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.  The phrase was echoed again on Sunday when the verdict was handed down – guilty.  “You are a felon.”  It is a powerful phrase, an accurate phrase and we are undeniably caught in its crosshairs.

The case came to light through social media – images of a passed out girl being dragged from one party to the next to be violated.  Real time text messages gave a moment-to-moment account of the atrocity witnessed by countless teens.  One of the rapists sent a text describing his victim as “a dead body.”  Yet the girl’s level of intoxication ended up at the center of the trial – the determining factor in whether this was rape or not.  “How drunk was she?”  And somehow, even asking that question sounds stomach-turningly similar to “what was she wearing?”  The text says it all, “a dead body.”

When I read that phrase, “a dead body,” images instantly flashed through my mind – snippets of scenes I’ve seen on screen a million times.  Rape scenes, sex scenes, violence passed off as sex – a limp body beneath a thrusting male.  It was all too familiar.


Aimée Lagos is an award winning writer and director, a storyteller, an activist and an entrepreneur dedicated to a life of adventure and raising her daughter with her soulmate.

Egyptian women struggle to fight sexual harassment

Despite its calls for democracy, freedom of speech and revolution against traditional Egyptian society, the current anti-government demonstrations have witnessed one negative phenomenon – an increase in harassment of women.

Women have been attacked and in some instances raped in public during demonstrations in Tahrir Square which have escalated in recent days, with some rumors claiming that the government of President Mohamed Morsi is behind the attacks. Women were previously beaten by members of the army in past protests.

In response, groups of Cairo-educated women have undertaken to protect women.  Both the Tahrir Bodyguards and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment were organized by women with a strong belief in fighting sexual harassment by raising awareness, empowering women, and creating groups on the ground to patrol marches and demonstrations.

Historically Egyptian women have made great strides in obtaining their rights. They enjoy a 77 percent literacy rate and are making an impact in the work place. They were granted rights, in some cases, way before their Western counterparts, including the right to vote and widespread participation in protests, going back to the 1919 revolution which saw leaders like Safiya Zaghloud and Nahawiya Moussa lead the call for equal rights.

According to UN rape statistics reports and per capita cases of recorded rapes, Egypt is in 50th or last place, with 87 rape-reported cases in 2008. In the past, many sexual assaults, rape, and sexual harassment went unreported, many times due to the women's fear of the stigma that comes in a society that puts a social value on virginity. What is feeding the existing alleged sexual harassment is the seemingly uneducated Egyptian men's attitude towards women. These sudden cases of harassment of women are new to Egyptian society and didn't take place before 2008, and include incidents of assault against women during Eid Festivals and in public gardens and cinemas.

There are many physical training centers that teach self-defense to women, but the Tahrir Bodyguards and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment are leaders in fighting current sexual harassment during protests past the Arab Spring.

“I was never physically assaulted, but I was harassed, albeit without any direct connection to the revolution. It happened to me many years before,” Soraya Baghat, a full-time member of the Tahrir Bodyguards and a women's rights activist, told The Media Line. “The motive behind our group is that we don't want women to risk getting attacked and for those of my fellow activists who were attacked, to go through this again.”

She said she believes that sexual harassment can happen at all levels of society, regardless of economic and social standing, but there is hesitancy to report it when it happens to people from the same economic class because of the embarrassment involved and the social consequences of the scandal in Egypt's closed society.

Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, co-founder Dalia Abdel Hamiid, 31, a graduate in anthropology from the American University in Cairo, says its aim is to “break the silence and take the problem outside of Tahrir Square.” She says the main difficulty is society “accepting” such harassment. “It's a patriarchal society where males are preferred over females. I am sexually harassed on a daily basis on my way to work. It is annoying but I learn to live with it,” she told The Media Line.

One woman, a Californian living in Cario, said that “If anyone ever tries to touch me against my will, you won't see that person in one piece again.” 

Neveen Bishay, a woman dentist working in Cairo's upscale Zamalek area, noted that “Sexual harassment in Egypt is flirting. Touching body parts is sexual assault, and not just harassment.”

However, Dr. Heba Qoth, a professor at the Cairo Faculty of Medicine and renown sociologist who has her own radio show on how to have a healthy sex life, argued that harassment has many degrees and is understood differently by different people. Some even consider flirting as sexual harassment  As for the Tahrir Square incidents, she said “I wouldn't call it sexual harassment. It's an organized assault to scare women and sometimes attack them, but we cannot confirm it's sexual.”

There is no severe punishment in Egypt for sexual harassment or sexual assault and it's hard to prove, according to legal experts.”The law considers sexual harassment and assault as a misdemeanor, and usually the assailant is fined about $5, or three months in jail, or both,” one lawyer told The Media Line. Asked about the Tahrir Square incidents, he said: “There is more propaganda than fact, and a few people wanting to be in the spotlight. The sexual assault cases that I saw were merely groups of individuals assaulting another individual, who happened to be female.”

Some Egyptians interviewed said sexual harassment isn't a growing concern compared to other countries they visited. They claimed that rising aggression now and in the past few years can be attributed to the deteriorating economic situation.

“When you and I flirt, it is acceptable. When lower class folks do it, it's called harassment – might makes right, or money makes right,” an academic researcher who chose to remain anonymous said.

“Rape isn't intended just for females at the protests, males get harassed as well, and it's symbolic and intended to rape the revolution as a whole. The whole idea behind the systematic assaults is to make the victims feel ashamed,” Alaa Alaswani, an Egyptian novelist, and a founding member of the political movement Kefaya said in an interview on ONTV.

“Egypt's current status quo has made men lose their sense of manliness. To me it's an assault by a stronger creature against a weaker creature who happens to be a woman, and we can't pinpoint if it's sexual or not. What is happening now happened early in the revolution, when the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) was ordering soldiers to conduct virginity tests and attack women at the protests,” Lobna Monieb, a female activist and correspondent for the Japanese newspaper Asabi Shenbum., told The Media Line. She also noted that men get assaulted too, with incidents during riots in which men were physically and sexually assaulted in public by the riot police, the military or private citizens.

The issue, which has gotten a great deal of media coverage, therefore is whether what is happening in Tahrir Square is an organized event by pro-regime elements, where “sexual assault mobs” are determined to deter women – who represent 52 percent of the population and can therefore have a strong bearing on events and perhaps even topple the government — from participating in the ongoing protests.

Katsav requests presidential pardon on rape conviction

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav requested a presidential pardon to appeal his rape conviction.

Katsav’s wife, Gila, filed the request with the Justice Ministry on Oct. 15. It will be forwarded to President Shimon Peres.

Katsav, 65, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for his conviction on two counts of rape and other sexual offenses. He entered prison in December.

His petition reportedly asks for a pardon so that he can appeal the conviction and clear his name from outside of prison. It also says that Katsav did not get a fair trial and that having to resign as president was punishment enough.

He reportedly has not expressed remorse for his crime, which is necessary for receiving a pardon. 

Prisoners convicted of rape and other sexual violence must undergo a rehabilitation program; Katsav currently is not participating, according to Haaretz. His appeal as currently tendered likely will be rejected by Peres, according to reports.

Katsav is the first Israeli president sentenced to prison. Israel’s Supreme Court upheld his rape conviction and prison sentence last November.

He resigned in the wake of the allegations shortly before the end of his term in 2007 and was succeeded by Peres.

Katsav, who immigrated to Israel from Iran in 1951, was elected president by the Knesset in 2000 in an upset over Peres.

Romney/Ryan and the lullaby of lying

It shouldn’t have taken Todd Akin’s ” target=”_hplink”>method of conception.” 

If the news media hadn’t grown blasé about the Republican war on women, plenty of pre-Akin Americans would have already known that GOP majorities in Congress and state legislatures have repeatedly voted to narrow the definition of “legitimate rape” to “” target=”_hplink”>personhood” to fertilized eggs, which would criminalize birth control pills, IUDs and in vitro fertility procedures.  If cynicism weren’t the default mode of political reporting, we’d now be seeing Mitt Romney’s feet held to the fire of his party’s ” target=”_hplink”>Reince Preibus’ attempt to dissociate the candidate from his platform would be worth more than a chuckle and a yawn from the press corps.

“The Big Lie” is a propaganda technique that kids hear about in school.  If you learn what Nazis and Communists did, if you read Orwell’s “1984,” you’re supposed to be inoculated against pervasive, outrageous falsehoods.  That’s why Jefferson and Franklin counted on public education and public libraries.  It’s also why the First Amendment protects the fourth estate; it shields muckrakers, investigative journalists, critics and gadflies from censorship.

But today the biggest threat to democracy isn’t government intimidation of the press.  It’s boredom – a consequence of the domination of political communication by paid media, the subordination of news to entertainment, the imperative to monetize audience attention, the fear that information and amusement are locked in a zero sum game. 

Mitt Romney and deep pockets like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have flooded the airwaves with ads claiming that Barack Obama has eliminated the ” target=”_hplink”>Medicare recipients to fund a ” target=”_hplink”>lazy blacks, there’s no news left in the narrative.  Networks fear that audiences will get bored, so they move on.  And yes, there may be some truth to their understanding of their customers.  We’re hooked on novelty, suckers for speed, addled by ADD.  But billionaires don’t get bored.  They keep paying to pound those ads into our heads, whether we like it or not.  Repetition is the demagogue’s best friend. 

No member of Congress is farther to the right than Paul Ryan.  He’s an acolyte of the ideologue ” target=”_hplink”>safety net that has defined the American social contract since the 1930s, but explaining this takes time, which risks audience share, and in the face of a barrage of ads portraying him as the savior of seniors, it takes the kind of persistence that news executives fear hurts ratings.  He is a ” target=”_hplink”>fraudulent, but hey, how ‘bout the six-pack on that dreamboat?

If the media were doing its job in this election, the story it would be telling over and over is that Mitt Romney’s qualification for the presidency consists of a career at Bain Capital about which we know essentially nothing; that his economic plan is the most massive ” target=”_hplink”>financial disclosure rules that have applied to presidential candidates since his father ran; that his ” target=”_hplink”>identical to the Affordable Care Act he promises to repeal; that he has ” target=”_hplink”>suppress voter turnout may well send him to the White House.

But that’s old news.  Been there, done that.  I’ll leave it to others to make the case that the press is giving Obama a free ride.  If that’s true, then there’s been a double dereliction of duty.  News producers are afraid that indefatigable fact checking of either party will bore the pants off people.  But I don’t smell any fear of ennui emanating from station owners making billions off broadcasting the Big Lie.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at

Lying for the cause

There are many admirable values. The list includes, of course, goodness, integrity and compassion.

But there is one value without which civilization cannot survive, and without which evil is inevitable: truth.

I cannot think of a 20th-century evil not predicated on lies. It was years (if not centuries) of lying about Jews that enabled the Holocaust to take place. Otherwise, “ordinary men,” to use the title of historian Christopher Browning’s work on the perpetrators of the Holocaust, would not have slaughtered Jewish men, women, not to mention children and babies, had they not been brainwashed into believing that Jews were not human and were the source of Germany’s and the world’s problems.

The same with communism. Every communist regime was totalitarian — meaning, among other things, that it controlled what was deemed true. The Soviet Communist Party newspaper was therefore named “Pravda,” the Russian word for truth. But there was no pravda in Pravda.

Given the horrors that result from lies (I am referring largely to societal lies; in personal life, there are times when truth is not the highest value, such as when maintaining shalom bayit, peace in the home, or when lying to a murderer to save an innocent’s life), one would think that more people would value it. But not many do.

And the reason is simple: Most people think that their cause is more important than telling the truth.

The most recent example occurred this past weekend when Congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was asked about his position on abortion for women who had become pregnant as a result of rape. The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Missouri responded, in part, that “from what I understand from doctors, that [pregnancy as a result of a rape] is really rare …  the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Now, if a lie is something one knows to be untrue, then, technically speaking, Rep. Akin wasn’t telling a lie. After all, he claimed that he understood this “from doctors”– and it is quite possible that someone did tell him that some doctors had made that claim.

What we have here, rather than a lie in that technical sense, are two other, more common assaults on truth:

First is the lack of desire to know the truth in order for the individual to continue to believe what he wants to believe, even when, as in the Akin claim, it is obviously absurd. Mr. Akin is undoubtedly familiar with the massive amount of rape committed by victorious armies throughout history. Does he believe that almost none of the victims got pregnant? And is he not aware of the tragedy of the women of Darfur raped by Sudanese Arab soldiers — and then abandoned by their families for getting pregnant out of wedlock?

As a member of the United States Congress, he surely knows about such things. So, what we have here is reason number one for the assault on truth: People believe what they want to believe more than they want to know, let alone assert, the truth.

And why this lack of desire to know the truth? 

The answer brings us to the second reason so many people don’t value truth: Their cause is always higher than truth telling. It’s permissible to lie on behalf of one’s noble cause (and what cause isn’t noble in the cause-holders’ eyes?)

I’ll give another conservative example: the claim that viewing pornography leads to rape. While many feminists also make this claim, it is mostly associated with religious conservatives. That the claim is patently false is easily demonstrated. First, the countries with the most lax laws governing pornography have the least rape, and many of the countries that ban pornography have the highest rates of sexual and other physical abuse of women. Second, the vast majority of men who look at pornographic images have never, and would never, commit rape. The fact that virtually all rapists have viewed porn is as meaningless as the fact that virtually all rapists are meat eaters.

But for many religious conservatives who regard pornography as a major sin against God, and feminists who regard it as major sin against women, truth telling is less important than their cause — fighting pornography.

This phenomenon is at least as common on the left. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made up the false charge that Jared Loughner, the mentally deranged man who tried to kill former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and killed six others) did so because of Republican Party hate rhetoric. Why did Krugman write this lie? Because it served his great cause: demonizing the right.

And progressives in California’s legislature have passed laws governing what goes into history textbooks from elementary school through high school — a certain amount of space must be allotted to blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. For many progressives, making students feel good about their ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation is more important than historical truth.

So, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approaching, here’s a suggestion for any rabbi searching for a High Holy Day sermon topic: The primary importance of truth telling. Lies built Auschwitz.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (

Day school security guard to face rape charges

An Orthodox Jewish man who worked as a security guard at a Jewish boys’ school in Melbourne, Australia was committed to stand trial on charges of sexually abusing children.

In the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court Monday, magistrate Luisa Bazzani ordered David Cyprys to face 40 charges of child molestation – including multiple counts of rape – against 12 students at Yeshivah College in the 1980s.

Cyprys, 44, who runs a company called Shomer Security, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

In her ruling, Bazzani, who presided over the two-week committal hearing, also chastised Yeshivah’s former principal, Rabbi Avrohom Glick, saying his claim that he was unaware of claims of molestation until the early 2000s was “unfathomable.” Yeshivah College is part of a complex that houses the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Cyprys was released on bail; he will return to court next month.

Katsav denied new hearing in rape conviction sentence

An Israeli Supreme Court justice denied a new hearing for former President Moshe Katsav to request a reduction in his seven-year prison sentence for a rape conviction.

Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut on Sunday denied the motion for a new hearing, meaning that the only possibility that Katsav has for a reduction of his sentence is through presidential pardon.

Katsav, who was elected president by the Knesset in 2000 in an upset over Shimon Peres, resigned in the wake of rape allegations shortly before the end of his term in 2007. Peres succeeded Katsav in the post and continues to serve.

Israel’s Supreme Court upheld Katsav’s rape conviction and prison sentence last November.

Opinion: ‘Ask Her When She’s Sober’

Until Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child were murdered by Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean and buried in his backyard, her congressman, Mike Turner, had a ” target=”_hplink”>efforts to get Lauterbach’s murderer extradited from Mexico, where the dual national had fled, eventually brought him to do something that Boehner and Cantor despise. Before she was killed, Lauterbach had filed a claim at Camp Lejeune alleging that Laurean had raped her. That’s how Turner’s involvement with her murder — spurred by a request from her family — also became an education in the sexual violence plaguing the military, leading him to join with Massachusetts’ Democratic Rep. Nikki Tsongas to introduce ” target=”_hplink”>male veterans screened positive for military sexual trauma.

An invisible war is being waged against our troops. I call it that because “” target=”_hplink”>Ariana Klay, a Marine whose ” target=”_hplink”>lawsuit that she and seven other women filed, conveys what victims are up against.

But the problem is more than the culture. It’s built into the structure of the military justice system, where the process for prosecuting rapists is run by the same chain of command that includes and often protects the rapists. The victim remains stationed on the same base as her assailant. The people assessing her truthfulness are the same people who are in charge of her career, and whose own careers would get a black eye if it came to light that sexual predators were tolerated under their command. 

Without an independent judiciary, it’s no surprise that only 8 percent of sexual assault allegations in the military are prosecuted, compared to five times that figure in the civilian world. Fewer than 21 percent of those go to trial. Only 2 percent of reported assaults result in conviction. But a staggering 90 percent of those who report a sexual assault against them are involuntarily discharged, often with a suspect “personality disorder” diagnosis. They’re not only sluts, they’re nuts.

Instead of aggressive prosecution, the Pentagon’s strategy has been prevention. The campaign slogan adopted by the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office says it all: “Ask Her When She’s Sober.” It is, as a New York Times ” target=”_hplink”>announced more funds for training investigators and judge advocates to prosecute crimes, and more opportunities for victims to report crimes and request speedy transfers, as long as their reports aren’t confidential.  Stronger — because unlike Panetta and Turner-Tsongas, it deals with some of the structural problem of military justice — is the ” target=”_hplink”>introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and 120 co-sponsors that would take reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care out of the normal chain of command, and put jurisdiction in a newly created office made of civilian and military experts. 

So far, only one Republican has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Speier bill. If the GOP were smart, it would jump at the chance to stand up for women in the military. It shouldn’t have to take something like a constituent’s murder to get more Republicans to notice how unjustly and indecently some of the best and bravest Americans in uniform are being treated.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He can be reached at

French rabbi questioned in rape of minor females

A founder of the French Liberal Jewish movement was questioned on suspicion that he raped several female minors.

French media reported Tuesday that Rabbi Daniel Farhi, 70, was questioned the same day at a police station in Paris. He has denied the accusations.

The Liberal movement is associated with Reform Judaism.

Farhi is known for his outreach to the French Muslim community.

Katsav says he’s a ‘wreck,’ proclaims innocence

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav told an Israeli newspaper that he is a “wreck” but will not commit suicide.

Days after his rape conviction was upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court, Katsav said in interview with Yediot Achronot published Wednesday, “I promise my family that I will be strong, but even iron hit as many times as I have been hit in the past five years eventually bends.”

He added, “I curse the day I was elected president of the State of Israel.”

Katsav, 65, also apologized to his victims as he continued to proclaim his innocence.

“I apologize to the women who complained against me if I hurt them. I will continue fighting for my innocence,” he said in the interview. “My truth will come to light, even if it is after my death.”

Katsav said politics was behind his conviction in December on two counts of rape and other sexual offenses. In March, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The Israeli daily Maariv also carried an interview with Katsav.

Katsav, who has been free pending the appeal, was given one month to put his affairs in order and is set to enter prison Dec. 7. He is the first Israeli president ever sentenced to prison.

The Supreme Court last week unanimously upheld Katsav’s conviction in Tel Aviv District Court and the court’s sentence.

Jews reeling in wake of Penn State scandal

Rabbi David Ostrich, who leads the lone congregation in State College, Pa., couldn’t bring himself to sermonize last Shabbat on the scandal that’s on everyone’s mind.

For one thing, it’s all too raw and too much remains unknown, said the religious leader of Congregation Brit Shalom, a Reform synagogue.

Then there’s the fact that one of his congregants happens to be Graham Spanier, whose 16-year tenure at the helm of Penn State University came to an unceremonious end last week when the university trustees fired him.

“The revelation of these terrible secrets has shattered the sensibilities of this community,” said Ostrich, who serves on the board of Penn State Hillel, which also counted Spanier as an ardent supporter. “Many people are walking around in shock, like someone kicked them in their stomachs.”

Indeed, Penn State’s football program, the whole university really, has experienced a shocking fall. As seemingly everyone now knows, the allegations that an assistant football coach sexually abused young boys led to the firing of not only Spanier but also the legendary Nittany Lions coach, Joe Paterno.

The scandal has reverberated throughout the Penn State world, touching the emotions of Jewish alumni around the country, state and in the Philadelphia community.

One example is Constance Smukler, a Philadelphia philanthropist and major donor to Jewish groups, whose father was a Penn state alum and supporter. The campus’ state-of-the-art facility—the Louis and Mildred Lasch Football Building, where at least one of the incidents of abuse allegedly took place—is named for her parents.

She was among those in attendance earlier this year when the local chapter of the American Jewish Committee honored Paterno and his wife, Sue, with its National Leadership award.

Rabbi Mark Robbins, AJC’s regional director, said that the Paternos were honored for their general philanthropic work and support of interfaith programming on campus.

“It’s all very sad because they had been great supporters of the underprivileged and things that had been important to the Jewish community,” he said.

On campus, Spanier’s departure is being talked about as a potential loss for Hillel, which serves a campus with some 5,000 Jewish students.

The South African native, whose parents fled Nazi Germany, ran the state’s largest academic institution, with 96,000 students, 24 branch campuses and a $4.3 billion budget.

He also had championed the current effort to erect a brand new Hillel building on campus, serving as honorary co-chair of the capital campaign to raise the necessary funds.

He also helped broker the deal that allowed Hillel to buy land downtown, just off-campus, according to sources involved in the project. Just two months ago, he hosted major donors to the project in his private box at Beaver Stadium for a Lions home game.

His removal as president doesn’t spell the end of the project, but supporters acknowledge that it poses a setback.

“I think it is sad for Hillel to lose a champion and a very effective university president,” said Rick Jacobs, a longtime psychology professor who sits on the Hillel board. Jacobs would not go into whether he thought Spanier should have been fired.

“Will he be missed? Yes. Will we be all right? Yes,” he said, adding that non-Jewish officials, including acting president Rod Erickson, see the value that Hillel brings to the university and should be just as supportive.

Though he had his critics, Spanier, a family therapist by training, has mostly received kudos for his focus on academics, even as the school was perhaps best known for its performance on the gridiron.

Sources and media reports painted a portrait of Spanier as a somewhat idiosyncratic character. He’s a magician, pilot, washboard player in a Dixieland band and an elite racquetball player.

But when it came to Penn State, he was very serious, overseeing the creation of academic programs, a celebrated honors college and new infrastructure projects on campus.

As university presidents go, Spanier also had a reputation for being accessible and had a well-known policy of responding to an email from a student within 48 hours. He also made a habit of attending High Holiday services at Hillel and addressing students.

“Everyone respected Graham Spanier. He did really good things for the university,” said Ashley Gold, a 2011 graduate who was active in Hillel, spent her junior year abroad in Israel and is now a reporter for the Reading Eagle.

“Everyone in Hillel knew that Graham Spanier was Jewish. I don’t think the whole college knew.

“The situation has become so complex and so complicated, it’s so upsetting,” she said.

Sources said that when Hillel sought his help, he responded more enthusiastically than they could have imagined.

The Hillel Foundation has had a presence on campus since the 1930s, well before the university population swelled in the postwar years. But since the State College community is so small, Hillel has typically looked to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for the bulk of its funding. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia allocated $45,000 for 2011-2012.

By many accounts, the campus Hillel has flourished in recent years. But it still operates without its own building, holding most programs in a student activities center.

Supporters are trying to change that. Last year, Hillel purchased land in a downtown commercial district from Citizens Bank, in part through a donation by alum David Pincus, who is a member of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. Sources said Spanier played a role in making that deal happen.

Now the Penn State Hillel board is undertaking a $12 million capital campaign to erect a 30,000-square-foot building.

“He was very involved, he was very anxious to see it happen,” said Rabbi Neil Cooper of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, who has taken a leadership role in the fundraising effort at the request of his congregant, Pincus. “I think that in some ways, he has not been connected Jewishly in his adult life. This brought back to him a certain degree of connection to the Jewish community. He was extremely responsive to whatever we asked him to do,” said Cooper, who said he had been in email contact with Spanier right up until the day he was fired.

Sources also said Spanier had a pro-Israel orientation. He recently led a trip to Israel and regularly met with the consul general in Philadelphia.

But not everyone was a fan. In 2006, Spanier figured into a campus controversy surrounding a canceled, pro-Israel art exhibit. The school of visual arts decided to nix a painting exhibit by Elkins Park native Joshua Stulman, who created a series of works depicting anti-Semitism, Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Palestinian society.

In 2007, an attorney representing Stulman filed a federal lawsuit naming as defendants two members of the art faculty, as well as Spanier. The suit claimed that Stulman’s First Amendment rights were violated. Now living in New York City, Stulman said the suit reached settlement and he couldn’t discuss the outcome, but he said Spanier had failed to intervene when, Stulman said, he was faced with a clear anti-Israel bias.

“The institutionalized tendency to obscure or simply not report serious allegations at Penn State is systemic. It is my hope that, with the passing of Graham Spanier as head of the university, this will usher in a new era of honesty,” Stulman wrote in an email.

As for Spanier, one question has become the elephant in the room: Did he deserve to go?

“From what I understand, it’s less a matter of this being his fault and more a matter of it being his responsibility,” said Cooper. “He has to take the fall for that. I don’t think anyone is saying that he was involved in any wrongdoing.”

The overwhelming consensus seems to be, whether he deserved to be fired or not, Spanier’s departure is a major blow to the university.

“I know it is a loss for everyone involved because he is a wonderful person who has become a very good leader for Penn State,” said Ostrich, who said he has spoken to Spanier since the fallout but couldn’t go into details.

The rabbi’s immediate focus for now is finding a way to move forward.

“We still have over 5,000 Jewish students on campus with a job to do. This has been a very traumatic event, people are shocked,” said Ostrich, whose congregation numbers 200 families. “The lack of information is putting a good question mark in everybody’s mind. There are a lot of question marks.”

Holocaust women’s rape reports break decades of taboo

Gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other conflict zones around the world is a subject of continual research and education through witness testimonials,

podcasts and information presented by the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

But this year the museum took a look back, delving into a topic from history that, surprisingly, is entirely new pivotal research about the rape of Jewish women during the Holocaust, described in a new book by two female scholars.

“Rape does not just happen,” said Bridget Conley-Zilkic, director of research and projects for the division that guides the museum’s genocide prevention programs, at a special event in Manhattan, N.Y., about the new book. “It is a tool that perpetrators use to reach their ends. We honor the history of those who suffered and those who died in the Holocaust by changing our world today.”

The rape and sexual abuse of Jewish women in the Holocaust has been a subject that is so taboo that it has taken 65 years for the first English language book on the subject to make its way to the public.

“One question we get a lot is, ‘Why did it take so long?’ And, for that you have to understand how it came about,” said Rochelle G. Saidel, co-editor with Sonja M. Hedgepeth of “Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust,” a multidisciplinary anthology released by Brandeis University Press in December 2010.

In 2006, during a rare seminar about women and the Holocaust at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial, Saidel and Hedgepeth, both accomplished historians, mentioned, in passing, sexual abuse.

Saidel said, “This very illustrious Holocaust scholar raised his hand and said, ‘There were no Jewish women who were raped during the Holocaust. How can you say such a thing? Where are the documents? Where is the proof?’ ”

His voice was not alone. For decades, a myth held sway that the Nazis didn’t rape Jewish women because it violated German rules on “race” mixing. Others asserted that Jewish women who were raped must have colluded with the Nazis for food and that women, especially attractive ones, who survived the death camps voluntarily engaged in sexual barter.

Saidel and Hedgepeth knew rape was not documented in the same way as the number of trains that traveled to a concentration camp, but they sought out scholars from seven countries and collected 16 essays, drawing upon oral histories, literature, psychoanalysis, eyewitness reports and diaries.

The stories of rape and sexual abuse began to emerge as if they were old photographic film waiting for the right chemicals, and long-erased pictures of Jewish women who had suffered sexual abuse began to emerge.

Jewish women were raped and sexually abused by Nazi guards, but also by liberators, people who hid them, aid givers, partisans and even fellow prisoners. Judy Weiszenberg Cohen, an Auschwitz survivor living in Canada, told the editors that the “fear of rape” was omnipresent in the concentration camp.

“The exact number of women who experienced sexual molestation during the Holocaust cannot be determined and the rapists by and large did not leave documents testifying to their actions,” writes Nomi Levenkron, a human rights attorney in Israel, in an essay in the book. Most women who survived preferred silence, she said, fearing that they would be stigmatized in their communities.

“This is about all of our humanity. After I read the manuscript, I became kind of obsessed with it,” said Gloria Steinem, the renowned feminist writer and advocate, who sponsored two events in New York this year to draw attention to the publication. “I thought, ‘It’s 70 years later. Why didn’t we know this?’ For all of the people to whom it happened, to be victimized is one thing — to be shamed, as if it was your fault, is another profound and deep oppression.”

Many sexually abused women were raped and then simply killed.

Author Moinka J. Faschka of Kent State University in Ohio, one of the contributors to the book, cites survivor Harry Koltun, who said in an interview: “[T]he Gestapo SS came in and took out a few Jewish girls, they took them into a forest and they never came back. They did what they had to do sexually, and they killed them. Nice, nice-looking girls.”

At a presentation at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York, the book’s authors said that previously the barriers to telling the stories of sexual abuse have been tremendous. Some Holocaust scholars believed that segmenting out rape stories — and even women’s stories unrelated to sexual violence — would sever women from the community by focusing on one group when all Jews, regardless of gender, were targeted for persecution. Rape was not included in the Nuremberg Trials when Nazi officials were charged with war crimes.

In other cases, women feared they would be considered “impure” or be ostracized by their families.

“I have been interviewing Holocaust survivors in Israel since ’78, but it didn’t even occur to me to ask about sexual assault,” said Eva Fogelman, a psychologist in New York City. “These people had lost so much of their dignity and privacy. I didn’t want to take that last bit of privacy away from them.”

For this book, Fogelman identified 1,040 testimonies of the 52,000 in the Shoah Foundation collection at the University of Southern California that mention rape or fear of rape.

“What you have is women who were raped talk about it in bits or pieces. Or, ‘I know a woman, and this happened to her,’ a way of indicating this happened, but not implicating themselves,” Fogelman said.

This book, said co-editor Hedgepeth, is only the beginning of the exploration of this sensitive topic.

“I’m starting to feel from conversations that there will be more that comes out of this,” she said.

Cynthia L. Cooper is an independent journalist in New York who frequently writes about reproductive rights.

Opinion: Groping in the Dark

The swirl of news about the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused recently of sexually assaulting a chambermaid in his expensive Sofitel hotel suite, contains another juicy nugget of information. Strauss-Kahn is Jewish. His wife is Jewish. In fact, Strauss-Kahn was born, like many French Jews, to a Sephardic mother from Tunisia. He participates in public Jewish life. He does not hide his Jewishness. Should we?

Well, that’s what many people right now would like to do. When we read about a Jew connected to a public exploit of a criminal nature — be it a rape, Ponzi scheme or Medicare fraud — most of us cringe and wish we somehow weren’t ethnically or genetically connected. When breaking news of crime is exposed, our knee-jerk impulse is to pray that whoever is involved isn’t Jewish.

Sadly, in the past few years, we have become used to seeing more Jews exposed for white-collar crimes in the news. And in some pathetic and ironic way, we’ve managed to unify Jews under the same banner — from Reform to Satmar Chasidim, Syrians and Ashkenazim, Jews from Chicago and Jews from Australia. What has brought us together? Crime. How else to explain a joke that took a spin in cyberspace recently: “The Top 10 Signs Your Rabbi Was Indicted.” These included, 1) your synagogue charity auction now includes “kidney,” 2) your rebbetzin is suddenly on JDate, and 3) the rabbi’s sermon comes in the form of an affidavit.

But if you have nothing to do with Strauss-Kahn, Bernard Madoff or any other member of the criminal glitterati other than share a religion, why should you care?

We do care, and we care for the same reason that when a Jew wins a Nobel Peace Prize, we take just a smidgen of credit for it, and when a popular celebrity announces he or she is Jewish, we stand a little taller. We are connected by a mysterious bond called peoplehood, a psychic sense that we are part of an extended family with deep historical roots and a moral and spiritual vision. This is not something we give explicit voice to, but it is something many of us feel deep down in our kishkes (gut).

It’s the quiet nod of recognition we give to a woman in a grocery checkout line with a Star of David around her neck. It is the subtle intimacy we experience as a minority people who are experts at the world’s most boring game: Jewish geography. We play it because six degrees of separation is way too many. Six one-hundredths is a lot more comfortable. After all, it’s a hostile world out there. You need to know who your family is.

Yet, just like we’re not proud of every member of our family, we put up with those criminal few (yes, it is only a few) who need to zip up their pants, get a better accountant or have a time-out from Wall Street. The downside of peoplehood is that just like we may feel psychically connected to strangers merely because they are Jewish, we are also connected to Jews who commit crimes in the public eye.

The ancient rabbis shared this worry and created the term ma’arit ayin (literally, what the eye sees) to help people model moral excellence everywhere lest others observe spiritually contradictory behaviors and assign them to the Jewish people as a whole. This falls under a larger legal rubric of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name. When a Jew in the public eye is morally upstanding, we all bask in his or her light. When a Jew in the public eye tries to rape a woman who is powerless, we squirm.

This is not the same as the Yiddish expression, a shandah for the goyim. When we adjust our behavior because of self-conscious modeling, we do so for the sake of righteousness and goodness. When we worry about being a shandah for the goyim, we care less about what we do and more about what we look like. It’s like being caught in a perp walk but worried that you forgot to put on lipstick. It’s an ethically superficial way of moving in the universe.

Are these just isolated cases of a few Jews gone bad or are they symptomatic of something much darker that we’re not willing to confront? I’d like to believe the former. I’d like to believe that Jewish affluence and influence in the world has presented us with new/old challenges. If we want to make a difference on the global stage, be it in economics, research or politics, then we must move with the ancient weight of Isaiah’s teachings, “Learn to do good.” Goodness is not assumed. It is taught. It must be taught and reinforced in our synagogues and schools and adult education programs. It is not a given.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Jewishness may not have even crossed his mind as he acted, but his Judaism was not something detached from his identity when others reported his alleged crime. We, the Jewish public, all pay some small psychic cost in pride for the acts of strangers. It’s the price we pay for being in the same family, whether we want to or not. If it is the label others give us, then perhaps it’s time to have a difficult family conversation about raising the ethical bar. After all, when it comes to the reputation of the Jewish people, we’re all stakeholders.

Erica Brown serves as the scholar-in-residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Her latest book is “In the Narrow Places” (OU/Maggid). She also wrote “Confronting Scandal” (Jewish Lights) and can be reached at

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns from IMF

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund following his arrest and imprisonment on charges of sexual assault.

In a statement dated Wednesday on the IMF website, the popular left-leaning political figure expected to run for French president in 2012 said, “it is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF.”

Strauss-Kahn was taken off of a Paris-bound flight at Kennedy International Airport on May 14, and arrested on charges of assaulting a maid in his New York City hotel room that day.

In the statement, Strauss-Kahn said, “I think at this time first of my wife—whom I love more than anything—of my children, of my family, of my friends.”

He also claimed his innocence.

“I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me. I want to protect this institution which I have served with honor and devotion, and especially—especially—I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence,” said the statement.

Recent polls repeatedly showed that Strauss-Kahn was considered more popular than current French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and the most likely opponent to unseat him in the next election.  Bloggers and pundits even mused on the fact that France might be led by a Jewish president, if Strauss-Kahn were voted into office.

John Lipsky remains acting managing director of the IMF, while speculation continues on a possible replacement. Finance minister to Sarkozy, Christine Lagarde, is a favored contender. She is the former head of the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, and lived in the United States for over 20 years. Stanley Fisher, governor of the Bank of Israel, has also been suggested.

Katsav appeals rape conviction

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav has appealed his conviction on rape and sexual assault charges and requested a delay of his prison sentence.

Katsav is scheduled to enter prison next week to serve a seven-year sentence.

His appeal was filed Monday with the Israeli Supreme Court; his attorneys requested that the former Israeli president’s imprisonment be delayed pending a final decision on the appeal. The conviction and sentence was handed down in the Tel Aviv District Court.

Katsav also was ordered to pay more than $28,000 to the rape victim and about $7,000 to the sexual assault victim. He will serve two years of probation after he is released from prison.

The 300-page appeal suggests that it would be undignified for Katsav to show up at the Supreme Court for his appeal in handcuffs, according to reports. The appeal also asks that “weighty consideration should be given to the fact that Katsav served as the president of the State and Israel’s official representative at home and abroad.”

The yearlong trial, which was closed to the public, ended with a guilty verdict on Dec. 30. Two years before the verdict was handed down, Katsav declined what was seen as a lenient plea bargain—one that dropped the rape charges for lesser charges and likely would have left him with a suspended sentence—saying that he wanted to clear his name in court.

Katsav, who immigrated to Israel from Iran in 1951, was elected president by the Knesset in 2000 in an upset of Shimon Peres. In 2007, Peres assumed the post following Katsav’s resignation in the wake of the allegations shortly before the end of his term.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav receives seven-year prison sentence

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who was found guilty of rape and sexual assault, was sentenced to seven years in jail and ordered to pay compensation to two of his victims.

A panel of three Tel Aviv District Court judges handed down the sentence Tuesday, nearly five years after he was first accused.

Katsav, 65, reportedly began sobbing after the verdict was read and then yelled out several times, interrupting the judges, saying “It’s all lies,”  “the sentence is a mistake” and “it’s not true.”

Katsav’s prison sentence is set to begin May 8. He was also ordered to pay more than $28,000 to the rape victim and about $7,000 to the sexual assault victim. He also will serve two years of probation after his release from prison.

“The defendant committed the crime and like every other person, he must bear the consequences. No man is above the law,” the judges wrote in their sentence, which was read out in the courtroom. “The contention that seeing a former president of the country go to jail is too painful to watch is an emotional argument, but it definitely cannot be accepted as an ethical argument.”

The closed-door trial lasted for one year, ending with a guilty verdict on Dec. 30. Two years ago, Katsav declined what was seen as a lenient plea bargain—one that dropped the rape charges for lesser charges and likely would have left him with a suspended sentence—saying that he wanted to clear his name in court.

Katsav, who immigrated to Israel from Iran in 1951, became president when the Knesset elected him in 2000, upsetting candidate Shimon Peres. Peres became president in 2007 after Katsav resigned in the wake of the allegations, shortly before the end of his term.

“This is an extraordinary day in the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the sentencing. “This is a day of sadness and shame, but it is also a day of deep appreciation and pride for the Israeli justice system. The court issued a sharp and unequivocal ruling on a simple principle, that of equality before the law; nobody is above the law, not even a former president, all are subject to the law. This distinguishes the State of Israel to a very large degree.”

Netanyahu said the court also ruled on equality between men and women.

“Every woman has the right to her body, the right to respect and freedom, and nobody has the right to take these from her,” the prime minister said. “This also distinguishes the State of Israel to a very large degree.”

Katsav has 45 days to appeal the sentence.