Orthodox Parents Accused Of Abuse

Here are a collection of articles on this story.

Says a source: "The case of Isaac Hersh needs to be in the news media until he is allowed to be free of Brooklyn.  I believe he wants to be in TX.  He has a twin brother living down there.  He also has six siblings still living in the Hersh family home. "

Here’s the March 25, 2008 New York Daily News that started this story:

Boys lay prone on stone floor at Tranquility Bay, a reform school on the island of Jamaica that has been called a concentration camp.

Boys lay prone on stone floor at Tranquility Bay, a reform school on the island of Jamaica that has been called a concentration camp.

Isaac Hersh

Isaac Hersh

A battle has erupted in the Orthodox Jewish community over a Brooklyn teenager sent by his prominent family to a behavior boot camp accused of terrifying abuse.

Isaac Hersh, 16, has been trapped since last summer at Tranquility Bay, a reform school on the island of Jamaica with a soothing name – and harsh discipline, according to the lawyer hired to try to get him out.

"It’s a modern-day concentration camp," said Maryland lawyer Joshua Ambush.

Isaac’s estranged parents sent him to the boot camp last year after luring him back to Brooklyn from his new home in Texas, court papers claim.

Isaac’s twin brother, Sol, is panicked he’s next to go.

"He’s very worried about his brother. He’s very worried about himself, too," said a friend of the family who asked to remain anonymous.

Tranquility Bay offers the promise of turning bad boys into focused achievers, but the walled-off camp with barred windows has been called a nightmare.

Children have been beaten, forced to eat their vomit and made to stand in painful contortions for hours, according to a separate suit filed in Utah by former students against private boot camps, including Tranquility Bay.

The case has so riled up members of the normally insular Orthodox community that several are taking the rare step of publicizing Isaac’s situation.

One one side is Isaac’s informal Texas foster family, who are also Orthodox, and their supporters, who prompted a nonprofit to file suit in Washington last week on Isaac’s behalf.

They claim he was lured to Brooklyn with the promise of a job, handcuffed and thrown into a van that took him to the boot camp as he cried and begged to be released, the suit says.

On the other side are the teen’s father, Michael Hersh – CEO of Brooklyn’s huge Orthodox volunteer ambulance service, Hatzalah – and his wife, Miriam.

"Hatzalah will carefully monitor these proceedings, taking into account the seriousness of the allegations," the organization said in a statement.

Here are some more.

Here is one from a popular Jewish News Site.

Here is a site that a group put together to help Isaac (and hurt Michael)

Emes v’ emuna

Failed Messiah

The Jewish Star

The Jewish Week


The Daily News reports March 29, 2008:

A Brooklyn teen banished to a behavior boot camp in Jamaica by his family – sparking an internal battle among ultra-Orthodox Jews – is back in the United States after a showdown on the island nation.

Isaac Hersh, 16, landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey Friday after his father was persuaded to let him leave Tranquility Bay, a private reform school.

"Relieved is not the word," said Zvi Gluck, a Queens financial worker. "The entire way home he was describing the atrocities that were happening there."

Gluck was one of a handful of Orthodox men who jetted to Jamaica on Wednesday to try to fetch the teen and was briefly detained until Isaac’s father agreed to his release.

The ending capped a dramatic week when some members of Isaac’s tight-knit community took the unusual step of publicizing his case.

The teen, who had been living with an Orthodox Texas family in an informal foster situation, had been brought back to Brooklyn by his parents last June and then shipped off to Tranquility Bay.

The family that had been caring for Isaac had no idea where he was until about three weeks ago – and became worried that he was living in a facility that has been accused of abuse.

Isaac told Gluck and others that he was beaten and forced to lie on a mat with his hands and feet tied as punishment for minor infractions.

The story so divided the religious community that Isaac’s father, Michael Hersh, was forced to take a leave of absence from his job as CEO of Hatzalah, the large, Brooklyn-based volunteer ambulance corps. Hersh’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Friends of the Hersh family described Isaac as a troubled son who had clashed with his parents for years. Others described him as a normal teen. He is living in an undisclosed location while custody arrangements are worked out.

A source emails:

This story is about a prominent Chaim Berlin family with 8 kids. The 2nd and 3rd are twins. The father became a ba’al t’shuva in his teens. His parents were so anti-frum that it was borderline anti-Semitic and they made their feelings known loud and clear. The twins were extremely difficult babies and became inappropriate and violent to their siblings on a regular basis as they got older. No therapy of any kind helped…except one of them did get a bit better and stayed that way. The family moved to Israel in 2002 for a really good job offer and a relative told some rabbanim that they really went there because he was abusing the twins and was running from the law.

They moved back a few years later when Miriam was ill with cancer and a relative told rabanim and authorities that it was because he was running from the law in Israel and that the abuse continued there too. I have stacks of documents that debunk this.

They sent him to a foster family in Texas but after a couple of moths sent him back home because he was too difficult to handle. That is when Rav Aharon gave the green light to send him to a boot camp as he was deemed a danger to himself and to his family.

[Here’s an Aug. 24, 2006 letter from a child psychiatrist saying that Yitzhok Meir aka Isaac Hersh (his twin is Shlomo Zalman and uses the name Sol)  is a danger to himself and others and needs to placed in treatment. Here’s an Aug. 30, 2007 letter from the New York state office of children and family services to Mr. Michael Hersh saying that no credible evidence had been found to support charges of child abuse.]

Now there are people and groups that are doing things to destroy the parents.

Regarding the allegation that Mr. Hersh was running from abuse charges in Israel, here is a quote from an insider to the whole case:

"The charges of abuse in Israel were made by the same anonymous person or people that have filed a number of complaints against the Hersh’s in NY and Michael can give you the documents, if you would like to have them. The case in Israel was closed and ended in favor of Michael. Note that anybody or organization can be accused, but it’s the outcome that counts."

The parents were always hoping that it would pass and that they would be able to find the right psychiatric doctor for him.

I grew up with them and know them since I was a little kid. The parents never abused any of the children. My own family took in 10 foster children from abusive homes over the years so we would smell a rat if there was one.

…Tzvi Gluck knew about this for months and did nothing about it. If it were so bad, he would have done something earlier. You can ask him if he knew.

Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe really did ask him to leave his home. There are three versions of the story and two come from his own mouth. One was that He did not ask him to leave at all and the second is he said that his wife was pregnant and there was no room for him but a friend would take him in instead. Do you know that his brother is there and was not sent out. Why do you think that they only had room for Sol and not for Isaac?

…The sister in law that was in the last email to you is using Joshua Ambush to send Michael to jail.

I attached a copy of this lawsuit:

Law Offices Joshua M. Ambush, LLC Hilton Plaza 1726 Reisterstown Rd., Suite 206 Baltimore, Maryland 21208

Contact: Joshua M. Ambush, Esquire, 410-484-2070


March 20, 2008, Baltimore, MD

The Washington Center for Peace and Justice, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a 16 year old Brooklyn boy seeking injunctive relief to stop his abuse and to gain his release from a notorious behavior modification facility in Jamaica, West Indies, where he was sent after being brutally seized at the behest of his parents, Michael and Miriam Hersh. Michael Hersh is a former student of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and a disciple of Rabbi Aaron M. Schecter, dean of the Yeshiva.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, details the long history of abuse of the boy by his father that culminated in his being forcibly removed from his house in the early morning hours on June 13, 2007. The boy was sadistically handcuffed and dragged to a waiting van by two men hired by his parents while shocked witnesses helplessly watched him plead with his abductors. It was not until several months later that worried family members learned that the boy had been sent by his parents to Tranquility Bay, an affiliate of World Wide Association of Specialty Schools and Programs, WWASPS. The complaint details documented cases of abuse at Tranquility Bay which includes beatings, sexual assault, food deprivation and excessive use of isolation. Joshua Ambush, the lead counsel in the case, announced the filing of the action against the parents. Michael Hersh, father of the boy is the CEO of Chevra Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc., the largest all-volunteer ambulance service in the United States. The complaint also names the State Department for constitutional and civil rights violations. Ambush emphasized that the lawsuit is not about tort damages, but rather is an effort to save the boy’s life and rescue him from a modern day concentration camp. "Child abuse by a parent should not be tolerated in civilized society, and should not be tolerated when the parents hires surrogates to perpetrate the abuse. It is unconscionable that perpetrators of abuse are able to evade prosecution by virtue of the fact that the abuse is taking place outside the jurisdiction of the Untied States. In addition to rescuing this child, this suit seeks to demonstrate that federal courts, in such cases, retain jurisdiction over the abusers and those that aid and protect them

Joshua Ambush will be available for interviews by phone appointment at 410-484-2070

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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