The Reporting of Child Abuse Among Orthodox Jews

Letter to the Editor - NY Times
May 18, 2012

To the Editor:

Contrary to the implications of your recent articles and editorial about child abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community, the role of the rabbi in cases of suspected abuse is not to dissuade the individual from reporting to the secular authorities, but simply to ascertain that the suspicion meets a certain threshold of credibility.

Indeed, despite your editorial's assumption to the contrary, Agudath Israel of America has clearly and repeatedly informed the Jewish public that credible suspicions of child abuse must be brought to the secular authorities.

Even under the law of New York, the obligation to report suspected abuse is triggered only when a threshold of credibility is met: "reasonable cause to suspect." That is very close, if not identical, to the standard of Jewish law.

Your report was also missing any context for my statement about how false accusations can destroy lives. There are indeed, sadly, cases not only of innocent youths victimized by abuse but also of innocent adults victimized by accusations of abuse. Both are tragic, and neither lessens the tragedy of the other.

(Rabbi) DAVID ZWIEBEL
Executive Vice President
Agudath Israel of America
New York, May 10, 2012