by Hella Winston (Jewish Week)
April 22, 2009
Two major haredi organizations came out Tuesday against a bill pending in the New York State legislature that would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and create a one-year window during which alleged victims could file civil claims, regardless of when the abuse took place.
In a joint press release, Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, said they would not "object to extending statutes of limitations for criminal proceedings against perpetrators," but "must object to ... legislation that could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of the community."
This statement puts them in the same camp as the Catholic Church, which is vocal in its opposition to the bill, sponsored in the Assembly by Margaret Markey of Queens and in the Senate by Tom Duane of Manhattan, both Democrats . A similar window provision in California cost the Church over $1.2 billion in settlements, but publicly identified 300 sexual predators.
Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo Law School, citing the experience of California and Delaware, which also enacted window legislation, said "rejection of the window legislation would be a conscious choice to keep the predators hidden and to facilitate their further abuse of even more children."
Lonnie Soury, a spokesman for Survivors for Justice, a group of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the Orthodox community, expressed dismay.
"While far from shocking, the cold pragmatism of this rabbinical leadership is reprehensible," Soury said.