Abuse Experts: Skip the Rabbis

By COLlive reporter (COLlive.com)
June 10, 2012

Members of the Jewish community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, were told by a panel of legal experts to report physical abuse directly to the authorities when a crime occurs and not to consult first with rabbis.

Rabbi Yosef Blau, Senior Spiritual Guidance Counselor of Yeshiva University, said that the old treatment of 'informant' - mosser - in the case of abuse is not valid, noting that current Rabbis say that in the case of abuse, one must go to the authorities.

Explaining that many Orthodox communities are more worried about a 'Chillul Hashem' - embarrassment of G-d's name - than the vicims of abuse, Blau said, "Somehow if a perversion occurs we think if we keep it a secret, then it's not a chillul Hashem. When the DA says that part of our community is worse than the mafia, that's a Chillul Hashem."

"The key to change is in our commmunity," said Blau. "When all is said and done, when victims and their supporters become outsiders and are shunned by the community, they are devastated. When the commmunity supports people for going forward, then we can have real change."

There were no local rabbis present to emphasize his call. Organizers explained their absence by the limited time available for speeches by all 3 rabbis, and reminded of the groundbreaking psak ruling of the Crown Heights Beis Din on the need to report abuses to the police.

The 80 participants of Sunday's seminar on preventing abuse heard from 19 year old Mordechai Feinstein, a former resident who was a victim of abuse as a young teen and has since moved to Miami "on the long road to recovery."

Feinstein reminded the diverse crowd that the key to preventing abuse is good parenting. "As a parent you owe it to your child," he said. "Deal with abuse head on. The only way to make a difference is if parents stand up and say 'We want change.'"

Other speakers were Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel and Clergy Abuse Attorney Irwin Zalkin who offered similar advice to what residents heard in past seminars held in the neighborhood.

But the focus of the media circus in the Crown Condos hall, where the seminar was held, was on Charles Hynes, District Attorney of Kings County who has been in hot water recently over his office's handling of abuse cases.

In a defiant speech, Hynes defended his policy of predators' names being kept secret during investigations, making an argument which might not suit the sound-bite quotes expected in the press.

Hynes said that whenever a perpetrator's name was released to the press, within days the community members had figured out who the victims were, and in many cases the victims and their families were silenced with a "level of intimidation and abuse that I have not seen since the mafia," he said.

Hynes also said it is best for abuse accusations to be taken straight to the authorities, as rabbis who are consulted, if they intimidate or otherwise block a witness, are at risk for criminal prosecution.

"We've gone a long way since the day when everything was shoved under the rug," commented a participant. "But the frum communities are a far cry from properly implementing prevention in our schools and dealing with abuse crimes once they happen, G-d forbid."

Click here to view photos from the event.