Kol Koreh Addresses Child Abuse, Urges Reporting To Secular Authorities

By Menachem Rephun (The Jewish Press)
August 23, 2015

(Scroll to the bottom to view the kol koreh.)

One-hundred-and-seven rabbanim and dayanim have contributed their signatures to a kol koreh (public pronouncement) affirming the halachic obligation of all Jews to immediately report and notify secular law enforcement when they know of an instance of child abuse. The kol koreh is a historic watershed, due to its unprecedented, broad-based support from a large number of haredi rabbanim.

Some of the signers include Rabbi Nota Greenblatt, dayan, posek, and rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola in Memphis; Dovid Goldwasser, rav of Bnei Yitzchok in Brooklyn; Rabbi Dov Aharon Brisman, rosh beis din of B’datz Philadephia; Rabbi Peretz Steinberg, co-chairman of Bais Din Agudath Yisroel in Kew Garden Hills; Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chaim; Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, rav of Nachlas Yitzchok in Kew Gardens Hills; Rabbi Kalman Epstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaar HaTorah in Queens; and Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, dayan of Agudas Israel of Illinois, who was heavily involved in putting the kol koreh together.

As its foundation, the kol koreh refers to the Torah’s statement in Leviticus 19:16, admonishing Jews to “not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” In the view of the kol koreh and the rabbanim who signed it, this “obligates every member of the community to do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others.” According to the document, “Every individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable cause for suspicion of child abuse has a Torah obligation to promptly notify the proper civil authorities.”

“When the Torah commands us ‘Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa” it teaches us also that what people tend to do is to stand by watching the harm being done to others and to do nothing to stop it,” said one of the document’s most prominent signers, Rabbi Yechiel Perr, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson Rabbinical Seminary. “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business. But it is! The Torah has made it everyone’s business when a Yid is being harmed.”

“The document is a great start,” said another one of the signers, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, a distinguished author and maggid shiur at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach, Monsey. “Rabbis whose signatures are absent can be asked by their constituencies why they are not signed on it, and thus be led to join in.”

Rabbi Simcha Feuerman and Chaya Feuerman, prominent psychotherapists in the frum community and Jewish Press columnists, e-mailed this statement:

“Clinicians who work with survivors of sexual abuse have seen the devastating and lifelong damage that abuse has caused for some victims. This kol koreh and consensus of rabbanim and poskim is a step forward in prevention and removing any barriers for reporting perpetrators.”

“Child molesters are individuals who are practiced liars and intimidators,” said Dr. Michael J. Salamon, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the author of Abuse in the Jewish Community. “They prey upon vulnerable people while simultaneously projecting an image of concern and caring. Those who hesitate reporting a suspicion of abuse are only allowing the abuser more time to commit their horrible acts. Only properly trained professional investigators with the weight and rule of law can properly address this problem. Increasingly, in many localities, all adults are mandated reporters. This is to protect our children. We would do well for our community if we universally adopt this approach.”