Stopping the Abuse

To the Editor:

Kudos to the Jewish Star for keeping the community up to date on developments in the war against child sexual abuse (“Call the Cops”; June 25, 2010), and to Ohel for finally alerting parents to the necessity, no matter how painful or scary it can be for some, to report all abuse to the police.

Special recognition must be paid to Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, who placed himself in the heroic company of Rabbis Yitzchak Eisenman, Rabbi Nochem Rosenberg, and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz as the only charedi rabbis who have publicly supported telling parents to report abuse to the police. While the leading poskim of our generation, including Rav Elyashiv shlita, have ruled that it is a mitzvah to report, very few charedi rabbonim have been willing to show public support for people who keep the halacha of “Lo sa’amod al dam reyecha — Do not stand by idly the blood of your brother.”

I personally know of several recent cases where Gedolim including Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon and Rabbi Yaakov Perlow have privately told individuals to report abuse to the police. A secret Torah Umesorah memo sent only to school principals (but not to parents), encouraging reporting these crimes, bears the signatures of many more Gedolim.

However, in communities like Baltimore, Lakewood, Brooklyn and Passaic, victims of abuse and their supporters continue to be ostracized and threatened when reporting to the police, and almost no rabbis will publicly back them. As reported in the NY Daily News, many Orthodox Jews still promote the idea that the police cannot be trusted as much as rabbis when it comes to stopping abuse.

Why the rabbis are not more public about utilizing law enforcement was explained by a spokesperson at Agudath Israel, who told the New York Times that it is important for the rabbis not to be viewed as ceding power to the authorities. The need to be seen as having superpowers in crime prevention appears to be somewhat grandiose — even Sherlock Holmes and Batman reached out to the police for help, as does the FBI.

Whatever the reason for their public silence, until the rabbinate can get their act together and stand up for the victims who want to do the right thing, they are allowing a grave injustice to take place, and creating unnecessary danger for children in our community, thereby transgressing “Lo Saamod Al Dam Reyecha” themselves.

Dr. Asher Lipner