Letter to the Editor: Clarification Re Abuse Lecture

The Jewish Press, December 8, 2010

In Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum's My Machberes column of Dec. 3, he shared a brief summary of the presentation I gave at the Agudath Israel Convention about protecting children. I need to clarify the very brief statement made, since it can easily be quoted out of context.

This workshop was intended as a health and safety awareness presentation. It was not to address issues of halacha (I am not a posek), politics (I am not a politician), or law (I am not a lawyer). Despite having personal opinions on some of these issues, I do not possess or claim qualification to rule on any of them. There are many poskim who favor reporting any allegations of abuse to authorities immediately. Others differ. My statement about reporting was with regards to immediate danger.

My opinions notwithstanding, there is a halachic issue about whether abuse allegations should involve secular authorities. My consistent response to questions on this is that a halachic authority should be consulted (many of whom urge reporting). The audience at the convention involved people from many locations, so state laws involved also vary, and limiting references to just New York or New Jersey would have also been misleading. Such questions were also handled similarly.

Since the audience was viewed as being comprised of parents, the comments were about how parents could improve safety. There is equally much to say about how our yeshivas and schools could improve safety.

One introductory statement is worth repeating. Molestation is a small part of the greater scope of abuse that challenges the safety of our children. It gets media attention, but is less that 10 percent (according to statistics cited in the workshop). While it should not be minimized, it is unfair to the remainder of abuses to attend only to this.

Benzion Twerski, Ph.D.
Brooklyn, NY