Letter to the Editor - Jewish Forward

by Elliot Pasik, Esq.

To the Editor:

The executive vice-president of Agudath Israel, and previous long-time general counsel, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Esq., should resign from the New York Bar. He and Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman openly advised statutory mandated reporters who are also orthodox Jews, e.g., psychologists and other therapists, to violate New York State law by not calling the child abuse hotline unless they first screen the case through one of their own rabbis who will make the determination as to whether the evidence is sufficient to warrant the call. Once you say that, you have violated your oath or affirmation, taken when you get admitted to the Bar, to uphold the law. Rabbi Zwiebel has every right to practice his extreme form of religion, but as a lawyer, not to give patently illegal advice. He has a hopeless conflict of interest between his religion, and his law license.

The New York statute, Social Services Law section 413, does not have a "religious exemption clause" nor "conscious clause", that Aguda is, essentially, adding to the statute.

Not Orthodox Jewish, Catholic, nor any religious "objectors" may evade their legal duties by pleading "freedom of religion". You can't, legally, say I'm not going to call the child abuse hotline because its mesira (a Torah law violation that sometimes prohibits one Jew from informing on another Jew to the Government). According to the statute, if the mandated reporter has "reasonable suspicion" of child abuse or mistreatment, you call. You do not screen your suspicion through a third party, who has the power to say, don't call.

Those of us in the community also believe that one of the reasons for the Aguda advice is not simply because they want to screen the evidence. They also want to know the family name of the accused sex abuser. They want to know if he is an Aguda member or friend, and that fact too, will affect the Aguda rabbi's advice on whether to call, or not to call.

Elliot B. Pasik, Esq.
President, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, Inc.
Long Beach, NY