Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools Publicize Their Official Policy on Dealing With Sexual Abuse: Sexual Abuse Cases Must Be Reported to Rabbis
Following the lead of the Catholic Church's failed policies on dealing with sexual abuse, lay leaders of Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, instructed Orthodox Jewish professionals not to report incidents of child sexual abuse perpetrated by Orthodox Jews directly to law enforcement. In a surprisingly frank challenge to an opinion issued by respected Jewish law decisor, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv that directs Orthodox Jews in America to report incidents of sexual abuse directly to law enforcement, Ronald Gottesman, a board member of Torah Umesorah, and David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, instructed Orthodox Jewish professionals that cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by Orthodox Jews may not be reported directly to law enforcement but instead must be reported to rabbis. These instructions were given at a CLE conference sponsored by Agudath Israel. Notably, both Gottesman and Zwiebel are attorneys. Click here to listen to a recording of the Agudah CLE conference.
This position seems to be in direct contradiction to Zwiebel's statement to the New York Times in an October 13, 2009 article regarding rabbinic involvement in the issue of child sexual abuse. At the time, Zwiebel told the Times that, "A broad consensus has emerged in the last few years that many of these issues are beyond the ability of the community to handle internally."
The Jewish Daily Forward published an article in this week's paper that covers the story. Read the full article here.
Blogger Shmarya Rosenberg offers useful insight in a post published on his blog, Failed Messiah. Read the full post here.
SFJ believes that Agudath Israel's policy of not reporting abuse to law enforcement is a violation of the law of many states and likely exposes those who report abuse to rabbis to criminal charges of Obstruction of Justice. At the very least, professionals who follow the directive of Agudath Israel's leaders are subject to losing their license to practice.
Agudath Israel of America's annual dinner is taking place this Sunday May 29, 2011 from 4:00pm until 10:00pm at the New York Hilton, 1335 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue), between West 53rd and West 54th Streets.
We call upon supporters of Agudas Yisroel who will be attending this year's annual dinner to join advocates, concerned citizens and the media in a peaceful expression of outrage. (Click here for directions to the New York Hilton.) The Agudah relies heavily upon its members for financial and political support. Your voices matter, so please express your feelings at the annual dinner this Sunday. We ask that you respectfully demand that Agudah's leadership issue an immediate retraction of this dangerous and unlawful directive and that you withhold your support of the Agudah until they comply.
If there's one thing we have learned since 2005 it is that individuals within our community can make a difference. Please do your part.
In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
Established halacha (Jewish Law) places a pedophile in the category of rodef (an imminent threat), in part due to a recidivism rate well in excess of 50-percent. In his 2004 psak (ruling) on this issue, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv writes that one should report those who sexually abuse children directly to the police and that doing so is of benefit to society. Click here to read a partial translation of this ruling.