Orthodox Jews Vs. Child Abuse

The New York Times reports:

For decades, prosecutors in Brooklyn routinely pursued child molesters from every major ethnic and religious segment of the borough’s diverse population. Except one.

Of some 700 child sexual abuse cases brought in an average year, few involved members of the ultra-observant Orthodox Jewish community — about 180,000 followers of Hasidic and other sects who make up the largest such cluster outside Israel.

Some years, there were one or two arrests, or none.

But in the past year, there have been 26. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has brought charges against a variety of men — yeshiva teachers, rabbis, camp counselors, merchants and relatives of children. Eight have been convicted; 18 await trial.

If the sudden spike in prosecutions is startling, even more surprising is the apparent reason: ultra-Orthodox Jews, long forbidden to inform on one another without permission from the rabbis who lead them, are going to the police and prosecutors on their own.

FailedMessiah and TheUnorthodoxJew are cited.

The father of Orthodox therapist Asher Lipner — who is cited in this article — teaches in San Francisco – Rabbi Pinchas Lipner, the founding head and dean of the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy of San Francisco.

Y. Aharon posts on Hirhurim: That last link on the sexual abuse of minors in the Orthodox (Hareidi) community refers to a balanced and informative article in today’s NY Times. The cited comments by Mr Zwiebel of the Agudah and rabbi Fund are revealing, if not outrageous. Mr. Zwiebel would have OJ offenders treated differently than any other criminal, and rabbi Fund professes concern only for the repercussions to the family of the accused molester. We could do well without such spokespeople. If cited accurately, they are part of the problem, not participants in its resolution.

Gil Student responds: I think you are being ungenerous in reading the quotes of Rabbi Zwiebel and Fund. I agree with you that I don’t understand Rabbi Zwiebel’s comment about "religious sensitivites". As presented, it doesn’t make sense to me. But Rabbi Fund is only saying that you have to look at the whole picture, not that you should ignore victims. I think most reasonable people would agree with him.

Oldest Member says: Of course, I don’t want to see OJ breadwinners sent to prison. But their treatment should be no different than Christian breadwinners or atheist breadwinners.

Any other treatment would violate the Equal Protection clause and possibly the Free Exercise clause, and would also be unwise even from a parochially OJ viewpoint.

Joseph Kaplan writes: While R. Fund’s comment is not completely clear, it seems to me that he is saying that victims should consult with rabbis before going to the police because in some instances the rabbis will tell them not to go to the police. If this is, indeed, what he is saying then I hope that most reasonable people will strongly disagree with him (and you). If that’s not what he means, he should clarify his remarks.

Y. Aharon posts: The following is what is cited in that article about the views of Rabbi Fund:

Rabbi Meir Fund, who leads a synagogue known as the Flatbush Minyan, said that child molesters should be prosecuted, but that victims should consult with a rabbi before going to the police. Connections among the haredim are too entangled to discount the damaging ripple effects of accusations on the accused person’s family, Rabbi Fund said – NYTimes

Does the "explanation" cited make any sense? What molestation is at issue? One can and should distinguish between a single pat on the behind or a kiss on the forehead, and genital groping or contact – much less, sodomy. The latter clearly require immediate notification of the police to arrest the perp, whether that perp is a rebbe or rosh yeshiva. The former may initialy require only notification of the employer that such behavior is entirely unacceptable and must be immediately halted under threat of firing. If the employer expresses disbelief or refuses to take action – much less, attacks the accusing parent, then the police are the only option.

It is an essential parental obligation to protect one’s child. There is also a moral obligation to protect others – particularly children. Once convinced of the nature of the offense, the repercussions for the employing institution or the family of the perp should not be a primary concern of the victim’s family or the community.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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