Orthodox Rabbis Lead Fight To Muzzle Alleged Victims Of Abuse

ABC News reports:

Engelman’s is among a handful of publicized cases of alleged abuse within the insular Orthodox Jewish community. But alleged victims and their advocates say it is far from an isolated instance.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office, which last month announced a hotline for alleged Orthodox sex abuse victims, says it has 19 active cases of alleged sex abuse in the borough’s Orthodox Jewish community. And advocates say the problem extends beyond Brooklyn.

"If you’re a pedophile, just go to one of the orthodox communities. You’re probably safest there," said New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, himself an Orthodox Jew. "It’s sad for me to say that, but it’s true."

…The rabbi, Moshe Heinemann, said he did not recall the lawyer admitting what had happened or asking him to leave the community. He declined to discuss the allegations further. Several other Baltimore rabbis declined to discuss the issue of sexual abuse.

"It was really shoved under the rug and ignored. I’m resentful for all that," Weissberg said. "It’s something that people always think it’s not going to happen to my kid. We don’t want to hear about it.

YESHIVA UNIVERSITY RABBI YOSEF BLAU TELLS THE YU COMMENTATOR: "Theoretically, one should not want to try people in newspapers. Newspapers are not objective sources. People can be convicted over media which is unfair. Media is not a trial. It does not necessarily produce accurate results. But having said that, in a practical sense at the present time, the newspapers have proved to be a very effective tool, perhaps a necessary tool, because of the community. Obviously, the problem of abuse is not restricted to any one community; I don’t want to even think that. The Orthodox Jewish community, which is one that is uncomfortable with acknowledging problems in the community, tends to therefore deny the problems. The media has turned out to be, to play a very important role in forcing the community to confront the issues rather than stay in denial. And in very specific situations, the media has been really responsible for something happening. There are specific cases- one well-known case in the Modern Orthodox community was the case of a very prominent, perhaps in many respects, the leading person at NCSY for a quarter of the century, very charismatic and unfortunately also very inappropriate in his behavior with teenage women in one way and in another way with teenage boys, sexual things with the women, kicking the boys in the groin, and nothing was done until a Jewish weekly ran articles. Similar things in the Chareidi community – the community gets angry at the newspapers and thinks they are anti-Orthodoxy. And sometimes, not always, that is true. But it’s also true that if a community does not face the issues, they fester. Since in general (and there are exceptions to every rule) but in general, sexual abusers do not change. They do not get better. Even with treatment, the repeat rate of offense is extremely high. Even if there is a relatively small number of people [who are abusers], if they are not stopped, they can harm tremendous numbers. The examples I mentioned, this person who was a youth leader; there are also examples of teachers in schools, a teacher can affect hundreds and hundreds of kids. In our community, it is very hard, because of the way the community looks at people who have been victimized. There are literally people who think that if this information gets out it will hurt the victims’ families for shidduchim. And the community has not, up until now, faced the issue squarely, so the media is the only way to get attention. Similarly, in New York, more attention was given when an Orthodox assemblyman in New York started commenting about sexual abuse cases on a radio program that he gives. That unfortunately makes it almost a necessity to publicize. Otherwise, these people just go and hide. So the media can play a very important role in dealing with it; it’s important that the media be very responsible in this regard. If they spread stories about someone who is actually innocent, they can destroy someone’s life."

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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