Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The End of Innocence

This week's The Jewish Press has a long article by Shlomo Greenwald on rabbinic sexual abuse (link). Here is an excerpt:

Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Community

We are not immune. The Orthodox community has abusers — sexual predators, wife beaters, child batterers — in its midst. And while many may have once preferred to believe otherwise, growing numbers of Orthodox Jews now seem ready to acknowledge that a problem indeed exists.

If acknowledgment of a problem is half way to a solution, as a psychologist might say, where does the Orthodox community go from here?

“We lack a process,” acknowledged Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva University and a leading advocate for greater communitywide awareness of abuse and assistance for the abused. “Our community doesn’t have a process, that’s the bottom line. If there’s an allegation, how does the yeshiva deal with it? Does the yeshiva know? Does the rosh yeshiva know?”

Rabbi Blau saw little likelihood of a single process being universally accepted in a fragmented Orthodox community, though “in order to have credibility, it needs to be widely accepted,” he said...

Shanda and shidduch concerns may be on the minds of many in the community, but perhaps the greatest obstacles to more Orthodox Jewish abuse victims coming forward are their feelings — as well as their rabbis’ positions — on four halachic issues: mesirah; bringing cases before secular courts; desecrating God’s name; and issues related to lashon hara (evil talk).

All four are intertwined in many ways. Mesirah refers to the rabbinic prohibition against informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities — an act that in criminal cases will invariably lead to the second issue: bringing cases before secular courts.

Rabbi Michael Broyde, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Toco Hills (Atlanta) and a dayan on the Beth Din of America, has written in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society that according to halachic authorities one may inform secular authorities about Jews who are “violent criminals or people whose conduct endangers other people or the community as a whole.”

In a footnote, he quotes from Nishmat Avraham, the encyclopedic work on medical halacha by Dr. Abraham S. Abraham, that according to Rabbis Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Eliezer Waldenberg, one must report cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse. Rabbi Broyde also points out that no alternative opinion is quoted...
Note that an updated version of Rabbi Broyde's article can be found in his recently published The Pursuit of Justice and Jewish Law.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More