Sunday, October 18, 2009

Letter to the Forward by Rabbi Kletenik

October 16, 2009
To the Editor of The Forward:

I am writing this letter to set the record straight and to correct any misimpressions that may arise from a quote attributed to me in the article "Rabbis Still Want Role In Sex Abuse Cases" by Josh Nathan-Kazis (link). The quote is out of context and therefore may be totally misconstrued. In my conversation with the reporter, I emphasized that in cases of allegations of sexual abuse "protecting the victim is of paramount importance." I also spoke of special Batei Din or Rabbinical Courts, which exist in some communities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, in which rabbis work together with appropriate professionals, including psychologists, social workers and legal counsel, who are equipped to deal with such cases.

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In response to a question as to the value of such special Batei Din, I explained that they assure that the appropriate steps be taken internally within the Jewish community, such as immediate suspension of someone who is working at a school, until the matter is clarified. They also follow up to assure that any steps mandated by the civil court, such as therapy, are in fact pursued. In addition, they afford the opportunity to investigate allegations, and if there is any hint of substance, to immediately refer the case to appropriate government authorities. Unfortunately, most Jewish communities do not yet have the benefit of such special religious courts. In the absence of such a court, suspicion of abuse, especially as related to minors, must immediately be reported to the appropriate governmental agencies for action to protect any potential victims. This is consistent with resolutions and policies of the Rabbinical Council of America concerning such issues.

I again emphasize that protecting potential victims is of the utmost importance, and all necessary steps must be taken immediately. I invite readers to visit the website of the Rabbinical Council of America at for statements of policy concerning allegations of abuse including clergy abuse.

Rabbi Moshe Kletenik

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