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Dealing With Abuse: A Proposal

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The bet din would not list the guideline that was violated in its decision. Obviously, a short suspension or loss of pay would not necessarily become grist for the Orthodox rumor mill. If, however, the disposition was dismissal with the recommendation that the accused not be hired by any other Jewish institution, the name of the accused and the disposition would be made public.

Not listing the guideline(s) the accused violated would serve the following purpose: If the accused believed his rights were violated by the bet din, he would have to commence an action in the secular courts where he — not the bet din — would have to state in some manner what he was accused of and why the disposition was improper. I doubt most accused parties would put themselves in the position of having to make this information public.

In addition, the bet din, unburdened by rules of evidence or the constitutional right of an accused to confront an accuser, could conduct its hearings with much more sensitivity to both the victim and the accused than if the matter were handled in the civil courts. The bet din would not be a public forum where everyone’s identity could be exposed.

There have been many recommendations about how to protect our children. I do not believe fingerprint checks of teachers and camp counselors are useful. If the problem is that the abusers have not been reported to the authorities by our community, it is highly doubtful that fingerprints would indicate there was anything in the person’s background to make him suspect.

I also believe it is the duty of all parents, prior to and during the school year and at the beginning of the camp season, to have age-appropriate discussions with their children about the right to personal privacy and the difference between proper and improper touching.

I am not very confident that efforts to weed out abusers already in our system will be successful. Child victims who have not come forward will unlikely do so until they become adults, and I believe that in most cases parents of younger children who have come forward will in the end not permit them to be subjected to the criminal or civil justice system. I believe that if we wish to police ourselves in order to protect our children we can do so, but we must be honest about the realities of life in 21st-century America.

We are a holy nation and can remain so only if we take steps to protect our children from the predators who live and work among us.

About the Author: Shlomo Z. Mostofsky is a civil court judge in Brooklyn. He served as president of the National Council of Young Israel between 2000 and 2011.

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