A note from the Editor:
On Sunday we published an article by Rabbi William Handler, warning against automatically turning over cases of suspected child abuse to the authorities, where he argues that said authorities had been incompetent at handling these cases and, in fact, had a vested interest in spotting abuse where there may be none.
The discussion of that article has been exemplary in terms of the civility and seriousness of the comments. Not one reader agreed with the author’s opinion, and still the discussion was—and is—being conducted among adults, who are able to distinguish between message and messenger. It made me proud to serve our readers.
Since we encouraged response articles, we received a few, which we’re in the process of processing, so to speak (line editor, heal thyself?). The one you’ve clicked to, was submitted by Moshe Handler (no idea if the two authors are related) who hosts a weekly talk show at jewishtalkradio.com.
Interestingly, while this author rebukes the yeshiva system for shuffling their “perv” rebbes from one location to another, his recommendation is to improve and enhance the yeshivas’ ability to dig up their bad apples, rather than to turn abuse cases to the authorities. To be fair, he was focusing on the failures of the system, but it is interesting that calling in outside agencies is not part of his solution.
Your submitted articles are welcome, and I urge everyone to continue and maintain the civil conduct which have become synonymous with The Jewish Press online.
Too many Jewish Rabbis and institutions turn a blind eye towards child abuse even when it’s obvious that it’s occurred. I know this from experience not opinion.
When I was a young counselor working in Camp Kol Ree Nah (a great camp run by Rabbi Yaakov Greenwald), I was warned that on my days off, when I would visit another popular camp, I should stay away from its head counselor who was a known child abuser. Remarkably, even though it was virtually public knowledge that this man was a creep who should have never been allowed near children, he was not exposed until more than thirty years had passed and parents complained about his behavior around their children.
Just last week, that same Rabbi’s nephew admitted his guilt in court as a child molester in a Lakewood Yeshiva. The Sunday before his admission, a very prominent rabbi released a public letter declaring that he investigated the case and declared Rabbi Yosef Kolko to be 100% innocent. Even more, he accused the parents of the child of being the actual molesters and of trying to get Rabbi Kolko in trouble to cover up their misdeeds.
I understand how it is that good people cannot accept the evil and sick deeds that are done by some in our community. When you yourself are a good person you think of others as good. Unfortunately, in real life defending creeps without investigating the facts is a dangerous road to travel. When the creeps are not punished and are actually defended, you are not doing anyone a favor. Worse, these people will molest others and those victims may be damaged for life. For the sake of these victims, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Rabbi Kolko used to be a rebbe in a much respected Yeshiva in Brooklyn. When his true character came to light, they got rid of the problem by promising him a letter of recommendation if he would resign. That’s how he got to be a rebbe in Lakewood. This case is not an exception. I know of many yeshivot that shifted their problems this way.
It’s sort of like a game we used to play called “Bomb.” You would wind up a Plastic “bomb” and it would start ticking. The game players would stand in a circle and keep throwing the toy bomb to one another. If you dropped the bomb or if the bell would go off while it was in your hands, you lost the game. The yeshivot are, unfortunately, busy protecting their reputations by playing “bomb” with dangerous, live pervert rebbes who are destructive even when they are still ticking. But they quickly pass these rebbes around before it is revealed they have such a person on their staff.
It’s time for yeshivot to stop the game of Bomb and start playing Whack-a-Mole. Get rid of the rebbes who are perverts right away. Notify every other Yeshiva to stay away from these guys, so that no more children have to suffer.
Our community leaders need to appoint a group of Rabbis who would be trained to recognize true child molestation cases. If a child molester is revealed, he must be kept away from children immediately. If there is unquestionable evidence of guilt, let the molester rot in jail. I must remind the reader that if a man sets out to murder you, you are allowed to stop him by any means necessary. That’s Halacha.
More important, we have to take steps never to allow abuse to happen in the first place. When I worked in Camp Kol Ree Nah, I was amazed that every single bunk had no doors. They were removed to prevent any immoral incidents. Bravo to Rabbi Yaakov Greenwald for recognizing the potential problem and doing everything in his power to protect the kids.
We must acknowledge that the problem exists and that we have to keep our kids away from rebbes who are perverts. Not to do so is an insult to the vast majority of rebbes who are dedicated to the welfare of their kids. Our leaders must lead by showing a zero tolerance policy to those who think our children are personal playthings. A leader’s job is to stand up and protect our future no matter how uncomfortable that may feel.Moshe Handler
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