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Markey 2.0: Improving Legislation to Provide More Gain and Cause Less Pain

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I recently spent some time in California where I spoke to a number of community leaders and attorneys about this matter – and my discussions served to magnify rather than diminish my concerns about Markey 1.0. (In my next column on this topic I will address the issue of collateral damage to our schools and make the case that comparisons between California and New York are flawed.)

The concerns noted above are not insurmountable, but until they are addressed I will continue to vigorously and vocally oppose the Markey legislation as it is currently written regardless of the consequences. I will also strongly encourage my readers to contact their elected officials and inform them that they wish to see the bill amended to offer more protection for our children and to minimize the exposure of our schools to potentially catastrophic litigation.

I have no fear of standing alone. I’ve stood alone in the past when I wrote about at-risk teens, drug/alcohol use, and child abuse. And I am proud to swim against the tide today, firmly yet humbly supporting the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in their stand opposing the Markey Bill in its current form.

We need a far broader approach to abuse prevention with steps taken to immediately protect today’s children from all forms of abuse – school-based or otherwise. We also need to move from the cluster-bomb nature of Markey 1.0 to a laser-guided approach that will reward compliance and reduce the scope of the damages while leaving in place strong laws with real teeth that will protect children from the horrors of abuse.

The old Yiddish expression “Der zate gleibt night der hingiriker,” which expresses the notion that a wealthy person whose belly is full finds it hard to believe the poor man who is soliciting him for a donation to buy food is actually hungry. For all too long many members our community did not believe the abuse victims who were knocking on our doors, starved for our understanding and acknowledgement of their very painful and raw wounds. The incredible ache they are suffering to this very day may be temporarily soothed by the passage of Markey 1.0. But we are really sprinkling small crumbs in their direction since the vast majority of today’s children will remain unprotected by the legislation as currently constituted.

Nothing less than a paradigm shift in our treatment of abuse – one that Markey 2.0 can provide – will signal to them that they are welcome at our tables and will, more than anything else, serve as a small step in apologizing to them for missing the signals and dismissing their cries.

We can work together to immediately craft fair, meaningful, broad-based legislation with input from all involved parties – legislation that finally, after all these years, all the drug overdoses and suicides, after all the shattered lives, make our community a safer place for our children and grandchildren.

About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.

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