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Molestation Cases Must Be Handled by G’dolim, Not by ‘Experts’

If you’re lucky enough to avoid losing your children, you’re still not home free.

Rabbi William Handler

Rabbi William Handler

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Note from the editor:

Rabbi William Handler is member of The Bris Milah Anti-Defamation League, which endorses metzitzah b’peh. He was also a supporter of Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Weingarten, convicted of molesting his daughter. I’m mentioning these two facts up front, so that they not become the topic of discussion by our readers. Rabbi Handler probably has very little in common with our Zionist, pro-Israel editorial policy, nor does he probably endorse our view that the Internet can be used sanely by educated religious Jews. Yet, when he sent us the following article for publication, I was struck by one important argument he is making which we, as a religious community, should debate:

Do we want the City and State child welfare authorities, as well as the City and State legal systems, to be automatically in charge of cases of child abuse in our community? Rabbi Handler says we don’t—and tries to argue in favor of turning to Gdolei Yisroel to supervise and even try these cases.

Personally, I don’t believe the author is making a successful argument, in light of the colossal failure of our religious leaders to respond, much less supervise and try, in one abuse case after another. But, those failures aside, is Rabbi Handler wrong in proposing that when we invite the secular authorities into our community, we’re doing this to our own detriment? Should we accept that our Gedolim simply will not measure up to this challenge?

We’d like to publish your views on this issue, which has been dividing our community.

I want to warn our Orthodox Jewish community of a new danger: the existence of a clique of pseudo-experts who are working among us in the field of “Criminal Molestation.”

These “experts”—self-styled “helping professionals”— are actively seeking-out people whom they believe to be “molesters,” with the goal of turning them over to the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

This is an enterprise fraught with the most serious dangers for our community.

Anyone can make an accusation of “molestation.” There are usually no witnesses.

So how can anyone determine whether the accusers are telling the truth or making the whole thing up?

Well, say the “experts,” we should assume that the accusation is true, because it’s highly improbable that anyone would make up such a grotesque story; and, in the unlikely event that someone did make up such a story, the “experts” in the district attorney’s office know how to question the accusers to make sure they aren’t lying.

Now, since the whole enterprise revolves around the ehrlichkeit (honesty) of the accusers and the honesty and skill of the district attorney, it is reasonable to ask a couple of poignant questions:

1. Is the accuser really telling the truth, or is he a skilled liar, who seeks to settle a score with the accused, gain custody of children in a divorce case, or just plain do harm to someone for any reason at all?

2. Do prosecutors always do their job properly; do they always seek justice?

Those of you who have followed the Sholom Rubashkin case closely, know that prosecutors don’t necessarily care about the truth—often, their actions are based on political considerations, or they just want to show another successful conviction on their resume, and they’re willing to get it by any means necessary, legitimate or otherwise.

Those of you who may have had the occasion to get entangled with NY City’s ACS/DCP (Administration for Children’s Services / Division of Child Protection) will understand what I mean when I speak of the dangers of getting entangled in a Kafkaesque government bureaucracy.

Perhaps your baby spilled some hot tea on his hand and got a serious burn. You call Hatzoloh, and the ambulance speeds your screaming child to the hospital emergency room. (NOTE: this is a true story, it happened exactly as I’m describing it)

Before your child is even treated for his condition, and while he is still screaming in pain, the emergency room staff will insist that you submit to an interview with a social worker, who will try to determine whether you were guilty of child neglect.

This procedure is mandated by City law. As “mandated reporters,” emergency room staff are required to report any suspicious indications of child neglect or abuse (as are other government licensed professionals, like psychiatrists and doctors).

Please remember, the social worker gets paid to find cases of child neglect. If she does not find any cases, there is no justification for the existence of her agency, no justification for paying her salary and benefits. So, she has a clear bias in favor of seeking something—anything—that would justify a finding of “child neglect.”

The social worker’s report is sent to ACS/DCP.

Shortly thereafter, you will be visited by ACS workers, who will appear at your home suddenly—often in the middle of the night—to conduct interviews with your small children in an attempt to discover and document “child neglect.”

Each child will be interviewed individually, in a van parked outside your home. You will not be permitted to be present at these interviews. Any silly or indiscreet statement by your innocent child may be accepted as documented evidence of “child neglect.”

If your child mentions any behavior that the City defines as “child neglect,” slapping, yelling, etc., ACS may, at their discretion, haul you into Family Court and petition the court for the removal of ALL of your children from your home to live with foster parents.

You will have to spend a fortune on lawyers.

If you’re lucky enough to avoid losing your children, you’re still not home free. The law gives ACS up to an additional 60 days to continue their investigation of your family.

ACS will now send a “field worker” to your home to conduct “surveillance,” to observe how you interact with your family. The worker will note everything you do on her clipboard. This officious busybody will visit with you for hours upon hours, getting on your nerves, as you attempt to take care of your family. You must be extremely careful about what you say and do in front of her.

I’m sure most mothers with large families will agree that this is a nightmare scenario. However, it is something that is going on in our community right now. Just ask your friends and neighbors. As I said, I have witnessed it personally.

Now, if this is the way the City’s “professionals” abuse decent Jewish parents whose only crime was that their child accidentally spilled some hot tea on his hand, imagine how “compassionately” they treat someone who has been accused of the much more serious crime of molestation.

Do you really think the prosecutors are going to treat anyone accused of molestation fairly? Do you really believe they are going to assume that he is innocent until proven guilty?

God forbid that I should in any way minimize that great pain and the terrible damage that is inflicted on innocents by even one molester in our community. There definitely are such people in our midst, and we must take action to stop them.

But involving the cumbersome, insensitive, and largely incompetent government apparatus in the internal problems of our community can only result in even more terrible tragedies, chas v’sholom.

It borders on Mesirah (turning in a fellow Jew), and it is virtually certain that it will result in many innocent people going to jail for years and years, destroying their lives and the lives of their families and children.

I know that there have been complaints that rabbis have declined to take action when accusations of molestation have been presented to them. I have already discussed the conundrum they face earlier in this article—should they take action on the say-so of a single person, who may have malicious intent to harm the accused.

The Talmud tells us that “He who is not an expert in the laws of marriage and divorce should stay out of the picture, lest he increase the number of illegitimate mamzeirim in Klal Yisroel.”—only gedolei Yisroel—true experts—have the competence to rule in these matters.

The truth of the matter is that a situation this serious does not belong to your average rabbi, no matter how sincere and pious he may be. It must be refereed to our top Torah leadership, just as the question of Internet use was.

Only our gedolei Yisroel have the siyata d’shmaya (Divine help) necessary to guide us on the proper course of action in these painful and perplexing situations.

Can we settle for anything less in matters of pikuach nefesh (life and death)?

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92 Responses to “Molestation Cases Must Be Handled by G’dolim, Not by ‘Experts’”

  1. Eli Mandel says:

    You start out by putting quotation marks around the words "experts" and calling professionals "self-styled professionals" and you end the piece by saying that true gedolei yisroel are competent to handle the issue.
    Um, you never made an argument as to why professionals aren't professionals, and why gedolei yisroel are.

    More substantively though; you misrepresent the legal standing upon which cases of child molestation are built, which undermines your assertion that: 1. the legal system isn't capable of handing these cases and, 2. that gedolei yisroel are.
    1. You say that there are usually no witnesses.

    2. You say the believability of molestation cases is predicated solely on the ehrlichkeit of the accuser.

    3. You insinuate that the experts in the DAs office don't know how to question victims and even if they do, they have every motivation to prosecute anyways so we shouldn't trust them.

    All three are distortions.

    1. While there may not be eyewitnesses, there is evidence, and that is only a problem in bais din, not in court. Which means that it's actually better for victims and the rest of the community when these cases are tried in court rather than by halachic standards.

    2. Simply false. Learn more about the justice system.

    3. First; there are procedures the police and prosecutors have to follow when questioning victims, if they don't follow them they invalidate the case. Second; while they may be motivated to have a case, they can also lose face and get into big trouble if they create a case where there is none, prosecutors have lost their jobs over this kind of thing.

    Ultimately though, if you think the legal system suffers from these problems; you certainly haven't made the case that gedolei yisroel don't suffer from the same problems.
    If they don't suffer from no. 3, they certainly suffer from the opposite; they have every motivation to not pursue cases of molestation.

  2. Eli Mandel says:

    Hannah Stone-Shapiro, Chanie Friedman, Rachmuna Litzlon, Abe Weiss, Elliot B. Pasik, Mark Meyer Appel,

  3. Eli Mandel says:

    Yerachmiel Lopin, Eliyahu Fink, let's go! Sock it to this guy, the audience of The Jewish Press needs to be educated.

  4. בן וקסמן says:

    perhaps the rabbi would like the gedolim to handle cardiac surgery as well? I mean, do you really want some secular professional with hands in your body?

  5. Charlie Hall says:

    "Do we want the City and State child welfare authorities, as well as the City and State legal systems, to be automatically in charge of cases of child abuse in our community".

    In a word, yes. There is not a single beit din in America that has the ability to compel witnesses to testify or to collect evidence, not to mention the ability to conduct a proper forensic investigation. The net result of this policy is to protect abusers from any consequences. Furthermore, by prohibiting reporting of abuse, it makes otherwise law-abiding Jews into lawbreakers.

    Attitudes like the one expressed in this essay will lead the Orthodox rabbinate down the same road that the Catholic Church has gone. For good reason the Church is now a laughingstock when it tries to speak out on sexual and moral issues.

  6. The whole article is a trojan horse for an attack on those who do not call the police.

  7. Yossie Bloch says:

    There's only one reason to oppose going to the authorities, and that is to help abusers.

  8. I agree with the first paragraph:
    "I want to warn our Orthodox Jewish community of a new danger: the existence of a clique of pseudo-experts who are working among us in the field of “Criminal Molestation.”".
    Pseudo-experts like the author of this piece make every excuse in the book for the absolute failure by the Rabbis and Frum leadership to deal with the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the Frum community. I'd like to ask this chuchum whom he'd call if someone were breaking into his house? What about if his house were on fire? Whom does he call when his child is sick? Does he call a Dayan, or does he call a doctor?
    I would go on refuting every word of this disgusting vile piece of trash, but I have to go puke.

  9. excerpts of the Tshuvas H’Rashba, quoted by the Bait Yosef (Yosef Karo) in Choshen Mishpat 386.

    These words (all of Hilchos Aidus) were only said when there exists Sanhedrin, mandated as such by the Torah. However, with the law of the land we disregard all these Halachas (Hilchos Aidus), for their laws, (Dina D’malchusa), are a means to seek out the truth, and they (the defendants) are punished according to the law of the land. (This is true) even with witnesses that are relatives, even when the defendant incriminates himself, even without a warning (withou hasra’a), for their laws are a means to seek out the truth. For if you don’t say so, but you’d rather uphold all the laws of the land according to the standards of the Torah when a Sanhedrin exists, the world would be destroyed; for the deceitful and their cohorts would spread (exponentially)…And even greater (than this example) we find that R’ Eliezar son of R’ Shimon captured and jailed (Jewish thieves) and punished them…So this definitely proves what I have previously said…, for a king with the way he structures the laws upholds the land.

    This ruling applies to 103 year sentences, even to capital punishment. The above ruling by the Rashbah is cited by Maran Elyashiv, ZT”L in his ruling authorizing reporting molesters to the civil authorities because they are rodfim (murderous pursuers who may be killed in self defense).

    I am continually amazed by people lie Hillel Handler who misquotes halachah but ignore this basic fact of Jewish jurisprudence. Dinah dimalchusah dinah is not just a slogan. It has halachic teeth.

    Weberman defenders are caterwauling about the jury’s guilty verdict and the judge’s sentence. Weberman was convicted by a court which applied U. S. and New York State rules of evidence. If you think the rules of evidence are poorly chosen, lobby for changes in the law. If you think the rules of evidence were incorrectly applied in Weberman’s trial, pay for his appeal. Appellate courts will overturn a jury verdict if a judge misapplied the rules of evidence. But please stop complaining about one female witness, etc.

    William (Hillel) Handler, none of us will forget how on the Zev Brenner you were mevazer baal habatim and women who with pain talked about the horrors, the depraved horrors they knew about Yisroel Moshe Weingarten. You were not defending him because he was erlich, just because he happened to share your neturei karta views. This, even though prominent chasidish eidah endorsing rabbonim had condemened Weingarten. Among those choshuv rabbonim, as you know was Rav Wosner, Rav Yechezkel Gold (retired Satmar dayan of Monsey) and Rav Chaim Leibish Rottenberg.

    To know what pain and havoc Rabbi Handler provokes, read, http://wp.me/pFbfD-uM.

  10. Fred MacDowell says:

    You can tell he doesn't have a yiddishe heart what with his nochrishe name. Vayavo Yaakov SHaLeM. Sheim, Lashon, Malbush. This yid thinks two out of three is going to get him into yemos hamoshiach? "Rabbi" "William" indeed.

  11. Fred MacDowell says:

    Wait, one out of three. The article is in Aynglische.

  12. Jordan Hirsch says:

    It is a truism to assume that government social services agencies are incompetent and full of self serving hacks. But even were that so, it is impossible to imagine that they are going to do a worse job than the Rabbinical leaders of the community. Besides, it's a moot point. Not only are the Rabbis unqualified by virtue of their credentials, they have proven themselves incapable of any level of honesty in these cases. And when one comes along like Rabbi Blau, everything is done to marginalized him in his own institution.
    There is a rot at the heart of our Rabbinic leadership, and we just have to admit it, recognize that facility with a Tosafos and a Rashba does nothing to make you a better person, much less an expert in anything other than the abstruse details of a 2000 year old legal tradition that still spoke of ghosts and demons as real things.

  13. Mark Pelta says:

    "Should we accept that our Gedolim simply will not measure up to this challenge?"
    No, clearly, they've handled this issue very well. Rav Scheinberg handled the Kolko case brilliantly. The rabbis shouldn't have defended any abuse victims and been silent when the frummies raised money for guilty molesters, as they have been. The best way to handle abuse allegations is to give them to gedolim, because they've just so successfully handled this issue. Really. Remember the last abuser they made sure was never heard from in the community again?

    /sarcasm. What's wrong with you people? And why's it so far mostly OTD people in the comments taking issue with this reasoning? It's time for frum people to put up or shut up. If you don't agree with this author, you should speak out. Tzedek tzedek tirdof, amiright?

  14. Eliyahu Fink says:

    Can the author of this article point to one case where an abuse victim went to "the Gedolim" and the case was handled properly? Ever?

  15. nachlaot pedophile scandal, the largest ever in israel. 150 of my neighbours, haradim mostly children, so a few of us were talking to the media about it, including some haradim , mostly mothers, it was on all the media outlets here at the time.

    some rabbinim got together to defend the perverts of course, and claim how innocent they were, that was after the attack of a woman known to be deeply involved in this mess. only then the rabbinim spoke out as this woman has protection from big corrupt rabbinim here.

    so they said in their wisdom, god help us all, that we need to ask permission before we go to the media, huh, and that they investigated the case and where happy to announce it was not true. huh?

    and the worst sentance after calling the children liars, was like this. the children are not innocent.

    the children are not innocent. the lying scummy rabbinim defend perverts and rapes of babies and say the children are not innocent.

    how dare they?

    these perverts and their helpers should be put into a lions den for divine justice, and I don't expect that they will get a daniel pass.

  16. as I said. My Chabad Rabbi in Israel says to people who call him about pedophiles. "Why are you on the phone to me. Call the police!" some do care. Sadly it is only a few

  17. sadly too, police and social services so often let us down even more than the chareidim

  18. Cookie Jar says:

    Funny how this dude bandies about the term "pseudo-experts" without a trace of irony.

  19. Daniel Rogoff says:

    "Only our gedolei Yisroel have the siyata d’shmaya (Divine help) necessary to guide us on the proper course of action in these painful and perplexing situations."

    See, this is open and shut. No, they don't. That's been uncontroversially proven every time a molestation case hits the news, and we hear about the coverups and the lack of repurcussions. This author's attempts to depict a nightmare scenario, while fairly humorous and not at all realistic, all rely on this belief in a better alternative, which as noted, has been comprehensively proven false every time it was called into question.

  20. Mara Stein says:

    I am deeply disturbed by the baldfaced assertion that it is OPTIONAL to report a possible crime to the authorities in the country in which you live.

    The assertion that social workers make money based on how often they report cases of alleged abuse is, frankly, idiotic, and reflects a deep lack of understanding of the nature of child protective services in this country.

    If you have this level of distrust in the government, move somewhere else. If you are unhappy with the process or the laws, lobby, vote, or become involved in the agencies that administer the law. The system is, far, far from perfect. But it is based on research, clinical knowledge and vast experience–none of which, alas, is shared by or acknowledged by the rabbinate.

    The arrogance, profound lack of understanding of the dynamics of child sexual abuse, and the flagrant disregard for child safety displayed here is both enraging and nauseating.

  21. Mara Stein says:

    Also, it's the LAW. This is not optional. Yes, I know about the assertions of "mesira." Time to move on from that; it's been argued to death and clearly does not apply in this country, and certainly not for these issues. It's an excuse to reenact the abuse dynamics over and over again.

  22. "It must be refereed to our top Torah leadership, just as the question of Internet use was. only gedolei Yisroel—true experts—have the competence to rule in these matters." In this he is 100% correct. The "Gedolai Yisroel" know as much about the internet as they do about molestation.

  23. Mara Stein says:

    Yup. See above.

  24. Mara Stein says:

    Exactly. This is why there is a state system that is meant to protect children in an objective/unbiased fashion (as best as big, cumbersome systems can… imperfectly). There is too much investment within any system (family, community, etc.) to deny, protect — in short, reenact the abuse dynamic over and over and over again. It's nauseating and infuriating.

  25. I think the kids are less afraid then the grown-ups!

  26. Neal Lehrman says:

    seems totally acceptable to me.

  27. Neal Lehrman says:

    hmm…. listen if the kid was white and the molester was african american, hispanic etc then i would understand.. these guys have to take a bechina in taaruvos

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