Latest update: December 4th, 2012
A further cause for concern is that community rabbis balance a wider range of interests than solely rooting out the guilty and protecting their victims; they have a number of community interests to protect and their concerns about damage control can weigh heavily against the pure pursuit of justice.
In practice, that psak, while a breakthrough in requiring some Jewish pedophiles to be handed over by rabbonim to state authorities, is otherwise not practically helpful in the majority of child abuse cases.
There have been various attempts to create bridging arrangements in order to address the gap between this halachic position and statutory reporting requirements.
In some American Orthodox communities, “task forces” have been established, or are in the process of being established, to liaise between community leadership and state authorities in cases of alleged child abuse.
Here in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, there has been a first-ever meeting between local rabbonim and police and state child-protection services in an effort to improve cooperation on child abuse allegations.
And an increasing number of rabbonim (such as Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Yosef Blau and indeed Rabbi Horowitz) have publicly stated that the standard response to any allegations of child abuse must be to immediately refer to state authorities.
In addition to the strictly law-and-order aspects of reporting abuse to state authorities, doing so enables professional therapists to legally and ethically administer the therapy Rabbi Horowitz and Dr. Twerski have called for. Further, in most states and now in Israel victims of child abuse are entitled to subsidized therapy, making this critical but expensive treatment affordable.
While reporting specific abuse allegations to the police is crucial if we wish to prevent future tragedies, more is required. There needs to be concerted and widespread cooperation with the authorities so that the community can obtain the critical information necessary to effectively monitor and control both suspected and known child abusers.
With the price now so tragically high, saving our children from physical violence and sex abuse must become the Jewish community’s first priority.
About the Author: David Morris is a child protection activist, founder of the SafeKids program, and founder and volunteer chairman of Lema'an Achai, the community social services charity, in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel. He writes at tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com.
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