London’s Haredi establishment’s reaction to a Channel 4 exposé that aired on Wednesday night was that it’s a slur on their community to suggest it failed to tackle child abuse properly, reports the Jewish Chronicle’s Simon Rocker.
The news show “Dispatches” secretly taped the leader of Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, instructing a man not to go to the police to complain about child abuse he had suffered in Stamford Hill. Rabbi Padwa warned the man that such a complaint would constitute “messira” – informing on a fellow Jew to the gentile authorities.
A Channel 4 spokesman said the show “exposes how the strictly Orthodox community’s approach to child protection can leave children at risk and shield abusers from justice.”
Although “Dispatches” did not actually make the case that child abuse was more prevalent in the Haredi community than elsewhere, the spokesman pointed out that some Haredi rabbis “forbid or discourage alleged victims from going to the police.”
A spokesman for Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, speaking ahead of the broadcast, said the community did all it could to protect its children from “these unspeakable crimes. We may once have thought that our community was immune from such matters. But we now know that we are not.”
He said that the Union has been working closely “with the local authorities and, where appropriate, the police, and we have robust procedures in place within all our schools. Sadly, the local authority has dealt with a number of cases together with us; some have been reported and some — unproven — have not been.”
“Dispatches” interviewed an anonymous Haredi rabbi who was critical of the rabbinate’s record of dealing with sex abuse, describing how a family was driven out of their community after reporting that their child had been sexually abused in a synagogue.
The anonymous rabbi stated: “The police felt there was enough evidence to take out the perpetrator from the middle of the Stamford Hill community in handcuffs. And this is disgraceful, a scandal… most of the community knew about it that night and whoever didn’t, knew about it in synagogue the next morning.”
He said that a short while later, someone “banged on the door” of the family that complained. “The first thing that man said was: ‘Do you know that the whole London community has not slept the whole night because of what you did? And I myself will go and get social services to take away your children.’
“The harassment escalated into cars that would gun their motors and zoom up next to the family if they were out on the street. The synagogues told them, ‘You’re not welcome here any more.’ They would be cursed and spat at in the street and called ‘informer.’ So it becomes hopeless to them and ultimately they leave the country. There’s no question that we do not have the ability to police and deal with perverts, deviants, child molesters. We can’t; it’s above the pay grade of the rabbis.”
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