Orthodox Jews and Catholics

Q. What do Orthodox Jews and  Roman Catholics have in common besides their shared history and mythology?

A. A view of the organization as being more important than the victims of child abuse.

Jewish Daily Forward reports

One of America’s leading ultra-Orthodox groups has reaffirmed that its followers must consult a rabbi before going to law enforcement authorities with suspicions of sexual abuse committed by community members.

In the US, as in Canada most jurisdictions have laws that require the suspicion of child abuse be reported to secular authorities. This however, does not interfere with their notion that religion is above secular law.

At the daylong “Halacha Conference for Professionals,” held in Brooklyn on May 15, speakers elaborated on a recent ruling by Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, one of ultra-Orthodoxy’s foremost authorities on Jewish religious law, or Halacha. Elyashiv recently decreed that Jews with reasonable suspicions that a case of sexual abuse has occurred are permitted to go to secular law enforcement authorities, notwithstanding traditional religious prohibitions against mesirah, or informing on fellow Jews.

But at a panel discussion titled “Molestation Issues and Reporting: Current Halachic Thinking,” the panel’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, cautioned that Elyashiv nhttps://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpever explained what constitutes “reasonable suspicion.” To establish this, Gottesman said, a person should consult a rabbi “who has experience in these issues” before going to secular authorities….

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president, told the conference that even mandated reporters — teachers, social workers and people in certain other professions who are required by law to promptly report any suspected cases of sexual abuse — should consult a rabbi before going to the police.

It is easy to understand the reluctance of Jews to inform on other Jews, since through most of the history of Christendom, the authorities did not need much of an excuse to attack a Jew.

This is not a debate about hypothetical issues either.

In several recent high-profile instances, young victims of sexual abuse were repeatedly ignored by rabbis to whom they turned for help regarding perpetrators, including staff at yeshivas and children’s camps, only to have secular courts ultimately find those adults guilty of abuse. In one case, during the September 2009 sentencing of a 31-year-old bar mitzvah tutor for sexually abusing two boys, New York State Supreme Court Judge Gustin Reichbach lashed out at the Orthodox community for “a communal attitude that seems to impose greater opprobrium on the victims than the perpetrator.” He termed the role played by rabbinic courts in particular “inappropriate,” saying that these courts were “incapable” of dealing with criminal matters.

There is no excuse for placing the comfort zone of religious organizations above the law of the land. The priests and rabbis who come from an organizational culture of privilege and secrecy have shown time and time again that they will close ranks and protect their own.

Imagine the outcry if such a discussion were to be held at a physicians’ or teachers’ professional development day.  Religious organizations have demonstrated that they are incapable of evaluating their culpability in instances where their own interests conflict with those of society at large.  It is long past time we stopped giving them any sort of special treatment or even respect.


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