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Sunday, May 22, 2011




 listened in dismay to R' Shlomo Gottesman's presentation of halachic issues of child abuse. He picked a very narrow perspective in answering the question of whether halacha allows going to the police to report abuse. The presentation involved snippets from the collection of teshuvos found in volume 15 of Yeshurun. He concluded that it was in fact permitted to go to the police but only if a rabbi had established that there was some - deliberately vague - level of evidence  called raglayim ledavar and that this was for tikun olam (improvement to society). It was asserted that both these conditions could only be determined by a rabbi. In other words one risked being guilty of mesira (informing) and thus lose olam habah if reporting was done directly without first consulting a rabbi. Thus the focus  of his presentation was on preserving rabbinic authority in abuse cases when the rabbi is not capable of dealing with it and the police need to be involved.

He also claimed that requiring a rabbi  to decide whether abuse could be reported did not violate mandated reporting laws.  . He did not say how this is possible but just asked the audience to trust him that it was possible to reconcile the mandated reporting requirement to report abuse and the requirement to allow a rabbi to decide whether abuse is to be reported. It is astounding that he so glibly stated this since he is a very competent lawyer and presumably knows that this is very problematic and that he is unlikely to find any judge or secular social agency to agree with him. He also claimed that there was no need to utilize the concept of rodef  (self-protection) since a rabbi could decide on calling the police by tikun olam alone. That is strange since the concept of rodef is a significant factor even in the teshuvos of the gedolim that he was citing. Why would the gedolim utilize this concept if it wasn't necessary?

So what was really wrong with what he said? The fact is that by entirely focusing on the assertion that permission must first be gotten from a rabbi before contacting the police  - he avoided dealing with the complexity of the  issue of abuse as it happens in the Orthodox community. He obviously felt this was not of general interest but as he put it, this is what an individual needs to speak privately with a rabbi because each case is different.

Unfortunately he squandered an important opportunity. What he should have done was to ask a different question. Not under what conditions is calling the police mesira - but the real question is what does the Orthodox community need to do to protect the children? He failed to note that there are clearly times when a rabbi does not need to be consulted and that furthermore there are clearly times when a rabbi who says not to report should be ignored. He failed to address the more important issue of whether going to the police without community involvement and with pressure on parents not to file a complaint is really protecting the children. He failed to address the fear of reporting because of shidduchim and the danger that a child will be kicked out of school if he/she is found to have been abused. He failed to note that the Aguda has insisted that the financial well being of its institutions are more important than the welfare of the children. That cover ups to protect reputations of rabbis come before the sanity and safety of our children.

But perhaps his biggest failure was to address the betrayal of the abuse victims by the rabbis and community and the severe psychological &  religious damage this betrayal causes. It is commonly observed by those who work with off the derech children that most of these children have been abused.

So yes - there is a legitimate halachic problem of how to deal with mesira - but in reality the issue of abuse is not primarily about how to preserve rabbinic authority - but how to protect our children.


  1. With all due respect this should only be taken as a thought.

    It is clear that on Shabbos it is permissable to be Mechallel Shabbos if a life is in jeopardy. If there is no reputably plan to protect a child like there is a Hatzolah how could anyone wait even one second longer then necessary to protect the next child, who could be being abused at any given moment?

    Oh I failed to clarify if G-d forbid someone does pass away it effects family and the loss of positive Torah teaching ends. In the case of these abuses it also effects family, their abusers teaching unfortunately doesn't stop, and isn't that where the police come in? What do we as a community have to offer?

  2. Tommy the facts are clear,they just can not agree on this issue.i am also very aware and pleased that many in the moetzes agree with us but are getting resistance from the other rabbonim.i hope that this issue will soon be resolved with clarity.the holy gadol hador Harav eliyashiv Shlita the godol hador from israel are in total disagreement with agudas position and therfore HE refuses to answer their silly questions.rav eliyashav is tzadik and does not not want to go to war with the american rabbonim from aguda over this.

  3. Harav Eliyashiv Shlita doesn't have to go to war, he could argue the Torah principle guiding what the Right Thing to do is. It would be a debate over what the Torah is trying to teach us.

  4. The biggest issue here which no one is addressing is that the Agudah is Nogeah B'davar and they are protecting themselves as well as their counterparts. Lets NOT forget that one of the most famous molesters in or midsts Yudi Kolko was caught in Camp Agudah before he even started at Torah Temimah. He could have been stopped before he began his reign of terror and that is the Agudah's achrius that they are hiding and covering up. And they continued to cover up for each and every molester that was brought to their attention. Moshe Eisemann from Ner Yisroel sits on the Vaad of the Moetzes Hagedolim and he too has been a chronic molester for years. The Rosh Yeshiva and administrators of Ner Yisroel as well as the Agudah have been covering up for him for decades as he continued to destroy one bachur after another.

    If we continue to listen to the likes of the Agudah and Ohel there is no hope for our youth in the future. They have controlled the issue to the point of the abused cycling into abusers from generation to generation. When and how will this end? If we don't follow Rav Eliyashuv's psak and make the tikun Olam that we are required to do we are taking part in the destruction of our own future generations.