May 11, 2012
NYT on sexual abuse and intimidation in Brooklyn’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community
There is nothing new about news of sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. I mentioned a few stories about this in 2009, and last year noted that at the Halacha Conference for Professionals, a rabbi said that before reporting abuse, you must first consult with a rabbi to see if your suspicion is “reasonable.”
The New York Times has followed this story with an incredibly powerful piece. You’ve probably already read it, but I’d be remiss to not share this excerpt:
One example was the case against Joseph Gelbman, after whose arrest a rabbi called the mother of the allegedly abused boy, “asking her to cease her cooperation with the criminal case and, instead, to bring the matter to a rabbinical court under his jurisdiction”.
I can understand why a rabbi would want such allegations to be brought before a rabbinic court. An important part of Jewish tradition is handling legal disputes among their own—after all, it was once wrong for a Jew to bring another Jew into a gentile court.
But times have changed, and beit dins lack the power to criminally punish. Expelling a child molester from the community is not a sufficient remedy. Criminal prosecution is. Today, silence on such matters—and, worse, intimidating victims and witnesses into silence—is certainly not good for the Jews, and is as wrong as dragging a fellow Jew before a gentile court could have ever been.
Read the rest here. And comment below.