Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NY Times Article on Abuse in Frum Communities

(Hat tip: Harry-er) Good piece in the New York Times on sexual abuse (particularly of children) in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Of some 700 child sexual abuse cases brought in an average year, few involved members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — about 180,000 followers of Hasidic and other sects who make up the largest such cluster outside Israel. Some years, there were one or two arrests, or none.

But in the past year, there have been 26. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has brought charges against a variety of men — yeshiva teachers, rabbis, camp counselors, merchants and relatives of children. Eight have been convicted; 18 await trial.

If the sudden spike in prosecutions is startling, even more surprising is the apparent reason: ultra-Orthodox Jews, long forbidden to inform on one another without permission from the rabbis who lead them, are going to the police and prosecutors on their own.

[...] Now, a growing number of haredi Jews in Brooklyn say they do not think they can get justice from the rabbinical courts, which in several high-profile cases have exonerated people who were later criminally convicted of child abuse.
One of the best aspects of this is that it forces Batei Dinin to shape up their own approach to handling issues - if they aren't handling things properly, then people will simply go to the local or federal authorities who will. Hopefully, this will encourage Batei Dinin to take a more responsible approach to various issues within the community.


  1. This article makes me both sad and angry for various reasons:
    - why does abuse exist in our community? what does this say of the morals and religiosity of members of our community?
    - why don't the Rabbis own up to their responsibilities in prosecuting abusers?
    - why does this have to make news headlines? it feels like just another thing that haters will have against us.

  2. Maidel, abuse in the Orthodox community makes me sad and angry, too. Abusers cannot possibly call themselves frum. The Torah is moral. People who truly follow the Torah ought to be moral, too.

    Whatever, no point in going on about it, that would be preaching to the choir.

  3. I think the problem is, as the article stated and as can be seen in the Kolko case, even when people were going to the DA in NY somehow the abuser was still getting the upper hand. Abuse is a problem in our community and it is unfortunate that there are STILL SOME who feel it should be swept under the carpet. I have no problem with the problem being brought to light in the headlines, maybe this will get more people to own up to the fact that the problem STILL exists and STILL needs to be dealt with. the abusers are sick and need to be dealt with not protected by the leadership of the community. It is about time parents started going directly to the authorities and stopped trying to keep this problem "within the community" because it has been proven time and again that that does not work and only makes the problem worse.

  4. This article has an upside and a downside. On the upside, it might empower victims of abuse to come forward and receive therapy, as well as remove perpetrators from circulation, preventing further abuse.
    On the's not only depressing that our fellow Jews have suffered/continue to suffer, but the story makes Jews look isolationist and repressive, and even makes the "God of the Jews" look bad. A classic chillul Hashem.

  5. >The Torah is moral.

    I'd love to know where you get that from.

  6. Maidel asks:

    "- why does abuse exist in our community? what does this say of the morals and religiosity of members of our community?"

    I think Rabbi Horowitz has the right answer: these aren't Jewish problems, they are human problems. Abusers exist in all cultures. The hard question is Maidel's second one, "why don't the Rabbis own up to their responsibilities in prosecuting abusers?"

  7. rabbis do not have the legal authority to prosecute criminal acts in the US. They do have some sort of pseudo legal authority for civil matters, so long as it doesn't interfere with the law of the land. This is an aspect of being in galus.

    That being said, as they cannot prosecute, they should bring these instances themselves to the police for investigation, and not sweep it under the rug.

  8. The biggest chillul Hashem in the article is this "“The district attorney should be careful not to be seen as making a power grab from rabbinic authority,” Mr. Zwiebel said."

    This is the Agudah's concern? Not safety? Not justice? It's simply outrageous!

  9. Been a long time Ezzie_

    No, no it's not. It displaces the presence of gray rape, and the possibility of AIDs in the community. Until you can talk cleanly about sex by everyone, this stuff is a "not me- it's them" sort of thing.