8 Steps to Take to Protect Children From Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Rabbis
Many Orthodox rabbis and institutions are affiliated with one or more major Orthodox umbrella groups. These groups include the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, Torah Umesorah, the Rabbinical Council of America and the National Council of Young Israel.
Over the last several years, I have tried to convince several of these groups, numerous prominent rabbis and the Jewish Federations of North America to take even minimal steps to protect Orthodox children from the rampant sexual abuse found in our communities. My efforts went nowhere.
Most of the time, my phone calls and emails were ignored. In the rare instance that I was actually able to have a conversation with a rabbi or leader of one of these groups, they would not agree to do anything to protect our kids.
To my knowledge, none of these major Orthodox groups or the Jewish Federations have any publicly posted a set of child protection rules. Rabbis who do want to protect the children in their care have little or no direction from their affiliated organizations as to how to make their institutions safe for children.
In the absence of any guidance on this issue from most of our religious or Jewish lay leadership, I have written a set of child safety recommendations that all rabbis and Orthodox institutions can and should implement immediately.
I urge anyone interested in stopping the unrelenting plague of child sexual abuse in Orthodox communities to send this list to your rabbi, principal, board of directors, or president of your synagogue, school or yeshiva. If they stall, delay, make excuses or refuse to, ask them why protecting our children from sexual abuse is not a priority for them.
1) Publicize the names of the hundreds of Orthodox child molesters who are known to rabbis.
Frequently, victims or their parents report to their rabbi when a child has been sexually abused. In many instances, rabbis cover up the molester and demand that the victim remain silent about their abuser. Parents and employers can’t protect the children in their care if they don’t know who the predators are that deliberately target Orthodox kids for sexual abuse. “The List” on my website is a good place to start for this information.
2) Ban and excommunicate anyone known to have harmed children in the past.
Many studies show that there is no drug or therapy that cures child sex offenders from their desire to sexually abuse children. They are never safe around kids, and they should never have access to them.
3) Implement and enforce basic, common-sense child safety rules in every Orthodox institution.
- No adult other than a parent or guardian may ever seclude themselves with a child.
- Anyone who suspects that a child may have been harmed must report that suspicion immediately to the police, without first asking the permission of a rabbi. Only a suspicion of harm, not proof, should obligate one to make a report, as the law requires in many states. Let the experts in law enforcement determine if a crime has been committed.
- No one who has harmed children in the past may be allowed in an Orthodox institution.
4) Expel from the rabbinate any rabbi who is known to have abused children or women.
There are hundreds of rabbis who are known sex predators. Some of them have even served jail sentences for sex crimes against children and women. Yet they inexplicably retain the honored title of “rabbi,” and they are free to officiate as a trusted member of the Orthodox rabbinate. By contrast, even the Catholic Church defrocks abusive priests.
5) Punish anyone known to have retaliated against a victim of child sexual abuse or their family for speaking out against their abuser or going to the police.
Victims and law enforcement officials frequently report that victims are threatened or punished for reporting Orthodox child molesters to the police. The threats and witness-tampering cannot occur without the tacit, if not explicit, approval of the community’s rabbis. Rabbis must stop intimidating and threatening victims and start punishing those who do.
6) Assign a prominent community rabbi to attend every court proceeding in support of the victim in a child sexual abuse case.
Statistically speaking, children almost never lie about being sexually abused. If a child is alleging that they were sexually abused, it is usually true. Only the public support of a victim by a prominent rabbi will teach the community to take every allegation of sexual abuse seriously and to treat the victim and their family with kindness, support, and compassion.
7) Rabbis must insist that Orthodox therapists report abuse to child protective services or the police.
Several Orthodox therapists have told me that they and their colleagues have been threatened by rabbis with termination from their jobs if they report Orthodox child molesters to the police, as most state laws require. Rabbis can either choose to protect our children, or to protect their abusers. By threatening therapists who report abuse, rabbis are choosing the molesters over our children.
8) Rabbis must demand that Israel extradite every Orthodox individual wanted by the police back to their country of origin.
Avrohom Mondrowitz, Malka Leifer, Gershon Kranczer, Asher Kranczer and Yona Weinberg need to be extradited without delay.