Thursday, September 18, 2008

Child abuse - Rabbi Simon Jacobson's views

VIN reports:
New York - Rabbi Simon Jacobson of Brooklyn NY is a sought-after scholar and lecturer on Jewish thought and its contemporary application, speaking to diverse audiences worldwide, he has also undertaken a strong approach on the issue of child abuse in the frum community. VIN News recently exchanged email and phone conversations with the good rabbi to get his opinion on the issue of exposing child molesters in the frum world.
Dear Rabbi,

As chief-editor of a news website I commend you for courageously addressing one of the worst curses plaguing our community: child abuse.

I receive many submissions exposing child molesters and various forms of abuse in our communities. I would like you to discuss the issue of publicizing this information. On one hand, many argue that we are prohibited from “loshon hora,” speaking ill of others, even if it may be true. On the other hand how can any responsible person ignore the issue that has such devastating effects and just “push it under the rug”?

I believe that you have the power to spearhead a major campaign, headed by real Rabbis and activists, to address this issue for the benefit of the larger community. The gravity of abuse and its terrible consequences requires that we do nothing less than wake up, shake up and turn the community upside down.

Thank you,

Dear Editors:
Thank you for your supporting words and confidence. I am not really sure whether I can live up to your expectations to spearhead any major effort, but I can try adding my small contribution to this vital topic.

The only reason I have for the last few weeks been writing about abuse is precisely due to its far-reaching and devastating effects on so many lives. And not just for now, but for generations to come. Everything we build and teach our children, all our investments and dedication to good, all our moral standards, our entire education system, can be wiped out in one fell swoop when we or our children are violated.

I have been trained in the Torah way of thinking that any question we have must be framed in objective context, and weighed by various moral criteria that help us achieve some clarity. This is especially true for controversial and emotionally charged issues, due to their subjective effect on all of us – fear, anger, vengeance, shock, disbelief, and all the other complex feelings evoked by abuse.

The first of all ethical and Torah axioms must be stated at the outset: No one has a right to in any way violate in any way the body or soul of another human being. Indeed, we don’t even have the right to mutilate our own bodies, because your body does not belong to you; it is “Divine property.” Let alone someone else’s property. No crime is worse that assaulting another’s dignity – which is compared to the dignity of G-d Himself, being that every person was created in the Divine Image. Even a hanged murderer must not be defiled and his body not left to hang overnight because it reflects the Divine Image. How much more so – infinitely more so – regarding a live person and innocent child…

Abuse, in any form or shape, physical, psychological, verbal, emotional or sexual, is above all a violent crime – a terrible crime. Abusing another (even if it’s intangible) is no different than taking a weapon and beating someone to a pulp. And because of its terrible long-term effects, the crime is that much worse.

What do we do with violent criminals? We punish them. Once it has been determined that abuse was perpetrated, there should be consequences, both for the perpetrator and as a deterrent to other potential violators. The actual consequences need to be determined by local legal and Torah standards by the authorities on location. If for any reason the Torah authorities cannot deal with the situation, the only recourse is the same one employ for murderers, thieves and other criminals: legal action.

The next question is this: What are our obligations as parents, teachers, writers, website editors, or just plain adult citizens, when it comes to abuse?

On one hand we are talking about protecting innocent people from criminal predators, which clearly is a major obligation and priority concern. On the other hand, we do have laws prohibiting embarrassing people (even criminals) in public, always hopeful, allowing people to correct their ways. We have laws about avoiding gossip and speaking ill about others (loshon hora), and not feeding into the base instinct of “talking about others” or “mob mentality” witch-hunting expeditions.[...]

1 comment :

  1. Sexual predators are rodefim and "witch hunts" are in order.

    A few years ago, my husband was in a community position to know when a Rabbi moved in who had twice convicted and then deported for molestation.

    My husband was warned via phone which he then verified with the Beis Din of the community that the information was indeed true. My husband personally notified each of the Rabbis in the area.

    My husband's warnings were greeted with admonitions about "speaking Lashon Hara" and "not giving the benefit of the doubt" to someone who surely must have done teshuva.

    Out of frustration, my husband asked the Av Beis Din of this man's former community to call several local Rabbis and speak to each one personally due to the gravity of the situation.

    The molester was hired to be a youth director, to teach at a local yeshiva and also to do sofrut.

    It is clear that our Rabbis and community leaders are either unable or have no interest in protecting our children from molesters.

    It is up to parents to protect our own children.


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