Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RCA requires reporting abuse to secular authorities

RCA Reaffirms Halachic Requirement to Report Knowledge or Suspicion of Abuse or Endangerment to Secular Authorities Without Delay The Rabbinical Council of America has today reaffirmed its position that those with reasonable suspicion or first hand knowledge of abuse or endangerment have a religious obligation to report that abuse to the secular legal authorities without delay. One of the unique features of Jewish law is that it imposes upon every member of the community an obligation to help others avoid danger. The biblical verse “do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed" is understood by Jewish Law to mandate that one must do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others - even if monetary harm, but certainly physical harm.

Consistent with that Torah obligation, if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately, as the prohibition of mesirah (i.e., referring an allegation against a fellow Jew to government authority) does not apply in such a case.

As always where the facts are uncertain one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine how and when to report such matters to the authorities. False accusations are harmful to those falsely accused – but unreported abuse


  1. Having read the statements of RCA and the Agudah, I fail to see the differences that appear in blogs that attack AI while praising RCA. Both are clear about "reasonable suspicion". The RCA does not state how that criteria is met. The Agudah expects a Rav or Rav backed by professional will verify this criteria. Something is wrong when two people say the same thing, one is praised and the other demeaned.

  2. I doubt the modern people who pay attention to the RCA would have had much qualms about mesira anyways.

    And the Torah Jewry world that pays attention to the Gedolei Yisroel as represented on the Moetzei Gedolei HaTorah and the Chasidishe world and the Sefardic Torah world already have their direction from the Gedolim.

  3. The commenters on V-I-N see a clear differnce.

    Joel Rich

  4. @ JW - The RCA is not saying the same thing as the Aguda. It says speak to lay and rabbinical experts in the case of doubt. Lay expert could be social worker, doctor, psychologist, lawyer etc. These would be obligated to go to the Police if their opinion suggests a crime has occurred.

    @ Ben - presumably you would not want to see the brooklyn murderer put in jail since he is allegedly a frum Jew. In fact, even if the Oslo murderer was a Jew, your position would be that you cannot report or give evidence against such a person to the goyisher authorities.

  5. The commenters on V-I-N come from the sewer.

  6. Just wondering: the difference is clear. With Aguda the decision always rests with a Rabbi.

    By the way, is the RCA halachic view, which sounds very much to me to be the view of R' Schachter שליט’’א in his shiurim on the topic predicated on the basis that those incarcerated will not be molested themselves in the prison system?

    Certainly R' Schachter discussed that issue and as I recall her was מסופק


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