Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ami Magazine trashes critics of having submission to rabbinic control as the paramount value - in reporting abuse - rather than the safety of our children

Editorial by the publisher of Ami Magazine - R' Yitzchok Frankfurter July 27, 2011 page 6
 [Bold text was added for emphasis]

The unspeakable tragedy of Leiby Kletzkys murder united humankind as few things recently have. People of every race and creed expressed their heartfelt pain over what happened to that innocent, angelic child. However, as Rabbi Avi Shafran rightly points out in his columns this week, while it may have united people far and wide, an all-too-public exception found its way into the Jewish world. 

The New York Jewish Week, a publication that has long been viewed by many as anti-Orthodox, saw in the tragedy an opportunity for slander. In its editorial entitled "Lessons from Leiby," dated July 19, 2011, it seems to fault Leiby's parents for reaching out immediately to Shomrim, and goes on to state: 

"While many rabbinic authorities encourage their constituents to contact police immediately in cases of suspected abuse ... or other crises, there is still a stigma in some Orthodox communities to seek help from the authorities.
"Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, has often noted that when your house is on fire, you call the fire department, not your rabbi. Similarly, he maintains, when there is a suspected crime, the first call should be to the police. 

"But that logic has been slow to take hold in some neighborhoods, sometimes with unfortunate results.

"In the meantime, attention should be focused on strengthening legislation for mandated reporting in New York to emulate states like New Jersey, where any person having reasonable cause to suspect abuse is required to report. Such legal action would prevent neighborhood watchdog groups from withholding from the police potentially vital information about suspects. This is particularly timely in light of reports that several neighbors of the accused killer say he had tried to abduct other boys in the neighborhood. Such incidents need to be reported." 

No one else, from governmental authorities to major media, found any connection between the horrific crime perpetrated by a fiend named Levi Aron and this prejudiced publication's pet issue: the alleged failure by the Orthodox community to report abusers to the police. In addition to the weekly's gross insensitivity in raising such accusations during a period of mourning, the charge is false. Just this very week, Agudath Israel of America publicized once again the ruling of gedolei Yisrael "that when certain standards have been met it is not only permitted but in fact obligatory to report suspicions of abuse .... Where there is 'raglayim la'davar' (roughly, reason to believe) that a child has been abused ... the matter should be reported to the authorities.... " 

The only caveat: "Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who is an expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse - someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations and the urgent need to protect children." 

Some were upset by the directive to consult with a rabbi. What is wrong, though with seeking rabbinical guidance before going to the police? This is but the Orthodox way of life. Yet this halachic ruling of leading decisors has been distorted not only by The Jewish Week, but by a gaggle of "activist” groups, falsely contending that the Orthodox people are obligated to go to a rabbi instead of the police, when that is not what the rabbinic ruling said at all

While The Jewish Week claims that it seeking to help our community, when was the last time it reached out to assist challenged Orthodox children who are not victims of a crime? There is virtually no reportage about our children who may be learning disabled or suffering from serious disease. These poor souls, too, need our compassion and help. But, to The Jewish Week, crimeless victims seem of limited interest. Apparently, when an issue that affects the Orthodox community does not provide an opportunity to criticize or misrepresent, is ignored. 

It is true that there are Jewish people, even within our own community, who have come to distrust rabbonim on the issue of abuse. Perhaps that is why some have joined the chorus of condemnation of the ruling that a rabbi should be consulted prior to reporting to governmental authorities. But instead of denouncing the rabbonim, it would be more constructive to assist rabbis in becoming more aware of the dangers and signs of abuse. Seminars for rabbis on this issue, perhaps sponsored by the Agudah, would certainly be a step in the right direction. 

Despite the detractors, at the same time that we seek to protect our children, respect for our rabbinic leadership is paramount. Protecting our children and respecting our leaders are our solemn duties that will also lead to a more promising future.

16 comments:

  1. Bravo for AMI Magazine for standing up in defense of Klal Yisroel and Gedolei Yisroel and their instructions in the proper approach to this vital and difficult issue, namely FIRST seeking rabbinic counsel prior to considering involvement of the secular authorities or police.

    Yes, AMI will now take abuse from the frum-bashers, including the internal ones. But I stand up and salute their bravery for them saying the politically incorrect but halachicly correct Torah way that our Chachmei Yisroel of our generation have directed us to.

    Yasher Koach!

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  2. Everyone agrees that more than vague suspicion is required before reporting to the authorities. There are two questions that come to mind regarding "raglayim l'davar".

    1. What, constitutes raglaym l'davar? are there clear criteria or would it be simply the subjective opinion of the decisor?

    2. Why would anyone think that the mandated reporters, who are almost invariably professionals in the field, are less qualified to determine raglayim l'davar than your friendly neighborhood orthodox rabbi?

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  3. Is it the official position that anyone who disagrees with these opinions is a frum-basher or anti-Orthodox?

    Listen, Chelm also had a Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah and the current Agudah position could have been written by them:
    1) You don't need to call a rabbi if you suspect child abuse.
    2) You do need to call a rabbi to find out if you suspect child abuse in the first place.

    The lack of connection between the tragic murder of a young kadosh and the ongoing issue of sexual molestation in the Orthodox community does not alter the validity of the arguments demanding that mandated reporters do their job, not violate the law as recommended by the Agudah.

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  4. I think I prefer Justice Felix Frankfurter.

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  5. what is an internal frum basher? I suppose it means anyone in the frum community who paskens that you should call the police first. Obviously these people are not really frum. I'm glad we clarified that.

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  6. Its the combination insulting and condescending tone of the Ami article that is most problematic, as correctly reflected in the title of this post.

    I suppose I'm part of the "gaggle of 'activist' groups". That's not a very nice way to refer to the Torah-observant sex abuse victims, their parents, and the lawyers, doctors, therapists, and many others who are trying to make our mosdos and neighborhoods safer and better.

    The lack of self-reflection in the article is startling. We've all been brought to the bottom of the pit by the organization, Agudath Israel, so approvingly cited by R Frankfurter. The years of neglect, the dysfunction, the unheeded pleas for help by victims and their advocates, all falling on deaf ears at Aguda - none of that is deemed worthy to write about by R Frankfurter.

    Aguda releases a statement, which facially conflicts with secular law - unsigned by any rabbi, by the way, and without citation to any Torah sources - and R Frankfurter is preaching dayanu, and anyone who disagrees with his message is "gaggle".

    The "gaggle" of victims, parents, lawyers, doctors, and psychologists, are slyly lumped together by Rabbi Frankfurter with the Jewish Week. When did that happen? I don't particularly like the Jewish Week. A lot of us don't. I've had nothing to do with their recent articles about Shomrim, or Leiby Kletzky. Paradoxically, while R Frankfurter is claiming his Aguda rabbonim are being smeared with slander, it is he, the rabbi, who smears the victims and their advocates by making his false allegations.

    When did kavod ha'rav get elevated to one of the Aseres Hadibros? When there is chillul Hashem, there is no kavod ha'rav.

    Which is more important? Kavod ha'rav, or, the life of a child? Do we need to ask such a question? Do we need to answer it? R Frankfurter puts rabbinic honor, and a child's life, on the same plane. None of us should board that plane.

    And no discussion about the RCA statement? In Ami world, RCA does not exist?

    Is there a halachic doctrine of rabbinic immunity? There is not. Rabbis can be questioned, disagreed with, and "disobeyed".

    All in all, a very poor analysis by Ami Magazine and Rabbi Frankfurter. They would have done better by being silent.

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  7. Which is more important? Kavod ha'rav, or, the life of a child? Do we need to ask such a question? Do we need to answer it? R Frankfurter puts rabbinic honor, and a child's life, on the same plane. None of us should board that plane.
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    have to disagree with the above analysis. R Frankfurter is not placing them on the same plane. He clearly says that "the respect of our rabbinic leadership is paramount." Simply put he is claiming we have to sacrifice the lives of our children for the mere perception that rabbi are all knowing and only they can make the big decisions.

    He also acknowledges that the rabbis collectively are not knowledgeable about these issues and calls for us to provide seminars to educate them.

    "But instead of denouncing the rabbonim, it would be more constructive to assist rabbis in becoming more aware of the dangers and signs of abuse. Seminars for rabbis on this issue, perhaps sponsored by the Agudah, would certainly be a step in the right direction"

    I just want to thank R' Frankfurter for so eloquently showing why there is criticism of the way the rabbis have handled these issues.

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  8. The years of neglect, the dysfunction, the unheeded pleas for help by victims and their advocates, all falling on deaf ears at Aguda

    Sheker.

    Aguda releases a statement, which facially conflicts with secular law

    Sheker.

    and without citation to any Torah sources

    Sheker. The Agudah statement cites the responsa printed in the Torah journal Yeshurun, Volumes 15 and 22, which includes Rav Eliashev. The Agudah statement also cites Rabbi Yehuda Silman.

    When did kavod ha'rav get elevated to one of the Aseres Hadibros?

    Kovod HaRav is vital for a Torah Jew.

    When there is chillul Hashem, there is no kavod ha'rav.

    YOU, sir, are no one to determine if it is chillul Hashem when the rabbonim disagree with you sir. Chillul Hashem is a halachic concept, and the rabbonim are our halachic decisors.

    Which is more important? Kavod ha'rav, or, the life of a child?

    No one is sacrificing the life of a child, despite you and your ilks false insinuations.

    And no discussion about the RCA statement? In Ami world, RCA does not exist?

    Finally some truth. That's right, sir. The RCA is not the halachic decisors for the Chareidi world. Their opinion is theirs. Not necessarily ours.

    Is there a halachic doctrine of rabbinic immunity? There is not. Rabbis can be questioned, disagreed with, and "disobeyed".

    Not by you, sir. By their colleagues and other rabbonim. Not by the man on the street. The man on the street can't decide based on his own opinion that the rabbonim's halachic opinion(s) are wrong. (He can question of course, by directing his questions to the rabbonim.)

    All in all, a very poor analysis by Ami Magazine and Rabbi Frankfurter. They would have done better by being silent

    You would love that, wouldn't you? But don't count on it, sir. The attacks on the rabbonim will not go unheeded.

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  9. Daas said...

    The years of neglect, the dysfunction, the unheeded pleas for help by victims and their advocates, all falling on deaf ears at Aguda

    Sheker.

    ============
    DT: Daas you really have no understanding of what is going and what has been going on. Your childish response of "sheker" is simply equivalent to a 3 year old saying "no" to an adult request. If you want to have an intelligent discussion than please cite sources to back up what you are saying.
    =============
    Aguda releases a statement, which facially conflicts with secular law

    Sheker.
    ============
    DT: Again you have nothing intelligent to say because you apparently knowing nothing of secuar law.


    The sneering responses of R Frankfurter and R Shafran combined with yours express a common message. Anyone who disagrees with the Agudas position is not worthy of an intelligent explanation. (And anyone who agrees with them obvious doesn't need an intelligent explanation.)

    The Aguda's position is problematic both from the point of halacha and secular law. Yet the best they can do is a public relations game - which they are losing.

    At least R Frankfurter has the honesty of stating that maintaining respect for rabbinic honor (by insistent on their absolute right to decide on abuse cases) takes precedent of the well being of the children - even though such view has no basis in halacha!

    The Aguda has also stated that the financial well being of the yeshivos - by protecting them from lawsuits - takes precedence over the life and well-being of the students. A view that Rav Sternbuch told me has no basis in halacha!

    the rabbinic literature exists and anyone with a basic yeshiva education can follow the reasoning for the different issues. Anyone with an elementary school education is capable of understanding the facts of abuse and what is needed for a viable society.

    The deceptive and misleading statements of R Zweibel have not been helpful. His initial claim that there is no conflict having a rabbi moderate mandate reporting is totally absurd. His present claim that it is no different than asking a senior doctor is also illogical and he cites no legal sources that his view has any validity. As a lawyer he has ready access to secular legal sources - what district attorney or judge agrees with his assertion?

    In sum - we are not dealing with a gaggle of secular minded people who are trying to undermine the Torah. What we are witnesses is an organization (Aguda) which has had and still has trouble facing the reality of abuse. They think that they can avoid halachic and legal issues by bluff and calls for respecting rabbis. But this bluff itself is the biggest factor in undermining emunas chachomim.

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  10. Furthermore R. Eidensohn, please stop misrepresenting Rav Shternbuch with your false claims of what he allegedly "told you" off the record. Provide sources and document such claims.

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  11. Recipients and PublicityAugust 11, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    "Derech Eretz Kadmah LeTorah" implies that being sensible and normal is a pre-requisite of Torah life.

    No sensible and normal parent would accept that their child or pupil should be the victim of sexual or physical abuse.

    No poskim and rabbis are required to understand that, just as no poskim and rabbis are required to make immediate decisions about safety, security and personal well-being.

    In modern liberal democratic societies going to the police is no less severe than going to a doctor or dentist to solve a minor discomfort.

    That is why people call the police if a neighbor is making too much noise at night with loud music or for honking car horns at night. You don't call a rabbi to ask him if he okays it, he would do the same thing.

    Similarly, if one sees someone suspicious you call the police even if it turns out to be nothing.

    Cities today post signs "If you see something, say something" and request that the police be called immediately, because the life you save may be your own.

    In Israel police are called for a "chefetz chashud" all the time, and a molester is worse than a "chefetz chashud". Why is an innocent Jewish child or woman being abused or any human any worse than that? Should their legitimate fears be buried in rabbinical committees and pilpulei shel hevel?

    When a Charedi or Chasidish landlord wants to evict tenants for not paying rent he does not ask his rabbi if he should evict any particular tenant by calling the city police marshals or dragging his victims to court to cough up or get out, so why should perpetrators of sexual and physical abuse have "immunity" and be taken advantage of by manipulating offenders (and they are almost always manipulators and psychopaths of the first order.)

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  12. Daas said...

    Furthermore R. Eidensohn, please stop misrepresenting Rav Shternbuch with your false claims of what he allegedly "told you" off the record. Provide sources and document such claims.
    =================
    calling me a liar doesn't really further the discussion. I did publish the statement regarding the financial well being of the yeshivos being subordinate to the welfare of the children in my book.

    But since you are accusing me of lying about my sources there is no reason to waste anymore time on you.

    Daas you are banned from this blog

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  13. DT: Why are you insisting Daas demonstrate that Eliot Pasik's unsubstantiated claims are true, rather than demand Mr. Pasik substantiate his unsubstantiated claims? Pasik is the one who advanced his claims here (without any proof.)

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  14. shemesh said...

    DT: Why are you insisting Daas demonstrate that Eliot Pasik's unsubstantiated claims are true, rather than demand Mr. Pasik substantiate his unsubstantiated claims? Pasik is the one who advanced his claims here (without any proof.)
    =================
    what claims do you think are unsubstantiated?

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  15. > He clearly says that "the respect of our rabbinic leadership is paramount."

    WADR the respect of our God and His desire that we learn the truth in any given situation is paramount.

    And to say that in a world where, B"H, we have many great and pious scholars that only a small political group's Moetzes has access to that truth and that everyone else must accept their view is sheker.

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  16. Can you ask Rav Frankfurther to provide a list of RABBONIM who are knowledgeable in the field of child abuse/molestation?

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