Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Aguda forced to eat its words "No conflict with mandatory reporting"

Forward     An Orthodox parent whose child tells him he’s been sexually abused may not take that child’s claim to the police without first getting religious sanction from a specially trained rabbi, the head of America’s leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella group has told the Forward.

But one year after acknowledging that no such registry of trained rabbis exists, Rabbi David Zwiebel said that his group has now dropped the idea of developing one.

One of the main reasons, said Zwiebel, was a warning from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes — issued only a few days earlier — that rabbis who prevent families from going to police could be arrested.

“If they [rabbis] don’t give the right advice, they can be in trouble,” said Zwiebel. “Why would you want to create some sort of a list that would make them more vulnerable?”

Zwiebel, who is the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said that despite the absence of such a registry, his group would staunchly resist increased public pressure to lift its requirement that parents obtain rabbinic permission.

“We’re not going to compromise our essence and our integrity because we are nervous about a relationship that may be damaged with a government leader,” he said.

44 comments :

  1. Baruch Hashem that HaRav Zweibel shlit"a is standing up for Kovod Shamayim and for what the Torah demands, rather than pandering to politicians or the media.

    When there is a conflict between ones halachic obligations and ones secular legal obligations, the halachic obligations ALWAYS triumph.

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    1. There is no conflict - and there never was one between mandatory reporting of abuse and the halacha. The Aguda originally claimed that there was no conflict with the requirement to go to a rabbi first and mandatory reporting and that they would have a registry of rabbis who were competent to deal with abuse. Now they acknowledge that there is a conflict with reporting abuse first to a rabbi the registry of rabbis doesn't exist and never existed. There is no conflict between manadatory reporting and the halacha. the halcha is clear that you must comply with mandatory reporting

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  2. While I agree with Rabbi Zweibel on the liability issue, I strongly take issue with the result. Every professional has a recognized obligation to engage in continuing education to update, expand, or refresh his/her skills. Many licenses make this mandatory. Each and every Rav who guides his flock (talmidim, chassidim, mispallelim, etc.) must be adequately trained to tend to his mission. If someone lacks an area of expertise or specialty, then referral to someone qualified must be made. We must train Rabbonim to fulfill their responsibility. There can easily be shiurim to cover the materials in halacha and relevant sugyos hashas. Professionals (plenty of frum ones) can also educate them on the subject matter from the clinical perspective. The authorities will be glad to educate them about the processes involved with law enforcement, court, and the parameters of the laws relating to the subject. It may not require a published list of Rabbonim. Any Rov who assumes a leadership role should know his own areas of expertise and his limitations. Any individual who needs to consult about an allegation of abuse should be able to approach his Rov for either advice and direction or a referral to someone that can. What's the big deal?

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    1. this rather trivializes the training issue. Avi Shafran's statement are totally ridiculous. A 3 hour training session is not going produce a competent expert in abuse. By and large the rabbis who decide how to respond to abuse have no training and no competence in the area and it was always that way.

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    2. Apologies if you feel that my comment trivialized the training issue. I was trying to say that continuing education as a fixed aspect of every profession should make it simpler for any Rov to get educated on the subject adequately, or at least to know who does possess the needed background and skills. I shun incompetence in any field, and the clergy is no different.

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  3. Well, he said the most important thing, that seems to be frequently overlooked:

    "Agudath’s position, as laid out then, was that a person who had personally suffered or witnessed abuse could report directly to the authorities."

    That's what counts. Up to now, they conveyed the impression that the victims themselves are NOT allowed to go directly to the police.

    Once the victim can talk to the police, you can build processes and "code language"...

    The parents or mandated reporter go to the police and tell them "My child (or person xy) has to tell you something".

    Or "Person xy told me something that falls under mandating reporting rules".

    I suppose that, doing this, the mandated reporters have fullfilled their duty and the police can do the rest...

    So no need to ask a Rabbi...

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    1. Wrong! A five year old child is not going to call the police to report that his baby sittier is molesting him/her. Older victim typically are too traumatized to know what to do. Typcially molesting doesn't take place with adult witnesses.

      So most abuse cases need to be reported by someone other than the victim or witnesses.

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    2. I'm talking about the parents calling the police, bringing the specialised police officer to their home (or the child to the police station) and letting the child talk...

      After all, in the end, the police will have to hear the testimony of the child (or examine the corroborating factors)...

      Up to now, Agudah, schools, rabbis, institutions silenced the victims. So it is great progress that they state unequivocally: the victims and immediate witnesses have a right to testify.

      No more victim silencing.

      I think it is important to make big propaganda about this. In the sense: Victims, come forward, speak up, there is no issue of lashon hara.

      The issue of lashon hara is just about hearsay, not about first hand testimony.

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    3. Batmelech - I would also be excited if what you said is what the Aguda was referring to - but it isn't. It isn't about parents allowing their children to testify. It is about allowing the victim to call the police or for kosher witnesses who saw a serious act of molesting about which they have no doubts what happened

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    4. The problem is that up to now, there was a big confusion, where the victims themselves were silenced.

      i.e. molestor protectors hid behind "lashon hara" to silence victims.

      It is great progress that the agudah states that victims and eyewitnesses have a right to testify and speak up, even when the perpetrator denies the facts.

      Up to now, they invented that the perp had a chezkat kashrut and that the victim should shut up unless they could bring about proof.

      Therefore, it is important to make this statement known to everyone, especially to Agudah members and people who abide by their rules: Victims, speak up, it will be he said-she said, but at least, you are entitled to the story as you suffered it.

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    5. Furthermore, there are plenty of ways to circumvent the Rabbi/beith din now, as I stated above.

      Perhaps it would require a bit of briefing for the police, DA, authorities (i.e. that they should take vague statements seriously and follow them up when they come from orthodox jews). But you can create a language that satisfies the Agudah conditions without asking for rabbinic permission.

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    6. Batmelech - I checked my notes and in fact the Aguda- at least in their first clarification of their original proclamation did state that the only issue was raglayim l'davar. Which meant that if there was anything of uncertainty as to what happened or how serious the event was then a rabbi needed to be consulted to determine if it was raglayim l'davar. So that meant that they allowed someone who was raped or witnessed a rape to call the police. Anything less then that required a rabbi. So their position hasn't changed except they are now acknowledging that their psak in fact is not accepted by the district attorney.

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    7. but the question is: reglayim for whom?

      they now say that ahearsay-witness must see the raabi to check reglayim, but victims and witnesses are exempted.

      this is a huge change. Before they said to the victim: if you cannot convince the Rabbi that it happened, you have to shut up and never speak about it again.

      Now, they say (correctly in my humble opinion): I do not know whether what you say is true. But you know. You were there. So if it is true, speak to the police.

      You should really make a campaign to make this public.

      Of course, we need not discuss that other things he says ("we lost friends with the authorities") are really, really scandalous.

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  4. R. Eidensohn, I seem to recall seeing this predicted months ago - that there could never be a list of approved rabbis, since no rabbi would take the legal risk. Was it here that I read such a prediction?

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    1. Don't know. But I don't know anybody who thought they were serious

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  6. Sometimes I read articles like this (not your post, the one you linked to) and I have a real crisis of faith.
    How condescending. I'm a physician with years of training and if a Jewish child confides in me about abuse I have to get a rabbi's permission to do my legally mandated duty? Am I so stupid that I can't figure out for myself what's right for the child?
    How naive. How many stories about rabbis who were consulted about whether or not to report abuse and who then did what they could to block any reporting have to come out before we realize that you're not being asked to get the rabbi's advice but to give him an opportunity to prevent you from doing anything to help the child?
    And these are the leaders of the faith?

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  7. Lionheart please explain what you do in divorce situations where a mother has cearly brainwashed a little girl because when you examine her you see no signs of abuse yet you are mandated to be oyver mesirah in that case. In fact one doctor refused to get involved and told "patient" there is no basis but when mother ran to female doctor she got it reported. How do you explain all of this when 1st doctor said there were no signs of abuse?

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    1. Bewildered- He is obviously talking about a case were as a physician he can see the signs of abuse. In that can their shouldn't be any sliver of a reason, to not call the police immediately.

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    2. Where I practice, it is the law that I report all cases where I suspect abuse, bruises or not. This law applies equally to all people regardless of background. It is therefore not mesirah. It is justice and it's quite sad that someone would pretend that halacha is against it.

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    3. What would be in a case that the mother was in a divorce and was egging the child on , and it seems very off to you . It might still be the law to report it , but would that be justice ?

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    4. I am just curious, what about the situation Bewildered raised? Let's say someone comes to you with a claim of abuse, and after your review you believe it is a fake. Are you legally required to report it? (Of course, that probably won't stop the faker, they'll just go onto the next Dr. or Psychologist they can con.)

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    5. Ah... but it does start to form a chain of evidence and expert witnesses.

      Let's say Feigy the Faker takes her child to two or three docs before she finds one to whom she can slip a Benjamin and get what she wanted. Those other docs then could(and in a perfect world) would serve as expert witnesses to the defense, while our Benjamin bribed physcian now looks at possibly losing his license, felony charges for falsifying evidence, perjury ect...

      While the more fuzzy sciences such as Psychologists, social workers, teachers and guidance counselors may be able to be duped by an Oscar worthy performance(though I know one pshrink that could tell if you were lying by having you draw a house with a tree next to it... that's beside the point) docs tend to go on physical evidence and signs... It's a lot harder to fake that. DNA where it doesn't belong is pretty damning I don't care what Rav Klein says to the contrary.

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  8. How come Rav Zwiebel is not going to jail for publicly encouraging the flouting of USA law?

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    1. Because he is not. DA Hynes has specifically stated, mentioning Rav Zweibel by name, that what he and the Agudah said is within the law.

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    2. Clearly nobody else agrees this is correct

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    3. The discussion, including that by DA Hynes, ignores the very real legal difference between mandated reporters and others. In NY State only "mandated reporters" as defined by law (mostly professionals, such as doctors, psychologists, and educational professionals) have a legal duty to report. Everyone else only has a moral duty. When it comes to that, you may, and indeed you have a First Amendment right, to consult anyone you wish, including a rabbi, priest, minister or the nut-job on the subway.

      To the extent R. Zwiebel is directing his statement to those not within the mandated reporter law, he is well within his legal rights.

      (Whether it is halakhically correct is a different matter. That I leave to the poskim.)

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  9. What is really troubling is how they cloak their positions in rabbinic concensus. The rabbinic consensus seems to be that there is no mesira issue with reporting abuse. Their real concern is money. Thats why they opposed the extension of the statute of limitations for reporting. For me, that is when they lost all credibility. The only other organization to oppose that bill in NY was the Catholic Church. Need I say more?

    As for Rav Elyashiv, his psak is consistent with the mandatory reporting law. If one suspects that there is credible evidence (raglayim ladavar), he should call the secular authorities. The Agudah made up the chiddush that you need a Rav to determine if there is raglayim ladavar and then you can go to the police.

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  10. Um... because it is the US and not Iran and there is a little thing known as freedom of speech. Until he actually committs a breach of US law he remains a free citizen capable of spouting anything that he wants, excluding:
    1) Calling for the assanination of the US President
    2) Calling for targeted and specific terrorist attacks.
    3) His words do not immediately endanger the safety of the public(i.e. screaming fire in a packed Movie Theater).

    So long as he stays within those bounds, he can say whatever he pleases.
    Downside... he has legal liability. If he has actually instructed a religious Doc to not live up to his legal obligations, such as if he told good old Garnel to not report and Garnel was prosecuted for it, Garnel could(if he didn't mind being over mesirah and a number of other things that would probably mean he could never show his face in frum public again) file criminal and civil charges.
    Likewise if the parents of victims could actually get hard evidence of such, they could(if they were not trying to actually court Rabbinic support) file those same charges.

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    1. Rav Tzadok, if such a situation came to pass, I probably would be quite happy never to show my face in frum public again.

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  11. How come the Agudah does not care that its Archivist is machzik his daughter is arko'oys where she has been oyver some of the worst mesirah ever peprpetrated?

    Because they are phonies that's why.

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  12. Garnel Ironheart,

    "Where I practice, it is the law that I report all cases where I suspect abuse, bruises or not. This law applies equally to all people regardless of background. It is therefore not mesirah. It is justice and it's quite sad that someone would pretend that halacha is against it."

    It seems that this is left to anyone's interpretation. If someone is over zealous they can ruin people's lives on the basis of little or no evidence.

    What if someone thinks that all Orthodox people are pedophiles and immediately issues a report on the flimsiest evidence? That's a major disaster in the making. Why would asking a competent authority if they have enough to to go on to make a valid report be a problem?

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    1. What makes a rabbi that "competent authority?" I'd sooner ask a professional trained in the area of child sex abuse. Duh.

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    2. And seriously, you think the guy who "thinks that all Orthodox people are pedophiles" and would "immediately issue a report on the flimsiest evidence" would stop off at a rabbi first to get approval?? The people who would make stuff up will make stuff up. The people who are being hurt by this are the true victims of abuse who will be intimidated, whether actively or passively, into not reporting. Uch.

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    3. We all know that establishing the truth in cases of suspected molestation or molestation, of suspected abuse or abuse is not easy.

      the police is aware of it. The child protective services are aware of it.

      We just don't think that rabbis are more qualified to establish the truth than the specialised serviced of police and CPS...

      There is a presumption of innocence when cases are reported. If the police finds that there are no "reglayim le davar" the person will be left free.

      By the way, it even happens quite often that even with some "reglayim le davar" the abuser does not end up being condemned, because proof is not sufficient.

      I think there was much hypocrisy in the cases that were swept under the rug in the past. It was not about justice or Torah, it was about keeping the reputation of the institution at all costs, avoiding financial compensations, damaging the institution in order to keep the reputation... Can this work? Not in the long run, as we see now.

      Therefore, it was corruption, which per se is against torah values: zedek zedek tirdof...

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    4. So ask - a social worker, a psychologist, someone trained in the field. why does competent authority equal rabbi?

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  13. xyz,

    Oh, so you would trust a gay, transvestite loving "sensitive" professional trained in child abuse. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. /not

    Real Rabbis are aware of Torah human sensitive guidelines and are not driven by activist get anyone who blinks guidelines.

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    1. Real Rabbis have been shown to be driven to "protect the system" and have been the cause of ein sof suffering.

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  14. Did you know....?May 25, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    All this hype about mandated reporting is interesting. I have been discussing this with many different people, and the most common theme is that the serial pedophiles that lurk in our schools and yeshivos must be identified and destroyed. So the message is that yeshivos are dangerous places full of predators. Well, there are a few flaws in this position. Firstly, all the statistics about sexual abuse reflect about 4% of all sexual abuse involves school settings (such as teachers and other school staff). About 96% involves family (or those known to family) and settings connected with home. So the perception about yeshivos being dens of filth is a myth. Secondly, the NYS law of mandated reporting does not include perpetrators associated with any environment or relationship outside of family. We might debate the merits of such a law, but it presumably was intended to insure the home environment as safe.

    If a professional who is a mandated reporter is confronted with a child alleging abuse by a school staff, there is no obligation to report. Shocking, but true.

    Remember when Dov Hikind was accused of covering up by not sharing his reports of abuse with the DA office? Well, not only is he not a mandated reporter, but much of his information was provided on condition it is not shared with authorities, many were duplicates, many were beyond statutes of limitations, and most were not school or yeshiva related. The hype at that time was ridiculous. It focused on yeshivos, coverups, etc. What a bunch of fluff!

    Abusers need to be caught, convicted, and locked up forever. But the bashing of everything and everyone else in our community except the loudmouth activists needs to stop. It does not help.

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    1. Please provide a source for your statistics. B/c all the sources that I have state that 90% of child sex abuse is perpetrated by family and/or someone known to the victim--which INCLUDES school staff--while only 10% is perpetrated by strangers. In all the literature that I have read, I have not found any stats breaking it down further between family and non-family. It's broken down between known vs. stranger.

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    2. @Did you know - your analysis and assertions are simply inaccurate - but no time now to enumerate the mistakes - will do it after Yom Tov.

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  15. rabbi yehuda levinMay 25, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    i'm impressed that Rabbi Zwiebel was so strong about not compromising on the Aguda position of no reporting abuse before going to a Rav. He continues to say that they will maintain this position even if it jepordises their relationship with powerful government officials!

    Let's see if they are consistent in the same way when it comes to "married " NYC SPEAKER ? mayoral candidate Christine Quinn & all the other politicians who support or supported the ungoing- cause believe me, it ain't over by a long shot! - toaivah agenda.

    after all those who signed against all of these types of politicians include moetzes members rav Kamenetsky & the Matesdorfer Rav. Rav Neuman of Lakewood Rav Belsky & rav Wolfson(?) of YTV etc

    here"s a hot tip : i heard that the Bureacrats realise its not clear sailing ahead & its rumored there is going to be a meeting to see how they can climb down this tree.

    Fact is they can't . any retreat from the clear cut issur would be a tremendous chill Hashem.

    there's a little more to this story. i,d prefer this not be listed as comment# 40 where it will have little pirsum . would you accept? feature an exclusive video challenging aguda on this issue?

    i,m also puzzled as to why you didn't post my comments/questions re: judy' hush' lichtenstien? hope to hear from you. an uplifting YT. yehuda levin

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    1. I think pedophilia and incest is a worse toevah than homosexuality between consenting adults.

      But I am not really astonished that someone who speaks out regularly against homosexuality would also speak out in favour of protecting pedophiles.

      That is a true kiddush hashem: it makes the priorities of the communitiy quite clear...

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    2. he didn't say anything here about protecting pedophiles

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