Monday, June 10, 2013

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin - president of the RCA - clarifies the RCA-Rav Belsky joint statement on child abuse.

This is the response I just received from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin (president of the RCA) to my letter regarding the  joint RCA-Rav Belsky statement on the RCA website. He gave me permission to report his views.

I wrote to Rabbi Goldin:
I have been involved for a number of years dealing with various aspects of child abuse and have published three seforim dealing with the subject under the guidance and encouragement of Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita. One of the most problematic issues is that of mesira and one of the most troubling cases is that of the recent Yosef Kolko case. Even more troubling is the reported actions of Rav Yisroel Belsky shlita - especially when they seem to be contrary to the stated position of the RCA.

I just wrote a post on my blog Daas Torah regarding Rav Yisoel Belsky's views on reporting child abuse to the police.  http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/rav-yisroel-belsky-why-contrary-to.html

I respectfully request an explanation of how Rav Belsky's actions in this case are consistent with the accepted halacha regarding mesira as well as the RCA guidelines in reporting child abuse to the police?

kol tuv,

Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.
Rabbi Goldin responded:

Dear Dr. Eidensohn,

Thank you for your e-mail and for your continuing work in this important area.

Just to clarify a couple of points:

1. The letter we received from Rabbi Belsky clearly indicates that that an individual with credible suspicions of abuse should go directly to the authorities,

2. Concerning the Kolko case, Rabbi Belsky made it clear, based upon his involvement in the case, that he believes the defendant to be innocent of the charges and that the accusers are actually the guilty parties. He is convinced of this position, in spite of what seems to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

3. The problems you raise in your blog are complex. For those of us whose vision of Das Torah is not as encompassing as those who express, it is easier to carve out areas of expertise where we believe that outside experts, rather than halachic experts, might serve as more accurate sources of fact. In such areas-we can accept the possibility of 'error' even on the part of great sages.

Shmuel Goldin
I responded with the following:

Thank you for your thoughtful and cogent reply. You have confirmed my suspicions that Rav Belsky is not actually in agreement with RCA policy in this area. The father of the victim should not have been labeled a moser for doing what he thought was right - especially since Rav Sternbuch gave him written permission. In addition if Rav Belsky "knew that the father was the molester" he had an obligation according to his own words - to report him to the police - which he obviously failed to do. This strongly implies that Rav Belsky is committed to the position of the Aguda that only a rabbi can decide whether you can go to the police and that it is typically better to deal with these cases within the community and not go to the police even when it is definitely a case of abuse. This is clearly a violation of the RCA principles. From what I have heard Rav Belsky is severely undermining the credibility of the RCA and their perceived commitment to help the victims of child abuse.

Do I have your permission to report your view on the matter using your name on my blog?

Daniel Eidensohn

 Rabbi Goldin responded:

I need to be clearer

Rabbi Belsky did not accuse the father of abuse-but rather of rishus. He claims that the allegations were trumped up and that Kolko was framed and forced to accept a plea deal
[Hebrew Text of Rav Belsky's letter] [English translation]

You certainly can quote my positions as stated.

I am aware of the communities concerns and we are trying to determine what else we can do

11 comments :

  1. To Rabbi Goldin,
    Please re read the words Rabbi Belsky said on him. He accused him of being a moser and that he himself is guilty of the allegations they made against others!
    Instead of whitewashing the tremendous עולה done against such a Talmud chacham, it's better to admit a mistake and ask mechila then to pretend it didn't happen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rabbi Belsky should be removed from his position with the OU.
    Kolko not only pleaded guilty, but his attorney, Michael Bachner, said that Kolko was "extremely remorseful, apologizes to the victim and hopes after treatment to return to society as a benefit to it."

    Could someone please explain what sort of 'treatment' Kolko will undergo in order to rehabilitate himself.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Still shocked. I too am still shocked. Just to confirm your point, here are the relevant facts:
    1. On the basis of the charges brought forth by the victim Kolko was indicted and eventually pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of sexual abuse including attempted anal penetration.
    2. Rabbi Belsky wrote:
    All the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their [the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.

    3. It beggars my imagination that President of the largest orthodox rabbinical association in America issued a statement without actually reading the text of Belsky's statement. Alternatively, it boggles me that Rabbi Goldin could write: "Rabbi Belsky did not accuse the father of sexual abuse-but rather of rishus."

    4. I do not know how he arrived at such a gross mischaracterization of the facts, but it is glaring and demands a correction of some sort. The RCA cannot simultaneously claim it agrees with Rabbi Belsky while still claiming it upholds the policy it announced about 2 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rabbi Goldin, thank you for your kind response to my brother's questions. (You are obviously a man of courage or else you don't read my brother's blog very often.) Now it is my turn to try your kindness and patience!
    This is the English translation of Rabbi Belsky's letter: "Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their [the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds."
    Let's play that again. "Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their [the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of..." Let's see, I don't have a Marsho, so I'll have to sweat it out. Who was the victim? I suppose it means somebody who claimed to be a victim or somebody who was depicted in a police report as a victim. Rabbi Belsky clearly says that the people who made allegations, as I understand it, the father of the alleged victim, that he himself was guilty of molesting his son, and therefore, he is "cursed" (phew, this is real phooey stuff). Rabbi Goldin is kind enough to respond to my brother, but he is really sweating the defense over here. The letter clearly calls the person who went to the police a "cursed" person, not just wicked, and it clearly says that what he claimed others did, he did himself. What does that mean? It means the father of the victim raped his son! Rabbi Belsky has no fear and calls the shots as he sees them. But why do you defend this obviously lucid statement that curses the person who went to the police, the father, with the written Pesak of Rav Shternbuch. Now, is Rav Shternbuch just wicked or is he a molester, or does he write on my brother's blog?

    ReplyDelete
  5. What? I don't understand. How can someone be "forced" to take a plea deal? That would be illegal. These stories from the Rav Belsky camp are simply not making any sense.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The English translation is not true to the original Hebrew, which does not contain this assertion, but should be understood as Rabbi Goldin presents it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ditto what "Still shocked" said. According to Rabbi Goldin, "Rabbi Belsky did not accuse the father of abuse-but rather of rishus. He claims that the allegations were trumped up and that Kolko was framed and forced to accept a plea deal."

    But Rabbi Belsky accused, if not the victim's father, members of his family of abuse: "And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of ...." The reasonable reading of Rav Belsky's statement is that members of the victim's family abused the victim and sought to blame Kolko for it. That's worse than accusing them of trumping up charges against Kolko, bad as that would be. In his previous communication, Rabbi Goldin acknowledged that Rav Belsky "believes the defendant to be innocent of the charges and that the accusers are actually the guilty parties."

    According to Rabbi Goldin, Rav Belsky "is convinced of this position, in spite of what seems to be overwhelming evidence to the country [contrary]." Rabbi Goldin then gingerly implies that one need not credit Rav Belsky with having Da`as Torah in this area, and that "in such areas-we can accept the possibility of 'error' even on the part of great sages."

    I feel Rabbi Goldin is insulting our intelligence, and is close to insulting the victim's family. If someone in a position of power and prominence publicly accuses another of a heinous crime, in spite of "overwhelming evidence to the contrary," he is not merely guilty of an "error," to employ Rabbi Goldin's pusillanimous quotation marks, he is a slanderer, and ipso facto not a "great sage," no matter the extent of his knowledge.

    With due respect, surely Rabbi Goldin and his OU colleagues know perfectly well "what else [they] can do." If they found pork chops in a refrigerator, would they throw out the refrigerator and try to kasher the pork chops?

    ReplyDelete
  8. You say Rabbi Belsky is at odds with the RCA. But Rabbi Belsky has not pressed charges against the father in a beis din either. The whole thing is at odds with any system.

    -ben dov

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi. I actually have spoken to Rabbi Belsky about this issue. My take is that Rabbi Belsky is a Tzaddik who a] believes Kolko's statement of innocence and b] thinks that since the victim's father made certain statements about Kolko having admitted in front of a few people that he did do it and when he asked these people they denied everything, that the victim;s father is not being truthful.

    It is clear that Rabbi Belsky's support of Kolko's innocence is a product of his assessment of the situation only

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And because of the way he assessed the situation it became מותר to bashmutz another Talmud chacham?!
      And what's with throwing him out of Lakewood, taking away his income etc, is he still sure that kolko is innocent? You mean to tell us that he has no ספק at all?

      And what are all the other Rabonnim saying?

      Delete
    2. Mr. Insider,

      can you explain why, if Rabbi Belsky knows the father is guilty, does he not press charges? Since when do we casually accuse people of molestation in public and just leave it at that?

      =ben dov

      Delete

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED!
please use either your real name or a pseudonym.