Wednesday, June 12, 2013

RCA Issues Clarification of Its Position on reporting Abuse - Kolko case & Rav Belsky

Update: The RCA acknowledges it is bothered by the fact that Rav Belsky's position on the Kolko case is inconsistent with the official position of the RCA. However they allow him to deviate in the Kolko case - because he claims he has investigated the matter and knows Kolko to be innocent.

It fails to explain on what basis Rav Belsky has come to conclusion that Koko is innocent - despite the president of the RCA writing me that, "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."

The RCA clarification also fails to deal with the fact that Rav Belsky has done much more than simply cling to the belief in Kolko's innocence "despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."  1) There is no basis in Jewish law for calling someone a moser if he received a psak that it is obligated to go to the police. In this case he received a written psak from   Rav Moshe Sternbuch that he was obligated to report the abuse [update and correction]   [ 2) Rav Belsky not only has proclaimed Kolko innocent but he accused the victim's father of sexual abusing his own son and said that the victims's father reported Kolko to the police only to avoid being blamed himself. This astounding slander - which has no basis in fact - does not seem to bother the RCA - why not? Rabbi Goldin claims - contrary to the obvious translation of Rav Belsky's defamatory letter that "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". Even if Rabbi Goldin's reading is accepted - Rav Belsky has presented no evidence to justify this slander. Why does the RCA allow Rav Belsky to continue to slander a great talmid chachom without any apparent justification?

In sum - How can the RCA make this "clarification" without addressing the elephant in the room of Rav Belsky obscene public slander of the father of the victim?
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RCA   Jun 12, 2013 -- The RCA remains steadfast in combating and condemning all forms of abuse. We are encouraged by the process that led to the guilty plea of Yosef Kolko, an Orthodox Jew who pleaded guilty for the sexual molestation of a young boy. For many years the RCA has condemned the efforts of many parts of the Jewish community to cover up or ignore allegations of abuse, viewing these efforts as against Jewish law, illegal, and irresponsible to the welfare of victims and the greater community. The RCA strongly advocates, as a matter of Jewish law, the reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse to the civil authorities and full cooperation with the criminal justice system. The RCA decries any invocation of Jewish law or communal interests as tools in silencing victims or witnesses from reporting abuse or from receiving therapeutic and communal support.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President of the RCA, and Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA, concerned with the reported position of Rabbi Yisrael Belsky in the Kolko case met with Rabbi Belsky. Rabbi Belsky stated that based upon his knowledge of the case, which he explained at length, he deeply believes in Kolko’s innocence. When asked for clarification of his opinion concerning the reporting of suspicions of abuse in general, Rabbi Belsky informed us that he favors the reporting of credible suspicions of abuse directly to the civil authorities without the need to seek prior rabbinic permission. Upon our request, Rabbi Belsky recorded this position in writing in a letter sent to us and publicized a week after our meeting. Many feel that this is a significant achievement.

The RCA appreciates that this distinguished scholar has gone on record with this position, a position that echoes the RCA’s longstanding policy. We are confident that this statement will be helpful to many victims in the future. Nevertheless, due to the facts of the Kolko case as we understand them, the RCA disagrees with Rabbi Belsky’s defense of this admitted perpetrator. We pledge to work toward the time when all victims of abuse will find strength, healing, and justice with the support of their communities, its members, and its leaders.

19 comments :

  1. Wow! So after hearing Rabbi Belsky's reasoning, they still disagree? Amazing!!

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  2. is it true, as reported here from the asbury park press, that r belsky is related to kolko?

    if so, there are other issues involved.

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    1. The only thing I know is that Kolko was a talmid in Torah Vedath for many years

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  3. I just posted some reactions to the RCA "clarification." http://wp.me/pFbfD-1bZ

    RCA Continues to Excuse Belsky’s Witness Intimidation
    06/12/2013

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  4. Rabbi Belsky basically agrees to the approach of going to the authorities. However, in this case he feels he has evidence that it wasn't warranted. Apparently, you feel that since Kolko admitted guilt in court, that proves that Rabbi Belsky is wrong.

    The fact that Kolko was convicted is not absolute proof that Rabbi Belsky was wrong since others may have threatened Kolko into admitting guilt.

    It is not absolutely clear in this case who is right.

    You can't condemn Lakewood in general on the basis that they didn't retract their prior agreement with Rabbi Belsky. First of all, none of the Roshei Yeshiva are listed as having been involved. Not even all of the poskim of Lakewood have signed on. Rabbi Forscheimer's absence is notable. Additinally, they may have felt that Rabbi Belsky's information gave them the right to make their proclamations. There is no evidence that any one of them was involved in driving the father of the child in question out of town.

    Therefore, it is wrong to condemn Lakewood as a single homogenous unit for this case since they in principle agree that to go to the authorities is not mesira and the details of this case are not absolutely clear.

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    1. You are incredibly naive. Someone is driven out of Lakewood for being a moser and the Lakewood roshei yeshiva were not involved?! They either were involved in either protecting Kolko, having the father harrassed or ignoring what they knew was going on. Either way they were not innocent of what happened. We are talking about a talmid chachom who was very well known to the Lakewood rabbonim - and yet as a minimum they did nothing. Others were more active in having him driven out of Lakewood.

      Which one of the Lakewood rabbis protested against Rav Belsky's letter? Where were these rabbonim when the children were kicked out of school? Where were these rabbonim when it was known that people were harrassing the father and calling him a moser - despite known that Rav Sternbuch had given permission to go to the police?

      It is elementary that one has an obligation to protect others from harm - "do not stand idly by the blood of your brother."

      Yes I condemn the Lakewood rabbonim for not protecting this family from the additional abuse they received that drove them out of Lakewood.

      There was a lynch mob in Lakewood - why didn't anyone stop it?

      You want to claim they were all subordinate to Rabbi Belsky? Since when has Rabbi Belsky become the posek of Lakewood? Are they a bunch of sheep? Where is the evidence that the father did what Rabbi Belsky charged?

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    2. Kudos to the blog owner for sticking up for Rav S. yes, this terrible בזיון of Rav S should not be swept under the rug. The fact is he was chased out of Lakewood by losing his job, his kids not allowed in school, and having the מוציא שם רע spread against him. There were nine Rabonim that signed against him, and not just Rabbi Belsky, surely someone must be thinking that maybe, just maybe they did something wrong!! At least make an asifa describing the what was done wrong and how to prevent just a travesty in the future.

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    3. "Where is the evidence that the father did what Rabbi Belsky charged?"
      Um, so we have two options here:
      1)"Rabbi" Belsky fabricated a ridiculous story, and he is an absolute nut, making this blogger absolutely right. Or,
      2)Rabbi Belsky, a true Talmid Chochom, performed an investigation, and reached a valid conclusion.
      No offense to this blogger, but I'll take my chances with Rabbi Belsky.

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    4. If had Rav Belsky presented his evidence then your analysis makes sense. However considerering that he had the opportunity to present his case to the RCA - but didn't and Rabbi Goldin wrote to me that:

      "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."

      It is good to have emunas chachomim - but there is no mitzva to be an idiot!

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    5. 2)Rabbi Belsky, a true Talmid Chochom, performed an investigation, and reached a valid conclusion.
      No offense to this blogger, but I'll take my chances with Rabbi Belsky.


      Criminal detectives study for many years to simply learn how to do a proper investigation, and then they work under experienced investigators for a decade or more before they are allowed to run cases themselves. When did Rav Belsky manage to get all of this investigative experience?

      Second to the above, if Rav Belsky had insurmountable evidence to Kolko's innocence and the father's guilt why didn't he present it to the investigators, DA and defense attorney so that Kolko didn't need to plead guilty?

      What about the other victims were going to testify and Rabbis?

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    6. "You are incredibly naive. Someone is driven out of Lakewood for being a moser and the Lakewood roshei yeshiva were not involved?! They either were involved in either protecting Kolko, having the father harrassed or ignoring what they knew was going on. Either way they were not innocent of what happened. We are talking about a talmid chachom who was very well known to the Lakewood rabbonim - and yet as a minimum they did nothing. Others were more active in having him driven out of Lakewood."

      You are apparently unaware of the nature of Lakewood. There is the Lakewood Yeshiva and the Lakewood town. The yeshiva itself is very diverse with very few talmidim having direct contact with the roshei yeshiva but the roshei yeshiva have a very direct and strong involvement in affairs of the yeshiva.

      However, when it comes to town affairs, the roshei yeshiva would not get involved unless it was an open and clear cut avla that anyone should get involved in.

      This is certainly not the case here. Where did you get your information from that he was driven out of town? From the way you describe it, it sounds like the townspeople of Lakewood gathered around his house with torches and demanded that he leave. The rov of his mossad decided not to continue his employment. That was an individual decision.

      I spoke to one of the signers on the declaration against Rabbi S and he said that Rabbi S seemed to have gone off on his own without consulting with the beis din involved and that it looked bad but they did not censure him directly for that. He did not provide enough information about why he went to the authorities.

      His children were not driven out of yeshiva by a common consensus but individual yeshivas decided on their own not to continue to keep them.

      There was no conspiracy of activity against Rabbi S and I don't know from where you are getting that information.

      Why should any rabbis in Lakewood protest against the acts of a few individuals in a murky affair? This is certainly not a clear cut case that the Roshei Yeshiva should get involved in and I don't see why you feel it is so blatant that they should have gotten involved.

      Your story about a lynch mob is a fantasy foisted on you by some with an agenda. That was not at all the case.

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    7. "Rabbi Goldin wrote to me that:

      "'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.'"

      Basically what you are saying is that we have a disagreement between Rabbi Belsky's view and Rabbi Goldin, and therefore Rabbi Belsky must be wrong? That is totally ludicrous. You obviously have an agenda here (and I commend you for your efforts - molestation is the worst of the worst crimes), but you need to be careful in your quest to reveal these creeps. Do you automatically assume that when someone is accused of this most heinous crime that they are guilty? Don't you realize that you're choosing Rabbi Goldin's position over Rabbi Belsky's because that is what you want to believe?

      And lastly, while I applaud your efforts to expose these scoundrels, I think you should avoid name calling such as this:

      "It is good to have emunas chachomim - but there is no mitzva to be an idiot!"

      Besides for the fact that it's possible you may be wrong, it would definitely be more appropriate if you wrote in a more professional manner. Name calling doesn't accomplish anything, and I would expect more from a person like you who has written many Seforim.

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  5. So the question I am left with is does the RCA permit its members to simply ignore its policies, and Jewish law(at least as they understand it) when said Rabbi thinks he knows better in a given situation.

    Such a stance would be highly problematic and have far reaching consequences.

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    1. I dont think Belsky is a member of the RCA. He is one of the two head poskim for the OU.

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    2. Rabbi Tzadok,
      1. The RCA and the OU are separate legal entities. While they both use the rhetoric that the "RCA is the rabbinic arm of the OU," rehtoric is all it is.
      2. In theory, according to the OU, when confronted with Belsky's public statements in the past, there was a standard respons. It was something along the lines of, 'R. Belsky is an employee of the Kashrus Division. He is not our spokesperson on any other issue, nor does he control our decisions in any other area.'

      Well, now we see he does, if not control, deeply shape responses to other issues.

      If you were to inspect the RCA membership list, I doubt you would find him on it.

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  6. i clicked the anonymous accidently so am reposting.
    I dont understand. the lakewood beis din, it was reported, told kolko to go to a social worker. It was reported that when the father saw he no longer went to the social worker the father went directly to the cops and didn't go back to the beis din.

    Rabbi Eidensohns post seems to say that the truth of the matter is that Rav Stern told the beis din that the father should go to the cops and the the beis din told the father to go to the cops. Which is the correct story and sequence of events?


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    1. Thank you for asking. I went back and asked my sources regarding the above point and they said that it was the family of the victim who requested and received the psak from Rav Sternbuch - not the beis din.

      I corrected the post.

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  7. Rav Belsky's "clarification" is significant in accepting the rule that one having credible evidence of child abuse should go to the police (or relevant child protection agency) rather than first ask a Rav whether on the basis of that specific evidence it is halakhically permissible to do so.

    Perhaps the OU/RCA believed Rav Belsky's "clarification" as to the correct rule would satisfy critics, but you are absolutely right to be unsatisfied. While the formulation of rules is undeniably important, Judaism/Torah is not an "ism," an ideology. Saying the right thing is not of ultimate importance, as the purpose of the mitzvot is "l'asot ha-yashar b'einei Hashem." According to the publicly known evidence, a grave injustice was committed, a flagrant breach of the discretion and judgment expected of a posek, and more than "clarification" of Rav Belsky's theoretical position was and is called for.

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