Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita - Guidelines for calling the Police IV

Despite having written three postings about this subject, I still hear repeated assertions that 1) perpetrators of sexual crimes are invariably going to repeat their crimes 2) rabbis have no competence in evaluating whether the facts indicate that a person is a possible present and future threat. 3) there is no need to involve rabbis since any intelligent adult knows when to call the police.

1) The fact is that the secular law assumes that sexual criminals are not likely to repeat their crimes - if they are properly supervised. The statistics bear this out. Otherwise all sex crimes would be punished by life imprisonment. It is true that the drive to commit the crime is very difficult to irradicate - but that doesn't mean that all or even most sexual criminals will be repeat offenders. Obviously a pedophile should not be allowed a job in teaching children. However Rav Sternbuch has readily acknowledged that therapy and treatment is not very successful in changing the person so that he won't repeat his crime if given the opportunity.

2) Regarding predicting behavior of criminals - either as to whether a particular criminal will or will not commit another crime - even the professionals have trouble .

3) However Rav Sternbuch is not saying that the rabbi is asked to do a complete forensic investigation. His job is simply listening to the facts and concluding that there is a reasonable concern that the suspect is a threat to others. Rav Sternbuch also emphasized the importance of a solid working relations with the police. So that if a person is arrested - the community has some constructive influence on how the investigation is carried out. The rabbi also serves as a shield for the person who files the complaint. Because of the concern that the person will be perceived by others as an informant - there might be a hesitancy to file a complaint. The fact that the respected rabbi tells him to call the police increases the likelihood that the complaint will be filed and minimizes the chance he will be criticized by others for doing so. The rabbi can also serve to work together with the police to minimize the negative consequences to others.

I find the criticism of Rav Sternbuch's view to be astounding. His view - which I believe is that of the majority view of the major poskim - represents a significant and enlightened change from not only the recent past - but also what still goes on in many communities. Instead of welcoming his views - I hear complaints about why rabbis have to be involved since they know nothing about the matter. We are talking about a matter which is shredding our communities, our schools, our families and our children. Calling 911 is not a complete cure for the wounds that have been created and that will be created by investigation and punishment. The alternative view that the public perception is the only concern that matters - and not the individual - still exists. I remember attending a meeting of rabbis concerning a child molester - in which the agenda was simply - how do we get him to move out of the neighborhood. When I asked Rav Sternbuch about the matter - he said simply "call the police." Thus we are not dealing with a grand jury investigation but simply whether the facts indicate that someone is a threat to others.


  1. The statistics you link to (from 1999) are not entirely clear to me but it seems to say that "the long-term follow-up study (15-30 years)of child molesters showed that the average recidivism rate for this group of offenders" is 61% (42%?) for any new conviction. "Among child molesters, those with male victims have been found to have the highest recidivism rates"
    A 2002 report on that website states: "long term follow up of these offenders has shown that they are at risk of reoffending throughout their lives."

    Here is a good idea: talk to the professionals at the Domestic Violence Unit at the Neve Yerushalayim Family Institute in Har Nof
    Don't waste your time on bloggers like me.

  2. "I find the criticism of Rav Sternbuch's view to be astounding."

    I realize this sounds paranoid too, but it is true.

    There are literally hundreds of Christian missionaries who do nothing but spend their full time days putting a negative spin on Judaism via the news, blogs, Facebook etc.

    Part of this is to portray traditional Judaism (and Islam BTW many Islamic leaders are very aware of this) as "archaic", "dinosaur", "judgmental", "impossible to fulfill", "ridiculous" "out of touch" etc.

    For example, a while back various posts to blogs aimed at Jewish women began to harp on "women making sure to not be heard at all when entering a room", ie. to guard against the swish of the arms against the body, the sound that shoes make on the floor etc. Others on the blog were asking if it was really necessary for tznius to purchase rubber heel covers (like used to be worn to prevent women from getting heels caught in sidewalk cracks), make sure clothing fabrics do not make any noise (no polyester crepes or taffetas) or to practice walking in a way that her arms do not move. In response to questions of whether or not this was necessary there were a other posters mis-quoting assuring that this was an absolute requirement.

    Others posted insults to "haredim". (This is typical on many blogs). But in this case, it seemed like the comments were overly redundant.

    I did a google search on some text after I had noticed similar posts on a few different Jewish blogs.

    What I found was that not only were the same posts on several blogs whose audiences were Jewish women, but also that variations of the same posts were on blogs oriented to Muslim women.

    There are religious leaders in the Muslim community who are aware of Christian missionaries who haunt blogs aimed at Muslims in order to distort ideas about their religion.
    Additionally Muslim leaders are aware of Christians who convert to Islam only to missionize to Muslims within their mosques.

    Earlier today, a family friend emailed me about a known missionary (on Jews for Judaism's list)who was recently hired to write for a Jewish newspaper and who has spoken at several shuls in the NY area.

    Our friend wanted to know how a man who is not Jewish and who has been affiliated with a Messianic churches for decades could end up speaking in shuls throughout the country and writing articles for a dozen different Jewish newspapers and magazines.

    I told him, that this was only ONE of the dozens I am aware of.

  3. The statistics of repeat offenses that you linked to was dealing with people who were convicted of crimes. These people have already suffered the consequences of their crimes, or they are on probation.They are are more likely to desist from future crimes than someone who is not reported & goes scott free. Therefore, the argument that Rabbis are not in a position to predict that someone is not a future threat,is a cogent one.

  4. The statistics were dealing with someone who was convicted for their sexual crimes & there was still a high degree of repetition. Certainly one who is not reported & goes scott free will have a greater likelihood of repeating their crimes. Therefore, there is a cogent argument that Rabbis are not in a position to say that someone who did it once is not going to do it again.



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