Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Abuse : Rabbis must decide whether to go to police

Asbury Park Press

One man's criminal accusation that a teacher molested his young son has widened the rift in the Orthodox Jewish community over where religious rights stop and the justice system begins.

Some inside the tight-knit enclave praised the child's father for bypassing religious protocols last year and reporting the alleged attack first to Ocean County prosecutors. Others believe he committed a sin because he failed to get permission from a rabbinic court before pressing charges against a fellow Jew.

"The first step is to go to rabbis,'' said Rabbi Shmuel Meir Katz, a senior Dayan, or decider of Jewish law. He teaches at Beth Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva in Lakewood that is one of the foremost Jewish universities in the world. "We have our own system. We have our own laws, and as long as the Bais Din (rabbinical tribunal) feels competent on taking care of something themselves, that's our surest recourse in our circles.''

At the center of the controversy are the criminal charges against Yosef Kolko, 36, a former camp counselor and local yeshiva teacher. At his arraignment Tuesday, Kolko pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment. The child was between 11 and 12 years old when the more than yearlong alleged abuse began in Lakewood, according to the indictment. The Asbury Park Press is withholding the father's name to protect the child's identity.[...]


  1. Your headline downplays a dangerous part of the quote: "We have our own system. We have our own laws, and as long as the Bais Din ... feels competent on taking care of something themselves, that's our surest recourse in our circles."

    Not just getting a pesaq about the permissibility of going to the police given the details of a particular suspicion, as your header "Abuse: Rabbis must decide whether to go to police" would imply. But a concept that the alternative might be that the batei din are capable of handling it themselves?


  2. Just to add what Micha said

    The problem is that we see historically rabbinical arbitration seems to have been ineffective on these issues.

    Another problem (and I know that everybody is going to jump on me about this) is that this requires a certain amount sedition. Most (I stress the word most, (not everything) of what batei dimim convene on today are covered by private arbitration laws in their host countries and jurisdictions.

    Child molestation and other sex crimes are excluded from this category and in most districts there is mandatory reporting. Are we trying to set up a parallel justice system. Does a beit din even have a solution on how to deal with a person that is dangerous to the public?

    Is a sex criminal worth having a talmud chacham risk jail in order to enact an episode of law and order?

    Again, someone would have to point out to me that Dayanim are suitable for this. I mean in a practical sense.

  3. I think that for a beis din to be able to handle these issues, it needs not only shofetim, but also shoterim. This isn't arbitration, where the result is an exchange of money. This is something that likely requires penology and law enforcement.


  4. I am concerned about the fact that virtually none of the batei dinim operating in this area have expertise either in evaluating the information or investigating facts of this sort (which often requires legal power).


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