Thursday, December 23, 2010

Child abuse - Rabbis & Calling the Police: A common misunderstanding

I just received the following comment from David Morris who wrote a review of my book - Child & Domestic Abuse - that he published on his blog Tzedek-Tzedek . It raises a very important issue - i.e., what are the parameters of consulting with a rabbi in these matters. I am posting the question - which expresses a misunderstanding of Rav Sternbuch's views - and my answer to the comment. My comment also appears on David Morris's blog Tzedek-Tzedek . This comment clearly indicates the dangerous ignorance and distortions that exist on this topic -  and why it is important to read my book.

Shmarya Rosenberg ( has left a new comment on your post "Child & Domestic Abuse":

What Rabbi Shternbuch actually says is that if there is "clear evidence" of child abuse, one should disregard any rabbi who instructed him not to go to police. But what about when there is evidence, but it isn't "clear" – meaning overwhelmingly certain – the person is guilty? Then you have to listen to the rabbi.

In other words, according to Rabbi Shternbuch, it is rabbis who should decide whether or not police should be called. And this is a big problem when rabbis have played key roles in so many coverups of sexual abuse.

Now why is it, David, that you don't mention this?

Posted by Shmarya Rosenberg to at 23 December 2010 03:14
On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 5:37 PM, Daniel Eidensohn <> wrote:

    It is obvious that the commenter has not read the book or he would know that what he is asserting simply not true. He is making a misleading comment and it ignores the complex reality of abuse cases as well as overestimates the value of the police in being able to help. While there is no question that there have been cases and there are still cases where rabbis have insisted that a child not be helped even when in danger - that is not what Rav Sternbuch said as can clearly be seen from what he wrote and what he approved in my book - as well as what he told me and permitted to be publicized in his name. He said that you are to decide whether to listen to the rabbi and whether his response endangers the welfare of a child. He clearly said you do not listen to a rabbi if you feel there is a possibility that he is giving you bad advice.

      1) If it is clearly a immediate danger to the child and there is no time to speak to anyone - call the police. 2) If it is uncertain if there is abuse but if the child is in danger than he can only be protected by the police - than call the police. 3) If it is certain but you know that a complaint won't be filed and therefore the police won't do anything - then it is important to contact a rabbi who is experienced in these matters and  consults with experienced therapists and community leaders and the police. 4) If you have a suspicion - i.e., you saw a man hugging children or being very friendly with them  - then go to the experienced rabbi. If you are not satisfied with his response than ask another rabbi (the responsibility is not the rabbi's but yours). 5) If you have a child in your class that is withdrawn - but there is no complaint but it might be the result of abuse - then go to your experienced rabbi. You should also consult with a mental health worker who might advise what the next step is. 5) If there is mandatory reporting - then you obey that law and go to the police.

    In sum - the rabbi is not a substitute for your good judgment but is a consultant to help bring clarity and objectivity as well as protecting the rights of others. If he tells you not to do anything and you think that might be a danger to the child - than go ask another rabbi. At no time are you to allow a child to be in danger (according to your evaluation) nor are you to violate mandatory reporting laws. The rabbi is there to represent the community, provide objectivity and prevent against mob rule -  and protect others against false accusation. He is not a dictator that requires total submission - either in deed or thought. You are not to listen to him if you feel he is telling you to do something which is endangering a child or even possibly endangering a child.


  1. Why are you bothering answering a open kofer and shakran at all?

  2. What can you do if you suspect sexual abuse between siblings, two girls, ages 9 and 5?

  3. It seems that things have at least moved forward from even 2 decades ago. In London, there was such a case, where a family went to the Police. they were criticised by the Haredi Rabbinical leadership, and they were mobbed by fanatic haredim (perhaps a truism) who attacked their house, much in the same way as Lot's house was mobbed by another bunch of perverts in the city of Sodom.
    Of course, we have to offer our respect for Rav Eidensohn who has worked tirelessly to try to change the map of these modern day criminals.

  4. I gotta agree. "FailedMessiah" isn't worth the effort you put in to that reply.


  5. Thanks, micha.Let's not forget as well, how that kofer insulted rabbi moshe sternbuch.He's looking for kashas ,not answers.

  6. R. D. Eidensohn:

    You're 4 or 5 steps listed to determine whether to go to the police or not, is not what Rav Shternbuch indicated. It is either your or someone elses ideas or interpretations.

  7. Recipients and PublicityDecember 24, 2010 at 6:53 AM

    "c said...Why are you bothering answering a open kofer and shakran at all?" & "micha said...I gotta agree. "FailedMessiah" isn't worth the effort you put in to that reply."

    How absurd! Rabbi Dr. Eidensohn is, at a minimum, fulfiling the obligation of "da ma shetashiv..." ("know what to answer...")

    Regardless of who the question is from, if it is intelligent, even if misinformed and tendentious, it has its merits and in this case the questioner prompted and allowed for more and better clarification.

    Unfortunately the majority of the world, if it is even aware of Judaism let alone thinks about it, has the most twisted and incorrect perceptions and misunderstandings of Torah Yiddishkeit, that it so happens to be are expressed by some but they are pretty typical of millions of others, but they need to be answered carefully, intelligently, patiently and wisely, which Rabbi Eidensohn did.

    Sometimes naysayers and troublemakers are better than "yes" men when it comes to raising the toughest questions and thereby motivating a search for even better answers and solutions.

    "Sam said...R. D. Eidensohn: You're 4 or 5 steps listed to determine whether to go to the police or not, is not what Rav Shternbuch indicated. It is either your or someone elses ideas or interpretations."

    If your observation is correct, then why not assume that it was clarified by Rav Moshe Shternbuch himself, since Rabbi Eidensohn clears and clarifies everything with him, and that you are getting it straight hot off the press?! Assuming the best does work when people have a chezkas kashrus and ne'emanus.

  8. Please,the gemara says clearly not to engage with jewish apikorsim.Besides,did you read what i wrote about him being a shakran and only looking for kashas.He's not sincirely looking for the truth at all.And he's not this innocent question guy as our potraing him.

  9. Good answer, and I'm glad you answered him, even if Failed Messiah is a shakran, leitz, and kofer. Way overrated too.

  10. Besides uttering any lie he thinks he can get away with to convince people to not be religious, FM is also a con man. He shnorred "travel expenses" in public appeals from readers to attend the Rubashkin trials but never made any effort to go, explain his absence or pay back the money. When readers questioned him they were blocked from posting comments.

  11. Even if FM is a kofer and liar, it is important that Rabbi Eidensohn answers those lies and distortions and that he clarifies this matter because many Jews will see the lies and misunderstandings of FM and possibly think they are true!


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