Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rav Yisroel Belsky: Why contrary to the Kolko case he says to report abuse to police without any requirement to consult a rav first!

 [Update: Sunday June 9 - Rabbi Shmuel Goldin (president of the RCA responds]
The following letter appears on the RCA website  with the clear unambiguous statement to go to the police in cases of known or credible evidence of abuse. Of critical importance - it doesn't state that this is conditional on first consulting a rav. Statements such as this by a posek of Rav Belsky stature as well as the RCA are welcome and help clarify the haze that was created by the various conflicting statements of Agudas Israel and others on this matter.

The obvious question is, why in the recent Kolko case did Rav Belsky publicly state that going to the police was mesira while in this letter he states that one should go to the police -  without mentioning consulting a rav first. Furthermore the victim's father only went to the police after going to beis din. And only after Kolko stopped the treatment required by the beis din and Rav Sternbuch poskened that he go to the police - only then did he do so. Despite this known chain of events - Rav Belsky still labeled the victim's father a moser! Why?  Click link for other documents in Kolko case

The obvious answer is that despite Kolko confession in court - Rav Belsky knows that Kolko is innocent because of his own investigation into the matter. This is similar to the statement of Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein that only rabbis know whether a person is innocent or guilty - not the police and not psychologists. I would also conjecture that both Rav Belsky and Rav Zilberstein would agree with the recent pronouncements of Rabbi Handler that one should always consult gedolim since they have divine assistance in these matters - something which is obviously not available to the police or psychologists. (Of course it is important to note Rav Belsky's earlier letter not only says Kolko was innocent but that the father of the victim was the abuser - which if made by a lesser figure would clearly constitute a vicious slander since there  is absolutely no evidence to support the accusation.) All this would seem to imply that - since Rav Belsky and Rav Zilberstein apparently view themselves infallible in their judgements - Yosef Kolko's confession constitutes kefira by implying that Rav Belsky made a mistake. Perhaps Rav Belsky was mochel because he felt that Yosef Kolko only confessed because he thought it would save himself from a longer prison sentence.

Thus we are faced with a disturbing question. If we are to rely on Rav Belsky's infallibility then why is he telling people to go to the police - without first going to a rav? If he is not infallible then we are faced with an incredible chilul hashem made by one of the greatest American poskim - who not only mistakenly declared a pedophile innocent but has greatly compounded the problem by slandering the father and causing him to be driven out of Lakewood. Rav Belsky apparently alludes to this confusion about his true position when he states in his letter, "though some of misunderstood my position". However I fail to see a rational resolution of the apparent contradictions in Rav Belsky's statements. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me in this matter. Hopefully the RCA will issue a clarification to prevent severe damage not only Rav Belsky's credibility but that of the RCA.
If you share my confusion please respectfully send a copy of this post to the OU and RCA

Martin Nachminson      Steven Stavitksy    Rabbi Steven Weil    Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Rabbi Menachem Genack      Rabbi Mark Dratch     Rabbi Shmuel Goldin

I just sent the following message:

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.

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. 

My ears should have been spared hearing the horrific news that one of your fellow residents in town informed upon a fellow Jew to the hands of the secular authorities,may god spare us,for which the [Jewish]law is undisputed that one who commits such an act has no share in the world to come. (see:Choshen Mishpat 388:4)After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R' Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as cleartone that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].

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.

Accordingly, as it is a great mitzvah to rescue the pursued from the hands of the pursuer and to make it known that the righteous man is right and the evil man is evil‐to rescue a pure and righteous soul. Therefore, anyone who has the ability to rescue the righteous and does not do so is considered as if he is himself the pursuer. (See: Rambam ‐ laws regarding informing 1: 14) Thus, all who have the ability to influence the informers that they should retract their terrible deeds
should do so.
Rav Belsky's recent letter posted on the RCA web site:


  1. This is a very interesting and important subject, and s I will not comment directly on the case.
    But, I wish to learn something from the method used here, to see why it is not used elsewhere.

    The issues that the post raises are the "yedia" of the Posek, ie his daas, versus secular or scientific knowledge or evidence. For the specific and horrendous case of abuse, you are willing to allow factual evidence, ie non halachic knowledge to go agasint halachic concepts such as mesira, arkaot etc.

    Why is such secular knowledge acceptable in this case, but not elsewhere in the halachic spectrum, eg astronomy to determine rosh chodesh.

  2. To the blog owner,
    Why do you seem to pick just on Rabbi Belsky, there are many Rabonim that signed on that paper denouncing him. I feel they are at much to blame as the others, unless of course they also had some inside information that the person was and is still innocent. What about the tremendous embarrassment they caused him, who is a phenomenal gaon in Torah . What about the money that was collected for pidyon, will that money be returned?
    Last but not least, what about the tremendous chillul Hashem that was caused?
    Let's face it, Rav Ploni had a clear psak from other Rabonnim to go to court. Let's assume you disagree with that psak, does that give you a right to do what was done to Rav Ploni? If you disagree with a psak, take it up with the Rov who issued it. To be honest with you, I am totally turned off and lost my respect for many Rabonim because of this.

    1. Rav Belsky is the only one I know of who has produced publicly available documents regarding his views. If you can get me copies of the Lakewood establishment - aside for calls for pidyon shevuim - that would be very helpful and I would be glad to publish them.

      I agree with the your concerns

    2. There was a letter dated אייר תשע where nine Rabonim signed against him going to the police and courts. I have it in my possession . I don't know how to scan it though.

    3. It is available on the internet - it is significantly different then Rav Belsky's letter. Hope to do a post on it in the near future.

    4. Still Shocked,wrote
      To be honest with you, I am totally turned off and lost my respect for many Rabonim because of this.
      unfortunately a lot of us feel the same way,the fact that our Rabbonim have for years covered up and supported the most evil child molesters,has destroyed our EMUNAS CHACHOMIM which is the foundation of YIDISHKEIT.
      There is an amzing MAHARAL,where he explains a CHAZAL,who state that KOL TALMID CHACHAM SHEAIN BO DAAS NEVEILA SERUCHA TOVAH MIMENOY,(a talmid chacham who has no brains (common sense),a stinking Caracas is more worthy than him.explains the MAHARAL was is this connection between these two?
      the answer is simple,when someone sees on the street a foul smelling disgusting piece of rotten meat,in most cases that individual for the next few days will not be able to take even the most exquisite delicious piece of meat into his mouth,because he will subconsciously associate all meats together with the one he saw on the street,therefore says the MAHARAL,when you see a TALMID CHOCHOM without common sense making a CHILLUL HASHEM,you cannot help but lose some respect for all talmidei chachomim and rabbonim.
      Oh how true this is.

    5. documents are available here

  3. Rabbi Belsky did not ever say he agrees with the RCA/OU postion. He qualified his agreement to say "given first hand knowledge or credible evidence." Clearly he considers himself the arbiter of credible evidence. First hand knowledge ordinarily only resides with the victim. However, it is usually parents who want to report. So then the "credibiity" clause kicks in and you are back to "ask a rav." Naturally, Belsky does not respect the rabbonim of the local beis din because they disagreed with his long affinity for "knowing" all Kolkos are innocent.

    The letter is deceptive. The RCA/OU shamed themselves by allowing this to pass for a claim that Belsky is alligned with them when he isnt. To make it worse of course, he was guilty of motzi shem rah. But the business of kosher is the business of the OU and their stated policy about protecting children is not that important to them. How much has the OU really changed since their decades long tolerance of Baruch Lanner's abuse of children.

  4. If he "knows" the victim's father is the perpetrator, why isn't he pressing charges against the father?

    -ben dov

  5. Eddie,don't you realize Rabbi Eidensohn was sarcastic ?

  6. Your questions are great we all have them, how about writing or calling Rabbi Belski, before attacking him in front of the World Wide Web?
    Why is it permitted to blog like this, even if the Rabbi is 100% wrong in the way he handled this, must it be presented to every Hate site too?

    1. Very interesting questions. Are you demanding that I need to be frummer then the gedolim - including Rav Belsky and the gedolim of Lakewood?!

      Firstly I am simply commenting on material that Rav Belsky and the RCA themselves put in the public domain. I asked respectfully for an explanation of what seem to be inconsistencies in their publicly stated guidelines for dealing with child abuse. This is clearly permitted by halacha.

      Secondly regarding contacting Rav Belsky - it sounds nice but I don't expect an answer. He clearly is aware of what is bothering me as he notes in the current letter - but he chose not to address the issue. If you have the ability to get an explanation from him that he allows publicizing - I would be glad to put it on my blog.

      Finally if you have been following the way gedolim deal with what they believe are errors or halachic violations - you will first see wall posters go up or letters are circulated or newspaper ads condemning the person publicly - without giving the person an opportunity to explain. That is clearly the procedure that was done in Lakewood.

      When the posters went up all over Jerusalem attacking Making of a Godol (despite Rav Eliashiv assurance to Rav Kaminetsky that this wouldn't happened without consulting him first) Rav Triebitz his son-in-law asked Rav Sternbuch whether he could destroy the posters that were in Har Nof. Rav Sternbuch said he could because no beis din procedure involving questioning Rav Kaminetsky had been done.

      When the father of the victime in the Kolko case followed the advice of beis din and the psak of Rav Sternbuch and went to the police - his kids were kicked out of school and he was driven out of Lakewood - without any protest of the Lakewood rabbis.

      Before you criticize me for respectfully asking obvious questions - please explain to me why the normal procedure amongst gedolim is not like you are saying? Please explain what I have done that comes anywhere near the accepted procedure of the gedolim in publicly questioning the perceived deviations of others?

    2. I would like to point out the beautiful balance and class exhibited by this site.
      Questions oh yes!
      Condemnations sometimes, sure when they are warranted.
      But always with "seichel" and fairness.
      Its hard sometimes when such atrocities are committed and the perpetrators are still respected,and not even demanded to apologize!?!
      But around here you never throw in the towel!"Kol hakoveid lachem"!!


  7. Waiting for the ApologyJune 9, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I always believed that the strongest characteristic of a person, gedolim included, was the ability to admit to a wrong. The thread here is focused on how this wrong occurred in the first place, which is worthy discussion. But now that it did, there is a desperate need for an apology, to the family and to the public. What is it about the silence that is so offensive?

  8. Daas Torah,

    Are you saying that the Roshei Yeshiva orchestrated random posters and the expelling of the children of the accuser of Kolko from their yeshiva? Where did you get this very questionable information from?

    The only thing you might say is that some hotheads put up posters and put pressure on the school and the Roshei Yeshiva did not intervene. However, the rest sounds like pure motzi shem ra and knowing the Roshei Yeshiva personally sounds far below their level of upright activity.


      See the documents - we are not talking about hot heads

  9. I continue to be troubles by the myriad smoke and mirrors games being played to defend rabbinic honor, and, dare I say, hubris.

    We must either hear, AND SEE, a consistent position on the issue of reporting abusers to the secular authorities, cooperation with secular authorities, and recognition of the jurisdiction of the the secular justice system. OR we are witness to the continued double speak and double dealing to protect abusers and those that are complicit with them.

    There is no middle ground. There can be no middle ground.

    We must recognize that rabbis, that the "Gedolim", are no more equipped to address sexual abuse of minors than they are to put men on the moon. We can no longer be Dan Lekav Zchuss for perpertrators. The lives of our children and grandchildren are at stake.

    The Jewish community has reached its Catholic Church moment. And the only way to fix this is to cast the light of the sun on all allegations, operations, and institutions. Anything less is ignoring the needs of the victims -- past, current and future.

  10. Rav Eidensohn,
    Why do you suggest that if the claims had been made by a lesser figure they would constitute a vicious slander? Do you mean kal vachomer for Rav Belsky, as I assume? Please clarify.

  11. Rav Eidensohn -- great post, and delicious sarcasm. I disagree with Yerachmiel Lopin that Rav Belsky's use of the words "credible evidence" ambiguously allows the "ask a Rav first" standard to be re-introduced through the back door, avoiding a contradiction. Rav Belsky said "credible evidence," not "raglayim l'davar," a technical standard that (arguably) only a rabbi should apply. If a child describes what you recognize as sexual abuse and he seems to you to be telling the truth, you have "credible evidence." Rav Belsky has embraced a contradiction and can only choose which horn of the bull he prefers to be gored with.

    The "severe damage" to Rav Belsky's credibility cannot be prevented, as it occurred when his reckless declaration of Kolko's innocence and slander of the victim and his family smashed headlong into Kolko's confession. And while not as demolished as Rav Belsky's, no "clarification" is likely to save the RCA's credibility, now that obfuscation has already been tried without success. All that remains is for the RCA to do what it should have done weeks ago.

  12. I agree with 'Kevin in Chicago' however I would point to the latter part of the Belsky statement that supports his view.

    In Belsky's vivid example of "credible evidence" he defines this term as "reasonable cause for suspicion".

    Yerachmiel Lopin is selectively quoting Belsky in his comments above which in my view does a disservice to the debate. Mr Lopin is however correct when he says that Belsky is not alligned with the RCA. I think that this is bleeding obvious now that we have the "Goldin clarification" found elsewhere on this blog.

    What is mostly troubling however is Belsky's dogged support of Kolko. In the long run, however, it is my view that Belsky will lose all credibility even amongst the Yeshiva world. His arrogance is openly on display and he is only digging himself into a bigger hole each time that he makes a further statement.

    I am reminded of the words found in Orchas Chaim L'Rosh which says that a person should not join someone else’s argument as they will in the end make peace and you will be left fighting.
    This is exactly what has occurred here. Kolko has made peace with his victim by apologizing and now we have Belsky left fighting.

    I would encourage everyone to be a little more circumspect regarding the long term outcome of this sorry saga because the main game has now changed with Belsky at least agreeing that any person with "reasonable cause for suspicion" should go straight to the police without requiring 'prior rabbinic approval'. This leaves Agudath Israel out in the cold.

    It would be interesting to have a response from Agudath Israel now that Belsky has outed himself.

  13. The real answer for the discrepancy in all such, so called "Daas Torah" is because most often, people try to defend a Molester out of fear that if "they" snitch on the Molester, then the Molester can and will, take revenge on them and snitch on them too!

    All too often our "Mosdos" have "much to hide" and when any Molester, threatens that he will do a "Wikileaks" job, on the Mosod, if the Molester is reported, then it's very easy to get all Top Brass to defend the Molester for fear that otherwise the entire Mosod will be investigated and worse. Vehamevin Yavin.

    That's why most Molesters go free, because those who are protecting the Molesters are doing so to cover for their own sins.

  14. The problem today is that we are all so used to looking up to the rabbonim who are supposed to be "our eyes" for guidance, but woe to this generation where we see hippocritical, non conforming to halacha, and outright corruption in our leaders. This revealing fact has put many of us in a state of shock, because could it be that we are leaderless? Who do we turn to for "real" unadulterated advice? The answer is that there are handful of righteous amongst us , but most of them dont want to get involved in these matters because they understand what the evil rabbis will do to them if the word got out. Therefore we are all left to fend halocho for ourselves. My advice to everyone, is if you seek the truth look back at the poskim of 50 years and beyond and not the recent ones as you are likely to find that their halachic rulings are not only sensible, but that they back up their rulings with sound logic and with gemara and great rishonim/Acharonim. Those that are followers will be followed blindly, but those that are "thinkers" will find the truth.

  15. V'haEmes me "ERETZ" titsmachJune 13, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Dear Harav Eidensohn S'hlita',

    Toda Raba, meimka deLiba. At beyerushalayim, umtsudatcha prussa al Kol haGola Kula. Sahadei Bamromim, sheharbeh assita bishvil sheYichye Bni, venero Yair veYofia.

    Hada hu dichtuv:
    Hamatsil afilu nefesh achat meYisrael keilu kiyem olam male, hamkayem nefashot ad sof kol hadorot, al achat pi kama vekama tova kfula umchupelet. Yekum purkan min shmaya, shetishma kolech misof ha'Olam ad sofo.

    Bameh avarechecha? Perotecha metukim meod, Tsilcha naeh veyafeh ad leMeod, Amat haMayim overet tachtecha, Ela halvay, shekol netiyot shenotim mimcha ( Netuyo tartei mashma) sheyihye DAAS "Natui" "V'DAAS TORAH", halvay vehalvay sheyirbu kemotcha be" Y*I*S*R*A*E*L ", and yes, pun intended. Zchutcha merube misfor!

    Shlomchon yassgei,Yishge veYifrach, shenishma venitbasser Kol Tuv ach kol hayamim - amen. Thanks again for your voice and and Advocacy. It is highly appreciated, more than you know!

    With tons of Love,
    The Kindertransport


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.