Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why rabbis are typically not competent to deal with abuse cases

Guest Post from Rabbi Yehoshua Kaganoff: This is a letter written several years ago which was sent in response to an article in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.
Rabbi Alfred Cohen, Editor
RJJ Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society
5 Fox Lane
Spring Valley, NY 10977

Chol Hamoed Succos, 5771

Dear Rabbi Cohen,

I appreciate the voluminous amount of research and effort that you invested in composing your recent article, “Judging Transgression in the Absence of Witnesses”. However, I was considerably dismayed over several fundamental omissions of very critical dimensions that impact dramatically on the outcome determinations and guidance that was necessary to convey to your readership and others under their influence.

Probably the most effective and efficient means of demonstrating the deficient aspects of the article is to critique the 3 case-studies that you cited as examples on pages 45-47 of your article.

In regards to the first case, you state that you feel that the authority figures acted in laudatory fashion.

Unfortunately, that is grossly incorrect. Nowhere is it mentioned that in the initial confrontation (“the quiet, discreet one”) that the rabbis in charge stipulated that the “rebbe” needed to submit to specialized psychological testing and treatment and that his engagement in the treatment protocols needs to be corroborated and verified. Nor was it mentioned that in the interim his movements need to be constantly (electronically) monitored and that the monitoring would only be discontinued after receiving a “clean report” from the supervising therapist.

The “rabbis in charge” were completely unaware of the compulsive, addictive nature of pedophility. Nor were they aware of the extent of the injury and damage caused to the victim of molestation.

Therefore, even though they may have (perhaps) protected the children of the yeshiva, they did nothing to protect the children of the community at large. As is well documented and known, a pedophile’s verbal assurances are of absolutely no value; Nor are threats of punishment! The disease (and indeed, a disease it is!) is a compulsion that he cannot rationally control and it was only a matter of time before he would victimize another child.

The rabbis in charge, either out of neglectful ignorance or arrogance, ignored the medical scientific research on this condition and blundered egregiously. They did not discharge their responsibility of Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Re’echo. The subsequent victim’s trauma (“….not abiding by the terms of the agreement.”) is their full responsibility. “Kol Dmei Achicho Tzoakim Eilai!”. Yodenu Shofchu es HaDom Hazeh!”      
This is very precisely a case of “Holcho Chamorcho, Tarfon”.

And likewise the public denouncement thereafter, was also a consequent miscarriage of justice. They never gave the perpetrator a proper chance at therapy to modify his psychological issues which underlie his disease. They basically set him up for failure and the subsequent public degradation.
This is not laudatory at all!

Similarly in the case of the Hebrew school teacher that you cited as case study #2, The Rosh Yeshiva perhaps protected the children in school. How these same children were to be protected off school premises remains mystifying. The nature of the disease is that if one avenue of sating the craving is denied, then the addict finds another avenue to “soothe” the compulsion.

And exactly how was the Shul Rabbi going to protect the children in the Shul? Was he to appoint (discreetly, of course) a shomer to watch the teacher’s every action? Anyone who works in the field of addictions knows that it is absurd and impossible to expect another person to control externally the addict from engaging in his “drug of choice”.  And what about the children in the rest of community? Again there was no interim electronic monitoring to keep the community safe. And there was no   mandated treatment with corroboratable compliance to ascertain that the perpetrator was engaged in the therapeutic process. All of these follies lay the groundwork for a subsequent disaster to happen.

Your referencing and comparing of these first 2 cases to your third case study of a Monsey butcher is a total non-sequitor. Even if we suspect the butcher of the compulsion of Kleptomania, at most he is endangering people’s money. The Maacholos Asuros factor is clearly an “Ones Rachmono Patrei” on the part of the customers and every responsible rov and rebbi will exonerate the consumers. Even the “Timtum HaLev” aspect, if indeed it applies at all, is removed by some Teshuva on the part of the consumers – please see endnote for elaboration. In no way does this compare to the severe emotional trauma and physical damage caused by molestation! A molester is a true Rodef in every sense of the word as borne out by the research.

Until such time as Rosh Yeshivos, Rabonim and Dayonim educate themselves in the following areas:

            1 – The compulsion dimension of Pedophilia; it is not a case of yitzra b’yodo – that he can contain his “own   evil urgings”…..

             2 – The extensive damage done to the victims….; 

          3 – That this is not a case of “judging transgression”; but preventing profound injury by a public menace (Rodef)…

A parent or other responsible adult has no other recourse than to go to the secular authorities and/or to the media, to protect his own children and those of others. And this is, indeed, mandated by Halocho!

If you would like, for your convenience I can send to you the corroboratory Teshuvos, Mareh Mekomos and resource material that is available upon these matters.

I believe it behooves you to recall the article as being half information and therefore inaccurate and misleading.

A Guten Moed v’Simchas HaChag

Rabbi Kaganoff

PS – concerning Timtum Halev:

1) Droshos HaRan(#11) posits that a person who commits an Aveira but did so because he followed the Psak of Torah Authority does not suffer Timtum HaLev. In the cited butcher case, the consumers were following a very reliable Rav HaMachshir.

2) Even if we would disregard the Droshos HaRan, the Timtum HaLev is at most a Hezek SheAino Nikar, which is only a Hezek m’d’Rabbonon – NOT m’dOiraisah (Oruch HaShulchon CM 386:8).

3) Even if we suspect that the consumers ate Chelev, which would precipitate upon them a Chiyuv Korbon (Chatos or Oshom Tolui) to atone and rectify the damage, the cost of the animal would be only a monetary damage on the part of the butcher (Garmi – Oruch HaShulchon 368:11). 

And whether it be in a time when Korbonos can or cannot be brought, Teshuva accomplishes the requisite rectification as per Rambam, Teshuva 1:1 ; 3 and 7:4,6-8 


  1. The writer of this post deals with the stupefying power of addictions. I thinkhe's only partially correct - while overcoming addictions is takes immense willpower - it would be wrong to characterize it as he does, "it is not a case of yitzra b’yodo"

    People can and do overcome addictions, and not necessarily by using approaches that typical therapists use.

    C"M Siman 34 states that Baalei Avayro become kosher as witnesses once they shown that they can withstand their temptations - addictions aren't excluded.

    Here's a case in point:

    The Sefer Hachinuch by מצות ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם, סוף פרשת שלח, compares sexual addictions to alcoholism. I'm taking the liberty of posting a letter that the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung writes concerning the treatment of a certain "Rowland H" for alcoholism.

    "Rowland H" is actually Rowland Hazard III - one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Jung's advice obviously worked, as the popularity of AA can attest.

    Jung sees addictions as a yearning for spiritual fulfillment. Needless to say, most contemporary therapists would consider such a view pretty wacky....

    Anyway - here's the letter:

    Dear Mr. W.

    Your letter has been very welcome indeed.

    I had no news from Rowland H. anymore and often wondered what has been his fate. Our conversation which he has adequately reported to you had an aspect of which he did not know. The reason that I could not tell him everything was that those days I had to be exceedingly careful of what I said. I had found out that I was misunderstood in every possible way. Thus I was very careful when I talked to Rowland H. But what I really thought about was the result of many experiences with men of his kind.

    His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.*

    * "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." (Psalms 42:1)

    How could one formulate such an insight in a language that is not misunderstood in our days?

    The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism. I see from your letter that Rowland H. has chosen the second way, which was, under the circumstances, obviously the best one.

    I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil. But the use of such words arouses so many mistakes that one can only keep aloof from them as much as possible.

    These are the reasons why I could not give a full and sufficient explanation to Rowland H., but I am risking it with you because I conclude from your very decent and honest letter that you have acquired a point of view above the misleading platitudes one usually hears about alcoholism.

    You see, "alcohol" in Latin is "spiritus" and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.

    Thanking you again for your kind letter

    I remain

    Yours sincerely

    C. G. Jung


    I don't think AA is fully congruent with Observant Judaism - but Jung definitely was following the right track...

  2. So, what's my point?

    I'd have to disagree with the caption:

    "Why rabbis are typically not competent to deal with abuse cases"

    Actually, Rabbis SHOULD be the ones that actually help TREAT these addictions - by teaching addicts how to experience authentic, intrinsic religion.

    Please note that the word "SHOULD" is in caps. I'm not deluding myself...

    Roland listened to Jung's advice, and here's what happened next, according to Ernest Kurtz's history of A.A:

    Rowland joined the Oxford Group, “an evangelical movement then at the height of its success in Europe.” In recalling to Jung this channeling of his idea, Wilson — who was linked to Rowland H. through their mutual friend Ebby T. — stressed the Oxford Group’s “large emphasis upon the principles of self-survey, confession, restitution, and the giving of oneself in service to others.”

    “Within the Oxford Group, Rowland had found “the conversion experience that released him for the time being from his compulsion to drink.” Returning to New York City, he joined and became active in the Oxford Group at its United States headquarters — the Calvary Episcopal ... of Rev. Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. Alcoholics had not been a primary interest of Oxford Group adherents in America or in Europe, but Rowland chose to devote to such sufferers his efforts at living out and promoting his own conversion experience. Thus, in August 1934, hearing that his old friend Ebby T. was threatened with commitment to an institution because of his drinking, Rowland H. intervened, and with his friend Cebra G., pledged for Ebby’s parole, leading him to the Oxford Group and so to his first period of sobriety.

  3. Ploni is confusing Spirituality and Religion - the 2 are not the same. I explore this at length in my book Addictions:Halocho, Hashkofo and Causes. The vast majority of our rabbinic leadership are perhaps very knowledgable about Religion - but sorry to say, they are clueless when it comes to Spirituality
    2) Ploni has also taken a very simplistic view of the quoted Sefer HaChinuch. The more profound meaning of the Chinuch's words (The one that is consistent with the findings of modern medical science) can be found in Rav Shimon Schwab's zt'l Sefer on Chumash Parshas Bo on עד מתי מאנת ליענות מפני . It parallels the "conversion experience" referenced by Ploni in his post - which is NOT what is normally considered Yitzro b'yodo. Again this is more fully explicated in my book.
    3) AA is fully congruent with Torah & Halachic Judaism. this is fully explicated in my book as well as my other publications as well as in the writings & lectures of Rav Dr. Avrohom Shia Twerski and others. Ploni refers to "Observant Judaism" - perhaps he means the Judaism as we see it practiced round about us. Indeed as this blog site is constantly and continually reminding us - the Judaism that we observe round about us is indeed in great variance to that of the Torah and Halocho.
    4) In my book I devote an entire section quoting the latest scientific research from the Centers for Disease Control (USA Gov), Harvard University, and other studies of high scientific repute. These findings establish the the vast majority of Addicts have "injured brains" - their brain circuitry is miswired. A short summary appears on page 22.
    I would ask Ploni to avail himself of my book before he continues stating his erroneous assertions.


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