The Sexual Abuse of Jewish Children – Out of the Darkness

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“Tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice you shall pursue”

May 1, 2016

FailedMessiah spent years investigating cases of abused Jewish children and the system that failed those children. Rosenberg wrote article after article condemning the abusers and the justice system that set them free. Yet, after 11 years of publication and nearly 6 months since shutdown, Jewish children are still getting sexually victimized, the Rabbis they trust are still silencing them and the families in whom they should be able to trust are increasing the trauma. The Justice System intended to punish the victims is turning its backs.

Early in his career de Blasio promised that he would work with the governor to change laws that would increase the Statute of Limitations for child victims of sexual abuse. Presumably, payoffs, greased palms, a quest for votes and political corruption prevented that from happening. De Blasio is, in our view, as much to blame for the victimization of religious Jewish children as the abusers themselves. Governor Cuomo is no less guilty. It is their blasé attitude toward changing  a law which, while not stopping the abuse, might at least help a victim get justice that perpetuates the belief in children that there is no hope. Not only would a concerted effort to change the law show children that there is a system at least trying to protect them, the same law might also serve as a deterrent. 

We are hoping that the following opinion by Rabbi Ari Hart printed in the Daily News might prove that there is a ray of hope that the ultra-Orthodox community is finally willing to step up, like the Catholic Church, and pursue the justice these children deserve. 

Rabbi Ari Hart: Why Jewish leaders want abusers to pay

The Daily News, May 1, 2016

“The famous joke goes: two Jews, three opinions. Yet last week, more than 100 Jewish leaders from across the religious and ideological divides came together, with one voice, to declare their support for statute of limitations reform for child abuse victims in New York State.

Why statute of limitations reform, and why are Jewish leaders lining up behind this bill? Because it’s our obligation as men and women of faith who purport to help people heal. And it is, I believe, our obligation as followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

After decades of denial, cover-ups and darkness, the light is finally shining on the scourge of child sexual abuse. Today, we better understand the high rate of its prevalence, the lasting and far-reaching damage caused by abusers, and the extreme difficulty survivors face in coming forward and seek justice. Tragically, New York State’s regressive laws prevent many victims from getting the justice they deserve and from stopping abusers from causing more harm.

While mental health experts have shown that it can take decades for a victim of child sexual abuse to overcome the fear, shame and trauma of abuse and come forward, our statutes allow someone to pursue criminal or civil justice only until the victim turns 23.

As a rabbi, I have met people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are only now coming to grips with what happened to them as children, and only now able to come forward. New York law fails these victims by giving a victim only five years from the time they enter adulthood to act.

New York state has been ranked among the very worst, alongside Mississippi, Alabama and Michigan, for how the courts and criminal justice system treat survivors of child sex abuse.

We take this stand not only as New Yorkers and Americans, but as Jews.

Judaism is a religion as concerned with what happens in the courthouse with what happens in the synagogue. Fairness, justice and protecting the vulnerable are hallmarks of the Torah — calls made in our sacred texts over and over again.

In addition, Jewish law does not recognize the concept of a statute of limitations: If a wrong was committed, if someone has harmed, they always have the right to seek justice.

It is also long past time that Jewish leaders came to grips with the fact that rather being a source of healing for victims of child sexual abuse, sometimes our religious institutions and leaders have been part of the problem. Too often, they have discouraged victims from going to the police. Too often, they have been enablers or even perpetrators of abuse.

Shamefully, it has been religious groups that have played the most prominent role in blocking the passage of statute of limitations reform in New York State until now. Why? Enacting this legislation puts many institutions, religious and otherwise, at financial risk for actions that protected abusers, ignored abuse claims or directly perpetrated abuse in the past.

But if the passage of statute of limitations reform means that religious institutions will have to bear the burden of increased financial risk, that is a burden we must find a way to bear. Have victims with profound emotional scars, shattered faith and more not paid a price beyond any dollar amount?

We must ask ourselves: to which bottom line are we accountable? Those of profits, of those of the prophets?

The Torah teaches: Tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice you shall pursue. Though we cannot undo the pain that was done, often under our own auspices, faith leaders can stand with victims of child sexual abuse in their quest for justice. Faith leaders can fulfill our mandate to be relentless pursuers of justice by calling on Albany to pass the Child Victim’s Act.

Hart is an Orthodox rabbi.”


See also:

New York Times: May 28, 2014

At a Jewish Gala, de Blasio Skips His Cue to Speak Out

“Mr. Zwiebel was a key figure in the last decade as hundreds of child sex abuse cases were reported in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community. Mr. Zwiebel told the authorities that his ultra-Orthodox leaders were offering this advice to their followers:

If a rabbi tells a follower not to go to the authorities, under religious law, that follower must follow that ruling.

The lack of moral clarity was striking, and time did not enrich Mr. Zwiebel’s perspective. Two years ago, he talked of the ultra-Orthodox dissidents who spoke up on sexual abuse. This, he said, is “it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittul zman.” This means malicious gossip, evil tongue and waste of time, all prohibited by the Torah.

As a councilman and public advocate, Mr. de Blasio expended few words on the Orthodox sexual abuse scandals.

He did, however, prove an able point man in pushing for day care vouchers tailored for Orthodox families. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had ended this program, but Mr. de Blasio has pledged to restore it.

Mr. Bloomberg also regulated the practice of metzitzah b’peh, in which a Jewish practitioner, after circumcising a baby, sucks the blood from the wound to clean it. The city’s health department found that since 2000, 12 babies circumcised in this fashion had contracted herpes and two had died.

At a mayoral forum in Brooklyn last year, Orthodox residents asked if candidates would overturn this policy. Mr. de Blasio offered a mumble. The city, he said, should talk with “community leaders.”

Which brings us back to the mayor’s too crabbed definition of community.”

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