I was surprised to read Larry Yudelson’s article (May 18) on Agudath Israel’s position regarding child abuse. Abuse is an evil thing. A much lesser evil, but an evil all the same, is yellow journalism.
On May 15, Yudelson e-mailed Agudath Israel 13 questions, each of which would have taken at least 10 minutes to reply to in a complete and clear fashion. I routinely receive a question or two from various reporters, and always respond completely and promptly. But, with all due respect to The New Jersey Jewish Standard, I didn’t have two hours to offer it that day. And so I noted that fact, apologized and e-mailed a good amount of primary material (an organizational statement and rabbinic responsa) which contained most of the information he sought.
There were a number of factual errors in Yudelson’s report, but what surprised me most was that he cast my response as my having “declined to directly respond to questions on the topic,” seeming to imply that there had been a reasonable number of questions posed and that I had been purposefully uncooperative.
Mercifully, in his article he whittles down his stable of questions that I “failed to answer” to two. Had he sent only those questions, he would have received a quick and complete response. I’ll pretend that he did.
“How does one reconcile,” asks the intrepid reporter, “the claim that rabbis are qualified to decide this, with the claims that rabbis had been informed of specific child molesters, and failed to stop them for decades?”
My response: I have no knowledge of the veracity of those claims, which have been made by individuals against certain chasidic communal leaders. But if any such ignoring of credible accusations is ever proven, such irresponsibility is irreconcilable with Agudath Israel’s position. There are doctors who are guilty of gross malpractice, but reasonable people do not as a result tar all doctors as incompetent.
As to Yudelson’s second question, whether Agudath Israel shares the view of unnamed people “who argue that police authorities in the United States are anti-Semitic and waiting for an excuse to start a pogrom,” no, we do not.