On page 6 of this week’s issue, Larry Yudelson reports on the growing discomfort people feel regarding the child abuse policy espoused by the Agudath Israel of America, which represents most charedi communities in the United States.
That policy may be summarized this way: True abuse should be reported to the police, but because ordinary folk are not qualified to know true abuse when they see it, rabbis should decide when to dial 9-1-1.
Says Agudah, a person who suspects that a child is being abused, or who has knowledge of such abuse, “should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who isâ€¦fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations, and the urgent need to protect children.”
Read that again. If you think a child is being abused, take the matter to a rabbi who is sensitive to the need to protect that child, but not at the expense of violating some esoteric requirement of Jewish law.
That begs the question, whose Jewish law? Agudah’s policy is rejected by the centrist-left Rabbinical Council of America and even by a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinic court, both of which unequivocally insist that Jewish law requires that cases of suspected abuse be reported immediately to the police.
The only people who benefit from Agudah’s policy are the abusers, who are allowed to roam free and even to continue to work in professions that put them into contact with the very targets of their abuse.
The ultimate authority in Jewish law is the One from whom that law emanates. To parse verses and spin debates in order to shield abusers is to say that this is the will of God.
That is the rankest form of blasphemy.