By now it is rather well known that the Agudah Moetzes requires that all suspicions of child sexual abuse be first reported to a rabbi so that he can decide whether the suspicions are credible enough to report to police.
I believe that when they made this declaration it was in response to Rav Elyashi’s Psak that any suspicions which have ‘Raglayim L’Davar” (loosely translated as credible evidence) should be reported directly to the police. The Moetzes felt that the layman is not capable of determining what is considered halachicly credible evidence and therefore he must first vet all such suspicions before a Rav.
Their fear was that innocent people will be accused and that their lives will be ruined – even if they are later found to be innocent. While that may be a legitimate concern, there is near universal agreement that when a child says he was abused, it is rarely if ever made up.
That has resulted in a lot of terrible injustices. In one rather famous case a huge Talmid Chacham that gave Shiurim in Lakewood’s BMG was hounded out of town because he reported his son’s abuse to the police without the permission of rabbis involved in the case. (Although I have been informed that one of those rabbis actually did give him permission to report it to the police.)
I’m told that a lot of child sex abuse is not reported when rabbis get involved. I think that’s what the Kol Korei (public posting) signed by 100 Charedi rabbis urging people to go directly to the police – was all about. These rabbis, chief among them Agudah Dayan Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst actually defied the Moetzes requirement to vet all suspicions before a rabbi first. Why did they do this? Perhaps they were given a crash course in the devastation suffered by victims. I was told by an activist involved in that letter that one of those rabbis told her, ‘We were living in the dark ages’.
Whatever the reason for it, it was obviously the right decision. The question remains as to why there are some glaring omissions from this august list? There are some prominent names missing that have not signed. I can’t answer the question. But if I had to guess, I would say that they are ‘team players’. Meaning that they will not defy any edict the Moetzes comes out with. They consider that defying defying Daas Torah! Which leads to another question. Why did those card carrying Charedi rabbis that did sign feel it was just to defy the Moetzes? And why after all does the Agudah Moetzes continue to insist on reporting to rabbis first?
Could the answer be that they simply don’t realize the devastation sexual abuse causes to the victims? This is exactly what Rav Dovid Cohen, a world class Posek suggests in an interview (which can be heard below) with Rabbi David Lichtenstein: ‘I am not very tolerant of Rabbanim who don’t know how to eat this thing’…‘They don’t know what molestation is all about.’ ‘And that’s why they perhaps feel that it’s nothing’.
One may recall that Rabbi Cohen had made some controversial statements about another issue in the past. Which were extremely upsetting to me and to which I strongly objected. But the fact is that he is still a world class Posek and is the Posek for Ohel.
Rav Cohen was asked in that interview about whether he supports that Kol Korei. He said he enthusiastically does and doesn’t understand why it was even necessary. With rare exception he always advises people to do so. So he too is in opposition to the Agudah Moetzes postion on this matter.
In response to a question about why this is not Mesirah (informing on a Jew to secular authorities) he said that it is a matter of Halacha based on the Shulchan Aruch. When a community is endangered there is no such thing as Mesirah (in cases where the death penalty is off the table – which is the case with sex offenders). He further explains that children are believed in these cases in order to protect the community. Based on this and the high incidence of recidivism, he believes that convicted molesters should be jailed for life. Not as a punishment. But as a protection for the community.
Rabbi Cohen further says that rabbis are not trained like psychologists that specialize in sex abuse. They are not therefore the ones to consult in these matters. In fact he says that those who do not report suspicions of abuse directly to the police are not only NOT violating prohibitions of Mesirah, they are actually violating the clearly stated Mitzvah in the Torah of ‘Lo Samod Al Dam Re’eacha’ – ‘Do not stand (idly by) on (while) your friend’s blood (is being spilled)’! A molester is a Rodef (a pursuer whose goal is to damage you or others). The Halacha is that one must do what is necessary to stop him.
A sex offender is a Rodef. And putting him (or her) in jail is what’s necessary in most cases in order to stop him. Firing him from a job or ‘kicking him out of town’ just places the Rodef into other communities where he can continue his abuse.
It’s gratifying to see yet another world class Posek stand up to abuse in responsible ways. Whatever criticism one might have of Rabbi Cohen, it cannot be denied that he is a believer in doing the right thing as he understands it and will vigorously pursue justice no matter who opposes him – or what people say about him. He stood up for Rabbi Natan Slifkin and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein when the rest of the Charedi world accused (and still accuses) the former of heretical writings and the latter of Shmad (facilitating the conversion of Jews to Christianity). He is indeed a man of courage. And for this he deserves credit.
For further reading please see post, Is There a Rabbinic Role in Reporting Sex Abuse?