The Jewish Week
Editor And Publisher
A proclamation signed by 300 Orthodox rabbis acknowledging that sexual abuse of children causes “immeasurable harm” in the Orthodox community, and that past efforts to combat the problem have been lacking, is being hailed by anti-abuse activists as a major step forward in reducing the stigma for victims to come forward and report sexual crimes to the authorities.
The detailed statement, made public this week and signed by member rabbis of the Orthodox Union (OU), Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Yeshiva University (YU), calls for policies to be put in place in synagogues and schools to prevent abuse, and it condemns cover-ups and “attempts to ignore allegations” of abuse as immoral and against Jewish law.
Further, the statement asserts that “the reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law. There is no need for people acting responsibly to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.”
The sentiment appears to be an acknowledgment that rabbis, most of whom are not experts in identifying or dealing with sexual abuse, have sometimes sought to protect a community’s image by discouraging victims and their families from speaking out.
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