Three Australian rabbis sign a proclamation address abuse

September 26, 2017 by J-Wire News Service
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Three Australian rabbinical judges are signatories to an international proclamation addressing abuse in the world-wide Orthodox Jewish community.

The Chabad Lubavitch community has taken a historic step forward in combating child abuse, child sexual abuse and abuse of adults.

Rabbi Yoram Ulman

The proclamation gives reason for the necessity of this document, referencing the multiple deaths due to drug overdoses and suicides over the past year alone in Jewish communities.  It reads, “… the existence of child sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse which occurs in some of our communities, resulting in a number of tragic suicides as well as other physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences.”

Exclusive to this petition is the inclusion of abuse of adults, which includes but is not limited to domestic abuse, elder abuse, and abuse of the disabled.
Aside from the secular mandate, the Torah obligation for every individual to report abuse immediately and directly to the civil authorities is critical. The two Bible passages referenced in this proclamation are, “Do not stand by while your fellow’s blood is spilled” (Leviticus 19:16) “…and he is a witness- either he saw or he knew- if he does not testify, he shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 5:1).
The signatories include: Rabbis Yehoram Ulman and Moshe Gutnick, Senior Dayanim, Sydney Beth Din, Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, Av Beth Din, Melbourne Beth Din,, Rabbi Yosef Feigelstock, Senior Dayan, Beth Din, Argentina; Rabbi Baruch Hertz, Rabbi of Congregation Bnei Ruven and the Chabad Community of Illinois; Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, Dean, Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, PA; Rabbi Yosef Shusterman, Senior Dayan and Director, Chabad of Beverly Hills, CA,

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick

The release of the proclamation coincides with the Jewish High Holidays, a time for introspection and rectifying misdeeds on a communal and personal level. The Rabbinical leaders express regret, saying, “We recognize that in light of past experiences our communities could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”

The aforementioned Rabbis are clear in the requirement for allegations of abuse and neglect to be immediately and directly submitted to secular authorities without necessitating prior Rabbinic or professional consultation. These decisors of halacha state unequivocally, “The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child and adult abuse and neglect directly and immediately to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law. There is no need to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.”

Clinical psychologist Michael Salamon and noted expert in this field, said: “The longer it takes to report the more time the abuser has to keep abusing and creating alibis. Only trained investigators with proper professional team support (e.g. police, medical, etc.) can investigate. Asking anyone else about reporting just delays or confounds or

Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick

completely derails a proper investigation. That is why so many abusers have been able to move to different communities and continue to abuse.”

The concept of consulting with a Rabbi prior to reporting has no basis in halacha (Jewish law) but rather can be a method of silencing the victims. Furthermore, Dr. Salamon asserts that “Therapists can lose their license if they attempt to ‘investigate.’ Be aware that the overwhelming majority of reports – in the vicinity of 95%, or more – are accurate. It takes a lot for someone to finally come forward and tell someone that they have been abused.” The fear that without Rabbis sifting through allegations there would be a high percentage of false allegations is similarly incorrect. James A. Cohen, associate professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, warns, “Encouraging delay in reporting a crime, particularly a crime against a child, is obstructing justice.”
Senior charedi halachic authority, Rabbi Dovid Cohen endorsed the 2015 kol koreh and explained on the U.S. Headlines radio program in 2015 that one is obligated by Torah law to report abuse allegations “directly” to the civil authorities and prior Rabbinic authorisation is unnecessary.
The proclamation stresses, “Regardless of the standing of the abuser, accusers and their family members must be treated in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner so that they feel safe and can therefore speak frankly and fully.  This is necessary for them to receive suitable therapeutic support, and in order to facilitate proper investigation and pursuit of justice. Shunning or encouraging social ostracism of victims, their families, or reporters is strictly forbidden.”
Dr. Michael Salamon emphasizes implementation, stating, “The more we acknowledge this issue, the more we implement these guidelines, the sooner we will gain control over this scourge.”
Rabbi Moshe Gutnick told J-Wire: ” The Australian Batei Din have already for some time stressed that there is no issue of “mesira” whatsoever in reporting to the secular authorities child sexual abuse and indeed any form of abuse , however this is a message that has to be heard around the world and can never be over-emphasised “
Read the proclamation…


One Response to “Three Australian rabbis sign a proclamation address abuse”
  1. Rabbi Ponchos Woolstone says:

    Excellent and timely.
    The Crown of Torah is enhanced by the actions of the three Rabbinic judges.
    The lustre of Judaism is elevated.
    Our community should feel proud that the evil and detestable nature of child abuse is formally recognized by the most senior Rabbanim in Australia.

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