RCA Reaffirms its Halakhic Position That Prohibitions of Mesirah and Arka’ot Do Not Apply in Cases of Abuse

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) adopted this resolution today.

Apr 27, 2010 — Whereas we have become increasingly aware of incidents of the sexual and physical abuse of children in our community; and

Whereas, there have been a number of high profile cases in which Orthodox rabbis have been indicted or convicted for child abuse or child endangerment; and

Whereas the lives and futures of many of these victims and their families are harmed in significant ways: suicide, post traumatic stress syndrome, inability to form healthy relationships, inability to develop healthy intimate relationships, etc.; and

Whereas many victims of abuse in our community still remain silent and do not come forward to accuse perpetrators or seek help for fear of stigma, personal and familial consequences, or perceived halakhic concerns; and

Whereas the Rabbinical Council of America has resolved through past resolutions its condemnation of abuse and its censure of abusers, and has affirmed, under the guidance and direction of its poskim (Rabbinic decisors,) that the prohibitions of mesirah (reporting crimes to the civil authorities) and arka’ot (adjudication in civil courts) do not apply in cases of abuse and in fact, it is halakhically obligatory to make such reports; and

Whereas reiterating this long held position can serve to provide pastoral and halakhic leadership, support, direction and affirmation to abuse survivors and their families and advocates.

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America resolves that

• It reaffirms its unqualified condemnation of all forms of child abuse.

• It reaffirms its halakhic position that the prohibitions of mesirah and arka’ot do not apply in cases of abuse.

• It will regularly issue on its website and to the media appropriate statements of condemnation when public attention is drawn to a case in which Jews are either victims or perpetrators of abuse.

• It will regularly evaluate the competence of its members in understanding and responding to issues of child abuse and initiate training and continuing educational opportunities for all of its members in this area every year.

• The members of the RCA address the issues of child abuse in their communities in at least one sermon, lecture or article within the next twelve months, and that contact information for local abuse services be displayed in a public place in all synagogues, schools, and Jewish community institutions serviced by its members.


7 thoughts on “RCA Reaffirms its Halakhic Position That Prohibitions of Mesirah and Arka’ot Do Not Apply in Cases of Abuse

  1. As usual, their statement falls a bit short. Besides stating that mesirah doesn’t apply, they need to urge victims that are within the SOL (i.e. currently under the age of 23), to go to the police immediately. Their statement makes it like it’s optional. They also need to address the concerns of lashon hara and rechilus and state unequivocally that it does not apply to child molesters. Moreover, they need to urge that these molesters be exposed in order to protect the community. Also, there is nothing mentioned about the needs of past victims, nor does it address the status of known molesters within the community regarding excommunication.

    • I take that back. They did state that “it is halakhically obligatory to make such reports.” The rest of my post still stands.

  2. It is a historic day for all past and present victims of sex abuse.a great thanks to the leadership of the R.C.A.we must continue our fight untill all rabbincal groups issue a similar statement we will with gods help prevail

  3. Actually, given the RCA’s history, this is a quantum leap forward. They are to be commended. May it be the major crack in the dam that’s needed to break down the horrible barrier to justice that the code of silence has been for so long.

  4. I am sure that many of us are gratified to read that the sexual abuse issue is beginning to be addressed in our community. However, you and others have an obligation to clarify one aspect of this topic. Everybody quotes “mesira is permitted if one is known to be an abuser”. What is not clear in this sentence is – at what point is it considered known and thus permitted. I am not for one second suggesting that we should not report an abuser to the authorities, however, if an 8 year old (or any young child) claims abuse or someone sees a grown-up bring a child into a private and locked room – is this enough to assume that there actually was abuse? If one reads Rav Elyashiv’s tshuva carefully, he does suggest certain conditions that would be considered evidence without requiring actual eye-witnesses. While it is not clear exactly what the evidence needs to be – it does seem that there has to be something – at least circumstantial evidence to allow reporting.
    There may be other Rabbonim that do not even have that requirement – and allow reporting with even less information – however, when quoting Rav Elyashiv – one should be more careful not to suggest that mesira is permitted without even some sort of circumstantial evidence. Therefore, please explain to all of us what constitutes an abuser that would allow mesira?


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