Next week, Britain’s Channel 4
BBC will be running an in-depth report about sex abuse in the ultra orthodox community in Britain. Miriam Shaviv reports that BBC’s Channel 4 has actively investigated the problem. They will air a recording of Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, Head of the Haredi Union of Hebrew Orthodox Congregations (UHOC) as he tries to discourage someone from reporting abuse to the police.
London is embroiled in a controversy about Rabbi Chaim Halpern, a Hasidic rabbi in Golders Green, a more modern neighborhood than Hasidic Stamford Hill. The rabbis of Golders Green have publicly called on Halpern to quit the rabbinate because of allegations of sexual conduct with young women he counseled from Stamford Hill. Padwa has at times protected Halpern and at other times spoken of investigations and removing Halpern from some positions. In one case he took three different positions over 24 hours.
Padwa is obviously under a lot of pressure from competing factions. Satmar seems to have lined up behind Halpern. Padwa, like most of these guys, is alleging that the complaints about abuse are without cause and are actually attempts at extortion.
When the Channel 4
BBC segment airs on the 30th, expect new damaging revelations. Everyone in London is waiting, some quite anxiously.
The Centrist London Beth Din, anticipating the
BBC broadcast, pre-emptively sent a letter to all rabbis affiliated with the Beth Din reminding them of their policy. The letter is ambiguous. Near the end of the letter they write,
As you have previously been informed, the United Synagogue’s Child Protection Officer is David Frei. Should you encounter or be informed about any situations which raise concerns, please refer to him in the first instance for advice.
The latter sounds like the US Agudah policy of always asking a rabbi first. On the other hand, earlier in the letter they reference a policy similar to the US Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). Another part of the Beth Din letter says,
When abuse has occurred, the police must be informed without delay. Local communities should not attempt to deal with the situation internally.
Perhaps I am missing some subtlety of British usage. The United States and Great Britain are, after all, two countries separated by a common language (GB Shaw). On the other hand we may just be witnessing a subtle difference between crude Hareidi approaches to cover-ups and the more sophisticated approaches of the more modern sectors of the community where the public position is go to the police and actual practice is diversion from the police by rabbinical “advice.” If that is the case, the earlier part of the letter is a reminder about public talking points if ambushed by the press. The letter may also reflect differences of approach between the more modern rabbis of the United Synagogue and the Haredim who have gained control of the Beth Din itself.