When Nechemya Weberman was convicted of child sexual abuse, the RCA came out with a statement the same day. The Orthodox Union followed but then backtracked and removed the statement from its website. This time around, in the aftermath of Yosef Kolko’s conviction, they are both struck dumb. They don’t need my help in writing a statement but since none is forthcoming, I will propose language based on their previous statement limiting my changes to factual differences between the Weberman and Kolko cases. So below is proposed language to be used by the RCA and OU.
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the world’s largest organization of Orthodox rabbis is encouraged by the process that led to the mid-trial guilty plea by Yosef Kolko an Orthodox Jew who was a teacher and camp counselor on May 13 for the sexual molestation of an adolescent boy. We commend Mr. Kolko for accepting responsibility and expressing remorse. For many years the RCA has condemned the efforts of many parts of the Jewish community to cover up or ignore allegations of abuse, viewing these efforts as against Jewish law, illegal, and irresponsible to the welfare of victims and the greater community. The RCA strongly advocates, as a matter of Jewish law, the reporting of reasonable suspicions of child abuse to the civil authorities and full cooperation with the criminal justice system. The RCA decries any invocation of Jewish law or communal interests as tools in silencing victims or witnesses from reporting abuse or from receiving therapeutic and communal support and strongly condemn those members of the Jewish community who used such tactics in this case. (I have left out the rest of the statement which repeats the RCA policy on child sex abuse.)
There, that was pretty easy. I rewrote it by changing just one substantive sentence. Of course the problem is that the OU is more concerned with obliging Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a Senior Posek for OU Kosher, who in fact violated the above policy by slandering the father of the victim, denouncing him as a moser (snitch) and calling on others to pressure him out of pursuing the case in the criminal justice system. The family’s children were forced out of school and the father of the victim, a highly respected talmid chacham, was forced out his jobs, forcing the family to move to Michigan. If that is OK with you, stop reading right here!
If not, either write the leadership of the RCA and the OU to express your views, or learn some more about the issues by reading about Rabbi Belsky’s role in the Kolko case, and my first, and more extended call, for a letter writing campaign. If you are already convinced, just continue on to the lists of addresses below.
The people to whom you should direct your letters include:
- OU President: Mr Martin Nachimson email@example.com
- Chair of the Board of OU, Mr. Steven Savitsky firstname.lastname@example.org
- OU Executive VP, Rabbi Steven Weil email@example.com
- OU Executive VP Emeritus, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, firstname.lastname@example.org
- CEO of OU Kosher, Rabbi Menachem Genack <email@example.com>
- Executive VP of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), OU’s rabbinical arm, Rabbi Mark Dratch firstname.lastname@example.org
- President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), Rabbi Shmuel Goldin email@example.com
- Chair of the Board of OU Kosher and President Emeritus, Mr. Harvey Blitz (I have no address for him so I would direct it through their Chief Communications Officer, Mayer Fertig firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate that you wish to have it forwarded to Mr. Blitz
If you favor snail mail or fax, contact:
Rabbinical Council of America, 305 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor, New York, New York 10001 Phone: 212-807-9000 Fax: 212-727-8452
Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, New York, New York 10004 Phone: 212-613-8101
When you send these emails, BCC to anyone else you know in the RCA or OU orbit that is, or ought to be, interested in protecting children from sexual abuse. But please be careful to respect email address privacy by putting these recipients into the BLIND CC (BCC) field.
To establish a record, please share copies of your letters and their replies on this site and as many other places as possible including websites, Twitter, email lists, local newspapers and bulletins and physical bulletin boards (Comments are moderated so it may be a few hours before you see your submitted comment appear- but that is still a hell of a lot quicker and transparent than the OU/RCA response).
Warning– you will probably not get a substantive email reply. Instead you will probably be given a number to call. Apparently folks are skittish about leaving a written record. If you are satisfied by all means thank them and publicize the reply. If you feel you were given evasive replies, please follow up by explaining your dissatisfaction and sharing it with all those to whom you originally wrote. Let’s make sure there is a feedback loop!
PS- If you have any energy left you might want to write to Rabbi Belsky’s other employer, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas where he is a Rosh Yeshiva. Address mail to Chaim Leshkowitz, President, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas – 425 E. 9th Street. Brooklyn, NY 11218-5209 (I suggest certified mail and send a copy to Rabbi Belsky at the same address.)