An Open Letter to Rabbi Mark Dratch about the RCA Statement After the Kolko Conviction

Dear Rabbi Dratch,

You have an impressive record in fighting child abuse in all its forms. You made it your calling to promote child safety through extensive writing and the formation of JSafe (The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse Free Environment). Activists against abuse were thrilled when the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) adopted your policies in 2010 and appointed you Executive VP in September, 2012 You followed through when the RCA issued its statement in December 2012, on the day that Satmar “Torah therapist” Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was convicted.

But then something went very wrong 5 months later in May of 2013 when Rabbi Yosef Kolko of Lakewood pled guilty during his trial on seven felony charges of sexually abusing a lonely 12-year-old boy who he befriended in camp.

As you know, this, like Weberman, was the story of a brave family that suffered within their community and was forced to relocate to Michigan. The RCA should have again been in the forefront of support for the victim and his family.

Instead the RCA retreated from its previous position and aligned itself with Rabbi Yisroel Belsky who led the charge against the family with a letter attacking the father of the victim as a molester, a moser (snitch), and a rodef (dangerous pursuer). In fact the RCA proudly declared in its statement that the RCA and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky were on the same page because in theory he sometimes supports reporting cases to the police (when he makes the determination).

You wisely omitted Yosef Kolko’s name because the discrepancy would otherwise have been highlighted. After all, Rabbi Belsky is unrepentant about his conduct and still insists that Yosef Kolko is innocent. Kolko pleaded guilty mid-trial when he learned that two more of his victims stepped forward and were willing to testify for the prosecution. The RCA should have praised the courage of these additional witnesses, something unprecedented. Instead, your collusion with Rabbi Belsky muted your eloquent voice.

Your recent statement also left out these important things which you were comfortable saying when you talked about the Weberman conviction.

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 decries any invocation of Jewish law or communal interests as tools in silencing victims or witnesses from reporting full cooperation with the criminal justice system or from receiving therapeutic and communal support and strongly condemn those members of the Jewish community who used such tactics in this case.

Of course you had to drop it this language since you were aligning yourself with Rabbi Belsky who employed these ugly tactics. Instead you offered a legalistic alternative about mandated reporters complying with the law. You also dropped your previous excellent language about communal education and policy.

The RCA commits itself to increasing the training of its members who serve in all areas of the rabbinate, including pulpits, education, chaplaincy, and communal service, to know how to recognize, prevent, and respond appropriately to issues of child abuse. In addition, the RCA will help its members develop policies regarding prevention and response to issues of child abuse in their individual congregations and schools, as well as in their larger communities, and, where nonexistent, to support the creation of response teams that include mental health practitioners, law-enforcement personnel, and specially trained rabbis to respond to allegations of abuse and molestation……

Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA and founder of JSafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse Free Environment, added, “We, like other religious communities, have come a long way in recent years in recognizing and addressing issues of child abuse in our communities. We increasingly understand that our religious texts, traditions, and values must serve as resources of strength and support for members of our faith communities, not as roadblocks to their safety and security.”

All this magnificent language and commitment was sacrificed to secure a concordat with Rabbi Belsky.

OU insiders say that Rabbi Belsky is indispensable to the business of OU Kosher. But we were also once told that Rabbi Baruch Lanner was indispensable to the OU’s National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). In the end the NCSY endured a train wreck as Lanner’s abuse of boys and girls was exposed in the media and he eventually traded his black suit for an orange jump suit after he was convicted of molesting a young girl.

Rabbi Dratch, I implore you to retract this misbegotten, misleading, destructive statement and replace it with the kind of statement you must be inclined to write.

Rabbi Dratch, I beg you, please don’t sacrifice your life’s work on the altar of political expedience. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to all of us you once inspired, and you owe it to our children.


4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Rabbi Mark Dratch about the RCA Statement After the Kolko Conviction

  1. FYI – the RCA issued two statements on the matter, the latter directly addresses your concern:

    The RCA appreciates that this distinguished scholar has gone on record with this position, a position that echoes the RCA’s longstanding policy. We are confident that this statement will be helpful to many victims in the future. Nevertheless, due to the facts of the Kolko case as we understand them, the RCA disagrees with Rabbi Belsky’s defense of this admitted perpetrator. We pledge to work toward the time when all victims of abuse will find strength, healing, and justice with the support of their communities, its members, and its leaders.

    Problem solved.

    • Really? They are ignoring the fact that their senior posek (religious law expert) has violated their policy and publicly slandered and attempted to intimidate the family of the victim who went on to testify against Kolko.

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