Gateshead’s Rabbi Zimmerman Challenges Community to Stop Covering Up Child Abuse

Shraga Feivel Zimmerman

Shraga Feivel Zimmerman

Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, the community-wide rabbi of Gateshead, UK, an important ultra orthodox Jewish community, recently delivered a stinging rebuke to the community for its past handling of child sex abuse. Rabbi Zimmerman, broke with past community patterns in testifying for the prosecution in the recent trial in Manchester of Rabbi Todros Grynhaus on child sex abuse charges. Grynhaus, who was a student in Gateshead, was convicted and sentenced to thirteen years. Notes of Zimmerman’s weekly (7-11-15) Sabbath sermon were posted on the FaceBook page of Migdal Emunah, a British anti-abuse organization. (See image of full sermon below.) Rabbi Zimmerman’s rebuke included these words (emphasis added):

This week a judge passed sentence over a frum looking individual and sent him to jail for over 13 years for molesting children. … How did our society allow such a person to be in contact with children for so many years? How was such an individual allowed to coast from institution to institution despite his known background? His behaviour wasn’t a secret?!

Was he allowed to continue in his job because he came from a respected family? …

Reb Moshe Sternbuch said …”he’s more sick than wicked”. Yet that doesn’t vindicate the silence of the community and that is why we ask, “How were our children left for hefker” (abandoned)

Todros Grynhaus

Todros Grynhaus

We have to wonder, how it is that there are those who err so much to provide unlimited support to child molesters and won’t instead help the victims. How is it that there are unlimited funds to aid the perpetrator and yet the victims struggle to get help for expensive therapy?

Not only that, but the victims suffer twice as the offender tries to bully them into silence. How have we stood by and watched this double whammy? These are broken souls which have been hit twice.

You should know that if a Rov is attacked in such a way, it may hurt him and his family, it may harm a community, but a Rov is a healthy individual living with a lot of self-confidence, yet these children are broken people. How has it been okay for us to ignore their plight? Is this the behaviour of people who are supposed to beרחמנים ביישנים וגומלי חסדים (merciful, modest and kind)?

This is a question directed to the public; to the whole community – how is it that we have neglected, how is it that we have kept quiet for something that has been known for so long?

It is most probably because we have no idea what damage is done when children are abused. We have to educate ourselves to understand the pain of these children. The abuse that they have suffered gnaws at them from every direction. Many times these children harm themselves or take their own lives. It can affect their mental state or their married lives even after many years. And of course it affects their spiritual lives too, especially if the molester is in the guise of a frum (ritually observant) person.

A recent study in the USA placed child abuse as the single biggest cause for people going “off-the-derech” (off the path) and despite all of this, over the past few months I have received many letters from victims who all seem to have a similar refrain: “Granted the molester is sick, but what about the community? Do those in charge not care?”

Moirai Veraboisai, it’s time that we say “Enough!” It’s time to end the silence. It is time that we said that no longer will we leave the next generation for hefker, for the sake of misguided values……

We have to learn וכשאני לעצמי מה אני- if we keep information to ourselves – what do we gain? We must learn how to handle and transfer information.

It is noteworthy that he publicly acknowledged that many in the community knew about his history of abuse and allowed him to move from job to job. Equally important, he broke the loshon horah (gossip) taboo, albeit in the veiled call to “learn how to handle and transfer information” instead of keeping “the information to ourselves.”

Rabbi Zimmerman’s position stands in sharp contrast to Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the mashgiach (spiritual advisor) at the Gateshead Yeshiva for over thirty years until he took on a similar position at Beth Medrash Govohah (Lakewood, NJ). Salomon, who retains influence in Gateshead, opposed cooperating with the prosecution throughout the trial according to British sources close to the case. In all likelihood, Salomon knew of the allegations against Grynhaus molesting boys when he was a student in Gateshead Yeshiva and probably colluded in the cover up way back then. In his role as spiritual advisor he has become the go-to-man for sex abuse cases in the American orthodox community for many laity and rabbis far beyond those directly involved in his own institution. He has never once publicly supported the prosecution of a sex offender. See also: Matisyahu Salomon Subpoenaed: Accused of Manipulating a Child in a Custody Case British Judge Explains 13-Year Sentence for Todros Grynhaus

Zimmerman sermon on Todros Grynhaus in Gateshead on 7-11-15 from Migdal Emunah FB page

Zimmerman sermon on Todros Grynhaus in Gateshead on 7-11-15 from Migdal Emunah FB page

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15 thoughts on “Gateshead’s Rabbi Zimmerman Challenges Community to Stop Covering Up Child Abuse

  1. Rabbi, Thank you for speaking up for all the injured children/adults. It has been a real chillul HaShem, and you are speaking for the GOOD of all people! Bless you!

  2. Very very slowly some light is being injected into the horror of child sexual abuse by Rabbis and others in a position of authority in Charedi and other Jewish institutions. I am thankful to Rabbi Zimmerman for supporting the abused. He is in a small club of Rebbeim who will no longer support the abuser. I want to say Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Shraga Feigel Zimmerman for speaking out, for abandoning the “dark side”.
    It is a sad commentary that his speech, his actions, are so noteworthy as to elicit a laudatory post, a heartfelt thank you from all who care, when he is just doing what a Jew is required to do.

  3. R Zimmerman is an outsider, he is not from the UK although his grandfather lived here. There is no way the other rabbonim in London and the provinces will ever agree with him. He has also set himself up against Dayan Grynhaus by testifying against his son and putting him in prison.
    Most people agree that for what he did (which you and others not in the UK are not fully aware of) which is much worse than what was reported he certainly deserves punishment. They also know that his father is wrong that all he ‘needs’ is a ‘dressing’ down. But in the UK people are mainly busy with their own problems and dont really bother too much with public ones. Apart from the ‘rabbis’ there no lay people who have the pubic concern at heart. And the rabbis ‘concern’ does not include this kind of thing. If anything their concern is too keep it quiet.
    At one time there such groups of public minded people. The rabbis have basically put a stop to that and made sure that only they have the right to speak publically.

    What we really need in the UK is a group of lay people who have common sense and are not beholden to any rov.

    • What we need in the UK are Rabbonim who care more about the children then they do about the negative publicity. We get the weak and pathetic leaders we deserve.

  4. acc,
    Interesting perspective.
    Does Rabbi Zimmerman have ‘chasidim’ and/or a strong following? Maybe this group of lay people can be formed from them. It’s time to hush the hushers.

    • He is the accepted rav and rosh beit din of the community. I know that there is a lot of pushback from other communities in the UK and some within Gateshead. His appointment was contested. The late R. Bezalel Rakow held the position till his death in 2003. The lead local contender for succession was his son. Interestingly, Matisyahu Solomon exerted his influence to support R. Zimmerman. R. Zimmerman was a Yekke (German orthodox stream) and that seems to be a requirement for the Gateshead community.

  5. While it’s nice to see a rabbi speaking out publicly and allowing his speech to be shared, I just can’t help being very disappointed in some of his words.
    Specifically “a frum looking individual”. While the rabbi may have been trying to denigrate Grynhaus by calling him not frum, this action of calling him not frum only strengthens the attitude that has brought the frum world to this point; the belief that frum people do not do such things.

    • I hear your point. At the same time, he may be trying to overcome the mentality that he is frum and thuse could not do the acts alleged. Instead he is saying he may be wearing the clothing of the ritually observant but his blatant violation of sexual proprieties means he cannot be considered observant. In fact that is my reading of his intent and how it will be recieved by most of his audience.

  6. To me, a ‘frum looking Jew’ could be a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing, or an animal dressed as a human being.
    No truly religious person would harm the hair on any child’s head.
    Deviants masquerade as frum individuals to lower the defenses of victims and play upon our community’s xenophobia and willingness to believe and trust anything said by a fellow frum individual. Affinity schemes are run the same way Most of the big-,money theft in our community comes from frum-appearing ganavim conning naive Jews.

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