How Rabbis Discourage Reports of Sexual Assaults

Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Ordentlich

R. Dovid Tzvi Ordentlich

Yehuda Shohat and Ariela Sternbuch reported in Yediot Aharonot a year ago about the advice that Israeli rabbis give about whether to report sexual assaults to the police. Sternbuch called up 27 individuals describing obviously criminal sexual assaults.

Until now, only the interaction with Rabbi Ratzon Arussi was translated into English along with his rationalizations (See Haanah Katsman, “Rabbi Defends Not Reporting Sex Abuse”).

What is notable for most of these responses is they did not invoke any prohibitions of mesira (snitching).
Instead they engaged in victim blaming, worried about the impact on the offender and his family, warned about impact of reporting in the marriage prospects of the victim, and insisted the police were ineffective. They often assumed the offense was a one-time event and assumed teshuva (repentence). Their practical solutions for preventing repetitions of this offense involved giving the offender a tongue lashing.

These rabbis abdicated their responsibility to protect the public from presumed sexual assailants.

This is why I always advise against contacting rabbis for advice about reporting abuse, except for the small number of rabbis with reliable reputations for supporting the use of the police to protect the community. Even some of those are inconsistent, supporting it in theory or in special cases but not in others.

Below are the translated excerpts from the article. Read, turn your stomach, and keep this in mind if you or someone you know is the victim of a sex assault. (For the 6/22/15 Hebrew Yediot Achronot version and tape recordings go to שקט, מטייחים. מקריבים את הנפגעים החרדים.

Translations below by Danny Wool a writer, editor, and translator, who specializes in Jewish and Israeli themes. He is deeply involved in the Israeli film industry, having worked on such films and projects as The Gatek.

Rabbi David Zvi Ordentleich

The chief rabbis of Beitar Illit (pop. 65,000), Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Ordentleich, and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yaakov Tufik, are also members of the local religious court. The author, posing as a 17-year-old girl, told them over the phone that she was molested by the father of a friend, and that her mother told her not to complain to the police.

“Did he just touch you and remove his clothes, or was it more than that,” Rabbi Ordentleich asked, knowing that the person she accused was an older yeshiva student.

Girl: He also put his hands inside.

Rabbi: Did he try to do anything else? Did you resist?

Girl: Yes, I resisted.

Rabbi: Did you shout out?

Girl: Yes, I told him to stop.

Rabbi: There is no reason to tell anyone. He deserves a complaint, but it’s not worth it. You may call him, shout at him, and threaten him.

Girl: But maybe he’s doing it to my friend or to other girls.

Rabbi: Who knows? Who know? You didn’t notice anything wrong with your friend, did you, like she was confused or anything like that.

Girl: I don’t remember anything like that.

Rabbi: He should be threatened, that it is about to be publicized that this was an attempted rape. It’s criminal. Seriously. … It is necessary to prevent it from being publicized, and going to the police means publicity.

Girl: How can we know that he is not doing it again?

Rabbi: We can hope. What? Complain? All that means is publicity. The threat may help, but we can’t do more than that. It could hurt your chances at finding a shidduch [match]. That’s not worth it. It may be that he just slipped up this one time.

Rabbi Yaakov Tufik

His colleague, Rabbi Tufik, was more assertive (“It is necessary to do something about savages like that”), but he also asked to consult with the religious court. He gave his official response the following day. “Your mother gave you good advice. Maybe after you get married, you can reconsider what to do.” And what if he hurts other women? “You have to worry about yourself.” The court called again later to stress that according to the Halacha, complaining [to the police] was permissible. Nevertheless, they continued, the girl’s mother gave her good advice.

Rabbi Shlomo Itzkovitz

Rabbi Shlomo Itzkovitz is also a member of the religious court in Beitar. He sounded very worried about the fate of the yeshiva student if the story ever got to the authorities. “As soon as you make a complaint, you are destroying him and his family for generations,” he said. “It is possible that he slipped up that one time. The police will not cure him. It is good you called me. Maybe it is necessary to summon him before the religious court and to shout at him like he deserves. Who knows what people will say about his child once the story gets out? This won’t be the first time. The internet is very tempting. It is an enormous danger. There is good reason why we come out against the internet.”

Rabbi Dan Mechaber

Rabbi Dan Mechaber, a local resident, wasn’t upset about this instance of pedophilia, when it was brought before him. “It is a mistake to complain right away, because it could be that he was in the middle of some issue at that very moment,” he explained. “It would ruin his entire future, and immediately put the entire family on hold. It may be possible to keep him away from the community.”

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Wolpe

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Wolpe, also of Beitar, is a familiar figure in far right circles. He tried to wind his way between the raindrops, but was still very clear about his position. “If I told you not to complain, I would be breaking the law, but personally, I wouldn’t complain. If it stopped, he must have repented.”

Rabbi Avraham Tugri

Rabbi Avraham Tugri, a local rabbinic authority [posek] was explicit that there was no reason to forbid complaining to the authorities. Nevertheless, he couched his position, saying, “The question is what good it does. It is a very sensitive issue. His wife and children must not be hurt.”

*Danny Wool is a writer, editor, and translator, who specializes in Jewish and Israeli themes. He is deeply involved in the Israeli film industry, having worked on such films and projects as The Gatek.


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