Agudah Messaging About Lawyers to Defend Against Survivors

Asher Lovy, Director of Community Organizing for Zaakah, writes on FB:

Last week ZA’AKAH was made aware of a solicitation sent by Agudah [Agudath Israel of America] to a number of defense attorneys regarding the Child Victims Act. They were looking to put together a list of lawyers to make available to institutions being sued within the coming year under the Lookback Window of the Child Victims Act.

While I don’t begrudge institutions their right to defend themselves, I think it’s the fact that Agudah is making this solicitation that needs to be addressed.

Over the last 13 years, Agudah fought vociferously against the Child Victims Act. Along with the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, the UFT, and various insurance lobbies, Agudath Israel claimed that the laws were unnecessarily and unfairly punitive, and threatened the future of Jewish education as we knew it.

Unlike the Catholic Church, they didn’t even pay lip service to the idea that sexual abuse is prevalent in the community, or attempt to even make a show of caring about survivors. While the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Fund established by the Church to address abuse allegations is far from a perfect or even good step forward (since it’s inception it’s been plagued by scandals of unfairly rejected claims, failure to address abuse committed by religious order priests, and failure to disclose the names of credibly accused priests), it is at least the beginning of an acknowledgement on the part of the Church of the horrendous abuse and coverups that were rampant for decades.

Neither Agudah nor any other Jewish institution has done anything similar. All they’ve done was attack the people advocating for the Child Victims Act, malign and impugn the bloggers and watchdogs who have been educating the community about the severity of the problem, and claim that survivors who wanted the right to sue their abusers and institutions that covered up for them were just angry moneygrubbing liars with axes to grind inflating the scope of a problem that barely existed.

And that’s what’s really infuriating about this list of lawyers Agudah is putting together for yeshivas being sued under the Child Victims Act. They aren’t compiling lists of therapists to make available to survivors who might be traumatized by abuse or triggered by community responses to abuse. They aren’t trying to implement research-backed abuse prevention education in their schools. They aren’t trying to create mandatory public policies in their constituent schools to on how to properly handle disclosures or suspicions of sexual abuse in their schools.

They aren’t rescinding their illegal psak requiring that victims or anyone who suspects abuse ask a rabbi for permission before reporting abuse.

No, all they’re doing is finding criminals lawyers.

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