The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) should be commended for convening the panel “Jewish Community in Crisis: Responding to the Walder Abuse Case.” It happened Monday evening (1/3/22) As the organization with the most orthodox rabbis in America this was an opportunity to educate their members and the laity of their congregations.
The leaders of the organization, President Benyamin Blau and Exec VP Rabbi Mark Dratch are well informed about the issue of sex abuse. Before becoming EVP, R. Dratch formed an organization, JSafe, which offered consultation to organizations on the issue. His website was a font of useful material informed by state of the art knowledge from criminology, education, psychology and an extensive review of the rabbinic literature. It laid to rest the many absurd claims that halachah prevents using the police and courts to deal with abusers or that the prohibition on loshon horah precludes talking about abusers. I am sorry he has taken that site down. It had a depth of detail that has not since been duplicated elsewhere, at least not altogether in one site. Rabbi Binyamin Blau (not to be confused with his father, Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University) is also someone with a good personal track record on dealing with issues of abuse.
But the fly in the ointment was their invited guest, Dr. Norman Blumenthal, a psychologist who directs Trauma, Bereavement and Crisis Intervention at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. Ohel has a long sordid history of abuse in its facilities and kowtowing to its largely haredi constituency and funders with their retrograde positions on abuse. They are quite rightly the defendant in multiple lawsuits about child sex abuse and their negligent conduct. .
Rabbis Blau and Dratch asked the right questions and offered the right answers. But Blumenthal, oiy! Among his many bad takes there are the following
- Focusing on kids being the ones who could prevent abuse rather than focusing on the larger context of communal policy.
- Discussing steps to take in response to the Walder scandal without even thinking to mention removing his books (Something with R. Dratch had to fill in).
- Focusing on molesting as being sexual in the mind of a child rather than assault. Again, R. Dratch had to make the point.
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of orthodox rabbis in the world, issued a ruling regarding electronic communications necessary to protect vulnerable people during this coming Passover. (see full text at end of this article). Everyone knows that pikuach Nefesh (saving lives) overides all shabbat prohibitions. Hence, Hatzolah members on call carry phones, drive vehicles, and do all sorts of other things on Shabbat. But the RCA ruling clarifies that various psychological hazards of depression, eating disorders, and other problems, let alone, suicidality, also constitute sakkonos nefoshos (serious health danger). These risks rise under conditions of isolation associated with stay-at-home practices necessitated by the covid-19 corona pandemic. Another group at risk are those at home with potential or actual sexual or physically violent offenders. Continue reading
I regularly criticize Haredi leadership for its practices and policies for dealing with child sex abuse. But all is not well in the modern orthodox world. In theory they embrace all sorts of best practices for confronting child sex abuse. But walking the talk is a different matter. The Rabbinical Council of America is the rabbinical organization of most modern orthodox rabbis in North America. Eric Aiken, owner of the site Protect Jewish Kids, has written a devastating critique of the gap between their promises and their action. I post it here in its entirety with Mr. Aiken’s kind permission. — Yerachmiel Lopin, blogger of Frum Follies.
1. Also check out “The List” on the site of Protect Jewish Kids. It is the single most extensive listing of known orthodox Jewish sex offenders who were either arrested or convicted. Documentation is furnished for each entry.
2. Check out my post of 6/12/13, RCA Continues to Excuse Belsky’s Witness Intimidation, and my parody of their statement, Vito Gambino Agrees with the RCA.
by Eric Aiken (6/15/16)
Rabbi Mark Dratch Exec VP, Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)
Dear Rabbi Dratch,
Six weeks ago, I emailed you and published on my website, www.protectjewishkids.com, a detailed letter expressing my deep concern that the RCA was doing little to protect Orthodox children from sexual assault:
- I wrote a 2,000 word letter pointing out how the RCA hasn’t implemented or enforced 4 separate sets of child safety resolutions that it has adopted over the last 23 years. I also asked you to require that all RCA rabbis publicly prohibit from their synagogues, schools and yeshivas anyone convicted of a child sex crime. In a phone call that I had with you 7 months ago, you told me that you wouldn’t commit to enforcing the RCA child protection resolutions or requiring rabbis to ban child rapists and molesters from Orthodox institutions.
- I wrote how you told me in that phone call that publicizing the identities of convicted Orthodox child molesters was a “no-brainer”, yet the RCA doesn’t do it.
- I cited an essay that you wrote 10 years ago that advocates for abusive rabbis to be excommunicated and defrocked, yet the RCA, to my knowledge has never done so to an abusive rabbi.
- I wrote about the RCA resolution that pledges to condemn every person involved in child sexual abuse. Yet out of over 250 public record cases that I have posted, I can only find on the RCA website 3 of these cases mentioned.
- I also wrote how in an RCA resolution 23 years ago, the RCA called for abusers to be identified to future employers, yet the RCA still doesn’t appear to have any system in place to do that.
I will quote your response to my letter in its entirety: Continue reading
According to a news report: “Class Case Arising From Rabbi’s Voyeuristic Acts Takes Giant Leap Forward — DC Superior Court Sets Deadlines For Discovery, Filing Of Consolidated Class Complaint And Class Certification Motion”
Barry Freundel is now serving a sentence for secretly recording women while they were naked in the ritual bath (mikveh or mikvah) used by married women and those going through conversion under his supervision. He also secretly recorded students at Towson University taking his classes on Jewish topics by convincing them to tour and try out the mikveh.
He is known to have dozens of victims and some of them are suing him, the synagogue and related ritual bath, and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) which is faulted for its handling of investigations into his conduct. Continue reading
Text of June 30, 2013 address on “Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community” by David Cheifetz to the Annual Conference of the largest orthodox rabbinical organization in the world, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).
I want to thank the RCA for giving me the opportunity to share my story. If we could magically transport back in time by one year, I would not be here. If you were to tell me then that I would: decide to face the abuse in my history; decide to come out publically about it in an article; decide to serve as some sort of an advocate on the topic, I would have politely suggested that you were smoking something.
But a lot happens in a year. On Pesach, the Jewish Week published an article written by me where I came out as a victim of sexual abuse in a Jewish institution. And I am now working to try to create an organization to address the plague that is sexual abuse of children in our Jewish community. Continue reading