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)
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
Imagine a young rabbi applying for a pulpit. His resume is impressive. He is a talented scholar, an excellent public speaker and he comes well recommended. His pedigree is very high level. He is the great-grandson of cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and the grandson of Rabbi Samuel Rosenblatt a formidable scholar and pulpit rabbi in Baltimore. His wife is the daughter of Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky, the Tolner Rebbe whose wife was the daughter of Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, the Rav.
Imagine his cover letter where he describes his approach to mentoring teen boys and young men:
I like to “shvitz bond” with younger males by spending extended periods talking to them while we are both naked. I also like to shower alongside them in the gym having long conversations while we face each other.
I don’t know about you, but I would be freaked out. The guy is a pervert and however impressive his other credentials, he is not fit to be a rabbi. He can deny, dismiss, minimize, and proffer drivel about bonding, athletics and all that. But at the end of the day he has a sick man. He is sexualizing interactions. He is using others for his sexual gratification. When he did it with underage minors he was guilty of child endangerment according to former Manhattan sex crimes chief, Linda Fairstein. Even when he did it with adults, whether or not it was legal, it was an abuse of authority, a perversion of authority.
I am of course talking about Jonathan Rosenblatt, the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center. Even now with the story being covered by the New York Times and the NY Jewish Week, Rosenblatt continues to deny there was anything sexual or improper.
The sad thing is that this conduct was known to his employer for about 25 years and he was allowed to stay on as rabbi.It was known to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and he was allowed to continue as long as he confined himself to young males over the age of consent. It was known to Yeshiva University which stopped placing rabbinical interns with him, but did not actively prevent their students from taking on internships on their own.
I have read a lot of back and forth about whether he is a pervert, a creep, a little weird, or totally innocent. Those who defend him speak of all the things he does well. I understand why congregants get attached to the rabbi who nurtured them, buried their dead, counseled them and lead their services all these years.
However, I think such congregants have to ask themselves the question: would you have hired him if his proclivities were stated up front when he applied for the job? If the answer is no, then you also should not allow him to continue as a rabbi.
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
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) continued to contradict its excellent official policy on CSA by making believe Rabbi Yisroel Belsky agrees with them. This in spite of the fact that Belsky still claims Kolko is innocent, Belsky tried to intimidate the witness against Kolko, and Belsky slandered the father of the victim by calling him a molester. One satirist claims the RCA website was hacked.
Other important stuff on the web includes continued challenges to Lakewood’s persecution of the family of the Kolko victim by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn on his Daas Torah blog where he posted a public apology to family of the victim by Dovid Epstein who said he was misled by local leadership. R. Eidensohn also issued a call on others in Lakewood to distribute this letter and join in its message. Harry Maryles, picked up on this story on his blog, Emes Ve-Emunah where he writes,
Rabbi Belsky must accept a good deal of the blame for this upon himself. It is hard to fathom how he does not lose any sleep over this. It is hard to fathom that it does not haunt him any less than it does Rabbi Epstein – even if he were to apologize. But he has not apologized and still maintains Kolko’s innocence. I do not see how he can still say that without bringing some exculpatory evidence. I don’t think any exists or it would have been brought by now.
Ben Hirsch contrasts the success of the Ocean County Kolko prosecution with the dismal performance of Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes in A Tale of Two Cities. Hynes is prosecuting (actually persecuting) Samuel Kellner who brought forward witnesses against alleged serial molester B. M. Lebovits according to two prominent Hasidic Rabbis, Chaim Flohr and Yechezkel Gold (see New York Times).
We have audio proof that Rabbi Boruch Dov Lesches is ignorant about sex abuse and thinks young boys consent to being sexually abused. Rabbi Lesches, formerly head of the Sydney Bais Din has been a rabbi at K’hal Tzemach Tzedek Lubavitch of Monsey since 2007. He may just have topped R. Manis Friedman who was roundly criticized by Benny Forer and others and satirized by Asher Lovy.