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? Continue reading

The Hucksters amongst Us

On August 14, 2015 the New York Times reported that ISIS was implementing a theology justifying the rape of non-believers and had a systematic program to separate them out and sell them to its followers. The opening of the Times article shocked me.

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,”

Steve Maman Shaking Hands with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Steve Maman Shaking Hands with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

What revolted some of us was just a golden opportunity for one Steve Maman, a Moroccan Jew in Montreal. The very next day, the Toronto Star reported on his solicitations for months to ransom Yazidi women from ISIS. He claimed he had already ransomed 128 of these poor victimized women and appealed for more donations to sustain his efforts. His fundraising and narrative was months-old but till then he had only gotten attention in peripheral media outlets. Continue reading

Rabbi Yosef Blau on Sexual Abuse of Children

By Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiah Ruchani (Spiritual Adviser) at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University

(reproduced with permission of Rabbi Blau and  David Morris from a 2009 posting on the blog, Tzedek-Tzedek (Beith Shemesh, Israel).

My experience is with the Orthodox community in America but from what I have heard the situation in Israel is similar. As in many other personal areas, Orthodox Jews, when they are informed about abuse, instinctively turn to their rabbis. Unfortunately the rabbis (with the exception of young rabbis recently trained in modern Orthodox rabbinical schools) have no training and are not equipped to evaluate the accusations. When the accusations are about other Orthodox rabbis they assume that such behavior is impossible. While it is true that most abuse takes place within families, teachers have access to many potential victims and even a small number guilty can molest hundreds of children. Continue reading

The Jewish Week Refutes Ohel’s Lame Claim That It Did Not Cover Up Sex Abuse (Updated 5 pm to include names of Ohel Board of Directors)

Last week, The Jewish Week published Hella Winston‘s expose of Ohel’s failure to report sex abuse even when required by law. Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services dodged the question but bought an ad in the Jewish Week to claim unfair pejorative reporting. Jewish Week staff replied to the ad with more evidence of Ohel’s failures. Read this story. It is important. It shows why Ohel’s Board should dismiss Director, David Mandel, as part of an internal investigation and housecleaning Continue reading