Jul 28, 2011

Leiby's Murder Continues To Change the Frum Community

Somehow, somewhy, despite not having revealed any similar situation with Levi Aron before he murdered Leiby Kletsky, the murder of Leiby has created serious waves in the frum world, specifically in how it deals with accusations of child abuse and molestation.

In the wake, many rabbonim have spoken out reiterating their positions on the issue, the Agudah has re-released and reclarified it's official position on reporting abuse, the RCA has reaffirmed it's position on reporting abuse (below), and more.

The RCA official position on reporting abuse is:
The Rabbinical Council of America has today reaffirmed its position that those with reasonable suspicion or first hand knowledge of abuse or endangerment have a religious obligation to report that abuse to the secular legal authorities without delay. One of the unique features of Jewish law is that it imposes upon every member of the community an obligation to help others avoid danger. The biblical verse “do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed" is understood by Jewish Law to mandate that one must do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others - even if monetary harm, but certainly physical harm.

Consistent with that Torah obligation, if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately, as the prohibition of mesirah (i.e., referring an allegation against a fellow Jew to government authority) does not apply in such a case.

As always where the facts are uncertain one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine how and when to report such matters to the authorities. False accusations are harmful to those falsely accused – but unreported abuse or endangerment can be life-threatening, as we have recently been tragically reminded.

In addition and as a separate matter, those within the Jewish community whom secular law deem to be “mandated reporters,” must certainly obey the particular reporting requirements, which vary from state to state in the US. A person covered by mandatory reporter laws must comply with those laws, even in a case in which Jewish law might otherwise not require a person to report such child abuse or endangerment.
This position of the RCA is different than that of Agudas Yisrael, differentiating between "mandated reporters" (not an issue in Israel, as in Israel everyone is a mandated reporter), and that if abuse is certain one must report immediately. only when uncertain should one consult with experts, be it a rav or a lay person (they say "and" but I understand the "and" as simply an explanation of who would be considered an expert - that can be an expert who is a rav and it could be an expert who is a lay person), along with using your common sense.

Since then, Kikar is reporting, the beis din in Montreal has come out with a call that people should stop hiding and covering up accusations of abuse. While not going as far as saying that accusations should be reported to the police, they did say parents, and others, should stop sweeping these issues under the carpet, but should make the children aware, instruct them how to be as safe as possible, and if they are attacked or know of someone who has been attacked they should tell someone, their parents or a rav, immediately.

Change is slow, but it is happening.


  1. I also think the RCA language of "reasonable suspicion" versus "raglayim ladavar" leans much more toward reporting anything with substance. (The term "raglayim ladavar" almost guarantees Rabbinic consultation since most people will be unclear what would make the suspicion "run" (legs)).

    I like that the RCA puts expertise before Rabbinics - when the Agudah says "of course the Rav should be expert in abuse" that just gets ignored. Besides how many Rabbanim are trained in abuse?

  2. Things are beginning to change?

    Certainly NOT here in RBSA.

    If you can have one Rav who calls Magen "dangerous" and another rav who
    punishes Lema'an Achai because their founder runs Magen then nothing is changing.

    We are still in the dark ages on abuse here in Ramat Bet Shemesh.

  3. anon - as I said, change is slow, but it is happening.
    some people try to hold on to the old, but most of the people are goign with change. Just because someone says it, doesnt mean that is what is happening. Why do you think that talk had to be given? Becaus ein his own shul they are rejecting his opinion - they are reporting to the police, they are asking Magen for help. He gave the talk to try to stymie that. Just because he gave the talk does not mean change is not happening. just the opposite. it is happening.

  4. Miriam - yes, I agree. Far more reasonable. raglayim ldavar is very vague, and even with it they require the rav first.
    and they dont deal at all with what the rav is meant to do. they talk about guidance and a psak that mesirah ia allowed, but they dont talk about conducting alternative investigations.

  5. Keep in mind that there may exist a halachic issue with mandatory reporting IF the trigger is based on mere hearsay and speculation or simple "suspicions". In other words, if one has a reasonable basis for suspicion (black and blue marks on children, weekly visits to the doctor for "falling down the staircase") well that is indeed "something". Further, one would hope that teachers and doctors would take note and report these bonafide indicia of abuse. Yes, when the above is present, lo aleinu, then do waht you need to do.
    But, on the other hand, what if you walk by a house and hear kids screaming. Some overly zealous neighbors might think the parents are beating up their kids when the kids are merely fighting (sibling rivalry). What if a neighbor calls it in. Well, sounds harmless right? The parents will be cleared and everything will go back to normal. Right? No, not if you are on the receiving end and child welfare speaks to your school and neighbors. Then all your neighbors "know" and you are convicted in the court of public opinion and even when you are completely cleared and nothing happens you will be socially finished and need to move away. Dont tell me this does not happen - it does and can cause svere anguish to parents who then have to relocate their kids and themselves far away or even to make yerida. So one should be very careful on both fronts. Yes, if you notice something that a reasonable person would believe warrants further examination yes by all means do what you need to do but do not nilly willy run around in a hysterical mode and report away if someone does not fit the box. Also, this can be used in a vindictive way to purposely cause someone trouble - I would hope this would not happen but given human frailities I am afraid it might. You can hurt someone very badly by anonymous reporting. So please, lets be careful out there.

  6. The RCA statement seems consistent with Magen's position and policies.

    According to your previous posting on the Rav Kornfeld "shiur" to women, his position is not even consistent with the Aguda...

    So where ARE Kornfed and Malinowitz - who are actively hostile to Magen and apparently inconsistent with Aguda - coming from??

  7. "So where ARE Kornfed and Malinowitz - who are actively hostile to Magen and apparently inconsistent with Aguda - coming from??"


    These men despite their Torah knowledge (or perhaps because of it) are egomaniacs and control freaks (yes people deal with it..rabbis are human too).

    They wish their followers to come to them for every "prat" in life.

    When parents think for themselves in protecting their children and go to people like Magen, it is saying that perhaps the rav isn't "nearly perfect in every way".

    A true rav will know and admit to his limitations and look out for what is best for everyone even if that means giving up some "turf" in unique situations.

    I have difficulty grasping how anyone can continue to consult with or abide by a rav who puts the children of our community at risk or punishes the tzaddikim who do charitable work.

  8. I think the connection to Leiby, z"l, is that people have come out and said that Aron had attempted to lure/abduct children before. Even if there was no sexual intent, this is something that clearly should have been reported. An attempt that was b"H unsuccessful through no fault of the intending perpetrator needs to be reported. No one ever reported him.
    You also need to know something about the grooming process. I believe that there are clear lines well before actual inappropriate touch and if a grown adult crosses them, a knock at the door by the police or revacha would let him know that people are watching and he'd better be careful.
    If you know anything about the justice system (unfortunately we do firsthand) it is far more likely that the guilty will go free for "lack of evidence" (intimidated witnesses) than that the police will jump to arrest someone with too little evidence. The standard for evidence is quite high here, often to the detriment of the victims.
    Rafi, I sure hope you are right about unrest from within the kehilla. Change would be refreshing.


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