More on R’ Schachter’s views on Mesirah and Dina D’Malchuso

At the suggestion of מו’ר R’ Schachter’s מקורבים, readers who seek more than a 10 minute grab, would do well to read his written word on these topics, well before the scourge of hidden child abuse arose.

Firstly, there is a brief note on Torah Web here from 2007.

A more expansive and learned paper can be read here from RJJ Volume one which I believe is from 1981.

Enjoy.

Anonymity and the Internet

Never assume that you are “anonymous” on the internet. You can go through hoola hoops to hide your identity if you know your stuff, but 99.9% of people don’t know how to do this. Is it worth it? The only time I can think of someone wanting to post an anonymous comment is if they have something that is so important to tell but simply are unable to reveal their name. This is an exception. It should happen in very few cases. One example might be a real victim of crime. Even in that situation, you would hope that the person doesn’t just use the internet, but actually goes to the police and makes a formal complaint. If they cannot bring themselves to make a formal complaint, then depending on the nature of what they have written, we make a value judgement call on whether it is reasonable that they remain anonymous in the context. There are far too many weasels, sock-puppets, and malingerers on the net who make “anonymous” comments which are demonstratively false and hurtful. That’s not what anonymity is about. That’s just offensive cowardice. Some websites are simply magnets for these toilet-like comments: Scott Rosenberg’s blog is one example where there is much horrible comment and back stabbing.

Sometimes, it is unfair. There is no effective right of reply because of smoke and daggers and innuendo. When we say things, just like in our daily speech, we need to be careful that there is a positive purpose in what we say or write, and that we are very sure about the veracity of our statement.

When I started blogging, it was for my benefit, so to speak. I enjoyed and enjoy the opportunity to express what’s on my mind, or something I have learned. In doing so, I have been (or tried to be) very conscious of not allowing ad hominem attacks via comments, and have edited and rejected comments accordingly. I don’t force people to login to show their identity; they could use a fake email, but anyone who thinks that authorities can’t trace them, should think again. I know a little about these things as a computer scientist. That being said, I’ve only once wanted to find out someone’s identity, and that’s when that person made threats to my family through this blog. In the end, I let it go. If it would have occurred more than once, that person may have found me on their door step, with an officer in tow.

It comes then, as little surprise that the “anonymous” blogger “ifyoutickleus” who has been trying to out R’ Chaim Halpern of London, is now under attack. R’ Halpern’s supporters have applied to find out “who he or she is” via google (who host that blog). This is not new. We have such cases in Australia as well.

It will be an interesting unfolding episode. If R’ Halpern is found guilty of an infraction of Jewish Law, then as I understand it, the anonymous blogger may not be found guilty of defamation?  But who will determine if R’ Halpern allegedly did what he is purported to have done (which I understand may not be against Secular Law)? Will it involve the courts summoning the new Beis Din that has been formed to judge this case, and about which I understand very few women trusted enough to come forward? Will they subpoena the Rabbis who have publicly called on R’ Halpern to resign? This is going to get very messy, and I think R’ Halpern’s advisors have made a poor call. They may end up knowing who is publicising the material “anonymously” if google cough up the information, but that won’t cleanse R’ Halpern, surely, except in the eyes of one-eyed supporters. One needs to look at these issues with both eyes. If R’ Halpern has nothing to answer for, so be it. If, on the other hand, some allegations are true, then he should do the honourable thing, and step aside.

The mere fact that there was already an exposé on Channel 4, in which R’ Padwa did not emerge in a very good light as far as the issue of Mesira is concerned, would tend to suggest that this new subpoena will only cause a brighter torch to shine on the Charedi community in London, and Jews as a whole. Not good. It is true that R’ Halpern has a right to defend himself. Did the Beis Din who is sitting on this case, give permission to R’ Halpern to apply to the secular courts? Who did?

In the meanwhile, the rest of us sit back and ask ourselves, “why is this happening?”

Woman withdraws complaint about girl’s rape

The article below is Itamar Fleishman from Yediot

I just don’t get it. People don’t all of a sudden suspect that a 5-year-old has been raped. If they do, then on what basis do they magically decide it was a figment of their imagination? As to the “local haredi (sic) Medical Facility” refusing to cooperate, they should be closed down simply on that basis. Modi’in Ilit has featured on my blog elsewhere. It sounds like a great place to live.

Several days after the police opened an investigation into an alleged rape of a five-year-old girl in Modiin Illit, the woman who filed the complaint has withdrawn it.

Nevertheless, the police have not suspended the investigation despite admitting that there are doubts as to whether a rape had indeed taken place.

On Monday, the police confirmed it was investigating suspicions that a girl at the age of five was raped by a man in the haredi settlement of Modiin Illit. The probe was launched following reports of medical treatment the girl had undergone.

The local haredi medical facility refused to cooperate with the investigation as did other residents who were reportedly instructed to keep mum. Neither the child nor the suspect have been located as of yet.

Rumor of the incident started spreading in the town last weekend, and according to residents, an anonymous complaint was filed with the police Friday.

Police questioned several residents who were warned they would be charged with obstruction of justice if they fail to cooperate.

According to the few details investigators have managed to gather, it is suspected that sometime in the past two weeks a man approached a five-year-old girl he saw on the street, took her to a warehouse at a nearby synagogue where he abused her for two hours.

Police said: “The investigation is rigorous, but we’re running into walls of silence from everyone. We’re utilizing all the resources we have in order to trace all those involved. I hope we can do so soon.”

courtesy YWN

Another case of child abuse cover up?

Direct responsibility for not dealing with these issues is with the Rabbinate of Modiin Ilit. The scourge must be removed and all alleged perpetrators surrendered to police. It’s incomprehensible that there is a “better way”. There isn’t.

Police are investigating the alleged rape of a five-year-old girl in the haredi city of Modiin Ilit that occurred two weeks ago.

It is suspected that the girl was on her way to kindergarten, when a haredi youth grabbed her and took her to an unknown location close by, possibly a storage room or an empty communal building, where he raped and abused her.

He then release the girl who arrived at her kindergarten bruised an injured. The kindergarten teachers contacted the girl’s parents to collect their daughter and she was subsequently taken to hospital.

It appears that communal leaders have attempted to cover up the incident and have pressured anyone involved and the broader community not to cooperate with the police investigation; neither the parents nor anyone else involved in the incident reported it and residents are reluctant to speak to the police or media about it.

Army Radio, which first exposed the allegations, revealed that the incident was only finally reported last Friday by an anonymous tip off sent by SMS to an officer.

A police investigation is currently underway. Investigators went to the hospital where the child was treated but were not able to see her due to family objections.

Police officers from the Judea and Samaria District Police also went to the kindergarten in question but no-one was prepared to cooperate with the investigation.

A Modiin Ilit resident whose child attends the same kindergarten said on Channel 2 News that the kindergarten management was silencing the incident, specifically accusing the director of the kindergarten association.

The above article is from the Jerusalem Post by Jeremy Sharon.

A clear Psak requiring Reporting is needed to stop Abuse

I am reblogging  this one from Daas Torah, as it’s important, and yet another tragic story.

I just finished a long trans-Atlantic call with an American rav whose grandson was recently abused in a shul in Europe during davening. He was distressed by a number of developments besides the fact that his grandson had been abused. 1) the community rav who had been consulted said that the perpetrator had suffered enough embarrassment already and thus nothing more should be done. The rav stated clearly that the matter should be dropped and if the police were involved it would be mesira. He was clearly ignorant of the rulings of Rav Eliashiv and other gedolim on the matter. 2) Despite this the parents reported the abuse  the police  – but they didn’t seem interested in getting involved either.  3) To make the matter more distressing the family has been informed that the alleged abuser has been observed  in the past – touching kids inappropriately in the mikveh – but nothing was done. 4) The parents of the child are now being harassed and threatened by the community as trouble makers and informants.

This American rav is well aware of the halachic and psychological issues and suggested something which is very simple – but should be very effective in changing the dynamics of the situation. Most people would have no problem of reporting if they witnessed a child being raped or severely beaten. In fact they probably would physically intervene to stop the abuse. The events of Penn State have hopefully taught us that good people don’t act unless they know that they must act and are informed in advance what constitutes abuse. Similarly most rabbonim today acknowledge the importance of reporting abuse – to the local rabbi or police – but they would not necessarily recognize that inappropriate touching or fondling is abuse

Therefore the American rav suggested that the community needs that important poskim publicly proclaim in a written declaration what actions constitute abuse that we need to report. The  proclamation must state clearly and unambiguously that abuse is wrong – even if it doesn’t involve rape. It must list the halachic requirements to prevent harm by reporting. And finally it needs a clear and unambiguous list of specific actions that constitute abuse that need to be reported.

Here is a tentative text regarding what is abuse:

You must report the following to your rav and/or police department. If you see a child being touched  inappropriately in the mikveh, playground, summer camp or school or neighbor’s home. Not only must you report inappropriate adult fondling of a child – but also such actions between  children – even if they are the same age. You must report not only what you yourself observe but also when you hear rumors or your children tell you – it needs to be reported in order to verify and stop it. In sum – all awareness of abuse that you know about –  must be reported to someone. However it is not enough to just report that you witnessed or heard about abuse. If the person you report to doesn’t follow through – whether it is a parent, teacher, principal, rav or police – you must persist either with that authority or find someone else who will listen and act. It is clear that a child’s well being is not to be sacrificed to avoid chilul hashem, financial loss to a yeshiva or synagogue, or the embarrassment to the family of the abuser or even a prison sentence for the perpetrator. There is no prohibition of lashon harah to report these issues, nor is there a prohibition of mesira. A Rav or community leader is obligated to listen to any and all alleged incidents of abuse. Every member of the community is obligated to make sure that children are protected and that perpetrators are stopped.

ה’ ירחם

Rabbi Yossi Feldman responds

I have a word of advice to anyone using email: never, but never, assume that what you have written, even with the qualifying words “highly confidential” or “for your eyes only” won’t be sent on against your express wishes. Personally, I would never send out something confidential to a third-party, but the reality is that people do. Indeed, I experienced this “phenomenon” a few weeks ago when I sent an email to four trustworthy people. One of them may have leaked, but all denied it. It is remotely possible that their email account was accessed against their will, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

It would seem, and I do not know, that Rabbi Feldman’s private emails to fellow Rabbis were leaked to the Jewish News. It would then appear that the AJN created a news story based on the email interchange. It is important to remember that Rabbis are also entitled to discuss matters להלכה ולא למעשה. If another Rabbi leaked Rabbi Feldman’s private emails, then it’s beyond contempt, and disgusting.

If the AJN constructed their story based on such leaks, then I suggest their actions are unethical and amoral. I don’t care if they are in the business of selling papers. In the least, I wonder if they conferred with Feldman before publishing? At any rate, no doubt the AJN got legal advice before they went to press and Yossi Feldman has now reportedly got his own counter legal advice, and there are threats of defamation flying around. I’d hope that it would go ahead to an independent international Beth Din for arbitration before it got to any defamation lawyers, though.

Was this episode necessary? If there was just a modicum of respect, the AJN should not have behaved like a Murdoch style paper excitedly thinking they had a Watergate leak. They should have asked Feldman for clarification. This issue of abuse is too grave to be side-tracked by what will become a win/win for only the respective lawyers. How sad.

Here is what I received Erev Shabbos from one of my readers (thanks Steve). It is doing the rounds and is a legitimate email from Feldman.

From: Yeshiva Shul
Date: Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM
Subject: Statement from Rabbi Yosef Feldman in relation to article in the AJN

To: yeshivashul

B”H

I would like to put on the record that from my perspective the Australian Jewish News coverage in issue dated 29/7/11 misquoted, misconstrued and misrepresented my comments from an in internal Halachic debate amongst the Rabbinate of Australia relating to the serious and reprehensible issues of Child abuse and the appropriate response. I reserve all of my Halachic and Legal rights in relation to this matter which constitutes in my opinion no less than character assassination at the highest level. Today I will be consulting with a senior defamation Lawyer in relation to what I believe is an outrageous travesty, and exploring all available options including Beth Din or court proceedings to remedy the matter.

I quote the beginning of the article which says that, “Among his assertions were that anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison.” I never made such an unqualified assertion in relation to a convicted paedophile. This and other serious matters arising from the coverage will be pursued vigorously.

I would also like to make abundantly clear that the Rabbinate of NSW under my Presidency and encouragement has unequivocally and unanimously endorsed a resolution condemning all forms of child abuse and recommends the reporting of such to the relevant secular authorities.

I also emphatically endorse the joint statement on this matter publicised by ORA (The Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia) the Melbourne Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din, which states that there is no Halachic impediment to conveying all credible information regarding such matters to the police or relevant authorities, but to the contrary, it is Halachically obligatory to do so. The obligation applies not only to mandatory reporters but to all who become aware that abuse is taking place.

The Jewish News has called for my resignation as President of RCNSW.

My response is that as a result of what I and others believe to be their unprofessional recklessness, in my personal capacity I call for the immediate resignations of both AJN National Editor Zeddy Lawrence and article author Josh Levi, before they cause further damage to myself, the Sydney Rabbinate and the Jewish community.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman

I hope this rather nasty incident doesn’t deflect from the main issue at hand:

  • protecting children
  • reporting alleged abusers to the police

Sigh.

R’ Yossi Feldman’s alleged statements as reported by the AJN

The Australian Jewish News reported

SYDNEY’S top rabbi has been urged to resign after he said it should be up to rabbis to decide whether allegations of child abuse should be reported to police.

In a series of emails that contradicted the recommendations from other rabbinical authorities around Australia in the wake of claims of abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College, Rabbinical Council of NSW (RCNSW) president Rabbi Yosef Feldman outlined his views to fellow members of the rabbinate.

Among his assertions were that anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison.

He also said abuse should be dealt with, when legally possible, outside the Australian legal system.

“I really don’t understand why as soon as something of serious loshon horo (evil talk) is heard about someone of even child molestation should we immediately go to the secular authorities (sic),” Rabbi Feldman wrote.

“One must go to a Rov (rabbi) who should firstly investigate the veracity of the complaint and if thought to be serious, warn the culprit etc. and act in a way that could scare him by threatening him with publicity by internet to the whole community.”

He added: “I personally feel that if we as a Jewish leadership can’t deal with this and other issues bifnim (internally) we are showing ourselves to be impotent …”

When contacted by The AJN this week, Rabbi Feldman didn’t back down. He said that if there is no legal obligation to report abuse and the rabbi believed the perpetrator would not reoffend, then there was no need to call the police.

“If there is a grey area then we have to look at the Jewish perspective and the human rights of the aggressor. It is not only the victim that he (the rabbi) has to think of, because in this case he also has to think of the attacker.”

In light of Rabbi Feldman’s emails, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) Rabbi Dovid Freilich told The AJN: “He is halachically wrong and the statement is abhorred. When it comes to molestation and child abuse, it is a mitzvah to go right to the authorities – 100 per cent. I personally would have resigned if I was a member of the NSW Rabbinical Council, to show my total disapproval of Rabbi Feldman’s sentiments.”

Manny Waks, the head of Canberra’s Jewish community, who alleged this month that he was a victim of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College in the early 1990s, described Rabbi Feldman’s comments as “immoral” and “unethical”.

“Contrary to what the rabbi says, there is no grey area in this case. There are victims and there are perpetrators.

“Rabbi Feldman should immediately clarify his remarks publicly, and if he still stands by them then his colleagues should ask him to tender his resignation immediately,” Waks said.

Adding his voice to the chorus of disapproval, the Sydney Beth Din’s Rabbi Moshe Gutnick said Rabbi Feldman was “out of touch with the view of society”.

“He is out of touch with the views of rabbinic Judaism. I dissociate myself with them as should every observant Jew,” Rabbi Gutnick said.

The RCNSW met on Tuesday morning to discuss the issue.

“One rabbi suggested that I should stand down,” Rabbi Feldman said. “He was not listened to and I had overwhelming support.”

The council did, however, express its unanimous adoption of a motion passed by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria condemning all forms of child abuse and affirming “its halachic position” that prohibitions of reporting such crimes to the civil authorities “do not apply in cases of abuse”.

In a statement, Rabbi Feldman said: “I would like to unequivocally publicise my support and encouragement of the adoption of that resolution within the NSW rabbinate and the wider Jewish community.”

However, on Wednesday he told The AJN: “My opinion is that we [rabbis] should determine if there was actual abuse, then call the police. The statement from the rabbinic council does not specify this and I believe it does not contradict my view.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said the email exchange was disturbing, but noted the RCNSW’s decision.

“It would be entirely unacceptable and unbefitting any rabbi, even in an abstract discussion, to canvass the theoretical possibility of not reporting allegations of serious criminality to the police,” he said. “What is more important, however, is that that possibility has been unanimously and unreservedly rejected by all members of that council.”

In a joint statement issued yesterday, ORA, the Melbourne Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din said: “There is no halachic impediment to conveying all credible information regarding such matters to the police or relevant authorities, but to the contrary, it is halachically obligatory to do so.

“The obligation applies not only to mandatory reporters but to all who become aware that abuse is taking place.”

Leaving aside the press hyperbole describing him as “Sydney’s top Rabbi”, in and amongst Feldman’s self-contradictory statements, as reported above, Feldman fails to see the wood from the trees. Feldman struggles to reconcile ובערת הרע מקרבך with לא תעמוד על דם רעך and in doing so, he fails in his responsibility to ensure that the former is addressed. Feldman does make a valid halachic observation: it is definitely problematic that in Australia there is a penal system that passively tolerates inmates who have been found guilty of serious crimes, such as sexual offences or homicide against a minor, being subject to extra-judicial punishment by their fellow inmates. This is clearly not acceptable. The prison system needs to be reformed to make sure that such things do not happen.

A responsible comment taking the above into consideration would have read like this:

It is incumbent upon the Jewish community to protect children at all costs from the scourge of sexual predators who are in our midst. I am troubled by the continued revelation of instances of child molestation and abuse. These occur both within the religious and irreligious communities, amongst Jews and non Jews. I fully support all efforts to protect our children and encourage any victim of such abuse, to come forward and identify themselves to the authorities irrespective of when such offences may have taken place. Studies clearly show that predators have a predilection to re-offend, and even if they have not, they need to face the justice system as per the laws of our country. Rabbis should be trained to appreciate the gamut of issues surrounding sex abuse and we will ensure that each Rabbi is so trained by professionals.

I am gravely concerned, however, about the incidence of abuse within the prison system. Abuse of those who are incarcerated by fellow inmates is simply not acceptable. It isn’t acceptable according to Jewish law and it should not be part of our modern society. Accordingly, I will, through the Organisation of Orthodox Rabbis and the aegis of the ECAJ be mounting a political campaign to stop the incidence of rampant prison abuse. We accept that criminals need to be incarcerated but we do not accept that they should be abused within the prison system itself.

Feldman’s reported comments in the Jewish News are facile. If these AJN comments are accurate he should stand aside from his elected position as he has not displayed the requisite political prowess or leadership characteristics Sydney so sorely needs. Untold damage may have been done to the cause of מאן מלכי רבנן.

Piskei Din from מוה”ר הרב שכטר שליט”א

I feel good this morning. After almost 6 weeks of chasing, I managed to speak with רב שכטר. He is in Tannersville during the summer and basically learns all day. I felt uplifted speaking to a גאון בתורה who is also so Menshlich and unassuming. We discussed a range of issues, not all of which I will publish here, of course.

  1. The מצווה of ובערת הרע מקרבך  implies that there is no so-called time limit against alleged criminal activity. They must be investigated.
  2. There is no איסור of חילול השם involved in re-opening and investigating something which happened in the past. On the contrary, especially when the אומות העולם do this as a matter of procedure and process, by not doing so, that of itself is a חילול השם because it gives the impression that their moral system is superior to ours.
  3. There is no din of  מסירה in cases of a possible public menace. The determination of what is a public menace is guided by the best possible advice from specialists in the field. Since specialists agree that recidivism is the unfortunate norm in some known categories of crime, even if the מלכות של חסד may mean that the punishment is greater than Torah Law and therefore problematic, we must submit the possible public menace to the authorities. וכל ישראל ישמעו ויראו ולא יזידון עוד.
  4. He did not know what a “french press” was, and whilst we discussed the views of the חזון איש in הלכות שבת we agreed that he would investigate this matter after someone showed him a french press and he properly understood how it works etc.
  5. On the matter of headlines on blog posts or newspaper posts which used the generic term “Charedim” and then processed to discuss a particular group within the Charedim inside the article, where that group/organisation/members have performed eg revisionism and a hiding of the truth, he said that it was a מצווה to be מוכיח those who distort the truth. He wasn’t sure whether writing “Charedim” in general in a headline and then expanding on the particular group in the body of article was an איסור. He said he would think about it further.
  6. He said that the Rav davened a Nusach which was a quasi Nusach Ari sprinkled with elements of Volozhiner Nusach.
  7. He hadn’t heard of a Minhag to only eat Milchigs on שבועות but mentioned there was a recent publication from קרלין סטולין entitled בית אהרון וישראל that was comprehensive in tracing the various שבועות מנהגים. If anyone has this, I’d be obliged.