In 2011, the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, Agudath Israel’s rabbinic board, released a damaging Jewish Law ruling on the reporting of sexual abuse. Below is a full copy of the 5 provisions in that ruling:

1. Where there is “raglayim la’davar” (roughly, reason to believe) that a child has been abused or molested, the matter should be reported to the authorities. In such situations, considerations of “tikun ha’olam” (the halachic authority to take steps necessary to “repair the world”), as well as other halachic concepts, override all other considerations.

2. This halachic obligation to report where there is raglayim la’davar is not dependent upon any secular legal mandate to report. Thus, it is not limited to a designated class of “mandated reporters,” as is the law in many states (including New York); it is binding upon anyone and everyone. In this respect, the halachic mandate to report is more stringent than secular law.

3. However, where the circumstances of the case do not rise to the threshold level of raglayim la’davar, the matter should not be reported to the authorities. In the words of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, perhaps the most widely respected senior halachic authority in the world today, “I see no basis to permit” reporting “where there is no raglayim la’davar, but rather only ‘eizeh dimyon’ (roughly, some mere conjecture); if we were to permit it, not only would that not result in ‘tikun ha’olam’, it could lead to ‘heres haolam’ (destruction of the world).” [Yeshurun, Volume 7, page 641.]

4. Thus, the question of whether the threshold standard of raglayim la’davar has been met so as to justify (indeed, to require) reporting is critical for halachic purposes. (The secular law also typically establishes a threshold for mandated reporters; in New York, it is “reasonable cause to suspect.”) The issue is obviously fact sensitive and must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

5. There may be times when an individual may feel that a report or evidence he has seen rises to the level of raglayim la’davar; and times when he may feel otherwise. Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who is expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation – someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations and the urgent need to protect children. (In addition, as Rabbi Yehuda Silman states in one of his responsa [Yeshurun, Volume 15, page 589], “of course it is assumed that the rabbi will seek the advice of professionals in the field as may be necessary.”) It is not necessary to convene a formal bais din (rabbinic tribunal) for this purpose, and the matter should be resolved as expeditiously as possible to minimize any chance of the suspect continuing his abusive conduct while the matter is being considered.
— Agudath Israel statement on reporting suspicions of child abuse

It should be noted that it is ZA’AKAH’s unequivocal position regarding the reporting of child sexual abuse is that any suspicion or disclosure of child sexual abuse must immediately be reported to the authorities, without need for consultation with any rabbinic authority. This position is echoed by the 300 rabbis who signed the 2016 Proclamation Regarding Child Safety in the Orthodox Jewish Community.

In conversation with Agudath Israel’s spokesperson, Avi Shafran, he revealed that while Agudath Israel did not actually believe that every single person who experiences, becomes aware of, or suspects sexual abuse must ask a rabbi for permission, since most of those people have a reasonable suspicion to report the abuse on their own, Agudath Israel nonetheless included the phrase “Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi[.]” because they did not want the general public assuming they were qualified to apply this ruling on their own.

In actuality what this leads to is a community where reporting child sexual abuse to the authorities without having first asked permission of a rabbi is grounds for retaliation. It should further be noted that Agudath Israel makes no effort whatsoever to educate its constituent rabbis in recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse, understanding its nature and severity, understanding the long and short-term effects of child sexual abuse on its victims, or any understanding of the civil and criminal processes. This has resulted in countless coverups within the Orthodox Jewish community.

Given the devastating short and long-term effects of child sexual abuse on its victims, reporting child sexual abuse is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh. It is imperative that every possible step be taken to prevent more children from being abused, and to bring abusers to justice. There is nothing in Jewish Law that should prevent a survivor, or anyone who becomes aware of or suspects child sexual abuse from reporting it directly to the authorities. As noted above, this is the position of 300 Orthodox Jewish rabbis across the community:

We acknowledge that sexual abuse of children - committed by family members, acquaintances, rabbis, teachers, counselors, youth leaders, and other professionals - exists in our communities. This abuse has caused and continues to cause immeasurable harm to the victims, their families, and our entire community; it can destroy lives.

We recognize in light of past experiences that our community could have responded in more responsible and sensitive ways to help victims and to hold perpetrators accountable.

We condemn attempts to ignore allegations of child sexual abuse. These efforts are harmful, contrary to Jewish law, and immoral. The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law. There is no need for people acting responsibly to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.

We decry the use of Jewish law or the invocation of communal interests as a tool to silence victims or witnesses from reporting abuse. Regardless of the standing of the abuser, accusers and their family members must be treated in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner so that they feel safe and can therefore speak frankly and fully. This is necessary for them to receive suitable therapeutic support, and in order to facilitate proper investigation and pursuit of justice. Shunning or encouraging social ostracism of victims, their families, or reporters is forbidden.”
— Proclamation Regarding Child Safety in the Orthodox Jewish Community