AGUDATH ISRAEL AND CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
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:
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: