One-hundred-and-eight prominent Charedi rabbis and Jewish educators from across the United States have contributed their signatures to a kol koreh (public pronouncement) affirming the Biblical halachic obligation of all Jews to immediately report and notify secular law enforcement when a reasonable suspicion of child abuse exists (the kol koreh with the complete list of signatories is attached; the text appears below).
This kol koreh is a historic watershed, due to its unprecedented, broad-based support from a large number of Charedi rabbis from every major Jewish community. The letter addresses the need to prevent and eradicate the epidemic of child abuse adversely affecting the Jewish community.
Some of the prominent signatories include Rabbi Nota Greenblatt, Rabbinical Judge and Dean; Rabbi Dov Aharon Brisman, Chief of Court; Rabbi Peretz Steinberg, co-chairman of Bais Din Agudath Yisroel; Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, Dean; Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum; Rabbi Kalman Epstein, Dean; and Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Rabbinical Judge.
The letter refers to the Torah’s statement in Leviticus 19:16, admonishing Jews to “not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” This passage “obligates every member of the community to do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others.” According to the document, “Every individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable cause for suspicion of child abuse has a Torah obligation to promptly notify the proper civil authorities.”
One of the document’s prominent signers, Rabbi Yechiel Perr, Dean, Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson Rabbinical Seminary explains, “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business. But it is! The Torah has made it everyone’s business when a Jew is being harmed.”
Rabbi Simcha Feuerman and Chaya Feuerman, prominent psychotherapists in the Charedi community, explain, “This kol koreh and consensus of rabbis and judges is a step forward in prevention and removing any barriers for reporting perpetrators.”
There is currently a movement underway in the Charedi community encouraging the reporting of child abuse to the civil authorities so as to deter abuse. Rabbis are now assisting in prosecuting and convicting Orthodox sex offenders. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, Chief Rabbi of Gateshead, England, recently testified against a Charedi child molester, Todros Grynhaus, son of a prominent rabbinic judge in the UK, leading to Grynhaus’ conviction and sentencing to 13 years in prison.
In a recent lecture, Rabbi Zimmerman proclaimed, “We have to educate ourselves to understand the pain of these children... It’s time that we say ‘Enough!’ It’s time to end the silence.”
One signatory, distinguished author and lecturer Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, appeals, “It is our job to protect the guarantors of Torah, which are our children.”
The following is the text of the kol koreh:
We, the undersigned, affirm that any individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable basis to suspect child abuse has a religious obligation to promptly notify the secular law enforcement of that information. These individuals have the experience, expertise and training to thoroughly and responsibly investigate the matter. Furthermore, those deemed “mandated reporters” under secular law must obey their State’s reporting requirements.
Lives can be ruined or ended by unreported child abuse, as we are too often tragically reminded. The Torah’s statement in Leviticus 19:16, “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed,” obligates every member of the community to do all in one’s power to prevent harm to others. In conclusion, every individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable cause for suspicion of child abuse has a Torah obligation to promptly notify the proper civil authorities.