Yadeinu Shafchu Es Hadam Hazeh

letter-447577_1280

After the horror, the disbelief, the shock, the emptiness, I next thought what many others must have.

He had to have been a pedophile. I messaged a colleague, a respected rov, and asked what he thought. I will post it anonymously; I haven’t gotten to him yet to ask to use his name:

I am sure he was, and I am sure he molested many others, and i am sure that there were people that knew and hushed it.

It is time to forever bury the myth that reports of pedophilia can be managed and dealt with by committees of rabbonim, even for a short time. It is time to bury the myth that there is a serious halachic barrier to going to authorities to deal with credible reports of such behavior. Enough baalei halacha have told us that there is no barrier.

Choshen Mishpat 388:12 tells us that those who vex the public can be handed over. Any pedophile does at least that, and poses a danger of doing much more. Moreover, mesirah of a molester exposes him to a safek of danger; pedophiles pose a much greater danger level to many more victims.

It is natural and good that many people were not eager to rush to modes of address that themselves could be too sweeping and harsh, with terrible consequences to people and their families. They thought that various types of modus vivendi were possible. By now they should realize that this is not true. Rabbonim cannot handle the issue. We have enough evidence of this. Failure to take notice of this could have been said, figuratively, to be shefichas damim/ bloodshed.

Today, it is no longer figurative.

It is not a stain on our record that it took time to learn the facts about molestation. Reacting far too slowly is a terrible stain, though.

Leiby’s horrific petirah can save the lives of many others – those who could meet a similar fate, r”l, and those victims whose lives are a living death.

I may still be proven wrong, but the analysis will not change. Parents will be speaking about safety to their children. Whatever really happened to Leiby, the fact is that our kids are often in far greater danger in school, shul and camp than from encounters with detested “others” while walking home.

A great aliyah for Leiby and future nechamah for his family will come from all of us getting serious about molestation.

If your rov doesn’t get it, think of getting a new rov.

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90 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    We have to do a better job of policing ourselves and eradicating molesters and abusers from our community. The path usually taken has been to deny , to conceal and to blame the victim. I wonder if there are statistics as how many children at risk, drug addicts, etc. were molested. You may think what I am about to write is off the subject, but bear with me.

    The way the DSK case has disintigrated shows something. If you are rich and can hire really good attorneys who can find any kind of “shmutz” about the victim, you can cancel out the truth of the attack and get away with it. The poor woman told the truth about the attack but she had other things in her past that made her less than pure . The poor cannot win over the rich , a good lawyer can get people to look at the flaws of the victim and ovderlook the truth of her testimoney. This is even more true in the orthodox world where a rebbe, a respected person is believed over a little child, whose oswn parents can’t accept the horror of facing the truth. Power trumps truth and this is true in the goyishe world and in the Yiddishe world also.

  2. Gad says:

    Child Abuse Victims are ruined for life! Please take this more seriously.

    U.S. Olympic skier Jeret Peterson takes his own life 7/27/11

    “As a child growing up in Idaho, Peterson was sexually abused by someone he would not name, Sports Illustrated said. In 2002, the magazine wrote, he spoke about the experience at a fundraiser for an organization aimed at child abuse prevention, telling a young audience, “If you think you deserved it, I promise it wasn’t your fault. I know because I’ve lived that feeling for a long time.”
    CNN

  3. dr. bill says:

    unless i am missing something, the agudah position has neutered the position of go to the authorities where there are raglayim le’davar. for example, say raglayim ledavar is 75% certainty. then you still go first to a rabbi even at 75% to determine if in fact there are raglayim le’davar? when do you go to the authorities? 90%? 95%? in that case raglayim le’davar is inoperative.

    if i am interpreting incorrectly, will someone please explain!

  4. Someone in the know says:

    Over the past several days, there were publications in the print media that are not just alarming, but smack of some of the worst hatred from within experienced in our history. It is without question that our “establishment” has failed in the past, where offenders were protected, the public left to risk of additional victims and offenses, and victims ignored and revictimized by the system. We all know that, and many can cite specific experiences. However, it is dishonest to claim that nothing has changed. Much has changed, and the progress of the last few years has been remarkable. I know that saying anything positive will not please the fanatics (activists) whose agendas are only anti-chareidi, not protecting children. But so much has moved forward that anyone honest must recognize it.

    Perhaps the recent tragedy will give a shot in the arm and accelerate process. I’m not so sure, since it was unrelated, and there is much activity going on behind the scenes, without the coveted media coverage.

    I must assail the lies perpetrated by the JW and others who repeat the shkorim. The community reacted to the missing person issue with seamless cooperation between the agencies, public and private, and I verified this personally, beyond the media statements. The journalism that pushes another picture is hatefully dishonest. I wish these baalei aveiro would re-examine the achdus that dominated those painful days, and recreate it in their future activities. Meanwhile, I return to the words of Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim where he asked for the mouths of falsehood to be forever silenced.

  5. Shades of Gray says:

    The question is setting up a practical system that will work, as opposed to “ask your Rav”, which is theoretical(in Lakewood, a Rav was vilified for going to the police, see “Honoring the Badge”, on this blog), and did not relect any practical response or position of Agudah. The Forward report before this incident, quoting R. Zwiebel, referred to a database of rabbonim(‘… Agudah is “looking into developing, at least internally, some sort of database” that could be useful under such circumstances’). That takes time to develop(even D.A. Charles Hynes told Nachum Segal on the radio last Thursday that he was aware of the “mesirah” controversy in the community), but I think that now there will be more practical guidance.

    R. Berish Freilach, the Jewish liaison to the NYC police, was interviewed last night on the Zev Brenner show, and mentioned that “things are definitely going to change”, referring to meetings to be held with school principals. Another speaker in Teaneck called it “our 911”. It reminds me, in part, of “Pilegesh b’Givaah”, where the shockingly graphic nature of what transpired was what caused an upheaval.

  6. Syma says:

    All I meant to point out was, it is ok to assume the worst in someone who has done the worst. If the guy killed and butchered a kid, I think its a safe assumption that Rabbi A made. I don’t think one is obligated to Dan L’kaf Zechus in this case. That is all.

  7. dr. bill says:

    3 points: 1) Leaders have an obligation to be clear. 2) Ambiguity has a downside that is often overlooked – it might lead one to believe that the issues involved justify a more nuanced response. 3) While shabbat mode ovens, for example, get unconstrained condemnation, the kavod of rabbis who have, based on their daas torah, protected accused pedophiles does not permit such condemnation.

    When a house is ablaze, a measured response does not mean that one should carefully analyze the amount of water to be used.

  8. Joseph Skaist says:

    Syma,
    Another thing: The more serious the punishment if found guilty, the more we look for a zechus: The Torah says “Vehitzilu Ha’Eidah” “The Beis Din should try to save his life” This means that in capital cases we look for whatever possible zechus in order to not be required to put the defendant to death. We come up with methods of interviewing the witnesses that make it virtually impossible to actually mete out the death penalty in Beis Din. According to your logic we should do whatever we can to give the death penalty because the accusation is so serious. Don’t get me wrong: Levi Aron admitted to killing Leiby but if he really is mentally ill and if he really was/is not capable of rational decisions do you think he should be treated as an evil murderer or as a dangerous mentally insane person? The purpose of the witness(es) warning a person before he commits an aveirah is to ascertain if he really knows what he is about to do and what the punishment will be for doing it. Only when he has verbally responded to such a warning with a clear response “I know what is wrong with it and I know what punishment I will receive for it but I am doing it anyway” then we have witnesses who can testify against him for the transgression. I do not know how this would all play out in this case but I do know enough to know that it is not as cut-and-dry/black and white as you may want it to be.

  9. Joseph Skaist says:

    Syma,
    The mistake you are making about the Ishah Sotah is that she is publically humiliated because she is guilty….guilty of having gone into a private room with a man that her husband warned specifically not to. The erasing of Hashem’s name and the drinking of the water are to determine if she did the worst. Innocent until proven guilty is a Torah concept that is obvious to anyone who has properly learned Talmud Bavli, Seder Nezikin. How it may or may not apply in this case is for another discussion.

  10. Josh Werblowsky M.D. says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein I highly respect you.
    However I listened to the Agudah audio.Near the end of Rabbi Gottesman’s lecture there is discussion about mandated reporters.It is better not to quote others and decide for yourself.That is all you had to say.With regard to the Torah Journal,Yeshurun,I only spoke about the issue of going to Rabbis first, because that was what your main article was about.I was not giving a summary of the entire journal.Of course it is very positive that they state there is no mesirah when there is “raglaim ladavar.”
    With regard to automatic responses by legal aythorities that is not the general case.First the case may not even be accepted by the child protective services or social services.And then even if investigated it is up to them to decide ,if there is a case to send to the legal authorities.This is similar to what you have stated about their reluctance.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      I still haven’t listened. But assume you are correct. What is it that you would like me to say or clarify? It is not clear to me. I think that I have made my position clear in some of the other comments.

  11. dovid2 says:

    Our obsession with the suspect, why he did it, what we should do to him, is our defense mechanism to do nothing about ourselves, AND not to address the ills of our community. If one thinks Levi Aron is the problem and that once we finished him off, we have no more problems, such a person killed Leiby the 2nd time. Suppose the suspect didn’t molest the child. Does it mean we have no child molesters in our midst who get away with it? Suppose he did after all molest the child. Does it mean that our community identifies and takes care of the mentally ill in a competent and caring way?

    Have we started doing things differently since the news about Leiby broke out? Are we davening differently? Would we dare walk into a board meeting 20 minutes late? But 20 minutes late b’kvius for shacharis is OK? Would you dare have your cellular telephone ring during the board meeting? No? But in shul is OK? Have we done an unsolicited act of kindness in a concealed way (chesed shel emmes) for no ulterior reasons but to benefit the recipient? If anything above sounds schmaltzy to you and you think it has nothing to do with you, then you are the problem and not Levi Aron.

  12. Moshe says:

    R Adlerstein,

    By now I am sure that you are aware of a audio recording circulating on the internet in which a voice identified as R. Shmuel Kasminetsky speaking a few weeks ago, states repeatedly that individuals must not go to the police with information about abuse with out first consulting a rav, who in turn should investigate the matter and consult with other rabbonim. Now this may be a fake, but that is a davar she-efshar le-varer. If not intentionally or not you have just attacked R. Shmuel. The speaker in the tape clearly falls into the category of those rabbis “who dont get it” in your words. Will you stand by your words if this tape is confirmed?

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      I certainly will, because I certainly did not mean R Shmuel shlit”a. R’ Shmuel was not at his clearest in this presentation. You can tell that by his hedging about mandated reporting. He was not up on its parameters, so could hardly be giving the definitive last word on his position. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, any more than you shouldn’t in mine, but I believe that he just meant to emphasize that the decision to report should not always be made without taking into account the wisdom of experience. I am not going to repeat once more whom I had between my cross-hairs; I’ve said that clearly enough. It did not include R Shmuel, the Novominsker, or others – even others whom I might disagree with. I will BEH try to speak to R Shmuel personally, but it will probably have to wait till the next time I am in Philly. If he did mean “ask a rabbi,” – and at the moment I can’t believe he would say that – I will try my best to argue that the average rabbi is in no position to add any light, and time has shown is likely to do the opposite. In those situations where there is ambiguity and the need to ask, only rabbis with significant experience and working in concert with professionals should be consulted.

      That said, if you want me to affirm that if R Shmuel said that I am wrong that I will publicly say “I was wrong,” consider it affirmed. Everyone needs one or two Torah personalities to whom he defers. In my case, I can say that about two people, and one of them is R Shmuel. (I would have to hear it from him in person, though, with a chance to offer opposing arguments.)

  13. dovid2 says:

    To Syma (July 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm)

    A dayan doesn’t assume, guess, or speculate. He investigates. This is not rachmanut. This is not phony frumkeit. This is din. This is Yiddishkeit. Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Else, it’s perversion of justice. If the suspect is found guilty, he should get it all the way. I am for the death penalty for premeditated murder. But only if it was proven in a court of justice, and not contrived on blogs, or urged by crowds that want to make a display of their phony righteousness through the promotion lynch-style justice.

    And “Innocent until proven guilty” is not “a goyish concept” but a righteous concept. Lady, you don’t know how good you have it. If you don’t like what you call erroneously call “goyish concept”, go and live in China or Sudan. Like you, they don’t believe in this “goyish concept”. You will be running back crying.

    With regards to the sotah, review the parshah and hopefully you will see how off you are concerning both the details and the big picture.

  14. Syma says:

    Character assassination of a confessed murderer

    There is no mitzvah to judge this person favorably. Anyone can commit a crime and then plead insanity. On one hand, you must be crazed to kill, on the other,this should not give you a free ticket so to speak. There is EVERY reason to suspect him of molestation. In cases like these, you ought to assume the worst. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a goyish concept. The Torah takes on another model- how about the Isha Sota? We assume the worst, publicly humiliate her in fact, even allow HaShem’s name to be erased to see if she is in fact innocent or guilty. Stop being such “rachmanim” its misguided.

  15. Josh Werblowsky M.D. says:

    I commend Rabbi Adlerstein for his courage to bring up the issue of going directly to the authorities with reasonable suspicion of a pedophile..We do not know yet all the facts in this particular sad case.Rabbi Adlerstein is fortunate to live in LA where the Rabbonim have direct relationship with child protective services.
    However,in the Torah journal Yeshurun,volume 15 with Teshuvot of the major poskim in Israel,they almost all state to first go to a Beis Din or Talmid Chochom under all circumstances.

    I further recommend to listen to the Agudah conference on child abuse at the daattorah website on May 16 to draw your own conclusions also about mandated reporters.There appeared to be much distress about this issue.Further on daattorah on June 2,there is a critical analysis of the conference.The need for poskim and mental health professionals to collaborate together cannot be overemphasized.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      I don’t have the Yeshurun in front of me, but my recollection of what they wrote is more nuanced. They did agree that there is no issue of mesirah in going to the authorities when necessary, which is the most important ruling to keep front and center. They recognized the sakanah to many people involved, and the effect that molestation has on its victims. They are concerned that false and incomplete charges can lead to a triggering of automatic responses by legal authorities that wreak havoc with the lives of innocents. This is a concern that cannot be flippantly dismissed. Now the question is what to do about that concern. I don’t know what the situation is in Israel, but here we have decades of expericence showing us that the answer cannot be “ask a rabbi.” That is no more satisfactory an approach than a person who finds out that he needs a urologist badly decides to simply call one listed in the Yellow Pages. You need to go to people who can do the job. Most rabbis cannot, because they are inexperienced, unable to cope with pushback pressure from relatives and other rabbis, etc. We know that beyond any shadow of a doubt. The only solution that I can see is either the LA approach of a Halachic Advisory Board that works closely with both professionals and legal authorities, or a short list of rabbis who are both experienced and courageous, who can be identified by a group of talmidei chachamim together with mental health professionals. There are cases that are unambiguous and do not need any consult; all others can be brought to such a board or member of a short list of rabbonim in a speedy manner in which no valuable time is lost.

      I haven’t listened to the Agudah recording yet, but plan to BEH. From conversations I have had with others, I do not believe that anything was stated that was aimed at mandated reporters. The session was given for parents and laypeople, who are never mandated reporters. You need to be a professional acting within the practice of your profession to uncover evidence that mandates a report. In a very, very small number of cases there might be a conflict between what the law demands and what halacha allows. I do think that the conflict is overrated. Child service agencies themselves are not overly eager to pursue pointless and incomplete leads. Working together with them, rabbonim can create a modus vivendi for the occassional case in which a parent hears a child state something ambiguous, and a principal now has to decide what to do. Those who believe that all non-Jews are Cossacks are not going to trust this, but this is not where the vast majority of our community is.

  16. dovid2 says:

    dovid2: “But until then, you and I should stay quiet.”

    There is one more thing we all should do. In a time when such unwarranted evil took place in our community, let’s do unsolicited acts of chesed to people around us. A word of warning, though: They should be done to benefit the other, and not in order for us to feel good and/or to accumulate mitzvah points. We shouldn’t turn the other into a chefetz shel mitzvah. Often a good word, an encouraging smile, a ride or favor done with a smile and sincere good will to help the other go a long way. Who knows when was the last time Levi Aron heard a good word addressed to him. A commentator in this thread related he was perceived/described by his class mates as “stinky”. Is that a way to talk or think of another Jew, even if he is hygienically chalanged.

    We are all fragile. Some are more than others. I davened in Brooklyn in the same place for five years. No one besides the gabai ever talked to me. A friend davened and learned in the _________ minyan in Brooklyn for more than 20 yrs. No one talked to him throughout this time. This is not acceptable. And it destroys our neshama. If one doesn’t have other outlets, one’s mind may snap.

  17. another view says:

    I would like to suggest something that I know will not be well taken:Perhaps we should be giving a more critical look at the mental health professionals who work in our community to see if they are really up to par and doing an effective job.As a neighbor of the accused commented above he DID in fact seek help from psychologists.

    In every case of major mental illness,kids at risk, divorce etc. involving people under forty that I am familiar with the people involved did in fact seek professional help at tremendous personal(financial and other) self sacrifice.They were NOT in denial due to concerns about Shiduchim or stigmas.But “seeking professional help” did not produce the hoped for results.And through the grapevine I see the lack of promised results as being the primary reason people drop out of therapy after starting.

  18. dovid2 says:

    L. Oberstein: “This frum lady was accused of being a liar who manufactured the story of gain her 15 minutes of fame, …”

    Police investigated her claim and didn’t find it credible. She said Levi Aron tried to abduct her son, but it turn out she didn’t see his face at the time. There were also no witnesses to the incident and she didn’t report at the time to police. L. Oberstein, if you were either a dayan in bais din, or judge in a civil court, how much credence would you place in this woman’s testimony? And what does her being “a Chasishe woman” have to do with the story? Would that strengthen her credibility? Why didn’t you add that she had blue eyes, or that she makes three kugels on Shabbos Chanuka that falls of rosh chodesh?

  19. dovid2 says:

    Yitzchok Adlerstein: “Character assasination of a confessed murderer?”

    Yes, rabbi, character assassination. He confessed to killing at cutting the body but did not confess to sexually molesting the boy. It may turn out he did that too, but at the time you wrote your piece you couldn’t have known. You wrote: “He had to have been a pedophile. I messaged a colleague, a respected rov …” You even wanted to strengthen your point by tell us that others (a respected rov) also holds like you. The confessed murderer has his plate full. Please explain why this is not slander. Let’s not add other crimes to what he already confessed.
    What bothers me is that your inference overshadows the many valid points that you and Rabbi Dovid Landesman have raised, which should be addressed by competent and responsible individuals in our communities.

  20. Bitter says:

    Re Someone in the Know

    You are the one harboring ignorance about why kids go off the derech. They go off the derech because their neshamas are troubled by the child molestation that torments them, and they are in agony from the blatant cover-up by their families, neighbors and rabbis.

    Bitter

  21. Bitter says:

    Re Dovid 2

    That is very funny. Suspecting that he is a pedophile might be considered character assassination??? Please. Does that mean you still think Levy deserves some respect as a human being? Do we still have to don l’kaf zchues him, even though he butchered a child??

    Bitter

  22. Raymond says:

    I really could not care less what mental state that Levi Aaron was in when he murdered and dismembered Leib Kletsky. I care about the child who was murdered, as well as for the family of the victim, who have now become victims themselves. By definition, anybody who would do such a crime, has to have something very seriously wrong with him emotionally, so does that mean that such people never have to face any punitive consequences for their actions? People who murder should be put to death, both because it is what they deserve, and because it is only way to make sure that the murderer never harms another innocent human being again. Should all of us feel a collective sense of guilt over what happened? Probably not, because the man is a complete maniac, and we can hardly be blamed for not having his mindset. But we are made culpable, if we do not see to it that this monster never sees the light of day ever again.

  23. Pinchas Steinberg says:

    I would like to make a point here that I don’t think has really been covered. In many of the more insular charedi communities, there has always been a state of permanent denial. Children are taught by their parents that “Jews don’t do these sorts of evil things.” Even after this most recent murder, I heard things said like, “Levi A. was not really Jewish” or “If you could trace back his roots, I’m sure you would find that Levi A. was really part of the Erev Rav.” Enough. We need to come to full grips with the fact that evil people exist in every religion and society. Whether one society has greater or lesser percentages of evil is absolutely irrelevant. We need to fix our society, not try to compare the numbers. It pains me to say this, but when molesters and abusers in our own community consistently are swept under the rug, a direct consequence is that children are taught that they can trust a stranger as long as he wears a yarmulke. An 8-year old boy who would never get into the car with a bare-headed stranger, will nevertheless get into the car with a yarmulke-clad stranger. Why? Because he has never been taught that frum people can also be dangerous. I don’t blame his parents. I do, however, recommend some serious soul-searching among those elements of our community who, instead of publicizing the molesters and being open about the fact that our community is not immune from pedophiles, instead denied the problem exists, which in turn denied parents the ability to warn their children properly. Whether or not Levi A. himself was a molester is not really important. What is important is that only by publicly “outing” the molesters will the community begin to open their eyes and create the tools with which to protect our children.

  24. Robert Lebovits says:

    “Character assasination of a confessed murderer?”
    Yes. If Levi Aron turns out to be a delusional psychotic who cannot be held responsible for his actions, neither by legal nor halachic standards, then he ought to be viewed as a wretched, pitiful soul & not some evil monster. We just don’t have the information to arrive at any definitive understanding of his psyche or intent. This very lack of information has created a phenomenon whereby he has become a Rorschach test for people to imprint their fears, anger & frustration regarding the dangers to children in our world & the perceived failure by our leaders & institutions.
    We’ve seen this hysteria before. The aftermath of Columbine is just one example. At the time every “expert” & talk show host had an opinion about what caused that tragedy. It probably generated more programs on bullying prevention than ever, before or since. But 10 years later we learned that the two teen killers were never bullied, were nothing like what we were told at the time of their actions, & absolutely no extrapolations could be made from their lives to teens in general.
    Taking an unambiguous stand on protecting children from abuse, raising the community’s awareness about the need for sympathy toward & acceptance of the mentally ill, & appreciating that there are many others who are also in need of our advocacy are all worthy causes in their own right. Attaching them to this child’s murder is unnecessary & misguided. I don’t know what we must learn from Leiby Kletzky’s death. I hope we learn it soon before more tragedy occurs. But I believe it is yet to be understood.
    As an aside, contrary to one poster’s observation the mentally ill are not murderous psychopaths. Very few are violent. The “mentally sound”, as a group, are far more dangerous.

  25. Shades of Gray says:

    “Perhaps I look at things through rose-colored lenses, because in LA we have a group of rabbonim who have worked so closely with child protection agencies that they enjoy mutual trust and cooperation.”

    That’s an issue to focus on: how to apply the L.A. model elsewhere, and what challenges there would be to applying it. Part of the complication might be the diversity and the size of the NYC community, with some Chasidic communties taking a more stringent stand on Mesirah, so it would be harder to unite in one organization(there was also the fiasco with Dr. Benzion Twerski being scared off Dov Hikind’s task force in a mafia-like way by unknown people). In the lack of an effective organization as in LA, and if Mesirah is observed more stringently, internal policing is perforce necessary, hence, the Daily News report this week of the NYC Shomrim keeping tabs on 15 suspected molesters.

    On the positive side, Dr. David Pelcovits was quoted in the Jewish Week a few months ago that:

    “Even in the most insular communities, there’s some signs of the loosening of the knee-jerk kind of denial or failure to act that may be coming from fear rather than really getting it. I’m finding when the dialogue really gets going, there seems to be a genuine willingness to try to act, to try to get therapy for the victims, to try to do more than they have in the past in terms of the perpetrators, so we’re hoping.”