Yadeinu Shafchu Es Hadam Hazeh

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 comments to Yadeinu Shafchu Es Hadam Hazeh

  • E. Fink

    Rabbi Adlerstein: Thank you for posting this very important blog post.

    Readers: Email this to everyone, post it on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. End this.

  • another Nathan

    Yesterday I saw calls on Facebook for the killer to be executed. A lynching. It may be deserved, but that hasn’t been established yet. Nor do we know that the killer is a pedophile.
    While I agree with the thrust of your argument, there is due process in criminal law, and there is due process in halacha. Our outrage should not make us abandon it.

  • lacosta

    this of course goes against haimish philosophy , which assumes frum people don’t do such unimaginable acts, and klai kodesh al achat kama v chama….

    one expects that the response will be to find all kinds of other reasons to attribute—talking in shul, not enough learning, women’s shoes clicking on the pavement, etc — and such matters should be left in teh hands of experts on crime and psychopathology–> namely the bais din or your local rov— rather than facing the grim truth….

  • YC

    Nice post but why the focus on the Rov and Rabbonim. Everyone is empowered to train their kids, everyone has a a phone to report any crime.

  • contarian

    I agree with your arguments for reporting child molesters.

    But:

    The first admonition in the Ethics of the Fathers is be deliberate in judgement. That quality has totally disappeared in the modern world.

    Eeveyone jumps on any story to prove one’s agenda without waiting for the facts to be known.

    Mr Aron may have been a latent pedophile but as he did not work with children, no one may have noticed that to be accused of hushing it up. Or not.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I literally clapped when reading this. Yiasher Kochacha.

  • Kevin

    > Nice post but why the focus on the Rov and Rabbonim?

    Because it’s those people who are promoting the idea that one should report it to rabbonim before police.

  • Kevin

    > 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.

    Rabbi Adlerstein, them’s fighting words. The Agudah’s official policy, stated at a recent conference, is that one should “consult a rabbi before going to law enforcement authorities with suspicions of sexual abuse committed by community members.” See this article in the Forward for details: http://www.forward.com/articles/138131/#ixzz1NQNya8k0

    Quote: “Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president, told the conference that even mandated reporters… should consult a rabbi before going to the police.”

    I commend you for your brave position and for your demand for a shift in communal attitude. One hopes that your words also be unambiguously directed at those most responsible for cultivating this attitude.

  • Ben Hirsch

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Thank you.

    Whether or not this proves to be a case involving molestation, your message resonates. Report abuse directly to the police. Rav Elyashiv says this (despite certain misinformation campaigns suggesting otherwise) and most importantly our G-d given common sense tells us this.

    We are all bound by a moral, legal and halachic duty to protect our children. To ask permission before doing so is a crime in every sense of the word.

    Ben Hirsch

    The full correspondence on this issue between Rabbi Feivel Cohen and Rav Elyashiv can be found on the sfjny website

  • Kevin Gold

    Rabbi Adlerstein is right, but late. Rabbi Michael Broyde and Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik have been saying this for years and all of us knew it was correct and yet, Agudah issued a report saying ask a shayla first. For an excellent short video on this, see the link on the torahmusings website.

  • Dovid

    I agree with Contrarian. Let us wait patiently for the facts to emerge before reaching impulsive conclusiosn.

    That being said, it’s never a bad idea to reiterate the importance of getting serious about abuse, so the post deserves a yasher koiach no matter what.

  • Bob Miller

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    I would hope that all large Orthodox Jewish organizations would formally bring their policies in this matter into line with your proposal. They need to resolve to go all the way and then do so in practice.

  • dovid landesman

    None of us have more than gut feelings at the moment but I would offer a slightly different slant to the horrific episode. Unless the accused was completely strung out,actions like his do not take place on the spur of the moment or in a vacuum. The reports seem to indicate that his co-workers as well as those who knew him sensed that there was something not right about him. I wonder if he had not demonstrated signs of psychopathy that his family or the schools he attended decided to ignore in the hopes that they would somehow disappear with time. One of the most serious problems facing our community is denial – we do not want to admit that we are less than perfect and need professional help at times. We are more worried about the potential ramifications to the shidduch prospects of our children than we are about getting help to those among us who need care. We force our sons into learning programs that are unsuited for their needs, keeping them there so as not to ruin the shidduchim of their sisters! The problem, R. Adlerstein, goes way beyond a mistaken understanding of mesirah. The title of your article suggests that you are at least willing to infer qwho is at fault. I will go one step further and point out the declaration of yadeinu lo shafchu was made by the ziknei ha-eidah and I anxiously await their mea culpa.

  • BTG

    Your reaction to jumping the gun is a little different from when Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January. Then your response was to assail those who criticized Republicans for creating a hostile atmosphere when in reality that was solely the act of a deranged individual with no connection or affiliation with any party or point of view. So far, there is no evidence that this man was a pedophile, nor has he had any history of abuse or cover-up (and even if he did, that’s a far cry from dismembering someone). But it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is mentally unstable (he is already claiming voices in his head) with serious psychotic episodes and a history of deranged behavior. I agree with your premise that people should never hesitate to report pedophiles (or any other dangerous wrongdoings) in the community, but your looking to draw evidence of cover-up and inaction from this particular case is flimsy at best.

  • BR

    Bravo. This has needed to be said by credible voices for some time. I hope this can be the beginning of a groundswell that direction.

  • Shades of Gray

    “The greatest aliyah for Leiby and nechamah for his family will come from all of us getting serious about molestation. ”

    I think that molestation, and more broadly, mental health is an issue here, and focusing on it would be most meaningful. I thought the same when I read that people studied Mishnayos for Martin Grossman’s memory. Mishnayos is nice, appropriate and meaningful in an ordinary case of death. In the case of Martin Grossman, however, it would have been appropriate to get people to study mussar for controlling anger, or to raise funds to help those growing up with a difficult background(as Grossman did), as both are addressing the cause of the crime directly, even so far as to go to back to his experinces as a youngster which may have played a role in what happened later in life.

    Here too, as well. One nechama– and outrage to that end regarding under-protection is appropriate– is to protect the public from known molesters, through the American justice system. At the same time, a profile is emerging of a psychotic and deranged individual, for which the justice system will kick in and prosecute. However, reports said that those who knew him in the community thought Aron was merely “strange”. Levi Aron’s personality most likely took years to develop(part of the shock is that he attended yeshivos and shuls like anyone else in the community), and focus should also be on prevention, to the extent possible. R. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb recently wrote in the Jewish Press(“What’s Needed In Orthodox Leadership”):

    “In my role as rabbinic liaison to the network of Jewish mental health professionals known as NEFESH, I have a constant opportunity to be in touch with psychotherapists, educators, and social workers who see these problems first hand and who confess to me that they’ve become overwhelmed by the scope and intensity of their caseloads.”

    If personalties such as Levi Aron and Martin Grossman, which were also mental health-related even if they were extreme and rare, had been nipped in the bud earlier, perhaps needless tragedy could have been prevented.

  • Dovy

    1. The community often votes for those soft on crime. (I personally know chassidim who voted for Obama.)

    2. Wasn’t it just a year ago that many thousands were defending a vicious murderer like Grossman?

    Rabbosai, what is it that I’m not getting?

  • concerned

    Wow!! Talk about jumping to conclusions. I usually love everything R’ Adlerstein writes but this seems like it came out of the oven just a bit early.

    I know many victims of abuse and even some people who have abused. Not every person who has abused a child is a pedophile. Pedophilia is a psychiatric condition. Many people do very bad things without necessarily suffering from pedophilia.

    I don’t have any idea whether or not the murderer was a pedophile but if I was a betting man I would put a few dollars on him being psychotic. Very few people can murder a child in cold blood and come in to work like nothing happened. When someone is psychotic it is not necessary for them to also be a molester, he may have had some other psychotic motivation for the kidnap and murder.

    Most people reading this blog would probably concur that a lack of awareness of the extent of molestation in society (orthodox included) is a big problem but confusing it up with this event can potentially harm the greater cause of increased awareness and protection.

  • concerned

    One more point.

    Before all the facts come out a title of “Yadeinu Shafchu Es Hadam Hazeh” is “premature” to put it mildly.

  • Benshaul

    As a fan of much or almost all of what Rabbi Adlerstein writes and says, i was disappointed by this. By connecting the issue of molestation to this case you may have weakened your argument. Perhaps it will come out that he was a pedophile, but all the evidence in so far seems to point to a mentally unstable individual. I watched the interview with his wife and she, after divorcing him, was SHOCKED at this -so out of character for him. It may have nothing to do with pedophilia and a lot to do with mental illness. The jury is still out….

  • Sara

    It may be that he wasn’t a pedophile, which is what the initial reports are testifying to at the present moment. However, what it does seem to be is an intense mental illness such as schizophrenia. iy”H This event will be a catalyst for the Jewish community at large to a) be more vigilant of this illness due to the consequences of it and b) *begin* devising a solution for these people. Unfortunately, I have seen communities let these individuals roam around the neighborhoods. These individuals can be violent at times… just because they refuse to take their medication and what can we do about it?!

  • Yossi

    one should report it to the rabbonim before the police. the laws surrounding sexual offenders in this country are VERY strict, and even just having a suspicion of untoward behavior attached to your name is enough to permanently destroy your life.

    if every hysterical mama ran directly to the police, some innocent people would be destroyed as well. the rabbonim’s duty is to filter out the hysteria and report the real offenders to the police. clearly they have not been doing so, and instead cover up even real pedophiles.

  • Raymond

    Obviously a fair trial needs to be given to the man suspected of murdering that innocent little boy. But I think that focusing on that aspect of this horrific story is a smokescreen designed to turn the focus of our attention away from what matters most, namely the almost incomprehensible level of pure, sadistic, cowardly evil that makes up this worst of crimes. Part of me worries that the antisemites of this world will use this case as somehow proof that our religious Jewish communities are no better than anybody else, and that therefore the concept of our being G-d’s Chosen People is now negated. But then I remind myself that as important as it is for us Jews to live up to our role as G-d’s Kingdom of Priests, that even more important is to turn over and over again in our collective minds the extreme evil nature of this act. Such an act simply cannot be tolerated among any society calling itself civilized; how much more that is the case in a neighborhood like Boro Park. If the suspected person in question is indeed guilty of these heinous acts, then he has lost his right to live and needs to be permanently removed from our world. Part of me regrets that I cannot fully feel the tragedy and sadness that the boy’s family must be experiencing, but another part of me knows that my sensitive nature would never be able to handle it. My heart goes out to them. I am so sorry.

  • eye

    Rabbi Adlerstein:

    The Police Commissioner of the New York Police Department has stated at a press conference that there was no molestation in this case. The Police Commissioner also stated that the victim and his killer never met before and didn’t know each other. The police further stated, the suspect has no previous criminal history, molestation or otherwise, other than a misdemeanor public urination ticket from a year ago.

    Honestly, nothing could have been done differently in this case. This person could not have been incarcerated or even involuntarily institutionalized as he has zero history that would legally allow the authorities to do anything.

    So, frankly, this case does not advance the point you are trying to make.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    This is true. I regret using that title. It was conceived in haste. It may very well be that other explanations of the murderer’s behavior emerge. We are, however, guilty of spilling other victims blood, even if it turns out not to be true in the case of Leiby. That conclusion, alas, is not premature but overdue.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    I hope I haven’t weakened it. The best fit of his behavior remains that of a person planning molestation. The police statement that no evidence of molestation have been found does not change this. The murderer simply didn’t get around to it.

    As others have pointed out (and I am not going to publish the many comments, both critical and supportive, that make the same points as different commenters have already made), my point does not rest on what ultimately turn out to be the facts. We are all groping for meaning, for lessons, for tikunim. We are worried about the safety of our kids. Part of that worrying should be to examine more carefully what halacha really has to say, to dispel some of the myths, and to reject some rabbinic voices. I don’t think that there are too many, but they create much doubt and confusion.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    My reaction had to be different. I didn’t write the piece you are talking about!

  • L. Oberstein

    The achdus that Klal Yisroel shows in times of stress and the emunah peshuta of the father who can honestly say that Hashem has given and Hashem has taken and thanks for 9 years and mean it, is inspiring. I have to agree that the young man who shot Gabrielle Giffords and the man who murdered the little boy are seriously mentally ill, psychotic. They both don’t seem to grasp what they did. They hear voices Mental illness is hidden in our closeted world because of shiduchim. A lot of dysfunction is covreed up because of shiduchim. This muder is no more an indictment of our frum community than the shooting of Giffords is an indictment of Arizona. Thre poor mother, she will never be the same, May Hashem help her and the rest of the family. In this case, emunah peshuta is a blessing that may save their sanity.

  • thgphd

    I agree fully with Rabbi Adlerstein’s sentiment. I have wondered aloud to those who might listen,

    “what is it about commendably spending your entire lifetime solely in Torah scholarship that prepares you to skillfully and effectively respond to the mental illnesses, criminality and other deeply troubling and difficult challenges presented by a few “frum” Jews? Certainly those who have received intensive secular training in these matters and who deal with them every day are much more qualified and likely to effectively respond in assisting the ill and protecting society from the dangerous. Your refusal to report to the authorities has led to one disaster after another and it is only getting worse.”

    Further, with Rabbi Adlerstein’s perhaps premature use of the term pedophilia, I am afraid that those who he correctly rails against will use this single, non-essential point out of his fundamental message to invalidate the whole of what he says.

  • David F.

    “I wonder if he had not demonstrated signs of psychopathy that his family or the schools he attended decided to ignore in the hopes that they would somehow disappear with time. One of the most serious problems facing our community is denial – we do not want to admit that we are less than perfect and need professional help at times…I will go one step further and point out the declaration of yadeinu lo shafchu was made by the ziknei ha-eidah and I anxiously await their mea culpa”

    The view from Beit Shemesh must not be very illuminating because it contradicts the facts in this case. I live quite close to the accused murderer and he’s been a known problem for years. All the neighbors kept their kids far from him and he never made it through the Jewish day school that he was originally in. He has been on the fringe of yiddishkeit for years and can hardly be termed an Orthodox Jew even though lately the yarmulkeh was there more often than not. He has received abundant professional help but there’s little even the best psychologist can do with someone who is deranged. The problem is that being deranged does not mean someone is also stupid and in this case it happens to be that Levi is rather brilliant and this is how he has managed to get around for so long. He’s more than capable of doing plenty of things and he worked diligently at his job and did well.
    The Ziknei Ha’Eidah owe no one anything in this case. While much remains to be done in our community regarding educating our children against molesters and prosecuting them, Levi and this case fits none of the stereotypes that everyone would love to see validated.

  • Thora

    people here are raising good issues and i am proud people are getting the point. But i am a bit upset at this last post by *thgphd* he states and i quote :“what is it about commendably spending your entire lifetime solely in Torah scholarship that prepares you to skillfully and effectively respond to the mental illnesses, criminality and other deeply troubling and difficult challenges presented by a few “frum” Jews?” end quote. Also he has a point there that we should have skillful people on this matter. We need to know that in all times our Torah scholars our holy manheegim always knew better then all the *intensive secular training* and sure those ra-bunim that are hiding the truth are not what i am talking about but to put it in such a general way as he did is unYiddish, we should find those good rabunim ones we can trust ones we know will do what the Torah wants not follow the political ways and we should follow only them as their syata dishmya and Torah way is better then your intensive secular training of course

  • eddie

    100% agree with R’ Adlerstein regarding reporting of pedophiles – and it is already way too late – in the 90s there was a notorious case in London, where a Haredi family had this terrible experience, and they did go to the authorities, when the Haredi mob gathered outside the house of the victim family – much like the mob of Sodom gathered outside the house of Lot.
    In the terrible and tragic case in Brooklyn – it is not clear yet what the motives of the perpetrator were. He is obviously a psychopath and sick mental case that is deserving of the death penalty.

  • Glatt some questions

    Yasher koach, Rabbi Adlerstein. Leiby’s tragic end might be the wake-up call that our rabbis need to finally speak to authorities when they suspect sexual abuse, whether or not Leiby’s abductor and murderer actually abused him sexually. The Jewish community must demand this of their rabbonim. Unfortunately, many rabbis will still have to face Hashem in the afterlife and explain why they chose to cover up sexual abuse and other such misdeeds.

  • Ken Bloom

    R’ Adlerstein: there are things that fall under molestation that don’t leave any physical evidence, such as inappropriate fondling. The only way you’d know is if the victim told you what the molester did to him.

  • David

    About time we learned this lesson. I think the cost has already been high enough…

  • Sarah Elias

    Even if everyone knows someone is a “problem” and even if everyone knows he’s mentally ill, what exactly can be done about it? The authorities are not going to lock up every – or indeed any – deranged individual just because he’s strange or creepy.

  • Ellen

    and he’s been a known problem for years.

    My son was a classmate of Levi Aaron in a well-known yeshiva during his elementary school years. Even then Levi presented poorly. He was very quiet, “stinky”, and disheveled, which sadly lent itself to his being victimized, bullied, and beaten up by less than tolerant sixth-grade boys. I’m not ready to make this a Columbine-like case, because it seems the mental illness that threatened to overtake this tortured soul was lurking many years before this horrific event took place. No one can say whether his being bullied put him over the edge. But as long as lessons to be learned are being put forth in both this article and its comments, perhaps a word about schools needing to be more vigilant about bullying, and more protective of those who present with victim-like qualities, should be made.

  • art

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,

    When it turns out that he was not a pedophile, that he had no history, will you apologize to the rabbabim you attacked?

  • Ken Applebaum

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein, well said. What a shame that it took this type of wake-up call!

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    I fear that you are giving me credit that I am unwilling to take, in combatting a problem I don’t think exists.

    I don’t go to the Forward for information about a community its staff is not equipped to understand. I do know Rabbi Zwiebel, and have nothing but the highest regard for him. Our views intersect far more often than they diverge. I cannot believe that he would tell people not to comply with any mandated reporting requirements, period.

    My understand of his position is that abuse should be reported to the authorities. There is no halachic barrier to this; enough poskim have stated this forcefully here and in Israel. He does believe that people do not always know whether what they have seen, overheard, or been told by a friend of a child is a genuine problem that falls under the mandated reporting statute and warrants triggering the response that will come from the authorities. Parents, teachers, social workers in the non-Jewish world also face similar questions. Those who have access to experienced friends and wiser authorities know enough to consult them to make a proper determination. To the best of my knowledge, Rabbi Zwiebel’s position, and that of Agudah, is the following: Many forms of abuse are clear cut and unambiguous. They ought to be reported to the proper authorities, not to rabbis. Where there is ambiguity, people should check. Check with rabbonim who are experienced, and not afraid to call the authorities. But people should check. (Many years ago, one of our kids went through a period of time when he cried loudly and for long periods of time. Parents call it colic. Who knows? One day, we heard a rapping on our rear window. A strange woman stood outside, demanding to see the baby. My wife spoke with her. She was a pediatric nurse, and had seen much abuse. She kept hearing this crying baby, and her conscience wouldn’t let her remain silent. My wife believed her, and showed her a very pink, plump and unabused baby. She was satisfied, and apologized for the intrusion. What if she had called Child Protection, and they would have pulled up in front of the house, and – decades ago, before they were as experienced, decided to take the baby in, or my wife in? Baruch Hashem, she decided to check before bringing down the full force of authority. Today, he is post-Kollel and has a family of his own. On the other hand, people witness and hear about unambiguous things and decide to take no action, or stifle investigation, or stymie authority. Those people are the heavies, and continue to ruin lives.)

    I do not disagree with that position. I could not verify it with R Zwiebel, because he is out of the country and email range – at least to me. I did verify it with others close to him.

    Not everyone agrees with this position. Not all who say they agree are willing to actually act on it, when push comes to shove. And too many are still willing to use their power to intervene for a relative or friend and thwart the efforts of everyone else. Those groups were the target of my piece, not Agudah.

  • RF

    “I do not disagree with that position…Not everyone agrees with this position. Not all who say they agree are willing to actually act on it, when push comes to shove. And too many are still willing to use their power to intervene for a relative or friend and thwart the efforts of everyone else. Those groups were the target of my piece, not Agudah.”

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    This strikes me as a reasoned and responsible approach to things. Would it not be fair to say then that your article, which substantively is of great importance could have been articulated in a more cautious/nuanced fashion. As currently worded–and as underscored by your closing sentence–your article can easily lead readers to interpret your position as being a proponent of ALWAYS and IMMEDIATELY calling the authorities (a short perusal of the blogs that have already picked up your article will confirm this). The same article could have been written in a less absolute, albeit perhaps less sensational manner, which in the long run would have achieved more for the cimmunity at large–your words after all do have wide-ranging acceptance in the orthodox world.

    While all acts of child molestation should be reported, there are always the cases of the innocent authority figure who is the victim of false accusations. Your article appears to sanction the sacrifice of such an individual (however rare an occurance) in order to achieve the overall goal. I doubt that is your true intention and if I am correct, perhaps a clarification is in order.

  • Shades of Gray

    “I’m not ready to make this a Columbine-like case, because it seems the mental illness that threatened to overtake this tortured soul was lurking many years before this horrific event took place”

    That was my point too. If in hindsight, his personality, devoid of feelings, incubated for years and then exploded years later, then a constructive result of this story is to study his case history in yeshivah as well, and see if such people could be helped at a young age. This is true despite the fact that the law needs to judge Levi’s culpability, and that the nature of the case engenders zero public sympathy(even from the criminals who jeered him).

    David Mandel of Ohel was interviewed today on the Nachum Segal show(probably available online in the archives)and said that only an infinitesimal percentage of the mentally ill population end up like Levi Aron. It’s not as if being destroyed by bullying, for example, will result in what Aron did and who he became. Yet at the same time, a preventative focus on helping others who suffered as he may have, is something constructive and might be directly related to this story.

  • JJ Freedman

    Dear Friends,

    As my head keeps wandering away from work onto the tragic event that happened to Leiby Kletzky z”l, and new information that keeps unfolding, I’m very troubled by the reactions of our own community.

    Calls for asifas and tshuva are time honored means to stir our purpose and duties of life. Yes, we were supposed to reflect on the recent passing of the three aged gedolim. Yet, most of us went on and about with our lives and the dim memories are merely a spot among so many other things happening all around us.

    However, the ‘key message’ we ought to derive from the Leiby tragedy is that Hashem sent a powerful wake up call to the community at large to open our eyes to the dangers lurking in our own neighborhoods with heimishe pedophiles. Results as what happened with Leiby come about from years of inner disturbance and festering in the minds of child molesters.

    It begs everyone to cry out loud – Why aren’t the leaders of the community in one act of unity stepping forward for a call of action to change the way we handle child molesters? Asifas for tshuva are important but let this tragedy be exclusively dedicated for one single lesson and purpose: STOP CHILD MOLESTERS BY REPORTING THEM TO THE POLICE.

    It’s so sad to see respected people walking around with blinds on their eyes failing to see the handwriting on the wall. Every single rav should take this opportunity to darshen publicly in his shul and come to grips with reality by saying that the times we live in call for a departure from the past approach of hushing things up lest we all be a partner in crime of “shfichas domim” rachmono litzlon. It’s time to act now!

    Respectfully yours,
    JJ Freedman

  • dr. bill

    Rabbi Adlerstein, You write: “To the best of my knowledge, Rabbi Zwiebel’s position, and that of Agudah, is the following: Many forms of abuse are clear cut and unambiguous. They ought to be reported to the proper authorities, not to rabbis. Where there is ambiguity, people should check.”

    Let’s be clear: using words like “clear cut” and “unambiguous” contribute to the problem. it allows the very situation you are trying to avoid. state it the other way and it becomes helpful. if you are suspicious of the claim of abuse, consult with a professional psychologist and let him make the next decision. otherwise, call the police. given the obfuscation of some/many rabbinic leaders, we are in a situation, where for at least a while, we must not try for the shvil hazahav. even within our orthodox society, we have competent professionals who are better trained than rabbis to deal with cases of significant ambiguity.

    You write: “Check with rabbonim who are experienced, and not afraid to call the authorities.” Until one creates a registry of such rabbis, (approved by some reputable process,) it is highly unlikely that the average person would know whether a particular rabbi fits that description. any trained psychologist, even if one were to insist on one within the orthodox community, is a far more practical choice.

    i also wonder about the practical percentages. i assume 90% to the authorities and 10% to a competent professional. otherwise the problem does not begin to be addressed.

  • Yashar Koach, Rabbi Adlerstein!

  • Shanks

    “I cannot believe that he would tell people not to comply with any mandated reporting requirements, period…Many forms of abuse are clear cut and unambiguous. They ought to be reported to the proper authorities, not to rabbis. Where there is ambiguity, people should check. Check with rabbonim who are experienced, and not afraid to call the authorities.”

    If so, Rabbi Zwiebel’s position is illegal in New York. Mandatory reporters are mandated to report directly even if their suspicion isn’t clear cut and unambiguous. All they need is reasonable cause to suspect a child is abused.

  • DF

    We are all shaken to the core by this tragedy, but that does NOT mean we should lose our sense of proportion. Remember:

    1) Levi Aron was on the farthest fringes of orthodoxy. Yes, we cannot use the “True Scotchman” fallacy to exclude him as an orthodox Jew on the basis of his act. At the same time, it is also true that he is nowhere near a typical example of an observant Jew.

    2) Even if he is or was orthodox, he remains one man out of many hundreds of thousands. In the cold light of statistics, he does not even exist. Introsepction is a fine thing, but we have no obligation to reconsider the historical reality that we are NOT a murderous community. There will always be exceptions.

    3) Pedophilia may have nothing to do with this case. In fact, as I write this, it is believed that it was not a factor in this case. It is very wrong to use the passions engendered by an emotional case to promote one’s own agenda. Already we are seeing legislative calls for “Leiby laws”. As any attorney can tell you, nearly every law named after an individual is almost always hasty and ill-considered, intrusive, and more harmful than good.

    4) Finally, you make it seem as though it were univerally agreed that “pedophiles” – which I note you have not defined – should be reported to authorities. That is not the case. Rabbis on the right and left have spoken of the US penal system in terms of mesirah. Rabbi Michael Broyde, for one, has publicly questioned if one has the right to turn over Jews to prison, knowing the horrors of the so-called prison system. And there is no shortage of rabbis on the right who believe this, de facto if not not de jure. I am not saying that authorities should never be invoked, nor am I saying no one should be sent to prison. But the approach you adopt – “Call the cops on ‘em” – is overaly cavalier and short-sighted. You dont seem to realize that often the “authorities” only makes things worse. I have seen too many courthouses where families use that same approach to resolve disputes, and it almost always ends in regret. Authorities, whoever they may be, might be called, but only as the very LAST resort possible, a big bideived. Your proposals fail to consider this.

  • bubbie

    Rabbi Adelstien, Thank you for this heartening article, addressing an issue that has frustrated and enraged me for years. Could you please publish a list of Rabbis and/or poskim who have come out with a p’sak that one must report a pedophile to the authorities?
    Thank you for your important work.

  • Robert Lebovits

    The murder of an innocent child in our midst is a shattering experience for everyone in the community, on one level or another. One reaction is to “do something”, and not let this moment pass back into complacency. R. Adlerstein’s call to action to protect our children from possible child abuse is an overdue declaration that could very well have been made public long before this murder.In light of the absence of evidence that any molestation took place, I’m not clear why R. Adlerstein decided to come forward now to address this pressing problem. But before we go any farther let’s pause for a moment.
    How many people remember Columbine, the high school in Colorado where two teenage boys went on a killing spree, murdering seven before killing themselves with their own weapons? Immediately afterwards there was an enormous national (over)reaction with all sorts of editorials commenting about the terrific danger of violent boys just waiting to explode and murder, expert panels set up to formulate recommendations to deal with the “crisis” of teen rage, & demands that every teen who exhibited even the least bit of aggression – i.e., virtually all teen males – should be assessed for their potential danger to society. After the passing of some time when the subject was examined more carefully it became clear that Columbine was not a benchmark of some larger problem. In fact, it turned out that teen violence was actually lower than in the past & the event was extraordinary.
    There is an awful lot of speculation about the characteristics of the apparent murderer. I’m not going out on a limb to guess that he is a severely disturbed individual, and has been so for a very long time. Maybe people knew about his condition & behavior but didn’t share that information. Maybe he’d been under professional care, with little success. That doesn’t mean a different approach would have prevented this particular tragedy from happening. MOST seriouly disturbed individuals are not a threat to others or themselves. Only a very, very small percentage engage in some violent acts. To look at every oddball in the community with fear & suspicion would be a most unfortunate response to this great loss. To assume any adult who interacts with children is a potential molester is a sure-fire way to destroy a community.
    Anyone who accepts the premise that Hashem directs our lives clearly recognizes that the death of this child is something we must understand as a call to us. Precisely what we are being called upon to perceive & change may take more time, tefila, & guidance to comprehend.

  • Trying

    I knew somewhere I would read that Aron was bullied in school. I know of other kids who were previously mild, good students, whose lives were completely changed by being bullied, even to the point of fantasizing harming the bullies.