Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Sexual Abuse and Denial in the Community

I have debated long and hard about this posting and whether it was ever going to see the light of day. But recent events, the Hikind/Twerski news, have lead me to overcome any fears about posting.

Today sexual abuse of minors by those in authority over those minors is a well known fact. It happens in the outside world and we know, without any doubts, that it happens in the frum community as well. The media of all types have alerted to this. There is no adult living in the US and elsewhere that has not heard of sexual abuse of a minor. Children are routinely warned not just to not talk to strangers but also about what is appropriate behavior on the part of adults around those kids. Children are taught to know that touching in the "bathing suit" areas is not acceptable.

But nothing has been done in the frum community to address this problem nor to bring those abusers to justice. The criminals are more choshuv to those in positions of authority then the young victims are. Handling the matter internally for these authority figures means shuffling the criminals from one school to a different school, from one city to another city. They sigh in relief when the problem goes NIMBY--not in my backyard. And they sternly warn the families and concerned other people that taking the police/court route is a no-no.

I'd like to vomit all over those who talk of bringing the problem into the open as being a "chillul Hashem." The real chillul Hashem is what these people are doing to our young, precious children. As a mother I can understand why Rabbi Dr. Twerski was scared for his family and resigned from Dov Hikind's commission. But we do have an option of how to deal with this problem since our leaders have shown they are not willing to do so.

I am not a violent person by nature, nor do I come from a violent family. I believe in the rule of law and justice. That being said, I also believe in "midoh k'neged midoh." I believe that there are times and situations where it is the fool who does not answer force with force.

When I was a child the shamas of our shul was a holocaust survivor. He and his wife were a bit older than my parents and were childless. They always seemed to dote on the children in the shul. He was also the candyman in shul so where he went the children would follow. One yom tov morning when I was 6 I went with two friends to play in the social hall in the basement of the shul. Mr. M was there and we ran over to ask for a piece of candy. It was something that every child in the shul had done before. Please keep in mind that when I was 6 no one but no one was discussing child abuse. No one was warning children about inappropriate sexual behavior on the part of adults towards children. You never saw or heard news of this in the media. Had you said "child abuse" to someone they would have asked you what that meant. So my friends got their piece of candy and then it was my turn. And this fiend cloaked in piety said that he had something even better for me then candy and if I was a "good girl" and did what he wanted that I would get two pieces of candy. And then he exposed himself to me. And my guardian angel prompted me to say no and to run and join my friends upstairs.

I cannot at this point in time recount exactly how I was feeling after this. I do know that it was unexpected and that my parents had never discussed this with me--no parents were discussing this back then. And I didn't run to my mom to tell her about it either. But it clearly must have been puzzling me. We were sleeping over at my aunt's house that night and after the seder was over I wasn't falling asleep all that readily. My mom came over to me to tell me to go to sleep already and out of nowhere I said to my mom "Mr. M showed me his____in shul today." My mom carefully asked if that was all he had done, just shown it to me. When I answered "yes," she tucked me in and that was the end of the discussion, at least as far as I was concerned. But in the dining room I could hear the angry voices of my parents and my aunt and uncle and I was concerned that they were having a fight. Little did I know.

There were no legal precedents to follow and no earnest community leaders to consult. My dad and my uncle took care of the problem like the horrified and enraged parents they were: they went to Mr. M's house and beat the crap out of him. They warned him that he had better find a new job. They told him they would be watching every breath he took. And when the shul moved that year Mr. M was no longer the shamas. Until the move he no longer had candy in his pocket and no longer was anywhere that the kids were.

I first found out what had transpired years later, when I was far more adult and when talking about these things perhaps came a little bit easier for my mom. I was one of the lucky ones--there were no lasting affects because of what Mr. M did. Society had not made this an everyday issue to scare kids with. But what did remain with me ad hayom is that my dad and my uncle were the best parent and uncle in the world, because whatever would happen to me they would protect me. I didn't have to fear monsters because they had my back.

Our leaders are impotent? They refuse to deal with the reality in front of them? They reply to those who would deal with this reality with threats? Then gentlemen what are you waiting for? Those are YOUR children these depraved pieces of dreck are abusing. They are all of our children. It's not the right way to handle things, it's not the frum way, it's not the halachic way you say? And is doing nothing while our children suffer any more frum or any more halachic? I have always said and fully believe that I would take a bullet in protecting my children. So what about you guys out there--would you throw a punch to protect your child?

And here is what else I bet will be the outcome if just one parent and his family or friends paid a "visit" to one of these monsters: the news would get out, even if whispered secretly in dark corners. And these monsters would know that their free reign of terror was going to be toppled. And our leaders just might have to finally do the right thing, to bring this out in the open and finally condemn these people for what they are.

My father never brought up this incident with me. It was not something a father would talk to his daughter about back then. My father is no longer living but I would still like to thank him now. I had a perfectly normal childhood and grew to be a perfectly healthy, normal adult because that one incident was just that: a one-time occurrence that did not haunt the rest of my life. He saw to that. Violent behavior? Is it violent to crush the serpent that strikes you, or to stomp out the vermin that threaten you? In this particular case and given that our leadership are sniveling cowards, then no, it's not violent: it's the only response that has been left to us.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you and thank you for saying what I have been thinking inside and was never brave enough to say! And I truly pray that Hashem will give the fathers of those poor unfortunate children the courage to do what has to be done.

Juggling Frogs said...

Thank you for sharing your personal experience, and your rigtheous outrage. I join you in thanking your father and your uncle (and your mother and anyone else in that room that night discussing it with them), for "having your back" and thus protecting the community and countless other potential future victims.

In fact, they probably protected that candy man by beating him to a pulp. Who knows? Maybe they stopped him from continuing with that behavior, or from escalating it.


Anonymous said...

It's been well documented that sexual offenders don't do well when it prison--many are routinely beaten or killed by the other inmates. So these inmates, criminals all, still have enough humanity to know that sexually abusing children is the worst of the worst. And we are worried that beating them up will damage their delicate psyches? You're right that the frum community has blocked any other way to deal with the problem. Fronteir justice looks very good right about now.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of surprised at you suggesting that violence can be any kind of answer. When we resort to violence then we lower ourselves to the same level as those we commit the violence against. And it never brings any long term solutions. Not exactly the kind of chinuch we want to be giving our kids either.

Lion of Zion said...


"When we resort to violence then we lower ourselves to the same level as those we commit the violence against."

blah, blah, blah

"And it never brings any long term solutions.

let's start with short-term solutions. this worked in profk's case. it will work with any perv who would otherwise think that his position of power and the warped communal infrastructure protects his deviances.

"Not exactly the kind of chinuch we want to be giving our kids either."

so you teach your kids always to turn the other cheek? that's a great jewish chinuch message.

Anonymous said...

Eli, it's exactly the chinuch these kids need -- when something is WRONG and no one fixes it, YOU have to step up. Not say, "Oh well, not my problem" or, "Oh, it's not true that there's a problem."

Lion of Zion said...


very moving post.
My response is here.

שבת שלום

Anonymous said...

Eli, just what kind of chinuch are we giving our children when they see that bad things can happen to them and to other children and no one does anything to stop it and to prevent it from happening again?! Please, give me a break. Next thing I know you are going to be excusing these dregs of humanity by telling us they had a hard childhood and we should be looking at them as victims too.

My husband is not a blog reader but I insisted that he read this posting and then I asked him what he would have done if someone would have exposed themselves to one of our daughters. He said "I hope to God I would have done just what this father and uncle did." I've been married to this man for over 25 years and his answer was just another reason for why I love him.

Anonymous said...

Is violence really the only way we have to deal with this? How can these thugs threaten a prominent man like R. Twerski with social ostracism, unless large numbers of people listened to their vile gossip? Why would anyone listen if these guys defame R. Twerski? if tey wan't cross the street when the see him, why won't others cross away from them? If we all stop listening, poof, they can't threaten. I have seen people do all sorts of crazy and distasteful things for fear their family members "won't get shidduchim." I've seen this from people whose oldest kid is 10! If everyone let their (all right, since you're an English teacher, his or her kids) kids marry for love, this treat would be worthless. Or even just behaved sensibly about their kids shidduchim. At some point we as a community have to find our backbones and stop being manipulated by this kind of thuggery. If a community acts like sheep, it attracts wolves.

We don't need to break people's knees. We need to end teir ability to manipulate a community for fear of gossip and ostracism. the easiest way to do that is stop listening to gossip and rumormongering.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I'm preempting your answer ProfK but Mike, there are two different things that are involved here. One is that R. Twerski was threatened with social ostracism because of his being part of the Hikind Commission. I would agree with you there that we need to get a backbone and stop letting our worry about shidduchim get in the way of ignoring these people.

But the major issue here is that child abuse is going on and nothing but nothing is being done to stop it and prevent it. I don't mean to be wholly cynical but when I hear that a politician has convened a commission I don't get overly optimistic that we are going to see any results in the near future. And when that commission is specifically to address a problem in the frum community that the community has clearly shown it is reluctant to address, I'm not holding my breath waiting to see any positive results.

I don't think that ProfK's dad and uncle beat up that pervert in order to end his ability "to manipulate a community for fear of gossip and ostracism." I think it's pretty obvious that they did it to end a problem full stop before it could get any worse. And yes I applaud what they did.

Juggling Frogs said...

ProfK's family did the right thing, because they correctly identified the problem and handled it as adults.

"Handling it" today, in a society whose attitudes toward the problem have changed significantly, involves reporting the guy to the police.

The adults in this story heard the child, believed the child, and worked as a team/community to stand up against the exploitation of the child and protect her.

Thank G-d, it doesn't require violence today to make the same message clear: this is not to be tolerated.

But we adults must have the wisdom, strength, and courage to protect and defend our children.

Now that there are legal precedents and changed attitudes, reporting the Candy Man to the police would have accomplished the same results that were unavailable through "the system" back then.

Lion of Zion said...


"Now that there are legal precedents and changed attitudes,"

but i think profk's accusation is that this reality is not reflected in how the jewish community has been reacting to predators

katrina said...

Prof K: I admire your courage in writing this post. If this had G-d forbid happened to me, I would have wanted my father to do the same.
I think it is partly for fear of this kind of reaction that molesters often prey on children without fathers or other male role models, or with other difficult family situations.
I still don't think violence is the answer, but I feel for all of you who believe there is no other choice. I pray that people have the courage to speak out before the violence you are writing about becomes a reality.

katrina said...

And by "people," I mean leaders of the community.
I also liked Dov Bear's post about the relevance of Mordechai's admonition to Esther: "Revach v'hazalah yavou la'yehudim mimakom acher, v'at u'veit avich toveidu."

Anonymous said...


I disagree; perhaps when Prof K and I were kids, the violence was necessary as the police wouldn't deal with the molestation. Now, if people will cooperate, the civil authorities will be quite happy to deal wih the matter. It is the intimidation that scares people into silence. That is the real problem.

And the police are a far better solution that beating the perps up. If you do the latter they just go to another neighborhood or another school and continue to molest. Jail and sex offender registries have greater long term effect.

Anonymous said...

Yes there are laws today to protect the childrend. Yes going to the police would be the correct and should be the immediate response. Except if you are frum. It's been pounded into us that our first response should be to consult daas Torah. And Daas Torah's answer has been to sweep the problem under the rug. No washing our dirty laundry for others to see.

Hikind and Twerski mentioned that there were hundreds of these molestation cases that they knew about. If hundreds of people had reported the abuse to the police would we still have to be discussing it like we are now? Why didn't they report the abuse? They probably talked to their rabbi first.

Anyone else see the parallel to the problem with the priests in the Catholic church? "Holy men" need to be protected. Image is everything and our kids be damned.

I admire that the profs family did what they needed to do to protect her and stop the abuse from happening again. So there weren't the laws to protect the kids back then. So what? Are those laws helping our kids today when we are ordered to ignore them?

Anonymous said...

What Yudi said made me think of something. Isn't Dov Hikind an elected official? Aren't they required as part of their job if they know of illegal activity to report it to the police? So if he really does know of hundreds of cases of abuse then why hasn't HE informed the police? Maybe because he is frum and being frum trumps the law he has to uphold? It couldn't be that he is afraid of not being reelected again could it? If our rabbis and elected officials leave us with no choice then the answer of the father reported in this posting is still the only answer. Because the only thing we should be thinking about is how to save the kid in danger from any more danger.

Juggling Frogs said...

Lion of Zion,


The adults in ProfK's story are rightfully lauded for standing up and doing the right thing, in contrast to those today who won't stand up.

But "the right thing" today needn't be violent. In fact, the legal remedies available are not only more effective that a beating, in many states they are mandated.

Anonymous said...

I work in a public school, one where a teacher was outed for having had improper sexual contact with a student. The student reported this contact to another teacher who immediately reported it to the police, which is what we are required to do. The papers picked up the story so others could also know who this pervert was. The pervgert is doing jail time now. It doesn't change what happened to the student but at least the student knows that she is safe from this person and that the abuse can't happen any more. And it can't happen to any others either.

And what would have been the result if this would have taken place in a yeshiva? We're supposed to be a light unto the world. Yeah, well the light has gone out in a big way when child abuse doesn't horrify our leaders and they do nothing to stop it but they look the other way when their kanoim stone someone for wearing a shirt where the sleeves are too short.

Lion of Zion said...


dov bear is a hypocrite.


"Isn't Dov Hikind an elected official? Aren't they required as part of their job if they know of illegal activity to report it to the police?"

interestingly, hikind is not a mandated reported, as per
but twerski is.

not that this justifies hikind's decision to hold back information from the public and the authorities

"Maybe because he is frum and being frum trumps the law he has to uphold?"

unless he's changed over the last 10 years, hikind is MO. not that MO don't violate the law, but they don't generally do it out of frumkeit (or yudi, out of fealty to daas torah).

"It couldn't be that he is afraid of not being reelected again could it?"

well his constituents, or at least those who decide who they vote for, are proponents of daas torah, so maybe he is worried about who guides them in voting patterns.

Anonymous said...

Lion that link you gave is a real eye opener. So Hikind is not required by law to report suspected abuse but SCHOOL OFFICIALS are. That means that all those principals who were informed by parents/students that abuse was taking place broke the law. So I wonder what would happen if someone went to that school official and said either you report the abuse to the authorities or I'll turn you in for not reporting the abuse. Let's say a lawyer parent did that. Would the principals be so fast to protect the perverts or would they try to save their own skins? And I wonder if the chairman of the board of a yeshiva could be considered a school official? Be nice to see a suit filed and see how fast they fold if money is involved.

Still comes down to it being a hellish thing that we just don't come straight out and protect our kids.

Anonymous said...

What some of this comes down to is that we don't believe our kids when they say something happened, or at least the schools don't. There was an incident a few years back and one of the local school administrators had the "perfect" reaction. He addressed the parents at a special PTA meeting and told them that television and newspapers and the Internet and all the media were feeding our children all types of garbage information and then the kids were using what they had seen or heard to punish teachers they were not happy with for other reasons or just to cause trouble or to get attention for themselves. He told the parents that they had to get rid of these evil influences on the children. And then he asked if it was at all likely that a frum person, a rabbi entrusted with children, an experienced mechanech would behave in such a way, in a way against halacha. Oh man is he living on a different planet from the one I'm living on.

We don't send our kids to this school. Don't know that a different school's administration is any better but I know the other administration stinks.

Lion of Zion said...


"but SCHOOL OFFICIALS are. That means that all those principals who were informed by parents/students that abuse was taking place broke the law."

this is old news already. where have you been?

"So I wonder what would happen if someone went to that school official and said either you report the abuse to the authorities or I'll turn you in for not reporting the abuse."

they'd threaten you with the same things they threatened twerski with. and if you are the type of person who wouldn't fold, it's likely you wouldn't have sent your kid to this type of a school to begin with.

"Be nice to see a suit filed and see how fast they fold if money is involved."

see the end of this post

Lion of Zion said...


"Don't know that a different school's administration is any better"

i wonder if there is some type of a guide to evaluate how well a school prevents/handles these situations. when i dropped off my son this morning, i actually wanted to go into the office and ask what type of backgrounds checks are done (not just for teachers) and if there is any mandatory reporting program in place, etc. but i wasn't sure exactly what to ask.

Anonymous said...

So lots of people won't report what they know about sexual abuse in a yeshiva because they are afraid of the retribution the frum community will take. You read lots in the papers about how police were helped by confidential informants and we never find out who those informants are. Maybe somebody needs to find out how you can get that confidentiality from the police and then inform the rest of us. If nobody knew that you were the one who snitched on the perv in the school so they couldn't threaten you or your family maybe more people would come forward with what they know.

Anonymous said...

But doesn't all this still come down to are the parents going to do their job as parents or aren't they? I took a parenting class once and the instructor stressed to us that we were a child's first line of defense. I can't fathom what goes through the minds of parents that they can even weigh community disapproval against their child's well being. You can always move to another community if you have to but you can't just replace your child. And in the end isn't it God that we have to answer to? I just don't see Him buying the cop out that we were afraid for shidduchim for our grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

Has anything really changed since ProfK was a girl? Sure, we have laws now that weren't there when she was a girl. There's a lot more knowledge about what goes on. We tell our kids things that her parents didn't think they had to tell their kids.We are far more aware of the problem today then back then. And still nothing has changed. If anything it is worse today because back then they didn't really know about what they had to protect their kids from.

Bravo to the prof's father. He took maybe the only action that was available to him then. And he didn't wait to take that action. We have other options besides violent ones that are available today but the frum community can't/won't use them. So we are right back to the old days and violence seems to be all we are left with.

Juggling Frogs said...

One further note: telling the police in the U.S. means that the accused is presumed innocent and entitled to due process. This is not true of the "rumor mill."

There is an obligation to report, but there are sitations where this can be handled with discretion.

All the energy that currently is used to keep the accusations from being made, can then be channeled to encouraging the public to giving the accused the benefit of the doubt (but not access to children) while the authorities handle the investigation.

Juggling Frogs said...

Regarding the PTA meeting Sarah described:

Aren't we told (not sure the reference, but it's usually cited with respect to the laws of Yichud) that NOBODOY is "beyond" the laws of Yichud? That *anyone* is succeptible, and thus everyone is required to put fences around his behavior?

Being known as a great scholar or tzaddik gamur doesn't exempt a person from having to guard oneself from the yetzer harah.

To offer a person's madrega as an argument against an accusation is to deny the human condition, and makes the defender sound like he's marketing laundry soap, not running a school.

He can certainly say he finds it difficult to believe, or that he doubts it's the truth, based on his knowledge of the person's character. But if the school authority finds it *impossible* to believe of any given individual (absent exculpatory evidence) then he's not qualified for his job of running a school, or of being in a position that makes him a mandated reporter.

Anonymous said...

I admit to having no knowledge about this so that's why I am asking. Is there no mention anywhere in the Talmud or other ancient writings specifically to sexual predators or to child sexual abusers? If there is a mention is it condoned? Are we told not to do anything about it? Was there no punishment? If there is no mention does that mean that it isn't important that gedolim today deal with this "modern" issue? They pick up on and regulate plenty of other things that weren't discussed in the Gemorah. Why make an exception for this horrible act?

ProfK said...

Where to even begin. First, thanks to all for what has been a reasoned comment thread. Many things have been mentioned that are points we should think about and consider. And thanks as well for the restraint in how things were discussed.

I got an email from a reader regarding this posting and my answer to her needs to be here as well. I stated in my posting that the event that took place did not traumatize me, either as an adult or as a child. It did not. I did not write this posting because events in the frum community unburied long held fears and trauma. I wrote this posting and told what happened once in my long ago past because I am mad and angry and disgusted at the frum response to this moral outrage. I wrote of my father's and uncle's method of making sure that the situation never arose again because for those who do fear community pressure and ostracism, because for those who do feel they have no choices when abuse arises, there is still one choice. No, it is not, today, the first choice nor the most ideal choice. And in an ideal world we would not be having this discussion to begin with. But this is not an ideal world. And before I would let a child have to think that no one cares, that no one can protect them, that no one can do anything about the pain that was inflicted upon him/her, then yes, I would not hesitate to recommend a visit by dads at the midnight hour.

In Megillas Esther we are told that the edicts against the Jews were sent out by Haman in multiple languages, so that each person could read and understand the edicts in their own language. The language of abuse is violence and yes, it just may be that there are instances when we are going to have to send our message out in a language the abusers and their apologists understand.

We tell our children often that we love them. They also need to feel, as I did in that long ago time, that we will protect them.

Anonymous said...

It took all of my lunch hour to read this posting and comments and try to take them in, and I am sick to my stomache.

If we do nothing that will have some affect on this horror that strikes some of our children then we are as guilty as those animals who are the abusers.

Where are the national educational organizations in setting up the standards to prevent and deal with this problem and publicizing them? Where is Torah Umesorah? Where is the OU? National Young Israel? Chabad? the Agudah? Where are the Gedolei Yisroel? These are our leaders? I've heard more that might help on this blog and a few others then coming out of all the big leaders of the frum community. What is it going to take before these groups figure out that they are part of the problem because they aren't part of a solution? What will it take? Some day one of these abusers is going to go too far and a child will die c'v. Is that what they are waiting for?

Anonymous said...

There are two parts to this problem of sexual abuse of kids. The first is the lack of any organized response on the part of rabbaim and rabbinical organizations to the the whole issue of child abuse. Simi is right. You don't hear it discussed at any of the national conventions or any of the forums. No one has issued any guidelines for schools. No one has told parents what to look out for.Even if not a single incident of such abuse has ever been known to take place at a particular school the rules and guidelines need to be there and parents have to know what they are.

The second part of the problem is the response when abuse is alleged by someone. Schools go into protective mode, with the whole more important then any of its parts, or at least the student parts. Schools act as if they have some heavenly contract and we mere mortals aren't allowed to complain, no matter what the issue. Of all places you would think that a school would care about children. If they don't care about our children and they don't care for our children, then just what are they doing in existence? And we are paying them for the privilege of their covering up the abuses of some of their staff members? Just why are we doing this?

ProfK said...

Readers may find of interest this article, dated today, in The Jewish Star, a Long Island paper. Obviously R. Twerski has resigned from the Hikind Commission, but at the time the article was written he was still on it and some of his comments in this article are not seen in other reports we have been reading.

ProfK said...

You asked where the OU is in all of this. I can't say for sure since I have not received my copy of this yet, but they issued something called the Safe Schools Yeshiva Network Policy. You can read more information at

Sexual abuse is not specifically mentioned in the article although the word abuse is. All the way at the bottom there is an email address where you can get a copy of the new policy. They also list the yeshivas in NY and NJ that are presently part of this partnership.

Lion of Zion said...


it seems that link is about substance abuse, not sexual abuse?

you can forget about agudah ever having a program. they actively lobby against mandatory reporting for clergymen and background checks/fingerprinting for private schools.

there is an article in this week's jewish week also about this whole mess.

i have to say that the more i read about hikind's commission the less i am impressed with what he wants to accomplish.

Lion of Zion said...

to correct and clarify, AI supported a bill that "allows" private schools to fingerprint employees (but requires?). it has in the past opposed measures to makes private schools and clergymen mandated reports.

ProfK said...

You are right that the OU announcement seems to be dealing with substance abuse but the announcement is kind of hazy as to what it really covers. That's why I asked to get a copy of the guidelines. It may be that they didn't want to announce that sexual abuse was included so as not to cause a public outcry by some groups, or it may be that they copped out and it won't be mentioned at all.

Re the Hikind commission, I think I'll agree with the commenter who was wary of yet another commission being established to study something. When I hear "politician" and "commission" in the same sentence hope is not springing eternal in my breast.

Anonymous said...

A commenter above asked if there is any specific mention of pedophelia in the Gemorah. I'd be interested to know that too. Anyone volunteering to give the answer?

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in hearing some halacha too. We've been hearing about "moser" and "lashan horah" in regards to the abusers but with all the other mentions of forbidden sexual relations surely there has to be at least one mention of an adult and a child? At the very least shouldn't the laws of yichud apply as something that schools should be insisting upon? Although that wouldn't cover a rebbi and his male student, but wouldn't Vayikra cover this where male-male sexual relations are considered an abomination? For any other discussion of a serious topic the psukim would be flying all over the place. Why not with this issue?

Lion of Zion said...


(disclaimer: card-carrying עם הארץ writing here)

the specific biblical injunction in ויקרא against male-male relations may only involve specific acts of penetration. inappropriate touching alone or other acts may not constitute a technical violation?

regarding inappropriate relations with minor girls (although the vast majority of the allegations seem to involve men with boys?), the concept of statutory rape as we know it does not exist in הלכה.
there is nothing wrong, for example, with a 12-year old girl marrying a 32-year old man.


off topic here, but i was being sarcastic about the attention being given agunot. i guess it didn't come across well.

Anonymous said...

My great grandmother, born in the late 1800s or thereabouts, was first married when she was 12. And her husband was 15-16. Of course, life expectancy for married women in that time period didn't extend much beyond 40 if that long. Nor did men live all that long. Dying in childbirth or of childbirth related issues was fairly common. So yes, it would seem that puberty was also marriage time, and 12 year olds weren't "little girls." They were already through more than a quarter of their expected lives.

You cannot say the same today. First, here in the US, no twelve-year-old can get legally married. Which "normal" person in the US would consider a twelve-year-old as an adult, particularly as regards sexual relations? And if a twelve-year-old is not a legal adult then for sure those younger are nowhere near being adults.

So the concept of statutory rape as we know it does not YET exist in halacha, because those it would apply to were, back then, adults, not children. But the situation is vastly different today. It's not like the gedolei yisroel haven't come up with halachic requirements in response to other "modern" developments--why ignore this one? Show me a godol living today who married off his daughter at 12.

And if those who prey on young children do so because in Talmudic times those kids were adults, then they are even sicker then I thought.

Lion of Zion said...


"didn't extend much beyond 40 if that long"

are you sure that this is true once you remove infant and young child deaths as statistical outliers?

regarding the rest of my comment, i think you were reading too much into it?

Anonymous said...

The Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 388:12 states that it is permitted to inform on one who is a menace to the public.
Rabbi Yechiel Michal Epstein (1829-1907) argues that the prohibition against informing on another fellow Jew only applies when a corrupt and dishonest government is involved. (Aruch Hashulchan 388:7).
Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg (1915-2006), following Epstein, rules on the permissibiity, indeed responsibility, to report child abuse. (Tzitz Eliezer 19:52)
All this was found in the 26 October issue of The Jewish Chronicle.

Knitter of shiny things said...

Both of the universities I've attended have a policy that when students and teachers meet, the office door always stays open. The gender of the people involved doesn't matter, you're just always supposed to have the door open.

It would be nice if the yeshivot could institute something like that, though of course it won't prevent people from closing the doors, but at least it would be a standard, and the student might be able to tell that something is amiss.

Lion of Zion said...


the school i went to didn't exactly encourage the rebbe-student relationship. (actually, i didn't even know what a "rebbe" was until much later. we had a morah or moreh, who might have been a rabbi). but my gemara teacher in 11th grade (who was a really nice guy), did try to have a relationship with us and he would even invite groups of us to his home for shabbat. so where does something like this fit into the open door policy?

Anonymous said...

I think Lion you answered your own question. Your rebbe invited groups of you for Shabbos. I'll assume he was married with kids too. I also assume you shared a room with your fellow classmates. Not much chance of any private enclosed time in his house. And you were in 11th grade making you older and maybe a little wiser about anything that might be inappropriate. My son also went to his rebbe's house for a Shabbos and also with a group of boys. I wouldn't have sent him all by himself though. Maybe not so much with possible abuse in mind but just the awkwardness of being a complete stranger to everybody at the table but the rebbe. It's a really sad note on today's crazy world that we have to worry about why a rebbe might be paying special attention to our kids.

RivkA with a capital A said...

The most important reason to report sex offenders is precisely because of the NIMBY syndrome.

Anything other than arrest and incarceration simply removes the offender from one community to another.

Sex offenders do not change, they do not stop molesting kids, they are dangerous.

We often "know the family" and don't want to hurt the "innocent" members of the family. In so doing, we endanger other innumerable innocent kids.

This is the meaning of the saying
"He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately be cruel to the compassionate."
Midrash Tanchuma, Metzora 1;
Yalkut Shimoni, I Shmuel 121

If we are going to be serious, as a community, about sex offenders, we need to bring charges against them. Sex offenders need to be registered. We need to know who are our neighbors. We need to be able to protect our kids.

Zero Tollerance.

Esti said...

Hope the interest in fixing the sexual abuse/molestation hasn't been held up by the economic recession of late.
I can't iterate this enough. The majority of abuse is perpetrated by family members/close family friends! This means that a parent/sibling etc. is the abuser. Many times the other spouse/parents will turn a blind eye- because of fear, shame, comfort in present life, etc.
That is why the protection of children should take a multi-pronged approach!
1) Parents
2) Educators/Rabbis/Leaders
3) Neighbors, and friends. Wider social network.
Anyone exposed to children should be mandated to take courses in recognizing and reporting child abuse/molestation. That means: parents, day-care workers, teachers, social workers, principals, Rabbis, after-school program workers, and ideally- anyone in the community who speaks to even one child.
The idea is to prevent abuse from escalating. All too often, a child is abused for the first time, sends out warning signs. If these warning signs are not seen, and the child isn't protected/given therapy to heal- the effect deepens, and we have severe trauma.
Ultimately, the more we as a community talk openly about these issues, we give the abusers less place to hide and continue in their misdeeds. Conversely, supporting the victims breaks down the culture of protecting evil for the sake of dubious halacha (being moser, loshon hara, shidduchim, etc).