London Jewish Scandal Goes National
This Wednesday night, Britain's Channel 4 News will screen a documentary "Britain's Hidden Child Abuse", which will spotlight alleged cover-ups of child abuse in England's Jewish community.
According to information which hit the Jewish media this weekend, the documentary will feature Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, rabbinical head of the Stamford Hill-based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.
Rabbi Padwa was caught on a hidden camera telling a man who alleged he was abused as a child that he should not report the allegation to the police.
According to the Jewish Chronicle:
Rabbi Padwa says no, and is asked why. “It’s mesirah”, he responds — a term which means betraying a Jew to the non-Jewish authorities.
“But this is a very serious issue,” the interviewer says.
“Yes, but not police,” Rabbi Padwa answers.
A spokesman for Channel 4 said that the investigation had uncovered “19 different alleged cases of child sex abuse across the UK. Yet not one was reported to the police because alleged victims feared reprisals from within the community”.
This upcoming national-level scandal will be the latest in a series of child abuse scandals to rock the UK and the USA.
Popular UK culture star Jimmy Savile, now deceased, has been exposed as a serial predator, allegedly molesting literally hundreds of children. Savile used his pied-piper media role to target and molest children, including those appearing on his long running series "Jim'll Fix It". It appears that executives at the BBC were aware of what was going on, and hushed up the allegations.
In the USA, Rabbi Nechemia Weberman was sentenced last week to a massive 103 years in jail for 51 counts of sexually abusing a girl he was supposed to be counselling.
In the Weberman case, no less shocking than the crime itself, was the outrageous attempts by members of Weberman's Satmar community to bribe the victim ($500,000 to shut up), intimidate her and her family and to white-wash the perpetrator.
And in another British scandal, closely related to the Rabbi Padwa story, Rabbi Chaim Helpern, also a senior figure in Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, was the subject of allegations by 30 of Rabbi Helpern's female 'counseling' clients, that Halpern had sexually abused them.
Unfortunately, there is little new in these news stories.
I know the same stories from here in Beit Shemesh, which in 2010 boasted Israel's lowest child abuse reporting statistics.
Making Beit Shemesh either paradise for kids, or the center of a cover-up culture.
Unfortunately, there are no indications that the child's paradise theory holds up.
In Israel, every adult is a mandatory reporter of suspicions of child abuse. Failure to report such suspicions carry a three to six month prison sentence.
However, some communities in Bet Shemesh systematically avoid reporting child abuse allegations to the "secular" authorities, as required by law.
Such legal requirements are countered by some community leaders and members with accusations that victims who report are guilty of "moser", "loshen Hora", "motsei shem rah" and "chilul Hashem".
Those victims who do come forward, can be subjected to intimidation and bribery, much like in Williamsburg, to withdraw their reports.
Parents therefore can face a devastating dilemma of conflicting loyalties - to their children or to their community.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the kids who are violated, and then re-abused by their rejecting community, dump their religious lifestyle and become "youth at risk". According to experts who work with ex-religious youth at risk in the Jewish community, between 80-90% were the victims of sex abuse as children.
The good news is that since Magen was established in Beit Shemesh in 2010, reporting levels of child abuse allegations has increased. In just one year (2011) the reporting statistics increased by an unprecedented 40%!
Beit Shemesh is a safer community for kids than it was just two years ago.
So, when the Jewish communities in England and the USA are seeking models for responsibly and effectively addressing child abuse allegations, they should look no further than Magen, here in Beit Shemesh.