Child & Domestic Abuse

Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that the great taboos of Jewish communal life, child sex abuse and wife abuse, would be the subject of an exhaustive and authoritative book by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, an important rabbi and scholar.

On the other hand, the fact that no Jewish book publisher was willing to even stock this important book, nor was any other rabbi willing to give the book a public haskama, shows that even this erudite and passionate work, is more akin to just the first step of Chairman Mao’s Great March. Regretfully, there is much more work to be done in bringing more sunlight to this methodically hidden aspect of Jewish communal life.

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn’s powerful two volume book Child & Domestic Abuse reveals the horrors of child abuse and wife beating in the orthodox Jewish community.  Rabbi Eidensohn has  collected a series of articles by psychologists, lawyers, abuse survivors, communal activists and rabbis. In addition, in the second volume, Rabbi Eidensohn has provided extensive halachik sources, in original Hebrew and now translated into English, showing that Rav Eidensohn’s refreshing and open approach to dealing with these problems is neither new, per se, nor revolutionary.

One of the most striking aspects of the book, is the descriptions of the catastrophic effects of sex abuse upon children.

It is indeed surprising for the lay reader, that acts which are surely disgusting, but would not appear especially damaging – such as ‘inappropriate touching’  – can entirely devastate a child.

The litany of serious conditions which have resulted from child sex abuse include: Suicide; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Borderline Personality Disorders; Dissociative Identity Disorder; changes in Brain Structures and Functions…etc. In addition, for orthodox Jews, sex abuse frequently results in dropping the faith entirely and abandoning the Jewish community; of children off-the-derech, up to 85% have been reported as having origins in sex abuse of the child.

Rabbi Eidensohn also addresses the still-stubborn issue of reporting suspicions of child abuse to the authorities. Regretfully, observance of the law, which requires that suspicions of child abuse be reported to the police/social services, are still not practiced in many quarters of the orthodox community.
This has resulted in untold (literally) misery for hundreds of child abuse victims, and the enablement of the child abusers to operate freely, often for decades, in the heart of orthodox communities, yeshivas/schools, summer camps, synagogues and mikvas.

Rabbi Eidensohn quotes his own rabbi, Rav Moshe Sternbuch:
“When the rabbi consulted says not to go to the police…It is clear that this view has no basis in Jewish law…..any rav who would say such a thing is not a practicing rav.”

Rabbi Eidensohn's excellent book is a Must Read for mental health professionals, abuse survivors, community activists and lay leaders, educators, and all community rabbis.

Order your copy of "Child & Domestic Abuse", by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn:   
or from Amazon: 


  1. What Rabbi Shternbuch actually says is that if there is "clear evidence" of child abuse, one should disregard any rabbi who instructed him not to go to police.

    But what about when there is evidence, but it isn't "clear" – meaning overwhelmingly certain – the person is guilty?

    Then you have to listen to the rabbi.

    In other words, according to Rabbi Shternbuch, it is rabbis who should decide whether or not police should be called.

    And this is a big problem when rabbis have played key roles in so many coverups of sexual abuse.

    Now why is it, David, that you don't mention this?


    It is obvious that the commenter has not read the book or he would know that what he is asserting simply not true. He is making a misleading comment and it ignores the complex reality of abuse cases as well as overestimates the value of the police in being able to help. While there is no question that there have been cases and there are still cases where rabbis have insisted that a child not be helped even when in danger - that is not what Rav Sternbuch said a- s can clearly be seen from what he wrote and what he approved in my book - as well as what he told me and permitted to be publicized in his name. He said that you are to decide whether to listen to the rabbi and whether his response endangers the welfare of a child. He clearly said you do not listen to a rabbi if you feel there is a possibility that he is giving you bad advice.


    1) If it is clearly a immediate danger to the child and there is no time to speak to anyone - call the police. 2) If it is uncertain if there is abuse but if the child is in danger than he can only be protected by the police - than call the police. 3) If it is certain but you know that a complaint won't be filed and therefore the police won't do anything - then it is important to contact a rabbi who is experienced in these matters and consults with experienced therapists and community leaders and the police. 4) If you have a suspicion - i.e., you saw a man hugging children or being very friendly with them - then go to the experienced rabbi. If you are not satisfied with his response than ask another rabbi (the responsibility is not the rabbi's but yours). 5) If you have a child in your class that is withdrawn - but there is no complaint but it might be the result of abuse - then go to your experienced rabbi. You should also consult with a mental health worker who might advise what the next step is. 5) If there is mandatory reporting - then you obey that law and go to the police.


    The rabbi is not a dictator that requires total submission - either in deed or thought. You are not to listen to him if you feel he is telling you to do something which is endangering a child or even possibly endangering a child.

    In sum - the rabbi is not a substitute for your good judgment but is a consultant to help bring clarity and objectivity as well as protecting the rights of others. If he tells you not to do anything and you think that might be a danger to the child - than go ask another rabbi. At no time are you to allow a child to be in danger (according to your evalaution) nor are you to violate mandatory reporting laws. The rabbi is there to represent the community, provide objectivity and prevent against mob rule - and protect others against false accusation


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