Child Abuse: Dispute Among The Rabbis

                                                                (Illustrative photo)

Following the tragic and gruesome murder of 8 year old Leiby Kletzky in Borough Park, New York, the two largest orthodox rabbinical organizations, the Rabbinical Council of American (RCA) and the Agudath Yisrael, have both put out statements (see RCA and Agudah). The RCA is Modern Orthodox whereas the Agudath Yisrael is Chareidi.

Both organizations address the question of what someone should do, if they suspect or know of abuse against children.

The RCA's bottom line is:

"if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately,"  

and then adds,

"As always where the facts are uncertain one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine how and when to report such matters to the authorities."
On the related topic of those who are "mandated reporters" (ie required by US law to report suspicions of child abuse):

"A person covered by mandatory reporter laws must comply with those laws, even in a case in which Jewish law might otherwise not require a person to report such child abuse or endangerment." 

Meanwhile, the Agudath Yisrael published their own policy statement.

This states:

"Where there is “raglayim la’davar” (roughly, reason to believe) that a child has been abused or molested, the matter should be reported to the authorities." 
So far, sounds pretty similar to the RCA.

However, the statement continues:

"However, where the circumstances of the case do not rise to the threshold level of raglayim la’davar, the matter should not be reported to the authorities."


"the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi…" 
And regarding the Federal & State Law for mandated reporting, the statement is unclear:

On the one hand:

"This halachic obligation to report where there is raglayim la’davar is not dependent upon any secular legal mandate to report."

And yet:

"Thus, the question of whether the threshold standard of raglayim la’davar has been met so as to justify (indeed, to require) reporting is critical for halachic purposes. (The secular law also typically establishes a threshold for mandated reporters; in New York, it is “reasonable cause to suspect.”) The issue is obviously fact sensitive and must be determined on a case-by-case basis [ed: by the rabbi]." 
In other words, according to Agudath Yisrael, the rabbis have sole and exclusive jurisdiction & control in defining whether any specific allegation of child abuse requires reporting, or not, solely according to halachik standards of certainty ("raglaim ledevar").

The individual (ie.any non-Rabbi) is instructed not to take any independent decision, such as to follow the Law, obtain professional advice, follow his professional code of ethics, or listen to his common sense.


  1. Do ANY of these rabbis understand they have NO jurisdiction or capabilities in judging or investigating criminal cases??

  2. Rabbinical Control4 August 2011 at 23:28

    I think the RCA understand that, Anonymous.

    That's why they're willing to step out of the picture, except when called upon in a counceling role.

    It's the Agudah who don't 'get it', and their rabbis crave total control.

    With control goes responsibility.

    Such as for all the child abuse cases they've messed up for decades.

  3. Da'as Torah is the Only Daas5 August 2011 at 14:53

    Rav Kornfeld is opening a Torah guided organization to deal with allegations of abuse.

    It's time you and your fellow apikorsim at Magen and let those who really know and care handle this issue.

  4. Right, Da'as Torah. Just like the case of the mefakeach at Avi Ezri where only two families were able to report, before the rabbeim shut the parents up. Just like the case of Sabba S where the rabbonim knew about the this pervert for over a year and did not call the police, while the creep kept perpetrating.

  5. Rabbinical Control5 August 2011 at 15:39

    Daas Torah: "Rav Kornfeld is opening a Torah guided organization to deal with allegations of abuse."

    Magen is a Torah-based organization, working together with many community rabbonim.

    On the other hand, Rav Kornfeld is working on setting up a new Magen, only his new organization would be *controlled* by Rav Kornfeld, enabling him to cover up what he wants.

    There is no doubt that if there were to be another Avi Ezri case, or Gra case, or Revivim case, these events would be quietly swept under the rug by Rav Kornfeld's new organization.

  6. Our haredi rabbonim in RBS have been dealing with these delicate issues quietly and discretely for years.

    I personally know that many problematic people have been moved out of RBS by our rabbonim to other communities, to make RBS a safe place for frum families.

    The problem is that Magen is anti-haredi, dangerous, and their sole purpose is to attack our rabbonim and gedolim by claiming they cover up for child abusers. (Rav Kornfeld himself told the women of our community this about Magen).

    We owe our safety to our rabbonim.

  7. David - I think you're being a bit unfair to the Agudah with your editorial addition of "by the rabbi" at the end. I believe the Agudah was being deliberately vague on that point, since, organizationally, they and their Moetzes operate by consensus - if one Rav, particularly a prominent one, does not agree with the majority, they'll try to find a way to accomodate the lone view in their final statement. This was the case a number of years ago, when there was a major rally in Washington, DC to oppose the administration's pressure on Israel; the Agudah did not come out with a position on whether or not to participate until the Friday before the Monday of the rally, and their final statement was completely equivical - something along the lines of "we don't take a position one way or the other on frum people participating". It came out after that a large majority of the Moetzes was in favor of supporting the rally, but Rav Elya Svei was dead set against it - so they equivocated.

    I think the Agudah is doing the same thing here. By deliberately not stating who is to make the determination on a case-by-case basis, they're leaving it open so that one so inclined can say that the determination is to be made by the individual himself, while those who believe that a Rav should be consulted for any and everything can say that it is the Rav who has to make this determination. In other words, they're being just a meally-mouthed as in the past - a real shame, since they were actually a good organization that could take a leadership position when they were under the late Rabbi Moshe Sherrer, Z"L.

  8. Hi Anonymous

    Thank you for your analysis and background on the Agudah.

    I added the word [ed: the rabbi], because the next paragraph states: "the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi."

    Although there's a lot of thumb-in-the-air pilpul and what you call "meally mouthed" parts of this Aguda statement, the exclusivity of the rabbinical control is (relatively) clear.

  9. Not as Frum Mother5 August 2011 at 16:49

    Frum Mother,

    I sincerely hope that your post is "tongue in cheek".

    If it is not I sincerely hope that your husband's job never takes you one of the other cities that our rabbonim moved the perps to.

    Magen is as anti-Charedi as the pope is Jewish.

  10. Magen is "Torah based"? According to whom?

    Rav Kornfeld said it isn't and I would imagine that he knows better.

    If Magen is so great why would he be against it?

  11. Hello, David,

    Anon 15:59 here. Your description of the following paragraph does strengthen your point; perhaps that paragraph can be added to the original post in place of your comment there? In any case, my main point about the Agudah currently being a waffeling, dithering organization that is paralyzed by its inability to take a position on a controversial issue if a single member of its Moetzes disagrees stands.

  12. To Frum Mother,

    Assuming your comment is not tounge-in-cheek, the fact that "problematic people", as you call them, have been forced out of RBS only serves to emphasize the problem. These individuals have simply moved on to another community, where they will no doubt continue to be "problematic". If they had been dealt with as they should have been, their opportunity to claim new victims in their new community would be curtailed.

    Are you willing to have those new victims on your conscience? Do you want to answer for their suffering after 120 years? I'm not, and I don't.

  13. Chanie,

    Why do you assume that Rav Kornfeld is infalible? He may be quite learned, but that did not stop him from having an abuser in his school as Mefakeach. If he's fallible there, why not in his opinion that an entity like Magen is "not Torah-based"?

    I know David's Rav, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. Whether or not you agree with him, he is a Talmid Chacham, and has as much of a right to Pasken as Rav Kornfeld. I also happen to know that Rav Chaim supports the work of Magen. Is it not possible that in this case too Rav Kornfeld (whose Kavod I do not meen to impinge upon)is mistaken?

  14. Frum Mother is right about R.Kornfeld's preferred methodology of dealing with pedophiles ("problematic individuals"). Rav Kornfeld even said so publicly in an (infamous) article by Jonathan Rosenblum in the Jerusalem Post:

    "Kornfeld described at length at least three cases where problematic individuals or families were forced to leave the neighborhood."

  15. Chanie: "Magen is "Torah based"? According to whom? Rav Kornfeld said it isn't and I would imagine that he knows better."

    I am aware of the work of Magen; they are yirei shamayim; Magen has the brocho of Rav Steinman; Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg has answered shailos from Magen; they also ask their shailos to community rabonim (including Rav Haber and Rav Soloveichik).

    Rav Kornfeld either misunderstands something, or is deliberately trying to mislead people that Magen is a "dangerous" (his word) bunch of apikorsim.

    Total nonsense.

    I've no idea what Rav Kornfeld's motive is to trash Magen in this way.


  16. I would like to know why these Rav Kornfeld followers are showing their cult faces on this blog, because I know for a fact Rav Kornfeld ussers his followers from stam internet and especially the women (who are only allowed to use it to make an appt at meuchedet!)

  17. Tired of the Control Game7 August 2011 at 13:07

    "I've no idea what Rav Kornfeld's motive is to trash Magen in this way."

    Anon, Kornfeld's motive is quite simple. He doesn't want anyone in his community who isn't like him and can influenced by him. Like the TOV party. Like Lema'an Achai. Like the "left side of the mikve" people.

    It's all about control. Since he can't dictate to Magen they are "dangerous". Magen addresses people who can think for themselves so they pose a him

    His philosophy puts children in danger. His philosophy causes harm to tzedaka organizations. It is amazing how people see through this man's charade, yet they follow him blindly.

    Think for yourself. Do not be blindly led. You are NOT sheep.

  18. I am starting to get the impression that child abuse in the Chareidi community is so wide spread that it has reached the level of an epidemic.
    Those perpetrators who abuse/molest children were most likely abused themselves as children. The only thing that would prevent child abuse spreading is exposure. The way to guarantee its spreading is by covering up cases and preventing exposure. Therefore, we are looking at generations of countless families who have been victims and become perpetrators. Hashem Yishmor.
    I feel that this had to be said because if we choose to live in a Chareidi community then we should be aware of the very real risks.

  19. Galus mentality7 August 2011 at 23:07


    The greatest risk of living in a charedi community is the blind following of human beings.

    Rabbonim can be great scholars some can even be righteous and pious individuals. They are not deities or infallible.

    People must be able to think for themselves even if it doesn't "fit in" to the mold created by a particular community.

    In Israel I have seen intelligent, successful people turn to human "jelly" under the influence (or perhaps spell) of particular rabbis.

    They are told how to eat, dress, spend their money, donate their money, where to daven, send their kids to school, etc. etc.

    I have witnessed firsthand how this can create a divide between husband and wife, parents and children and various communities.

    "Darchea darchei noam"...if the actions of some are not pleasant to others they are not pleasant to HKBH either.

    Tomorrow night we will sit and mourn over the destruction of our Batei HaMikdash and the fact that it yet to be rebuilt.

    Will we also mourn the behaviors that caused this to happen and perpetuate our galus?

    The time has come to cast away the divisions and look to bring ourselves together.

  20. Rocky: "I know for a fact Rav Kornfeld ussers his followers from stam internet.."

    Rocky, you'd be surprised how many of us on Revivim read Tzedek-Tzedek.

    (Also other blogs, such as Life In Israel, Chadrei Charedim, etc).

    We're not as closeted as you might think!

  21. I need to speak with someone from Magen. Please could you provide contact details?

  22. this is from an earlier post on this blog, it has the information you need. I wish you the best of luck.

    "Magen", the new Child Protection Organization of Bet Shemesh, has established a Hotline for residents of Bet Shemesh.

    If you are seeking out information concerning child abuse call Magen.

    By Phone:

    New Magen "Hotline" Service: 052-765.2929
    Sunday thru Thursday - 9am-12am; 8-11pm
    Fridays - 9am-12am
    Motsei Shabbat - till Midnight

    Less-Urgent Matters: 02-9997026; 050 8489001

    By email:
    this is from an earlier post on this blog, here is the information you need.

    Please note: The Magen's confidential hotline service is manned by volunteers trained and supervised by ELI, Israel's Child Protection Organization.

    Magen operates under Halachik guidance; with the brachos and eitzos of Gedolei Yisrael; and under Israel's Child Protection Legislation.

  23. Been There Done That8 August 2011 at 08:05


    You said "We're not as closeted as you might think!"

    You may read Tzedek-Tzedek and other blogs but do you subscribe to other philosophies of your neighborhood?

    How do you feel about the other Jews who don't live on Revivim and may send their kids to Rappaport or Moriah?

    Would you vote for TOV?

    Would you support Lema'an Achai?

    If you still carry baseless ill feelings toward other Jews then your reading of the blogs has not "taken you out of the closet" at all.

    You and your children will still be susceptible to the same dangers of being blindly led around by the nose.

  24. Been There, I would not vote for Tov, nor donate to Lema'an Achai.

    Since when is that a measure of 'baseless ill feelings'??

    I am entitled to a hashkofo which supports Gimmel and the Kupa Shel Tzedaka.
    I also eat only Bedatz hechsherim and wear a jacket and a hat.

    I have nothing against other hashkofos - gezundheit - they should flourish and be well.

    In a case of child abuse chalila, I would ask my rav for a psak what to do, not Magen. My rav has publicly warned us, in a shiur to the women of my community, that Magen are "dangerous" because Magen are "not from our tzibur".

    He is right, they can deal with their tzibur, he'll deal with ours.

    I trust my rav with many aspects of my life, so why not trust him with the safety of my children too?

  25. To take the discussion a step further, I wonder if for some Rabbonim there is no morality aside from what comes out of their Talmudic and halakhic interpretations and so it is impossible to argue with them that their position is immoral, because daas baal ha'bayis hefech mi'daas Torah and absolute morality is derived from the Torah. It may be comforting to know that for Rav Kook the Jewish masses, and their natural morality, is on a higher plane than that of the talmudic scholars, and that "Yir’at Shamayim—fear of heaven—may not supplant the natural sense of morality of a person, for in that case it is not a pure Yir’at Shamayim (Shemoneh Ketzavim 1:75, see, and On the subject of morality and revelation see also Moshe Halbertal, Interpretation Revolutions In The Making (Hebrew), Magnes 2001, pages 23-30.

  26. There is now unfortunately an unbreachable gap between Magen and certain Charedi Rabbonim. The latter refuse to have any more contact with the former based on suspicions and quite probably a need to control how things are done. A person who is comfortable trusting the Rabbonim to handle the issue themselves with a minimum amount of outside influence will again receive tremendous support, and those who want to turn to professionals should turn to Magen where they will also receive tremendous support and guidance and help.

  27. I have personally involved in abuse cases and have spoken at length with Rav Kornfeld and several other Charedi Rabbonim, as well as Magen. Vis-a-vis the child victim I think there is across the board understanding that they may need therapy and the victim's family needs tremendous support. Someone who goes to Rav Kornfeld for example and follows his directions will receive a lot of time and help. The real disagreement is vis-a-vis the (alleged) perpetrator. Many Charedi Rabbonim automatically worry about "mesirah" when it comes on informing the police, particularly when there is no clear evidence. There is a whole halachic discussion about mesirah in the periodical Yeshurun volumes 15 and 22 based on a Gemara in Bava Metzia and a teshuvah in the Rashba etc. etc., and many Rabbonim treat it as dinei nefoshos of the alleged perpetrator. They want reasonable evidence that the alleged action indeed took place, hence their own private investigations.

  28. Comment Part 1b8 August 2011 at 12:29

    However many people, justifiably in my opinion, feel that the Rabbonim should not be conducting private investigations, and indeed some of them may not be the right address to turn in this area. If someone's child complains of having seen or experienced abuse the matter needs to be investigated by professionals. In Israel the place to turn is the Mercaz Haganah LeYeled - the BEIT LYNN - Child Protection Center in Kiryat Yovel, Yerushalayim.

  29. Raphael,

    You said "I would not vote for TOV or donate to Lema'an Achai".

    Why not? OK perhaps I understand the TOV thing but why wouldn't you donate to Lema'an Achai?

    Do you know anything about them or what they do? Or is it just a result of what other people say?

    If so then I am very sorry to tell you it is "baseless ill feelings".

    From what I understand Lema'an Achai helps many people on your street, Revivim as well as anyone or anywhere else in the schuna.

    Why, in your opinion is it alright for Lema'an Achai to help everyone and everywhere but it's not ok for you and your neighbors who don't need help to support them?

    There is no better example of ""baseless ill feelings".

    As we approach Tisha B'av perhaps you should reflect on your hashkafos rather than bemoan the galus that such attitudes perpetuates.

  30. Comment Part 1c8 August 2011 at 12:30

    Their website is at They do a professional investigation and talk to the parents and the child, making sure that actual perpetrators are caught, and allegations that are not true or accurate do not result in innocent people being charged. Sending perpetrators to different schools or communities so they can continue their actions there is totally immoral.

  31. Raphael: " why not trust him with the safety of my children too?"

    How many reasons do you want, Raphael?
    Here's a few for starters...

    1. Because he has failed dismally at protecting children in his community.

    2. He is not qualified or authorized to investigate and judge criminal attacks on children.

    3. He is not an objective party - he has his institutions to protect, his own good name, and enforcing his rabbinical control - which may influence where your kids safety comes in his priorities (it has in the past).

    4. He is dominated by petti-politics - "my tzibur vs your tzibur" - and defending his turf from "outsiders", rather than cooperating with people, some of whom may not look like him, but who are the best address for your child's safety.

    Want more reasons..???


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