Feb 10, 2009
Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Op-Ed: A horrific story broke earlier this month, which really made me question the good sense and intelligence that we Jews like to pride ourselves on, writes Rabbi Shea Hecht.

by Rabbi Shea Hecht

A horrific story broke earlier this month, which really made me question the good sense and intelligence that we Jews like to pride ourselves on. The Jerusalem Post reported that several neighbors of a Jerusalem family had been aware of the ongoing "physical" abuse in their household. Some of them had even been eyewitnesses to the abuse. But no one reported this crime to the authorities.

What's more, it seems that the parents of these children turned a blind eye to the abuse of their children by a male relative, who molested their children over the course of seven years.

Yes, seven.

When questioned, the hapless parents claimed to be unable to intervene, as the family's rabbi warned them that they would be violating Torah law.

While the investigation of this story is ongoing, and all of the details have yet to emerge, the fact remains that there are some very unhealthy misperceptions in our communities when it comes to reporting abuse.

Firstly, there is the notion that reporting abuse amounts to the Torah prohibition the grievous sin of mesira, betraying another Jew into the hands of the authorities. The fact is that numerous poskim have already affirmed what a cursory look into the Codes of Law would tell us: saving a child from an abuse situation is not mesira-to the contrary, the Torah obligates us to save a "pursued" person (i.e. the abuse victim) from the hands of the "pursuer" at any and all costs, and explicitly forbids us from sitting idly by.

Another concern which keeps us from reporting child abuse is the fear that the Police and Child Welfare agents will kick down the door in the dead of night, and whisk the child off into foster care. Yet, contrary to popular belief, a child is not immediately taken from his family at the first report of trouble. Government agencies are themselves reluctant to break a family apart.

The nature of the abuse and the possibility of impending danger would determine whether the child (or the abuser) must be taken from the home. In the event that child is taken from the home, the government works alongside various Jewish children's agencies in order to place the child in the care of Jewish homes.

Finally, because police and child welfare agencies will protect our anonymity, there is simply no excuse for closing our eyes to the physical and emotional torture that the child undergoes. Our unwavering obligation as parents, teachers, neighbors and even total strangers is to be as attentive to the wellbeing of our neighbors children as we would be to our own.

The relationship with their parents is one of the most essential building blocks of a child's life. The child looks to his parents for protection, guidance and unconditional love. When these basic needs are neglected or, worse still, violated the child loses his one and only G-d given entitlement.

When the parents breach their role, or when they fail to protect their child from others, they willingly, permanently change the course of their child's life. The process is sadly simple: Children who are abused are likely to become abusers as adults. In other words, the problem that we don't want to deal with today will likely come to visit us tomorrow.

True, it is very uncomfortable and embarrassing to involve ourselves in someone else's household problems. But reporting child abuse is a burden that was put upon us against our will-we abandon it at our own risk.

Now, let's talk. If you knew that your neighbor's child, or your child's classmate, or your student or nephew was being abused would you report it to the police? Would you report the crimes being done to this child? Would you step up to the plate and do what must be done? I wonder...

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Opinions and Comments
hashem what is happening in this world?

help us!
(2/11/2009 9:56:18 AM)
The Torah states that we can not inform on another Jew. The way you convey how the government agency's work is not true and does change the fact that a Jew can not inform on another Jew. If a Jew chas v'shalom does inform he loses this world and the world to come. To make informing so light as to say that any abuse should be reported to goyish authority's, who as halachah hate Yisrael, is against the Torah and chas v'shalom could cause others to sin. In the case of known abuse the Jews should handle the situation and put a stop to it, not get Eisav who hates us involved. If there is a problem we should take care of it and not try to skirt our responsibilities. The leniency on informing by some Rabbis nowadays is terrible and we should not take this averah lightly. It is considered the worst thing that a person can do and should be despised, not promoted.
(2/11/2009 11:12:37 AM)
To Number 2
Are you out of your mind???? The sin here is not about informing the authorities, it is about letting children suffer at the hands of sick horrible people. I am absolutely aghast and shocked that any self-respecting person could have an opinion like that.
It is becasue of PEOPLE LIKE YOU that sick individuals continue to abuse children, who unfortunatley grow up to perpetrate the same crimes.
Shame on you!!!
(2/11/2009 11:27:32 AM)
To number TWO
When your children are molested by a relative lets see if you will stand-by and let them ruin their lives......
Im actually not so sure you would do anything about it because you may go against the Torah.
You are insane and you should not be allowed to be in this community.
(2/11/2009 11:34:49 AM)
--] no.2
daven to Hashem for more sensitivity! Obviously you do not realize the seriousness of this issue. It is worse than murder, bc the victim relives the abuse constantly in their head and never have peace. Effects their ability to have healthy relationships, trust in adults is gone, their self esteem is in the garbage - they feel the guilty!
(2/11/2009 1:22:04 PM)
Children who are abused DO NOT grow up to be abusers
Molesters most likely were molested as children but the reverse is not true. While to most readers it might not make a difference think about it from the perspective of the molested child. Not only does the child need to live with the fact and get over being abused, but the child can never relate it to anyone since the child will be deemed a danger to society from then on. Correct?
No. While molesters MUST be put in jail, the children who are the victims need to be protected and treated emotionally for this abuse without the fear that the society where he/she lives will from then on never let go of this horrible tragedy that happened to him/her.
Rabbi Hecht, your article is not only important but should be put up in every shul. However the idea that the molested child will become a molester needs to be eliminated as it is not only incorrect but it worsens the wound.
Thank you.
(2/11/2009 2:52:49 PM)
to 6
well said. thank you R Hecht for saying what has to be said. Moshiach now!
(2/11/2009 3:50:51 PM)
shea .. a gr8 artical.. yr father is shepping lots of naces from u. keep it up
(2/11/2009 4:18:21 PM)
Thank You!
This is SO important!!! Thank you for writing this and publicizing it! We must do everything we can to protect children from being abused!! and yes #2. you have it all wrong!! This is not about mesira this is about protecting and SAVING a jewish life which is a whole world!! We need to inform authority and put a stop to this insaneness!! hopefully with the fear of being put away behind bars there will be less of these pple doing this stuff! and to #6 you are right but only in the case where the victim gets help quickly to learn how to overcome what happened to him... othewise if he is left without help and without his family's protectionand has to keep it all in, he will most likely turn into an abuser R"L!
(2/11/2009 4:35:15 PM)
To number 2: The American people do not necessarily fall under the category of “Eisov” it has been suggested that they fall in the category of “Chasidei Umos Haolom”.

PS. Your apathy is sickening! I hope you are never put in the position to make such decision, which can impact the lives of so many people.

To number 6: Thank you for speaking out. May I suggest trying to find a way to use your experience to enlighten the masses, thereby protecting our children. Stay strong. And may G-d free you of all hurt.
(2/11/2009 5:04:39 PM)
Yasher Koach Reb Shea, u r 100% right.
(2/11/2009 8:24:23 PM)
i support #2
The reason people don't go to the authorities is exactly because of what is happening here in these comments. It's like a lynch mob basically. Nobody actually could even hear what #2 had to say. As long as this lynch mob continues there will be no real solution to this problem. A person in anger cannot think straight. That means this whole blog basically.
Every abuse must be stopped immideately but the question is how. Sure the community should do something but everytime someone brings up the topic. the lynch mob appears and calls for blood.
Your all pathetic because you all scream but do nothing to prevent it. When did any of you decide to become foster parents. hypocrites!!
(2/11/2009 9:07:14 PM)
cant belive it.
where is the chochma in the perants?
is there a rabbi who can sort out there social problems?
(2/12/2009 1:13:06 AM)
to 3,4,5,10
It is obvious that you miss read what I wrote. I clearly stated that if chas v'shalom there was a situation of abuse then it should be dealt with. The way it should be dealt with is by the Jews of the community and not by informing. As the Rambam states it is the Jews responsibility to stop the abuse. The Jews themselves, not goyim, should do what ever is necessary in each situation to stop abuse.
(2/12/2009 1:28:14 AM)
to #14
The problem is that people do go to Rabbonim and to pple in the jewish community... but where has it gotten us??? Did it stop any abuse? A lot of rabbonim turn a blind eye or tell the family that should keep it all sha shtil while the abuser goes and abuses yet another child! I wish it would work and that we would not have to go to the authorities, but we tried and it hasnt worked! ask Dov Hikind!! Also as u state it is the Jews themselves who should do whatever it takes ... well unfortunatly this is whatever it takes, going to the authorities is a lot of times our only option to do everything necessary to stop the abuse! and to #12 - I dont know why u think this is a lynch and e/1 is responding in anger! they are just agreeing with Rabbi Hecht that unfortunatly Rabbonim dont help, and I guess you were never in a situation where u had to deal with s/1 who was molested, but it is s/t to be angry and passionate about and to try to do EVERYTHING you can to stop it and get the child proper help!
(2/12/2009 6:17:24 AM)
Number 2
Will you have the same reaction if your kids are moselted by a Rebbi, or Tuter, or some other family relitive that you trusted.
You are sick, if someone violates your trust and violates your children all bets are off, you put the pencil down, and have them arrested.
(2/13/2009 2:08:20 AM)
Dinei Malchusei Dina-
The masering thing only aplies if the jewish court has any power so long as the Rabbis are weak to do anything, there's no obligation to sit back as our children get hurt.
Hope this clarifies it for you people.
Oh and even so, we (the jewish people) should anyway become over-raged and teach these selfish demented bullys a lesson or to through our own "physical" action.
(2/15/2009 6:23:23 AM)
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