Recently Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky said that child abuse should be reported to rabbis, not police.
R’ Kamenetsky, the vice president of Agudath Israel of America’s Supreme Council of Rabbinic Sages, state in a speech July 12 in Brooklyn that the sexual abuse of a child should be reported to a rabbi, who would then determine if the police should be called. He made this speech as a search was being conducted for an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky, whose dismembered body was found the following day, both in a garbage dumpster and in the apartment of Levi Aron. Mr. Aron was indicted Wednesday in the boy’s murder.
As elaborated at a recent Halacha Conference sponsored by Agudath Israel of America, these responsa make clear that when certain standards have been met it is not only permitted but in fact obligatory to report suspicions of abuse or molestation. The general principles that emerge from these responsa are as follows (quoted from VIN):
2. This halachic obligation to report where there is raglayim la’davar is not dependent upon any secular legal mandate to report. Thus, it is not limited to a designated class of “mandated reporters,” as is the law in many states (including New York); it is binding upon anyone and everyone. In this respect, the halachic mandate to report is more stringent than secular law.
3. 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. In the words of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, perhaps the most widely respected senior halachic authority in the world today, “I see no basis to permit” reporting “where there is no raglayim la’davar, but rather only ‘eizeh dimyon’ (roughly, some mere conjecture); if we were to permit it, not only would that not result in ‘tikun ha’olam’, it could lead to ‘heres haolam’ (destruction of the world).” [Yeshurun, Volume 7, page 641.]
4. 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.
5. There may be times when an individual may feel that a report or evidence he has seen rises to the level of raglayim la’davar; and times when he may feel otherwise. Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, 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 who is expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation – someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations and the urgent need to protect children. (In addition, as Rabbi Yehuda Silman states in one of his responsa [Yeshurun, Volume 15, page 589], “of course it is assumed that the rabbi will seek the advice of professionals in the field as may be necessary.”) It is not necessary to convene a formal bais din (rabbinic tribunal) for this purpose, and the matter should be resolved as expeditiously as possible to minimize any chance of the suspect continuing his abusive conduct while the matter is being considered.
Personally, I find that cases like child molestation are best reported to the authorities. The Rabbis have it in their best interest to keep things like these “hush hush.” This especially applies in the scenario (I’m not implying this is the case of R’ Shmuel Kamenetzky CH”Vsh) where Rabbis are just as guilty for such crimes.
*** EDITORS NOTE***
The picture that was on the post has since been removed as it has been deemed too offensive to the general public.