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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Aguda reiterates: Abuse Victims must go to Rabbis first.



An Orthodox parent whose child tells him he’s been sexually abused may not take that child’s claim to the police without first getting religious sanction from a specially trained rabbi, the head of America’s leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella group has told the Forward.
But one year after acknowledging that no such registry of trained rabbis exists, Rabbi David Zwiebel said that his group has now dropped the idea of developing one.
One of the main reasons, said Zwiebel, was a warning from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes — issued only a few days earlier — that rabbis who prevent families from going to police could be arrested.
“If they [rabbis] don’t give the right advice, they can be in trouble,” said Zwiebel. “Why would you want to create some sort of a list that would make them more vulnerable?”
Zwiebel, who is the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said that despite the absence of such a registry, his group would staunchly resist increased public pressure to lift its requirement that parents obtain rabbinic permission.
“We’re not going to compromise our essence and our integrity because we are nervous about a relationship that may be damaged with a government leader,” he said.
Zwiebel’s comments, offered over the course of an hour-long interview in Agudath’s Manhattan headquarters on May 21, highlighted a growing fissure that has opened between Agudath and previously friendly senior public officials in New York. The break comes in the wake of a New York Times exposé that chronicled intimidation of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn by their own communities to keep them from bypassing rabbinic authorities and reporting abuse. The Times’ two articles, and a flood of media stories that followed, also reported how Hynes appeared to accommodate rather than challenge the ground rules set down by ultra-Orthodox leaders asserting their authority over such cases.
Zwiebel acknowledged tensions between secular legal requirements and Jewish law. But he said the community was duty-bound to follow the rulings of rabbinic leaders.

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