Backlash Follows Orthodox Rabbis’ Ban of Child Sex Abuse Reporting Website

High profile sex abuse scandals in the Orthodox Jewish community have lead to attempts to further cloak the crimes in secrecy following a rabbinical-mandated community ban from advertising, looking at, or visiting advertisers of a news blog—VoslzNeias.com—which writes about sexual abuse in the community said the Cliffview Pilot. In the past, we have written about how the community is reticent to bring charges of sexual abuse by rabbis to the attention of secular authorities.

“For many of the victims of abuse I know, the ban has created feelings of being re-traumatized,” Rabbi Asher Lipner told the Cliffview Pilot. “Most survivors feel that the community’s stifling their voices has been more damaging emotionally than the actual molestation they have suffered,” Lipner added.

Reporting is sketchy, even in the best of circumstances. For instance, the Cliffview Pilot points out that about 16 percent of all sex crimes against children are reported to law enforcement authorities in secular communities, versus a mere one-to-two percent in the Orthodox community. But, while many stick with tradition, a growing number are seeking change in the form of criminal prosecution, said the Cliffview Pilot.

VoslzNeias, Yiddish for “What’s News?” has a growing readership in Hasidic and Yeshiva communities, writing its own stories and publishing reprints from other papers such as Newsday, The New York Times, The New York Post, and The Jewish Week, said the Cliffview Pilot. “They report on everything — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Lipner told the Cliffview Pilot. “They have strict published rules of comment moderation, and they are seen as careful about being fair and balanced and not sensational,” Lipner added.

But some so-called ultra-Orthodox rabbis disagree, saying that—via Hebrew postings in Orthodox neighborhoods, the blog “airs dirty laundry in public” and “writes against officers and politicians…to ruin their reputations,” quoted the Cliffview Pilot. As Lipner points out, “As we have seen in other faith communities, the cover-up of child molestation produces more of a scandal than the crime itself, and constitutes a much greater desecration” of God’s name,” quoted the Cliffview Pilot.

An excerpt from a flier posted in various Hasidic communities read: “… the Satan has found a way, that a site exists on the Internet known as ‘VosIzNeias?’ …it includes stories and events of the corrupt, abominable, and lowly; full of contamination, filth, foul language; slander, gossip, and degrading of Torah scholars; it also prints libels and slander regarding Torah individuals and organizations. Similarly, the comments written there are filled with adultery and slander, and increase fights in Israel, putting everyone’s dirty laundry in public. It also writes against officers and politicians under whose favor we live, to ruin their reputation….”

Long shrouded in shame and secrecy and permitted perpetuation—given the silence surrounding the crime—reporting sexual abuse of children in the Orthodox community has been a subject of increasing focus in the media and politics. We have written about it here and, as the AP wrote, State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, brought attention to the issue two years ago on a radio show that prompted victims to come forward with claims of abuse and stories about how sexual abuse is often handled internally and quietly in Orthodox rabbinical courts.

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