Yeshiva Poll Shows More Awareness of Sexual Abuse

Although long shrouded in shame and secrecy and permitted perpetuation given the silence surrounding the crime, it seems that reporting the sexual abuse of children is receiving more attention, especially in Jewish elementary schools, the first step in helping to eradicate the crime.

The problem, said the Cliff View Pilot, is that while administrators say that there are policies in force—and reporting does not conflict with the Jewish faith, halacha—many feel that they are unable to accurately recognize the signs when a child is being abused in this way.

According to a poll reported in the Jewish Star of 135 North American yeshivas and day schools, most administrators said they have policies, most agreed halacha would not be violated, but most feel inadequately trained in how to report a potential crime, said the Cliff View Pilot. “This represents a tipping point in recognizing abuse in the community,” said Scott Goldberg, director of the Institute for University-School Partnership at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education, which conducted the poll, quoted the Cliff View Pilot.

Of note, although the Roman Catholic Church has been making headlines for an unbelievable and ongoing number of reported instances of sexual abuse by priests against children, similar reports were cropping up in the Jewish community, said the Cliff View Pilot. Although the community has been polarized on reporting abusers, the growing reports are allowing advocates of such reporting a greater voice, explained the Cliff View Pilot.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to provide a safe learning environment,” Rabbi Yona Reiss, dean of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) told the Jewish Star. “Those causing irreparable harm ought to be eradicated from the community,” he added.

In New Jersey, state law mandates that those with reasonable suspicion of child sexual abuse advise authorities; however, since rabbinical authority has reigned in Orthodox areas for many centuries, victims of these heinous and horrific crimes have been “threatened, ostracized, and driven out,” said the Cliff View Pilot. Some Jewish community leaders are working to change this.

“Dealing with child protective services is necessary, and increased interaction can be effective,” added Yitzchak Schechter, a psychologist involved in the report’s preparation, “Increasing training needs to increase confidence as well,” said Schechter, head of the Center for Applied Psychology at the Bikur Cholim in Rockland County, and who, said the Star, is pleased to enable the bridge between authorities and “insular” Orthodox communities, explained the Cliff View Pilot. The Bikur Cholim conducts some 15,000 training sessions annually; 60 percent of the participants are from “yeshivish” communities, officials told the Star.

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