Note From: Vicki Polin, Executive Director - The Awareness Center
We all should thank Rabbi Shafran for helping to make Israelis aware of the JTA series on clergy sexual abuse. To this date I don't believe any of the Israeli newspapers or magazines have published the series.
The Awareness Center wants to encourage everyone to contact all of the Israeli newspapers and encourage them to publish the entire JTA series "Reining in Abuse" (in both English and Hebrew publications).
It's time for all of us to face the reality of how cases of sexual violence have been mishandled and covered up in all movements of Judaism (Renewal, Reconstructionist, Traditional, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox).
One of the Awareness Center's goals is to prevent one more individual from becoming the next victim of a sex crime. The only way things will ever change is by awareness, education and implementation of new policies.
We all must demand that our rabbis report all cases of SUSPECTED sexual violence to law enforcement instead of handling such cases on their own.
To this day I have not met one rabbi who has any training in collecting forensic evidence or in how to conduct a victim sensitive interview. Until this changes, these sort of cases NEED to be handled by those with the proper education, experience and knowledge. These are not cases for a synagogue, school, camp or beit din to be handling!
Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC - Executive Director
The Awareness Center, Inc.
(Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209
What the rabbi said
January 24, 2006
Sir, - Readers of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's recent series on clergy sexual abuse may have been misled by the report's assertion that the meaning of words spoken by a respected rabbinic authority at last year's Agudath Israel of America national convention is, as the article put it, "open to interpretation." The rabbinic authority, the article asserted, admitted "that haredim are indeed guilty of sweeping things under the carpet."
The writer of the series has acknowledged to me that he had not at the time listened to a recording of the speech.
Rabbi Salomon's words, however, could not have been clearer. He pointed out how some people like to accuse the haredi community of "sweeping things under the carpet." They are right, he went on to explain, but not in the way they mean. "Do they know how many perpetrators" of sins against others "have been dealt with?" No, he averred, because when actions are taken against individuals who have proven themselves untrustworthy, Orthodox leaders do not trumpet their actions. And even as they take what steps are necessary to protect others, he added, they also seek to protect human dignity.
Moreover, Rabbi Salomon declared that when crimes are asserted but not proven, Jews must be guided not by a mob mentality but by the Torah.
The JTA article may well be right that "several Web site and blog contributors" chose to interpret Rabbi Salomon's remarks as an admission that "haredi officials often look the other way when clergy sex abuse takes place in their midst." But that says something only about those Web site and blog contributors, and nothing at all about what Rabbi Salomon actually said.
RABBI AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America