Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brooklyn's Ultra-Orthodox Jews More Willing To Use Civil Authorities In Abuse Cases

The New York Times yesterday reported on the sharp rise in child sexual abuse cases brought recently by prosecutors in Brooklyn (NY) against members of the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community. After decades in which almost no abuse prosecutions were brought against ultra-Orthodox Jews, a number of developments have led to members of the haredi community for the first time being willing to go to civil authorities to file complaints. The Jewish press, therapists, Orthodox Jewish social workers, rabbis, Jewish blogs and new organizations, combined with the failure of rabbinical courts to deal effectively with molesters, have led parents of victims and the victims themselves to overcome the traditional stigma of going to civil authorities instead of internal religious courts. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has begun a program called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice) that cooperates with Orthodox social workers and sends speakers into schools and community centers to talk about sexual abuse.

UPDATE: According to Wednesday' Forward, despite these developments several national rabbinic leaders urge that Orthodox rabbinic courts continue to screen allegations of sexual abuse to decide whether they should be forwarded to civil law enforcement authorities.