A senior British rabbi has been filmed telling an alleged victim of child sexual abuse not to go to the police.
Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, who is leader of the UK’s Strictly Orthodox Jewish community, told the alleged victim that it was “mesira”, or forbidden, to report a suspected Jewish sex offender to a non-Jewish authority.
His advice, which was secretly recorded as part of a Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation to be shown tonight, will reignite the controversy about the cover-up of child sex abuse by religious groups following global scandals surrounding the Roman Catholic church
Strictly Orthodox Jewish people, known as Charedi, number 40,000 people, around a sixth of the Jewish population in Britain.
Rabbi Padwa, who is head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in Stamford Hill, north London, was recorded by a former member of the tight-knit community using a hidden camera.
The footage shows the alleged victim telling Rabbi Padwa about someone “who sexually abused me when I was younger, when I was a child and I’m looking for your advice, to be honest, what to do…Would do you think maybe, is it a good idea to speak to the police about it?”.
“Oh no,” Padwa answers, explaining that doing so would breach Rabbinic Law. The alleged victim says that child sex abuse is a “very serious issue”, but is told not tell the police. Rabbi Padwa adds: “Men Tur Nisht,” which is Yiddish for “people must not tell tales.” He continues: “The police is not the solution.”
Another Charedi Rabbi claims later in the program that Rabbi Ephraim Padwa recently forbade a father who had told the police that his son had been sexually abused from pursuing the case.
The man taped speaking to Rabbi Padwa agreed to help investigate possible sex abuse cover-ups after claiming he was abused as a child by a fellow Charedi, Channel 4 claims.
Rabbi Padwa’s organisation, the UOHC, sent Channel 4 a letter responding to the allegations stating: “The Jewish Community considers the safety and protection of our children as paramount.”
Last night it released another statement outlining its procedures for dealing with child sex abuse complaints. It said: “The Orthodox Hebrew Congregations have a special Committee to deal with incidences of attacks of this kind on the children of our congregations. The members of the Committee consist of rabbis, educators and members of the community, among whom there are those who have been trained in the right way to tackle this.
It added: “The Committee which will deal with it [sex abuse complaints] according to the advice of the Rabbinical Court and according to the law of the land.”
Rabbi– ‘Sexual abuse within Jewish community should not be reported to police’
Agudath Israel of America, Rabbinical Council of America come under fire after rabbi says abuse should be reported to rabbis, not police.
NEW YORK – Two Orthodox Jewish groups have released statements attempting to clarify their positions on reporting child abuse.
Agudath Israel of America and the Rabbinical Council of America were responding to what the former called “misleading claims about our stance on reporting suspected child abusers to law enforcement agencies.”
The statements come in the wake of criticism over comments by a leading American Orthodox rabbi, Shmuel Kamenetsky, that abuse should be reported to rabbis rather than police. Kamenetsky is the vice president of Agudah’s Supreme Council of Rabbinic Sages.
Agudah in its statement referred to rabbinic arguments that authorities should be notified when a certain threshold of evidence is met, but “where the circumstances of the case do not rise to threshold level … the matter should not be reported to authorities.”
However, in order to distinguish whether the threshold has been met, the statement continued, “the individual shouldn’t rely exclusively on their own judgment … rather, he should present the facts to a Rabbi.”
Kamenetsky said in a speech July 12 in Brooklyn — while a search was being conducted for an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky — that the sexual abuse of a child should be reported to a rabbi, who then would determine if the police should be called. Leiby’s dismembered body was found the following day in a dumpster and in the apartment of Levi Aron, who has been indicted for murder.
The speech came under criticism after a recording appeared July 17 on the Failed Messiah blog, which reported that Kamenetsky was repeating Agudah’s official policy banning Jews from reporting sexual abuse to police.
In the recording, Kamenetsky corrects a man who begins a question to the rabbi by saying, “As far as I know, your yeshiva is of the opinion that victims should report these crimes to the authorities.”
“Only after speaking to a rav,” Kamenetsky said.
Survivors for Justice, an advocacy, educational and support organization for survivors of sexual abuse and their families from the Orthodox world, described Kamentsky’s comments as “dangerous,” and called on Agudah to issue a retraction.
The RCA in its statement said that “Consistent with Torah obligations, if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately, as the prohibition of mesirah (i.e., referring an allegation against a fellow Jew to government authority) does not apply in such a case.”
It also says that “As always where the facts are uncertain, one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine how and when to report such matters to the authorities.”