Child Sex Abuse And Orthodox Jews

As many of you already know, UnOrthodoxJew – the anonymous blogger who successfully outed accused pedophile Rabbi Yehuda Kolko – is in the process of outing another well-placed, well-known alleged haredi pedophile.

A question is repeatedly raised: In this new case, in the Kolko case and in others, the abuse was known for many years. Rabbis and community leaders knew of the allegations but dismissed them, and worked to silence – and often intimidate – alleged victims and their families. Why? Why would Torah leaders act this way? On the surface, it seems counter intuitive.

Here are what I believe to be the underlying causes of this situation:

  1. Today’s gedolim and rabbinic leadership have little to no advanced secular education. (In fact, many have no secular education at all.) They do not have the wherewithal – or the desire – to understand complex issues rooted in science and medicine. In fact, these rabbis distain the secular world and its science because in many areas – like genetics, archeology, anthropology and physics – it clashes with these rabbis’ understandings of what the Torah says.
  2. After the Holocaust, rabbinic leadership views rebuilding the lost Torah world of Europe to be priority one. Everything that can be done is done to achieve this and sacrifices are made to this end.
  3. Often abusers are very talented rabbis and teachers. Their loss to the rebuilding effort would be very great.
  4. Most of these man-on-boy abuse cases do not involve penetration and, as Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Schienberg, one of the gedolim mentioned above, is alleged to have told Kolko’s victims and their families, “The was no penetration. Therefore, according to Torah there was no abuse.” Rabbi Scheinberg is also alleged to have told the families that, because there was “no abuse according to the Torah,” going to police or the media was mesira, informing – a crime punishable by death in Jewish law – and lashon hara, forbidden speech. The idea is that lack of penetration means no harm, and no harm means no foul. But, as any expert in the field will tell you, the presumption of no harm is simply incorrect. Indeed, great harm is done, whether or not penetration occurs.
  5. Haredi societies do not teach sex ed to middle school or high school students. Most parents and grandparents are woefully ignorant of the scientific and medical aspects underlying reproduction and reproductive activity. And deviance and deviant behavior is, while despised, not at all understood. Therefore a molester can be viewed as a monster or as a man who had a weak moment. Most often, the monster will be from a non-presdigous family without good rabbinic connections, and the man who had a weak moment will be wealthy or a famous rabbi.
  6. Ignorance helps make abuse possible. Haredi media is tightly controlled by the same men who protect abusers. Haredim are strongly discouraged from reading non-haredi media, listing to non-haredi radio and from watching TV of any type. And the Internet? It is under a ban, a ban instituted by? The same rabbis protecting abusers.
  7. Haredi society is tightly controlled. Deviants – in this case meaning whistle blowers and independent thinkers – are quickly pushed out or cowed. Abuse victims and their supporters face ostracism. It is not uncommon for victims’ elderly grandparents to be threatened or for victims’ children to be denied school placements and shidduchim.

Simply put, in a society like this, rooting out abuse is very difficult if not impossible; the only viable method for doing so involves what some would term a tremendous hilul haShem, a tremendous embarrassment to the community, its leadership and God.

Indeed, a common haredi complaint against UnOrthodoxJew has been that, even if Rabbi Kolko is guilty, the damage done by UOJ to the community, to Yiddishkeit, and to God is far worse a crime than Kolko’s fondling of little boys. Within this argument is the clear implication that Kolko’s alleged victims past and future should be somehow sacrificed on the altar of rebuilding haredism.

The Torah to which haredim pledge fealty both condemns and bans child sacrifice. Just as one may not offer his child to the fire of Molech, one may not abandon him to the fondling of rabbinic abusers, no matter how talented, charismatic or well-connected those rabbinic abusers may be. God does not want children sacrificed on an altar of abuse, even if that altar has a rabbinic hechsher (imprimatur).



Filed under Crime, Haredim

17 responses to “Child Sex Abuse And Orthodox Jews

  1. avrohom

    While you make very legitimate points; there is one point that you leave out (or maybe it is intertwined in your first point) that part of the war waged against these tragic situations involve the waging war against Torah and Judaism as lived in the past thousands of years. IT is the legitimate perceived notion that udnerneath these allegations there is the underlying position that the Torah must change to the whim of the times…that the torah lifestyle of the past centuries by these rabbis led to these tragic situations and therefore we must change their techings as well….that if we just (not only beware of the new advances in medicince and scinece, but) engage our occupations to be fisrt and foremost part of the norms of society as the dictated by these those who question and “debunked” (afra lepumey) what the rabbis told us for thousands of years then all these tragedies will dissapear.

    The rabbis are quite perceptivve that underneath kolko (which we must fiht tooth and nail if it’s true or to search for the real truth) there is a shamraya and his ilk who would like to use this opportunity to create a new judaism, a judaism devoid of the beleif int eh divinity and holiness of the torah…the judaism that questions everything that we have received in tradition…this creates a big problem for the rabbis (even those honest who would like to attack kolko and his ilk) as they do not want to see the quest degenerate into a war on judaism…

    mind you all: While kokko must be fought severely, the thought that torah and their lifestyle is the prime reason for these phenomenom is absurd. How much immortality and perverseness and pedophille do we have by those who put science and human powers and prowess above Hashem and His Torah. It is laughable to start to compare the numbers…all this while i agree that Kolko and his ilk must be fought with all the might…

    shmarya you are disgrace to everything that you stand for: even the good things that you fight for you are a hindrance to make a dent the fixing of these things. you beleive in nothing besides defaming rabbis from two thousand years…

  2. Well written piece Shmarya. I have told Torah Umesorah many times to step up and set up an “independent” board of professionals, not rabbis,that would meet every Sunday to hear allegations of abuse in the yeshiva and Bais Yaakov system. I then go away. Those allegations would then be investigated by them; if found true, the yeshivas would agree to fire the abuser.
    If the yeshiva did not comply, they would be suspended from the Torah Umesorah organization. Can any logical person disagree with that?
    The simple answer is that they don’t take these crimes seriously; until they do, I will be the judge, jury, and “executioner.”

  3. gross


    You are certainly entitled to your opinion but the coverup has existed long before most of us had heard of the internet. So, before the days of whistleblowers, failed messiahs, and unorthodox jews these important issues were (forgive the cliche) swept under the rug.

  4. Isa

    This crud happens within the secular Jewish community as well. To ‘out’ an abuser there is much shame- far better to keep it quiet.
    To Un-Orthodox Jew
    Keep outing them !!!
    Pull’em out in the open and shine a light on them.
    Then do the same to their supporters!!!
    Maybe a victim will sue one of these orgainizations for millions!!!
    The Catholic Church has finally figured out that they just CANNOT send an offending priest church to church while leaving a trail of victims.
    To the first writer:
    Someone could take your comments and give a good reason why Nixon (or any president) should not be exposed while giving similiar but secular arguments.

  5. Shmuel

    To Avraham:
    You’re just nuts. It’s that simple.
    Shmarya and his “ilk” (I’m part of the ilk) don’t want a new Judaism; we want to reclaim the Judaism of old that has been lost to the corrupt, head-in-the-sand, uneducated leaders who look out for themselves, their families and friends first and foremost, and don’t give a DAMN if a boy has been abused by a “chashuve” rebbe. The coverups, the lying, the intimidation, the abuse…it’s been going on for over 25 years! And now, you, Avraham, the chacham from the Mah Nishtane, you’re all worked up and want Shmarya and UOJ to fight Kolko and his corrupt, immoral band of phony cronies. Where have you been all these years?? And even you’d have to agree that they’re doing great work in exposing child abuse: you want the fight to be waged! So what are you afraid of? That this will disintegrate into a “war on Judaism”? If that means it’s war on corrupt, evil purveyors of a corrupt, dishonest faith, I say bring that war on! The honest will be left standing, the evil will be burned out from amongst us. Any complaints about that prospect, o wise man from Chelm?
    Great post, Shmarya. Keep ’em coming, and let’s keep the pressure on the bad ones until they’re all gone from the scene, speedily in our days, amen.

  6. avrohom

    listen, and listen, do not shoot from …if you want to be effective do not align yourself with someone who has badmouthed collectively rabbis of our tradition and has degraded them as the owner of this site and all his ilk…you want to be effectiv, just expose the facts non stop but do not cast aspersion on “rabbis” in general and on the torah (for these shams and coverups exists in the filthy “enlightened” world) you will get less sympathy from those who want this holy work (of exposing the criminals not the torah and collective rabbis) to be expposed and not align yourself with someone who has made up his mind that this is all the fault of people who do not want science and do not know science for he has an evil agenda and by aligning youself with him or saying that you agree with him then your work is only counterproductive…

  7. I think your rabbis are counterproductive.

  8. Neo-Conservaguy

    It’s true that if I were crazy enough to be Shmarya’s editor some of his rather “colorful” conclusions would have been, um, “translated” so that the facts could indeed stand on their own merit. None the less, it’s not hard to understand and share the rage against those who claim to uphold the highest ideals of Judaism while, in fact, are getting cheeky with children that have been trusted to their care, or protecting those who do.

  9. Avrohom, since you are so concerned with folks like Shmarya and UOJ who “cast aspersion on rabbis”, please tell us which hashgacha organizations you will rely upon and which you consider unreliable. See, even you, Avrohom, casts aspersions upon rabbis with whom you disagree.

  10. Shmuel

    Yes, Avraham, do tell us that. And also tell us which orthodox rabbis are kofrim, in your opinion, and which are not. And tell us which orthodox Jews are wicked and to be avoided, and which not. You don’t play the same game?.

  11. Harbona

    Abrahom writes:
    … that part of the war waged against these tragic situations involve the waging war against Torah and Judaism as lived in the past thousands of years. IT is the legitimate perceived notion that udnerneath these allegations there is the underlying position that the Torah must change to the whim of the times…
    Reb Avrom utilises the words situations, and tragedies to describe what the rest of mankind acknowledges as nothing short of “crimes”.
    Nobody is requesting a “change” in our holy Torah. what is being sought is making amend to the travesty of Torah justice .
    The Gdolim (?) of our generation, often come across as dwarfs, and nothing but Burim Gdolim.
    “afar lefikha ?” I would say ‘Afar on as in above -covering- the wicked!

  12. avrohom

    Shmarya and his ilk and the writers of this blog often deride anything jewish. Anything that our Rabbis have recorded for two thousand years is put down by you. If you don’t get it, start thinking in these terms: People who follow tradition have a fifth sense in seeing those who want to erase our connection with holiness, with hashem how He gave us the Holy Torah and Holy mitzvot and we are a holy nation by virtue of these beliefs. You want to eradicate that. That is why you will lose all of your battles. Those who really want to change should fight from within not by following our enemies. The more time passes, we could understand why some of our sages were reticent about the mode of attracting jews back to the fold. They were afraid that some of the people who were drawn back would not shake out their connection and ties with the secular notions and beliefs in a way that it would boomerang so that some of these fellows are the biggest enemies of judaism today fighting every holy thing that jews beleived in.

  13. Fan

    I believe that would be a sixth sense, Avrohom. But maybe you didn’t learn that we have five senses in your frum “biology” class.

  14. Yochanan Lavie

    Avrohom: I didn’t know kool-aid was kosher lemehadrin.

  15. avrohom

    Go ahead you bunch of sickos, good for nothing’ all you want is to destroy judaism…you predecessors have failed and you will fail…you live in a filthy immoral world…which pervades your very being…but not to worry Torah and Judaism will prevail

  16. Isa

    The people that are ‘destroying’ Judaism are the same people that permit corruption to flourish. Can you imagine what the American government would be like without all the expose on the evil doings? America would be worse than Soviet Union with forced confessions and everything else. So too with Judaism, this house needs a good house cleaning top to bottom.
    You have been taught certain things like I was, then when the ‘rock’ is lifted and see all the ‘creepy crawlies’ swarming about what shock it must give to you.

  17. Rebecca

    Thank you, thank you for shedding some more understanding on the background of that world.
    You are doing good work, and thank you for your courage, and others, on confronting the abuse problem.

    —A Survivor

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