Thursday Night at the Agudah Convention

Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach, Bais Medrash Govoha; Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, rosh hayeshiva, Maor Yitzchok, Monsey; and Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel of America executive vice president for government and public affairs, will be the featured speakers at the Thursday night plenary session of Agudath Israel of America’s upcoming convention.

The Thursday night session is entitled "Torah Wisdom/Torah Authority: Are We Losing the Connection?"

"Klal Yisroel has always understood that its true leaders are the gedolei Yisroel, the einei ho’eidoh whose uniquely refined vision enables them to guide the Jewish people through the darkest of situations," says Rabbi Zwiebel.

"In recent years, though," the Agudah leader observes, "due to a variety of factors, the authority of daas Torah has been significantly undermined, even within our own chareidi circles. Most troubling has been the proliferation of Internet ‘blogs’ where misguided individuals feel free to spread every bit of rechilus and loshon hora about rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, all with the intended effect of undermining any semblance of Torah authority in our community. It is most appropriate for an organization like Agudath Israel, whose very essence was built on the recognition of the authority of Torah leaders, to address this issue head on, and formulate concrete plans to reinvigorate public awareness of this essential element of the Torah way of life."

Rabbi Zwiebel is confused. It is not "any semblance of Torah authority" we seek to undermine; it is the misuse of that authority and the malfeasance related to that misuse we seek to expose and thwart. And you, Dovid Zwiebel, are part of that problem, not part of its solution.

[Hat tip: Moshe.]


Filed under Crime, Haredim

11 responses to “Thursday Night at the Agudah Convention

  1. shmuel

    Blogs are the “most troubling” problem for our fearless leaders? They can look in the mirror if they want to see where the problems lie: a curriculum geared for Talmudic scholars, not the average kid, so that many fall away; heavy-handed school administrators, driving away the rest; non-stop financial scandals, causing great chilulei Hashem; gedolim banning the works of a well-intentioned young rabbi with no due process, and banning many other books, too; rejecting all forms of modernity, including science; child abuse and its attendant cover-up, intimidation and threats; etc. The list goes on. And it’s all the fault of bloggers, not rabbis. And they wonder why noone is listening?

  2. Anonymous

    If you were the “unorthodox-Jew,” your defense would be justified. However, you admit that you no longer believe in Torah.
    It is therefore hard to believe that your agenda is reform.

    David Zweibel is wrong be because he blames the messengers (the blogs) and does not pay attention to the message. that is somewhat like blaming Yermiyahu Hanavi for the destruction of Bayis Rishon.

    In any case, Zweibel claims for Chazal what Chazal did not claim for themselve. I no of no Gemoroh which claims that Chazal had a unique vision whichj would allow them to guide Klal Yisroel through the most troubling of times. The most reklevant Gemoroh would appear to be that which deals with the destruction of Bayis Sheni, and that Gemoroh clearly does not claim that Chazal were above criticism in their judgment of political events (quoting the posok “([He] turns wise men backwards and makes their wisdom foolish.)”

    If anybody could come up with such a cite a would be glad to see it.

  3. Is there ever any real debate and serious self reflection at these things or is it just more party line messages coming down from on high? Because if there is, it would be awesome if some bloggers went (anonymously of course) and really debated the issues.

  4. yisroel

    Agudah knows that their time is quickly coming to an end. And, the “Thursday night at the Agudah convention” is a nice way of saying that they are losing control and are schvitzing bullets!

  5. shmuel

    There is absolutely no room for debate at an Agudah convention, or, indeed, in any Agudah function. Ever. The party line is that you have to be “mivatel your daas”—check your brain in at the door if you want to join the party. And that’s the way they like it: noone has the right to think but the Moetzet Gedolei Torah, and they’ll think for you, and tell you what they think (“Daas Torah”), and you’ll swallow it.

    Or not. I walked away from their craziness. Everyone else can, too.

    No need to go to the silly convention and hear the fearful leaders scream about the web. But they’ll never scream about kashrus collapse, rabbinic child abuse, its attendant coverup, sky high tuition, a shidduch crisis of epic proportions, opportunistic yeshiva guys who try to write their free meal ticket by getting it punched at Brisk and Lakewood, nonstop financial scandals and their chilulei Hashem in the media, incredible, intractable, intergenerational poverty among the Orthodox in Israel, created by…guess who? And on, and on.

    Nothing will be accomplished at the convention. Nothing ever has. But it makes the rabbis feel good to scream at me for writing what I just posted.

  6. dfds

    To think, not so long ago if you wanted to know what Jews were supposedly thinking you could read periodicals like the Jewish Observer and the Jewish Press, and if you were enlightened hareidi you subscribed to the Jewish Week as well, so you can read all the “Orthodox bashing.”

  7. Schneur

    Daas Torah . Whose Daas Torah? Is the Dass Torah of rabbi Belsky , Sron Schechter and Rabbi Kotler worth more than the Daas Torah of Rabbi H. Schacter, Rabbi Gdalye Schwartz and RabbiAron Lichtenstein, or perhaps we need to get REAL Daas Tore from the Teitelbaum brothers ?

  8. Schneur

    The Aguda convention is an event designed to allow the Charedi(non-Chasidic) upper middle class to show off its wealthrabbis are invited and speeches scheduled to provide a veneer of Torah to this convention. The chashuve guests mostly of Hungarian extraction arrive in large gaudy autos. The men are dressed in expensive suits and large brim black hats.
    The women well you can just imagine the cost of the jewelry and suits they wear!
    Perhaps the Aguda gedolim should not only set sumptuary Laws for weddings but also for the Annual Aguda convention.
    In fact the Gerer Chasidim in the uS do not attend the convention even though they are the backbone of the Aguda. The Gerer who are the most puritanical of all Hasidic sects can not stomach the gross materialism and mingling of the sexes that routinely occurs at the convention.They usually show uo Motze Shabbos to pay lip service to the cause of the Aguda.
    The lay leaders run to every two bit rosh and especially to the 3rd rate rebbes attending to “give sholom” to the rav and in return to “get kavod”.That too is an important feature of this meeting.
    But the real purpose of the convention is for these lay leaders is for it to act as a substitute for the secular Debutante’s Ball.
    Here they introduce their “hot” but modest daughters – well dressed and coiffered to their peers and seek to “do a good shidduch” not an appropriate shidduch but the good shidduch.After all that is the highest goal of contemporary Charedi Judaism.
    I have attended these conventions and believe me if you have less than 1 million in the bank or better yet in Swiss banks, stay home and eat some Shevach Turkey and take out your portable tv from your bedroom closet and watch the Detroit Lions.

  9. Agudath Israel should be afraid of bloggers.

    We bloggers know what they’ve been up to for years, for decades. Everything.

    We know about all of the skeletons in their closet. We know about all those they’ve protected and all the 1000s who’ve ate treifut as a result of their conduct.

    1. We know about Rabbi Heshi Nussbaum:

    2. We know about the Chicago Kosher operation that was protected by the top leadership of Agudath Israel at the time, the operation that sold treifut to erlich jews around the world for over a decade: Files/Vol_75__1974_1975.pdf
    Page 317
    A strong call for such legislation arose in Winnipeg in 1972, when the Chicago Kosher Manufacturing Company, a major Canadian manufacturer of food products, was indicted and convicted of using only a small percentage of kosher meat in meat products labeled “kosher.” The company and its managing director were fined. Its assets were later acquired by another company, which discontinued kosher food production.
    The support given by federal legislation to an official designation of “kosher” strengthened the observant consumer in efforts to expose fraudulent practices involving kosher food. A kosher food consumer panel set up in Toronto conducted a four-month investigation of kosher meat prices. Its report, submitted to CJC, stated there were overpricing and kosher labeling of products without rabbinical certification.

    3. And we know about their protection of sexual predators such as Rabbi Kolko:


    Religious Groups Stall Reform Law
    The New York Post – August 1, 2001, Wednesday

    A strongly backed bill that would make it a crime if educators fail to report an accusation of school sex abuse to the police is being stymied by two of the city’s most powerful religious organizations, City Hall sources told The Post.

    Bill No. 933, inspired by several mishandled complaints in public schools, would require cops to investigate allegations of sex abuse involving private schools run by churches and temples as well as public schools.

    The law could set the stage for a battle between church and state because both Catholic and Jewish schools deal with sex-abuse allegations against clerics internally, experts said.

    City Hall sources admit they were surprised by the religious groups’ 11th-hour request to postpone the vote in the City Council’s Education Committee on June 4.

    “They [religious schools] claim they were unaware that the provisions of the law applied to both public and private schools,” one source said.

    Council staffers are quietly negotiating with a coalition of religious groups hoping to tailor the bill to fit everyone’s demands – a delicate process during an election season.

    When told the law covers “co-curricular and extra-curricular activities” such as prayer groups or kids helping out in religious ceremonies, New York Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling seemed surprised.

    “I’m not sure the law covers that,” Zwilling said, who refused to say if the church supported the bill.

    Zwilling insisted the bill applies to clerics working only in schools, but a second City Hall source said it reaches into “all of the properties on school grounds.”

    Zwilling referred questions to Rabbi David Zwiebel, of the Agudath Israel of America, a Jewish advocacy network that’s spearheading talks with council.

    Zwiebel argues the bill is too broad in its definition of abuse, and thinks it will strip school principals of their “professional discretion” to resolve disciplinary problems internally.

    The failure to let principals “exercise professional judgment and discretion in dealing with actual or threatened criminal conduct is a serious flaw,” he wrote in a five-page June 28 letter to Council Speaker Peter Vallone and committee members.

    Zwilling and Zwiebel deny allegations they want to kill the bill to protect accused clerics.

    Zwiebel said the law could create “tensions” between church and state.

    The committee is scheduled to have a hearing on the matter in the fall.

    “The new legal mandate is not embraced by everyone because it is designed to change the usual way of doing business for the protection of children,” a mayoral administration source said.

    “Because of the delay, the window for getting this in place by September is closed – and that’s a terrible shame.”

    Rabbis Back Law To Report Child Abuse
    By Rachel Donadio
    The Forward (NY)
    March 29,2002 p. 3

    With the exception of a major ultra-Orthodox organization, rabbinical groups of all denominations say they support proposed legislation in New York State that would require clergy to report allegations of child abuse.

    The proposal, which would broaden the state’s Social Services Law to make clergy of all religions criminally liable if they do not report instances of child abuse, was advanced last week by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in the wake of growing allegations of molestation within the Catholic Church. This week, the Democrat-controlled State Assembly proposed similar legislation, and a version passed in the Republican-controlled State Senate.

    Most rabbinical groups said they were not concerned that the legislation would violate confidentiality between clergy and congregants.

    “I think that full disclosure to the authorities would be not only acceptable, I think it’s imperative,” said Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Reform movement’s Central Council of American Rabbis. “Ethical violations, whether they’re violations of the criminal code or not, need to be dealt with very openly, fairly and directly by each denomination. Anything short of that is not keeping faith with our people.”

    The ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, however, said it was wary of the legislation, which would require clergy to “report to
    authorities whenever they have reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused,” according to a March 19 statement by Morgenthau.

    David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Aguda, said he feared that the proposal could infringe on “religious freedom.”

    “There ought to be some exemption for situations involving confidentiality,” Zwiebel said. “To protect the Catholic confessional-type situation, and more specifically in our community, to protect those situations where a member of the community does want to confide in his rabbi and get guidance and counseling without fear of having the whole fury of the secular legal system descend on him.”

    Last summer, Aguda and the Catholic Archdiocese of New York joined forces to oppose a proposed bill in the City Council that would have required all schools, including parochial schools, to file a police report about any criminal act committed by students or staff.

    Zwiebel said he was concerned that secular law would “not necessarily” respect religious concerns, such as the concept of mesira, a category of rabbinic canon law concerning when a Jew may inform on another to the secular government. He said that rabbis should evaluate issues “on a case-by-case” basis.

    However, Zwiebel said, “if a person is perceived as an imminent danger to children or others, rabbis would say, `let’s not handle this internally, let’s bring it to outside authorities.'”

    Looking more favorably on the legislation was the Orthodox Union, representing Modern Orthodox synagogues. “In principal we’d be supportive,” said Harvey Blitz, president of O.U. “We believe that clergy have a responsibility to protect the safety of people from being victims.”

    “We were told by our Halachic authorities that we should without any type of delay report these instances to the police,” said Steven Dworkin, the head of the Rabbinical Council of America, a Modern Orthodox rabbinical body, referring to religious law.

    Two years ago O.U. faced its own abuse scandal when several top officials stepped down following claims that they ignored 30 years of abuse complaints against the director of its national youth group, Rabbi Baruch Lanner.

    Blitz was unfazed by the thought that under the proposed legislation, O.U. clergy would have been criminally liable for ignoring allegations of abuse. “Maybe they would have reported it,” Blitz said.

    “We’ve tried very hard to change the culture at the O.U. in light of what happened” and make children feel “more comfortable” reporting abuse and leaders “more sensitive” to allegations, Blitz said.

    Rabbi Joel Myers, president of Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, also said he supported the proposal.

    Myers said clergy confidentiality was not as “cut and dry” as some would make it out to be. “Every rabbi knows not everything is confidential or ought to be,” he said. “Many clergy will say, `I’ll be glad to listen but I won’t be able to tell you if it’s confidential until you tell me what the issue is.'”

    The church scandal “may have nothing to do with confidentiality,” Myers
    said. “Confidentiality becomes a nice sounding word, but that’s not the issue. The issue is how bishops supervise priests.”

    “It is clear that social pressures on the clergy are such that transferring the obligation to enforce justice onto the legal system is a helpful step,” said Rabbi David Teutsch, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

    The New York Post
    March 26, 2002, Tuesday
    Pg. 20
    By Douglas Montero

    THE panic has begun.

    Religious organizations went into a frenzy yesterday after learning state legislators introduced two bills that would require them to call
    authorities whenever one their clerics is accused of molesting a kid.

    But, it’s far from just a Catholic problem.

    “Sex abuse suppression in the Orthodox Jewish clergy is much worse than the Catholics because it’s such an insular community and they can get away with it,” according to Amy Neustein, who says she was ostracized by her community after she began advocating for Jewish women and kids.

    She called the problem of child molestation by the clergy and the invariable coverup in her community a “cancer.”

    An official at the Agudath Israel of America – an Orthodox Jewish advocacy group that helped exorcise a similar City Council bill last year – seemed skeptical the bills would do much good.

    “There may be a situation where there might be a conflict between the law and what a rabbi feels is religiously appropriate,” said David Zwiebel, its vice president for government affairs.

    “Rabbis might react differently. Some will comply with the law and others will choose not to comply with the law.”

    Bishop Steven Bouman, who heads the city’s Lutheran Church, insisted he
    “absolutely” supports the bills. “I believe the primary responsibility of church officials and the church is to the people we serve – especially the most vulnerable,” he said.

    But when asked to describe his church’s sex-abuse policy, he said he had to check his facts. He called back an hour later and referred questions to the church’s lawyers.

    Religious leaders are nervous.

    The days of conducting their own internal, and possibly biased, investigations before calling cops may be over soon.

    It’s appropriate that the sex-reporting bills were introduced during the start of Holy Week.

    “It’s Lent, and Christ is giving the Church a big cross to bear – one that it has earned,” said Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League.

    But he said his church has plenty of company.

    “I’ve always felt the Catholic Church doesn’t have a monopoly on this issue,” he said.

    Daily News (New York)
    March 26, 2002
    Pg. 18



    ALBANY – State lawmakers unveiled bills yesterday that would require clergy members to report all child sex abuse allegations to police or other authorities.

    The most stringent proposal, introduced by Assemblyman Jack McEneny (D-Albany), would force churches and other religious organizations to comb through records going back 20 years or more and turn over all accusations.

    “This reflects the change in attitude we are seeing on child abuse,” said McEneny, a Catholic. “The present system has obviously not protected children.”

    The proposed legislation came as the Catholic Church faced a Holy Week crisis over revelations that leaders often covered up abuse charges and
    allowed accused priests to move from parish to parish.

    Last week, district attorneys in Manhattan and other boroughs called on state lawmakers to add the clergy to a list of professionals, including doctors and teachers, who are required to report child sex abuse

    Some three dozen Assembly members backed McEneny’s bill. But their leader, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said he wanted to study the proposal before taking a stand on it.

    State Senate Republicans, meanwhile, drummed up support for a milder measure that would require church officials to make their reports over a state-run child abuse hotline.

    The Senate proposal, introduced by Sen. Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie), would cover allegations going back five years.

    Both bills would shield clergy members from reporting abuse they learned about through confession or other ministering duties. Failure to report allegations would be a misdemeanor.

    Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, which is led by Edward Cardinal Egan, declined to comment on the two measures.

    “What we’re saying to the sponsors in both houses is to act with the best interests of the children, as we move forward,” Poust said.

    Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America, a Jewish advocacy group, voiced support for the provision that would protect confessions and other ministering conversations.

    “But the 20-year provision sounds a bit overblown,” he said. “It kind of sounds like clergy members would be singled out for special treatment.”

    Allegations older than five years could not be prosecuted because of the state’s statute of limitations. But the bill’s backers said prosecutors would keep the old allegations private in case new accusations surfaced against the same clergy member.

    A spokesman for Gov. Pataki said the governor would sign legislation requiring clergy to report sex abuse cases to authorities.

    by Douglas Montero
    The New York Post
    January 28, 2002
    Pg. 18

    IT’S time the Catholic Church in this city followed in the footsteps of its brothers in Boston before it’s too late.

    On Thursday, the Boston Archdiocese broke a long-standing tradition – it now requires its clergy and employees to call cops if a priest is accused of sexual misconduct.

    The edict comes only after the Boston Archdiocese admitted that in the 1980s it played three-card monte with pedophile priest John Geoghan, who went on to allegedly molest more than 130 kids. About 80 kids have lawyers and lawsuits pending.

    Reports indicated Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily, the former general vicar in Boston, was aware of Geoghan’s problems.

    Edward Cardinal Egan’s vestment was also stained by a similar scandal when he served as bishop in Connecticut.

    That’s why the assassination of City Council Bill 933 last year should cause shudders in anyone whose children attend religious schools in this city.

    The bill was shot down by religious leaders who didn’t like the law requiring its employees to call cops whenever a sexual allegation is made.

    The proposed law applied not only to public and private schools but also to affiliated areas like a church or synagogue.

    Inspired by a string of grossly mishandled sex-abuse cases in public schools, the strongly supported and much-touted bill languished in committee during the summer after religious leaders, who normally handle embarrassing sex matters internally, put the squeeze on lawmakers.

    Sources inside the Giuliani administration and City Council speaker’s office told The Post in September the religious community was “caught off guard” by Bill 933.

    “They wanted to kill it or arrange it so that it only applies to public schools,” a source said.

    Bill 933 was eagerly taken off the negotiating table in August because Giuliani handed it to his Charter Revision Commission which put an altered proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot.

    The referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved, applied only to public schools – not private.

    Asked why, Commission Chairman Randy Mastro said the commission was
    “sympathetic” to private-school concerns and they wanted a referendum that would acquire the “broadest consensus” from voters.

    “Do we personally believe we should have gone further? Yes,” he said in September.

    Just last summer, The Post learned one of four priests accused in a March 2000 lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenage rectory worker at St. Simon Stock Church in The Bronx was quietly transferred to St. Patrick’s Church in Staten Island.

    Parishioners at St. Patrick’s said they were unaware of the allegation until The Post broke the story in June.

    The priest, who worked in Staten Island for about three years, was again transferred – coincidentally in June – to an unknown location, a priest on duty said yesterday.

    Repeated messages left with the spokesmen for Egan and Daily, our spiritual and moral leaders, were not returned yesterday.

    Family Violence? Not in My Community! by Alexiou, Alice Sparberg. Lilith. New York: Spring 2004. Vol. 29, Iss. 1; pg. 8
    Miklat, the only battered women’s shelter in Israel specifically for Orthodox and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women and children, has announced plans to open a second shelter, somewhere in the center of the country. Experts say that the country’s current crisis mode has increased violence against women. Miklat founder and president Estanne Fawer told LILITH that in the last year and a half, the shelter has had to turn away 70 women and their children because of lack of space. Fawer created Miklat in 1996.

    In fact, religious women are less likely to use secular services, so it becomes imperative to give them shelter where they will feel comfortable and welcome.

    Breaking the silence on abuse in the Orthodox world, both in North America and in Israel, apparently upsets Agudath Israel, an organization representing the ultra-right wing of Orthodoxy. In January, Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran sent LILITH a press release complaining that the attention now being focused on spousal abuse among Jews is tantamount to Orthodox-bashing.

    “All the Orthodox rabbis I am privileged to know are exquisitely sensitive toward women, as they are towards men,” he writes. Those who take seriously those rabbis’ advice, Rabbi Shafran says, “would be rendered virtually incapable of abusing his or her spouse.”

    Tell this to the women in the Miklat shelters.

    Copy of distributed Agudath Israel Memo

    June 28, 2001

    M E M O R A N D U M

    Honorable Peter F. Vallone
    Honorable Priscilla A. Wooten
    Honorable Members of the New York City Council Education Committee

    David Zwiebel
    Executive Vice President for Government and Public Affairs

    Honorable Rudolph W. Giuliani

    Members of the Committee of Nonpublic School Officials of New York City

    SUBJECT: Intro. No. 933-A

    This memo is a follow-up to my memo of June 14 to Peter Vallone and Priscilla Wooten, in which I requested that the City Council postpone any action on the captioned legislation until Agudath Israel and other representatives of New York City’s nonpublic school community had an
    opportunity to study and comment on the bill. I am grateful that the City Council acceded to our request; and I take this opportunity now to share with you our concerns about this legislation, as well as to offer what I hope will be seen as a constructive suggestion.

    Section 3 of the bill would add a new Section 10-124 to the New York City Administrative Code, requiring any employee of any public or private school who “witnesses or has reasonable cause to believe that a crime involving the health or safety of a child has occurred or has been threatened in an educational setting” to immediately report such information to the Police Department and to the school principal. After those reports are made, the principal is obligated to “promptly notify the parent or legal guardian of a child about whom a report has been made” unless the Police Department determines that such notification would impede a criminal investigation. Failure to comply with these requirements would be classified as a criminal misdemeanor.

    This proposal is apparently a response to several incidents in public school settings that might have been avoided had the police been brought into the picture at an earlier stage. Without in any way denigrating the seriousness of those few incidents, or the need to find ways to try to avoid such incidents in the future, we question whether the approach embodied in the proposed legislation is the most appropriate means of achieving that purpose. Based on the input we have received from the Jewish school principals with whom we have discussed this issue, we are concerned that any legislation that strips principals of their professional discretion to handle sensitive situations in the manner they deem most appropriate would do more harm than good.

    It is important to recognize that even under existing law, schools cannot simply ignore situations that threaten the health or safety of students. A school’s common law duty to care for its students imposes upon principals and other responsible school authorities the obligation to take reasonable steps to deal with harmful or dangerous conduct. Those steps may include, under certain circumstances, notifying the police about actual or threatened criminal activity. At the same time, principals and other school authorities have a great deal of professional discretion in how to deal with individual situations. So long as they do not abuse that discretion by acting negligently or otherwise abrogating their duty to care, they are free to deal with situations in ways that they understand to be in the best interests of the child or children under their care.

    Thus, for example, under existing law, if a student is caught smoking marijuana, a principal may decide to deal with the problem by referring the child to a drug counselor. Or, if a student is acting in a physically threatening manner toward one of his peers, the principal may decide that the problem can best be addressed through a phone call to the aggressive child’s parents. Or, if a model teacher who has a longstanding unblemished record is provoked into lashing out at a troublemaking student, the principal may decide to address the incident by having a heart-to-heart chat with the teacher and student. Or, in any of these cases or others like them, the principal may decide that the matter is best dealt with through the school’s internal disciplinary system, or by suspending or expelling the offending party, or by calling in the police. The existing law recognizes that one size does not necessarily fit all situations, and that knowledgeable school authorities are the ones best equipped to serve as gatekeepers in determining whether any given situation merits the extreme step of bringing in the police.

    Under the proposed new legislation, however, all such school-based discretion and professional judgment would be removed. School employees who witness or have reasonable cause to believe that a crime involving the health or safety of a child has been threatened or actually committed would have to call the police immediately – no matter what the magnitude of the crime, no matter who or how old the perpetrator, no matter what the surrounding circumstances, no matter what the school principal and student guidance counselor may consider most appropriate. The bill would thus operate in blunderbuss fashion and effectuate a sea change in the way principals and other key school employees deal with problems that may arise in their school settings.

    The Jewish school principals with whom we consulted were unanimous in their opinion that this change would be a change for the worse, not for the better. Their experience has been that most cases are best-handled internally, without police intervention. They are especially troubled by the prospect of having to call in the police for student-on-student conduct. They point out that personal trust is the most critical tool a principal has in effectively dealing with problems that may arise in a
    school setting – personal trust between the school administration and its staff, between the school administration and its students, between the school administration and its parent body – and that bringing in the police as soon as a crime is committed or even suspected is likely to destroy that foundation of personal trust, thereby making it exceedingly difficult to deal effectively with many of the problems that are far better addressed by school personnel at the school site.

    It is thus our view that the bill’s failure to allow for principals to exercise professional judgment and discretion in dealing with actual or threatened criminal conduct is a serious flaw. This is especially so with respect to nonpublic schools, where there has been little if any evidence that the existing system does not adequately protect children, and where any such inadequacy can easily be addressed simply through parents’ decisions to remove their children from the school.

    There are several ways in which this legislation might be improved:
    limiting the mandatory reporting provision to adult-on-child crime; limiting the types of crimes that have to be reported to felonies that pose a clear and present danger to children; excluding nonpublic schools from the ambit of legislation that is ultimately a response to a perceived problem in the public schools.

    Most fundamentally, and in addition to these possible improvements, our
    recommendation would be that the bill be revised to simply codify and amplify the existing common law standard. Thus, the bill could continue to require school employees immediately to report to their principals crimes or threatened crimes affecting the health or safety of students, as the current version of the proposed legislation does; and then establish the principal’s legal duty to take reasonable and appropriate steps to deal with the harmful or dangerous conduct. The bill might spell out what some of those steps might be, including immediate contact with the Police Department if the nature of the situation is such that reasonable care would demand such contact; but the bottom line responsibility for exercising professional judgment in dealing with any given situation would rest four-square on the principal’s shoulders. Negligent or reckless failure to discharge that responsibility would represent an abrogation of a
    school’s duty to care for its children, and could be basis for liability.

    Such an approach, we believe, would largely accomplish what the bill’s proponents seek to accomplish, while at the same time preserving the critical element of professional discretion that has by and large served schools and students well.

    Many thanks for your consideration of our views.


    Ask if this is the approach Agudath Israel plans to continue taking with the issue of sexual abuse.

    Basically, excommunicating the victim’s father and taking away his parnasa so he doesn’t have the resources to fight for justice for his son, the victim.

    see this website (not well organized and a bit naive in expecting the Jewish community/leadership to do anything, but increadibly troubling allgations nonetheless):

    ex-communication order:

  10. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Thank you Vicki for your 4,424 word post.

  11. Typical, if you can’t attack the message attack the messenger.

    Sorry “Nigritude”, I’m not Vicki.

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