Rabbi Schachter On Mesira and Child Abuse

Clarifying a talk he gave late last month, Rabbi Hershal Schachter writes:

…Even if one is guilty of a crime and deserves a punishment according to the laws of the land, but due to anti-semetic attitudes he will probably suffer more than if he were a non-Jew; or, the (state) prison conditions are such that he will suffer at the hands of the other inmates (or at the hands of the guards) in a manner that is not proscribed by law, then turning the offender in would constitute mesirah, since his added suffering will be shelo kadin. However, mesirah is permitted in situations where one is a public menace (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat 388, 59), or if one is physically or psychologically harming another individual (for example, in instances of sexual abuse of children, students, campers etc., or spousal abuse) (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat 345, s’if kattan 45).

The Jewish community does not have the ability to investigate these types of cases. Wherever there are raglayim ladavar that there seems to be a problem, the proper government agencies should be contacted to investigate.…

Still, Rabbi Schachter hedges his bets. The key word in the above quote is "permitted." It is "permitted" for one to turn an abuser over to police – "permitted" but not required. The decision on whether to go to the police still rests, as Rabbi Schachter makes clear, with rabbis themselves:

Just as in other areas of halachah, one should consult a competent moreh horaah [rabbi] when faced with such a shayla. Just because one is knowledgeable in Yoreh Deah vol. I or one delivers a good pilpul shiur on sugyos in Nashim or Nezikin, it does not necessarily follow that that individual will be qualified to pasken on hilchos mesirah – lehakel or lehachmir.

What Rabbi Schachter knows is that many of the rabbis who told victims of rabbinic abuse to remain silent and not go to the police or the press are, technically at least, "qualified to pasken on hilchos mesirah." Many, like Rabbi Elya Svei, were poskim, gedolim and roshei yeshiva. A haredi victim in Williamsburgh or Boro Park will be told to remain silent, no matter how "qualified" the rabbi asked, as will victims in Jerusalem, Bnai Brak, Manchester, Antwerp, Kiryas Yoel, Monroe, Monsey, and dozens of other haredi communities.

The rabbis have failed. That system cannot protect its children. One can read Rabbi Schachter’s remarks and understand he realizes this.

[Hat Tip: JWB.]

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2 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, Mikva Abuse

2 responses to “Rabbi Schachter On Mesira and Child Abuse

  1. yehud

    “Wherever there are raglayim ladavar that there seems to be a problem, the proper government agencies SHOULD be contacted to investigate.…”

    i think “should” is the key word here. He is saying going to the authorities is the right thing to do. Saying “the rabbis have failed” is a complete overgeneraliztion. A small number of rabbis have been very wrong on this issue, not all of them.

  2. Baal Hamikhtam

    “i think “should” is the key word here.”

    yes, a very hesitant should.
    how sad. and this is from the torah+mada man.
    what a shame that most (should I say all?) of our rabbanim have their priorities totally messed up.
    they would be ferociously assertive if the topic was qemach yashan.
    here he is (R’HS) starting the reasoning on how nasty the police or the prisonners could be (antisemitic and what not!). having established this, “oh! yes,-he seems to be saying- the kids mmmmm may be we should, don’t you think we should turn the creeps over? hmmmmm, i don’t know, did you read the beginning? hmmmm anti semites?! moisser? mmmmmm I say turn them over to deen thoyreh where they can do tshuva.
    never forget attenuating circumstances. the guy is FFB his embarassement is adequate punishment. don’t you think?
    i think if we move him to another school, he will stop, don’t you think?”
    what a shame!
    on this the navi said:
    וַיְקַו לְמִשְׁפָּט וְהִנֵּה מִשְׂפָּח, לִצְדָקָה וְהִנֵּה צְעָקָה. {פ}

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