Letter to Rabbi Mark Dratch of the Rabbinical Council of America
An open letter to Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America from Eric Aiken
Dear Rabbi Dratch,
I write this letter to you out of great concern for what I perceive to be a lack of any meaningful action on the part of the RCA to protect Orthodox children from the plague of sexual abuse. The RCA is the largest Orthodox rabbinical organization in the world with over 1,000 members in 18 countries. It has close ties to Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union, the Beis Din of America, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Conference of European Rabbis.
With the RCA’s enormous power and influence comes a concomitant responsibility to protect Orthodox children and support the survivors of sexual abuse in ways that have never been done before.
I tried to address this issue with you when I drafted an email that was sent to you in November of 2015. In it, I asked you to consider doing 3 specific things to protect Orthodox kids. Unfortunately, you would not commit to doing any of them.
1) Implement and enforce the 4 separate sets of child protection resolutions that the RCA has adopted over the last 23 years.
I am not aware of a single rabbi or Orthodox institution that has implemented these important child safety procedures.
The RCA doesn’t even have a list of its own child protection rules on its website. It took me half a day of reviewing every RCA resolution for the last 50 years just to find these 4 sets of child protection resolutions.
How is an RCA rabbi who wants to protect children from sexual abuse supposed to have any guidance on this topic when the RCA doesn’t even publish a guideline for its members?
2) Endorse my website which publicizes the names of hundreds of Orthodox child molesters.
Three years ago, the RCA called for using a sex offender registry to identify child sex predators. To date, as far as I am aware, the RCA has not done anything to establish such a registry. You told me that exposing convicted child molesters is a “no-brainer”, yet the RCA will not publish such a database nor will they endorse mine.
3) Require all RCA rabbis to publicly pledge to ban anyone convicted of a child sex crime from attending their synagogues.
It is beyond comprehension that rabbis allow known and convicted child molesters to frequent synagogues and attend Jewish communal activities where children are present. There can no longer be any tolerance for such reckless and irresponsible behavior from our religious leaders.
These are serious issues that I believe that the RCA is not adequately addressing.
Moreover, the RCA has adopted the following important resolutions which I believe are largely ignored by many RCA members and Orthodox institutions, especially Yeshiva University:
“Schools, synagogues and youth organizations to adopt policies which mandate the dismissal of abusive teachers and child care workers from their positions, and the notification of future potential employers of the circumstances of their dismissal.”
Excerpt from the RCA resolution (6-1-1993) titled “Physical and sexual abuse of children.”
Incredibly, 23 years after this child protection resolution was adopted by the largest Orthodox rabbinical organization in the world, there is still not:
- A single rabbi or Orthodox institution that I am aware of that will publicize the names of known Orthodox child molesters and rapists even though hundreds of these child sex predators’ identities are a matter of public record.
- A system in place to notify future potential employers of the identity of known Orthodox child molesters and rapists.
“The RCA will regularly issue on its website and to the media appropriate statements of condemnation when public attention is drawn to a case in which Jews are either victims or perpetrators of abuse.”
RCA resolution 4-27-10
I have on my website close to 250 publicly disclosed arrests and/or convictions of Orthodox Jews and rabbis for child sex crimes. They have been variously convicted of raping, sodomizing, beating, starving, burning, abusing and drugging Orthodox children in Jewish communities throughout the world. The RCA has only commented on 3 of these cases and those cases are from Orthodox factions that have little to do with the RCA community.
On its website, the RCA does not condemn by name the rabbis who cover up and protect Orthodox child rapists and molesters. There is no public warning to parents, employers, schools, yeshivas, summer camps and synagogues about the hundreds of Orthodox child sex predators who live in their communities.
Throw abusive rabbis out of the rabbinate!
Rabbi Dratch, 10 years ago you ran jsafe.org (now defunct), in which you were a staunch advocate for the protection of Jewish children from sexual abuse. You wrote dozens of meticulously-sourced, scholarly articles arguing for instituting many reforms needed to protect Jewish children from sexual abuse.
On July 24, 2006 you call for defrocking and excommunicating abusive rabbis.
You begin your article by writing:
“There are rabbis who should not be rabbis.”
Later you write:
“The Code of Jewish Law goes a step further and records that a scholar, who is rumored to be involved in heresy or immoral behavior, such that he causes a desecration of God’s Name, is to be excommunicated. Such a person certainly is no longer considered a rabbi.”
However, there are at least 150 rabbis who are known to have committed either sex crimes against children or to have violated the wives of their congregants, yet they have not been excommunicated and they still retain the honorable title of rabbi.
Even the Catholic Church, with its deplorable many decades-long history of protecting pedophile priests, nevertheless is willing to defrock them. In a recent 10-year period, the Catholic Church has defrocked nearly 900 pedophile priests and censured another 2,500 of them.
Rabbi Barry Freundel is the former head of the RCA’s conversion committee. He is currently serving a 6 ½ year jail sentence after being caught over the course of several years secretly video-recording 150 women undressing as they entered the mikva.
I can’t think of a rabbi who has traumatized more women, caused more of them to refuse to go to the mikva or to abandon Judaism than Freundel. Yet as far as I know, he has not been excommunicated and is still a rabbi.
The Child Victim’s Act
As you may be aware, for the 5th time in a decade, the New York legislature will consider eliminating their disgraceful statute of limitations for child sex crimes. This would allow child rapists and sex predators to be prosecuted for their monstrous crimes against children. The first 4 times this legislation was brought up, the bill was defeated by the holy clergy of the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel of America.
Rabbi Dratch, where exactly do you and the RCA stand on this issue? We need to hear from you loudly and publicly if you support the Catholic Church’s relentless efforts to prevent child molesters from being prosecuted or if you stand with defenseless Jewish children instead.
Will you urge your 1,000-member rabbis to sign the Change.org petition to stop Agudath Israel from trying to defeat the Child Victim’s Act yet again? Will you urge your members to email the petition to all of their congregants and sign it? Will you lobby New York legislators to pass the Child Victim’s Act?
Or will you and the RCA do nothing and remain silent?
To prevent the incessant child sexual abuse in Orthodox communities worldwide, we need leaders who lead. We need action. We need rabbis who will stop at nothing to protect our vulnerable children.
What we don’t need any more is the abandonment and silencing of abuse survivors, the protection of molesters, the denial that we have a problem, the toothless resolutions or the righteous-sounding press releases.
To quote the last line of your essay titled “Few Are Guilty, but All Are Responsible: The Obligations to Help Survivors of Abuse” of January 10, 2007:
“The time for foolishness is over. All are responsible.”
Yes they are, Rabbi Dratch.
Eric Aiken is an advocate for Orthodox victims of child sexual abuse and the owner of www.protectjewishkids.com