Rabbinical Council of America

Mark Dratch - picture 2 Rabbinical Council of America

Rabbi Mark Dratch – Executive Vice President 212-807-9000

mdratch@rabbis.org

 

 


 

According to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)’s website, it has 1,000 members in 14 countries. The RCA is the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the world. It states that the RCA is an important partner with the Orthodox Union (OU) of which it is the rabbinical authority, Yeshiva University (Y.U.), Beis Din of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, among other partnerships.

Many rabbis who graduate from Y.U. become members of the RCA and lead synagogues affiliated with the OU. It is informative to see how this major and influential Orthodox rabbinical organization deals with Orthodox child sexual abuse.


 

In November 2015, I requested via email that the RCA do three things to protect Orthodox children from sexual abuse. It was sent to RCA Executive Vice President, Rabbi Mark Dratch. I asked him to:

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 child protection rules on its website. It took me half a day 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 the topic when the RCA doesn’t publish any easily searchable protection rules?

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. I therefore asked Rabbi Dratch to endorse my website which does exactly what the RCA itself will not do. He 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.

 

Rabbi Dratch did not respond to my email. In a follow-up phone call, I was able to reach Rabbi Dratch. He would not commit to fulfilling any of the above requests. Several weeks later, I placed two more follow-up calls to him to discuss the importance of protecting Orthodox children from sexual abuse. On both occasions, his secretary promised me that he would call me back. He never did.


 

“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”

It was well known at least 23 years ago at the highest level of Orthodox rabbinic leadership that child sexual abuse was a serious problem. Rabbis and Orthodox officials frequently excuse their failure to protect children from sexual abuse that occurred years ago on the ridiculous claim that they didn’t know that there was a problem then. This RCA resolution proves that this argument is patently false. Rabbis and Orthodox officials knew decades ago that they had a terrible situation of child sexual abuse, and yet they did little to stop it.

Incredibly, 23 years after this child protection resolution was adopted by the largest rabbinical organization in the world, there is still not:

  • A single rabbi or Orthodox institution 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 this 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, molesting and drugging Orthodox children in Jewish communities throughout the world. The RCA has only commented on 3 of these cases.

On its website, the RCA does not condemn by name the rabbis (some of whom are RCA rabbis) who cover up and protect Orthodox child rapists and molesters. There is no public warning to parents, schools, yeshivas and synagogues about the hundreds of convicted Orthodox child sex predators who live in their communities.


 

“Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the RCA, stated, “Weberman’s conviction is validation of our commitment to work with law enforcement to protect the innocent victims of our community and to hold their perpetrators accountable.”

Commenting on the Rabbi Nechemya Weberman conviction – from the RCA website – 12-10-12.

Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was a prominent Satmar Hasid who was sentenced to over 50 years in jail for sexually abusing a 12 year-old Satmar girl for three years. The Satmar community has little or nothing to do with Modern Orthodox Jews which includes the RCA. On what basis does Rabbi Goldin claim that Weberman’s conviction is a validation of the RCA’s commitment to work with law enforcement?

Did the RCA actually provide law enforcement any assistance in this case? Did the RCA do anything to protect the girl? Did they pay for her therapy? Did they provide any financial assistance to the girl’s father whose business was destroyed by Weberman’s followers? Did the RCA support her husband whose kosher restaurant was vandalized and then financially ruined when the rabbinic supporters of Weberman withdrew their kosher certification from his facility?

The RCA has not condemned the 1,000 people who attended a fundraiser for Weberman’s legal defense. They have not condemned the community members who publicly called the rape victim a whore. The RCA did not condemn the 4 men convicted of witness tampering by trying to bribe the girl’s husband with $500,000 to flee to Israel so the victim couldn’t testify against Weberman. The RCA did not condemn the Orthodox community who has viciously attacked the girl and her family for the girl’s brave efforts to successfully put a dangerous child sex predator in jail.


 

“The RCA expresses its pride and respect for the courage of the now 16-year-old victim of Yosef Kolko, the confessed perpetrator of sexual abuse who was sentenced yesterday to almost thirteen years imprisonment.”

Rabbi Yosef Kolko conviction – From the RCA website – Oct. 18, 2013

The RCA didn’t condemn one of the Orthodox Union’s (the RCA is the rabbinic arm of the Orthodox Union) top rabbinic authorities, Rabbi Yisrael Belsky. Belsky publicly declared in writing before Kolko’s conviction that Kolko was completely innocent. Belsky, in that same letter, astonishingly and falsely asserted that the boy’s father is actually the one who molested his son. Even after Kolko admitted in court that he molested the boy and Kolko was sentenced to 13 years in jail, the RCA states regarding Belsky that “he deeply believes in Kolko’s innocence.” The RCA calls Belsky a “distinguished scholar”.

The OU was blasted in The Jewish Week on 8-23-13 by Rabbi Heshie Billet, himself a former RCA president, for the OU’s refusal to fire Belsky for his outrageous accusations.

“In the U.S., parents of a boy in Lakewood, NJ pressed charges of sexual molestation against Rabbi Yosef Kolko. Rabbi Yisrael Belsky, the Orthodox Union’s halachic authority for kashrut, publicly accused those parents of “mesirah,” the crime of turning a Jew over to secular authorities. As a result, the complainants were driven out of Lakewood. A few months ago Rabbi Kolko confessed to his crimes. Nevertheless, Rabbi Belsky continues to condemn the complainants as “mosrim.” His position is contrary to the OU’s position and that of its rabbinic arm, the Rabbinical Council of America, that child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky. It is time that the OU publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU. Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities.

But the fact that communal leaders in these two cases are protecting and enabling abusers, or condemning legitimate accusers, underscores that our community still has a long way to go. And given the high stakes of life and death and mental health of our children, we can’t afford to wait.  Things will only change if our community loudly and articulately demands it.”

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