The RCA fails to protect our children – month 8
This now marks the eighth month since I began contacting Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Council of America by phone and email. I asked Rabbi Dratch to address the numerous areas in which I believe that the RCA has done little or nothing to protect Jewish children from the rampant sexual abuse found in Orthodox communities throughout the world.
The RCA is the world’s largest rabbinical organization with over 1,000 members who are rabbis in 18 countries. The RCA has close ties to the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, the Beth Din of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
Thousands of parents assume that their rabbis are doing everything necessary to make our summer camps, synagogues, Jewish schools, yeshivas and mikvas safe for our children. They couldn’t be more mistaken.
When I first discussed Orthodox child sexual abuse with Rabbi Dratch 8 months ago, he told me that this was an issue that is close to his heart. I asked him to take the following 3 steps that would greatly help to protect Orthodox children from sexual abuse:
- I asked him to implement and enforce the 4 separate sets of child safety resolutions that the RCA has adopted over the last 23 years. I don’t know of a single rabbi or Orthodox institution that has implemented or enforced these resolutions.
- I asked him to publicize a database of Orthodox child molesters. He told me that exposing convicted molesters was a “no-brainer”, but the RCA has yet to do it.
- I asked him to require all RCA rabbis to publicly commit to banning convicted child molesters from Orthodox synagogues.
Rabbi Dratch told me that he would not commit to implementing any of these child safety provisions. It is beyond comprehension that the RCA will not commit to expelling convicted Orthodox child molesters from our synagogues, where these predators have easy access to our children in spaces that we incorrectly assume are “safe”.
When I tried to follow up with Rabbi Dratch several weeks later, I left 2 phone messages with his secretary who told me that he was busy but that he would call me back soon. He never did.
In the last few months, I have published several open letters asking Rabbi Dratch and the RCA once again to take important steps to protect our children from sexual abuse (First letter, Second letter). Rabbi Dratch wrote a 13-word response that the RCA is working “assiduously” on the issue. He offered no specifics on what that meant or what, if anything, the RCA was doing to protect our children.
I think you can see how I might reach the conclusion that the RCA is not interested in taking necessary action to protect our children from sexual abuse.
I would like you to read an excerpt from an article published by a prominent Orthodox rabbi 10 years ago. He is one of the few rabbis willing to publicly criticize his rabbinical colleagues for their failure to protect Orthodox children or support victims of child sexual abuse.
Please read the following excerpts carefully. As you read it, think about whether this rabbi might be referring to the RCA.
“Although we are instructed to “expose hypocrites to prevent the desecration of the Name” (Talmud Yoma 86b), many have advocated cover-ups of scandals in which Jews are involved because of concerns of hillul Hashem. However, this concern about protecting the reputation of God and the Jewish people by repressing public discussion of behaviors and actions that may be deemed a “shonda”, scandalous and disreputable, may in fact itself be a hillul Hashem.
First, as we have seen above, unethical behavior in and of itself is a desecration of God’s Name. It is the abuser and not the abused that has committed hillul Hashem. And it is those who cover up and silence victims, not those who seek justice and the protection of innocent victims that desecrate God’s Name.
Many victims of abuse are exploited first by their Jewish perpetrators and then are betrayed by the reaction of the family and community they thought would help them, nurture them and find them justice. In many cases, these victims lose faith in themselves, in the community and in God. Those who do not reject their Judaism find strength in their faith, despite all that has been done to them.
But in many cases victims are disillusioned by the institutions and leaders they thought they could trust. Too many of them abandon mitzvah observance and their connections to the Jewish community are weakened. This is the real hillul Hashem!
Furthermore, there are many who are afraid to speak because of the damage it might do to their reputations, the acceptance of their families in their communities or the ability of their children or siblings to find appropriate marriage partners. This is the shonda.
If the values of our community demand cover-up and silence because of “what the neighbors might say”, then those values which prevent victims from seeking help and innocents from being protected from assault need to change.
What are the priorities of our community? These victims are innocent. They did nothing. And they should not have to pay the price and carry the burden of a community that would like to see itself in ways other than it is. If anything, victims and their advocates who do speak out should be admired for their courage in facing up to and overcoming adversity.
In our day, the greater shonda occurs not when abuse is revealed, but when it is systematically covered-up by Jewish leaders and communities.”
So, do you know who the prominent rabbi was who wrote this essay forcefully and publicly criticizing his rabbinical colleagues for their failure to protect our kids from sexual abuse?
It was Rabbi Mark Dratch.
He wrote it 10 years ago on his now-closed JSafe.org website. But that was a long time ago, before he became the executive vice-president of the largest Orthodox rabbinical organization in the world.