More than 100 prominent haredi rabbis and educators from across the US have signed a public declaration stating that it is an obligation of Jewish law on all Jews to immediately notify law enforcement officials when a reasonable suspicion of child abuse exists.
The declaration was described as “an historic watershed” for its broad-based support from a large number of haredi rabbis from major Jewish communities in the US.
The letter addresses the need to prevent and eradicate the epidemic of child abuse adversely affecting the Jewish community.
“We, the undersigned, affirm that any individual with firsthand knowledge or reasonable basis to suspect child abuse has a religious obligation to promptly notify the secular law enforcement of that information,” the declaration reads.
“These individuals have the experience, expertise and training to thoroughly and responsibly investigate the matter. Furthermore, those deemed ‘mandated reporters’ under secular law must obey their state’s reporting requirements.”
The rabbis said in their declaration that “lives can be ruined or ended by unreported child abuse, as we are too often tragically reminded” and cited the biblical injunction “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed,” as the basis for reporting suspected cases of abuse.
Among the signatories are Rabbi Nota Greenblatt, the head of the rabbinical court in Mephis, Tennessee, Rabbi Dov Aharon Brisman, head of the rabbinical court in Philadelphia, Rabbi Peretz Steinberg, co-chairman of the rabbinical court of the Agudath Yisrael organization, and Rabbi Yechiel Perr, dean of the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson Rabbinical Seminary.
“People stand by and do nothing, because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business. But it is,” said Perr. “The Torah has made it everyone’s business when a Jew is being harmed.”
A statement to the media on the rabbinic declaration cited the recent conviction of a child molester from the haredi community in the UK, Todros Grynhaus, who was convicted in July this year of six counts of indecent assault and one count of sexual assault against girls between 13 and 16.
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, chief rabbi of Gateshead, England, testified against Grynhaus, the son of a prominent rabbinic judge in the UK, which helped lead to Grynhaus’s conviction and sentencing to 13 years in prison.
In a recent lecture, Zimmerman proclaimed, “We have to educate ourselves to understand the pain of these children… It’s time that we say ‘Enough!’ It’s time to end the silence.”