Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community
While sexual abuse claims have been rampant among clergy affiliated with the Catholic Church over the past many years, the clergy of all other religions are not immune from these allegations.
The Borough of Brooklyn in New York City hosts one of the largest concentrations of Jews in the United States. On average some 700 child sexual abuse cases are brought each year by the Brooklyn District Attorney. There were some years when only one or two, or even no such cases were brought involving any of the so-called “ultra orthodox” Jews (including the approximately 180,000 Hasidic Jews) in Brooklyn. To what can we attribute this apparent absence of pedophilia among ultra orthodox Jews that exists in the rest of the population? Was there something inherent, or cultural, or educational, that made this community immune from this aberration?
The reality is that historically, this segment of the population keep strict, unrelenting separation of their lives from the secular world around them. Matters are referred to rabbinical courts, rather than to civil courts, and issues that would otherwise become known are maintained within the community itself. Times, however, are changing, at least in terms of this heinous offense. With publicity all around them showing the secular population trying to deal with the issue of pedophilia abuse cases in New York, there are those in this insulated community that believe the ability of their own community to respond appropriately an adequately, both to the perpetrator and to the needs of the victim, is non-existent. The result: community taboos against going to, and relying upon, civil authorities, are being overcome. Nevertheless, the veneration for the rabbis and the “yeshivas” in the community remain potent and nearly inviolable.
For the attorney dealing in these type of highly sensitive cases, it is mandatory to be sensitive to both the emotional needs of the individual client, and as importantly, to helping the client maintain his or her place, and reputation, in their community. The “Shomer Shabbos” or “frum” community is tight knit. It is guided by concepts, rules and strictures that have enabled it to maintain its identity through the most unimaginably difficult times. It is no easy matter to go outside well established boundaries. The New York City personal injury attorneys representing such individuals must do all that they can to work within the restrictions presented, while gaining the relief to which their client is entitled.