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Kanievsky says go to police over sexual abuse incidents

CM 30/08/2021

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Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the leading rabbi of the Ashkenazi non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox community, has stated that complaints over sexual abuse should be made to the police, in comments which have been released to the public by the rabbi’s advisors.
The comments were made three years ago but have only now been publicly disclosed in a video seen by The Jerusalem Post of the meeting in which the rabbi stated his position. Kanievsky previously stated in 2015 regarding a specific case that a victim could report his abuse to the police, but the new comments refer in general to all incidents of sexual abuse and the video of his ruling was officially approved for release by the rabbi’s advisers.
Kanievsky made his remarks in a meeting with Rabbi Asher Melamed, director of the Israeli Protection Center, which works to prevent sexual abuse in the haredi community and assist the victims of such abuse.
Rav Kanievsky in a meeting Rabbi Asher Melamed, director of the Israeli Protection Center.

In the video, Kanievsky’s grandson Aryeh Kanievsky asks the rabbi, in the presence of Melamed, whether someone should file a police complaint against a suspected sex abuser.
“Go to the police quietly,” Kanievsky said.
Asked if it was possible to ignore legal obligations to report criminal sexual abuse, the rabbi said, “No.”
Israeli law requires that criminal sexual abuse by people in various positions of authority, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, must be reported.
When Kanievsky said “quietly,” Melamed told the Post, he meant the identities of those involved should be protected and all due caution taken to the extreme sensitivities of such issues in the haredi community.
“This is a dramatic development,” Melamed said. “Rabbi Kanievsky, the great Torah scholar of his generation,” is saying clearly and sharply that one must report sex abusers to the police and that sexual abuse is akin to murder of the soul.”
Due to societal sensitivities in the haredi community, there are many obstacles to people reporting sexual abuse, he said.
Prohibitions against using non-religious judicial systems, against speaking badly of others and against desecrating God’s name are all severe impediments within the community to reporting that someone has been sexually abused, Melamed said.
“Here, the great Torah scholar of the generation is saying, ‘There is no moiser [being an informer] when it comes to sexual abuse; go and report it to the police,’” he said. “And, furthermore, he says one cannot ignore the obligation to report sexual abuse. So this is a dramatic step.”
Problems of sexual abuse in the haredi community have become so severe, including extremely high-profile cases with multiple victims such as that of Zaka founder and head Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, that the time was ripe for such comments by the rabbi to be made public, Melamed said.
There is very little dialogue about the issue of sexual abuse in the haredi community due to its highly conservative character. But it appears that Kanievsky and his associates now feel comfortable addressing the problem publicly.
A haredi family walks down the street in the Makor Baruch neighborhood of Jerusalem (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)A haredi family walks down the street in the Makor Baruch neighborhood of Jerusalem (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Shana Aaronson, director of the Magen organization which combats sexual abuse in Israel, said that increasing numbers of ultra-Orthodox rabbis do now recommend that complaints be filed to the police about sex abuse. 
But she added that there is still too much trust placed in alleged sex abusers, who often themselves approach authoritative rabbis and claim that false accusations have been made against them. 
The rabbis, who do not have the capability to properly investigate the claims, often believe the first person who approaches them, often creating problems for victims, Aaronson said.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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