Monday, November 16, 2009

David Zwiebel on Child Abuse

Perhaps the most mind-boggling comment ever uttered about child abuse in the Ultra-Orthodox community belongs to David Zwiebel, head of Agudah. First the back story:
Of some 700 child sexual abuse cases brought in an average year, few involved members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — about 180,000 followers of Hasidic and other sects who make up the largest such cluster outside Israel. Some years, there were one or two arrests, or none. But in the past year, there have been 26. District Attorney Charles J Hynes has brought charges against a variety of men — yeshiva teachers, rabbis, camp counselors, merchants and relatives of children. Eight have been convicted; 18 await trial.
When asked by the New York Times to comment on this unprecedented spike in prosecutions, David Zwiebel acknowledged what he has long denied and admitted that "many of these issues are beyond the ability of the community to handle internally." Then he delivered the line that will make your mouth fall open in disbelief, and ought to disqualify Zwiebel from holding any position of leadership in the Jewish community. He said:
“The district attorney should be careful not to be seen as making a power grab from rabbinic authority.”
Are we in Saudi Arabia? Exactly what power does Zwiebel believe that rabbis have in cases of child abuse? The power to coddle criminals and conceal their crimes? The power to pretend that "those things don't happen here?" The power to silence accusers? In the most famous case the relevant Rabbi - one Lipa Margolis - protected Kolko the abuser for over twenty years, going so far as to demean and denigrate the children who went to him for help. Is this the rabbinical power Zwiebel worries the D.A might usurp? The power to deny, ignore, minimize and neglect?

When it comes to catching and prosecuting criminals, our rabbis have no power, and no authority. Going after child molesters is the district attorney's job and performing it isn't a "power-grab." Other then serving the victims, the only role for a rabbi is to cooperate with the D.A or to get out of his way.

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