The JTA reports:
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has no written conduct guidelines applying specifically to its estimated 4,000 global emissaries, known as shluchim, or its approximately 3,000 multi-use facilities that double as synagogues and are usually referred to as Chabad Houses.
However, many Chabad Houses have adopted behavioral policies originally formulated for the movement´s schools, according to movement spokesman Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin.
In addition, according to Shmotkin, shluchim must strictly abide by the Shulchan Aruch, the 16th-century code of Jewish law that prohibits non-married or unrelated adults of the opposite sex from being secluded with each other.
On the school front
Some of the denominational policies examined by JTA are designed to guard against situations that could result in inappropriate contact with minors, regardless of their sex. They mandate, for example, that at least two adults be present when a child is receiving private religious instruction.
A non-seclusion requirement is among many anti-abuse provisions included in mandatory school behavioral policies adopted by Chabad about five years ago. The policies cover approximately 2,000 personnel at some 350 Chabad schools attended by about 24,000 students.
The policies also instruct school officials to consult two recognized rabbinic authorities — one Chabad-affiliated and one not — regarding the centuries-old Jewish legal injunction known as mesirah, which in some instances prohibits Jews from reporting Jewish perpetrators to non-Jewish authorities.
Mesirah has been blamed for the reticence of some Orthodox sex abuse victims to go public with their complaints. In a spring 2004 article in the anti-abuse publication Working Together, [Rabbi Mark] Dratch of JSafe said that in cases of child sex abuse, "the consensus of contemporary Jewish religious authorities is that such reporting is religiously mandatory."
Now, compare this to Torah Umesorah, the Aguda-afilliated haredi day school-yeshiva movement:
Three years ago, several safeguards were adopted by Torah Umesorah-The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, a service organization — the largest of its kind in the United States — that provides religious educational materials for nearly 200,000 Orthodox students spanning that denomination´s ideological spectrum.
The Torah Umesorah guidelines, which were presented to school principals, warn teachers and other staffers to refrain from sexually immodest behavior or speech and from inappropriate touching. They also prohibit school personnel from being secluded with students.
But the guidelines are nonbinding because each of the hundreds of schools served by Torah Umesorah are self-governing.
"We´re a service agency, not a governing agency," Rabbi Joshua Fishman, the organization´s executive vice president, told JTA.
Elliot Pasik, a New York attorney and children´s rights advocate, said the way in which the guidelines were distributed calls into question Torah Umesorah´s commitment to protecting students from sexually predatory teachers and other staffers.
The guidelines were accompanied by a Sept. 24, 2003, cover letter signed by Fishman that said in part: "This document should be maintained with a sense of confidentiality. It should only be shared with your educational administrative and teaching staff."
Perhaps as a result of that directive, Pasik said few, if any, parents he knows with children attending schools serviced by Torah Umesorah were told about the rules unless they called the Torah Umesorah national office in Manhattan. Pasik´s children have attended yeshivas affiliated with Torah Umesorah.
Furthermore, he added, "I have personally spoken with several teachers and they knew nothing about these guidelines."
Asked to respond, Fishman declined comment, except to say, "We believe that molesters should be reported."
Pasik said the situation shows the need for a centralized governing body — perhaps a state or federal agency — that can hold schools accountable for the safety of students.
"It´s hard for people in any organization to govern themselves," he said. "We´re not being patrolled or governed by anybody."
Chabad has the better policy and the stronger enforcement. And who is closely aligned with Torah Umesorah? Why, Marvin Schick, the self-appointed day school expert and blowhard. Schick is a big fan of not going to the police.