"D.A. [Charles] Hynes told Dovid Zwiebel [Agudah’s executive vice president] that it was a mistake to advise someone with information about child abuse to first speak with a rabbi. Zwiebel … risks having the rabbi prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement investigation.”
The Jewish Week has a new article by Hella Winston in which the office of Brooklyn's D.A. Charles Hynes says that Agudah rabbis who insist on vetting child sexual abuse allegations and determining whether or not they can be reported to police, the D.A. or the Administration of Child Services could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice.
Here are a few quotes from the article:
Hynes’ spokesperson Jerry Schmetterer: “DA Hynes told Dovid Zwiebel [Agudah’s executive vice president] that it was a mistake to advise someone with information about child abuse to first speak with a rabbi. Zwiebel … risks having the rabbi prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement investigation.”
The Jewish Week asked Schmetterer to clarify what someone should do if he or she had information about allegations about abuse. Schmetterer responded that the person should “report [the allegations] to authorities for investigation.”
James A. Cohen, associate professor of law and the director of the Trial Advocacy Program & External Affairs at Fordham University School of Law: “Encouraging delay in reporting a crime, particularly a crime against a child, is obstructing justice.”
Michael Lesher, attorney and anti-abuse activist: “Under federal law, it is a crime to use the threat of force to interfere with someone’s right to the benefits of state law, including the criminal justice system, if you make that threat because of the victim’s religion. By invoking the language of mesirah — a religious offense that authorizes the use of deadly force against any Jew who ‘informs’ to the authorities — Agudah’s stated policy amounts to a deliberate call for the use of force to stop a Jew, because he or she is a Jew, from going to police against a rabbi’s instructions.…[this] could make Agudah complicit in a civil rights crime any time an Orthodox Jew gets a threat for talking to the police when a rabbi told him not to.” It’s an “appalling step for any Jewish organization to take.”
Agudath Israel of America’s Executive VP Rabbi David Zwiebel: The “threshold standard for reporting according to [rabbinic responsa] is similar, if not identical, to the requirement of NY law that a mandated reporter have ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ before reporting.”
Zwiebel is referring to raglayim l’davar, a halakhic term that means that the matter is more than just a simple suspicion or rumor. Zwiebel told the Forward Monday that even legally mandated reporters must consult a rabbi before reporting child sexual abuse.
But that isn’t what the law says.
Dr. Michael Salamon, an author and psychologist with expertise in treating victims of sexual abuse: “Mandated reporters are not required to determine whether or not an actual act of abuse has occurred, just that there is a suspicion. Professionals are trained to look for cues but even in the absence of specific indicators the law is clear — any suspicion triggers the mandate to report.”