"I was 13 years old, attending sleep-away camp at Camp Dora Golding, an all-boys Orthodox camp that some of you still send your sons to. I was befriended by a 28-year-old member of the rabbinic staff. Over the course of a week he sexually abused me repeatedly. When the activity was exposed, I was summoned to the camp director’s office and forced to confront the assailant. Then I was summarily sent home, as if it were I who had committed the crime. The camp never even told my parents why I was being sent home. They were just advised to pick me up at the Greyhound terminal at New York’s Port Authority."
From today's Jewish Week:
My name is David Cheifetz and I am a victim of childhood sex abuse in a Jewish institution.
There. I have said it. After more than 30 years I have shared the dark secret that has haunted my soul.
I was 13 years old, attending sleep-away camp at Camp Dora Golding, an all-boys Orthodox camp that some of you still send your sons to. I was befriended by a 28-year-old member of the rabbinic staff. Over the course of a week he sexually abused me repeatedly. When the activity was exposed, I was summoned to the camp director’s office and forced to confront the assailant. Then I was summarily sent home, as if it were I who had committed the crime. The camp never even told my parents why I was being sent home. They were just advised to pick me up at the Greyhound terminal at New York’s Port Authority.
I do not know if the perpetrator was ever fired; to the best of my knowledge he was never reported to legal authorities. I understand that he went on to a long career in Jewish education, and based on whispers on the Internet, probably continued targeting young Jewish boys within the walls of Jewish educational institutions. [Camp Dora Golding officials did not respond to repeated attempts for comment on the author’s allegations.]
When I arrived home, I was not given a hero’s welcome. I was also not given a victim’s welcome. I was never sent to a psychiatrist or a psychologist or even a pediatrician. The bitter secret was locked away, barely thought of or spoken of over the next 30-plus years. I did once share the incident with my yeshiva high school principal who insisted, “No, Duvid, he could not have been a rabbi. Rabbis never do such things.”…
Cheifetz goes on to discuss the current child sexual abuse crisis in Orthodox and haredi schools and camps, and he suggests a series of steps to end this crisis. Unfortunately, the first of those steps is a very bad idea – establishing a community panel to act as an ombudsman for victims and their families. Except in Cheifetz's view, this independent panel would investigate allegations of child sexual abuse and determine what should be done. Should police be called? Should it be kept in house?
The establishment of an independent ombudsman sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community, with programs in every major educational institution. Too many rabbis have been hesitant to advise victims and their families to report abuses to the police, to social service agencies, or to the local district attorney. Or they have been outright complicit in cover-ups. So a central, independently funded ombudsman program (preferably funded by a foundation, and not reliant on the financial pressures of communal mood swings) must exist for victims and their families. The ombudsman will work with legal authorities and social service agencies and the schools to investigate all credible allegations and use its voice and power to pursue and bring pedophiles and their supporters to justice.
In case you're a bit confused by Cheifitz's language, what he's saying is this "ombudsman" will work with the schools – i.e., the rabbis – to determine what allegations are credible, and then will 'help' police or family services investigate.
And this is what is so sad.
No such panel no matter how independent has ever worked, and wherever panels like this exist, child sexual abuse is covered up, pedophiles are not reported to police and often are allowed to move to a new community and start abusing there.
Look at Modern Orthodoxy's Takana Forum in Israel, which – despite being well-intentioned and honestly run – is a total failure. Look anywhere else in Orthodoxy, modern or haredi, and all such panels, special beit dins, rabbis who say they are advocates for victims, etc., are total failures. They are all corrupt, and they are all very good at condemning child sexual abuse committed by people designated as Others, but very bad about dealing with child sexual abuse when the pedophile is much closer to (the group's spiritual or political) home.
You want to stop child sexual abuse? Call police. Your rabbi can't help you. Your rabbi's designated "independent" replacement can't help you. And the rabbi in the next town or the big rabbi out of town also can't help. But all of them can and almost certainly will hurt.
And worst of all, none of them will be able to help the next victims of your abuser, either.
So you need to try to do your legal best make sure there are no next victims. And the way to that is to call police.
This, by the way, is the actual halakha on child sexual abuse. It's what Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was talking about. It's what Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was talking about.
Because, you see, you don't need a ruling from a rabbi to go to police, because even under the backward and idiotic understanding of halakha parroted by Agudath Israel of America or Rabbi Hershel Schachter, you know you were sexually abused. There is no issue of determining raglayim l'davar. And therefore there is no need for a committee or a beit din or a rabbi or Schachter's panel of rabbi-psychologists. And there is no need for Cheifitz's "ombudsman."
You have to do your legal best to prevent your abuser from sexually abusing more kids. That – not the gobbledygook spewed by rabbis who are most often covering for their friends and their yeshivas – is the actual haklakha.