It could be that it’s a better-kept secret. For some reason, most associate clergy sex abuse with stories about priests. However, the truth is that accusations about child sex abuse know no religious bounds. The claims are a reality involving many faith leaders – including rabbis in various Jewish communities.
Meanwhile, there’s a reason you may not hear a whole lot about sexual abuse involving rabbis. Often referred to as the ultra-Orthodox, Hasidic Jews are the most insulated. You know that phrase that “what happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas?” Take out the word Vegas and replace it with the Hasidic community, and you’ll somewhat understand the code of silence.
Truth be told, the ultra-Orthodox react poorly to sex abuse victims reporting the deviant conduct to anyone outside their own community. Allegations can result in shunning against the families that dare to make official police reports. Rabbis, as spiritual leaders are held in particularly high esteem. Nothing could be more taboo than bringing charges against them – even if they are true.
Clergy Sex Abuse in the Jewish Faith
Some make the argument that priests molest youngsters because of forced celibacy. No doubt this is questionable and does not apply to rabbis, as they are permitted to marry.
A select few suggest that the Jewish religion is one of sexual repression. Lust between men and women is discouraged. In fact, some point out that the Torah even provides guidelines regarding family purity. Once again, it is doubtful that this accounts for the reason some rabbis become sexual predators.
The problem is overwhelming on an international level. A few years ago, the United Kingdom’s chief rabbi lectured a group on the epidemic of child abuse in the Jewish community. The number of sexual abuse victims was well into the hundreds of thousands over a two year period. Not all of the perpetrators were religious leaders. However, rabbis were discouraging the abused from making reports – calling it contrary to Jewish law.
Meanwhile, there have been claims against rabbis for sexual abuse. Just recently, Rabbi Barry Freundel was released from jail on good behavior. He earned the title of the Mikvah-peeper as he watched and filmed women using the synagogue’s mikvah.
Then, there are the stories of boys and girls actually molested by rabbis. One rabbi maintained that he had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. A child cannot give consent – it was a man of power raping a youngster.
A Lifetime of Sorrow
In the grand scheme of things, rabbis hold a position of honor and reverence. After all, God has chosen them to lead the congregation. It is, therefore, a matter of confusion when a child reports sexual abuse to a parent.
First instinct may be to personally assault the rabbi – despite his stature in the community. Such was the case for Marc. When his 6-year-old son reported that their rabbi fondled him during Hebrew lessons, Marc was ready to attack the supposed man of God physically.
Instead of immediately reporting the matter to the police, Marc decided to keep it in the community. Nothing was done – no admonishment – no apology. Indeed, it was as if others felt he should be somewhat honored that his son was chosen for such an un-Godly act.
Marc wrestled with the idea of doing nothing. However, he watched his little one cry day after day. The son was resistant to a single hug. He did not want to be alone. Perhaps the worst came when Marc witnessed his son start to fondle his baby brother.
Knowing this was all unacceptable, Marc reported the incident to the local authorities. He sought counseling for his son, but still worries about the long-term effects promulgated by his rabbi’s sexual abuse.
Notably, once word got out that Marc made the report, several community members refused to speak with him. He received threatening calls and emails. Neighbors passed him on the street and ignored him.
Despite the shunning, Marc has no regrets. He did what needed to be done for his young boy. His biggest hope was to stop the rabbi from hurting another child. Marc also decided to pursue a civil case to obtain monetary damages for the harm done to his son.
If you or a loved one has been abused by a rabbi, you may be concerned about revealing the details. At the Fellerman & Ciarimboli law firm, we are well aware of the sensitive nature of these types of claims. Our attorneys are compassionate and understanding. We are here to provide you with the information you need regarding the pursuit of a lawsuit. Give us a call to set up a complimentary meeting.
With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.