by Mayer Fertig (The Jewish Star)
November 5, 2008
Great progress has been made in recent months toward the goal of waking up the organized Jewish community - the Torah-observant Jewish community, in particular - to the tragedy of child molestation and sexual abuse.
A news broadcast on a Jewish radio program in 1992 or so which contained the name of a molester known to be active in Borough Park at the time drew scandalized, angry telephone calls in complaint. A charedi activist who launched a one-man crusade against molesters once ran for his life from an angry mob of chassidic Jews while on a visit to London. Just a few weeks ago a prominent therapist named to lead a task force on child molestation in the Jewish community withdrew from the post after his children were subjected to snide comments about their own young children's future eligibility for marriage.
While it might seem that not much has changed over time, a closer look paints a very different, very encouraging picture of tangible progress.
The aforementioned task force, the brain child of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, exists. This is a huge step. Someone with a lot to lose, in this case, politically, went out on a limb anyway to do what needs doing. The task force has a new coordinator, an Orthodox professional who is not charedi and who, therefore, may not be subject to quite the same community pressures that did in his predecessor.
A great deal has been written about the tragedy of sexual abuse in recent years. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, whose columns appear in this newspaper, has displayed tremendous courage and leadership in spotlighting threats to the safety of our children.
The Jewish Week deserves credit for launching the public conversation of sexual abuse in the Jewish community with articles several years ago that sent a prominent kiruv professional to jail. More recently it has written about abuse cases in the Satmar community.
A number of stories about abuse have appeared in The Jewish Star recently. A local Rosh HaYeshiva who offers gracious and candid feedback about articles that appear in The Star wondered aloud if such coverage is "really necessary, because people are already talking about" abuse and the lives it destroys.
People are talking about it, it was pointed out, because journalists continue to write about it. True, he agreed.
A major milestone attained this week is Agudath Israel of America's support for a bill to make fingerprinting and background checks mandatory for private institutions. Previously it would only support a voluntary version of the legislation.
A bill to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes has failed to come up for a vote in the New York State Senate three times in recent years. We urge Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to chart a new course and schedule a vote.