A Response On The Matter Of Child Abuse By Rabanit Yehudit Yosef [Translated]

Muting the cruel attacks / Rabanit Yehudit Yosef

Subtitle: A tsunami of tears from an anonymous mother; about whom the rabbi and teacher (Rav Ovadia Yosef) said (quoting the Mishna in Nezikin/Baba Kama/Chapter 4/Verse 9)  “there is no guard but a knife”; and also, silencing mechanisms continue to claim victims

Description: The weekly opinion column of Rabanit Yehudit Yosef, the 

Date: Dec. 9, 2016

Source (original Hebrew): http://www.kikar.co.il/216261.html

Since the death of Maran (the Rav and teacher, Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l), many questions have come to me, almost every day, about the customs of his home on various issues. (And) in the three years that have passed, many books have appeared that show his conduct and way of life. Some of them suffer “only” from a lack of precision. Others are exaggerated inventions and facts without basis, proving the fertility of the Oriental imagination.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call about a subject that we almost never talk about in these parts (among ourselves). But with the proliferation of cases lately, it seems that it is time to break the deafening silence and cry out, if only slightly, the silent cry of the children around us. Who knows? Perhaps it will be this that will prevent the next instance of it happening in the future.

There is no doubt that this is the nightmare of every parent. At the heart of every mother, who sends her young children alone to school or to the local neighborhood store, nibbling quietly, is a fear from the danger that lurks specifically within their neighborhood.

Any reasonable person understands that we are talking about a ticking bomb, that collects victims and takes casualties at an alarming rate.

Only in recent days has there been publicized, one after another, stories of cases that are appalling to all.

We do not presume to rule on the law, G-d forbid, but sometimes it seems that stories like these have become a kind of routine. This time a neighbor, this time a smiling man from the synagogue, this time an educator, this time a dignified rabbi. Everyone looks completely normal, amiable and harmless. But in their heads they are hiding a monster. In one moment of sick madness, they mercilessly slaughter pure souls.

Among us (meaning the rabbis who hear about such attacks), every such “happening” adds to a loud moan of (collective) despair. But for the victims and their families, it is an abyss of suffering, scars and bleeding wounds that will will have an effect until their dying day.

When this anonymous mother called me, and gently asked, “How did the Maran (zt”l) teach us to handle such an attack, that happened at a school?” I did not expect the tsunami of tears that flooded from her eyes for the next few minutes. She did not share the details, but she did teach me the terrible consequences of silencing and concealment.

Of course this is a complex and difficult subject, and the adjudication of it is entrusted to the traditions of the rabbis. When they brought such cases to the Maran’s desk, he would first ask them to consult with a local rabbi, with an emphasis on that person being qualified and responsible. That person would investigate thoroughly, with determination and sensitivity to the accuracy of the detail, and give his opinion on how to act.

Indeed, you cannot generalize, and understanding each case depends on knowing many details. In certain very specific cases, Maran decided that rigorous, professional care from within the community may be a more effective way of handling it, if there were the tools and the necessary guarantees to prevent a future incident.

But with many stories that were presented to him, the Maran cried out from the depths of his heart: "What's the question? It is forbidden to ignore this!" And he instructed the requestor to contact the legal authorities. 

“There isn’t a single prohibition (associated with contacting law enforcement),” he would say, “this is a great mitzvah!” And he would use the Talmudic phrase, “When a bull stumbles, there is no protection but a knife!”

Sometimes it seems that attackers simply take advantage of the values ​​of Judaism to continue dastardly deeds. 

As people reared within our community, they are familiar with the mark of Cain that is branded on the forehead of a “Moser” (tattletale). And they believe that the mercifulness which pulsates in our community will prevent us from going to extreme lengths (to stop them).

Specifically because of this, the sword (power) of the rabbis or of law enforcement, which may serve as a deterrent to a future “killer,” he needs to find a way to take care of himself, before he finds himself condemned to the pillory. So why do we still choose to remain silent?

Cliche as it sounds, all of us think of gentle and pure children. Children whose biggest worry is their sticker collection or their dolls. G-d forbid, in one moment, to carry on their backs unspeakable worries and strange horrors. (We believe that) a boy or girl who is attacked will never be able to return to a regular, normal life.

So the next time you see someone from “our world” whose innocent blood was spilled, think about *your* children. Think about the parents who have been condemned to a life full of suffering and coping. About the family that is shocked and shattered to pieces.

Self-righteous proclamations such as "He will change", or "We are endangering his children," only lead other children into a bottomless pit.

Are we able to take responsibility on our narrow shoulders? Or will we protect him (the offender) and let him walk around undisturbed, all the way to the next victim?

Thank G-d, in recent years, awareness of this issue has risen dramatically, and the extent of silencing has decreased. But you can still find those that help “bury” terrible stories, just to keep the good name of the community—or worse, the attackers. No less criminal are the self-appointed “therapists” who use a variety of methods of coverup, without the required supervision of rabbis. They are “askanim” (community representatives) without certification.

All of these people will be prosecuted for every drop of blood that bleeds from the hearts of victims and their parents.

One a well-known school principal came to Maran (zt”l), who claimed that we should raise awareness among educators, because they can identify and deal with the problem of the lack of professional tools.

As was his way, the Maran (zt”l) said to immediately go forward and move on this.  

And at the same time he opened up his own book, “Halichos Olam,” (“Laws of the World”) in front of this principal, which was published in those days, which said: “It is the responsibility of the teacher to give his heart to his students, so that they shouldn’t be hurt by men who are not honest. And (as a result of the correct actions of the teacher in this regard) our camp will be holy and pure.” The Maran wrote there that this is “halacha lemaaseh” (a Jewish term meaning “practical application of Jewish law” as opposed to theoretical principle).

Even alongside the duty of an educator, we as parents are not exempt from what is required. Against criminals who walk around freely, educating our children about protecting themselves and coping (with the reality that predators exist) is the right thing to do. This is a matter of “pikuach nefesh” (life and death, where a person’s life is considered to be at risk, necessitating strong action).

It is understood that one is required to consult with professionals in order to know how to speak with a child of any age according to their level of understanding, from an abundance of caution not to introduce excessive fears. But it is on us to know that we did everything in our power!

One of the teachings of the Maran (zt”l) regarding the education of children was the duty to give them the feeling that they can tell and share anything. Our children need to be absolutely sure that in every difficult or sad situation they have someone to run to and tell, without their being reversed into the “guilty” party, a candidate for punishment.

For this reason, the Maran (zt”l) (also) strongly warned of the damage of punishing children more than they deserved. Instead of making them closer to us, this creates walls of revulsion and detachment. Each child looks to his parents for protection and sanity. But the moment of truth, at every stage of life’s contests, we are not there for him.

To know of professionals, this is the first and basic step, from a series of steps that we have to undertake as responsible parents. A child who lives with the clear feeling that he will be embraced and loved if someone ever threatens, hits or abuses him, is able to save himself and his environment (e.g. to continue to function) if it should actually happen, G-d forbid.

And above all, honest and sincere prayer, from a mother who worries (for her child) and cries (when they get hurt, G-d forbid) will never be rejected.


All responsibility for this translation is my own and any errors are my own as well.