It has been a shandah to speak about a shandah in the Orthodox communities. But now, it is increasingly becoming a shandah not to speak about the shandah of sexual abuse, as outrage is now directed at rabbis and community leaders who cover up and protect sexual predators.
The internet, much feared in insular Haredi communities, is becoming an instrument that provides a voice to those who have been silent victims and who have been threatened that their lives, within the confines of utter control, would be destroyed by breaking the silence.
As allegations of sexual abuse rise, from Manhattan to Jerusalem, Michael Lesher has written a book on the topic, “Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Communities.” While the Catholic church years ago had its own sexual abuse scandals, the Orthodox communities are discovering, perhaps at the 11th hour, that they can no longer rely on purely rabbinic authorities to deal with felonies that should best be left to the police and the courts.
Lesher says, “There can be no legitimate role for the rabbinical court in any sex abuse investigation.” While many Orthodox rabbis have turned the tide of opinion and have urged victims to go to the police with such crimes, there is still widespread denial, threats against those who complain and even fundraisers held to keep high profile perpetrators out of jail.
Hopefully the book will address in a comprehensive way the conflict many Orthodox Jews feel over this issue, and bring validity to victims and healing to communities.