Admit There Is A Problem


David Cheifetz, who wrote that he was sexually abused at summer camp and then made to feel he was to blame (“Sharing The Secret That’s Haunted My Soul,” March 29), rightly asks us in the Orthodox community, “How many rabbis have raised their voices to increase awareness or called for fundamental change?” 

I am not the senior rabbi of my synagogue, but I do give the weekly dvar Torah at the early Shabbat minyan. A number of years ago I spoke out against the abuse of children in the Jewish community; it is not a plague that affects only the Catholics, I said, but it also affects the Orthodox community (I gave Baruch Lanner as an example).

[Rabbi Lanner, the former principal of Hillel Yeshiva High School in Ocean Township, N.J. and former regional director of the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth, served a jail sentence for child sexual abuse; the allegations against him were first reported by The Jewish Week in 2000.]

One member came to me after davening (services) to say that my topic belonged on the front page of the Miami Herald; it did not belong in shul. I responded that had the Orthodox community talked about and been vigilant about the problem 30 years earlier, we never would have had the Lanner scandal (and some of the subsequent ones, as well). That was the last time I saw that member at the early service.

Cheifetz is right that the rabbis should raise their voices to focus attention at the abuse problem in the hope that our most vulnerable will not be victims. But it does not stop there. There has to be a willingness by the community to admit there is a problem. Until there is such an admission, the problem will continue and the guilty will get away with their crimes.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

North Miami Beach, Fla.