Lakewood: Child abuse must be handled by a beis din which doesn't exist!?

By Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn (Daas Torah blog)
July 28, 2013

It has been a number of weeks since the Kolko confession and conviction. What lessons have been learned? Of course the most important question is what lesson has Lakewood learned?

On the face of it, it seems that Lakewood made a major mistake in how they handled the Kolko case. Kolko himself has confessed to being a molester to the secular court. He has allegedly also confessed before a number of rabbis who were scheduled to testify to this fact at the trial. Apparently then we have certified by both halacha and secular law that Kolko is in fact a child molester.

However if this is truth is obvious – then why has the Lakewood establishment been silent? Why haven't they at least acknowledged that they made a mistake and apologized to the family that they drove out of Lakewood for the alleged crime of mesira? Isn't it obvious to them that there was no mesira because the father's concern was to protect other children from an actual child molester?

The answer that I am hearing from Lakewood is a resounding, "No!" There are many who still claim that the reporting of Kolko constituted mesira – in particular Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. Rabbi Belsky in fact claimed in a letter that circulated Lakewood before trial that his investigation confirmed Kolko's innocence and that the father – Rabbi "S" was the abuser. The consensus of the reports I have gotten after the trial is that he hasn't changed his mind. This view is shared by many other rabbis in Lakewood. It is true that there are some who have changed their minds – but this is only in private. No one is acknowledging publicly that he erred.

It seems that there are at least 3 factions in Lakewood. 1) Kolko is innocent or at least never was a threat to any children. Since he is not a threat he is not a rodef and therefore there was no justification for calling the police. This seems to be the majority. 2) The other view is that Kolko is a child molester and even without a beis din or even a rav – it is clear that the police should have been called. No one of significance has publicly stated this view. 3) Kolko is in fact a child molester and major rabbis paskened that the police should be informed. However this group – in particular the rabbis – not only refuse to publically state that they paskened this way – but they allegedly lie when they are asked. They are afraid of telling the truth. Publicly this view doesn't exist.

Furthermore the population in Lakewood has 3 different approaches to understanding the conditions for calling the police.

1) A beis din of 3 rabbis is required to hear the claims and testimony of kosher witnesses is required. The purpose of the beis din is to determine halachic guilt or innocence. This approach asserts that without an explicit psak from a beis din – it is prohibited to go to the police. Even if guilt is determined – but if the beis din says that the matter can be handled internally – it is prohibited to call the police. This is the view explicitly stated by Rav Menashe Klein.
2) No beis din is needed since they have neither the power or competence to investigate the matter. However a rav needs to be consulted as to whether there is raglayim ledaver – credible evidence. The rav serves as the gatekeeper – but he is not poskening guilt or innocence. This is the view of the Aguda.
3) There is no reason to consult either a beis din or a rav. It is enough that that there is credible evidence that abuse has occurred. Since we are dealing with rodef – self-protection – no rabbinical authority is needed. Only normal human judgment and knowledge is required to make the decision of whether to call the police. This is the view of the RCA and Rav Belsky's letter posted to the RCA website.

Unfortunately whether one needs to go to a beis din or not is at this point a moot point in Lakewood. That is because a person with an abuse allegation, no longer has a beis din in Lakewood dealing with these cases. In addition apparently no rav will posken these issues and publicly stand by his views. Anyone who goes to the police after receiving a psak will be labeled a moser. Thus the problem for Lakewood is – there is no longer any acceptable rabbinic mechanism for dealing with these cases. This was also the problem for the Aguda when they announced a few years ago that a rav (not even a beis din) had to be consulted for raglayim ledavar – and then a year later they acknowledged that they had no rabbonim who were willing to be publicly designated to deal with child molesting!

In Lakewood this is allegedly the result of a dispute been Rav Malkiel Kotler and Rav Mattisyahu Solomon. Rav Kotler is allegedly opposed to having a beis din for these matters and Rav Solomon is allegedly for the beis din. I was told by a number of sources that the beis din of Rav Solomon was dissolved after it ordered on alleged perpetrator to quit teaching and he threatened the beis din with a $10, 000, 000 lawsuit. The final nail in the coffin of the beis din was that Rav Kotler publicly sided with the accused. Thus Lakewood has a "catch 22" situation. Everyone acknowledges that child abuse is harmful and therefore halachicly it must be stopped. But there is no longer a mechanism in Lakewood for dealing with the problem so therefore the problem can't be dealt with! The only thing that can be dealt is condemning those people who go to the police without the permission they can't get.

This conflicting confusion in dealing with child abuse – is not limited to Lakewood. It is also clearly present in Rav Belsky. On the one hand he strongly condemned Rabbi "S" as a moser and a molester – and yet publicly published a statement on the RCA website saying that someone with credible evidence should go to the police (without mentioning either a beis din or a rav). In contradiction he is also quoted as saying that "in Lakewood we don't go to the police." However to show that he was serious about calling the police he said in the RCA statement that in one case in Brooklyn he had actually advised going to the police. So Rav Belsky does favor going to the police in certain circumstances - however most cases of molesting apparently don't meet his standards.

In sum, in Lakewood "one does not go to the police" and even though there are major rabbonim who will permit it in certain cases of abuse – they will never acknowledge that they permitted it. Thus no one will go to the police because they definitely will be destroyed as a moser. In Lakewood abuse is denied or covered up (in the immortal words of Rav Mattisyahu Solomon at an Aguda Conference). Sometimes molesters are asked to go to therapy - without any way of making sure they comply. Sometimes molesters are sent to Israel or other communities. There was even a case of the Lakewood establishment in which the rabbis naively tried curing pedophilia by have the pedophile marry an innocent orphan who didn't realize how she was being betrayed by the rabbis that she had been taught to blindly respect. In addition I have heard allegations that even when Rav Solomon's beis din was functioning and telling molesters to pay for therapy for their victim – that some of these molesters went on to molest other children - because they were allowed to keep teaching. Of course after molesting again, they again went to Rabbi Solomon's beis din – but the police were never called.