Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau on Sunday said members of the ultra-Orthodox community had an “obligation” to treat cases of child abuse and said the issue must not “be swept under the rug.”
In an open letter, the chief rabbi implied that such crimes should be reported to the authorities, but stopped short of explicitly calling for police involvement.
“Under no circumstances may these awful matters be swept under the carpet or be ignored. If they are not stopped, they can cause damage to many other people,” Lau wrote.
“At this time, it is an obligation for all parents, teachers, family members and anyone working in education, to keep their eyes open and to offer as much help as possible to those in need. Burying one’s head in the sand is not the [correct] response to these difficult and painful topics,” Lau wrote.
In his letter, the chief rabbi referred to recent cases of abuse within the Haredi community, which he termed “truly shocking.”
Last week, indictments were filed against six teachers at an ultra-Orthodox school run by the Belz Hasidic sect in Tel Aviv for alleged severe physical abuse of students. One of the six educators was also charged with sexual abuse. Some 22 students are suspected of having suffered physical abuse from the ages of 3-4 to 10-11.
Last month, a 50-year-old ultra-Orthodox father of 11 children, was arrested on charges of repeatedly assaulting two of his daughters.
Within the ultra-Orthodox community, there is some reluctance to report incidents of sexual assault to the police. Recently, some rabbis within these groups have permitted their followers to report crimes to the relevant authorities.