What the rabbi said
Jerusalem Post - January 24, 2006
Sir, - Readers of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's recent series on clergy sexual abuse may have been misled by the report's assertion that the meaning of words spoken by a respected rabbinic authority at last year's Agudath Israel of America national convention is, as the article put it, "open to interpretation." The rabbinic authority, the article asserted, admitted "that haredim are indeed guilty of sweeping things under the carpet."
The writer of the series has acknowledged to me that he had not at the time listened to a recording of the speech.
Rabbi Salomon's words, however, could not have been clearer. He pointed out how some people like to accuse the haredi community of "sweeping things under the carpet." They are right, he went on to explain, but not in the way they mean. "Do they know how many perpetrators" of sins against others "have been dealt with?" No, he averred, because when actions are taken against individuals who have proven themselves untrustworthy, Orthodox leaders do not trumpet their actions. And even as they take what steps are necessary to protect others, he added, they also seek to protect human dignity.
Moreover, Rabbi Salomon declared that when crimes are asserted but not proven, Jews must be guided not by a mob mentality but by the Torah.
The JTA article may well be right that "several Web site and blog contributors" chose to interpret Rabbi Salomon's remarks as an admission that "haredi officials often look the other way when clergy sex abuse takes place in their midst." But that says something only about those Web site and blog contributors, and nothing at all about what Rabbi Salomon actually said.
RABBI AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America