The Work of Tikkun Olam: Repairing and Restoring the World
There are two important stories this week within the Orthodox Jewish community in the U.S. The first is the conviction of Nechemya Weberman, a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn, for sexual abuse of a child who had the courage to come forward and report him.
There are two important stories this week within the Orthodox Jewish community in the U.S. The first is the conviction of Nechemya Weberman, a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn, for sexual abuse of a child who had the courage to come forward and report him. The Hasidic community has generally been unwilling to work with civil authorities on abuse cases and those who have spoken out in the past have been punished by the community.
But the bigger story here is the strong, unequivocal statement from the Rabbinic Council of America. Although the RCA does not represent the Hasidic community, it does speak for over 1,000 Orthodox rabbis from around the world. In their statement, the RCA said it “decries any invocation of Jewish law or communal interests as tools in silencing victims or witnesses from reporting abuse or from receiving therapeutic and communal support, and strongly condemns those members of the Jewish community who use such tactics.”
Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA, founder of JSafe (the Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse Free Environment), and a friend and colleague of FaithTrust Institute, has worked for years to overcome the silence in Jewish communities and challenge them to support victims/survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. Rabbi Dratch said, "We, like other religious communities, have come a long way in recent years in recognizing and addressing issues of child abuse in our communities. We increasingly understand that our religious texts, traditions, and values must serve as resources of strength and support for members of our faith communities, not as roadblocks to their safety and security."
These strong statements from Orthodox Jewish leaders are works of tikkun olam and a model for all of our faith communities. Their statements challenge us to work to remove the roadblocks in our traditions and practices so that our people may access the resources of their faith in seeking justice and healing.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune