New York –Safe Children Safe Communities – Asei L’maan Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban
Let’s not mince words.
The future of our charedi community is quite literally in existential danger as the tension in Beit Shemesh plays itself out in the international media.
On a purely pragmatic level, this disturbing publicity has already placed the charedi community in Eretz Yisroel at greater risk of losing its financial aid to Yeshivos and Kollelim at the very least. In all likelihood, there may be far greater ramifications, as this could generate a tsunami of support among secular (and many religious) Israelis for a complete separation of church and state, which has the potential to end state support for all non-public schools in Eretz Yisroel.
However, the far greater danger is that we will be losing our souls should we fail to condemn the horrific actions, however isolated, of people who dress like us threatening women and children with violence, taunting them, and calling them all sorts of horrible names. And we will justifiably lose the hearts, neshamos and even lives of our children and grandchildren if we, rachmanim b’nei rachmanim (merciful people), cannot muster the righteous indignation and join forces to protest the appalling actions of these so-called kanoim.
Our community is just now coming to grips with the painful reality that is child abuse, and the ravages it leaves in its wake. We must now realize that there is communal abuse as well, from which we all continue to suffer. And just like we have come to understand that prosecuting and convicting child molesters can prevent future abuse, so too we must make sure that these kanoim who are rodfim in every way be stopped in their tracks.
As Rabbi Aryeh Deri clearly stated in an interview earlier this week, the only solution to rid our community of the depraved kanoim who are wreaking havoc on our community is to demand that they be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Child safety has been our highest priority at Project Y.E.S. for the past few years and we recently launched several initiatives designed to help keep each and every one of our children safe and secure. With the chesed of Hashem, our efforts, and the efforts of the Los Angeles based Aleinu program and others like it, are creating a paradigm shift in how parents deal with the issue of child safety.
However, this entire enterprise took an enormous step backwards over the past days and weeks as our children rightfully wonder if the adults around them can keep them safe.
There are four basic messages that children need to internalize in order for any abuse prevention program to be truly effective:
1. Your body belongs to you
2. No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable
3. No secrets from parents
4. Good touching/bad touching
We have long maintained that corporal punishment by parents and/or educators dramatically decreases and often negates the critical messages of abuse prevention (see Spare the Potch, Protect the Child for more on this). Well, how much more destructive is it for our children in Beit Shemesh to see their peers and even the adults in their lives shrug their shoulders and allow this sort of deplorable behavior by a group of radical adults to go on unabated? How about its effects on Jewish children worldwide who see reports of this through the 24/7 media coverage, or hear this discussed this in school among their friends?
My dear friends, it has come to this. We have two choices. We can continue to blame the secular media for its campaign against our charedi community or we can admit the painful truth – that we collectively have allowed ourselves to be abused for many years now by a small and violent group of uncontrolled kanoim.
For the sake of our children, we need to collectively do everything in our power – everything – to put an end to the abuse immediately.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and founder and Director of Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services). He is recognized throughout the Jewish community as an authority on raising children in these troubled times.