But there is another story here, aside from the child and the molester. As it turns out, the father now facing opposition in the community for having chosen to go to the police rather than have the matter handled internally by a local Bais Din. Attempts were made to get the father to drop the charges. Notices were distributed as a recent charity event decrying the "shameful thing" that was done -- not the abuse, of course, but the fact that the victim's father went to the police. One Lakewood resident has been charged with witness tampering in the case.
Personally, I believe that most people, if they felt confidence in the system provided, will use it. People will go to Bais Din for civil cases when, and only when, they feel confident that justice will be served. If people feel that an institution is corrupt or unable to solve their problems, they will find another system that can do so. If this is true for civil cases, how much more so will it apply to criminal cases when people may fear for the safety of their families or others?
I think it's evidently clear that, in the case, the father of the victim did not feel that Bais Din was capable of handling the matter -- and, in truth, I can't say that I blame him for having such feelings. Given their inexperience with such matters, the past track record of rabbinical organizations in sweeping such allegations under the rug and and lack of any true enforcement and prevention mechanism, there probably isn't a great deal that any communal rabbinical organization can do alone to stop molesters. That's not to say that at some point in the future they may not come up with a valid, reliable method for handling such cases in the future, but, for the present, there is no evidence of any credible method for dealing with criminals in our midst. And with no assurance that the rabbinic authorities can prevent this person from harming his son or anyone else, he turned to the ones he felt were best able to ensure that this does not happen again.
But aside from all that, there is another dimension to this case -- that of the implied social contract between ourselves and our neighbors.
Rabbi Shmuel Meir Katz, a senior Dayan in Lakewood, was quoted as saying the following:
"We have our own system. We have our own laws, and as long as the Bais Din (rabbinical tribunal) feels competent on taking care of something themselves, that's our surest recourse in our circles.''
What Rabbi Katz doesn't seem to realize is that we don't live in isolation. In Lakewood, as in most places in the world, we live side-by-side with non-Jewish neighbors. And since we live side-by-side with them, actions taken by either group tend to affect the other. If there were a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, or even a simple cat burglar in our neighbor's midst and they struck, we'd want to make sure that they are brought to justice. Even if we don't care about our neighbors, we'd want to at least be sure that the criminal will not strike us. But how would Rabbi Katz feel if the molester's community defended him saying "we have our own laws, we will take care of it internally?" Would he feel confident that the matter is resolved? Would he feel safe that his community is secure because his neighbors have decided to handle it amongst themselves with no outward accountability? Or would he demand that the police get involved to remove the molester from the Lakewood area so that children will once again be safe? My guess would be that most people would not be satisfied with such an arrangemnet.
But that being the case, how can Rabbi Katz expect that his non-Jewish neighbors will be satisfied with such an arrangement? How can he, in good conscience, tell reporters "we have our own laws" when he would not accept such an argument from any other group? And, with the knowledge now public that we won't turn over criminals to law enforcement, how can he ever in the future, in good conscience, complain when another group refuses to hand over someone who harms a Jew?
Hat Tip: VIN