June 12, 2013 — The RCA remains steadfast in combating and condemning all forms of abuse. We are encouraged by the process that led to the guilty plea of Yosef Kolko, an Orthodox Jew who pleaded guilty for the sexual molestation of a young boy. For many years the RCA has condemned the efforts of many parts of the Jewish community to cover up or ignore allegations of abuse, viewing these efforts as against Jewish law, illegal, and irresponsible to the welfare of victims and the greater community. The RCA strongly advocates, as a matter of Jewish law, the reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse to the civil authorities and full cooperation with the criminal justice system. The RCA 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.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President of the RCA, and Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA, concerned with the reported position of Rabbi Yisrael Belsky in the Kolko case met with Rabbi Belsky. Rabbi Belsky stated that based upon his knowledge of the case, which he explained at length, he deeply believes in Kolko’s innocence. When asked for clarification of his opinion concerning the reporting of suspicions of abuse in general, Rabbi Belsky informed us that he favors the reporting of credible suspicions of abuse directly to the civil authorities without the need to seek prior rabbinic permission. Upon our request, Rabbi Belsky recorded this position in writing in a letter sent to us and publicized a week after our meeting. Many feel that this is a significant achievement.
The RCA appreciates that this distinguished scholar has gone on record with this position, a position that echoes the RCA’s longstanding policy. We are confident that this statement will be helpful to many victims in the future. Nevertheless, due to the facts of the Kolko case as we understand them, the RCA disagrees with Rabbi Belsky’s defense of this admitted perpetrator. We pledge to work toward the time when all victims of abuse will find strength, healing, and justice with the support of their communities, its members, and its leaders.