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While nothing has been proved, the story of an Arizona rabbi accused of molesting a child became that much more real today when Rabbi Bryan Bramly was extradited to New York City, where the crime is alleged to have occurred. Given the public outcry against the Catholic Church in recent weeks, I am curious to see how the Jewish community will respond.
To be sure this is not the first time a rabbi has either been accused of found to have actually committed such crimes. And I appreciate that there is no central authority for Jews which parallels that of the Catholic Church.
Be that as it may, if our anger at the Church’s handling of this problem is more than the Catholic bashing which many Catholic leaders, including the Pope, have claimed, then we must address this issue with no reservations about how it looks for rabbis, Judaism, or the Jewish community.
The only thing about which to worry now, are the victims. I include in that any accused clergy who may actually be innocent. But our concern with protecting them can not outweigh the concern for people who claim to have been abused.
Let’s hope that we don’t hide behind worries of protecting the supposedly unjustly accused, concern about lashon harah (speaking ill of a fellow human being), or bringing shame upon our community. There can be no greater shame than invoking legal principles, Jewish or American, as excuses for not addressing the evil of religious leaders who molest children.
The coming days will test the moral fiber of the Jewish community in general and the rabbinic community in particular. I hope and pray that we pass the test.