Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

Rabbi Sexual Abuse

Rabbi sexual abuse within the Jewish community has been swept under the rug for too long. At Helping Survivors, we encourage everyone to understand the prevalence of this abuse, how it primarily affects children, and the challenges survivors face in speaking up. Leaders in the community are often at the center of this widespread problem, leading to emotional and physical trauma for victims. Helping Survivors is here to give you the support and resources you need to take a stand against this pervasive problem.

The issue of Jewish and rabbi sexual abuse is not new. Unfortunately, the public and media have ignored or overlooked it for decades.

Recent revelations have exposed the widespread problem of sexual abuse by clergy and leaders within religious communities. The Jewish community is no exception. While the #MeToo movement gained momentum and media exposure, more and more instances of sexual abuse by rabbis and other religious leaders have come to light. However, long before these revelations, many people suffered at the hands of predators and sexual abusers who used their positions of influence and authority to prey on victims.

Helping Survivors is here to assist the victims of rabbi sexual abuse and all types of sexual harm. The goal of our organization is to help victims cope with the trauma related to the abuse, get justice for their suffering, and prevent future cases. If you’ve been sexually abused by a rabbi, contact us to learn more about the legal resources available.

Sexual Abuse Within the Jewish Community

Sexual abuse within the Jewish community is an alarming reality. The abuse primarily targets vulnerable children, but the reputation rabbis hold as esteemed community members exacerbates the difficulty in proving these cases.

Additionally, incidents of abuse have been reported within Jewish schools, highlighting the pervasiveness of such misconduct within institutions across the community. Sadly, those institutions often ignore reports or cover them up, enabling even more abuse.

For example, a witness of a rabbi’s sexual abuse stated how the perpetrator molested victims in an all-girls school. The only action taken was relocating the rabbi to an all-boys school. While this occurred decades ago, the witness—now an educator— said she still sees abuse perpetrated by Jewish community leaders today.

Unfortunately, children in schools are not the only victims. Some rabbis take advantage of vulnerable members of their congregation, exploiting their position to engage in sexual abuse. A rabbi in Texas was accused of sexually abusing eight of his nine adopted sons and is now facing criminal charges. The abuse reaches every corner of the Jewish community. It can no longer be ignored.

How Victims Are Impacted by Sexual Abuse

The aftermath of sexual abuse leaves victims with deep emotional scars and lifelong issues. Common feelings and symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Loss of trust in others
Last Date Modified
March 18, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

Many victims experience suicidal thoughts and develop substance abuse disorders later in life. The lasting effects of the trauma can disrupt their personal relationships, academic performance, career prospects, and overall well-being.

Specific factors within the Jewish Orthodox community make it exceptionally hard for victims to speak up. One significant cultural factor is the concept of “Mesirah,” which forbids reporting another Jewish community member to secular authorities, including the police. Additionally, in 2011, the Rabbinical Board of the Orthodox Jewish community stated a person must consult with a rabbi before reporting cases of sexual abuse to the authorities. These accepted cultural norms create a barrier for survivors seeking justice and protection.

Furthermore, victims who bravely came forward to report abuse faced severe repercussions, including being evicted from their homes and excommunicated from the synagogue. There is also the fear that reporting such incidents would result in family members receiving undesirable marriage candidates from matchmakers. These consequences create a chilling effect on other potential survivors, instilling fear and further silencing their voices.

Survivor's Testimonies and Accounts

The stories of survivors who spoke about their experiences shed light on the pervasive issue of rabbi sexual abuse. Several cases came to the public’s attention recently, such as the New Haven Rabbi charged with sexual assault.

In this case, Rabbi Daniel Greer was accused of sexually assaulting a male high school student for three years while attending Greer’s yeshiva. While Greer denied the charges, the victim received $15 million in his civil lawsuit and $5 million in punitive damages. Greer is now serving a 20-year sentence in jail.

There are additional stories from the 1980s, where a rabbi continually forced boys in the high school to engage in actions that resulted in his sexual arousal. When the victim reported the incidents, the rabbi physically assaulted them and threatened them with expulsion. Eventually, the rabbi was promoted to principal. This is just one example of Jewish sexual assault in this facility. Other leaders also face accusations of similar behavior.

While the courts dismissed the initial lawsuit against the offending rabbis because the statute of limitations had expired, the law has since changed in New York with the signing of the Child Victims Act. A new lawsuit was recently filed to hold the yeshiva accountable for the sexual assault allegations.

Sexual abuse is not limited to a single country or location. A Jewish girl’s school principal in Australia was found guilty of sexual abuse after a nine-year legal battle. This shows how far-reaching sexual abuse in the Jewish community truly is.

Despite their challenges, survivors’ testimonies are crucial in creating awareness and dismantling the power dynamics that allowed these abuses to persist.

How Has the Jewish Community Responded?

In response to the issue of rabbi sexual abuse, there are several organizations raising awareness and supporting survivors. Notably, Za’akah stands at the forefront, dedicating itself to shedding light on sexual abuse within the Jewish community. Alongside Za’akah, Kol Tzedek, a Philadelphia-based synagogue, is also taking strides to address this pressing problem.

Despite these efforts, the social stigma surrounding sexual abuse in the Jewish community remains a formidable obstacle. This stigma discourages survivors from speaking out, perpetuating a cycle of silence that protects perpetrators and allows abuse to persist unchecked.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit After Rabbi Sexual Abuse

Experiencing sexual abuse—especially from someone in a trusted position, such as a rabbi— is profoundly traumatic. The decision to seek justice is deeply personal, but for many, it’s a step toward healing and preventing further harm.

What To Do After Abuse

If you or a loved one has suffered abuse, taking steps immediately helps preserve crucial evidence. Even if some time has passed, complete as many of the following steps as possible:

  • Immediate Care: Prioritize your safety and well-being. If needed, seek medical attention and ensure you are in a safe environment away from the perpetrator.
  • Preserve Evidence: Depending on the circumstances and how soon after the incident you’re taking action, see a medical professional to preserve any physical evidence of the abuse.
  • Confide in Someone: Whether it’s a close friend, family member, or therapist, speaking about the trauma can be a significant step in the healing process. They may also provide essential support throughout any subsequent legal process.
  • Report to Authorities: They will investigate the matter, which could lead to criminal charges against the perpetrator.

How to File a Civil Lawsuit

Filing a civil lawsuit will ensure the accused party is held responsible. This process can be complex, so it is wise to seek legal guidance. The following is a broad sketch of the process:

  • Engage a Lawyer: It’s vital to have legal representation. Your attorney will investigate your case, collect evidence, draft and file a complaint, negotiate with the opposition, and litigate your case.
  • Discovery: This is the phase where both sides gather and exchange evidence. This could include testimonies, documents, or expert opinions.
  • Settlement or Trial: Many cases settle before going to trial. If both sides cannot agree on fair compensation, your case could go before a jury.

Reasons to File a Lawsuit

While no amount of money can truly compensate for the trauma suffered, filing a civil lawsuit can help in several ways:

  • Compensation: Victims may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, therapy costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
  • Accountability: It holds the perpetrator and any enabling institutions responsible.
  • Prevention: By bringing such cases to light, it may deter potential future abuse and bring about systemic change.

The legal process can be emotionally draining. Surround yourself with a support system to help navigate the journey toward justice and healing.

Resources for Help Survivors of Sexual Abuse from a Rabbi

If you or someone you know has experienced such abuse, some resources and organizations can help. One option is Mount Sinai Beth Israel, (212) 420-2000. The helpline offers culturally sensitive outreach and support for the Orthodox Jewish community.

For victims, reporting rabbi sexual abuse is intimidating. However, it is possible to do this discreetly with the assistance of services like Helping Survivors. Victims should speak to an attorney specializing in these cases. The legal professional can help with all aspects of the case, including the following:

  • Identifying the defendant
  • Determining fault
  • Gathering evidence
  • Building a case
  • Filing paperwork
  • Meeting the burden of proof
  • Subpoenaing witnesses

At Helping Survivors, we have access to legal resources to help victims seek justice. We work across several time zones and help victims across the U.S. Our organization also offers resources to help victims heal from the trauma they sustained.

Addressing Rabbi Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community

Rabbi sexual abuse is a far-reaching problem affecting Jewish communities nationwide and around the world. For victims, the cultural stigma of reporting these crimes causes hesitation. Yet help is available to you, and those responsible for sexual abuse should be held accountable.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.