Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sexual Abuse Allegations Stun Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish Community


The latest news about Gershon Kranczer, 58,is not encouraging. According to the Daily News, Kranczer and his 20 year old son have fled to Israel on the heels of allegations that Kranczer has sexually abused four of his daughters, ranging in age from 8 to 20. The minor children in the Kranczer home have been removed by child welfare authorities. Investigations are under way to determine if additional children may have been involved in the alleged abuse.

At this point, no one has been found guilty. But if Kranczer and his son have fled to Israel, they should be returned to face justice. If they are guilty, they should face real jail time, and if they are innocent, the story of their exoneration should appear as prominently in the news as that of their arrest. Israel is meant to be a place of refuge from persecution and a place of welcome to Jews returning to their homeland. It is not meant to be a place of refuge for rapists and murderers.

Are Kranczer and some of his sons guilty of awful crimes? We don't know. Sadly enough, past abuse scandals in orthodox Jewish communities render such accusations thinkable. It would be good if we could be a light unto the nations by virtue of being free from sexual abuse. But if we have not reached that lofty level, it is at least possible to set an example by isolating and resolutely punishing such behavior.

We do not have a Sanhedrin that can rule in capital cases. We as Jews do not have a Jewish court system that addresses the full range of civil and criminal law. Our rabbinical courts are decentralised and struggle to deal equitably with civil and monetary matters.This being the case, there should be no hesitation in cooperating fully with the Israeli and US governments in extraditing alleged criminals who are accused of incest, rape, murder or other grave offenses.

Once someone is convicted, two things should be borne in mind.

1) The shame belongs not to the victim but to the perpetrator.

2) If someone brings a truthful accusation against a sex offender, it is not their responsibility for having besmirched someone's name, but the responsibility of the perpetrator.

We read about the crime of being "moises u mediach" of sinning and leading others to sin. Sexual abuse and other forms of abuse lead people to abandon Judaism. An abuser is as guilty of this as anyone who attempts to get a Jew to convert to another religion or otherwise abandon Judaism.

I don't know what happened in the Kranczer home. The courts will have to sort that question out. What I do know, is that abuse has happened often enough in our community to make the charges thinkable. By dealing seriously with allegations of sexual abuse, and exiling known perpetrators from our midst, we will take the first steps needed to correct this problem.

Daily News story on sex abuse allegations Sphere: Related Content

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