Whereas the Orthodox community has experienced cases of sexual abuse committed by rabbis, counselors, leaders, and other Jewish professionals; and
Whereas such abuse causes immeasurable harm to the victims and can destroy lives; and
Whereas preventative measures and policies can help reduce the risk of such abuse
Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America calls upon all synagogues and schools to adopt policies geared towards preventing sexual abuse, including the following:
Bringing in professionals with experience in this area to train staff and educate the community about preventing sexual abuse. All incoming staff members will undergo training and more experienced staff will have periodic retraining (perhaps every three or so years).
Given the high percentage of recidivism, using the sex registry industry to insure that some officials in the community are aware when a convicted sex offender moves in to the community. The entire community need not know about this person’s history but the rabbi or principal and some professionals will be aware and will monitor the person’s compliance with specially instituted safeguards.
Developing a hiring policy which carefully checks the background of each potential employee. This policy will include checking the sex registry industry, utilizing social media, multiple references, and personal interviews.
Making sure that individual adults and children are never secluded in isolation but instead are either in an area visible to others or are not in a one to one ratio. Most scenarios should involve either multiple adults or multiple children. When there is a need for a private conversation between adult and child, it will take place in a setting where others can easily see what is happening.
Clarifying what kind of touching is acceptable between teacher and student or between counselor and camper. For example, the policy might state that high fives or a pat on the shoulder are acceptable whereas wrestling, kissing, or sitting on laps are not.
Having a secure policy for dropping off and picking up children at the school or synagogue.
Raising awareness in the community and educating children as to which behavior from adults is unacceptable. This will require bringing in speakers with expertise in this area to address parents and children. It will also depend on public support for these initiatives expressed by rabbis and schools administrators.
Setting up a policy about which adults are allowed into the building and sometimes hiring security to implement the adopted policy.
Remaining alert regarding adults who seem overly interested in interacting with children or youth.
Creating an atmosphere which promotes safety but, at the same time, does not convey that any adult who smiles at a child is immediately accused of sexual abuse.
Setting up a committee to oversee the implementation of these policies. This committee should include school or synagogue professionals, lay leaders and an expert in dealing with abuse.
Note: This resolution relies heavily upon an excellent paper written by Shira M. Berkovits entitled “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse.” When this paper becomes available to the public, we will make it available to RCA chaverim.