Tuesday, November 09, 2004

From a concerned member of the Baltimore community -- Regarding the case of Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau)

Protocols - November 9, 2004

The following has been circulated, and mailed to several different Jewish newspapers. As of today, no one has published it. Through my sources, I know who wrote this. The letter and its author are credible.  -- Vicki Polin


To the editors

Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau
I would like to address a very important and very troubling issue affecting our entire community and its future.

The taboo surrounding the issue of child sexual abuse in general, and even more so within our own community is very real and difficult to surmount for many reasons. Our silence is what child sexual offenders count on to enable them to continue abusing. We must break this silence and as a community begin to address this issue openly.

This sensitive issue becomes even harder to deal with when allegations are made against a rabbi or trusted leader within our community. Most of our rabbis and leaders are not child molesters, but most also have no training or expertise in this area. Most rabbonim confronted with allegations of abuse against a trusted and respected colleague are simply not equipped to deal with the situation. Obviously, they do not want to believe the allegations. It is a lot easier to stigmatize an obviously troubled or angry victim then to believe that a well respected, influential, colleague could be a sexual predator. 

Entrance to The Torah Institute of Baltimore
Instances of childhood sexual abuse are very hard to prove (or disprove), as there are rarely any witnesses, or visible scars. Training in recognizing the short and long-term effects affects of abuse is essential, and the responsibility of every Rabbi to obtain. 

We have recently read stories of perpetrators within our community who have used the silence of the community and its leaders to allow them to continue abusing children, sometimes for decades. Some say that it is a chillul Hashem for papers to have published such information. The sad truth is that going to the papers is the only thing that finally stopped the abuser and prevented future victims. The real chillul Hashem is that many Rabbonim knew of allegations for years and did nothing. The real chillul Hashem is that when a sexual abuse or assault victim dares to speak out publicly, instead of helping the victim, and confronting the issue, Rabbonim and community leaders rally around the accused perpetrator trying to protect the image of the community at the expense of his victims. 

Many of our "at risk teens" who have gone "off the derech" (OTD) are victims of childhood sexual abuse and have gotten the message loud and clear that they will not be helped or believed, and so have left the community. 

When allegations are brought against a person who is in a position of authority over innocent children this person should very quickly be directed to another line of work. To date there is no known cure for pedophiles. The only way to manage these tendencies is for perpetrators to never be alone with a child. 

Parents have a right to know about allegations made against those caring for their children and to make an informed decision about the risks that they are willing to expose their children to. The Baltimore community must be made aware of and take responsibility for any accused perpetrators in our mist, especially when they hold positions that enable them to continue to offend. 

Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau
Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau, the principal of the Torah Institute, is one such individual. Rabbi Eisgrau has, on at least two known occasions, been accused of child sexual molestation and on at least one occasion of physical abuse. (He allegedly hit a child in the face and broke his glasses.) One of the accusations of sexual abuse was made by a former student, and the other by one of rabbi Eisgrau's own daughters. (Both of his alleged victims are now adults.) 

The charges brought against Rabbi Eisgrau by his student were formally investigated and later dropped because of insufficient evidence. In the words of the investigator, Detective Richard Hardick, he was "stonewalled" by the community. Concerned and aware members of our community (including myself) who have tried to speak out about the potential danger to our children have been threatened with loss of their job, membership to shul, and even personal safety. Rabbi Eisgrau's rav has advised rabbi Eisgrau's other children to excommunicate their sister unless she agrees never to speak out about her experience. This, in my opinion, is a horrible chillul Hashem and abuse of rabbinic authority. 

Let us, as a community, take responsibility for protecting our children and educating ourselves about sexual abuse. A good resource, which deals specifically with sexual abuse in the Jewish community, is The Awareness Center at, www.theawarenescenter.org

Rabbi Yosef Blau (mashgiach Ruchani of the Rabbi Isacc Elchanan Theological Seminary) in his article, Confronting Abuse in The Orthodox Community, (Nefesh News, 7:9, July 2003) writes: 

"Our community has not been educated to recognize abuse nor to appreciate the ongoing trauma of victims...Often the response is to express anger at the paper (publishing letters such as this one) and then ignore the abuse. Until the mentality of the community changes little progress will be made." 

I hope everyone reading this will take his message to heart.

A concerned member of the Baltimore community. 

For more information on this case: CLICK HERE

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