An online petition which calls on the Orthodox umbrella group to support ending the statute of limitation has gathered almost 800 signatures in three days.
With a long-delayed bill to eliminate the statute of limitation in New York gaining momentum, Jewish Community Watch (JCW) an Orthodox child advocacy group has circulated a petition demanding that Agudath Israel cease its efforts to block the bill, and instead support its passage. The bill sponsored by Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman, would eliminate New York’s statute of limitation which gives survivors of child sex abuse until only their 23rd birthday to press charges or sue for child sex abuse. The petition has currently has over 700 signers representing a broad spectrum of the Orthodox community, including many prominent rabbis.
JCW, an organization dedicated to combating child sex abuse and supporting survivors in the Jewish community, notes in the petition that Agudath Israel along with the Catholic Church have been credited by major news agencies with maintaining New York’s current laws which “protects predators and those who shield them, while often denying justice to their victims.”
“Agudath Israel’s stance on the statute of limitation has been inconsistent and disruptive,” – “In Halacha (Jewish law) there is no statute of limitation on prosecuting for a crime. While Agudath Israel publicly maintains that they only oppose civil cases, we are concerned by reports that they are in fact working behind the scenes to block the bill in its entirety. Experts have also insisted that Agudath Israel opposition to the bill does not stem from a fear of lawsuits bankrupting schools but rather from the exposure of cover-ups and failure to protect children by the institutions which will result from civil cases. We therefore call on Agudath Israel to make its position clear by strongly supporting and lobbying for the bill so their actions match their rhetoric.”
Last August, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan for Agudath Israel of Illinois, spearheaded a public declaration signed by 107 haredi (ultra-orthodox) rabbis that clarified the halachik (Jewish law) mandate that all individuals must report reasonable suspicions of child abuse promptly and directly to civil authorities. Prior to that, Agudath Israel’s position was ambivalent and generally urges parents and others to first check with a Rabbi.
You can read and sign the full petition here: https://www.change.org/p/rabbi-david-zwiebel-agudath-israel-stop-blocking-passage-of-child-victims-act#delivered-to