Community Members Allege Child Abuse Covered Up Among ultra-Orthodox in Safed

Leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic community in Safed reportedly failed to take action in instances of physical and sexual abuse of children at school.

Leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic community in Safed have been covering up instances of physical and sexual abuse of children at school in the community, ostracizing anyone who wants to deal with the issue, several community members said recently.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said that in some cases families have been ripped apart, with the ostracized parents forced to cut off ties with their children.

"Everything blew up after seven children left heder [religious elementary school]," said one community member. "At first we didn't understand why, and then it turned out that they had been sexually abused. The parents wanted the matter to be dealt with, but they were warned that if the abuse became known it would harm their children's chances of finding a match. The parents got quiet and the children remained damaged because no one defended them." He and a former community member also said one of the teachers beat the children. Accusations of child abuse within the Bratslav community in Safed were first made public nine months ago.

One former community member said his family was forced to leave the community after his son was sexually harassed by a male teacher at his religious school. He said his son was receiving psychiatric help and taking medication to ease his mental distress, but refuses to go to the police and said he wants the issue resolved only by an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court.

"Whoever goes to the establishment is a moser," he said, referring to the Talmudic term for informer. Jews who passed information to the authorities about other Jews have traditionally been treated harshly by persecuted Jewish communities, since in such cases denunciation could lead to death and destruction.