It was all fun and games when it was a Purim joke but the Internets are all abuzz with the latest news that the leader of the Beit Shemesh Orthodox Burqa Brigade, Rabbanit Bruriah Keren, has been arrested amid allegations of serious child abuse and the failure to report multiple instances of incest.
It took police two hours to gain entry to the home, with the intervention of local rabbis. Officers and social workers soon uncovered brutal physical abuse of several of the children, including whippings with both belts and electric cables, according to a police officer’s court testimony…. The mother is also suspected of breaking one daughter’s nose with a rolling pin, leaving her children to sleep outside in a locked shed when they came home late, and preventing them from receiving medical treatment for their injuries. The mother said it was all part of their “education,” according to court documents… When the abuse was discovered last month, only two of the couple’s 12 children, who range in age from eight to 33, lived at home… The two clearly abused children, including a disabled teenager, have since been removed from the home by social workers, the police investigator told the court… When the children of the family were treated by social workers, it emerged that the teenagers had committed incest with each other, over a long period of time, the police officer said… The teenage boy who was removed from the house told social workers that he had had sexual relations with his 18-year-old sister, and that he had told his parents and his rabbis, and that the latter told him not to tell anybody else.
I am of course horrified. This whole burqa thing always struck me as verging on the insane and if these allegations pan out then, well… that would explain a few things. The allegations and rumors are coming from all over the place and this is truly as lurid a case as I have ever seen. I feel badly for the innocent children involved and I hope no one tries to make any political or ideological hay out of this tragedy. That having been said, I think it’s important to state that the Haredi Code of Silence (as Ruth Eglash put it) really needs to end, especially in cases of abuse.
Let me be really clear about this: my affiliation is with the Orthodox. That having been said, any Orthodox Rabbi, who by counseling silence in the face of allegations of abuse thus allowing the abuse to continue and permitting the abuser to go unpunished, ought to be stripped of his Smichah (Rabbinic ordination) and be subject to prosecution for enabling more abuse. There is nothing in Jewish law, nothing at all, that permits such a thing. This of course applies equally to anyone who by their silence allows the continued perpetuation of abuse against children.
Sure it may be embarrassing to acknowledge the existence of child abuse in your community. But I think it’s far more embarrassing and a much greater Chillul Hashem to know that this took place due to the willful blindness of community leaders who prefer to stick their heads in the ground rather than do something about a problem that clearly exists.
Thanks to Jameel, again, for the heads up.