Abuse Headlines Gives Push to Tough Laws

Dueling Measures Scrap Statute of Limitations for Pedophilia

Protect Yeshivas? Brooklyn lawmaker Dov Hikind introduced a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse while protecting Jewish institutions from possible lawsuits. Critics say he is shielding those who shielded the abusers.
getty images
Protect Yeshivas? Brooklyn lawmaker Dov Hikind introduced a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse while protecting Jewish institutions from possible lawsuits. Critics say he is shielding those who shielded the abusers.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published May 17, 2012, issue of May 25, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Cuomo’s office did not respond to repeated calls for comment regarding the governor’s position on the bill. But Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, said it is noteworthy that Cuomo has not come out against the bill, given the Catholic Church’s opposition to it. “We don’t have a statement from his office either way yet, which is promising,” she said.

Markey’s bill isn’t the only proposed legislation dealing with the statute of limitations in the assembly this session. Dov Hikind, a Democratic assemblyman who represents the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park, has presented a rival bill that has many of the same components — but there’s one major difference: Hikind’s bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims to file suit against alleged sex abusers, but not against the schools and religious institutions that have, in some cases, protected them.

“The concern is about institutions,” Hikind said. “Yeshivas are hardly surviving financially. You would put them out of business.”

But Hamilton disagrees. In states that have extended the statute of limitations — such as California, Delaware, and Minnesota — institutions sued for protecting sex abusers don’t go bankrupt, she said, but rather pay out victims through their insurance or by liquidating old buildings and empty lots. If sex abuse victims were only able to sue individuals, she added, their restitution would be limited to their perpetrator’s sometimes meager assets.

Hikind’s legislative liaison, Holly Charlesworth, responded that suits are “about the justice” of the victims’ cases more than the money.

Hikind, who has positioned himself as an advocate for sex abuse victims in the Orthodox community, is listed as a co-sponsor on the Markey bill. But he said that he would not endorse the bill if it came to a vote in the assembly.

“I don’t think the Markey bill is going to go anywhere,” he said.

Hikind said that his bill —which he characterized as a politically palatable alternative to Markey’s — was drafted with the input of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group that has declared that observant Jews must get the permission of a rabbi in order to report sex crimes to secular authorities. Agudath executive vice president David Zwiebel could not be reached for comment before deadline. But in a 2009 interview he conducted with the Orthodox magazine Mishpacha, Zwiebel said that he supported a bill that targeted individuals, not institutions.

“We have no objection to expanding the statute of limitations, or even instituting a window of suspension of the statute of limitations, regarding bringing action against abusers,” Zwiebel said in the interview. “Our only objection is including institutions.”

Hamilton said that Hikind’s proposal would do little to help victims of sex abuse. “The problem is that the bill is still protecting the organizations and the powerful men in those organizations that are creating a lot of the problems,” she said. “So long as the legislators continue to defer to the men in power that are covering up the abuse of children, we are going to have serious problems.”

Hamilton said that the increased press coverage of sex abuse in the Orthodox world has shown the public that the Catholic Church isn’t the only institution to cover up sex abuse. Since The New York Times published its report, the issue has received substantial airtime in the national and New York media. Most recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg lambasted Hynes for not countering Agudath’s position that victims of sex abuse should obtain the permission of a rabbi before reporting to secular authorities.

“Any abuse allegations should be brought to law enforcement, who are trained to assess their accuracy and act appropriately,” Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, told the Times.

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter @NaomiZeveloff


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.