“Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals”– Sexual Abuse and Jewish Clergy


Neustein, Amy (editor). “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals”, Brandeis University Press, 2009.

Sexual Abuse and Jewish Clergy

Amos Lassen

I never dreamt that I would see a book like this. I suppose that is because I have never heard of any instances in which Jewish clergy was responsible for child sex scandals. Now I see I was wrong and I guess my Jewish chauvinism of “it can’t happen here” has lost its credibility.


In the past few years we have been made more and more aware of child abuse from the clergy and I know I would read stories with my mouth wide open thinking what a horrible thing this is. I figured that a lot of this happened in the Catholic Church because of celibacy and in other Christian churches because of the fundamentalist views. As I read this book I discovered that in 2006 there were stories in the media about rabbis who had abused children in their care. In 2007, the stories began to spread and what was obviously missing from the picture was a way to deal with the problem. Unlike other religions, Judaism has no central body to legislate on such happenings and I am sure that many other Jews felt the same way that I did about it not happening to us.


Amy Neustein takes a look at the situation from different perspectives—she has essays written by rabbis, lawyers, psychotherapists, social workers and educators who include in their work ways of teaching children how to be safe from the predators that are out there. She has divided the book into three sections—in the first section, “Breaking the Vow”, the essays relate to rabbis who practice pedophilia and I found this to be totally shocking. The second section, “Sacrificing Victims” shows the community reaction to abuse and shockingly describes how abuse is covered up by a community and how and why victims of abuse are ignored or cast out of their communities. We also see here how some religious communities will protect their own leaders. “Let Me Know the Way”, the third section shows how we can rise above the situation and the abuse and offers solutions of how to handle abuse.


What we get here—in what I understand is the first book on the subject—is an overview of the entire issue and what we can do about it. The book is, in effect, a way to learn how to protect children and thereby make Jewish communities safe havens. The book itself is quite open and it is written in a way that anyone can understand it. We are able to further see the values of Torah and in doing so we can make sure that abuse does not come to be in our communities. The book may shock you as it did me but it is also a call to make sure that something like this will never happen. It is a must read for all those who have children, want to have children and who work with children.


Amos Lassen
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