I hope you all are well and are surviving what hopefully are the last gasps of winter. Learning at yeshiva is continuing apace as first and second year students make progress in their various mesekhtot and third and fourth year students complete the sugya of birkat eirusin, the mitzvah and institution of kiddushin, and the notion of kiddushin as kinyan, and move on to the issues of the ownership and giving of the ring.
Monday was a particularly powerful day, as we cleared our afternoon classes to devote the entire afternoon to the topic of Preventing Child Abuse. The presenters for the day were Victor Vieth and Dr. Shira Berkovits, and the sessions were moderated by Dr. Michelle Friedman. Victor Vieth is the foremost expert on child abuse, and serves as the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center, and institute which trains approximately 15,000 child protection professionals each year. Dr. Shira Berkovits is a postdoctoral psychology fellow at Einstein's Kennedy Center, where she provides therapy to parents and young children with trauma backgrounds, and has developed a guide for preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues, which will hopefully become a standard in the Orthodox community.
As we all know, this is a matter of utmost importance for rabbis. First, to have policies in place that will ensure that such abuse never takes place on their premises by synagogue members or by employees of their institutions. One student pointed out the irony that when he applied for a lease on his apartment, he had to do a background check, but when he took a job as a youth leader in a synagogue, no one did a background check.
But the responsibility goes further. The larger majority of abuse is perpetrated not by strangers, but by friends and family members. As future rabbis, our students will be uniquely placed to be able to see and identify signs of abuse that take place elsewhere and to be positioned to do something about it. They must be certain that they are doing all that they can to protect those innocent children in our community and this training is a critical necessity.
We were joined on Monday by the Maharat students and by a number of rabbis in the field watching via livestream. Students were profoundly impacted by the sessions, with one student mentioning to me that it was the most meaningful day he had in yeshiva the whole year.
If you would like to watch the sessions, you can view them on our livestream channel here. Please make sure to click on "Event Details" where you will find a link for the PowerPoint slides used in the presentation.