Top Orthodox Union figure ‘not sure’ if body has child protection policy

Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten told the inquiry that the UOHC ‘doesn’t really need’ a child protection policy


A leading figure within the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations has told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that he was “not sure” if the Union has a child protection policy.

Executive member Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten went on to suggest the UOHC might have one, although “it doesn’t really need one, because it does not deal directly with children”.

Questioning him on Wednesday, Fiona Scolding QC noted that the UOHC did not “run any child protection training or any child protection services as part and parcel of your organisation. Is there any particular reason for that?”

Rabbi Baumgarten responded that the rabbinate did not run services for young people. Schools were administered “by their own communities and definitely not under the auspices of the Union. But the Union, the rabbinate of the Union, strongly emphasises about child protection, and the work is done generally via an organisation which is called the Interlink Foundation…If you look in the Interlink witness statement, it says that thousands of people have been trained over the years.”

Ms Scolding went on to ask if rabbis appointed to UOHC synagogues were subject to Disclosure and Barring checks or any enhanced checks. “I don’t believe so,” Rabbi Baumgarten replied, “because they don’t have direct dealings with children as such.

“I’m sure that there are some who have got it but I don’t believe that is an official requirement, as  far as the Union is concerned.”

Ms Scolding asked whether “physical chastisement” was seen as an acceptable measure of discipline, even in yeshivot. Rabbi Baumgarten  responded that he had not heard of instances “in recent years.

“Should it happen, yes, I would be honest. I once had to report such a case, but it was reported immediately.”

Was mesirah - a prohibition  against informing on a fellow Jew to civil authorities – still relevant within the strictly Orthodox community?

The rabbi acknowledged it was, although, he said: “It depends on what. Mesirah does not apply where the person being reported is causing harm to others…The rabbinate is absolutely clear.”

Ms Scolding went on to ask about the “unfortunate situation” which led to the 2013 Dispatches documentary on Channel Four. [Secret filming had showed Charedi leader Rabbi Ephraim Padwa  instructing an alleged victim of child sexual abuse not to go to the police describing it as “mesirah”].

Were  the words and actions of Rabbi Padwa  “appropriate”, she asked? Rabbi Baumgarten said they were not.

“Rabbi Padwa, as you can see on Dispatches, he was already frail at the time. Unfortunately, his situation is worsening. I was not able to speak to him about it at all.

“I am not in a position of speculating what was behind it, what the  rabbi did say, what he meant.”

What had been done to stop anyone being  ostracised, for example, if they were to report abuse “against other members of your Charedi community?”, Ms Scolding went on to ask.

“To the best of my knowledge, the Union, of whom I am standing as witness today, has never been involved in any ostracisation” Rabbi Baumgarten replied.

Earlier in the day United Synagogue chief executive Steven Wilson gave evidence.

He was asked what the procedure was if he was made aware of someone who may pose a risk to children either worshipping in or wishing to worship in a US shul.

“It’s  generally because of an offender returning and we get a message, either from the  Probation Service, or directly from them.

“We have a process based around a safeguarding  contract. To start off with, though, there needs to be some basic risk assessment, which relates to the nature of the offence, the ongoing considered risk of the individual and the nature of the community that they’re going into.”


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