Mandated Reporting on Child Abuse in Jewish Law and Israeli Law
The Family in Law Review (Hebrew), Vol. 3, 2010
23 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2009 Last revised: 29 Dec 2014
Date Written: November 27, 2009
In some countries, there is a duty to report to the law-enforcement authorities and/or the welfare authorities about any violence towards children performed by their parents, family members, or guardians. There are those who support the creation of such a duty (on the general public or on professional dealing with the family) out of an emphasis on the rights of the child and his welfare, and saving him from the people in whom he was supposed to trust; and there are those who oppose it out of a concern for an injury to the autonomy of the family unit, interference in individual liberty, injury to the livelihood of the professionals, and a fear of false reports.
This Article will present the balancing approach of Jewish Law on this subject, as shaped primarily in the responsa literature in the last two decades, parallel to the rise of the rights of the child in Israel and in the world. Jewish law celebrates, on one hand, the importance of reporting and handling cases of violence against children and the religious principle of distancing a sinner from the sin, but prefers, as far as possible, on the other hand, reporting and handling within the communal institutions whenever there is not an immediate danger which requires the external intervention of law-enforcement bodies. This approach is supported primarily by the traditional structure of the Jewish community and the concern that cooperation with the government may eventually hurt the community and the family.
The Article will demonstrate more than a few intersections between the religious Jewish Law and the secular Israeli law, which also contains a possible path of report to welfare authorities and not specifically to law enforcement authorities, and which also applies the duty to report to cases of severe violence and not to every case of violence. A similarity (although not an exact match) will be shown between the two systems of law, despite the differing starting points, some of which stem from the nature of Jewish law as religious law and some of which stem from the unique nature of the Jewish community, which has always strived to maintain its autonomy, showed a suspicious attitude towards the government, and attempted to manage its own affairs and solve its internal problems independently.
Note: Downloadable document is in Hebrew.
Keywords: mandatory reporting, child abuse and neglect, Jewish law, Israeli law
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