To Prey or To Pray–Child Molesters in Shul

In life, we all have our heroes. And I, like everyone else, have a few people whom I consider heroes. One of those heroes is a survivor. No, not of the Holocaust–but her own personal Holocaust. Rivka Joseph is a survivor of molestation, abuse and other horrors that she had to face. Fortunately for many others, she is not only a survivor but also an advocate in the arena of child sexual abuse. With regularity, I follow her posts and the various threads in which she comments.

This afternoon, I began to follow a post of her’s and also even commented on it. That thread (for which I have her permission to share and can be seen on her Facebook page link above) discusses a very important topic. Convicted sex offenders, child molesters: Do they have a right to pray in a synagogue. Should a shul open its doors to a child sex abuser? Should we worry that the abuser is there to PREY and not to PRAY? Should we try to be welcoming and perhaps enable this soul to repent in our midst?

The answer to that question is a resounding NO! Under no circumstances should a convicted child sex offender be permitted in the walls of a shul. No exceptions! You chose to molest, rape, fondle, abuse a child: YOU HAVE FORFEITED YOUR PRIVILEGE TO PRAY WHERE KIDS ARE PRESENT! Why in the world would you even think it would be ok? On what planet would it be ok to put a child molester into a place (shul) that is supposed to be a safe environment?

If you want to have a minyan, ask nine other men to come over to your house and daven with them. But, never ever feel you are entitled to go to a place where children are davening. Rather than listen to MY words, listen to the words of an expert–Rivka Joseph:

“There are a number of reasons why we cannot allow these abusers in our shuls. The first being that it is impossible to keep an eye on our children every single second in shul. That is not a reflection on our parenting. It is the reality of life- and good parents allow their children age appropriate autonomy. Shul should be a safe place for our children, somewhere were they feel comfortable coming to daven and hear the Torah. It should be associated with pleasant memories, not ones of abuse.
The second reason is that when you allow someone into the shul, the children view that person as someone who is “OK.” That is where the grooming process starts, even if no abuse happens within the shul walls. If the abuser approaches a child later and says “come on, you remember me. You see me all the time in Shul on Shabbat,” then, the child associates this person with someone who is good and ok to be with. This is a very dangerous road to go down.”


I echo every word Rivka says in her post. And it is for this reason I urge every single shul to have a WRITTEN policy in their by-laws that strictly prohibits convicted child sex abusers from EVER entering into their building. Shuls have rules about which caterer can work in their kitchen out of concern to maintain a high level of Kashrut. Yet, in most cases, these same shuls are bereft of a policy regarding molesters.

We, as a community, have a responsibility to our children! We can not foster a situation in which our children are not safe. Please, in the strongest terms possible, I urge you to take action at your next Board Meeting or through whatever mechanism you use in your shul to pass a motion to add rules that will protect your children–our children. And never say “it won’t happen here.” That kind of statement, sadly, has led to many children becoming victims of child sexual abuse.



5 thoughts on “To Prey or To Pray–Child Molesters in Shul

  1. I am in complete agreement, but there’s one comment in the original blog that concerns me: “shul should be a safe place for our children, somewhere were they feel comfortable”. The TRUTH is, we need to speak to/educate our children at the earliest possible age about those who might invade the privacy of their body. There is no shul, no school, no family that can be “guaranteed” as safe. There are unconvicted, unknown predators who are relatives, teachers, or upstanding members of our community; it is not in any child’s or parent’s best interest to assume that any environment is completely safe. Banning CONVICTED abusers without also educating our children is like shooting a lone wolf while the rest of the pack lays patiently hidden

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you comments. My post is a PIECE of an entire tapestry of making are children safe…there is education and so much else to this topic…I have addressed some of those issues in the past, as well. Thanks for the comment!


  2. So true! Would we let our children hang around a convicted murderer hoping that he won’t strike again because he looks rehabilitated? Would we let our child go in a car with a drunk driver because he or she looks like they might be OK to drive? How is this different? In life we reap what we sew..if u chose to behave a certain way you will be treated accordingly…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish that more people in the orthodox community felt this way. Unfortunately, as much as we say we love our children, the culture is focused almost completely on protecting the abuser, and avoiding discomfort or embarrassment to the community. At the end of the day, it is incomprehensible to me why people are so saddened and upset when a child is a victim of terrorism, but are silent and silencing when it comes to abuse. Having been a victim of abuse, I would rather live with the scars from a terror attack than the scars from that kind of abuse. There really is nothing worse.

    Liked by 1 person

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