Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sexual Misconduct of Rabbi/Therapist by Dr. Klafter

Guest Post by Dr. Nachum Klafter:
[see related Dr. Klafter's critique of Rav Zilberstein's proposal for same gender therapist-client
Nachum Klafter, M.D., is Director of Psychotherapy Training at the University of Cincinnati Psychiatry Residency Training Program.  Dr. Klafter received his M.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He completed his specialty training in psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he also served as Chief Resident.  Dr. Klafter maintains a private practice in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  He is the Vice President of the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School Board.  He is an active member of the Nefesh International network of Orthodox Jewish Mental Health Professionals.  Dr. Klafter’s interest in child advocacy stems from his experiences as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, through which he has learned in intimate detail the tragic, long-term impact of child sexual abuse on its victims.  He resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and four daughters- He also contributed a chapter to my sefer Child and Domestic Abuse Volume I
Sexual Misconduct and the Question of Rehabilitation [v3]


  1. I just completed reading Klafter's opinions expressed in the above document.

    One fatal point: In a democracy with freedom of religion, there is no way to enforce stopping a "predator" (Klafter's Type 4) from continuing to function in a position of a rabbi and seeing religious members of the opposite gender and providing them with clerical pastoring therapy.

    As Klafter acknowledged, these fellows are not licensed by anyone. Not as a therapist and not as rabbi. And, thus, no one can stop them from continuing to engage in their harmful activities. They will just continue being a rabbi in a shul they own and control. And they will continue seeing women.

    No one can stop them. Having sex with an adult member of their congregation is against halacha, but it is not a violation of secular law. (See what happened with Rabbi Tendler in Monsey, New York.)

  2. But institutions can fire their rabbis, and rabbibical councils can censure their members and publicize their ethical infractions.

    1. Nachum Klafter: No one can fire a rabbi that works for himself, has his own congregation and takes in people for rabbinic counseling.

      No one can stop him. He can continue indefinitely as long as he doesn't break secular law in his sexual pursuits.

      And in America and almost anywhere else, most Orthodox rabbis of congregations effectively work for themselves. (Perhaps the MO are different in this regard.)

  3. Dr.Klafter it is an excellent essay and clearly elucidates points of concern.

    Just wanted to comment on your statement:

    "In all disciplines of the mental healthprofession, any sexual activity with a current or former patient/client is absolutely prohibited and is grounds for professional disciplinary action, typically involvingsuspension or termination of one's license. In some jurisdictions, this is also subject tocriminal prosecution. Similarly, sexual misconduct by Rabbis is obviously forbidden by the
    just like any other sexual activity outside of marriage, but it is furtherreprehensible than usual sexual prohibitions because of the destructive impact on theclient's spiritual and psychological well being"\
    It is worth noting that there are also some jurisdictions where sexual misconduct by clergy has been criminalized"

    as far as I know there is no concern for fudiciary relationship in sexual transgressions in the halacha. Even in secular law there is not a universal acceptance that the rabbi congregant relationship is different and therefore the congregant has less free will.

    Consequently the violations of boundaries seems entirely a secular concern. Torah focuses simply on whether the relationship is prohibited because of adultery or nida - but not whether the man has seduced the woman because of a special status or relatioship. Doesn't this absence of discussion of fiduciary relations in the halachic literature means that the Torah doesn't view it as significant?

    1. Great point, RDE. In fact, to take what you are saying one step further, the congregant/laywoman could potentially be halachicly more at fault and culpable for the sexual inpropriety she engaged in with her (or another) rabbi.

      Or, the most likely situation in most cases, she is equally culpable as the rabbi.



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