Rebbe Arrested After Hitting Student In Kiryas Joel

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A Rebbe in a Kiryas Joel Yeshiva was arrested on Friday. The crime? Hitting a child.

Sources tell YWN that the 13-year-old child was hit by his Rebbe, and the child immediately called the police to file a complaint.

The NY State Police arrived at the Yeshiva, and after an investigation, took the rebbe into custody.

A photo of the NY State Police outside the Yeshiva quickly went viral.

It appears the rebbe has since been released.

Recently, YWN reported about another incident where a Rebbe struck a child, and published a Halachic analysis by Rabbi Yair Hoffman if this is permitted.

The following is the analysis:

UNITED STATES LAW

Shockingly enough – there is no Federal law in the United States that prohibits corporal punishment in the United States. As of 2019, 31 or 32 states forbid it, and 18 or 19 states permit it – even in public schools. New York State forbids it in public schools but allows it in private schools.

There is more. A 1970’s Supreme Count ruling called, “Ingraham v. Wright,” rules in favor of the right of a school to spank children. In it, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of corporal punishment in schools by a 5-4 vote. In that ruling, Justice Lewis Powell explained that the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution was written only to protect the rights of convicted criminals, but not to schoolchildren confined to school.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Judge Powell further explained that in cases where corporal punishment crosses the line from a mere paddling to a severe beating, parents can sue in civil court and also bring up criminal charges for battery.

THE THINKING BEHIND IT ALL

What is the thinking behind allowing a school to spank? Apparently, those who support it claim that it is a quick method to restore order and learning – particularly for an offending student. There is no need for suspension when this type of punishment will get the young man back in line. Opponents feel that it can do some very serious harm.

THE HALACHA

But what is the halacha? Where does Jewish law stand in all of this?

In Mishlei (19:17) we read the advice of Shlomo HaMelech: “yaser bincha v’yanichecha – Chastise your son and he will give you rest, and he will grant pleasures to your soul.” But what does chastise here mean?

In Yore Deah 245:10, the Mechaber rules that one may only implement corporal punishment if one does not do it cruelly. He states that it must be done with a shoe lace, a small retzuah. In other words, a paddle is explicitly forbidden to be used by the Shulchan Aruch. This requirement that it be a shoelace strap is found in the Gemorah in Basra 21a.

Kicking a child would also be forbidden by the Shulchan Aruch. The punishment that is given may not be “makas oyev – the striking of an enemy” nor “mussar achzari –cruel punishment.” Indeed, the Chazon Ish (Yore Deah 2:16) writes that in contemporary times even this should not be done.

THREATENING WITH A PADDLE

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe YD Vol. IV #30) rules that not only is the use of a paddle or stick forbidden, but even threatening with the use of it is forbidden. He also rules that in contemporary times, corporal punishment should not be done. The Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah did advocate a form of gentle but physical spurring on to facilitate more learning. Rav Feinstein’s approach, however, follows another view.

POSSIBLE UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHAZON ISH AND RAV MOSHE

SO what is different about contemporary times from earlier times where a limited non-cruel form of gentle corporal punishment would be permitted? This author would like to suggest two changes. Firstly, the amount of people that would rationalize their own particular brand of corporal punishment as not being excessive (when it actually is) has risen. It is just not worth the risk if we allow it. Secondly, the loving manner in which it should be done has perhaps changed too.

It is know that Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky and Rav Yaakov Ruderman both grew up in the same town and attended the same Cheder. They once noted that their cheder Rebbe used excessive corporal punishment and that of the entire cheder only the two of them remained observant.

TORAH PROHIBITION

The Rav Shulchan Aruch (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:13) rules that a teacher who uses excessive corporal punishment is in violation of a Torah prohibition. He states that he is no different than anyone else who strikes another person.

AGE LIMITATION

The Maharsha in Kesuvos (50a) explains that there is a certain age limit where corporal punishment is limited and only verbal punishment must be used. The ruling of the Maharsha also appears in the Chiddushei Aggadah to Bava Basra 21a. The child appearing in the video is said to be 14 years old – above the age of the Maharsha’s rulings.

PLACED UNDER THE BAN AND DAMAGES

The Pischei Teshuvah cites a ruling of responsum Kiryas Chana (Siman 22), where a teacher struck a student so hard that the child’s leg was broken. The responsum ruled that the teacher must be placed under the ban until he pays the child the equivalent of the “Five Payments” enumerated in the 8th chapter of Bava Kamma – nezek (damage), tza’ar (pain), ripui (medical bills), sheves (unemployment), and boshes (embarrassment). The Kiryas Chana would understand the Gemorah that exempts a Rebbe from galus in the extreme case discussed in the Gemorah as applying only to galus but not to the five payments. Also, the various psukim in Mishlei that indicate a form of corporal punishment are possibly metaphorical as Rav Shlomo Volbe zt”l has written.

THE RULING OF THE SHVUS YAAKOV

Is the ruling cited the Pischei Teshuvah authoritative? It seems that the Shvus Yaakov (Vol. III #140) dissents about the matter of obligating him in payment. The Shvus Yaakov rules that the teacher is exempt from the monetary payment of four payments but is obligated in the medical bills. Thus, in the matter of actual payment there is a debate among the Achronim. Regardless, the monetary issues must conform with the contemporary application of the Five Payments as cited in Shulchan Aruch Choshain Mishpat (1:2).

CONCLUSION

The Midrash Rabbah (Parshas Nasoh 12:30) cites a remarkable Midrash involving Rabbi Abahu – which, depending on the interpretation, foreshadows the long term damage that corporal punishment can have on the recipient. Rabbi Abahu saw someone running with a wooden stick but also perceived a spiritual mazik also running along with an iron stick. Rabbi Abahu told the former not to strike the other lest he die. The man responded, “He is going to die just from a wooden stick?” Rabbi Abahu then told him about the spiritual mazik alongside him.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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36 COMMENTS

  1. There is NEVER an excuse or rationale to touch a child. I don’t believe in hitting kids, not as a parent or a teacher. While I don’t condone reporting the Rebbe to the police, we don’t know the full story: maybe the Rebbe has a temper & often hits kids; maybe the child is aggressive and this was the first time he was hit and he decided to call the police. But at the end of the day, this is 2020, not 1820. No child should ever be on the receiving end of a teacher’s wrath. Those days should be over.

  2. Why would any Rav believe he had the right to hit a child, no matter what the circumstances. This is 2020 in the United States…..not the 18th or 19th century in the alte heim. Rav Hoffman’s analysis should make clear that aside from the per se violation of laws governing child abuse, there is much damage to the neshama from such corporal punishment.

  3. you might think that this will be detrimental toward rebbeim and how they control the students. a rebbi may think 2x now before he turns around and whacks a kid. but if anything if can be be a very good thing because now it filters out the real rebbeim who are yirei shamyaim and want to genuinely be mechanech children in the right way. a real satmarer yirei shmayim wont think 2x about the legal reprecussions or embarrssment about getting arrested if he slaps a kid if he feels that is the right thing to do for him and what is important for his chinuch. period that filters out the rebbeim form who is just doing it for the money and who is for real. it also filters out the potches that rebbeim give to ensure that they coem from a real place and not a place of anger etc. becuase he knows if its wrong then hell get in trouble

  4. Hoffman is entitled to his opinion but anyone else is entitled to follow the widely adhered to mainstream Halacha the a Rebbe is permitted (or even required under certain circumstances) to hit a child. This is been the undisputed from Chazal through Shulchan Aruch (which says so explicitly) through the Mishna Brura.

  5. My younger brother left Yeshiva for public school when a Rebbie twisted his ear. He remained frum as long as he was with the family but became Zionist – non frum when he volunteered to help Israel in 1973 and was placed on a Shomrai Hatzaeir Kibbutz. I recently met a classmate of mine whose father took him to the barber for a haircut and the barber cut his payos off. This was in 5th grade. The Rebbie had the whole class line up to pass this boy and say “Fooey, Shaigatz” to his face and then go back to our seats. This boy is a successful lawyer today but he is no longer frum. His older brother is a Rosh Yeshiva. Even though Yiddish was my first and primary language this same Rebbie thought me that we were all “shtick menivels”, “shtick drech” and we would bren in gehenim. I always wondered why we were “shticks” and not “whole”. Out of 13 fifth grade students only 4 of us remained frum. Yup! Those were the good old days.

  6. there is hitting and there is hitting. A ‘hit’ can be a smack or a ‘hit’ can be a hard punch.
    I got smacked too much as a kid, most of my friends grew up got bar mitzvah and dropped out. I don’t blame them.
    A melamed has to learn how to deal with problem kids in a manner that will solve the problem, not just shut the kid up.

  7. I once had a teacher who had a paddle, not that he used it, but it said, “For those who misbehave in class, this paddle will paddle your…”

    As far as the comments within the “story” pertaining to the Supreme Court. Just because the judge might disagree with it on a fundamental basis, he or she is there two rule on the case based on the Constitution. So, the judge in the 5 to 4 decision issued a correct statement. When a case is brought in front of the Supreme Court, it is based upon a point in the Constitution and it’s up to each side to show why they are correct about their interpretation of the Constitution.

  8. They want to create the Alte Heim of Europe and they got it. The family was seen leaving town with only what they could carry. The community came out and jeered, taunted, and laughed at them. Ah, the good old days.

  9. to the comentor “doc”
    its Rabbi Hoffman to you
    you are a mechutzaf and a mevaze talmid chochom
    you are not entitlled to your opinion where you are mevazeh a tallmid chochom
    look up the “mainsteam(your language) gemara
    col hameveze takmid chochom
    ain lo treufah lemakasoi

  10. Two comments:
    1) There is a verified story from the 80s of a rebbe who lost it and rammed a student’s head into the blackboard. The child suffered bleeding on the brain which was not immediately apparent. He was taken to the hospital the next day and was niftar from the blow. Obviously, “hitting” can go beyond the boundaries.

    2) In the 50s-70s many of the rebbeim were survivors from Europe, and some of them suffered from what we now know as PTSD. There was no diagnosis or help in those days, and some weren’t able to handle teaching American kids. Unfortunately many of the children they taught were alienated and left frumkeit.

    Now we also have some rebbeim who can’t handle a class, for whatever reasons of lack of skills/education or personal issues (like financial pressures from low salaries). There are unfortunately also people who are unsuitable for teaching in the first place. We need to weed these teachers out, find them a suitable alternate parnassah (not just dump them) and make sure that our current generation of children have rebbeim who are able to teach and manage them properly without either verbal or physical violence.

  11. im actually shocked and surprised that even in satmar (as is known that in chasideshe mosdos they still hit the kids)
    but to hit a 13 year old !!! i would think even in satmar that wouldnt happen guess now they learnt their lesson from now on they will change the policy)
    generally speaking hitting a child isnt how to be mechanech and get your point across if the child isnt going to listen to authority hitting him isnt going to change anything just drive the child further away as is evidenced by the comments written above
    usually the rebbe is frustrated and loses control is when he lashes out and hits his students
    theirs a famous cute story about a rebbe who came to complain to the principal about a certain child in his class who was totally out of control and he said unless this child is put on medication ritalyn etc im not going to let him back into the class . the plan was in order for the child not to be embarrassed in public the rebbe would send him out each day to take his medication by asking him to bring him a cup of water
    each day he obediently went out and brought his rebbe back a glass of water and things worked out beautifully
    when the child was asked hows it working out with your rebbe he said great ever since i add the pill to his water each day things have really improved !
    perhaps the rebbe should take his medication and less children will be hit….

  12. @Doc halcha clearly doesn’t allow hitting on the face like most rebbes do, but even if he’s hitting the correct way, it is Absolutely Asur to hit someone that is Bar Mitzvah!! And in almost every case that the kid calls the police the kid is 13 or older, bec that’s when they feel independent enough to do it.

  13. a 13 yr old from Monroe who calls the police in stead of going to his parents has bigger issues next he will call the police on his own ;parents i am in no way condoning the rebbe but this child needs help asap

  14. If the allegation of assault is verified, and that is crucial in these circumstances, seeing this Satmar Rav in a striped suit (shatnes free of course) will hopefully serve as a deterrent against other rabbeim or for that matter anyone involved in chinuch, using physical force against students.

  15. Mo613 your right, the kid definitely has issues, it’s definitely not normal for kid to do that, I have been thru the system so I know that, I will still like to add as a side point that is Absolutely Asur to hit someone thats Bar Mitzvah and older, technically the boy can take the rebbe to base din.

  16. Wish we would have done that back in the 50’s when we went to CHEDER,at that time almost all of the melamdim where absolute ROTZCHIM, can’t really blame then as almost all of them were holocaust survivors who were psychologically damaged.but now for a rebbe to hit a child,there is no excuse for it,they should throw the book at these criminals and give them long prison sentences.

  17. Rav שלמה Wolbe זצקללה”ה who was the unequivocal גדול-הדור in his day and age Paskanned in his famous Sepher עלי-שור that any and all hitting are absolutely אסור; Hence there is nothing more to talk about, and Kudos to this brave kid for calling the police on this so called Rebbe who had the audacity to disdain the פסק of Rav שלמה Wolbe זצקללה”ה

  18. Yossie’la: There’s nothing wrong demonstrating that Hoffman is wrong. Letting an incorrect opinion remain unchallenged, even if it was made by a former school rebbi/principal, and as much respect as he deserves, is absolutely wrong.

  19. Baruch….shehechiyanu, vekiyemanu, vehigiyanu lazman hazeh…..finally, the powerless and helpless children have a way to keep adults from violating them.

  20. A 13 year old calls 911 when assaulted by an adult and people claim the child has issues? Perhaps this isn’t the first time he was hit and he told his parents who, fearing community pressure, did nothing.

  21. This issue masks the really serious problem happening in public schools that has made into the Jewish schools. The problem is that unqualified people are doing MANY MANY different dangerous and destructive actions on the children. This hitting has actually become the least of it. As one example, today, unqualified (and also those with alleged credentials who are “politically correct”) force horrible drugs upon children to keep them in line for (what is mainly only a) perceived problem of behaviour. I have know those who have had life basically ruined from such treatment, all of it sanctioned by the powers-that-be. The politically-correct, allegedly “civilized” modern version of beating a child to near death for (allegedly) their own good.

    The obvious point is that the perpetrator either knows when it is appropriate and how to properly administer what is required, or else they do not. Mostly, they do not, and they only imagine in their fevered hubris that they have any idea. So they have no right to administer neither corporal punishment nor medications. I have no problem with either one when it is done by someone who legitimately knows what they are doing.

  22. I am sickened by the “wise guys” here who claim to know better than our Gedolei Yisroel who addressed chinuch shailos in full understanding of Shulchan Aruch and Divrei Chazal. Just as one would be close to mentally ill is he were to look for the crank under the front bumper to start his car today, we have to be cognizant of today;s children before applying the patterns that once worked for chinuch. Next, these same “wise guys” apparently have not perused the now numerous seforim on chinuch from the greats of today’s generation and a few recent ones. The question about hitting is addressed openly and in detail, based completely on Divrei Chazal (and without the influence of any secular sources). There are a few conditions that permit the inclusion of hitting within chinuch.

    * It is NOT done out of anger.
    * It is done as a last resort, having employed other strategies forst.
    * It is done with complete awareness of the likely consequences.
    * It is not damaging to the child, physically or emotionally.
    * It does not punish, but it teaches.
    * It does not cause the child embarrassment or shame.
    * When all conditions are met, the first potch can be permitted, the second is an assault and completely assur min haTorah.
    * It is never done to “set an example”.
    * It is done to teach the child, not to exert power over the class.

    There are others. These were each gleaned from seforim of Gedolei Yisroel, including Maran Ovadia Yosef, Chasam Sofer, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, Rav Shteinman, Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon of Pinsk-Karlin, Rav Klonymus Kalman of Pieceznia, Rav Dovid Levy, Rav Velvel of Brisk, Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schnnerson of Lubavitch, Rav Gamliel Rabinovich, Rav Aharon Friedman, Rav Eliyahu Shalom Berkovitz, and quite a few others.

    Before we pronounce the news item as either good or bad in either direction, we should first study the sugya. It is more complex. Some abusive rebbeiim need to be removed from chinuch, and among these might be some who merit going to jail. There are other cases in which the potch is educational, and muttar according to halacha (albeit very few cases qualify for this). Inasmuch as I am not being asked to pasken a shailoh here, and thus not provided with full detail of the situation, I hesitate to weigh in on the case. But the comments here are mostly guilty of generalizing, and finding that the situation does not qualify with one’s beliefs, and is therefore some sort of aveiroh. That I claim to be the product of ignorance.

  23. Whatever you believe chazal may or may not have concluded hundreds of years ago regarding the merits of a rebbe hitting children entrusted to their supervision, it is irrelevant from a practical perspective when dealing with children in schools in the United States in 2020. More likely than not, if you are a rav who has physically assaulted in child and the facts are validated, you will end up in jail and possibly for a very long time. If you cannot control your talmidim, think about a new line of work. Likewise, yiddeshe mosdos need to do more to train their rebbeim and moros on educational techniques and how to discipline unruly or disruptive students

  24. I’m wondering when Joseph received his medical license. .Docs’s comments here are almost a cut and paste of Joe’s oft repeated views on the subject(…” even very hard in the face”). Don’t know why doc/Joe don’t cite the Stipler who flatly prohibited hitting a child except in cases where the child acted dangerously..

  25. We do not need to armchair quarterback here. But hitting students is perhaps not common, but definitely not rare. There are several questions we need to ask when such incidents happen.

    * Does this rebbe have extensive experience in the field of chinuch?
    * Has he been trained in chinuch, including writing curriculum and classroom management?
    * Has he hit students in the past? Is this one of his disciplinary tools?
    * How does this rebbe deal with the student after administering this potch?
    * Does the rebbe love the talmid, and does the talmid know that?
    * Is the severity of the offense that great that it warrants resorting to severe consequences?
    * Was the dignity of the student preserved throughout the ordeal?
    * Has this rebbe ever consulted with elder mechanchim to get guidance on how to handle behaviorally challenging students?
    * Can the rebbe complete the posuk of חושך שבטו שונא בנו without having to look it up?

    I am not taking an attacking position on this rebbe. Yes, I frown on hitting students for many reasons, some of which are implied in this comment and the previous one. Instead of accusing, it is smarter to address the issue. The rebbe is the authority figure in he room. Is that being exercised or exploited?