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Sunshine Protects Child Abuse Victims

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Just when you think good, old-fashioned investigative journalism is going the way of the horse and buggy and typewriter, there comes along a thoughtful expose that restores your faith in a free and robust press.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times (where I started my career as a lowly copy boy a quarter century ago) produced a two-part series on the unusually cozy relationship between the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and the Orthodox rabbis in some Brooklyn communities who seemed to be playing judge and jury in cases of sexual abuse of young children.

Whether it's the Catholic Church, Penn State football or the Orthodox Jewish community, the instinct to close ranks and shield alleged abusers because of the negative publicity to their tribe is the wrong one.

Just ask the late football coach Joe Paterno's family how well that strategy worked. Or the Catholic Church, which has lost millions of dollars and lots of credibility because of its slow response to rampant abuse of children.

In New York, the subways have signs all over that say, "If you see something, say something," which refers, of course, to potential terrorism. Well, that phrase should apply to the sexual abuse of children.

It is never right to cover this up and protect those who prey on the defenseless and voiceless in our society. The damage to our kids, to our communities and to our collective well-being is huge.

So now, as a result of The New York Times articles (which followed some excellent reporting by Jewish Week newspaper, The Forward and a blog called failedmessiah.com) and the resulting condemnation by Mayor Bloomberg, former Mayor Koch (both Jewish leaders) and other elected officials, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has finally woken up to the problem in his borough and is targeting those who intimidate Orthodox community members to stay quiet in abuse cases.

As I recently said about President Obama's decision to support marriage equality: What took him so long?

Charles Hynes has been a long and tireless public servant in Brooklyn. In this case, it was only after the New York Times exposed his office's misguided subservience to politically powerful Orthodox rabbis, that he finally did the right thing.

A free and robust press is necessary in our society to keep our elected leaders honest and impartial. In Brooklyn, many Orthodox Jewish parents and children should be thanking the New York Times today for its groundbreaking reporting.

Sunlight always crowds out darkness. Our society and our children need sunlight for their health, both celestial and metaphorical.

Today, hopefully, families in Orthodox communities in Brooklyn will realize that insularity is not always good. It leads to unfettered power and injustice.

Great journalism -- our society's sunlight which shines on our darkest places -- is helping parents and children get justice in Brooklyn.

For that, I say, amen.

Tom Allon, who attended an Orthodox Yeshiva as child, is a 2013 liberal and Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City.

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