"I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.…"
What is Rabbi Manis Friedman – belatedly and after much pressure – apologizing for?
Rabbi Friedman's apology:
I want to apologize for my completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse. I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable.
For that I am deeply sorry.
Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.
From now on, I will make sure to make those points absolutely clear. This is about more than regret. The subject can't be neglected.
I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.
Manny Waks, head of the Australian-based Tzedek organization which advocates for victims of sexual abuse, responded to Friedman's apology:
On behalf of Tzedek I welcome the apology issued by Rabbi Manis Friedman as a positive first-step in addressing his ignorant and deeply offensive remarks. It is regrettable that Rabbi Friedman waited until now to issue this apology - but it is nonetheless a welcome development.
It is important to emphasise that no one is infallible, and that we should therefore accept an apology that is sincere. In this case, due to the immense damage caused, it may take some time for many to evaluate Rabbi Friedman’s sincerity. This is completely understandable and should be respected. This is especially the case for the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse themselves.
In light of Rabbi Friedman’s apology, Tzedek will in due course consider its position regarding its pursuit of legal action through the Beth Din.
I have been in contact with a number of Rabbi Friedman’s close associates and we hope to progress this matter further.
It is my sincere hope that this incident will be turned from a negative to a positive, and greater emphasis will now be placed on the issue of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, especially within the ultra-Orthodox community. There is no doubt that child sexual abuse is an issue within the broader community, but as we have seen, there are specific issues and challenges in addressing this scourge within our own community, and even more so within the ultra-Orthodox community.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who expressed their support so far, and especially to those who took a public position critical of Rabbi Friedman’s offensive comments. As we have seen, it is essential for as many people as possible to speak out in such circumstances. It is important to highlight the unequivocal statements issued by three leading Australian Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant and Rabbi Yoram Ulman.
A further statement will be issued in due course.