"…Why is it important to share this information with the public? One of the reasons is to help dispel a myth that it is only an Orthodox issue; that they are the only ones who mishandle the response to child sexual abuse allegations and cover-ups. Certainly there are unique issues of relevance only to the Orthodox community – indeed, most of the recent allegations of child sexual abuse and subsequent cover ups involve Orthodox institutions – but the attitude and actions (and in many cases inactions) of many of the non-denominational, unaffiliated etc. institutions are similar (and many cases identical).…"
Manny Waks, the lead victim in the Chabad child sexual abuse scandal in Melbourne, Australia, and the founder and president of the anti-abuse organization Tzedek writes:
In light of the recent developments in Melbourne and Sydney, it is worth asking where the so-called peak bodies of the Australian Jewish community have been.
The Jewish Community Council of Australia (JCCV) has at least formed a Reference Group to try to address this issue. Tzedek is pleased with this initiative and proud to be working closely with some of Reference Group members, including its Chair, Andrew Blode. But the Reference Group has a very specific role and it does not include reacting to these ongoing developments (it is mainly tasked to work with other organisations to ensure they have appropriate policies and procedures in place). Addressing the ongoing scandal, which is receiving significant publicity, would still be a JCCV responsibility. Even if this means issuing public statements so the community knows where the JCCV stands.
The News South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (NSWJBD) have appeared to have done very little to respond to the ongoing scandal, which has been in the public domain for many months. Apparently they issued a single public statement some time ago.
The following is the verbatim correspondence Tzedek had with the NSWJBD:
Sent from Tzedek CEO Manny Waks to NSWJBD CEO Vic Alhadeff on 5 March 2013:
It's been a while - I trust you're well!
Since the public exposures regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Sydney Jewish community, I've been waiting for the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies to issue some form of public statement. It's now been several weeks and it seems that I might be waiting in vain!
I'm not entirely sure what if anything the Board is doing in this regard but I think that it would be most appropriate for the peak body of the NSW Jewish community to take some action. And ideally this should be disseminated within our community so that everyone is aware of where you stand and what you are doing.
Initially the Jewish Community Council of Victoria was very slow to act but I'm pleased to say that they are now addressing this issue. Indeed we are working closely with them. By contrast, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, unfortunately, has still maintained its relative silence/inaction on this issue. In fact, I recently contacted Danny Lamm (and Ccd Peter Wertheim) requesting him to consider retracting his earlier statements trying to downplay the scandal currently engulfing our community (you may recall that Danny publicly stated that there is no evidence that this has been endemic within our community). Somewhat unsurprisingly, I am yet to hear back from him.
I would respectfully urge you to re-consider the Board's position on this issue.
I and Tzedek stand ready to assist you and the Board in whatever way we can.
Thanks for your consideration and I look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.
After not receiving a response, Manny sent a follow-up email to Vic on 12 March 2013:
Hi again Vic,
Not sure if you've had the opportunity to read this email....I look forward to your response when you get the chance.
Vic responded to Manny on 13 March 2013:
We have a public statement and cannot do anything else while matters are in court.
Manny then responded to Vic (Cc’ing NSWJBD President Yair Miller) on 13 March 2013:
A most disappointing response Vic.
Firstly, I'm not aware of any cases that are currently before the courts in Sydney.
Secondly, I'm not sure what public statement you are referring to (when was it released and where is it available?).
Finally, just because there is currently an investigation taking place (in fact several) doesn't mean that the NSWJBD can't issue statements/take steps.
I would expect that if this issue was a high priority for the NSWJBD it would be given the attention it deserves. I'm not quite sure why this isn't the case. It's quite sad. Respectfully, it seems to me that the leadership needs to be educated regarding this issue. As previously offered, Tzedek stands ready to provide this.
I look forward to your response.
Tzedek has still not received a response to our last email (from around a month ago). We are not holding our breath.
Since this scandal became public in mid-2011, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has repeatedly attempted to downplay this issue. They have also given it scant attention, especially when compared with some of their other activities. Simply put, despite their disingenuous claims (by pointing to their involvement in a few meetings and press releases), it is not a matter of high priority for them. To illustrate, the following is a link to an article, which was written by the ECAJ, covering the discussion at their most recent Annual General Meeting (November 2012) – as you will see, not a single word on the child sexual abuse scandal: http://www.jwire.com.au/news/ecaj-agm/30189 The following link is to a shocking, embarrassing and damaging radio interview with ECAJ President, Dr Danny Lamm: https://soundcloud.com/manny-waks/121114-danny-lamm-on-774-abc
Manny Waks sent the following email to Danny Lamm on 21 February 2013:
I'm wondering whether you are now in a position to retract your comments that child sexual abuse and cover-ups has not been endemic in our community. If for some reason you are not yet convinced that this is an apt description, the attached article [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B55lNPtqin5KaFBlT29mRjZyZE0/edit?usp=sharing] would perhaps serve as further evidence - not only has it been endemic within Australia but it seems that this has been the case globally!
Let me know if you'd like to catch up at any stage and I'd be happy to do so. We could discuss this and any other related matter, including what the ECAJ could be doing to address this ongoing scandal.
Tzedek has still not received a response to this email (from almost two months ago). We are not holding our breath.
The national Orthodox peak group, the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA), has been fairly mum. While their Immediate Past President, Rabbi Dovid Freilich, and current President, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, have taken a strong public stance (including the latter taking a leading role as a supporter of victims/survivors but in a private capacity), they have both faced significant internal opposition. Most notably, in an extended interview with the Australian Jewish News, Rabbi Freilich highlighted the attitude and inactions of most of his colleagues to the child sexual abuse scandal as a major factor in his decision to resign as President of ORA (seehttps://docs.google.com/file/d/0B55lNPtqin5KdVpDOWFlMl9XWnc/edit?usp=sharing).
The Rabbinical Council of New South Wales have had their own issues – for example:http://www.jewishnews.net.au/rabbi-should-step-down/22129
The Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) has as one of its members the Yeshivah Centre’s Rabbi Telsner. Plenty has been written about him and we understand that the RCV is currently in the process of gathering evidence as part of an investigation into Rabbi Telsner and to consider next steps.
The Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) and subsequently the Zionist Federation of Australia have both become involved, due to the alleged actions of the ZCV President, Mr Sam Tatarka (see http://www.jwire.com.au/news/community-leader-avoids-court-appearance/28721, http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/09/brother-of-chabad-official-implicated-in-child-sex-abuse-coverup-allegedly-threatens-victims-advocate-in-shul-345.html &http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/10/chabad-child-sex-abuse-scandal-attack-on-victims-advocate-reportedly-settled-out-of-court-456.html).
So why is it important to share this information with the public?
One of the reasons is to help dispel a myth that it is only an Orthodox issue; that they are the only ones who mishandle the response to child sexual abuse allegations and cover-ups. Certainly there are unique issues of relevance only to the Orthodox community – indeed, most of the recent allegations of child sexual abuse and subsequent cover ups involve Orthodox institutions – but the attitude and actions (and in many cases inactions) of many of the non-denominational, unaffiliated etc. institutions are similar (and many cases identical).
And why do these institutions respond to the issue of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in this appalling way?
There are a number of reasons for this. Some have never encountered this issue and simply do not know how to respond. Others feel that we should not be discussing such sensitive issues in public (for a variety of reasons). Others want to portray the community as being perfect; that paedophilia simply does not exist within the Jewish community. Others are concerned that such issues would increase antisemitism. Others have additional reasons for this.
Tzedek would be happy to provide the right of response to any of the organisations mentioned above.
While the emphasis here is on the Australian context, it is almost identical throughout the global Jewish community.
Tzedek and other victim advocacy groups are trying to change this pervasive and highly-damaging culture. While we have made some significant headway, unfortunately we still have a long way to go. We look forward to continuing this important mission with the community’s support.
Enough! No more silence.