“The reality is the people who are saying, ‘go to rabbinical courts’ are not saying to do that out of religious fervor to keep the [Jewish] law. They’re saying it that way to hush it up, to cover it up, to prevent the victim from finding redress. There is no doubt at all: mesirah [the prohibition against informing] has no application whatsoever to instances of child sexual abuse. To use mesirah in this way is an abomination.”
Above: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick
Leading Chabad Rabbi Admits Chabad Bullies, Intimidates Child Sex Abuse Victims, Calls Other Chabad Rabbis Misusing Halakha To Do So An “Abomination”
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
It started with admitting his own failings.
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, a senior rabbinic judge of the Chabad-controlled Sydney Beth Din rabbinical court in Sydney, Australia, told the ongoing Royal Commission investigating child sex abuse in Chabad institutions Wednesday that he “forgot” a 1987 call from a boy who claimed to have been abused by Daniel “Gug” Hayman at Chabad’s Yeshiva Centre in Sydney, the Guardian reported.
Gutnick claimed he thought the call was a prank. He testified that he reported the call to the Yeshiva Centre and then let it slip from his mind – something he now has come to “profoundly regret,” he said. He also told the Royal Commission that he now works with victims of child sexual abuse and encourages them to go to report the crimes against them to police.
Hayman was eventually convicted of child sex abuse last year.
Then in 2011, Gutnick received a phone call from a man who asked to meet him.
“At my house the man asked me if I remembered receiving a phone call from a young boy in the 1980s, during which the young boy reported Gug for child sexual abuse. He told me that it was him, and that Gug had sexually abused him. I was shocked. It was the first time I had come face-to-face with a victim,” Gutnick said, calling the phone call and meeting a “life-changing experience.”
At this point in his testimony, Gutnick reportedly began to shake. He testified that after that meeting with victim he resolved to do everything in his power to make sure the voices of sex abuse victims were heard, the Guardian reported.
He then testified about his September 11, 2013 Erev Yom Kippur apology to child sex abuse victims.
“It has also become clear that we [i.e., the rabbis; the Chabad community] have not handled this in an appropriate manner,” Gutnick testified.
Gutnick also told the Royal Commission that the halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) prohibiting mesirah (informing) does not apply to cases of sexual abuse. He said his advice to child sex abuse victims is “do it through the courts…It’s the only way you will get justice. A rabbi can’t issue a summons or compel people to give evidence; we have zero ability to investigate these things,” Gutnick testified.
But Gutnick also testified that some Chabad rabbis disagree and instead insist that all cases of child sex abuse must be exclusively handled by a beit din (Orthodox rabbinical court).
The halakha of mesirah is used by some leaders to exert power and control over victims while isolating them from the community, Gutnick reportedly testified, calling this rabbinic behavior a “gross misuse of rabbinic power.”
“The reality is the people who are saying, ‘go to rabbinical courts’ are not saying to do that out of religious fervor to keep the [Jewish] law. They’re saying it that way to hush it up, to cover it up, to prevent the victim from finding redress. There is no doubt at all: mesirah has no application whatsoever to instances of child sexual abuse. To use mesirah in this way is an abomination,” Gutnick testified.
Under halakha, Jews have an obligation to report abuse to police, Gutnick continued, and it is not necessary to receive permission from a rabbi to do so.
Gutnick also testified that Chabad and other rabbinic and lay leaders sacrificed child sex abuse victims in order to protect themselves and their organizations, using bullying and intimidation to do so. Some child sex abuse victims are still too frightened because of that to come forward, Gutnick testified.
“I believe that the victims of child sexual abuse and their families are, and especially the ones that have come forward, the bravest of the brave, and I believe God is with them more than he may ever be with me,” Gutnick said.
Update 1:22 pm CST – Gutnick also testified that a Jewish doctor who discovered injuries on an infant consistent with sexual abuse was threatened by Chabad rabbis and labelled a mosser – an informer under halakha [Orthodox Jewish law], a category of halakha violation punishable by vigilante death – after reporting the suspected child sex abuse to police and child protection services.
“This was only a few years ago, with an infant. It is my belief that the threat of transgressing [the prohibition against] mesirah is used as a means with which to retain power and control. I believe it is an absolute religious obligation to report any allegation of child sexual abuse as quickly as possible to the appropriate authorities. To suggest that there is some religious obligation not to do so is an abomination,” Gutnick testified. He said he believes rabbis need to be educated about child sex abuse and implied that some of his rabbinic colleagues were unfit.
“There are people with crazy views in the broad community, there are people with crazy views among rabbis. We have to stop all the rubbish that’s been going on,” Gutnick testified.