Sexual abuse scandal
A Minnesota rabbi has trivialised sexual abuse within the community prompting an Australian advocacy group to suggest he brought before the Beth Din in a Din Torah [a matter of litigation].
Fledgling Australian Jewish organisation Tzedek, an advocacy group for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, has asked for Rabbi Minas Friedman of Minnesota to be called to the Beth Din both in the US and Australia.
He said being molested was “nobody’s business” and compared it to experiencing a bout of diarrhea as being a personal issue.
Manny Waks, founder and president of Tzedek, has revealed that Rabbi Manis Friedman purportedly released video clips dealing with sexual abuse within the community. The videos trivialise the problem of sexual abuse.
His first clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZhMLLC9iNk
He followed this up with another comparing rabbis’ role saying “let’s not get hysterical” with those of the professionals http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&hl=en&client=mv-google&v=_7zLhtmfT-4&nomobile=1
Waks said: “As President of the newly-established Tzedek (justice in Hebrew), , I wrote to Rabbi Friedman expressing our outrage.
Before Rabbi Friedman released the second clip, Waks said: “As a former victim of this heinous crime, I am appalled and disgusted by Rabbi Friedman’s ignorant and insensitive comments about the issue of child sexual abuse.
As a prominent Chabad Rabbi, I am not sure if he can fully appreciate the negative impact his comments are having in the broader community—at the very least, they reflect poorly on him, Chabad, the ultra-Orthodox community and the Jewish community more broadly.
The fact is that in many cases child sexual abuse is a life and death issue—there is sufficient evidence that links this form of abuse to self-harm. It should therefore be treated with utmost seriousness and sensitivity, which would seem consistent with his religious beliefs.
I urge Rabbi Friedman to rectify this issue immediately by issuing an unreserved public apology for the profound offence and hurt he has caused so many—both victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and others within the Jewish community.
I also call upon others within the Orthodox rabbinate to condemn Rabbi Friedman’s shocking comments and to distance themselves and their organisations from him and his views.”
Following the release of the second clip Waks had this to say: “While Rabbi Friedman says many reasonable things in this new clip, mainly about a rabbi’s role in responding to this type of abuse, shockingly, he completely ignores his previous ignorant and offensive remarks. To not even refer to his previous clip is an affront to all of us.
I can imagine that it was either his decision or based upon the advice of PR experts to simply ignore his previous remarks in the hope that they would be forgotten. Well, they have not been forgotten.
He is displaying first class arrogance and demonstrating that he lacks any remorse, sensitivity or credibility.
Rabbi Friedman must unreservedly and publicly apologise immediately for the pain and suffering that he has caused to so many of us, and for the as yet untold damage that he has done by minimising the impact of abuse in his original clip (amongst other things).
Until he makes this apology he has absolutely no credibility whatsoever and this incident will forever taint his reputation.
After the first clip he lost my respect temporarily. He has now lost my respect permanently.”
Waks alerted Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, President, Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia of the clips.
He received the following response:
I write on behalf also of Rabbis Ulman and Kluwgant
While it is unfair and we will not pass judgement on Rabbi Friedman without giving him the opportunity to defend himself , the utube clip stand alone requires strong comment from us.
The clip appears to theologically trivialise and minimise the physical psychological and spiritual damage caused to the victims of sexual abuse. It is simply ignorance to say we are all “damaged” in the same manner as victims of sexual abuse and it is the height of insensitivity to suggest the treatment for a victim is just to perform additional mitzvois.
Our experience as Rabbis and our understanding of the issues as conveyed by professionals in the area and indeed by victims , is that child sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes that can be perpetrated and it is aggravated by the lasting injurious affect it has on the victims.
When we fail to acknowledge the gravity of the crime and its devastating affect , we unwittingly assist the perpetrators as people justify their not coming forward because “its not so bad” . We fail in our duty to victims and potential victims and hamper their recovery by failing them twice. The first time by not eliminating the scourge, the second time by not acknowledging their pain.
Manny , be assured, you have the full support of the Rabbinate in uncovering and uprooting the scourge of child sexual abuse – as difficult a challenge it is for our community to face up to – and that we stand with all the victims in their search for both healing and justice.
All the best
Rabbi Moshe D. Gutnick
Dayan-Sydney Beth Din
President – Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia”
Waks has now called for a Din Torah.
He wrote to the Beth Din in both New York and Sydney stating: “As you would both be aware, Rabbi Manis Friedman, an Emissary of the global Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which has its headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and who is a prominent leader within this movement, has posted two YouTube clips regarding the issue of child sexual abuse.
His first clip, which he subsequently removed from YouTube, can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZhMLLC9iNk.
His second clip can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&hl=en&client=mv-google&v=_7zLhtmfT-4&nomobile=1.
A new recording has now emerged at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_SOxuJa5ts5ZzNOdUFDcTdIbEk/edit [Download and play]
As you will hear in the first YouTube clip and in the new recording, Rabbi Friedman makes profoundly ignorant and deeply offensive remarks. Further, my understanding is that he also conveys a complete distortion of Halacha (Jewish Law).
While Rabbi Friedman says many reasonable things in the second YouTube clip, mainly about a rabbi’s role in responding to this type of abuse, shockingly, he completely ignores his previous ignorant and offensive remarks.
The fact that such a prominent rabbi within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has come out with such ignorant and offensive remarks is doing untold damage to the entire Jewish community, especially as he is considered an enlightened and a moderate individual. As a global leader he is damaging the reputation of the Jewish community broadly. He is also perpetuating the negative perception many have of the ultra-Orthodox community, including the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Most concerning, he is having a direct, damaging impact on victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families. Some of those who have not yet addressed their abuse will think twice before taking any measures to obtain justice and to alleviate their pain and suffering. And some of those who have already taken measures will be self-critical.
I can only hope and pray that Rabbi Friedman’s remarks do not cause victims additional trauma, potentially leading to extreme consequences.
An additional danger is that Rabbi Friedman’s remarks may give succour to elements within the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshivah community in Melbourne, who have responded abysmally to the serious allegations of abuse within their institutions. They would now seemingly be able to justify their approach by relying on Rabbi Friedman’s attitude and remarks—he is after all a leading figure within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
On behalf of Tzedek, an Australian-based advocacy group for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, I hereby give you notice that I would like to launch a Din Torah (matter of litigation) against Rabbi Manis Friedman in relation to his offending remarks. These proceedings will be launched in the Crown Heights Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din respectively.
We feel that it is most appropriate to launch proceedings in both Battei Din because (a) Crown Heights is the Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement (b) Rabbi Manis Friedman resides in the US, and (c) Tzedek is based in Australia and many of those who were offended by Rabbi Friedman’s remarks reside in Australia.
The main purposes of launching this Din Torah include:
· to send a strong message to the community that such remarks will not be tolerated, especially by a leading figure, and individuals may be held to account;
· to ensure Rabbi Friedman retracts his offending remarks;
· to ensure Rabbi Friedman makes a public and unreserved apology; and
· by the Beth Din issuing a clear and unequivocal ruling, to educate Rabbi Friedman (and others) in how to view and respond to child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
Thus far Rabbi Friedman has steadfastly refused to even refer to his offending comments, let alone issue a retraction or an apology. Therefore, we strongly feel that Rabbi Friedman must be held to full account for the obvious and as yet untold damage that he has done.
Please advise at your earliest convenience of the next steps that need to be taken so that we can schedule a hearing date as soon as possible. For as a long as this matter remains unresolved, many in the Jewish community continue to suffer.
Rabbi Moshe Gutnik told J-Wire: “At this juncture it would be inappropriate for me to pass comment.”
The Rabbinical Council of Victoria has expressed its appreciation to Manny Waks for exposing Rabbi Friedman’s remarks.
In a prepared statement the Council said: “The Rabbinical Council of Victoria endorses the comments of Rabbi Moshe Gutnick on behalf of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) regarding the comments by Rabbi Friedman regarding victims of sexual abuse. The comments by Rabbi Friedman are both utterly incorrect and potentially harmful to other victims and we call upon Rabbi Friedman to retract and apologise.”
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, RCV President, added: “There is no doubt that sexual abuse damages its victims in a profound and unique way, and Rabbi Friedman’s comments disregard and even trivialise their suffering.
We are grateful to Manny Waks for bringing these comments to the attention of the Rabbinic leadership in Australia so that the matter can be properly addressed”.
The RCV wishes to make clear that Rabbi Friedman has no connection with any institution in the Jewish community of Melbourne.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has added its support to those maligned by Rabbi Friedman. ECAJ President, Dr Danny Lamm, and Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, said today that they were “appalled and dismayed” by comments made earlier this week by New York Rabbi Manis Friedman. In a video-taped interview posted on YouTube and since removed, Rabbi Friedman questioned whether sexual abuse is a big averah (sin) and sought to minimise the damage done to victims of child abuse.
“These statements are breath-taking in their ignorance and insensitivity”, Lamm and Wertheim said. “Rabbi Friedman should publicly retract them and apologise without delay. His views are completely at variance with prevailing rabbinical opinion in Australia”.
“We endorse the statement of Rabbi Moshe Gutnick on behalf of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) condemning Rabbi Friedman’s comments as utterly incorrect and potentially causing further harm to victims of child sexual abuse.”