Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse : community reaction

February 6, 2015 by J-Wire Staff
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Lay and religious leadership have reacted strongly to the hearings in Melbourne this week at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  on matters pertaining to the Yeshiva in Sydney and the Yeshivah in Melbourne.

From The Executive Council of Australian Jewry:

Royal-Commission290President Robert Goot and executive director Peter Wertheim said: “This week’s Royal Commission hearings into child sexual abuse at Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Sydney have highlighted harrowing stories of suffering by the survivors. They suffered profound trauma as children, which has continued to blight their lives decades later. The behaviour of the perpetrators constituted serious crimes under Australian law, for which they are being justly punished, and a grave sin in Judaism.

The hearings have also brought to light the failures of the religious leaders of both schools to whom the abuse was reported. They failed to take the reports seriously and to act on them appropriately. In some cases they encouraged retaliatory action in the form of ostracism against those who went to the authorities. This behaviour too was a serious form of wrongdoing in Judaism, which obligates Jews to obey the law of the land in which they live. The concept of mesirah, can have no legitimate application to criminal behaviour in contemporary Australia and other countries governed by the rule of law, in which religious and other freedoms are protected.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry repeats its earlier public statements calling for all reports of child abuse to be notified to the police and other authorities without delay, and condemning any attempts at a cover-up.

Although the ultra-Orthodox communities in Sydney and Melbourne constitute only a small fraction of the Jewish community, it is shameful that any Jewish institution should have been associated with child abuse and attempts to cover it up. Policies and practices appear to have changed at both Yeshiva schools to prevent these failures from recurring, but the situation requires constant monitoring.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry publicly welcomed the establishment of the Royal Commission and has worked closely with it. We will continue to offer it every co-operation.

From the Rabbinical Council of NSW:

We the President and Executive of RCNSW  view with distress and dismay the unfolding events at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Melbourne and Sydney.  Our hearts are heavy and filled with anguish at the suffering endured by the victims. We empathise with their pain and the pain of those close to them.

It is vital for us as Rabbis to reiterate that child sexual abuse is a criminal act and therefore the first recourse for victims and their families is the police.  This is not stated as a populist position but as an halachic imperative as stated in the preciously published Ruling of the Sydney Beth Din.

It is highly regrettable that some individual rabbis have been guilty in the past of (a) misjudging the seriousness of allegations of victims and (b) ignorance of proper procedures to be followed in the event of such allegations being made.

Every single instance of abuse in our community is one too many and must stimulate a genuine and sincere cheshbon ha-nefesh (soul-searching) on the part of us all as “all Jews are responsible for one another” (Talmud Shevuot 39a).

May the Al-mighty give strength to the victims and their families.  May these abhorrent and intolerable acts against innocent children and other vulnerable members of our society be eradicated. May we all strive for ever-higher standards of morality and ethics in our own communities and in society as a whole.   And may our leaders be infused with the wisdom to learn from past mistakes and never fail victims of abuse ever again.





6 Responses to “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse : community reaction”
  1. Bruce Swain says:

    If a member of the Australian Community were to criticise Israel or Jewish Organisations it would be called ‘ Anti-Semitism’ , however we see Jew criticising Jew. What is that called ?

  2. ISSAC BROTT says:

    Same they will escare unscathed because the commission will play the game and finds a couple of suckers but the big boys will be ok….it’s the.old story they are trying to throw the dead and helpless and vulnerable to the braying crowds….what about the committee members …the lawyers….the big shot businessman who scurried like desperate squirrels to gain position…they were the ones who all claimed they were the advisors and running the ship till we all found out and now they are hiding under rocks…It was them who payed the sickos of and raised the money to pay them of and arranged for there furniture to follow and kept it all quite so it kept going on…they never told me or anyone and my children were students there….Suddenly they all have gone on trips overseas ….

  3. Vivien Resofsky says:

    I am so upset I could cry. More spin. When will it stop? The Royal Commission Inquiry is looking at the responses of Institutions and the impact on survivors and their families of being maliciously, cruelly and spitefully shunned. It is examining Chabad society and how it operates. Maria Gerace who is counsel assisting the commission has spent hours and hours getting to the bottom of the ways things are done. I thought I knew a bit about how things work but I don’t. I have seen a lack of transparency, accountability and in my opinion respect for the ‘secular laws. I am furious at The Executive Council of Australian Jewry: President Robert Goot and executive director Peter Wertheim said: for this statement.

    Why have you not mentioned the suffering described by victim’s families. Didn’t you hear the impact on a wife and on a father dished out because their innocent husband and son were abused as children. They have lost their identity and their community. Doesn’t that deserve a mention? Ignoring it minimises the terrible and cruel fate innocent people are going through today.

    “The hearings have also brought to light the failures of the religious leaders of both schools to whom the abuse was reported” No! I believe that the hearings are in the process of bringing to light how a CULTURE have have harmed honest, decent and innocent community members.

    I only hope that victims and their families don’t read this statement. They have suffered enough

  4. Lauren Gabriel says:

    I guess “Otto” the hundred known reported victims are “isolated”

    Kramer is estimated to have abused at least 60 boys

    Perhaps take time to listen to the hearings

    I wish they were isolated or did you not read of the perpetrator at Yeshiva reported and bein investigated last year for 20 counts of abuse……. Whose now overseas

    And statistically only 1/3 report ao you work it out ( go do some reading )

    I wishful was isolated but unfortunately once again you are predictably wrong

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      No cigar or even a banana for logic, Lauren. What or who is in small number in relative terms is that mamzer, Kramer. Statements at the Commission from Rabbis denote, if anything, a less than alert state at certain individuals as per method, lack of training and that does not mean in any language intentional cover up, a criminal mutual protective disposition and persistent denial, something OTHER faiths excel in. Why don’t you get a fixation, Lauren, on that concept rather than the twisted one focusing on Orthodox Rabbis as a whole.

      Alertness to such tragic phenomena is always a must and, since the general state of disclosures, we do not seem to have “fresh” , anything of recent occurrence within our MUCH better, again comparatively, higher ethical standards fold.
      I have no idea where you come from Lauren, but in my several decades of active communal involvement in MY Jewish community, I managed to size it up pretty well and I do not share your mob’s impression of a social family defined by the kind of corruption you and your well intended mates insist on brushing it with.

  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    The response from RCNSW is a rational one, realistic dominated by empathy and balanced in ethical terms.
    The ECAJ statement, on the OTHER hand, is replete with the most irresponsible and the most IGNORANT stance on matters Judaic by a supposedly informed JEWISH AUTHORITY. Both Robert Goot and Peter Wertheim have failed to understand important matters related to Judaic principles. The broadside , insensitive and, once again, ignorant references to important Jewish institutions, the offensive remarks that and important integral part of our communal structure is but a small, seemingly less significant part of it, is a most reprehensible comment.
    Clearly isolated, however regrettable, cases of child abuse DO NOT define, do not represent the essence and actual, concrete reality of the function of vital institutions in our community, the Yeshivot of Orthodox Judaism . ECAJ do not seem to have intellectually ingested that fact.
    While I am not surprised by ECAJ’s statement by having known for decades the protagonists of this blatantly stupid statement, I am ashamed of what they have put out. A “leadership” redundant , full of farcical self-importance, incapable to grasp important matters essential to the community they purport to represent and lead.

    All those who reckon that I am “protecting” clear crimes do not bother to answer !!!

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