Child sex abuse is covered up by intimidating victims everywhere in the ultra-orthodox world from Israel to the US, from the northern reaches of Canada and Europe to the southern tips of South Africa, Argentina and Australasia. Periodically some unusual victims break the code of silence and the civil judiciary tries, convicts, and sentences the offenders. But most of the predators continue to offend protected by the community which covers up the crimes and intimidates the witnesses. The rabbis who orchestrate the cover ups escape unscathed.
But an unusual set of individuals and circumstances changed the game in Australia. Many of those complicit were exposed on national and international media, top rabbis were forced to resign their positions. “Peak” Jewish bodies in Australia have denounced this sordid pattern. Chabad, the dominant group in the Australian rabbinate, is reeling. Even its international organization was forced to implicitly apologize and promise to behave better in the future. All this got sensational coverage in Australian media and the Guardian (UK).
This was all because of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. The Commission is looking at many groups in Australia including the Catholic Church, other religious groups and various children’s sports programs. They were authorized by the national government and all the individual states by 2012 and they are currently authorized to function until 2017. They are well resourced with a staff of attorneys and investigators and they have the subpoena power to compel the delivery of documents and testimony (both in public and in private).
During the first two weeks of February the Commission conducted public hearings about cover ups by Chabad in Melbourne and Sydney. Over two thirds of Australia’s 112,000 Jews live in those cities. While only a small portion of Australian Jewry is ultra orthodox in practice, Chabad/Lubavitch rabbis occupy most of the pulpit positions in Australia. This very wealthy Jewish community is one of the crown jewels of Chabad’s world-wide organization. There is no other large Jewish community in which Chabad so completely dominates the rabbinate. This is no longer true, the revelations have undercut their influence and forced some of their most prominent rabbis to resign their positions in communal bodies.
For the best account of this incredible story, read yesterday’s article in the Guardian, “Rabbis’ absolute power: how sex abuse tore apart Australia’s Orthodox Jewish community.”
I have a bone to pick with article. They describe the courage of a few victims in exposing this story. Manny and Zephaniah Waks deserve enormous credit for their pluck in exposing the issue and weathering horrendous attempts silence them. But other Haredi (ultra-orthodox) communities also have their whistle blowers, for example Sam Kellner in Boro Park. Periodically, through the courage of such whistleblowers, other offenders have been exposed and convicted. What was different in Australia is that the government investigated and exposed the cover ups and intimidation. We are still waiting for the governments of the US and Israel to undertake the same sorts of investigations. Moreover, the political power of Haredi voters make such a development unlikely.
While most communities want their children protected, it is the responsibility of government to step in when their families and communities fail them. Sadly, ultra orthodox communities have succeeded in deterring the criminal justice system from intervening aggressively. Instead, most of them will sometimes prosecute when they are given a good enough case, but rarely will they aggressively pursue those who intimidate their victims.
The simple fact is that the District Attorneys of Brooklyn and Rockland County discriminate against Jewish Children by not acting aggressively to prosecute abuse which would in turn require investigating and prosecuting those who intimidate and bribe victims and those who support victims.
- Australia’s top rabbi resigns after giving evidence at sex abuse royal commission (Guardian – UK)
- Rabbi Brander, Don’t Talk about Ethics in Australia; Address Abuse in America
- Erev Yom Kippur Statement on Abuse from Australia
- Australian Sponsor of Brander Talk, COSV, Harbored Pedophile David Cyprys
- Victim Impact Statement: David Kramer Case (Australia)
- Playing the Frum Card to Finesse Abuse
- A Petition Calls for Melbourne’s Senior Yeshivah Leaders to Resign
- Cyprys Didn’t Even Stop His Sexual Assaults in Jail
- The Fox Was Guarding the Coop
- Waks Sues Yeshivah Centre of Melbourne for Allowing Predators to Roam
- Manny Waks Victim Impact Statement at Sentencing of David Cyprys
- Too Little, Too Late, Too Evasive by Melbourne’s Yeshivah College
- QOTD about Additional Unidentified Victims
- QOTD Rabbi Telsner Says OK for a Dayan to Be a “Little Bit Biased”
- Let Us Count the Ways They Intimidate Abuse Victims
- An Open Letter To His Community By a Supporter of Victims of Abuse at Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne
- Many posts in the blog, Failed Messiah (search under Waks or Royal Commission)