In 2013, Julia Gillard, then Prime Minister of Australia established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Over five years, the six prestigious commissioners probed the history of abuse, cover-ups, its effects, and policy recommendations to better prevent, detect, and respond to abuse.
It started out in response to scandals in the Catholic Church but extended to other churches, gurus, Chabad in Melbourne and Sydney, and non-religious youth organizations of all sorts. It’s public hearings riveted the nation. After 5 years and over a half billion dollars it issued its 17-volume Final Report.
And then came the national apology by the Prime Minister to the Parliament and all those affected by abuse. There was no hedging, no excusing. It was just an outright statement of admission of massive failure that harmed so many. And there were promises to address the failures, provide acknowledgment and support to survivors, and firmly pledging a different Australia in the future. Australia is now one of the best countries in the world in this area.
Listen to this speech. It brought tears to my eyes and to many in the audience.
As you listen, ask yourself, why can’t the leaders of the orthodox world do just as well? Where is the moral leadership? The answer is simple. Teshuva starts with an honest reckoning and that means admitting embarrassing facts. Even now, with occasional admissions about this or that abuser, the leading organizations do their best to come out looking as good as possible. With that in mind compare the Australian teshuvah with the lame response of the Novominsker Rebbe, Head of Agudath Israel of America.
It is not malice that drives activists to expose the ugly underside of abuse. We know that until the ugly truths are all admitted, we will not get the overhaul we need to prevent more abuse and survivors will not get the validation and help they need to most fully heal.
Most of all, ask yourself how come every Yankel Berrel is a maven on how Ploni did teshuvah but we never see our leadership show this sort of teshuvah.