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. Continue reading
According to the New York City Police Department, the man in the picture above is alleged to have approached a food worker at the Talmud Torah Tiferes Bunim Yeshiva in Boro Park (13th Ave. by 52nd St) and said “Show me your d—,” then grabbed the victim’s genitals, and then fled the school. This is reported to have happened on Sunday, Sept. 2, 9:55 a.m. Continue reading
“The 19th century Italian rabbi … Elijah Benamozegh teaches in the Em Lamikra (on Genesis 43:9) that in some biblical contexts, the punishment is the sin itself. In other words, despite the overwhelming narrative of forgiveness in Jewish texts and Jewish practice, some sins stay with us forever. Not because others do not forgive us, but because some transgressions are so deeply heinous that we can never forgive ourselves. Continue reading
The best essay on the topic for this time of the year appears in the Washington Post. Danya Ruttenberg says it all and well in today’s article “Famous abusers seek easy forgiveness. Rosh Hashanah teaches us repentance is hard.”
Forgiveness is up to the victim and the victim alone. Atonement is up to God. As such, a conversation about sexual predators attempting to return to the public eye should begin with the question of whether they have made real, earnest tshuvah.
The perfunctory public apologies that we have so often seen in the wake of allegations could, at best, be considered part of the first step toward repentance, taking ownership of the harm done. But they must reflect a genuine ownership of all actions taken — not “if I did behave then as he describes ,” as Spacey said; not complaining about the impact on their work (Keillor), fans (Batali) or family (Lauer), with minimal focus on the victims; not minimizing the complaints as Rose did, blaming Godas O’Reilly did or guessing what the victims might have thought, as C.K.’s initial statement last year did. Issuing such superficial and narcissistic public statements is the only thing that any of the above-named men have done to signal any sort of repentance process, at least publicly.
We would see something like the work of Rabbi Yosef Blau, who, after understanding his complicity in enabling a sexual abuser to continue his work with as both a high school principal and youth group leader, has dedicated much of his life and work to advocating for victims of sexual assault.
Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani (Senior Spiritual Advisor) at the seminary of Yeshiva University issued this advisory about Rabbi Ephraim Bryks of Kew Gardens, Queens, NY. Continue reading