22 Jan 2011

Australian Jewish leaders say that prohibitions against reporting crimes to civil authorities do not apply in cases of abuse

J-Wire - Australia and New Zealand November 26, 2010

Rabbinical Council of Victoria Condemns Child Abuse

The Rabbinical Council of Victoria has issued a strong statement stating its position on child abuse following yesterday’s White Ribbon Day which highlighted violence against women.

In a prepared statement from the Council headed by Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, the RCV said:

Whereas we have become increasingly aware of incidents of the sexual and physical abuse of children in our community; and

Whereas the lives and futures of many of these victims and their families are harmed in significant ways: suicide, post traumatic stress syndrome, inability to form healthy relationships, inability to develop healthy intimate relationships, etc.; and

Whereas many victims of abuse in our community still remain silent and do not come forward to accuse perpetrators or seek help for fear of stigma, personal and familial consequences, or perceived halachic concerns; and

Whereas the Rabbinical Council of Victoria condemns abuse and proclaims its censure of abusers, and affirms that the prohibitions of mesirah (reporting crimes to the civil authorities) and arka’ot (adjudication in civil courts) do not apply in cases of abuse and in fact, it is halachically obligatory to make such reports; and

Whereas reiterating this long held position can serve to provide pastoral and halachic leadership, support, direction and affirmation to abuse survivors and their families and advocates.

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria resolves that:

• It affirms its unqualified condemnation of all forms of child abuse.

• It affirms its halachic position that the prohibitions of mesirah (reporting crimes to the civil authorities) and arka’ot (adjudication in civil courts) do not apply in cases of abuse.

• It will regularly issue on its website and to the media appropriate statements of condemnation when public attention is drawn to a case in which Jews are either victims or perpetrators of abuse.

• It will regularly evaluate the competence of its members in understanding and responding to issues of child abuse and initiate training and continuing educational opportunities for all of its members in this area.

• The members of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria address the issue of child abuse in their communities in at least one sermon per year, and that it be encouraged that contact information for local abuse services be displayed in a public place in all synagogues and Jewish community institutions serviced by its members.

The RCV works in partnership with the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence (JTAFV) and responds to disclosures of abuse confidentially and effectively. The RCV liaison to the JTAFV may be contacted on (03) 8517-5684.

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1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Gutnick Apology (Or: Eventually)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia) September 12, 2013


    Moshe Gutnick, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia, has issued an apology for the organisation’s failings to combat child sexual abuse within its components. It is believed to be a world first for a rabbi.

    A letter was sent to all leaders of the State Orthodox peak bodies in Australia (as well as New Zealand) asking them to disseminate it to their rabbinic members. Rabbi Gutnick has also requested that the rabbis distribute the letter to their congregants either before or during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – Judaism’s holiest day.

    Victims’ support group Tzedek, founded by activist Manny Waks welcomed the move. Mr. Waks said, “This is another incredible milestone for the Australian Jewish community. Crucially, this ground-breaking letter provides a frank acknowledgement of past mistakes and an unequivocal apology by Rabbi Gutnick on behalf of the Rabbinate. The letter rightly does not go into specific cases but rather acknowledges that the Rabbinate has in the past dealt abysmally with the issue of child sexual abuse.”

    “This is an important development – it is an acknowledgment that many victims and survivors within religious institutions have longed to hear; that finally the national peak Orthodox rabbinic organisation is taking responsibility for the abuse they suffered, as well as for the subsequent cover-ups. Indeed it is what the entire community needed to hear, as without properly addressing the past, it is difficult to move forward towards a better future.”

    “This may very well be a world first and I am particularly proud that an Australian rabbi and the peak Orthodox organisation in Australia, ORA, have demonstrated such courageous leadership. It is never easy to acknowledge past mistakes and apologize, as Rabbi Gutnick and ORA have now done. Hopefully the global Orthodox community will follow suit.”

    “For whatever reason, a culture of cover-up, often couched in religious terms pervaded our thinking and actions. It may even have been well-intentioned, but it was simply wrong,” the letter said.

    While there is no doubt that the letter marks a significant step forward, Mr. Waks and others will be only too aware, from the experiences with other religious organisations, that the apology is only the first move in a continuing process.

    Read more here: