6th February 2015
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.
|Robert Goot AM SC,
of Australian Jewry
|Peter Wertheim AM,
of Australian Jewry
Peter Wertheim AM Executive Director
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904
e: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.ecaj.org.au