Monday, 16 February 2015

Response to the Royal Commission 

To our Dear Community

We have closely followed the Royal Commissions hearings into institutional child sex abuse during the past two weeks.

We heard the emotional disclosures of victims of sexual abuse that occurred in past years at Yeshivah College Melbourne and Sydney. Hearing the cries of the victims who gave evidence and knowing that there are many more silent cries of other victims deeply affected us, as it has for the whole community. The enormity of these tragedies cannot be comprehended. Our hearts are broken.

We therefore wish to unequivocally state our long-standing position with the following: (We apologise for not publicizing this much earlier. It was an error on our part.)

• Child sexual abuse crimes are absolutely horrific and horrendous.

• Child sexual abuse crimes have long-lasting effects on the lives of victims. The pain and suffering can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

• Many victims were, and are still, frightened to disclose the abuse they suffered, and that in itself increases their suffering. 

• Those victims who do disclose the abuse they suffered are very brave and endure much pain in the process.

• There is a halachic obligation to report all allegations of child sexual abuse to the police and relevant authorities according to Australian law. Cover-ups, protecting perpetrators from prosecution in any shape or form, are absolutely forbidden both legally and according to halacha.  

• We all need to give a platform for victims to speak out about the abuse they endured and invite them to do so in safe and supportive environment.

• No rabbi, rebbetzin, member of a religious or other institution, nor any member of the community, has the right to prevent victims from speaking out about the abuse they endured; neither should the families who are supporting these victims be harassed or threatened in any form whatsoever. 

• Those who have intimidated victims need to sincerely and personally apologise to the victims and take necessary action that demonstrates the sincerity of their apology.

• People who held positions of power in institutions while child abuse was being committed (even if the abuse was not known to them at the time) need to address the past effectively by reaching out directly to the victims, to admit the wrongs that were done, offer an unreserved, unequivocal, sincere and remorseful apology, offer support and any other necessary action that demonstrates the sincerity of their apology.

• All institutions that care for children must ensure that they have child protection policies in place and that all their staff undergo child protection training. 

For Jewish organisations:  
  • The JCCV is providing the JCCV Child Protection Training 2015 sessions. 
  • The RCV (Rabbinical Council of Victoria) has co-ordinated an agreement, for shuls who sign up, to undertake the Safeguarding Children Accreditation Program with the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF). 
Chabad Glen Eira has always put the safety of children as a top priority. Our crèche and youth programs have child protection policies in place and our staff receives regular, ongoing training. However, to upgrade our level of child safety, we will be signing up to the RCV agreement. Through this process all our departments ¬- shul, crèche and youth - will be accredited with the Australian Childhood Foundation. 

As the Royal Commission hearings have concluded we wait to hear their findings and recommendations which will surely be implemented in all relevant institutions. In the meantime, we as community need to work together in harmony to ensure a safe and secure environment for our dear children.

May G‑d bless all of us and grant us much needed healing and peace.

Yours Sincerely,

Rabbi Mendy & Esther Malka Groner