Report child sex abuse, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis tells community
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has warned communities of the danger of sheltering Jewish child abusers.
Acknowledging the “shockwaves” caused by the sex abuse scandal engulfing two Chabad institutions in Australia, he said paedophiles must be brought to justice “however embarrassing for our communities”.
As more details from the Australian inquiry emerged, Rabbi Mirvis said on Tuesday: “Let there be no doubt: it is a legal, moral and religious imperative to report cases of sexual abuse to the police.
“Nobody is above the law and no institution is greater than its members or followers. The impact of bringing sexual predators to light, however embarrassing for our communities, pales into insignificance when the alternative would result in the shame of protecting criminals, abandoning victims and risking the safety of so many others.”
The Australian Royal Commission has spent a fortnight investigating whether leaders of yeshivahs in Melbourne and Sydney ignored claims of sexual abuse during the 1980s and 1990s.
Three senior rabbis resigned this week as a result of the Commission’s findings.
Rabbi Mirvis – whose role encompasses the Commonwealth – said: “Now is the time for the necessary positive steps to ensure that responsibility is taken, lessons are learned and that every school child and parent can feel secure.
“Through confronting these issues head-on, I am confident that Australian Jewry can emerge strongly from these shadows.”
But British campaigner Yehudis Goldsobel, who was abused as a child by a member of her strictly Orthodox Stamford Hill community, said Rabbi Mirvis’s words were “not harsh enough in terms of the reality of what sexual abuse is, and made no reference whatsoever to anything similar happening in this country”.
Ms Goldsobel, who waived her right to anonymity to speak about her abuse in the JC in 2013, now runs the charity Migdal Emunah for Jewish victims of sexual abuse in the UK.
She said the Chief Rabbi must acknowledge that abuse occurs within Anglo-Jewry.
“He didn’t refer to our community here – the whole thing sounded distant, as if it was someone else’s problem,” she said.
“I am one of the only ones to go public, despite the fact there are hundreds of victims. That shows people still have massive fear of getting help. Our leaders are the ones with the power to change this by speaking out.”
In response to her comments Rabbi Mirvis, whose wife Valerie is a senior child protection worker, added: “Victims of abuse should not fear coming forward and should be encouraged to do so.
“As events have shown over the past few years, there will be few institutions in the UK that have not at least partially historically failed in their handling of child abuse.”