Chief Rabbi in new push against child abuse
THE SEXUAL abuse of children in Jewish communities will be tackled with the “greatest possible seriousness”, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said.
He expressed his determination to lead the “ongoing” pursuit of abusers after addressing more than 120 religious leaders in a seminar aimed at advising rabbis and rebbetzens of the best methods for helping victims.
Rabbi Mirvis said the session in London had been “extremely well-received” by the participants.
“What pleased me most was the widespread inclination not to look upon this as a box to be ticked, but rather as part of an ongoing education in how best to deal with issues as serious and as sensitive as child abuse,” he said.
One of the main speakers at the seminarwasChief Re b b e t z i n Valerie Mirvis — who is a social worker with years of ex p e r i e n c e in front-line child protection issues. It is understood that her professional expertise and knowledge are a driving force behind Rabbi Mirvis’s will to challenge paedophilia and abuse. He has repeatedly highlighted the need for communities to report cases to the police.
Rabbi Mirvis has acted after a series of high-profile abuse cases in the community, including the jailing earlier this year of teacher Todros Grynhaus, the son of a rabbi, who molested two teenage girls while remaining a respected figure within the Charedi community in Salford.
Rabbi Mirvis said: “We are determined to attach the greatest possible seriousness to both historic and current child sexual abuse. Tragically, our community is not immune to this evil. Our rabbis and rebbetzins have been tr a i ned a bout reporting to statutory authorities and how to support victims, and they will be pr o v i d e d with appropriate professional support.
“Now we mustturnour attention to what the next sessions will look like.”
Seminar participants heard London Beth Din head Dayan Menachem Gelley discuss halachic perspectives on tackling abuse. Two rabbis from a project in Monsey, New York, explained how their programme had helped child victims for almost 20 years.
Mrs Mirvis led a workshop along with psychotherapists experienced in helping abuse victims. Sessions were also taken by senior police officers and local authority experts.
Barnet Council’s family services director, Nicola Francis, said the Chief Rabbi and his colleagues understood the need to protect victims and “are as well prepared as possible to respond to allegations of abuse”.
Last Wednesday’s session came ahead of the publication of a major report into child sex abuse. The study, released by the children’s commissioner, showed as many as 450,000 cases may have been carried out in Britain from April 2012 to March 2014, with up to 85 per cent of them going unreported.
British campaigner Yehudis Goldsobel,whowasabusedasachildbyamember of her strictly Orthodox Stamford Hill community and waived her lifetime anonymity to tell her story in the JC, appeared in a major BBC documentary about child sex abuse on Tuesday.
She described her experiences of reporting her ordeal to members of her community, and later to the police. Her abuser was jailed in 2013.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis with his wife, Valerie, who is a social worker