Chief Rabbi in new push against child abuse

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

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.

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

Chief Rabbi Mirvis with his wife, Va­lerie, who is a so­cial worker

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