Abuse vic­tim to dis­cuss cam­paign with Mirvis

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

A LEAD­ING cam­paigner against child sex abuse has said he is due to meet Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in the new year to dis­cuss his in­volve­ment in the cam­paign.

Manny Waks, who him­self was abused while study­ing at yeshiva in Aus­tralia, told the JC: “I know Rabbi Mirvis has been very vo­cal in speak­ing out about this is­sue and I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting him in­volved more.”

Mr Waks de­scribed sex abuse as a global prob­lem. Or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world needed to come to­gether to form an um­brella group to co-or­di­nate at­tempts to com­bat the prob­lem, he be­lieved.

“We need to make sure that within our in­sti­tu­tions there are the right pro­ce­dures in place if some­one is be­ing abused and comes for­ward.”

He crit­i­cised what he called the pat­tern of “at­tack­ing the vic­tim of abuse and not ad­dress­ing the is­sue” within Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties.

He said: “It tore my fam­ily apart. My wife couldn’t walk down the street. I left the com­mu­nity, but for my par- ents who stayed they were sub­jected to vit­riol and ha­tred.”

Mr Waks led one of three ses­sions de­voted to the is­sue at this year’s Lim­mud.

On Sun­day, Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tor and au­thor Elana Sz­tok­man told an au­di­ence that the Jewish com­mu­nity was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a “ram­pant epi­demic” of sex­ual abuse.

Dr Sz­tok­man, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Jewish Ortho­dox Fem­i­nist Al­liance, claimed cases such as that of To­dros Gryn­haus, who was jailed for 13 years in July for abus­ing two teenage girls, were the tip of the iceberg.

“We have an epi­demic of abuse and it is ram­pant in t he J e wish com­mu­nity,” she said. “A dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of a b u s e r s Manny Waks seem to be rab­bis or quasi-rab­bis.”

She high­lighted rea­sons why abusers were fre­quently able to es­cape pun­ish­ment. Vic­tims who re­ported abuse were made to feel like out­casts.

“We have seen it time and time again — a vic­tim comes for­ward and the com­mu­nity shuns them. Their lives are made im­pos­si­ble… and peo­ple come out in de­fence of the abuser.

“This pat­tern of be­hav­iour needs to change and as a com­mu­nity it needs to be chal­lenged.”

In her view, rab­bis who abused were “too of­ten” pro­tected by their com­mu­ni­ties. She said: “Peo­ple don’t like to think of their charis­matic rabbi as ca­pa­ble of such acts.”

And she crit­i­cised the “all to com­mon” prac­tice within the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity of “dis­cour­ag­ing vic­tims from re­port­ing abuse”.

But she praised Rabbi Mirvis for speak­ing out on the is­sue.

“He has made in­cred­i­bly strong state­ments about it be­ing a le­gal im­per­a­tive to re­port a b u s e , ” she said.

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