Abuse victim to discuss campaign with Mirvis
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.