Campaigner calls for Orthodox rabbinate to apologise for ‘past failures’ in dealing with child sex abuse

By Rosa Doherty, January 13, 2016
Campaigner: Manny Waks

Campaigner: Manny Waks

A leading campaigner against child sex abuse in the Orthodox community has called on Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to issue an apology “on behalf of the rabbinate” over historical abuse cases.

Manny Waks made the suggestion at a meeting with Rabbi Mirvis, to discuss his own global initiative to tackle the problem.
Mr Waks, who himself was abused while studying at a yeshivah in Melbourne, Australia, said: “One thing I suggested was he issue a public apology on behalf of the rabbinate. I’m not saying he should take responsibility personally but to acknowledge and accept there have been serious failures over the years.

“I think it would send a powerful message to victims.”

The campaigner says that in the past, there has been a culture of intimidation of victims and a lack of support for them to come forward to report abuse.

Mr Waks also asked Rabbi Mirvis to take on a formal role in his campaign.

He said: “I think the Chief Rabbi really listened to what I said and I’m confident he will give it some thought. He has done a lot of work in this area already so to have his support would be great.”

Mr Waks also wants the Jewish community to open itself up to an investigation into historical abuse in the same way the Catholic church and the Church of England has. He called on the Chief Rabbi to support such an initiative.

He said: “It should not just be the Christian institutions being investigated - it should be other faith communities too, including us and the Muslim community.”

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Rabbi Mirvis said he would continue to be a “huge advocate of ensuring that any complacency or reticence to deal with child sexual abuse in the Jewish community is rooted out.”

He said any campaign Mr Waks was running “which chimes with the kind of work” the Chief Rabbi was already involved with “will of course very much have his support.”

Chief Rabbi’s office said ideas such as those suggested by Mr Waks had “been discussed internally many times before” and were “under regular review.”

He added there was no decision on any of them at this time.

Rabbi Mirvis has made combating abuse a goal of his chief rabbinate and last November held a training seminar for United Synagogue rabbis to encourage them to tackle the problem.

Last updated: 2:45pm, January 13 2016