On 7 April 2016, Kol v'Oz sent the following letter to the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:
Hon. Dame Lowell Goddard DNZM
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Dear Dame Goddard,
Firstly, I would like to commend the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse(IICSA) for its ongoing work in addressing the issue of child sexual abuse in England and Wales.
The IICSA notes that it will investigate a wide range of institutions, including those who fall under the category of ‘other religious organisations’. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the IICSA to seriously consider including at least a segment of the Jewish community in its investigations.
While child sexual abuse occurs in every segment of society, the context of the abuse, the response by the institution and community, and other factors differ to some degree.
In the past few years, there have been numerous reports of troubling incidents within the UK Jewish community; more specifically, within the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community there. Some examples include:
- In 2016, in a series of reports, The Independent noted that child sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred in illegal ultra-Orthodox schools and that the authorities turned a blind eye to these schools due, in part, to the fear of being accused of anti-Semitism.
- In 2015 Todros Grynhaus was convicted and jailed for sexually abusing two children. A number of unique aspects were raised in this case such as the Israel’s Law of Return, the high regard in which a rabbi and the son of a rabbi is held, and the ostracisation the victims encountered by their communities as a result of coming forward.
- In 2013, Menachem Mendel Levy was convicted and jailed for sexually abusing a child. The victim and her family were ostracised (including being driven from their synagogue and kosher shops refused to serve them) and rabbis ignored her suffering, advised her not to go to the police and publicly supported the perpetrator.
- In 2013, the Channel 4 Dispatches program aired an undercover investigation (alternative video source) that revealed that ultra-Orthodox rabbis forbade or discouraged alleged victims of child sexual abuse from going to the police.
I would like to make it clear that we are not requesting the singling out of the Jewish community for investigation or further action – rather, we urge the IICSA to include the Jewish community as a part of its investigations.
I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that some progress has indeed been made in the Jewish community in this area, including within the ultra-Orthodox community. In particular, I would like to commend the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, for his public statements on this issue, which he has backed up with a range of actions. I should note that Rabbi Mirvis has written a letter of support for our newly-established global organisation, Kol v’Oz. There are a number of other organisations and individuals who are playing important roles in this area, such as Migdal Emunah (a support and advocacy group for victims and survivors led by survivor Yehudis Goldsobel, who courageously waived her right to anonymity), Reshet (which is supported by the United Jewish Israel Appeal and the Jewish Leadership Council, and assists Jewish organisations that deal with youth in the area of policies and procedures), Shema Koli (a support organisation catered specifically for the ultra-Orthodox community), and others. In my recent meeting with The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the official representative of the Jewish community in Britain, they expressed support for the work that is currently being undertaken in this area.
Finally, I would like to refer the IICSA to the public hearing conducted by the Australian Government’s Royal Commission for Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse into the (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish community there. There is no doubt that this was a watershed moment for the local Jewish community, and its impact is being felt there and in the global Jewish community, and will no doubt continue to be felt for some time to come. I was pleased to have greatly assisted with that public hearing.
Please feel free to contact me if I may be of any further assistance.
In the meantime, I wish the IICSA much success in its important work.
Chief Executive Officer