Over the last two weeks we have watched the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse conduct hearings focused on the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne and Sydney. The testimony has been shocking and profoundly disturbing. The level of deceit and lack of care that the rabbis and various others in leadership positions in the schools and synagogues have demonstrated has been overwhelming. It is evident that there has been a serious breach of responsibility, trust, and care within these institutions. Much work will need to be undertaken for the victims to receive justice.
It is difficult to single out particular moments from the testimony heard, but as well as demonstrating that the Centre has provided, and in many ways continues to provide, cover for child sex abusers, the testimony on Friday from Rabbi Zvi Telsner that homosexuality was a disease that can be cured through counselling needs to be publicly repudiated. It must be publicly stated, by as many different parts of the Jewish community as possible, that homosexuality, and homosexual acts, are not something which can be “cured”. Such identities and acts are not a disease and they are not to be driven away. On the contrary, the presence of an open and proud LGBTIQ community is essential for the healthy life of the Jewish community.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society is pleased that the Royal Commission has taken the time to investigate these matters. We hope that this will be seen as a step in the road of a much wider conversation. Child sex abuse is not limited to the Yeshivah Centre: we all need to be taking measures to ensure that the organisations, families, and communities in which we live do not allow such abuses – or any abuse – to occur. While some significant voices amongst the Australian Jewish communities have publicly condemned these organisations, much more work is still needed to be done by all of us.
We also thank Manny Waks, and the other anonymous victims who have come forward to share their stories. Without your bravery and commitment, this investigation would not have been possible.
This official statement by the AJDS executive was issued 14/2/2015