Manny Waks Converses with Rabbi Manis Friedman
By Manny Waks
Earlier today I welcomed the opportunity to discuss with Rabbi Friedman his deeply offensive remarks. I commenced the phone conversation by sharing with Rabbi Friedman my personal story—that I was sexually abused over a period of several years by two paedophiles within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, more specifically the Yeshivah community, in Melbourne. I also informed him of the ongoing cover-ups within Yeshivah, and the intimidation and harassment that me, my family and some of our supporters have been subjected to.
I explained to Rabbi Friedman the deep hurt many have felt by his remarks and the damage that it has caused. I also noted that we have turned this negative incident into a positive one, especially in the area of community awareness on the issue of child sexual abuse. In particular, one of the most positive developments has been that a number of new victims have come forward over the past week as a direct result of the publicity. One of these victims has already made a police statement.
I made it clear to Rabbi Friedman that I represent many other victims, their families and many within the community, and that my views should be seen in that context.
In response, Rabbi Friedman acknowledged the great work that is currently being undertaken in this area within the ultra-Orthodox community globally. He also congratulated us on some of our achievements (e.g. the fact that there are now three major court-cases within the Jewish community in Melbourne).
Rabbi Friedman also referred to his apology and reiterated some of its content. He was also committed to continue to address the issue of child sexual abuse. Due to the individual needs of the victims, Rabbi Friedman is reluctant to deal with this issue in a public forum but rather to address it privately with victims themselves. He rightly noted that there could not be a “one size fits all” approach to this and he therefore prefers to deal with this complex and sensitive issue privately.
Rabbi Friedman has agreed for me to provide his personal email address to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community. He will happily respond to their emails.
As a result of today’s development, Tzedek would like to advise that it is withdrawing its application for legal action through the Battei Din of Sydney and Crown Heights.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community for their ongoing support—especially those who publicly supported Tzedek on this issue. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the three leading Orthodox rabbis within Australia, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant and Rabbi Yoram Ulman for issuing their strong public statement. It is essential that each and every one of us stands up in the face of injustice and ignorance. I am delighted with the positive response by so many within our community.
We look forward to continue to advocate for victims of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
Manny Waks is Founder & President of Tzedek, an Australian-based advocacy group for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.