Below is a recent audit of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation's (Melbourne, Australia) child protection policy. This audit was undertaken by child protection experts at the request of Vivien Resofsky, a long-time social worker and public advocate dedicated to addressing the issue of child sexual abuse in the Australian Jewish community. The intention in posting this audit here is for the broader community to better understand the need for a robust set of policies in this space, and how policies may be improved. Hopefully, it will also encourage this congregation and other community organisations to review and update their current child protection policies. Thank you to Vivien for her ongoing work in this area - she continues to dedicate her time, energy and resources to making our community safer.
In recent weeks I publicised the appalling public position taken by Dr Danny Lamm on behalf of the Mizrachi Organisation in which he supported the 10th commenmoration event hosted by Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre in honour of Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Groner who Lamm described as 'one of Melbourne Jewry’s greatest leaders' while refusing to acknowledge that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found him responsible for the sexual abuse of dozens of children.
This was the latest chapter in Lamm's long history of actively undermining the interests of child sexual abuse victims/survivors through his leadership roles.
To their credit, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) came to the defence of victims/survivors against Lamm, expressing disappointment at 'comments made by representatives of other communal organisations that showed an insensitivity to the concerns of victims of child sexual abuse'. This was consistent with the ECAJ apology which they issued in 2017 in which they expressed 'deep regret' for their 'actions and inactions' and their failures to provide support to victims/survivors of child sexual abuse, including during the term of Lamm's presidency of that organisation.
I am pleased to now report that as a result of Lamm’s (mis-)conduct, a significant long-term donor to Mizrachi has advised Lamm of his decision to withdraw financial support to them which has amounted to tens of thousands of dollars annually and to redirect those funds to organisations whose leadership take matters of justice and healing for child sexual abuse victims/survivors more seriously.
I commend the donor for their strong moral stance and encourage other donors to take more of an interest in whether their generous donations are being used to support organisations and leaders who continue to espouse views which are out of touch with broader communal attitudes regarding matters involving child sexual abuse. Withdrawing donations is a powerful way to expose those leaders who continue to hurt child sexual abuse victims/survivors and to influence the behaviour of the organisations which they lead to make them more accountable and to compel them to take child sexual abuse and child safety seriously.
I call on members of Mizrachi who are similarly concerned with the behaviour of their President to consider their position and make their voices heard.
Last month, Israeli Supreme Court Judge Yitzhak Amit, addressed a victim/survivor of incestuous child sexual assault:
Before Concluding, and in light of the nature of the arguments brought forward by the appellant, I find it apposite to address the plaintiff directly.
As judges, we unfortunately have to hear many cases which can be categorised as “sexual abuse within the family”. You have shown daring and courage on the witness stand in face of a difficult and unpleasant cross-examination. You were able to do so because the people around you allowed it, knowing how strong and wise you are and able to withstand it (by law anyone under the age of 14 may be exempted from testifying in court). From our experience we can say to you clearly and without a doubt: you are the aggrieved and the appellant is the aggressor. There isn’t a single reason why you should take upon yourself even a gram, even the slightest speck of guilt or shame. You are “guilty’ in the same way in which someone would be guilty for being robbed by a thief or having their wallet taken by a pickpocket. There is no reason why you would burden yourself with guilt, shame, embarrassment or any sense of having “complicated” things for your family. The entire burden should be placed on the shoulders of the appellant, who abused you and manipulatively took advantage of, according to his own words, the age gap between you, along with the trust that you and your family placed in him. You are lucky to have such a supportive family, parents and siblings, all of whom want the best for you. We are hopeful that you will take this verdict to be the end of the story which you found yourself in just by virtue of being there, and as someone who has already shown such strength of character, we wish and believe that you will be able to look forward and move on.
Thank you to Akiva Novick for highlighting it, and to Sol Salbe and Yoni Molad for translating the text from Hebrew to English.