Last week, the NSW Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the Supreme Court of NSW, which found that four rabbis from the Chabad stream of Judaism – Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Rabbi Michael Chriqui and Rabbi Eli Langer – were guilty of criminal contempt of court for attempting to interfere with the administration of justice. Rabbi Moshe Gutnick is President of the RCANZ. Inexplicably, all of the rabbis remained full members of the RCANZ following the finding of guilt by the NSW Supreme Court, and no other member of the RCANZ sought to hold them publicly to account. Indeed, not a single communal representative body has publicly sought to hold them and the RCANZ to account – to his credit, the Principal of Mt Scopus College, Rabbi James Kennard, who is not an RCANZ member, is the sole Jewish community figure to issue a public statement on this matter thus far.
Not only has the Rabbinate not spoken out against this appalling conduct in the wake of the recent Court of Appeal judgement, but within a few days, the Rabbinical Council of NSW (RCNSW) issued a statement in support of their colleagues, accusing a judge of the NSW Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeal of getting it wrong (the Sydney Beth Din itself also issued a statement). It is worth noting that for over two years, myself and other survivors of child sexual abuse have been asking the RCNSW to act in relation to (Rabbi) Pinchus Feldman, who remains a member of their organisation despite being implicated in the child sexual abuse scandal at his institution and the subsequent cover-ups. Despite our regular enquiries, they have not managed to respond to our two-year old complaints about Feldman but clearly, have no trouble swiftly speaking up in support of their colleagues who have been found guilty of serious criminal conduct.
As victims and survivors of child sexual abuse who have suffered because of the actions of rabbis who preferred to deal with our abusers internally, rather than through the appropriate secular authorities, it is untenable to have a Rabbinate led by people who have been found guilty of contempt of court. How can anyone take seriously their calls to report child sexual abuse allegations to authorities when they themselves do not respect such authorities? Having been promised a Rabbinate that would be accountable and would speak up when other rabbis acted badly, it is unacceptable to witness other rabbis remaining silent once more. As members of the Jewish community, it is unimaginable that once again, we find ourselves embarrassed and ashamed by the actions of rabbis, especially Rabbi Gutnick, Australia’s most senior rabbi by virtue of his position (notwithstanding Rabbi Gutnick’s powerful world-first formal apology on behalf of the Orthodox Rabbinate to survivors of child sexual abuse and his other work in this area).
It Is clear that there are some institutions that are too rotten, too corrupt and too devoid of morality to ever be reformed. The Orthodox Rabbis of Australia seem to fall into such a category.
We unequivocally call on Rabbis Gutnick, Ulman, Chriqui and Langer to immediately resign from the RCANZ. We call on Jewish community leaders to condemn and distance our community from the Orthodox Rabbinate. And we call on the rabbis of the RCANZ, the RCNSW and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria to apologise to the Jewish community and disband their organisations, which once again, have brought shame on us all.