Recently, the physical assault victim had a meeting with the Jewish Federation in Sao Paulo, Brazil (and others). The Federation President, Mr Luiz Kignel, made it clear to the assault victim that he has two options in how to deal with the physical assault matter: either through the police or through the Federation. And if the victim proceeds with the police case, the Federation will not be able to assist him in the matter. Mr Kignel also made it clear that, despite acknowledging that there is an issue of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, he believes that this needs to be addressed within the community in “the Jewish way” (taken to mean quietly, within the Jewish community, rather than publicly).
To summarise: The senior Jewish leadership in Brazil that is involved in this case is now putting pressure on a victim of physical assault in a synagogue, who is alleging several cases of child sexual abuse and their subsequent cover-ups (with compelling evidence), not to pursue a criminal matter against his vicious attacker and those who facilitated the attack (security officials, including the head security official of the Federation itself). This, despite their acknowledgement that this attack indeed took place.
It’s important to note that initially the Federation attempted to cover up their involvement in the physical assault, despite having seen the surveillance footage. They were left with no choice after the victim himself provided unequivocal evidence to them at their recent meeting - while the victim didn’t have access to their video images, he had his own evidence, which clearly proved the Federation’s involvement in the assault. Had the courageous victim not had the evidence, it’s safe to assume that the Federation’s response would’ve been even poorer.
Mr Kignel also made it clear that they will not work with the assault victim in his efforts to address the issue of child sexual abuse within his jurisdiction, including implementing prevention initiatives (which the victim is trying to do, and which currently don’t exist there), if he continues to address the issue of child sexual abuse more broadly in a public manner (the victim arranged an interview for me on a local Brazilian Jewish TV channel, Shalom Brasil, which the Federation objected to, not because of its content, but simply on the grounds that this issue shouldn’t be discussed so publicly - I will address this matter separately in due course).
This is outrageous. The Jewish leadership in Brazil should stand up for justice and do everything it can to adequately address the issue of child sexual abuse within their community – and not in “the Jewish way,” which has repeatedly proved counter-productive. They should unequivocally support the victim in his pursuit of justice through the police, stand down the relevant security officers involved in the assault, provide the victim with whatever assistance he requires, work to ensure this incident is not repeated, and work to address the issue of child sexual abuse within their community more broadly. It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, there is still much more to come out of the South American Jewish community in terms of how (poorly) they are responding to this issue. I will continue to share what I can, in the hope that it will catalyse a much-needed cultural change there.
Original Facebook post (published 2 March 2018):
I can now confirm that the courageous father of an alleged victim of child sexual abuse who is merely trying to pursue justice for his young daughter and raise awareness in the local Jewish community was physically assaulted in the Bait synagogue last night during the Purim celebrations (http://www.bait.org.br/rabino-equipe). Rabbi Abi Michaan was the rabbi who called security to remove this individual, and is effectively the one responsible for the repeated physical assault against this courageous whistle-blower.
A police statement has now been provided, and a medical examination conducted. Some of the evidence of the assaults has also been provided to the local police. (There is more evidence available through the synagogue’s CCTV.) It is now up to the victim to decide whether to request a formal police investigation.
In the meantime, the local Jewish Federation has been contacted, as one of the security guards identified himself as the head Federation security officer, and not only watched while the assaults were taking place, but actively facilitated it by allowing the offender to bash the victim in a closed room, deliberately not allowing him to leave the premises and escape the relentless attacks. This security officer was with two other local synagogue security officers, who also allowed the assaults to proceed. I understand that the Federation President is taking this issue seriously, and we expect that all three security officers will be sacked. Hopefully this will be confirmed in due course.
We also expect that there will be serious consequences to both the offender who assaulted this courageous individual, and to (Rabbi) Abi Michaan who bears most of the responsibility for this entire episode. Michaan is clearly unfit to be a rabbi at this stage, and we expect that at the very least he is forced to step aside until he provides a sincere and comprehensive public apology and undertakes education regarding the issue of child sexual abuse (and perhaps even basic decency).
I will continue to update regarding this unacceptable situation.