Well, around eight months later, Mr Kignel responded to my last email.
On 18 December 2018, Mr Kignel wrote the following (together with an attachment, which is included below in both English and Portuguese):
I apologize for the time elapsed, but given the seriousness of the charges made against me I had no choice but to start a police procedure to bring out the truth of the events.
I want to be recorded that the police authority heard, besides me, Mr. [REDACTED] and other persons mentioned by him, and that a thorough police investigation was carried out into the alleged facts.
Please see in the annexed document the final part of the police investigation with the conclusive report of the police authority disqualifying Mr. [REDACTED]'s allegations , while, at the same time attributing to him the crime of defamation against my person.
After much consideration, I decided not to proceed with the matter, nor to take any judicial measure for moral damages and losses, considering this a closed chapter.
This does not mean that I am not alert and concerned about this affair, provided, as I have said since beginning, that any investigation is carried out in the right manner.
Deliberate accusations against the community leadership and members of our community without a shred of evidence are not the right way to go, both from a legal and a community point of view.
We must not and will not hide, protect, cover up or, in any way or manner, ignore facts such as those your site wants to expose. When summoned, we will always act on the basis of hard facts, leading not only to a community-wide response, but also to a legal one by reporting and notifying the police authorities.
Still, this is not what happened when the facts involved me because charges without evidence were made and I could not (and did not) proceed without proper investigation.
All this is in keeping with the first declaration I sent you. In a sensitive matter like this, it is necessary to act rigorously, but totally according to the legal frame.
I would like to mention, by the way, that one of the reasons that convinced me not to proceed with a libel suit was precisely because I did not want to involve your site in a case like this which, rather than helping good people join forces, ends up creating attrition among them.
Although I have been unfairly and deliberately involved by third-party slandering, I want to add that I am at your disposal to learn how to conduct cases like these, how to bring up the issue to the community, how to prevent this from happening again and how to act, all within an absolute legality.
Whenever it abides by these premises, the site and any move in this direction will always count on our support.
President of São Paulo Jewish Federation
The attached police report that was included in Mr Kignel's email (English and Portuguese):
Thank you for your belated response, which seems to raise many more questions than it answers.
Without going into too much detail – mainly so I can continue to focus my very limited resources on other important matters – I will simply raise a few very fundamental issues with your response:
- It is first important to recall how we have reached our current impasse. On 28 March, 2018, I published publicly an account of what is alleged to have transpired in a meeting (26 March, 2018) between you, two of your colleagues (senior Chabad Rabbi Yossi Alpern and local fellow Jewish community leader Mr Mauro Zaitz) and a complainant (who alleges that one of his children was sexually abused in a religious institution, and has since become a victims’ advocate) to try to resolve an incident of serious physical violence against the complainant, which transpired inside a Chabad synagogue in São Paulo during the joyous Jewish Festival of Purim. In response to my blog post, you wrote me a letter to which I responded. Rather than respond to the serious matters I raised, some eight months later, you choose to send me a police report that seems to claim the complainant is defaming you and that apparently you are perfect in your handling of child sexual abuse cases in your community.
- It is important to emphasise that the police report you sent is just that: a police report. It is not a conclusive report or a ruling in any way, shape or form. At no point was there a court hearing, nor was there a judge involved. I am not in a position to determine the credibility of such a report. And as will be noted below, the report itself raises serious questions.
- The first basic issue is that, based on what is contained in the police report, the police seem to accept prima facie the claim that an individual by the name of Moises Marcos Ejczes has never sexually abused children in the Jewish community. This seems to be in complete contradiction to what has been published here.
- Moreover, the police seem to accept that there was a case where a ‘pervert’ (a direct quote from the police report) was moments away from sexually abusing a child in the bathroom of one of the Jewish community’s religious institutions (Rabbi Alpern’s Chabad Synagogue, where Mr Zaitz is President), but was saved by an ‘unknown man’ (a direct quote). While I can raise several potential issues with this specific case (not least that the father of the alleged victim, who works for Rabbi Alpern and has also been represented by your law-firm on a different matter, has claimed elsewhere that his son was indeed sexually abused – and I should note that, generally speaking, for several reasons, it is not uncommon for victims or someone else on their behalf to deny the abuse), I would like to enquire what if anything you and your organisation has done regarding this ‘pervert’. For example, and most importantly, was anyone informed about this case (e.g. police) and did the institution review its policies and procedures around this issue? After all, this would seem to have been (and potentially currently be) a grave threat to your community’s children.
- On this note, I should mention that your colleague, Mr Zaitz, acknowledged at the meeting on 26 March 2018 that he was aware of numerous cases of community members who were suspended and expelled for child sexual abuse offences at Hebraica (Jewish Community Centre) – I would like to enquire about this as well: what, if anything have you, the organisation you lead, or any other organisation done in response to that statement?
- Furthermore, contrary to your assertion, I understand that at least one name of an alleged pedophile was mentioned at your meeting. This is in complete contrast to your police evidence (which was supported by two witnesses, your colleagues, Rabbi Alpern and Mr Zaitz). Do you and your colleagues still stand by your evidence?
- Finally, I would like to highlight the fact that you and the organisation you represent, the Jewish Federation (among others), have also been involved in censoring a Shalom Brasil television interview with me that was undertaken during my trip there in February this year – at the meeting, you apparently stated that it's not a matter for Shalom Brasil to broadcast my interview because it was going to create a mess in the community. Soon after the interview, Shalom Brasil was instructed not to broadcast this important and “Kosher” interview (i.e. there was nothing in it that was attacking anyone). As Shalom Brasil’s Director, Mr Marcel Hollender, wrote in an email (translated from Portuguese):
- Moreover, the professional and brave journalist herself, Ms Priscila Cellino, was disappointed and embarrassed to share with me the censorship news. It is important to emphasise that this censoring happened well before our correspondences. Thankfully, we have a copy of most of the interview (the person who recorded it only did so soon after we commenced), which we will release publicly with Spanish subtitles in due course [see below]. The public can then be the judge if there was any legitimate reason for the interview to be censored, or whether it has to do more with covering up this issue in your community. I should note that we deliberately tried to hold the interview with the Jewish channel (and I focused on awareness raising, rather than finger-pointing and blaming).
There are additional issues regarding your response that I could raise with you (some even significant). But I feel that this would be superfluous, given the fundamental issues that I have raised above.
And one simple question regarding the comments I previously attributed to you: Do you deny that you said at the 26 March, 2018, meeting (referred to above) that the issue of child sexual abuse needs to be addressed in ”the Jewish way” and what did you mean by that? Also, can you please confirm whether you stated to the complainant “who is going to give the rule is me, I am the president”? These clarifications will assist me in determining how to proceed with this matter.
As per my previous message, and while I continue to stand fully by my previous statements, I continue to stand ready and able to assist you in any way that I and my organisation, Kol v’Oz, can. But, with all due respect, my assistance will not be predicated on your terms only – I would be pleased to work collaboratively and constructively with you and your representatives for the benefit of your community. We would both need to be comfortable – I would expect us to try to resolve our significant differences prior to any such move.
I should note that, unfortunately, you and some of your colleagues are not the first, nor will you be the last, to address the issue of child sexual abuse in a way that I regard as unacceptable. The mainstream and religious Jewish community leadership in each and every country that I have engaged with or visited has mishandled this issue. The reason for this ranges from apathy to ignorance about this issue to deliberate cover-ups and intimidation (for whatever reason). However, many Jewish community institutions and leaders around the world have been or are currently in the process of reversing the status quo. Although there is still a very long way to go, this has been a very recent and positive development. Child sexual abuse is a very unique aspect of our reality as a society, and the response to it needs to be accordingly. There is overwhelming work to do in this space – both in prevention and in responding to allegations.
I would urge you to seriously consider my offer to collaborate for the benefit of the many victims/survivors of child sexual abuse within your community (this is based on statistics within the broader society – it would be a fact that there are many such individuals within your community as well), and for the benefit of the children today and into the future.
Please note that I do not view our correspondences as confidential – last time, you took the liberty to disclose our correspondence (which I did not mind at all, I subsequently published it all on my website), so I am putting you on notice that I may choose to do so again.
In the meantime, best wishes,
Shalom Brasil email in Portuguese advising that they will not be broadcasting the TV interview: