To me personally, and often to victims/survivors more broadly, justice and accountability is particularly important, especially in the context of the child sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Australian Jewish community over the last few years. To me (and to many others), the ECAJ, along with many other communal institutions, failed us. Which is why I have continued to raise the issue of justice and accountability. While many may have forgotten the extent of what transpired over many years, many of us have not. We can not. We live with different aspects of it daily. And as the target of much of the vitriol and worse over many years - for merely pursuing justice for myself and others, and to ensure our children are safe - I've continued to live with all of this until this day.
Which is why this powerful letter from the ECAJ is so important - to me, to my fellow victims/survivors, and indeed to many in the broader community. No doubt it will contribute to the ongoing healing process for many.
From a personal perspective, it is another important milestone in my journey. This letter effectively resolves all the outstanding personal issues I have with all Jewish Australian institutions (notwithstanding my civil case against Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre, as well as the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence's recent decision to shut their doors seemingly instead of accepting responsibility and apologising for their failures). It is also further vindication of my work to date. I hope and expect that this outcome, which is what I've been striving to achieve over the past few years, will lift further weight off my shoulders.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the ECAJ's new president, Anton Block, and the ECAJ Executive, for addressing this matter in a sensitive and professional manner. I look forward to continuing to work with them constructively for the benefit of our community.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry letter:
3 March 2017
Further to our recent telephone conversation, I have reviewed and considered the comments made by you in respect of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) in your blog and your book. As the new president of the ECAJ, I wish to resolve any issues that you and other victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and your families may have with the ECAJ.
As was stated by the ECAJ in its media release on 18 July 2011,
“Anyone found to have betrayed the trust of children under their care or supervision must be held to account to the full extent of the law",
The statement then continued:
“The abuse of children in any way, be it physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, is abhorrent, particularly when it is perpetrated by those in positions of trust and authority. All claims of abuse must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
There is no place for victims to be ostracized or “punished” in any way for coming forward and making a complaint.”
This has been the unwavering position of the ECAJ, and there were follow-up statements to the same effect in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
However, the ECAJ acknowledges the view held by you and other victims/survivors of child sexual abuse that the Jewish community including the ECAJ could have done more to support the many victims/survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community. We readily acknowledge the role you played as the only public face of survivors within our community, and as a victim advocate who was (and still is) the voice and a representative of so many who endured (and in many cases still continue to endure) unspeakable pain and suffering. We also believe we could have done more to support you and work with you to address these grave injustices of the past (including the very recent past) and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children now and into the future.
For that, the ECAJ is sorry. We deeply regret some of our actions and inaction, and will use this experience to learn and grow.
The ECAJ is committed to the wrongdoers in our community being brought to justice and to those whose failures led to the abuse and/or suffering of innocent victims being held to full account. The ECAJ is equally committed to the victims/survivors of these terrible events being given recognition for their suffering, the support that they deserve and the help that they require to live a happy and fulfilled life.
I welcome an opportunity to work with you to achieve this outcome for everyone.