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Leading Rabbi calls on Jewish leaders to stand down following Child Abuse Royal Commission

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton gives a speech in Sydney's Great Synagogue (Photo by Nitza Lowenstein) Source: SBS

"Some Rabbis have lost their right to serve our community." Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Australia's most senior Orthodox Rabbi, has condemned the behaviour of certain community leaders in an interview with SBS Radio.

Speaking to SBS Hebrew Radio, Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney and Secretary of the Rabbinical Councils of Australia and New Zealand (Australia’s most senior Orthodox Rabbi) has called on Jewish leaders, who failed to protect child abuse survivors, to stand down from their public positions.

"If somebody has failed to carry out their legal obligations to protect children, then they ought not to be in the position of leadership in the community," Rabbi Elton says of his and the Rabbinical Council's stance.  

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse this week found that the two insular, Ultra Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch communities discouraged the reporting of child abuse, failed to act when complaints were made, and treated survivors and their families as outcasts. 

The findings vindicated victim Manny Waks, the whistleblower who first exposed systemic abuse within the sect. 

"If somebody has failed to carry out their legal obligations to protect children, then they ought not to be in the position of leadership in the community."

The Rabbinical Councils of Australia and New Zealand, New South Wales, and Victoria, with Rabbi Elton as their Secretary and spokesperson, issued a joint statement on Wednesday in response to the Royal Commission’s damning findings against Yeshivah communities in Melbourne and Sydney. 

"Both the Jewish community -  and the wider community - expects us to stand up for the rights of the victims and the survivors, the children who have suffered," Rabbi Elton says.

"We are not going to go with names or individual cases," Elton says. "But we made clear if someone has failed to carry out their legal obligations to protect children,  especially in the cases where children really have been abused and violated - really appalling treatment, then those people should stand down from their public positions."

"The treatment they received during their abuse - and afterwards in some cases, was truly terrible and our deepest sympathy and distress is shared with them."

Rabbi Benjamin Elton
Dr Rabbi Benjamin Elton in the Great Synagogue (Photo by Nitza Lowenstein)
Supplied

For the victims and their families, Rabbi Elton said that the Council and he as Secretary wished to offer, "an expression of deep sympathy for all they've suffered and a sense of deep distress on behalf of those of us in the Jewish community in the Rabbinite that they endured this terrible abuse and that in many cases they weren't listened to, they weren't supported - they were discouraged from coming forward."

"They've done the community great service even though it's been a very high personal cost, and we're not going to let them down now." 

"The treatment they received during their abuse - and afterwards in some cases, was truly terrible and our deepest sympathy and distress is shared with them.

"We're also grateful for the courage they showed in coming forward, in pursuing these cases, in not allowing themselves to be pushed aside."

"They've done the community great service even though it's been a very high personal cost, and we're not going to let them down now." 

Rabbi Elton told SBS that the Rabbinite will take every measure to ensure that cases of child abuse will never happen again in the future.  

"One of the first things I did when I was elected to the Great Synagogue about 18 months ago was to go for my 'Working with Children' Check," he says.

"Whatever is required of us in order to comply with child safety, we have to implement it and do so enthusiastically and efficiently and quickly."

Listen to the full interview (in English) with SBS Radio Hebrew below: