Anger brews over Rabbi's sex abuse comments

A leading Jewish Rabbi has dismissed victims of child sex abuse, saying 'you’re not that damaged' and likening abuse to the embarrassment of diarrhoea, writes Andy Park.

An authoritative ultra-orthodox Rabbi has likened child sex abuse to the embarrassment of “diarrhoea” and that victims would have learned an “an important lesson”, in a video that has emerged on YouTube.

Rabbi Manis Friedman from New York's Chabad Lubavitch movement describes himself as “one of Judaism most well-known inspirational speakers”.

Rabbi Friedman, who has links to Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre, is seen lecturing in the video over victims' need to tell of their experience.

“What's wrong with him is he mentioned it.” Rabbi Manis said.

"Do you have to tell if you were molested? he asked.

“Do you have to tell if you have diarrhoea? It's no one's business.”

Rabbi Friedman dismissed the damage that victims of abuse report.

“I'm damaged from the molestation – no you're not.”

Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse and herself Jewish, called the Rabbi's comments “outrageous, steeped in ignorance and potentially very damaging for past, present and future victims.”

“Perpetrators have always been fuelled by secrecy and silence, so what this is doing is minimising people experiences,” Dr Kezelman said.

“Influential religious leaders who set peoples' moral and spiritual compasses perpetuating myths around abuse and being complicit with failure to act to protect children is precisely the kind of behaviour that the royal commission into child abuse is seeking to uncover.”

Melbourne's Yeshivah College has been involved in child sex abuse controversies over allegations that three boys were assaulted there in the early 1990s.

One anti-sexual abuse campaigner and former Yeshivah student, Manny Waks, has launched legal proceedings via a New York Jewish court, reportedly to ask for the Rabbi Friedman to stand down.

“We were shocked and hurt deeply from his ignorant and offensive remarks, especially given that he is such a prominent global Rabbi that is considered to be enlightened and modern. You can only imagine the views of others in that community,” Mr Waks told SBS.

“He needs to be stripped of any leadership position he holds, he ultimately needs to apologise and retract those statements... and undertake some sort of educational session so he is aware of the impact of child sexual abuse.”

SBS News has contacted Rabbi Friedman for comment.

Source: SBS