Statement on the Royal Commission

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Good evening and Shavuah Tov,

During Shabbat I spoke to those in attendance regarding the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse of several of our Australian Jewish Institutions, I would like to repeat my statement here.

This week's Torah reading was Yitro, a Parasha that contains the 10 Commandments and the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, probably the single most important and defining event in Jewish History. Our Sages tell us that all of the commandments can be found within the 10, and most definitely within the Torah.

Those Commandments include appointing officers and judges to protect our people, setting up a legal system, pursuing righteousness, following the statements and decisions of our sages, laws of Shabbat, laws of keeping Kosher, and laws of forbidden relationships.

It does not include Mesirah, a concept that was rabbinically created, because of a specific sociological situation; because Jews were in a precarious position vis-a-vis their non-Jewish neighbors where taking a Jewish community member to a non-Jewish magistrate would jeopardize the entire Jewish community.

It does not remain relevant today according to many opinions; especially in the realm of reporting sexual abuse and other mandated reporting scenarios.

This week I was humbled to hear Rabbi Moshe Gutnick display courage and sincerity when he called out his rabbinic colleagues and said that these scandals of abuse, which are stains on our entire community, not just the Ultra Orthodox, should and could have been avoided with responsible rabbinic leadership.

I am an new and young Rabbi as you all know, however with my learning and my title that has been bestowed on me, I carry the mantle of our mesorah, our tradition, over three thousand years, going back to this morning's Torah reading. I have absorbed information granted to me through the wisdom of others; generations of Rabbis and scholars. And it is with that thought, I look at rabbinic peers, who have made statements this past week, making it known that they thought such issues of a child's or a victim's pain should go unnoticed, and unreported, or that they thought such actions or issues were not illegal or immoral. I take those statements to heart, and they bare down on me and my soul, because they are a part of our tradition and history, and they have shamed our rabbinate and our community.
For that I am sorry.

I can only tell you, that as part of my training, and as part of the continued education that my Yeshiva offers including a just completed course on Identifying Sexual Abuse, victims and voices will not be stifled in the future. Jews will not get away with such acts, and be sheltered within our global community by my peers any longer.

I also want to take a moment to thank our Past President, Manny Waks, who has been at the forefront of this battle; he and his family have projected courage and determination, and they have sacrificed much. We as his past community, as well as all of us within the Australian Jewish Community should thank him for the work he has done. Pirkei Avot tells us that if you save a life you save an entire world, Manny has saved countless lives; of victims and of our future children.

It will take strong leadership to rebuild our entire community so that we remove the culture of coverups and sheltering. But we will rebuild and we will be stronger.

Shavuah Tov,

Rabbi Alon Meltzer
 

Contact Information:
Office: 02-6295-1052 or actadmin@canberrajewishcommunity.org

Rabbi Meltzer: rabbi@canberrajewishcommunity.org
President Robert Cussel: president@canberrajewishcommunity.org
Ms Arava Klein at Jewish Care: 02-6295-2298 or arava.klein@canberrajewishcommunity.org