By Shmarya Rosenberg (Failed Messiah blog)
January 30, 2013
Tzedek, a recently formed group of child sexual abuse victims in Australia who have banded together to fight child sexual abuse and to advocate for survivors has decided to sue Rabbi Manis Friedman in beit din, Jewish religious court, for the remarks he made on video and audio recordings distributed worldwide that are viewed as insulting and demeaning to child sexual abuse victims. Friedman's remarks – widely called ignorant, offensive and irresponsible – are also seen as enabling pedophiles. Among other things, Friedman compared being sexually abused as child to having an episode of diarrhea, told abuse victims to just get over it, and said that not reciting a blessing after eating cake is worse than being sexually abuse.
Rabbi Yossi Braun
Dayan (Judge) - Crown Heights Beth Din
Rabbi Moshe Gutnick
Dayan (Judge) - Sydney Beth Din
Dear Rabbis Braun and Gutnick,
As you would both be aware, Rabbi Manis Friedman, an Emissary of the global Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which has its headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and who is a prominent leader within this movement, has posted two YouTube clips regarding the issue of child sexual abuse.
His first clip, which he subsequently removed from YouTube, can be viewed at http://youtu.be/kmOGDW9Nt9g.
His second clip can be viewed at http://youtu.be/_7zLhtmfT-4.
A new recording has now emerged and you can listen to it at http://is.gd/W8IwiH.
As you will hear in the first YouTube clip and in the new recording, Rabbi Friedman makes profoundly ignorant and deeply offensive remarks. Further, my understanding is that he also conveys a complete distortion of Halacha (Jewish Law).
While Rabbi Friedman says many reasonable things in the second YouTube clip, mainly about a rabbi’s role in responding to this type of abuse, shockingly, he completely ignores his previous ignorant and offensive remarks.
The fact that such a prominent rabbi within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has come out with such ignorant and offensive remarks is doing untold damage to the entire Jewish community, especially as he is considered an enlightened and a moderate individual. As a global leader he is damaging the reputation of the Jewish community broadly. He is also perpetuating the negative perception many have of the ultra-Orthodox community, including the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Most concerning, he is having a direct, damaging impact on victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families. Some of those who have not yet addressed their abuse will think twice before taking any measures to obtain justice and to alleviate their pain and suffering. And some of those who have already taken measures will be self-critical.
I can only hope and pray that Rabbi Friedman’s remarks do not cause victims additional trauma, potentially leading to extreme consequences.
An additional danger is that Rabbi Friedman’s remarks may give succour to elements within the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshivah community in Melbourne, who have responded abysmally to the serious allegations of abuse within their institutions. They would now seemingly be able to justify their approach by relying on Rabbi Friedman’s attitude and remarks—he is after all a leading figure within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
On behalf of Tzedek, an Australian-based advocacy group for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, I hereby give you notice that I would like to launch a Din Torah (matter of litigation) against Rabbi Manis Friedman in relation to his offending remarks. These proceedings will be launched in the Crown Heights Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din respectively.
We feel that it is most appropriate to launch proceedings in both Battei Din because (a) Crown Heights is the Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement (b) Rabbi Manis Friedman resides in the US, and (c) Tzedek is based in Australia and many of those who were offended by Rabbi Friedman’s remarks reside in Australia.
The main purposes of launching this Din Torah include:
- to send a strong message to the community that such remarks will not be tolerated, especially by a leading figure, and individuals may be held to account;
- to ensure Rabbi Friedman retracts his offending remarks;
- to ensure Rabbi Friedman makes a public and unreserved apology; and
- by the Beth Din issuing a clear and unequivocal ruling, to educate Rabbi Friedman (and others) in how to view and respond to child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
Thus far Rabbi Friedman has steadfastly refused to even refer to his offending comments, let alone issue a retraction or an apology. Therefore, we strongly feel that Rabbi Friedman must be held to full account for the obvious and as yet untold damage that he has done.
Please advise at your earliest convenience of the next steps that need to be taken so that we can schedule a hearing date as soon as possible. For as a long as this matter remains unresolved, many in the Jewish community continue to suffer.
Sincerely and respectfully,
Tzedek is an advocacy group for victims/survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.