The belated response by one of the most senior and influential rabbinic figures in the National-Religious community in Israel to a growing sexual abuse scandal has been condemned by the Zionist Federation of Australia as inadequate, irresponsible and unacceptable.
The scandal revolves around the manner in which Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the Rosh (‘head’) of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the Centre for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot dealt with complaints against a teacher, Rabbi Morderchai Elon, who was convicted by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court in 2013 on two counts of sexual assault against a male minor.
Following Elon’s conviction, Rabbi Druckman continued to defend Elon until recently, allowing him to continue teaching in the institutions under his supervision.
Over the past two months, new allegations of sexual abuse against children have emerged against Elon, prompting Rabbi Druckman to issue vague statements of regret though, critically failing to apologise for his sustained defence of the abuser.
The ZFA alongside Bnei Akiva Australia stands firm with survivors of sexual abuse in condemning Rabbi Druckman’s inexcusable conduct. We also commend former Chairman of Bnei Akiva Olami, Daniel Goldman for speaking out. We urge Rabbi Druckman to offer an unqualified apology to survivors and to immediately step down as head of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the Centre for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot.
“In Australia, we have heard too many devastating stories of the impact of child sexual abuse through the Royal Commission,” said ZFA President Jeremy Leibler. “Among the survivors are people in the Jewish community, who have not only suffered from the abuse itself, but also from the failure of those in positions of authority to act appropriately.”
Mr Leibler said “It is abhorrent to us that Rabbi Druckman continued to offer his sympathy and support to a convicted child sex abuser, rather than to the survivors. His recent statement only issued in response to a philanthropist who withdrew funding, failed to acknowledge his own wrongdoing or apologise to survivors. This constitutes further abuse and renders Rabbi Druckman unfit to continue occupying a leadership role within the religious Zionist community.”
“Moreover, if the new allegations are proven and occurred after Elon’s conviction, Rabbi Druckman is personally responsible for allowing a convicted sexual offender to continue teaching and, by extension, to reoffend,” said Mr Leibler.
ZFA CEO Ginette Searle, said that while such belated acknowledgement of the sexual abuse won’t change what happened, it is a critical aspect of providing justice to survivors.
“It is also a critical aspect of delivering the cultural change necessary to ensure abuse is never condoned or covered up in the future,” she said.
Jeremy Leibler Ginette Searle
President Chief Executive Officer
Zionist Federation of Australia Zionist Federation of Australia
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