A devastating report into child abuse in religious organisations is an “urgent wake-up” call, the Chief Rabbi has said.
Yesterday’s report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found “shocking failures” in many religious settings to protect children, including in Jewish organisations.
Some major Jewish organisations did not even have a child protection policy, it found, while concerns were heard about potential for child abuse in unregulated yeshivas.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was praised for his “clear communication” of the “abhorrence of child protection failures”, said everyone must take greater responsibility to protect children.
“The report confirms beyond any doubt that perpetrators of abuse find it all too easy to hide in an environment where religious institutions command a great deal of respect and where a hierarchy of religious leadership is in place,” he said.
“These, together with a variety of other cultural factors, including a power imbalance and fear of reputational damage, have made our children more vulnerable to the scourge of abuse.
“This cannot be allowed to continue any longer.”
He added: “The failure to protect our children, and to report abuse where it occurs, is a complete abrogation of our responsibility to God and to one another. It cannot and must not be tolerated.”
The report recommended that all religious organisations should have a child protection policy, and that the Government should legislate to amend the definition of full-time education.
Among the shocking examples child abusers attempting to hide from justice was the case of paedophile Todros Grynhaus, a prominent member of the Manchester Charedi community.
Grynhaus was convicted to 13 years and two months in prison in 2013, with a judge finding he had “felt able to rely on a prevailing attitude of insularity” in the community to avoid being held to account for his crimes.
Some Jewish organisations, including the United Synagogue, were praised for being a “rare example” of an umbrella body which provides support for safer recruitment.
The United Synagogue’s chief executive, Steven Wilson, welcomed the report, saying the movement would support “more formal and proportionate regulation of child protection within religious organisations and would be pleased to work with the Inquiry on this important piece of work.”
Other Jewish bodies were criticised, however, including the strictly-Orthodox Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC).
The inquiry said that there was “a mismatch between the organisation’s stated position and its actual practice in responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.”
The organisation’s Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten had told the inquiry that the rabbinate was clear child sexual abuse must be reported to the relevant authorities.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.