SYDNEY (JTA) – The president of the Orthodox rabbinate in Australia issued an unequivocal apology to the victims of child sex abuse and urged perpetrators to turn themselves in to police.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia, said the “culture of cover-up” in Australia is wrong.
“An issue of child sexual abuse must be reported to the police immediately and perpetrators must be brought to justice,” he wrote in a letter issued to all Orthodox synagogues across the region to be read during Yom Kippur services.
“It makes no difference whether the crime took place ten years ago or ten days ago. There can be no exceptions and no excuses,” Gutnick’s letter read.
He then begged forgiveness from the victims. “On this holiest of days I sincerely beg your forgiveness on behalf of all of us who did not hear your voice. We will do our utmost not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
To the perpetrators, he added: “You have done a most heinous crime and you will never find atonement with Hashem or peace within yourselves until you do the right thing. Turn yourselves in. Admit to the wrong you have done so that you may begin the path to atonement and allow your victims to find healing and peace.”
Manny Waks, a spokesperson for Jewish victims, hailed the statement as an “incredible milestone.”
“This may very well be a world first and I am particularly proud that an Australian rabbi and the peak Orthodox organization in Australia, have demonstrated such courageous leadership,” Waks said.