Friday, February 01, 2013
The American rabbi who compared sex abuse with a case of diarrhoea has apologised after a backlash by Melbourne Orthodox Jewish leaders and the movement's New York headquarters.
Rabbi Manis Friedman told young adult students that sex abuse was like a former case of diarrhoea - embarrassing but private. He said not reciting a blessing was worse than being sexually abused and that victims learnt ''an important lesson'' from abuse.
Melbourne abuse-survivor Manny Waks, founder of advocacy group Tzedek, said on Thursday he would sue Rabbi Friedman in Jewish courts in Sydney and New York.
But late on Friday Fairfax Media received an email from Rabbi Friedman saying he was deeply sorry for his ''completely inappropriate'' language.
''I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives. In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable,'' he said.
''Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenceless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which they live. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organisation or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime.''
Rabbi Friedman said he would be sure to make those points clear in future, and that the subject could not be neglected. ''I hope over time to earn the forgiveness of those who were hurt by my words.''
After The Age reported Rabbi Friedman's remarks on Friday, Chabad Lubavitch said Rabbi Friedman was not a Chabad emissary, as reported, but a Minnesota-based teacher who did not speak for Chabad.
On Friday, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria called on Rabbi Friedman to apologise. Its president, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, said the remarks were incorrect, potentially harmful and disregarded and trivialised the suffering of abuse victims. He said Rabbi Friedman had no connection with Chabad in Melbourne.
Earlier, Organisation of Australasian Rabbis president Moshe Gutnick - also a Chabad rabbi - said Rabbi Friedman had shown ignorance and the height of insensitivity.
Mr Waks welcomed the apology and said he would consider his options about the lawsuit. ''I'm pleased that Rabbi Friedman has held himself accountable,'' he said.
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