Monday, February 16, 2015

Chabad's official response to testimony at the Australian Royal Commision abuse hearings - Will Vienna be the next topic?

Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch in New York has issued a statement in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  hearing dealing with the Sydney Yeshiva and the Melbourne Yeshivah.

“The Board of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, has been following Australia’s Royal Commission proceedings into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. While we appreciate the need for patience as the process takes its due course, some of the testimony which was shared with the Commission is extremely alarming, and we feel compelled to comment even before the Commission issues its findings and recommendations.

We are appalled and deeply pained to learn of the allegations against individuals associated with some of the Chabad institutions in Australia. The information that has emerged is utterly disturbing, a profound violation of the non-negotiable principles implicit– and explicit–in any and every situation where the wellbeing of a child is entrusted to the care of an educational institution.

The first, foremost and overriding concern of every one of our educational institutions, and of each individual affiliated in any way with those institutions, is the protection—physical, emotional and psychological—of any and every child entrusted to it.

We are confident that the reports emanating from Australia are the rare and unfortunate exception to our institutions; however in light of the allegations now under investigation, we are reviewing procedures and protocol to see how these can be improved and enhanced for better implementation and enforcement. Indeed, given the devastating and long-lasting effects of child sex abuse now well-known, teachers, administrative and other school personnel who become aware of any incidents of such abuse, must act responsibly and report them to authorities without delay

The unfortunate incidents alleged to have occurred in Australia may have well been avoided if the institutions in question would have adhered to the Child Safety Code guidelines of the Merkos Educational Office. We will therefore take additional steps to ensure strict adherence of these codes by all Chabad-Lubavitch educational institutions, and we will continue to explore additional measures to raise awareness among school personnel, about the dangers, risks and indications of offenses of sexual abuse and misconduct.

We commend the efforts of the Royal Commission, and trust that their involvement in this matter will not only address the immediate situation, but that they will provide broader recommendations as well that will be instrumental in ensuring a safe, sound and positive environment within all schools. We welcome and value their insight.

The decision on the part of the victims to come forward cannot have been an easy one. But it was the courageous and correct one. For in their willingness to do so, they have contributed to a heightened awareness that will prevent other children from falling victim. The suffering and consequences of such abuses are often life-long, and as such, every instance of prevention is a life saved.<

In our ethos, every life is a world. Every child represents a world, worthy and deserving of our greatest investment towards their safety and nurture. The victims who have stepped forward to report abuse have surely saved many, many lives, each of them a world unto itself. For this, we applaud them. We pray that they will find healing and the strength to move on. G-d bless them with goodness and kindness.”


  1. While I agree the vienna case is appalling, this is child sexual abuse. In vienna, there is no claim of child sexual abuse.

    Don't conflate legal abuse with child sexual abuse two different separate things.

  2. This is very significant as there is finally an admission from Crown Heights that Chabad is not the autonomous movement it has claimed for so long. What happened in Australia has prompted this extensive response from HQ in New York.

    Unfortunately, this carefully crafted not-quite-an-apology is only a tiny first step . As we have seen so many times, people can make all kinds of policies and statements but until they backed up by action in individual cases, they are just empty words. Here are some questions I would like to put to Rabbi Kotlarsky and his men in Merkos:

    1) Will you be persuading (effectively forcing) the main protagonists in Australia to step down from ALL positions of leadership and authority from ALL their Chabad-related roles?
    2) Will you be taking away their titles of Chabad Shliach? Most of these people are still listed on
    3) Will any Chabad blogs be publishing details of the Royal Commission in Australia and naming some of the Chabad Rabbis at fault. So far I have only seen this reference to the case which only implicates non-Chabad Rabbis: . Sickeningly, it fails to mention the main Chabad Rabbis who covered up the abuse for decades.
    4) Now that Chabad in Crown Heights have finally (under sufferance) seemingly accepted some responsibility for Chabad Rabbis around the world, will they now accept some responsibility for Biderman in Vienna?

  3. @ Mimedinat hayam - not sure how you know which type of abuse is more devastating.

    Most cases of sexual abuse are harmful and considered pikuach nefesh - not because it is sexual but because of the trauma and devastation it causes psychologically.

    Regarding the Vienna case - the loss of their mother and being raised by two non-Jewish babysitters clearly has had a negative impact of these young boys.

    So dismissing the Vienna case as simply a legal issue is absurd and shows a poor understanding of the issues.

    Both Australia and Vienna are cases of child abuse

  4. What was being done before this matter went public?

  5. The Vienna case would be much worse. In Australia, we're talking about actions of 20 plus years ago . Everyone agrees that today things are much different there. In Vienna, we're talking about abuse of today. If the right people got involved, this could be stopped midway. This could be compared to a rodef beshaas maase which is much more severe.

  6. Sexual abuse, psychological abuse, abuse of family and higher court power, abuse of "friendship" by community members, ostracism by same, abuse of positions of authority (eg Chabad kindergarten leadership) - ALL have either taken place in the early years of the Schlesinger twins' lives or are taking place in Vienna, Austria, NOW.

  7. Sorry, sexual abuse should have been deleted - I did not mean to include that here as there is (so far at least) no evidence of it in this case in Vienna. Unfortunately, 3 hrs after posting, it's not possible to do any further editing.


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