An event organised by Chabad Lubavitch UK was held in Golders Green a fortnight ago honouring a Sefer Torah and its donor. Chabad news outlets describe “over 1,000 men, women and children” participating in a “joyous” event. I was made aware of this when a journalist contacted me for my thoughts considering the scroll’s donor, a convicted sex offender, is the man who abused me. I read the article with the accompanying photos and felt the air knocked out of me. There, in the pictures, were prominent members of Chabad Lubavitch – the same Lubavitch that don’t want to include me. This is the community that shunned me.
Let’s acknowledge hard truths. There is no way Rabbi Yossi Simon, director of Tzivos Hashem, Dayan Levi Yitzchok Raskin of Lubavitch, Rabbi Mendel Gordon, mashpia of Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch, Rabbi Y.M Hertz, head of Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Junik Rov of Beis Gavriel, Rabbi Dovid Katz of Chabad West Hampstead and Rabbi Gedalia Lieberman of Heichal Menachem can claim they did not know who was donating this Torah. After all, it was printed clearly on the widely-circulated flyer.
However, they seem to have made a collective, conscious decision to attend the celebrations, be photographed at the event, follow the procession down Golders Green Road and present the donor with a plaque.
This sends a clear message to me and countless other victims and survivors of sexual abuse in our community – if you speak up, if you report your abuse to the police, you are not supported, you are not welcome.
Moreover, there’s a possibility that the man who abused you will be more welcome in the community than you are.
This is especially true as my family was ostracised after I reported my experiences to the police.
Rather than instant condemnation of this behaviour of Chabad Lubavitch UK, the Board of Deputies issued a statement about “remorse” and “genuine repentance” of offenders, closely followed by the Jewish Leadership Council using the moment to boast about its member organisations having “robust policies” in safeguarding.
This is everything that is wrong within our community. Safety does not stop at policies. They need to be implemented. There needs to be somewhere to refer cases to. There needs to be a professional system in place that handles disclosures. Updated safeguarding policies are the very basic requirement of our institutions.
I refuse to believe humans can really be that thoughtless. More so when it is those in leadership roles in communal organisations. Where is the leadership for victims of sexual abuse? We deserve and expect more.
Not in my name will victims not matter to those with power to make a change. Members of our community, I implore you. Use your voice and stand with me. NOT in your name.
“A convicted sex offender is honoured and celebrated while his victim continues to be shunned” is what the headlines should have read. Instead they said “Torah completed by convicted sex offender rejected by Chabad in Golders Green” (Jewish News) and “Golders Green Lubavitch rebuff offer of Sefer Torah donated by sex offender” (Jewish Chronicle).
Somehow Chabad Lubavitch UK has managed to flip their shameful behaviour into a “praise Chabad” moment.
It’s worth noting that Chabad Lubavitch UK kept the Torah for two weeks and only “rejected” it after the media outrage.
Without the public protest from survivors and advocates, this embarrassment would have passed unnoticed.