Rabbi Manis Friedman likens child sex abuse to “diarrhea”
A LEADING figure within the ultra-orthodox Jewish movement that governs yeshiva colleges in Australia has ridiculed victims of sex abuse, likening the impact of child molestation to the “embarrassment” of diarrhoea and insisting victims are “not that damaged”.
The comments by Rabbi Manis Friedman, a prominent New York-based leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, were condemned by Sydney Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, as an attempt to “theologically trivialise” the impact of child sex abuse.
Anti-sexual abuse campaigner Manny Waks launched simultaneous legal action against Rabbi Friedman in Jewish courts in New York and Sydney yesterday aimed at forcing a public apology and retraction of the comments circulating widely on a YouTube clip.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been plagued by allegations of sexual assault at its yeshivas – traditional Jewish schools – in Melbourne, Sydney and New York.
Mr Waks, who was sexually abused when a he was a yeshiva student in Melbourne in the 1980s, said Rabbi Friedman was considered an “enlightened and moderate” leader of the ultra-orthodox community and his comments would deter other victims of abuse from coming forward.
Rabbi Friedman, a global emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement headquartered in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has family ties in Melbourne, where his cousin Sheiny New is a spokeswoman for the Jewish Taskforce against Family Violence.
Ms New yesterday distanced the taskforce from the rabbi’s views.
“The pain and suffering of all victims of sexual assault must never be minimised,” she said.
In a video-taped interview posted on YouTube this week and since removed, Rabbi Friedman questions whether sexual abuse is a big averiah (sin) and why victims of abuse feel damaged. “You are not that damaged — cut it out,” he said. “If in fact you did do an averiah, so do two mitzvois (good deeds). Regain your balance.”
Rabbi Friedman suggests abuse was endemic within the ultra-orthodox community, saying “there is hardly a kid who comes to a yeshiva, to a program, that hasn’t been molested”. In a lengthy and at times rambling interview, the rabbi recalls the case of an abuse victim who sought his advice on whether to tell his fiance about his experiences.
“He said: ‘Do I have to tell that I was molested?’. I said: ‘Do you have to tell that you once had diarrhoea?’ It’s embarrassing but nobody’s business.”
The rabbi also recalls a conversation he had with a girl who confided in him that she was molested when she was nine. “So? Nobody is allowed to touch you? What are you, holy?” he said. “I said to this girl . . . ‘Do you think you are the only one who was molested? Do you think your mother and grandmother back in Russia made it through their teenage years without being molested by a shegetz? Why are you so fragile?”
Shegetz is a derogatory word for a non-Jewish man.
Rabbi Friedman said victims of abuse, rather than being left damaged, learned an important lesson.
“In fact, you have learned that not every counsellor is heilig (holy) and not every uncle is your best friend. Am I damaged material? The answer is we are all damaged. Join the club.”
A growing public backlash to the video prompted Rabbi Friedman to post a second interview in which he describes molestation of children as a “crisis” within the Jewish religious community. However, he does not retract his earlier comments.
Manis Friedman (full name: Menachem Manis haCohen Friedman; born 1946) is a Chabad Lubavitch Hassid. He is a Torah scholar, rabbi, author, unlicensed counselor and speaker and is the dean of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies.
Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1946, Friedman immigrated with his family to the United States in 1950. He received his rabbinic ordination at the Rabbinical College of Canada in 1969. He currently hosts a cable television series, Torah Forum with Manis Friedman, syndicated within North America. Friedman’s first book, Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?, was published in 1990. It is currently in its fourth printing. Since the 1970s more than 150,000 of Friedman’s recorded classes and lectures have been sold.
Manis Friedman’s brother is the renowned Jewish singer Avraham Fried.
i liken you to diarrhea..and retracting after the event is not acceptable..you said it firstly because you believe it..on your bike you pathetic apologist..