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Isha Bekia

Let’s work together to protect our community against abuse

Jan 7, 2022 | SA Community


Dear community,

The horror of sexual abuse came to the fore once again recently with the Beth Din hearings in Israel into multiple allegations against a prominent child therapist and author of children’s books, Chaim Walder.

The Beth Din hearing, convened by the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, heard from 22 accusers, whose testimonies given against Walder were devastating.

The situation requires us to respond. As a community we need to treat this latest horrifying case as another call to action. It is a dramatic reminder of the destructive effects of sexual abuse. It is also a shocking reminder that silence is deadly. Some of the allegations against Walder go back decades.

Sexual abuse is a crime committed under a cloak of silence. That silence is caused by multiple psychological and societal factors, including the misplaced shame of victims, and in the case of children, the lack of understanding and confidence to talk to their parents about it, the unacceptable defensiveness of institutions, the social stigma of being a victim, and the sheer horror that naturally causes people to want to look the other way.

But we cannot look the other way. There are two vital ways to protect our community against sexual abuse. One is to educate and empower everyone, especially children, with the knowledge and awareness to identify predatory behaviours, recognise unsafe situations before they develop any further, and know what steps to take to prevent abuse – and how to report abuse if it happens. Parents and schools have a halachic duty to hold a conversation with their children about sexual abuse (and other forms of abuse), to empower them to protect themselves and to speak up. There is much age-appropriate information and training available, and many resources to draw on. Below, you will find more information about Koleinu, as well as links to training resources that will help you learn how to discuss these issues with your children.

Secondly, we need to remind ourselves of the legal and halachic obligation to report abuse. In South Africa, if you become aware of any case of child abuse, you have a legal obligation to report it, either to the police or to a government-recognised child protection organisation (CPO). We are blessed that our community has two recognised CPOs – the Chevrah Kadisha’s Community Social Services (CKCS) division in Johannesburg, and Jewish Community Services (JCS) in Cape Town. Any report needs to go directly to them. You can find out more about the CKCS and JCS in the information provided below.

In addition, in 2017 I established the Abuse Review Board, under the chairmanship of Advocate Liza Segal SC, to provide an extra layer of protection against abuse, as an independent institution, to ensure that all complaints relating to allegations of abuse are managed and dealt with appropriately and with the required urgency. Please see below for more information about the Abuse Review Board.

I have listed below outstanding local organisations doing holy work to defend our community against abuse, together with a brief description of what they do and how to contact them.

Our community must report allegations of abuse, and support and use the services of these organisations to the fullest. We must work in partnership with them and with each other, so that as a community, we can do everything in our power to fight this scourge, and to empower ourselves and our families with information and understanding.

I intend to convene a meeting with the rabbis of our community to discuss other practical ways in which we can empower and inform people. I also intend to convene a community webinar on this topic to further increase awareness and education on these issues, and pledge to do everything possible to continue to publicly raise these issues, so that together we can entrench a community culture where victims feel supported to speak about instances of abuse and take action.

May Hashem bless all our efforts to prevent the devastation of abuse.

With blessings,

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

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Organisations protecting our community against abuse

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This anti-abuse organisation offers a helpline to victims of domestic abuse and child sexual abuse. Koleinu is a voice for advocacy against all forms of abuse in the Jewish community and the team is passionate about encouraging the reporting of abuse so that perpetrators can be held to account and the cycle of abuse ended. Koleinu’s anonymous and confidential helpline is helmed by highly trained responders who listen empathically and help the caller find their way forward. Koleinu has an extensive database of therapists, lawyers and experts in the field, both locally and internationally. If you are an abuse victim, presently or in your past, please don’t suffer alone and in silence. Koleinu feels your pain and is a phone call away.

Koleinu helpline number: 011 264 0341

Cape Town representative: Melanie Uranovsky – 074 180 5687

Koleinu has created resources for child safety and how to talk to children about child sexual abuse. These include the following videos:

Personal safety tips – part 1

Personal safety tips – part 2

Personal safety tips – part 3

Personal safety tips – part 4

For another valuable resource on strategies for the prevention of sexual abuse, Koleinu has suggested the following video:

Let’s Talk About Prevention Webinar: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse | Dr David Finkelhor

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Jhb Chevrah Kadisha’s Community Social Services and Jewish Community Services Cape Town

The Chevrah Kadisha’s Community Social Services (CKCS) division is a Child Protection Organisation (CPO) and Family Services Organisation registered in terms of Section 107 (1) of the Children’s Act (38 of 2005). It is one of only 14 registered organisations in Gauteng in terms of the Act to provide services to persons who are in abusive relationships, and to family members impacted by abuse, as well as recourse against those who perpetuate abuse. It is mandated and regulated by law to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect of children in need of care and protection.

For any community member (parent, teacher, relative, friend, rabbi, medical practitioner, counsellor, etc) who becomes aware that abuse may be taking place, there is a procedure for obtaining professional and legal help for those who may be affected. While such situations are deeply unsettling, experienced court-mandated assistance is readily available to the Jewish community.

Failure to report an abuse matter is deemed a contravention of law according to Section 110 3 (b). CKCS social workers are registered and trained to manage such matters within the confines of ethical boundaries, law, confidentiality and safety.

All cases of abuse or suspected abuse must be reported to CKCS by contacting:

Jhb Chevrah Kadisha’s Community Social Services

The Intake Line: 011 532 9701; or

The Chev Emergency Helpline 082 499 1010 after hours.

Jewish Community Services Cape Town

You can reach out for help here:

Phone: 021 462 5520

Renee Donneson: 078 930 0385

Emergency: 063 666 0701 or 066 425 7280

Email: [email protected]

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Durban Jewish Social Services

Phone: 031 202 6409

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Abuse Review Board

The Abuse Review Board is tasked with providing expert oversight in cases of abuse in order to protect victims and ensure they have effective recourse. Chaired by Advocate Liza Segal SC, the Abuse Review Board includes Dr Efrat Barnes, medical director of The Teddy Bear Foundation and a noted child abuse expert, and Rabbi Gidon Fox representing the Beth Din.

You can get in touch with the Abuse Review Board here:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 082 452 7431