The Hasidic Jewish community in Melbourne, Australia is an extremely closed community – they have no access to Radio or Television, boys and girls are separated as early as 8 years old, and the Rabbi has the final say on all issues.
In 2008 the community was in havoc, due to a number of girls who complained that their school principal, Malka Leifer, sexually assaulted them when they were children at the school. The school immediately bought Leifer plane tickets and she fled to Israel before facing any charges. Leifer remains in Israel to this day, as Australia’s extradition request is suspended in endless trials and legal processes.
How many Malka Leifers are there in the Orthodox communities in Israel and worldwide? It’s extremely hard to know. With a clear tendency to avoid any discussion on sex or sexuality, has the Orthodox community doomed itself to simply suffer quietly, exposing the vulnerable?
In the last 15 years, one man has been trying to make sure that’s not the case. His name is Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, and he’s the author of “Let’s Stay Safe!”, a children’s book about sexual safety. Yaakov has devoted his life in recent years to fighting sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. He’s now in Israel as 15 thousand copies of his book are being printed in Hebrew and distributed for free.
Rabbi Horowitz is Founding Dean of a Monsey, NY Yeshiva and Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES, and we’re honored to have him on the show.