Chabad rabbi sorry for ‘inappropriate’ remark on molestation

Rabbi Manis Friedman, a co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Beis Chana educational institute, on Feb. 1 apologized in a statement to JTA for his “completely inappropriate use of language when discussing sexual abuse.” 

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Friedman, of St. Paul, Minn., in a recent Youtube video, dispenses advice about whether to admit child sex abuse to a girlfriend. 

He said: ‘Do I have to tell [my girlfriend] that I was molested?’,” Friedman says, recounting his advice to an interlocutor. “I said: ‘Do you have to tell that you once had diarrhea?’ It’s embarrassing but nobody’s business.”

The remark caused an uproar in Australia’s jewish community. Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia, said it “appears to theologically trivialize” the damages of sexual abuse.

Manny Waks, the head of Tzedek, an advocacy group for victims and survivors of child sex abuse in Australia, wrote a letter on Jan. 31 to rabbinical courts in New York and Sydney asking that Rabbi Friedman be sanctioned and issue an “unreserved public apology” to victims.

“I have always believed in the importance of empowering victims of all kinds to move forward in building their lives,” Friedman wrote in his statement. “In my zeal to reinforce that belief, I came across as being dismissive of one of the worst crimes imaginable. For that I am deeply sorry.”

He went on to call molestation a “devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless.”

Friedman already had posted a second video clip on YouTube after the criticisms, in which he referred to child sex abuse as a “crisis” in the Orthodox community but stopped short of retracting his earlier statements.