The Chief Rabbi has said “hard truths” may be heard during the public hearings on Child Protection in Religious Organisations at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which began on Monday.
In a statement that unequivocally welcomed the inquiry, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the Jewish community must face reality by both listening and learning, adding that “essential lessons” could come from it.
“Jewish organisations and campaigners are fully committed to working with the Inquiry in its vital work in identifying and developing safeguards to help protect our children,” he said.
“This Inquiry sends a clear message to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, that we live in a society which will not tolerate communal failing to deal comprehensively with this scourge. Your voices are being heard and your courage acted upon.”
It follows revelations earlier this year that dozens of illegal yeshivas had refused to work with an independent safeguarding commission set up by Hackney Council unless it received a “quid pro quo” on the national curriculum.
The Inquiry will last until 27 March and hearings will examine “child protection policies and safeguarding cultures in religious organisations” in England and Wales.
These include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and non-conformist Christian denominations.
Witnesses will include complainants, victims and survivors, religious organisations, local authorities, charities, central government and charities, with a focus on measures religious organisations can employ to keep children safe from sexual abuse and to properly handle safeguarding concerns.
Mirvis said: “It is incumbent upon us all to recognise the need for constant vigilance in protecting children, and the importance of listening to and supporting those whose vulnerability may make it difficult for them to speak out.
“Any failure to protect young people is a complete abrogation of our responsibility to God and to one another. It cannot and will not be tolerated.
“There may be hard truths and essential lessons to be learned from this investigation. If so, every one of us must be prepared, not only to hear them, but to use them as an opportunity to change ourselves and our organisations for the better. Working together is the best way to protect the futures of our children.”