A leading Australian rabbi has set family violence and sexual abuse as top priorities for the country’s top rabbinic organization.

“There’s nothing we shouldn’t be speaking about. Let’s talk about organ donation, let’s talk about child protection, let’s talk about reporting to the police, abortion, end-of-life issues,” Kluwgant told Melbourne’s The Age. 

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Kluwgant assumes the reigns of Australia’s leading rabbinic association at a time when the community has been rocked by abuse scandals and cover-ups at the highest levels. At least one former employees of Chabad’s Yeshiva College boys school in Melbourne has been convicted on felony abuse charges and several more are currently on trial.

Manny Waks, a graduate of Yeshiva College and founder of the Tzedek victims rights organization, claims that he made senior Chabad officials aware of the abuse that he suffered as a student during the 1980s, but they refused to fire the alleged offenders. Since going public with accusations of abuse several years ago, Waks’ family – a prominent Chabad family in Melbourne – have been ostracised from the community.  His parents recently announced they would move out of the community, and Zephania Waks recently suffered a heart attack.

Rabbi Kluwgant, the father of five sons, has served as a chaplain with Victoria Police, as well as chaplain to JewishCare, a care facility for senior citizens. He told The Age he would take a clear, unambiguous stand on behalf of abuse victims in the community.

“We have to unequivocally tell people – with a united voice, without any dissent – if you are a victim of child abuse, take it to the police. If you are a perpetrator, we hope you get caught and do your time, because that is unacceptable,” he said.

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