Ultra-orthodox Jews 'are not the Taliban'

Megan Neil

Ultra-orthodox Jews are not the Taliban or some medieval group, one of their Australian leaders says.

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick says the scourge of child sexual abuse has somehow been blamed on ultra-orthodoxy amid stereotyping of that type of Judaism.

"I just want to say in terms of the stereotyping of ultra-orthodoxy as if it's some sort of medieval group of people together and some sort of Jewish Taliban - which it isn't," Rabbi Gutnick told the child abuse royal commission in Sydney on Thursday.

"We see the visions on television of people in long black coats and big hats walking with their wives ... as if they're some sort of Taliban and where does that come from, is that some sort of age gone by."

He defended the beliefs of ultra-Orthodox Jews, including their dress code.

"If we are to be accused of being somehow medieval and backward because we believe in only sex in marriage and only one husband and one wife, I'm happy to carry that badge.

"If all those things mean that we're Taliban or backwards I'm happy to carry that badge in our society.

"What I'm not happy with is that the scourge of child sexual abuse should somehow be blamed on ultra-Orthodoxy or on our firm views."

Rabbi Gutnick, a senior dayan or judge on the Sydney Beth Din ecclesiastical court, said it was not ultra-orthodoxy that caused or enabled a child abuser to offend.

"The cause is the abuser, a depraved inexcusable uncontrolled lust to interfere with children," he said.

Rabbi Gutnick said the common denominator for enablers who covered it up was not their religious beliefs but a desire to protect the institution or their own power.

"It's got nothing to do with ultra-orthodoxy, nothing to do with being insular."

He said the royal commission has shown child abuse transcends all religions, communities and groups, Rabbi Gutnick told its final hearing into abuse in Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi, which are part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of orthodox Judaism.