Aus­tralia’s Jews Grap­ple With Child Sex Abuse Scan­dal Of Their Own

Forward Magazine - - Front Page - By Dan Gold­berg Sydney

An­other ma­jor Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion in Aus­tralia is em­broiled in a child sex abuse scan­dal, adding to the trauma trig­gered by re­cent reve­la­tions of sim­i­lar cases in­volv­ing students at two schools in Mel­bourne, run by Chabad and Adass Is­rael, re­spec­tively.

Be­cause of a sup­pres­sion or­der is­sued by an Aus­tralian court, the name of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, the al­leged sex­ual abuser and the al­leged vic­tims can­not be dis­closed.

The For­ward can, how­ever, re­veal that a man faced Mel­bourne Mag­is­trates Court on more than 25 counts of child sex abuse, in­clud­ing in­de­cent acts with a mi­nor and sex­ual in­ter­course with a child.

De­spite the in­volve­ment of the un­named Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion in the case, the de­fen­dant is not be­lieved to be Jewish. He en­tered a “not guilty” plea and is sched­uled to face court again in De­cem­ber, with a trial date expected to be set for next year.

The al­leged sex­ual abuse is un­der­stood to have

taken place dur­ing an over­seas trip about a decade ago.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Of­fice of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions also con­firmed to the For­ward that there are mul­ti­ple com­plainants. Not all of them are be­lieved to be Jewish.

Manny Waks, who broke his si­lence last year about the al­leged sex­ual abuse he suf­fered two decades ago as a stu­dent at Chabad’s Yeshivah Col­lege, in Mel­bourne, said: “It’s dev­as­tat­ing to learn of the ad­di­tional se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse and cover-up within our community. These new reve­la­tions high­light that in­stances of child sex­ual abuse are not unique to one seg­ment within our community.”

News of this lat­est scan­dal came just days af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard called for a royal com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the “in­sid­i­ous evil acts” of in­sti­tu­tional child sex­ual abuse across reli­gious de­nom­i­na­tions in Aus­tralia.

Royal com­mis­sions are es­tab­lished in Aus­tralia when the ju­di­cial sys­tem is deemed to have failed. Al­though the terms of ref­er­ence have yet to be fi­nal­ized, they have pow­ers of sub­poena.

While the Catholic Church has borne the brunt of the me­dia’s blow­torch, the Jewish community has been im­pli­cated since 2008, when news first broke of sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions against Is­raeli­born Malka Leifer, for­mer prin­ci­pal of Mel­bourne’s Adass Is­rael girls school.

The chief rabbi of Adass, Avra­ham Zvi Beck, and other of­fi­cials have been ac­cused of help­ing Leifer flee Aus­tralia for Is­rael as soon as the al­le­ga­tions — de­nied by her — emerged within the tightly knit, non-Zion­ist, Yid­dish­s­peak­ing community in 2008.

Last year, claims also emerged of al­leged child sex abuse in the 1980s per­pe­trated on 12 Yeshivah Col­lege students, three of whom now re­side in Amer­ica.

David Cyprys, a for­mer se­cu­rity guard con­tracted to the col­lege, will stand trial next July on 41 counts of child sex abuse, in­clud­ing child rape. He has pleaded not guilty.

An­other al­leged per­pe­tra­tor, David Kramer, is a for­mer teacher at Yeshivah Col­lege, which is part of the Chabad move­ment’s Yeshivah Cen­tre, in Mel­bourne. Kramer is await­ing ex­tra­di­tion from Amer­ica, where he was jailed in 2008 for mo­lest­ing a 12-yearold boy in a St. Louis syn­a­gogue. In Oc­to­ber, a judge in the United States ap­proved the ex­tra­di­tion or­der to Mel­bourne, where he is wanted by po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims that he mo­lested four boys at­tend­ing Yeshivah Col­lege be­tween 1989 and 1992.

Timmy Rubin, a Lubav­itcher who runs a mikveh in Mel­bourne, told the For­ward: “We un­der­stand why Ju­lia Gil­lard made that de­ci­sion, but we are ner­vous for cer­tain peo­ple in our community,” she said. “Some peo­ple are re­ally ner­vous be­cause 25 years ago, they prob­a­bly did the wrong thing.”

Rubin, who ser­vices some Adass women at the rit­ual bath­house, added: “With Adass, the prob­lem is that no­body pressed charges, and that’s why she got away with it. Peo­ple whose daugh­ters were mucked around with were fu­ri­ous, but they were scared to press charges be­cause they didn’t want their girls to be shamed in the community — that’s the real tragedy.”

Shlomo Boruch Abe­lesz, a for­mer sec­re­tary of the Adass Is­rael community, told the For­ward, “The fact that there don’t seem to have been any abuse claims for a num­ber of years now shows that the Jewish schools have tack­led it and cleaned up their act.”

In the Yeshivah Col­lege case, it is al­leged that Rabbi Yitz­chok Dovid Groner, the Brook­lyn-born chief rabbi of Chabad in Mel­bourne un­til his death, in 2008, helped cover up al­le­ga­tions of child sex abuse and gave al­leged per­pe­tra­tors the op­tion to flee the coun­try or be re­ported to au­thor­i­ties.

But many inside the Chabad community feel that Groner’s rep­u­ta­tion has been be­smirched by the sex abuse scan­dal, es­pe­cially since he can­not de­fend him­self. Groner was sent by the Lubav­itcher Rebbe to Mel­bourne in 1958 and is widely cred­ited with putting Chabad on the map in Aus­tralia, build­ing a net­work of ed­u­ca­tional, reli­gious and outreach in­sti­tu­tions.

The com­mis­sion may sum­mon Rabbi Avro­hom Glick, the prin­ci­pal of Yeshivah Col­lege at the time of most of the al­leged of­fenses. In his orig­i­nal state­ment, Glick said he had only re­cently be­come aware of the ac­cu­sa­tions about Cyprys, but in May he changed his story un­der oath, ad­mit­ting that he was in fact aware of ru­mors in the early 2000s.

Mag­is­trate Luisa Baz­zani sharply ques­tioned even Glick’s re­vised po­si­tion, say­ing it was “un­fath­omable” that he was not aware of the al­leged abuses in the 1980s.

A se­nior mem­ber of the Ortho­dox community in Mel­bourne, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said those rab­bis in Chabad and Adass “who knew of cases and turned a blind eye, or didn’t bring them to the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­i­ties, will be named and shamed. It’s ab­so­lutely in­ex­cus­able.”

Fol­low­ing Gil­lard’s an­nounce­ment of a Royal Com­mis­sion, the cur­rent Yeshivah Col­lege prin­ci­pal, Rabbi Ye­hoshua Smuk­ler, is­sued a state­ment com­mend­ing the prime min­is­ter’s move. “Child abuse is ab­hor­rent and has trau­matic con­se­quences for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies,” he said. “Yeshivah takes child pro­tec­tion very se­ri­ously and will fully co­op­er­ate with the royal com­mis­sion and continue to act vig­i­lantly to erad­i­cate abuse.”

But Waks, who has be­come an un­of­fi­cial spokesman for the al­leged vic­tims, was un­der­whelmed. “The Yeshivah lead­er­ship has ex­celled in dou­ble­s­peak: They in­form the pub­lic that they are co­op­er­at­ing fully with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, yet in pri­vate they are en­gaged in the most vile and ir­re­li­gious acts,” he told the press.

‘They were scared to press charges be­cause they didn’t want their girls to be shamed.’

Waks, who claims that his fam­ily has been vic­tim­ized by fel­low Lubav­itch­ers crit­i­cal of his pub­lic ex­po­sure, said that more al­leged vic­tims have come for­ward. “I’m re­ceiv­ing more and more al­le­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse com­ing from the Mel­bourne, Sydney and Perth Jewish com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

The sex­ual abuse scan­dals have trig­gered a flurry of on­line de­bate. In one post, a blog­ger wrote: “In each case, the rab­bis of the re­spec­tive [Chabad and Adass] community were ap­proached by vic­tims. In each case, there was dis­cus­sion by the vic­tims about go­ing to the po­lice. In each case, the re­spec­tive rabbi said the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies are pro­hib­ited from do­ing so.”

But in a state­ment on Novem­ber 14 the Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil of Vic­to­ria backed the com­mis­sion, say­ing that it “re­minds the community that al­leged ha­lachic rea­sons to re­frain from re­port­ing abuse to the po­lice or other rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties are com­pletely with­out foun­da­tion.”


Await­ing Ex­tra­di­tion: David Kramer faces trial in Aus­tralia.


Charges: Sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions have been lodged against Is­raeli-born Malka Leifer, for­mer prin­ci­pal of Adass Is­rael girls school.

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