Child Abuse In Orthodox Australia

Regular Jews and not rabbis have led the fight against child abuse.

May 2, 2014 news report from Melbourne:

A man who claims to have been sexually assaulted as a boy by two members of Melbourne’s orthodox Jewish community is suing the St Kilda East Yeshivah Centre for negligence.
Lawyers for Manny Waks have filed a Supreme Court writ against two men he claims sexually abused him and another 11 defendants, including the Yeshivah Centre, for negligently failing to properly supervise and control the alleged offenders.
Associate Justice Robyn Lansdowne agreed on Friday to extend the time to serve the writ on the 13 defendants.
In the writ, lawyer Dr Vivian Waller outlined how Mr Waks alleged he was sexually abused by two offenders, including David Cyprys, at various locations including the Yeshivah Centre.
Another 11 defendants – separate from the two alleged abusers – are claimed to have been negligent in the operation and management of the Yeshivah Centre and/or negligent in the supervision and control of the alleged offenders.
Similar accusations of inaction were levelled at the centre in court hearings for former Yeshivah College teacher David Kramer, who was jailed in July last year for molesting four boys between 1989 and 1992.
Cyprys, who raped a 15-year-old boy five times in 1991 and sexually abused eight other boys over an eight-year period, was jailed in December last year for eight years after he was found guilty by a County Court jury of five counts of rape.
He then pleaded guilty to 12 more charges, including five counts of indecent assault and four of procuring an act of gross indecency.
The offences took place while Cyprys was a leader of young people at the Yeshivah Centre. He later worked at the centre and its school as a security guard.
Mr Waks, 38, the founder of the victims’ advocate group Tzedek, was granted permission last year by a County Court judge to be publicly identified as one of Cyprys’ victims.

Benny Forer, deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles, posts to FB:

On the day before Yom Kippur, Rebbetzin Feldman of Sydney Australia sent a grotesque message to Manny Waks telling him, amongst other things to “get over it (the abuse he suffered)” and that he’s a scumbag. Not only do I totally disagree with her incredibly insensitive and stupid statement, I find that too often it reflects the abject failures of leadership with the community. I doubt anyone will speak up, due to ignorance, insensitivity, stupidity, apathy or any number of moral failures that affect the community at large. I only wonder whether she (and her ilk) said anything remotely similar to someone the abused children (I highly doubt it). Recently, a member of HER community, Gug Hayman, was convicted of abusing multiple children. She hasn’t uttered a word about him. Sadly, in her little world of insanity, it’s Manny’s fault.
To those that blame or fault Manny for his actions, I beg of you to read his response to her. It only illustrates his true motives and intent and his maturity regarding these issues.
I hope Rebbetzin Feldman atones for her errors and may Gd have mercy on her wretched soul.

MANNY WAKS POSTS:

Below is my email response to Rebbetzin Feldman, which I just sent her.

Dear Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman,

Last night I didn’t attend synagogue for Kol Nidrei. Instead, I reflected on your email, on the callousness of your words. You may not be aware that, sadly, a synagogue is one of the most uncomfortable places for me to be in. This may have something to do with the fact that I was sexually abused inside a synagogue – inside the Melbourne Yeshivah synagogue.

It seems clear that you have no insight into the long-term and often profound impact of child sexual abuse. Perhaps my Victim Impact Statement, which I read out in court on 16 December 2013, will shed some light: http://www.tzedek.org.au/victims-testimonies.html#Manny%20Waks
Perhaps the Victim Impact Statement of another Melbourne Yeshivah victim, which I read out in court on their behalf, will be of value: http://www.tzedek.org.au/victims-testimonies.html#Victim%20Impact%20Statement:%20David%20Kramer%20case
And tragically there are many others available as well.

Let me be clear, I do not seek sympathy. I seek understanding. I seek compassion. I seek justice. For myself, and for the many other victims of child sexual abuse, many of whom endured unspeakable pain – both during the abuse itself and subsequently.

Even if we take the most conservative estimate of the number of victims of child sexual abuse within the broader community – around 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18 (some estimate it at around 1 in 5) – it is clear that the scourge of child sexual abuse is endemic. Nothing suggests that it is any different within the Jewish community. In fact, I would argue that there is now sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that the rates would be even higher within our community.

Regardless, it would seem reasonable to assume that you would know victims of abuse, perhaps even a friend or a relative. In all likelihood you would not be aware of this as they would probably not feel comfortable disclosing their abuse to someone with the views that you hold. If anyone has indeed disclosed their abuse to you, I shudder to think the ramifications of that conversation.

I deliberately chose to send this email to you now – the exact time that you would be sitting in synagogue for what is one of the most important prayers, Neilah. As you would know, it is the closing prayer on this most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. It is when you are expected to ask God to accept your repentance, and ask to be sealed in the Book of Life. I sincerely hope that you have indeed repented for the damage that you have caused, not least to our community. And of course I hope that God, if indeed He exists, grants you a long life.

Notwithstanding the damage you have caused, I would also like to express my appreciation for providing me with the opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the issue of child sexual abuse. Thankfully the decades of silence have been replaced by the desire to learn and improve, and to correct past wrongs – at least for most within our community. While significant progress has been made, your email – and the views and actions of some of your colleagues – highlights just how far we still have to go. So thank you.

As a matter of courtesy, below is the public statement I issued yesterday in response to your email.

Wishing you well, especially in your capacity to say and do the right things in the future.

Manny Waks

“I’m truly shocked and horrified that Rebbetzin Feldman has deliberately chosen the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, to launch an unprovoked, vile and offensive tirade against me.

Although I have become accustomed to these types of attacks from some within the Chabad community – including their leadership – since going public with the abuse I suffered as a member of the Yeshivah community, and the subsequent cover up by those still in charge of the school, Rebbetzin Feldman’s email is unprecedented in its viciousness and intimidation. As such, I have referred the matter to police for their possible action. I will not be intimidated by the misguided Rebbetzin, and will continue my important work on behalf of many victims – including those within both the Melbourne and Sydney Chabad Yeshiva(h) institutions – for the sake of justice and to minimise the risks to our children into the future.

I also note that Rebbetzin Feldman has made very serious allegations in connection with a very well-known, highly-reputable Sydney Jewish day school and I have asked the police to investigate. If the Rebbetzin is privy to information which she is withholding regarding alleged child sexual abuse then she must provide it to the police without delay.

Through her email, Rebbetzin Feldman has made it clear that she is not fit to hold any leadership positions within the Jewish community, or in the broader community for that matter.”

REBBETZIN’S EMAIL:

Hi Manny,
Why do you keep highlighting Yeshiva?! Before the pedophile issues you went running to The Age re BER issues. There’s always something with you and Yeshiva. Get over it already- whatever it is that makes you think that attacking Yeshiva justifies your not being frum. There is something very ugly and personal about your antiYeshiva campaign. Just because a security guard molested you don’t blame Yeshiva! A principal in [A PROMINENT JEWISH SCHOOL – REDACTED FOR LEGAL REASONS] College ( not Jewish) once molested nearly half the girls in the school! NONE of whom have ever blamed the school! Get over it! You need counselling! I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a lowlife- not because of any molestation,which wasn’t your fault, but because of your malicious blame game which is unjust, unwarranted, undeserved and wicked. The person you hurt most by that is yourself and your own psyche and spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I realise you may go on hate campaign against me now, but like yourself, I have no fear in saying it as it is when I feel passionate about something.
Erev Yom Kippur. Get the pedophiles. That’s fine. But get the hate out of your heart or at least try to control it. That hate is very bad for you personally as it doesn’t allow you peace of mind or any form of internal harmony or happiness.
Words from the heart.
A Gmar Tov to you and yours,
Rebzn Pnina Feldman

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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