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Thousands sign petition against Leifer decision

Jun 09 2016
NEWS that former Adass Israel head teacher Malka Leifer will not be returning from Israel to face justice any time soon and will be freed from home detention has caused ...

Extradition effort steps up against fugitive principal Malka Leifer

Jun 07 2016
Victim advocate group Tzedek said two petitions launched since Judge Amnon's ruling had already raised thousands of signatures. In a statement, the group said more ...
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Tzedek welcomes extended Royal Commission

Posted on 3 September 2014


Tzedek welcomes extended Royal Commission

J-Wire Staff
3 September 2014

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has received a further two years to complete its work…a decision welcomed by Jewish advocacy group Tzedek.

CEO Manny Waks said: “Tzedek welcomes today’s announcement by the Australian Government to extend the Royal Commission by an additional two years, and to provide it with the necessary resources to adequately complete their important task.

We hope and expect that the Royal Commission will now have sufficient capacity to hold a public hearing into a Jewish community institution in Australia. Sadly there have been numerous Jewish institutions implicated in this ongoing scandal and the Royal Commission provides the opportunity to examine what precisely has transpired, which is critical for the sake of justice and accountability, and for the prevention of these cases from recurring. Due to the sheer volume of confirmed incidents of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne – including allegations of cover-ups and intimidation of victims – it would seem appropriate that this institution is closely examined and ultimately held to full account for any misconduct.

We would like to take this opportunity to encourage all victims and survivors of institutional abuse and their families to engage in this unique process by sharing their experience with the Royal Commission. The feedback from all those who have already participated in this process has been extremely positive – I can personally attest to the professionalism and sensitivity in which the Royal Commission engages with victims and survivors. As a Royal Commission-funded support service, Tzedek is in a position to assist, support and advise, just as we have already done so with dozens of other victims.”
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Jewish advocate for victims of child sex abuse Manny Waks announces departure from Tzedek

Posted on 26 August 2014


Jewish advocate for victims of child sex abuse Manny Waks announces departure from Tzedek

26 August, 2014


Manny Waks has announced he will leaving the advocacy group he founded, Tzedek, in November. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

TIRELESS campaigner against Jewish child sexual abuse Manny Waks has announced plans to move on.

The shock announcement was made this morning, August 26, exactly two weeks after his explosive documentary `Code of Silence’ aired on national television.

But his advocacy group Tzedek will remain and will continue working towards a community free of child sexual abuse.

The documentary, aired on ABC’s Compass, lifted the veil on the intense suffering Mr Waks endured at the hands of an abuser at St Kilda East’s Yeshiva College as a child and the ramifications for his entire family, especially parents Zephaniah and Chaya Waks, since he decided to go public about it.

The Caulfield father of three and founder/CEO of advocacy group Tzedek Australia announced on social media that after more than three years in the role (including pre-Tzedek), “it’s time to move on’’.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for being a part of my journey, and for your ongoing support, advice and assistance. I look forward to sharing my plans with you all in due course. In the meantime, it’s business as usual,’’ he wrote.

He will step down as CEO at the end of November.

Tzedek president Josh Bornstein has invited Mr Waks to join the Tzedek board of advisers.

“In addition to the abuse Manny suffered as a child, he and his family have endured further pain which we do not underestimate or take for granted. We thank Manny on behalf of the entire community,” he said.

Mr Waks has made a statement on Tzedek’s website.

In it, he said he accomplished what he set out to achieve.

“It as been a great honour and privilege to establish and lead Tzedek. Over three years ago, when I publicly disclosed my personal experience of abuse, I set out on a long and challenging journey, which has led to great achievements both personally and professionally,” he said.

“I have accomplished what I set out to achieve and am comfortable moving forward knowing that I leave behind a strong foundation from which Tzedek’s important vision and mission can continue to grow. This position wasn’t a life tenure, rather a role I felt compelled to undertake at a particular point in time. I feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction in what I have accomplished. Indeed it is humbling to have been part of creating a cultural shift in the context of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community — not only in Australia. While we have made significant progress, there is still much work to do.”

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Former Adass principal arrested

Posted on 22 August 2014

Former Adass principal arrested

22 August, 2014

THE former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne has been arrested in Israel and will be extradited to Australia to face charges relating to historic child sexual abuse claims.

The AJN reported last month that Malka Leifer, former principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick was facing extradition over claims that she abused students in her care. Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 following complaints from several former students in her care that she had acted inappropriately. It is unclear if the school facilitated her relocation.

A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s office said the matter was now before the court in Israel, but confirmed that Leifer had “been arrested in Israel in response to an extradition request made by Australia”.

“Ms Leifer is wanted to face prosecution in Victoria for alleged sexual assault offences,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice in Israel said the court had “issued a gag order regarding all details of the case”.

Adass community spokesperson Benjamin Koppel told The AJN the school “has and will continue to cooperate with police in their investigations”, and that “we trust that justice will prevail”.

The AJN understands statements were made to police by alleged victims of Leifer in 2012 and that extradition proceedings were launched some 18 months ago.

The school is already facing a civil suit, lodged with the Supreme Court last year, which also listed Leifer as a defendant. A second suit lodged by another former student had been dropped; the suit was settled out of court, though the details of settlement are unknown.

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman – the Rabbinic Council of Victoria’s liaison to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – said, “The RCV applauds the victim(s) for having the courage to come forward to police, and reiterates its longstanding resolution that the prohibition of mesirah [reporting to secular authorities] has absolutely no relevance in cases of the sexual abuse of children.

“Abuse has been evidenced to have occurred in Jewish schools, sporting clubs and aged care facilities, and efforts made by our community to stamp out abuse for once and for all should be encouraged.”

Welcoming Leifer’s arrest, Manny Waks, CEO of victims’ advocacy group Tzedek, said, “I hope and expect that the Adass Israel School will cooperate fully with the police in ensuring justice is achieved. I also hope and expect that the police will examine all the circumstances surrounding Mrs Leifer’s flight from Australia and will hold to account anyone who may have acted inappropriately.”


Malka Leifer will be extradited to Australia to face charges relating to historic child sexual abuse.

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Code of Silence

Posted on 18 June 2014
Code of Silence
‘Code of Silence’ is a one-hour observational documentary that follows the parallel journeys of a fervently Orthodox Jewish father and his now-secular son, after the son breaks the code of silence in Melbourne’s Chabad-Lubavitch community going public with his story about being sexually abused as a student. Manny Waks demands the perpetrators be brought to justice, as well as the rabbis, whom he claims covered it up. His father Zephaniah, who claims he has been virtually excommunicated for informing secular authorities, demands his name be publicly cleared. But what price will the father and son pay for blowing the whistle on the leaders of this powerful Jewish sect? This is a deeply personal journey filled with intimate, emotionally charged and candid behind-the-scenes moments of two people waging the fight of their lives.

Manny Waks claims he was abused at his Chabad-run school in the 1980s. Ever since Manny’s father Zephaniah backed his son in breaking the taboo on the front page of The Age newspaper in 2011, he has been accused of being a “mosser” – an informant to secular authorities in breach of an ancient Jewish law. Zephaniah demands his name be cleared.

As a result of being a “mosser”, Zephaniah’s world has collapsed. He has been denied religious rites; allegedly been blackballed by the rabbi inside synagogue; his study partners have abandoned him; he and his wife have been marginalised by their friends; he claims his community has effectively shunned him, vilified and harassed him so much that he and his wife are considering leaving Australia.

Through Zephaniah’s religious lifestyle and his relationship with the Yeshivah we open the door into their insular world of study and duty, charity and faith, power and piety.

The story unfolds around key events in their simultaneous journeys – the two court cases, their testimonies before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, and the Jewish Day of Atonement with its mandate to seek forgiveness.

But Manny and Zephaniah often find themselves at loggerheads. At the core of their conflict is religion. Zephaniah and his wife follow the letter of the law – all 613 commandments. We see them rush to prepare for the Sabbath on Fridays, while Manny drives to his mates to watch the Friday night footy over some beers.

Manny still bares his full name ‘Menachem’, named after the deceased chief rabbi of the sect, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who many followers believed may be the Messiah. For Manny, only one biblical commandment remains relevant: “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.” And so the battle that has engulfed him and his father provokes critical questions of Zephaniah’s faith: how, despite the virtual excommunication of Zephaniah by his own flock, has he kept his faith while Manny has lost his?

Instead of talking heads, the story unfolds in situ – following them ob-doc style as their day unfolds; arguing around the dinner table; inside the Australian Jewish News; Zephaniah’s attempt to go to the synagogue to receive an honour on the anniversary of his father’s death; attempts at conciliation with the rabbis; the media scrum surrounding them outside court, and the subsequent aftermath. In the middle of the battle father and son fight is their wife and mother Chaya Waks, the former President of the Chabad Women’s organisation in Melbourne, who was opposed to her son going public and of her husband’s support for him. There are many lively and idiosyncratic moments in the family home.

Ultimately, CODE OF SILENCE is a film told from the heart of Melbourne’s fervently Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It is a film with a lot at stake: Will Manny get justice in court? Will the rabbis be held to account? Will Zephaniah clear his name? Or will he and his wife be forced to leave the country?

And what price will father and son pay for blowing the whistle? What price will the perpetrators pay for their crimes? What, if any, price will the rabbis pay for staying silent? Ultimately this is a film that reveals the ongoing dominance of an ancient Code of Silence and the consequences for challenging it. CODE OF SILENCE is a film about victims and their supporters standing up for justice, the price people pay for doing so and the lengths people will go to prevent it and, in so doing, protect themselves and their institution.

It is a co-production with Mint Pictures.
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