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Yeshivah College called to royal commission on child sexual abuse

Posted on 25 November 2014

Yeshivah College called to royal commission on child sexual abuse

The Age
Rachel Kleinman
25 November 2014

The Melbourne Orthodox Jewish school at the centre of a child sexual abuse scandal will become the focus of a royal commission hearing early next year.

Fairfax Media has learned that Yeshivah College's handling of the scandal, including an alleged cover-up, will be probed in a hearing scheduled for up to two-weeks in Melbourne in February.

Further painful revelations about the cases of historical abuse at Yeshivah are likely and senior members of the Jewish orthodox community will be called to give evidence, as will victims of sexual abuse.

In 2013, David Kramer, a former teacher at Yeshivah College, Melbourne, was jailed after pleading guilty to molesting four students between 1989 and 1992. Fairfax Media has also learned that Kramer was deported from Australia on September 29. Kramer holds both US and Israeli passports it is not known which country he was deported to.

Following a separate court case, David Samuel Cyprys, a former school employee, was jailed for raping a 15-year-old boy in 1991 and sexually abusing eight other boys.

Yeshivah College is Melbourne's biggest Chabad (Orthodox) affiliated school. Revelations of sexual abuse by school employees against students first came to wider public attention when in 2011 former student Manny Waks told Fairfax Media he was abused there.

The $500 million Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began last year and more than 20 case studies have been examined so far, involving institutions such as the Salvation Army, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Swimming Australia. Private hearings have also taken place around the country, giving abuse survivors an opportunity to tell their stories.

The royal commission will hand down its final report in December 2017.

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, Australia's most senior rabbi, says he hopes the commission will help the community move forward.

"The stain of child sexual abuse and what's gone in our community is highly amplified by the fact that we are a small community and we take everything very personally. I'm hoping we can achieve closure, so we can finally put the lid on this terrible situation and learn from it," Kluwgant said.

Manny Waks, who was abused as a Yeshivah student, wanted individuals held to account. "I hope that the truth will be exposed. Hopefully the broader Australian public, the Jewish community and the Yeshivah community will have a better understanding of what has transpired over the years," Waks said.

A royal commission spokeswoman declined to comment. Public hearings were only announced about four weeks in advance, she said.

Waks, along with several other claimants, has initiated civil action, suing the Yeshivah centre and 12 other defendants for negligence. Waks says this action is "on hold" for now.


Raped at a mikvah, then abandoned

Posted on 24 October 2014

Raped at a mikvah, then abandoned

The Times of Israel
Manny Waks
23 October 2014

Manny Waks
Manny Waks is the founder and CEO of Tzedek, an Australian-based support and advocacy group for Jewish victims/survivors of child sexual abuse. Manny is also a past victim of child sexual abuse

It is heartbreaking that yet another victim of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community has suffered a tragic premature death. Last weekend, 34-year old Joey Diangello (formerly Yoel Deutsch) from New York died of a drug overdose. It is somewhat irrelevant if the overdose was intentional or not, as some have been debating on blogs and social media. We will probably never know definitively. What we do know is that Joey was sexually abused within his former Hasidic community. “I think when that person raped me, he murdered my Jewish soul,” Joey told PIX11 Investigates in early 2009, when he courageously went public with his story, describing how he was raped in a Mikvah (Jewish ritual bath-house) as a child. Joey became a victim advocate and featured in numerous media articles.


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Prominent rebbetzin attacks abuse victim on Erev Yom Kippur

Posted on 6 October 2014


Prominent rebbetzin attacks abuse victim on Erev Yom Kippur

The Australian Jewish News
3 October 2014

YESHIVA Sydney’s most prominent rebbetzin has told child-sexual-abuse victim Manny Waks that most people consider him a “lowlife” on the eve of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

“I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a lowlife,” Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman said in an email to Waks on Friday morning.

She sent the extraordinary email at the same time that many Jews around the world were asking for repentance ahead of Yom Kippur.

Rebbetzin Feldman said that Waks needs “counselling” and that his “blame-game”, as she calls it, is “unjust, unwarranted, undeserved and wicked”.

“There is something very ugly and personal about your anti Yeshiva campaign. Just because a security guard molested you don’t blame Yeshiva,” Rebbetzin Feldman said referring to David Cyprys, who was found guilty of abusing Waks at Yeshivah in Melbourne.

“The person you hurt most by that is yourself and your own psyche and spiritual and emotional wellbeing.”

When Rebbetzin Feldman was contacted by The AJN she did not apologise  and said the she would not comment publicly about the email because it was sent on a private basis. ” If Manny has decided to publicise this email then that is his choice,” she said.

“If the media deems this matter newsworthy, I would expect that they print the email in its entirety, so that that individual quotes should not be taken out of context.”I wish Manny Waks and his entire family only blessings and a happy and healthy sweet new year.”

Waks, who contacted The AJN on Friday, said it was one of the most “vile” and “bewildering” emails he has ever received.

“While nothing really surprises me, I was left speechless after this email,” he said.

“I’m angry.

“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. 

The full email is below.

More to follow after Yom Kippur.

The email in full:

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!

(Sentence relating to an allegation of abuse removed for legal reasons)

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


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