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Petition urges Yeshivah College administrators to resign

Posted on 22 September 2014


Petition urges Yeshivah College administrators to resign

Samantha Donovan
22 September 2014

MARK COLVIN: Victims who were sexually abused at Melbourne's Yeshivah College and Centre in the 1980s and 90s are hoping that the royal commission into child sexual abuse will investigate the handling of their cases.

In the meantime, a petition is being circulated among Melbourne's Jewish community calling for the resignation of two senior figures at the Yeshivah Centre.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The petition's authors say it's a "grassroots" Jewish initiative from people who believe in justice for victims of child sexual abuse and condemn what they say is the "unacceptable" approach of the Yeshivah Centre to the problem.

The petition calls on Rabbi Avrohom Glick and Don Wolf, the two most senior members of the current administration, to personally apologise for their roles in allegedly failing to protect children in their care and to resign from their positions of leadership.

Former Yeshivah College teacher David Kramer was jailed for abusing four boys while teaching at the school in the late 80s and early 90s.

Last year David Cyprys, a former security guard at the college, was jailed for abusing nine boys.

One of his victims Manny Waks welcomes is now the CEO of Tzedek, an organisation that supports Jewish abuse victims.

He welcomes the circulation of the petition.

MANNY WAKS: The first thing for me is for them to actually apologise directly and sincerely.

It really would be something very simple for them to make contact and to call me and other victims in individually and just to say the simple words - we're sorry; we made a mistake; we didn't know how to handle it back then, et cetera, et cetera.

It really doesn't make much of a difference, but it's about taking responsibility for what has happened. No-one at the Yeshivah Centre, not a single person has been held to account in any way and that's just… it really is astounding; in some cases they've also been promoted in fact.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: What sort of support do you think the petition will get from members of Melbourne's Jewish community?

MANNY WAKS: There is widespread support for the content of the petition. It really is a question that needs to be I guess… time will tell how much support the petition itself has in terms of the number of signatories.

It's very complex and it's difficult in a small community where people know each other and there are conflicts of interest everywhere. For someone to take the initiative and to actually put their name there, sadly, and as surprising as it may sound, is almost a big sacrifice and it requires a great deal of courage on the signatories' part.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Do you give the petition much chance of success though?

MANNY WAKS: Really, the way Yeshivah has handled this whole scandal from the beginning when I went public with the story in July 2011, they should have fessed up, apologised, acknowledged, taken responsibility, shown that they were serious and then the community would be much more - in a much more harmonious position and be able to address these matters in a serious and constructive manner.

Instead they've done everything in a completely the opposite manner, not just myself and my family, but there have been reports of others as well who have suffered similar fates even though their name is not being widely known. So really, it's about the Yeshivah Centre changing its attitude.

I think that we will see a change. Whether or not the petition itself will be one of the catalysts for this change, there are some multiple civil cases currently happening in relation to Yeshivah and myself being one of them as well. So I think we will see change in that context as well.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: PM has sought a response from the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne.

MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.


Petition calls for senior Yeshivah leaders to resign

Posted on 22 September 2014


Petition calls for senior Yeshivah leaders to resign

The Age
Jewel Topsfield Education Editor
22 September 2014

Rabbi Avrohon Glick. Photo:

A grassroots Jewish group will this week call for the resignation of the two most senior members of the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad movement in Melbourne over the child sex abuse scandal in the 1980s and '90s.

The group will launch a petition to coincide with the Jewish high holidays calling for Yeshivah Centre spiritual committee chairman Rabbi Avrohom Glick and Yeshivah Centre chairman Don Wolf to personally apologise to the victims and resign from all positions of leadership in the community.

David Cyprys, a former security guard and karate teacher at Yeshivah, was jailed last year for raping a 15-year-old boy in 1991 and sexually abusing eight other boys.

Cyprys was employed in the security role, as well as appointed to youth group leadership positions, within the Yeshivah Centre, despite him pleading guilty in 1992 to a charge of indecent assault over an incident at St Kilda in 1991.

Former Yeshivah College teacher David Kramer was also jailed for molesting four boys while teaching at the school between 1989 and 1992.

During his plea hearing, the court heard that in 1992, once Kramer's offending became known, the management of Yeshivah College offered to pay for the teacher's passage to Israel if he left immediately. He did and police were never contacted.

Kramer reoffended and served four and a half years in jail for sodomising a 12-year-old boy.

The petition, which is being distributed by the group Jews for Justice for Yeshivah's Victims, says the abuse occurred when Rabbi Glick, a former principal of Yeshivah College, and Mr Wolf were responsible for the children's safety and protection.

"We are appalled by your mishandling of the matter, both at the time and to this day," the petition says.

"We are outraged that you have not personally apologised or been held to account for your involvement in what amounts to the most shameful episode in the history of the Melbourne Jewish community."

Rabbi Glick was the principal of Yeshivah College from 1986 to 2007.

In a witness statement Rabbi Glick said he had only recently become aware of accusations that Cyprys had molested children. But in 2012 he changed his evidence under oath in the Melbourne Magistrates Court and admitted he had heard rumours in the early 2000s.

But the magistrate said it was "unfathomable" he was unaware at the time.

Mr Wolf served on the board of the Yeshivah Centre at the time children were sexually abused.

A spokesman for Jews for Justice for Yeshivah's Victims said the petition had already been circulated in the Jewish community and had the blessing of some senior Australian rabbis who had contributed to its wording.

"I believe that it strongly reflects the overwhelming attitude of the Jewish community regardless of where they sit in terms of religious observance," he said.

"There is a build-up of frustration within the community that all of us are being made to look bad on account of some people who refuse to do the right thing.

"The argument that board members and the principal were somehow not responsible for the safety of children at the school beggars belief."

The Yeshivah Centre did not respond to queries from The Age. 

Manny Waks, who was one of the victims, welcomed the petition. He said anyone who held a leadership position at the Yeshivah Centre at the time of the abuse and cover-ups should stand down immediately. "Certainly Rabbi Glick and Don Wolf should set an example by taking the lead," Mr Waks said.

"Once this happens, our community will be able to move forward in a much more constructive manner. But the onus continues to be on Yeshivah. They have no one else to blame but themselves."

In 2012 the St Kilda Yeshivah Centre apologised "unreservedly" to victims of child sexual abuse.

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How to protect your workplace against child abuse

Posted on 14 September 2014


How to protect your workplace against child abuse

The Sydney Morning Herald
Jill Stark
14 September 2014

Strong policy perimeters are key to protecting children.

A predator will always find gaps. Like a fox circling a chicken coop, weak spots will be tested. Your perimeter fence must be secure. All too often, it is not.

As the Royal Commission into Child Abuse has highlighted with heartbreaking repetition, once a perpetrator finds a way into an institution, the damage can be catastrophic.

How is it that places that should have been safe havens for children were infiltrated in such systematic fashion, often with crimes going undetected - or ignored - for years?

Moshe Kahn ,director of Chabad Youth. Photo: Simon Schluter

A program to "child abuse-proof" organisations could provide answers. And there is hope it will go some way towards stemming the tide of institutional violence.

The Australian Childhood Foundation has analysed international and local research alongside 10 years of abuse cases to pinpoint common factors that leave organisations vulnerable to subversion by paedophiles.

Its results form the backbone of an accreditation scheme that major bodies, including the YMCA, Anglicare and Ronald McDonald House, are lining up to join as they try to assure a nervous public they are taking child protection seriously.

The foundation's chief executive, Joe Tucci, says that just as children and parents are targeted, organisations are also "groomed" by paedophiles, earning the trust of staff in a bid to gain unrestricted access to young people.

"Potential perpetrators of abuse won't try to abuse a child straight up, but first they will test the perimeter in a small way. It might be something like taking a photo of a child on their phone, and even though it's a breach of policy a fellow staff member thinks it's innocent enough so the perpetrator learns that the perimeter is not strong," he said.

"Time and again the royal commission showed that these small breaches that seem innocuous are actually tests by the perpetrator to see if the response is weak or strong. If it's weak, they'll move to the next test. If it's strong, they might move to the next organisation. An organisation's perimeter is its culture."

In order to qualify for Safeguarding Children accreditation, bodies with a duty of care for children must tighten up four key areas that leave them at high risk of infiltration by abusers.

Chiefly, they must address a lack of awareness of the risk, and commit to investing in child-protection measures to the same degree as other preventive areas such as workplace health and safety policies.

Staff also receive training on how sexual predators think and behave, so as to better understand how they might exploit an organisation's weak points.

Most importantly, strict policies on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour must be established, alongside clear guidance on how to report and respond to suspicious incidents.

Had these measures been in place while Jonathan Lord was a childcare worker at YMCA centres in Sydney's south, he might not have been able to molest 12 children between 2009 and 2011.

Before he was hired, nobody checked his references, failing to discover he had previously been fired from an American camp for "questionable behaviour " with an eight-year-old boy.

The crimes, which saw him jailed in 2012 for a minimum of six years, led to lawyers for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, branding YMCA NSW an "unsafe" organisation for children.

They identified systemic problems such as a lack of training for staff, failure to implement child safety policies, tolerance of inappropriate touching of children and a lack of confidential reporting system for staff.The YMCA is now putting centres from all over the country through the Safeguarding Children program as the organisation aims to restore trust with parents.

Chief executive of YMCA Australia Ron Mell said it was more than an attempt to clean up the brand's image.

"We've learnt a lot from the royal commission. No institution can ever absolutely guarantee that a predator won't have access to children, but what you can do is create an environment that ensures that that predator doesn't have any opportunity to abuse," he said.

"That environment that you create is one where there is an open culture, where there is ongoing training, good induction and, obviously, thorough referee checks ... Parents bring their children to a YMCA on the understanding that it is safe for children, and it's important we honour that commitment."

Accreditation takes up to seven months as staff are trained and policies developed. An audit is conducted each year by an independent panel of child protection consultants and legal and governance experts, who interview staff, parents and volunteers to ensure correct procedures are being followed.

One of the key issues addressed - and the biggest area of vulnerability for an organisation according to Tucci - is communication and social media policy.

"We've seen teachers who have been charged with sexual assault of a young person, and that's really the final act. The preparatory or grooming act is often hundreds of texts that engages that young person in a relationship they've kept secret from the family, and it's about socialising the child outside of the classroom," he said.

Moshe Kahn, director of Chabad Youth - the largest Jewish youth outreach organisation in Victoria, caring for 1000 children a week through after-school clubs, weekend programs, retreats and camps - says that since receiving accreditation in May it has been able to provide greater clarity to staff on what is appropriate interaction with children.

"It's things like driving a kid home, communication with a kid - texting or things like that - taking pictures of kids on your phones, giving gifts to kids. A lot of them are small things that on their own aren't necessarily a problem and could be innocent, but could also be potentially leading to grooming," he said.

While Chabad has no history of institutional abuse, a former rabbi at its sister organisation Yeshivah College last year pleaded guilty to molesting four boys under his care while teaching there in the 1990s.

Kahn says he wants to assure parents they have best practice when it comes to child safety.

"I don't want to leave any grey areas," he said. "It needs to be so clear that if you break a boundary that you've done something wrong. And if a child wants to come and tell me something has happened, it must be crystal-clear - were you alone with the child? Did you communicate with the child? And then if you've done something inappropriate, even if it is something innocent, you're to blame for being negligent and breaching one of our policies."

Manny Waks, head of Tzedek, a support group for Jewish survivors of child sexual abuse, welcomed the accreditation program, but like many who have suffered institutional abuse, he worried it would not be enough to address the history of cover-up that had been evident in so many molestation cases.

"Having an accreditation process doesn't mean that an organisation is well placed to address the issue of child sexual abuse, because there are a number of other factors, most importantly the culture which exists," he said.

"You can have great policies and procedures sitting on the shelf, yet the people involved in that organisation are people who would cause victims not to disclose allegations of abuse or not to take steps that they should be taking in order to address the issue."

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