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Rabbinical leaders to be called to royal commission into child sexual abuse

Posted on 12 September 2014


Rabbinical leaders to be called to royal commission into child sexual abuse

The Age
Jane Lee and Richard Baker
12 September 12 2014

Senior rabbinical leaders will be called to give evidence to a royal commission about alleged cover-ups of historic sexual abuse against children.

The royal commission into child sexual abuse began inviting Jewish victim-survivors to tell their stories in recent weeks, publishing advertisements in the Australian Jewish News.

"Anyone who experienced child sexual abuse while in the care of a Jewish institution, such as a school, youth program or sporting club, and wishes to share their story, can make contact with the royal commission," the advertisement says.

Fairfax Media has been told that senior rabbis will also be called to give evidence in Australia's first national investigation into child sexual abuse in Jewish schools and other organisations.

This comes as the NSW Ombudsman, NSW Police and Victoria Police continue to investigate senior rabbis' failure to report allegations of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah centres in Melbourne and Sydney to authorities.

The president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, said he did not know of any rabbis who had been called to the royal commission.

Rabbi Kluwgant said it was clear that child sexual abuse had occurred "within certain organisations in our community".

"I expect that it will be found that there have been instances in the past where this issue was not dealt with appropriately, or that attempts were made to cover it up, for a wide range of reasons which the royal commission will explore," he said. "What is important is the extensive efforts that have been, and continue to be made, to ensure that children are safe and mistakes of the past are not repeated.

"I would strongly encourage victims to share their stories with the commission and advise all those who will be asked to give evidence to be open and honest in their testimony and to be entirely supportive of the process."

All organisations working with or caring for children needed to "learn from the past and change their policies and practices. It will bode well for all to make the best out of this opportunity."

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has so far focused on Catholic clergy abuse, which makes up the bulk of historical child abuse reports. Leading Catholic Church figures, including Cardinal George Pell, have previously been asked to explain how the church handled abuse complaints internally through its Melbourne Response and Towards Healing schemes.

Manny Waks, chief executive of Jewish victims support group Tzedek, said victims continued to claim that they and their families had, like him, been bullied and intimidated when they reported abuse.

Mr Waks, who was also abused, said that victims had not yet been offered any personal apologies or compensation from senior Jewish figures.

"If that is not going to happen voluntarily then the royal commission is a perfect opportunity to examine closely what has happened to hold those to account where that is appropriate," he said.

The Jewish community was "decades behind" the Catholic community in terms of the number of victims coming forward, he said.

Convictions of sex offenders have in recent years raised questions about the way senior Jewish leaders, particularly in the orthodox Jewish community, have acted on abuse allegations.

David Cyprys,  a leader of a youth group at the Yeshivah Centre, was convicted of a series of rapes against a 15-year-old boy last year. Rabbi Abraham Glick, the principal at the time of most of the offences, said at the time he was aware of rumours of Cyprys' offending in the early 2000s.

Daniel Hayman received a suspended sentence in Sydney in June after pleading guilty to aggravated indecent assault of a boy, 14, at a Yeshiva-run youth camp where he worked in the late 1980s. 

"While we've gotten to the core of specific incidents of abuse, we have not gotten to the core of the factors that allowed the cover-ups and abuse to go on for so long," Mr Waks said. "Too many people have hidden behind this veil of piety. That will need to change. There is no excuse for the cover-ups that took place."

A spokesman for the royal commission said he could not confirm or deny whether senior rabbis would be called to give evidence. Witnesses scheduled to appear at public hearings were only announced four weeks in advance, he said.
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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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