Royal Commission: Our darkest week

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The Australian Jewish community has just witnessed one of its darkest weeks.

I have covered child abuse in the Jewish community for several years but even I didn’t understand the extent of the cover-ups, the lies, the ignorance and ridiculous actions of Rabbis in our community.

It’s time for us, as a community, to wake up and smell the roses.

  • There are dozens of victims of child abuse in our community.
  • Victims considered suicide, became addicted to drugs and some will never recover.
  • Many victims have never, and probably will never, come forward.
  • Victims came forward to Rabbis in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1980s.
  • Sometime, Rabbis did nothing.
  • Sometime, Rabbis tried to “fix” child sexual abusers.
  • And every time, Rabbis didn’t tell the police.

And in Sydney, which has been the focus of most of this week it was worse:

  • One rabbi thought a victim was joking when he came forward.
  • Another rabbi placed a young girl from interstate in the home of convicted child sexual abuser Daniel ‘Gug’ Hayman and then told her she was lying when she claimed she was sexually assaulted.
  • At one time an entire group of victims came forward to a rabbi, and was ignored.
  • Yeshiva spiritual leader Rabbi Pinchus Feldman did not tell police he knew an alleged child sexual abuser was planing to leave the country because Rabbi Feldman “did not know there was any such obligation”.
  • Rabbi Pinchus Feldman now accepts that his right-hand-man, Rabbi Baruch Lesches, knew of abuse allegations, but didn’t tell him.
  • The head of Yeshiva’s Rabbinic School, Rabbi Yossi Feldman, did not know it was a crime for a teacher to touch the genitals of a child in 2002.
  • Rabbi Yossi Feldman, at the age of 33, didn’t understand mandatory reporting laws when he was the director of a company that had a school.
  • As recently as 2011 Rabbi Yossi Feldman said you “must” go to rabbis to report abuse instead of the police.
  • As recently as 2011 Rabbi Yossi Feldman urged the rabbis not to call on victims to go the police because it would hurt his “friend”, and now convicted child sexual abuser, David Cyprys.

And these are just some of the unbelievable revelations that came out this week.

This was a horrific week for the Australian Jewish community, and it will only get worse next week when the focus moves from Sydney to Melbourne, where both Cyprys and David Kramer have been convicted of child sexual abuse allegation.

It shone a light on a part of the community that many of us either didn’t know about or refused to acknowledge.

There were serious problems within Chabad in the 1980s and dozens of victims of child abuse suffered as a result. But worse than that, is the problems that still exist today.

Victims are still shunned, they are still outcasts, they have lost friends and they have been let down by the religious leadership of the community.

So how do we fix this problem? How do we move forward?

For that, we turn to Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, who said this week:

“Each and every individual, mother and father, look into the eyes of their children and ask themselves the question: Do they want their children to have been abused? When the answer must be no; and when the answer must be that they would not want it to have been covered up; and when the answer must be that if it happened to them they would want the police to be called and justice to be served, they’ll look into their hearts and then they will know what to do.”

 

Joshua Levi