Further abuse claims rock community

Yeshivah Centre.

BOTH Victoria Police and Yeshivah College confirmed on Wednesday that none of the men under investigation for alleged child abuse are currently on staff at the Orthodox boys school.

Waking up last Friday morning, parents expressed concern when they read detailed allegations of sexual abuse suffered by ACT Jewish Community president and former Yeshivah student Manny Waks in The Age.

There were rumours that one of those people under investigation was still contracted to work at the school, or in other sectors of the Yeshivah Centre, but a school spokesperson said this is not the case.

Detective Senior Constable Scott Dwyer said that while he cannot be sure the person under investigation does not currently pose a risk to youngsters in the community, he added “I’m not overly concerned that [he] has got access to children at the present stage.”

Speaking to The AJN this week, Waks said he did not regret telling the wider world about his experiences.

“I think someone had to do it,” he said, noting he had been “getting a bit of flak from people” about his decision to go public.

“It is now becoming abundantly clear there are many victims out there who have never shared their experience,” he said.

Waks showed The AJN a copy of the original police report he filed in 1996, detailing the abuse he experienced as a young teenager at the hands of two men within the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

That abuse was investigated by Victoria Police at the time, but did not reach court. However, the case was not closed.

The Moorabbin Sexual Offences Unit has now reopened the investigation into Waks’s claims, as well as the behaviour of former Yeshivah teacher David Kramer, who is alleged to have acted inappropriately with local students before being sent overseas by Yeshivah staff, where he later re-offended and is now serving a prison sentence. Yeshivah staff did not report the allegations to police at the time of the alleged incidents in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This lack of reporting and a subsequent slow response by Yeshivah College has led to criticism of the school administration.

While expressing his own gratitude to the school, Waks said the current administrators seemed to be in “damage control”.

“They’re behaving in a very insensitive way towards the victims,” he said.

But this week, Yeshivah principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler sent a letter to all parents reiterating the school had been cooperating with police fully and that Rabbi Zvi Telsner, the dayan of the Yeshivah Centre, had endorsed a call for anybody with information to speak to police investigators.

“While we await the outcome of the police investigation/s, the college expresses its sympathy to those who may have been affected in any way, and we continue to offer counselling and provide support to anyone who feels this would be of benefit to them, at this time,” Rabbi Smukler wrote.

Waks said he is “confident” others in leadership positions at the school knew about the allegations at the time they occurred.

The AJN understands that both former Yeshivah principal Rabbi Avrohom Glick and current head of teaching Rabbi Pinchas Ash – who have taught at the school for many years – made statements to police, but the school would not confirm this.

Crown Heights Beth Din, a significant authority among the Chabad community, also issued a ruling this week strongly encouraging people to speak to police in the case of child sexual abuse.

“One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,” it said.

Detective Senior Constable Dwyer said his team is also investigating allegations regarding Adass Israel College. That investigation, he said, is progressing.

“We would encourage anyone else with information to come forward,” he said.

Anyone with information or concerns is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or the Moorabbin Sexual Offences Unit on (03) 9556 6128.

For full coverage of the child abuse scandal, see this week’s AJN

Image: Yeshivah College. Photo: Peter Haskin/AJN