Rabbi James Kennard, principal of the largest Jewish school in Melbourne and former executive member of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV), has effectively called on Rabbi Avrohom Glick to stand down from his senior position at the Yeshivah Centre.
Kennard said: “Anyone who held a position of leadership in the Yeshivah community in the period when these terrible mistakes were made remains in such a position today, the community is not able to say that it has learnt and it has changed.”
Rabbi Glick was principal of Yeshivah in Melbourne when allegations of child sexual abuse were brought to the attention of rabbis, but not reported to police, in the 1980s.
He remains in a senior position at the Yeshivah Centre and has refused to step down but after a horrific week at the Royal Commission into the Institution Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Rabbi Kennard has had enough and is demanding action.
“The resignations that are required need not be an acceptance of personal responsibility, but an acknowledgement that if abuse, or a failure to deal properly with abusers, took place on an individual’s “watch” then it is honourable and right for such an individual to step down,” Rabbi Kennard said.
Kennard also revealed that he resigned from the executive of the RCV because the RCV didn’t call the leaders of Yeshivah to account when David Cyprys was convicted in October 2013.
He said that at the time he didn’t comment because it served no purpose, “but that is no longer the case”.
“As the orthodox community is being engulfed in the terrible chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) that is revealed each day at the Royal Commission; as the media coverage has made “rabbi” a mark of shame and “orthodox Jew” a byword for the cover-up of child abuse, it is time to speak out,” Rabbi Kennard said.
“My resignation occurred on the day Cyprus was convicted, I expected the RCV to issue a statement calling the leadership of the Yeshivah community to account.
“But I was disappointed.
Rabbi Kennard said the entire orthodox community now implicated by association and it is suffering.
“It is now urgent that the representatives of the orthodox community make clear that we are not Yeshivah; that we condemn the inaction and worse that have led to tragedies and we now call for action to demonstrate a complete break with the past.
“This is no longer about Yeshivah College – a school from which I was proud to see two children graduate, and which, under Rabbi Smukler, has now become an exemplary model of child safety. This is about the Yeshivah Community.”
He went on to send a message to the community’s leaders.
“Statements that “child sexual abuse is condemned”; that “victims should come forward and go to the police” and “no victim that acts thus is to be ostracised in any way” are welcome (and, to give credit, have already been made) but are no longer sufficient. As the evidence from the Commission shows, sentiment without action is not enough.”
The Rabbi also said, moving forward, that accountability for organisations will help make sure this does not happen again.
“These events occurred because of a lack of oversight of those who led institutions – a situation riddled with danger that still exists today in many Jewish institutions, run by charismatic, noble, but unaccountable rabbis.
“It is essential that any such leader is answerable to a body empowered to ask critical questions regarding child protection or any other crucial areas where mistakes can remain hidden with disastrous consequences. Donors should check that such oversight is in place before supporting any organisation. Only in this way can we ensure that terrible mistakes are not made again.”