However, the awarding of an Order of Australia to former member of the Yeshivah Centre’s Committee of Management (CoM), Shlomo Werdiger, for ‘significant service to the Jewish community, and as a philanthropist’ is a major slap in the face to the many surivors of child sexual abuse who were abused on his watch.
As a long-time member of the Yeshivah Centre’s CoM, responsible for its appearance at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the last member to reluctantly resign in disgrace in the wake of the Royal Commission, Werdiger was effectively responsible for the abuse of dozens of children on his watch, including some members of his own extended family. He was also responsible for the subsequent cover-ups and demonisation of those survivors and their families who simply sought to hold Yeshivah to account.
As a member of Yeshivah’s Com, Werdiger failed to act to prevent repeated and violent sexual abuse, including rape, being perpetrated by David Cyprys, David Kramer and Werdiger’s first cousin, Velvel Serebryanski. Werdiger was also responsible for facilitating now-convicted paedophile David Kramer’s escape from Melbourne, where he went on to sexually abuse at least another child in the United States, for which he was convicted and sentenced to almost five years in prison, before being extradited to Australia and serving more time for some of his crimes at Yeshivah.
Shlomo Werdiger has blood on his hands.
In 2015, the Royal Commission found that ‘there was a marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of child sexual abuse and their families within Yeshivah Melbourne and that the leadership did not create an environment conducive to the communication of information about child sexual abuse’.
This was a direct finding of personal responsibility on the part of Werdiger.
While there is no guilt by association, it’s important to understand the broader context of Werdiger’s close family associations. His brother, David, is on my Wall of Shame for his own disgraceful attacks against victims, survivors, their families and supporters. And Shlomo's wife, Shyrla Pakula, has spewed her own vile attacks.
Shlomo Werdiger has never apologised or accepted responsibility for his role in the sexual abuse of children in his care. His entry as a Member of the Order of Australia brings disrepute on the Order and should be immediately retracted.
Werdiger also remains an Executive Member of the United Israel Appeal (UIA) who, despite the findings of the Royal Commission, have failed to hold Werdiger to account, creating ongoing distress for many victims, survivors and their families.
If the community is serious about preventing child sexual abuse and understanding the harm it causes to victims and survivors, it must not bestow awards such as the Order of Australia on individuals responsible for child sexual abuse.