Following Rabbi Mordechai (Moti) Elon's conviction and sentencing in 2013 for indecent assault by force on a minor, Rabbi Druckman publicly defended Elon, former Head of Yeshivat Hakotel and a prominent Religious Zionist Rabbi, labelling the judgement of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court a ‘mistake’. Druckman allowed Elon to continue teaching at the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva, where evidence has now emerged that he again, repeatedly sexually abused a child.
Druckman has a history in protecting sex offenders. In the 1990s, he allowed Ze’ev Kopolovich, Head of the prestigious Netiv Meir high school in Jerusalem, to continue teaching even as reports came to his attention that Kopolovich was sexually assaulting students. This went on until the rabbi was finally arrested and convicted.
Druckman has still failed to apologise or take responsibility for his conduct. Having allowed a convicted child sex abuser ongoing access to students, Druckman is personally responsible for any subsequent sexual abuse which has occurred. Put simply, Druckman has blood on his hands.
The ZFA has urged Druckman to offer an unqualified apology to survivors and to immediately step down as head of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the Centre for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot.
“In Australia, we have heard too many devastating stories of the impact of child sexual abuse through the Royal Commission,” said ZFA President Jeremy Leibler. “Among the survivors are people in the Jewish community, who have not only suffered from the abuse itself, but also from the failure of those in positions of authority to act appropriately.”
Bnei Akiva Australia have stated that they ‘stand firm with survivors of sexual abuse in condemning Rabbi Druckman’s inexcusable conduct’ and expressed disappointment that Druckman ‘not only supported a convicted sex offender…but has to date failed to apologise or express regret for that support’.
Public statements such as those issued by the ZFA and Bnei Akiva Australia give comfort to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse but also reflect a changing culture and attitude towards child sexual abuse and to ensuring that children in Jewish institutions are safe from this scourge.
However, we note with concern the ongoing silence of the Mizrachi Organisation, led by its President Danny Lamm. Mizrachi describes itself as ‘Melbourne’s leading Religious Zionist organisation’ and the home of Bnei Akiva. Many of its members spend time learning in yeshivot (religious schools) and seminaries in Israel under the auspices of the Centre for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot, where Druckman is ultimately responsible for their safety and well-being.
Both Mizrachi and Lamm have a long and unfortunate history of leadership failures on the issue of child sexual abuse. This includes a history of siding with and honouring people like Druckman who have enabled the sexual abuse of children in their care, and preferring their interests over those of child sex abuse victims.
During his presidency of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Lamm failed to adequately support victims/survivors of child sexual abuse in the Australian Jewish community and frustrated our efforts to seek accountability for the injustices perpetrated against us. On one occasion in 2012, when victims were trying to hold Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre to account for the abuse which we suffered and the subsequent cover-ups and intimidation, Lamm went on ABC radio as the President of ECAJ and publicly and unequivocally endorsed the approach of Yeshivah's then-leadership to the handling of child sexual abuse, a view which was comprehensively discredited by the emphatic findings of the Royal Commission.
In 2017 the new President of the ECAJ issued a statement expressing its ‘deep regret for some of its actions and inaction’ in dealing with the issue of child sexual abuse under Lamm’s leadership and acknowledging that it ‘could have done more to support the many victims/survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community’.
In 2018, Mizrachi’s Senior Rabbi, Danny Mirvis, spoke on the subject of “Models of Jewish leadership” at an event to honour the late Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner. Like Druckman, Groner had allowed a known child sex offender continued access to children at the Yeshivah Centre and was responsible for the sexual abuse of dozens of children. Lamm said at the time: ‘I myself attended the event honouring the memory of one of Melbourne Jewry’s greatest leaders’.
Again, the ECAJ responded to Lamm’s offensive position by issuing a statement expressing disappointment at 'comments made by representatives of other communal organisations that showed an insensitivity to the concerns of victims of child sexual abuse'.
And so, while being grateful to the ZFA and Bnei Akiva Australia for issuing their strong, courageous and principled statements on this issue, we reflect on the wording of Bnei Akiva Australia and call on the Mizrachi Organisation to follow the lead set by its youth leadership and issue a similar statement condemning Druckman’s actions and calling for his resignation from all leadership roles within the religious Zionist community:
‘We expect those in positions of power to lead the way in creating and supporting a culture whereby child protection is of the highest priority and abuse is never condoned or covered up.'