Dear Parents of Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges,
It was brought to our attention that an individual, from Brooklyn New York, who was previously charged with child related crimes, is visiting Melbourne and is staying in close proximity to the school campus.
We have been in contact with Victoria Police and consulted with the relevant authorities and the individual is completely excluded from any access to the Yeshivah Centre in its entirety, at all times. The individual has agreed to these conditions. We understand he is in Melbourne for a short visit only.
Following our safety procedures and protocols we have alerted our security personnel and CSG to his identity and taken all precautionary measures.
Please rest assured that the College prioritises the safety and security of our children at all times.
Wishing you and your families well over the fast and a G’Mar Chasimah Tovah.
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler
Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah Colleges
I view this as a positive development. It’s great to see that the Yeshivah Centre seems to have appropriate policies and procedures in place, and the ability/willingness to address this issue.
By way of background, over Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) I became aware that, as fate would have it, a convicted paedophile was staying at my parents’ home. Moshe Keller was convicted in New York in relation to one child and there were additional allegations by several other complainants (but no criminal action could be taken against him in those cases due to New York’s statute of limitations laws). While I had heard of the Keller name, I’m only now aware of some of the details.
After years of trying unsuccessfully to sell the house, my parents finally managed to do so – unknowingly to the daughter of Keller and her large family. At the time of sale they were completely unaware of the link (the Keller daughter has adopted her husband’s family name). The contract has already been finalised and the settlement is due in December. As the family needed a place to stay for a few months, my parents generously offered them to move into the house this week free of charge (over Rosh Hashanah only Moshe Keller and his wife stayed over).
At the first opportunity I notified the Yeshivah Interim Committee of Management that Keller was at my parents’ home so that they could deal with the situation immediately after Rosh Hashanah (for those who may not be aware, Orthodox Jews have certain restrictions on the Sabbath such as not using the phone). I was delighted to learn that they were already aware of it. Apparently they were informed of this just before the start of Rosh Hashanah and had already taken appropriate action.
Almost simultaneously, my parents notified Keller’s daughter that Keller could no longer remain there. Both he and his wife left the property that night. Subsequently my parents again offered the family their free hospitality – this time on the condition that Keller isn’t present.
It’s important to note that Keller continues to stay at his daughter’s current house, which is among the Yeshivah community (apparently he intends to remain there for the High Holiday period before he returns to New York).
I’d like to emphasise that I view Keller’s family as his secondary victims (to my knowledge, his family was not complicit in his crimes). They deserve our empathy and support. And of course, Keller’s primary victims deserve at least as much.
I have been communicating with Yeshivah regarding this matter and am confident in saying that they have taken appropriate action and I have full confidence in them. This is particularly pleasing.
There is no need to panic. The sad reality is that there would be many paedophiles within our community (just like within any other community). So we should all utilise this opportunity to educate ourselves and our children regarding child sexual abuse – both in terms of prevention and intervention. And institutions should take this opportunity to review their policies and procedures to ensure they take into consideration all possible scenarios so that they can adequately address these as they arise.
This episode also highlights the need for close global cooperation when addressing this issue. It is not uncommon for perpetrators to move between countries to avoid the consequences of their actions, to continue offending with impunity and/or for some other reason. Indeed, the Malka Leifer extradition process currently underway is just one example. As has already been noted elsewhere, I am currently endeavouring to address some of these issues as a part of my global initiative. Hopefully this will be achieved sooner rather than later.
UPDATE: Apparently Moshe Keller is departing Australia on Saturday night (19 September 2015).