While I’m not in a position to endorse any single candidate, I’m comfortable highlighting the candidates who I believe should definitely not be elected if the Yeshivah Centre and victims/survivors are genuinely able to move forward.
Below are two lists with the nominees for both of the new Yeshivah entities. Beneath the lists I write the problematic candidates and my brief reasons.
Chabad Institutions of Victoria Limited
Yitschok Tzvi Jedwab
Chaim Dovid Wilhelm
Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Schools Limited
Rabbi Shalom Dickshtein
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum
Menachem Mendel Haller
Dr Debbie Herbst
Devora Rochel Herszberg
Yitschok Tzvi Jedwab
Rabbi Yonason Johnson
Dov Ber Werdiger
In my opinion, the following candidates should not be elected (all four are from the Chabad Institutions of Victoria Limited entity):
Mervyn Adler: Served on the Yeshivah Centre Committee of Management between 2008-2015, which included the period of victim intimidation by some within the Yeshivah Centre leadership and community.
Michael Goldhirsch: Served on the Yeshivah Centre Committee of Management for decades (apparently since the 1980s), which included the period of rampant child sexual abuse, cover-ups and intimidation.
Ron Tatarka: Served as Chabad Youth Director in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1984 Ron was informed by a victim and a parent of another victim of two cases of child sexual abuse perpetrated by David Cyprys. At a meeting a few years ago he claimed to me that he provided this information to Rabbi Groner and left it to him to deal with. Despite what Ron knew, Cyprys faced no consequences or restrictions, including the ongoing interaction with children at youth group events.
Leon Solowiejczyk: My father alleges that Leon physically assaulted him, twice, inside the Yeshivah Centre synagogue. Apparently there were witnesses, one of whom initially agreed to provide a police statement but decided not to because he has a child to marry off.
I would like to reiterate what I’ve previously stated: In my view, anyone who was part of the Yeshivah Centre leadership pre-Royal Commission is unfit to hold a leadership position now. It seems to me that (by virtue of their Yeshivah leadership positions) they’ve done sufficient damage to Yeshivah (besides the damage inflicted on victims, our families, and the broader Jewish community). Instead of nominating themselves for leadership positions, which some of us find utterly offensive, they should be acknowledging their failures and seeking forgiveness directly from the many Yeshivah victims, and from the community.
I realise that for some, my public position may in fact help propel them to the board (such is the hate for me in some quarters)…but it’s their community and their decision. At least no one can say they didn’t know.
While I’m not formally endorsing any of the candidates, it would be remiss of me not to note the nomination of Yitschok Tzvi Jedwab. As I’ve previously noted, Rabbi Jedwab was my former teacher during my teenage years (around 13yo-15yo), during the main period of my sexual abuse. This meant that he saw first-hand some of the direct impact the abuse was having on me – he used to have to kick me out of class often. At the time, he had no idea what was going on. To his credit, Rabbi Jedwab is the only former Yeshivah representative to have contacted me voluntarily and directly to acknowledge what had happened, and to apologise for responding the way he did. Of course I told him there was no need for him to apologise as he wasn’t aware of the circumstances, but that I greatly appreciated it (I refer in greater detail to this incident in my recent book). To me this indicates the man Rabbi Jedwab is.
Regardless of what happens, it continues to be vindicating, empowering and healing to see the revolution that’s taking place as a result of so much hard work done by increasingly more of us.
I look forward to the outcome of this important milestone, which I’ll respond to publicly in due course.