This is the same school that sent overseas its previous Principal, Malka Leifer, after allegations surfaced that she was sexually abusing many of her female students. The devastation this school caused to so many is still being felt today, and no doubt it will be felt for many years to come. Yet this same institution has now decided that Kluwgant is the best candidate for their school. As if that's not enough, Adass is reportedly in negotiations with Kluwgant's auntie, Ms Nechama Bendet, for a consultancy role at the school (also see here).
It's important to emphasise that the signatory of the Adass letter, Mr Weiszberger, sought advice from victim support and advocacy group Tzedek and others, and was told that it would be unsafe for students to have Kluwgant in this role. Adass seemingly chose to ignore this as well.
Kluwgant has already been rejected and discredited by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, the organisation he used to lead, who have distanced themselves from him based on his actions. He sought a position on the newly-established Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand but did not receive the support of the Australian Rabbinate.
While of course everyone is entitled to earn a living to support themselves and their families, Kluwgant's appointment, and the anticipated Bendet appointment, are wrong for so many reasons. Both of these individuals have not demonstrated genuine contrition or increased understanding in the area of child sexual abuse.
These decisions are a slap in the face to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families. Indeed, it is a slap in the face to the entire Jewish community. And it reinforces the perception that Adass does not take the issue of child sexual abuse seriously.
And while this is an Adass leadership decision, the entire Adass community is complicit if they choose to ignore this extraordinary decision. It's also a poor reflection on the calibre of educators available in the ultra-Orthodox global community if Kluwgant is the most suitable candidate they could identify.
The Federal and State governments (and other donors) should consider ceasing to provide funding to Adass until they demonstrate that they take the issue of child sexual abuse seriously. Likewise, Child Wise should consider ceasing to work with Adass, as their cooperation would merely provide a false sense of security to their community.
UPDATE: We will be contacting the Department of Education, Department of Human Services and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority. The Adass Israel School has a history of horrific child sexual abuse (by a former Principal) and the cover-up of that abuse. Victims in that school are now effectively being asked to report allegations of child sexual abuse to Kluwgant, whom the school and their community are entrusting to administer child protection policies and practices. With Kluwgant's chequered past in this area, we feel that the safety and well-being of children under his leadership and care in an educational context may be compromised, especially given Kluwgant's role requires him to lead a significant cultural change in a complex and sensitive environment.
UPDATE: Click here to read my response to Tzedek's public statement.
Adass Israel School letter
ו' תמוז תשע"ז
29th June 2017
Dear Staff, עמו"ש
As you will be aware, Dr Yisroel Herszberg 'שיחי has advised of his intention to retire in 2018. He has served מוסדות the and schools with total dedication for many years, and we will be arranging a סעודת פרידה at an appropriate time, to recognise his huge contribution.
We are pleased to advise that we have appointed Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant 'שיחי to assume Dr Herszberg's role. They will be working together collaboratively for the remainder of the year, to ensure a smooth transition.
Rabbi Kluwgant comes to us with a wealth of experience in leadership and education. He has the qualifications of סמיכה לרבנות, and holds an Executive Master of Business Administration from Monash University. After a global recruitment process, we have found him to be the most suitable candidate for the job. We have every confidence that Rabbi Kluwgant will be an immense asset to our מוסדות.
With the approval and support of the רב שליט"א, and the full support of the Board and Executive, we welcome Rabbi Kluwgant and look forward to working with him to secure excellent outcomes and further growth in תורה ויראת שמים, for our students, teachers, staff and volunteers, in a safe and vibrant environment.
Mr A Weiszberger
Secretary to the Board