Friday 29 July 2016
Dear Members of Staff at Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah Colleges,
This coming Monday, 1 August 2016, there was to be a workshop for selected staff of Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges to hear and learn from victims of child sexual abuse in the Melbourne Chabad Community.
The proposed workshop was the initiative of the victims who approached the school in 2015 with the offer.
The event has been cancelled due to concerns that several victims have pertaining to the ongoing suitability of persons who remain in positions of authority at the Yeshivah Centre.
The final report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (“Royal Commission”) is due shortly.
In preparing that report, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission prepared a number of submissions/proposed findings late last year, which the Yeshivah Centre was provided.
Amongst those submissions/proposed findings are the following:
- Proposed Finding 38 “in the period 1984 to 2007, Yeshivah College was a less than safe place from the prospective of best practice in child protection as it lacked a framework to recognise and respond to child sexual abuse issues.
- Proposed Finding 39 “Yeshivah College developed policies to respond to mandatory reporting in 2007, but mandatory reporting had been introduced 13 years earlier in Victoria in 1994”.
- Proposed Finding 46 “The Yeshivah Centre failed to provide support to victims of child sexual abuse, advocates and their families”
- Paragraph 471 “the Yeshivah Centre, the Committee of Management and Rabbi Telsner had an opportunity to unequivocally show their support for the victims of child sexual abuse, advocates and their families, but they did not. It is submitted that their omissions implicitly condoned the actions of others in the community who criticised and shunned the victims, advocates and their families”
- Proposed Finding 51 “AVB, AVC, Manny Waks, Zephania Waks and his family have all experienced criticism and shunning by some members of the Yeshivah Community by virtue of having been victims of child sexual abuse or their advocacy on the issue of child sexual abuse in the community. This has resulted in their feeling cast out of the Yeshivah Community”
- Proposed Finding 55 “There was a lack of effective governance and leadership by the Committee of Management. This was contributed to by familial, personal or financial conflicts of interest in the Yeshivah Melbourne Community. A transparent and formal process is needed to address these conflicts.”
Regrettably since the Royal Commission hearings in February 2015, there have been further incidents of bullying, intimidation and ostracism towards victims, victims advocates and their families. The most recent occurring this past Shabbos.
These incidents occurred primarily on Yeshivah premises, and involved family members of persons who remain in a position of power and authority.
Unfortunately, there has been a continual failure by several persons in ongoing positions of power and authority to address the conduct of their family members.
To be clear, the failure to act, involves persons who have been in leadership for an extended period of time, and who arguably failed during the period 2011 to 2015 to address concerns of victims, advocates and their families during this period.
In doing so, the victims believe, as was submitted by Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, that these members of leadership implicitly condoned the actions of members of their own families who continue to criticise and shun the victims, advocates and their families.
Accordingly, as a matter of principal, we will not be proceeding with the planned discussion at this time.
As an alternate, we are proposing that the discussion be postponed till after the official findings of the Royal Commission are released.
At that time an event for all staff of Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges, rather than a selected few, should in our opinion be held with victims, to discuss those findings and the impact of those horrific events, the various court cases and Royal Commission hearings has had on our lives, those of our families, and that of the community.
From this open forum discussion, it is proposed that together with the staff body at Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges, a plan of action be developed, which will see the staff at Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah Colleges become the champions of the cultural reforms we believe necessary for the institution.
In our opinion, these reforms should be aimed at cultural reform, with the specific goals of ensuring:
- that the errors associated with the Child Sexual Abuse scandal are not repeated;
- that G-d forbid, should an incident of child sexual abuse transpire in the future at the Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges, the response to any investigation be measured and appropriate with all parties feeling safe and secure to come forward and provide evidence without fear of repercussion; and
- those who seemingly enabled a culture of bullying, intimidation and ostracism of victims, advocates and their families, are no longer representatives of the institution.
We thank you for your support and understanding.