I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify my position.
As many of you would be aware, before and after publicly disclosing my sexual abuse at Yeshivah, I repeatedly reached out both to the Yeshivah leadership and community to try to engage with them. I never asked for any pre-conditions and even offered to sign a confidentiality agreement that would have prevented me from confirming that I even held a meeting with the leadership. The response was stonewalling, a refusal to engage and a campaign of bullying and harassment which led Yeshivah down the path to where it finds itself today.
Fast forward to the Royal Commission, where I and the other victims were fully vindicated and the disgraceful behaviour of the Yeshivah leadership was exposed in the most devastating way. At the time, one of the things I was asked was about whether I would be willing to engage with Yeshivah more broadly and with Rabbi Glick more specifically. My response was a resounding yes – all I had ever wanted was to be heard and acknowledged, for the people responsible to be held to account and to make sure that what happened to me wouldn’t happen to other children at Yeshivah. In the case of Rabbi Glick, I insisted that he first step down from all leadership roles he held at Yeshivah which I would accept as an acknowledgement that his failures had made him unfit to continue in those roles. Several days later Rabbi Glick indeed relinquished all his leadership roles. I contacted him by email to thank him for taking this important step and asked if he would be willing to meet with me. Rabbi Glick warmly welcomed this opportunity and we then met at his home and had a frank discussion about many of the issues.
Fast forward to today. The leadership of Yeshivah who were present during the abuse, cover-ups and bullying of victims have been displaced and an interim leadership committee has been put in their place. While the current structure is far from perfect (in fact it is still being finalised), the Interim Committee of Management have been proactive in engaging with victims and to their credit, have shown a willingness to try to make things right. I am grateful to these members for their great work often under difficult circumstances. And it is precisely this ongoing and hard work that has led to the opportunity which now presents.
My goal in participating in the event is to be heard by the community in which I was raised and to address the lies, rumours and misunderstandings in relation to what I’ve said and done over the last few years. I’d like to have the opportunity to explain myself – what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been doing it, why I’ve been doing it in this manner, etc. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me – far from it. But I expect that for the first time, the Yeshivah community in particular will be able to hear a different side of the story and at least be able to form fully informed attitudes towards the issues that have plagued their community. It will also provide an opportunity for the Yeshivah community to ask the tough questions, explain their perspective and to comment as they deem fit. I.e. this will be the opportunity for honest and open engagement between two sides that have been at serious loggerheads for several years, which has been to the detriment of the Jewish community more broadly. The ultimate aim is to move forward constructively. Of course, this can’t be done without addressing the past. But it’s about establishing a safe place for dialogue and engagement. I am tired of fighting and want to move forward. I believe that it will be cathartic and necessary for me, and cathartic and necessary for the community.
To be clear, I still have major issues with the way Rabbi Glick has conducted himself in recent years. Like many, I am profoundly troubled by his evidence at the Royal Commission in relation to a victim known as AVR. I find it inconceivable that a person who is known for his intellect and memory of religious texts, not only cannot recall allegedly expelling a student who was raped by David Cyprys from Yeshivah College after the victim and his mother reported some of the abuse, but can’t even recall that this student ever attended his school. This despite everyone I’ve spoken to who was in school with us at the time who all clearly remember this student. I made it very clear to Rabbi Glick at our private meeting that I found this very concerning.
Counsel assisting the Royal Commission has submitted:
Having regard to all of the evidence, it is submitted that Rabbi Glick’s evidence that he did not know of complaints about Cyprys prior to 2004 is not persuasive. It is submitted that the evidence of AVR should be accepted and the Commission should find that in 1991, AVR and his mother met with Rabbi Glick, AVR’s mother told Rabbi Glick that David Cyprys was abusing her son and as a result of AVR’s mother’s complaint, the Yeshivah Centre terminated AVR’s scholarship to attend Yeshivah College. Rabbi Glick’s evidence to the contrary should not be accepted.
She has further submitted that the following findings are available:
F35 In 1991, AVR’s mother complained to Rabbi Groner and Rabbi Glick that David Cyprys was abusing AVR. Rabbi Glick immediately terminated AVR’s scholarship. This was an inappropriate response to a student who has complained that he has been abused by Cyprys.
F36 David Cyprys continued to attend the Yeshivah Centre for a further 10 years after Rabbi Groner and Rabbi Glick received AVR’s complaint.
I expect Rabbi Glick (and others) will continue to be held to account for his conduct once the Royal Commission’s findings are made.
But to his credit, Rabbi Glick did apologise to me in our private meeting and I accepted his apology. And so I view this event as an opportunity for Rabbi Glick to publicly accept responsibility and apologise for his role in the events which led to the Royal Commission, for his failure to protect the children who were entrusted to him and to call on members of his family and others to end their ongoing attacks against victims.
And if Rabbi Glick can do that, and we can show that our rift has started to be healed, then perhaps there is hope that a divided and traumatised community can start to get back on track. Once responsibility is properly taken, then the attitude in some quarters that victims are to blame for the situation in which the community finds itself can hopefully start to change. And the need of some within the community to defend their family and friends at all costs can start to abate.
There is no question that the Yeshivah Centre has an enormous way to go. Some of the mistakes since the Royal Commission are inexcusable and inconsistent with the messages they are trying to convey to the broader community. For example, the covert appointment and subsequent termination of Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant from a Jewish studies teaching role was unacceptable. The movement within Yeshivah to reinstate Rabbi Telsner is horribly misguided. But continuing to only attack will be detrimental to everyone. Engaging, on the other hand, is, in my opinion, a more constructive approach at this time. At the very least, it’s worth the effort. Let’s see where it leads.
I accept that obviously not everyone would necessarily agree with this approach. But I’m also acutely aware that no matter what I say or do, there will always be critics. Throughout the past few years, each and every word and action of mine has been (rightly) scrutinised. Both sides, at various times, have criticised me – for being too harsh or for being too soft, depending on their perspective. So this event is no different. And I welcome the divergent views. As I’ve often said, while there are obviously red lines that must never be crossed, in many of these instances there is no right or wrong – just different approaches.
I don’t claim to represent all victims/survivors in my work. I have always approached this in terms of what I think is the most appropriate course of action – I usually approach it predominantly from the perspective of the victims/survivors. And I make no apologies for this. Of course I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but there’s also no doubt in my mind that my approach has proved both right and most effective. It has continued to achieve the desired results. So I make no apologies for this.
I continue to look forward to this ground-breaking event, and hope it will achieve the desired results for all of us. I also hope that as many members of the community that are able to make it will attend and that this can truly be a much needed turning point.