In 1999, in a speech in the oval office, Ellie Weisel stated:
“In the place that I come from, society was composed of three simple categories: the killers, the victims, and the bystanders. During the darkest of times, inside the ghettoes and death camps…we felt abandoned, forgotten. All of us did.
And our only miserable consolation was that we believed that Auschwitz and Treblinka were closely guarded secrets; that the leaders of the free world did not know what was going on behind those black gates and barbed wire; that they had no knowledge of the war against the Jews that Hitler's armies and their accomplices waged as part of the war against the Allies.
If they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would have moved heaven and earth to intervene. They would have spoken out with great outrage and conviction. They would have bombed the railways leading to Birkenau, just the railways, just once.
And now we knew, we learned, we discovered that the Pentagon knew, the State Department knew. And the illustrious occupant of the White House then Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew.”
As a child growing up, and into my adult years, I believed that if the leaders of the Jewish community knew of the incidence of child sexual abuse perpetrated within their institutions, by seemingly religious men, then they would have ‘moved heaven and earth’ to protect myself and all the other children in their care.
If these Jewish leaders knew, I believed that they would have ‘spoken out with great outrage and conviction’ to provide solace, understanding and unwavering support as victims sought justice and accountability.
Sadly, my family, myself, the Jewish Community, and indeed the public have now all learned, that members of the leadership of the Jewish Community, including various senior Rabbis, all seemingly knew about the child sexual abuse, including multiple incidents of rape that occurred within their institutions, under their watch, yet they were silent and seemingly indifferent.
This silence and indifference has been extremely painful for me and my family.
I dare say, that this silence and indifference does not sit well with you the reader.
In the words of Ellie Weisel:
"Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten....not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own."
Sadly, a year on from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which examined the Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi, I believe that we are at a serious risk that such errors are likely to be will be repeated. That risk in my opinion remains until, a younger generation with a healthier cultural outlook takes the reins. A new leadership group that values the child over the institution. Unfortunately, in my experience and opinion there remains a deep imbedded cultural obstacle to reporting and speaking up.
My family and I have suffered as a result of my pursuit for justice.
On an intellectual level, I know I did the right thing.
On an emotional level, it was the worst decision I ever made.
A year on from the Royal Commission, I am not welcome at homes where I used to be a regular.
A year on from the Royal Commission, certain people, including those in leadership positions, continue to ignore, snub and make crude and defamatory remarks about me and my family.
A year on from the Royal Commission, I rely on two court orders to protect me and my family – particularly from emotional, psychological and economic abuse. Regrettably, the leadership of the Jewish Community have failed to take action in relation to my tormentors, despite having long known about their identity and actions. Protecting my tormentors remains more important and palatable to the leadership than protecting me and my family.
A year on from the Royal Commission, the Trustees of the Yeshivah Melbourne continue to refuse to meet me. Several of these Trustees continue to shun me and my family.
So if you were a victim, past, present or future observing all this, would you report a sexual assault perpetrated against you or someone you loved?
Before you say ‘no’, I ask you to consider my guiding light and principle.
Change only comes from those who are determined to make a difference and ensure that errors of the past are not repeated.
In the words of Ellie Weisel:
“Action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all…one person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, a Martin Luther King Jr. – one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death.”
And to those who still target, ignore and vilify me and my family, I pray that one day you will appreciate the sacrifice that I and the others impacted by this injustice have made in breaking the silence.
The welfare and well-being of your children, your grandchildren and the community’s children are reliant upon it.