Australian-Jewish community rocked and shocked by ongoing abuse scandals
It was an annus horribilis for the Orthodox communities of Sydney and Melbourne, with Chabad reeling from a spate of sexual abuse cases and accusations that it turned a blind eye to the molestation of Jewish children.
26 December 2013
Zephaniah and Manny Waks (Photo: Tony Fink).
Here are the sordid statistics from Australia in 2013: Three men are in jail for perpetrating sex crimes while employees of Jewish institutions; three more have been charged for molesting Jewish children; one senior rabbi has been questioned by police over explosive allegations; and investigators are following multiple leads into other alleged pedophiles in Sydney and Melbourne.
In the latest of a string of court cases, last Friday David Samuel Cyprys, a former Orthodox security guard at Yeshivah College in Melbourne, was sentenced to eight years in jail – with a minimum five-and-a-half year non-parole period – for raping one boy and molesting eight others in the 1980s and ’90s.
Only two of the 100-plus Australian-Jewish victims known to Tzedek – an advocacy group for Jewish victims of child sexual abuse – have gone public so far: Yaakov Wolf, who now lives in the United States and last spoke publicly in early 2012; and Manny Waks, who founded Tzedek and has become the victims’ spokesman.
“This is a monumental day for the Australian-Jewish community and also for myself personally,” Waks said outside court last week, after the judge allowed his application to lift the suppression order on naming him as one of Cyprys’ victims.
“It’s been a long journey, it’s been decades coming,” Waks said. “Today is the day for justice, and it’s actually an incredible feeling.”
Cyprys, a former board member of the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria, joined David Kramer, a teacher at the same Chabad-run boys’ school, and Shannon Francis, a non-Jewish coach at a Maccabi junior girls’ basketball club – all jailed this year for sex crimes committed against Jewish children in their care.
Last July, Kramer – a dual Israeli-American citizen – was sentenced to three years and four months for sex crimes perpetrated against four Jewish boys between 1989 and 1992. He has already served his non-parole period of 18 months while in custody, and therefore could be released at any time.
During the court case, the judge was told that Kramer was ushered out of Melbourne by Chabad leaders in 1993 – fleeing first to Israel, then to the United States, where he was sentenced to seven years for sodomizing a boy at a synagogue in St. Louis. He was extradited to Australia in 2012.
At the time of Kramer’s sentencing, Yeshivah College’s principal, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, issued an “unreserved apology for any historical wrongs that have occurred.
“Yeshivah sincerely regrets and unreservedly apologizes for not informing police at the time the allegations arose,” he added.
Francis, meanwhile, was sentenced to eight years for crimes against four girls – two of them Jewish. It is understood some of the crimes took place between 1999 and 2000, during an overseas trip to the United States with the basketball team.
Arguably the biggest scandal to rock the Australian-Jewish community will continue into 2014, however.
Aron “Ezzy” Kestecher, a former leader of the Chabad youth movement in Melbourne, stands accused of child rape and other indecent acts against two boys between 2009 and 2010.
He will face trial in 2014.
In Sydney, Daniel “Gug” Hayman, who now lives in Los Angeles, will face two charges of abusing boys at a camp affiliated with Chabad’s Yeshiva Center in Bondi in the mid-1980s. He is the first alleged perpetrator to be charged in Sydney.
And in an explosive twist, Rabbi Avrohom Glick – the principal of Yeshivah College at the time Kramer and Cyprys perpetrated their crimes – was questioned earlier this month by police following allegations that he raped a student in the synagogue in the 1970s.
Glick vehemently denies the allegations and made a voluntary statement to police earlier this month, according to his lawyers.
Last week, his legal team launched legal action against Waks, accusing him of defaming the senior rabbinical figure in online posts.
A letter by Glick’s lawyers to the board of Tzedek claims their mission is being “twisted and distorted” by Waks, to “enable him to pursue a personal vendetta” against Glick and college officials.
Documents submitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria on December 17 – seen by Haaretz – claim that Glick has been subjected to “hatred, contempt and ridicule.”
During the Cyprys trial, Glick changed his testimony under oath, first saying that he had only recently heard the allegations, then conceding he had in fact known about them in the early 2000s.
But the judge said it was “unfathomable” he didn’t know in the 1980s, when the crimes were being perpetrated.
Glick was stood down earlier this month from his position at Yeshivah College “until the outcome of the inquiry is known,” according to Rabbi Smukler.
Waks has blasted the way the Orthodox community in Sydney and Melbourne have handled the revelations, as opposed to the non-Orthodox organizations.
“Whereas Maccabi Victoria and Jewish Care Victoria have launched independent inquiries, Chabad in Melbourne and Sydney have focused on damage control to the reputation of their institutions, choosing instead to revictimize the victims and taking no real responsibility for what has transpired under their watch,” Waks told Haaretz this week.
Jewish Care Victoria mounted an independent inquiry into crimes committed against three people living in a children’s home run by its predecessor in the 1960s.
Maccabi Victoria also launched an independent inquiry, after it was blasted by some of Shannon Francis’ victims because it “denied responsibility” and showed a “lack of sensitivity, compassion and empathy,” according to a statement by the victims earlier this year.
Waks, meanwhile, said he and others are considering civil action against the leaders of Yeshivah College, who he claims have “a high level of moral and legal responsibility” in the scandal. He also testified earlier this year before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and hopes it will hold the college leadership to account.
Also, Waks’ parents – Zephaniah and Chaya – will start living half the year in Israel from 2014, having put their house up for sale.
“I am bitterly disappointed to share that, due to the ongoing harassment, intimidation and discrimination from leaders and members of the Yeshivah Center, which has effectively led to my parents’ excommunication from their community of almost 30 years, my parents have made the difficult decision to sell their family home and relocate,” Manny Waks wrote in a Facebook post last month.
“Throughout this difficult and protracted process, not once have I regretted coming forward publicly and doing what I’ve done,” Waks told Haaretz. “It has been worth the significant personal sacrifices. It has not been easy – not for me or my family. But it was the right decision.”
The scandal has polarized the Jewish community. The Internet has been ablaze all year with poisonous comments, mainly against Waks and his family or against Yeshivah College and Chabad.
Originally published at Haaretz.