Sex abuse inquiry puts spotlight on yeshivas
24 January 2015
Orthodox Jewish communities in Sydney and Melbourne are bracing themselves for royal commission hearings into how yeshivas dealt with child sex abuse.
Police have been swamped with reports of child sex abuse following evidence given in public hearings, as well as stories told in numerous private sessions.
Commissioners investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse have reported more than 480 cases to police forces across the country since hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began in 2013.
More cases may emerge from new hearings due to start soon in Melbourne. Melbourne and Sydney's Orthodox Jewish communities are bracing themselves for the hearings, which will examine how Orthodox yeshiva centres dealt with numerous cases of child sexual abuse across decades.
The commission will look at the handling of individual cases involving Aron Kestecher and convicted sex offenders David Samuel Cyprys and David Kramer, who both pleaded guilty and were jailed in 2013. All were employees of St Kilda East's exclusive Yeshivah College or its umbrella Yeshivah centre.
Abuse survivor and Jewish victims' advocate Manny Waks said he had been caught off guard by the announcement that Kestecher would be probed as well. But his inclusion was significant because the alleged offending took place in the past decade, unlike the offending of Cyprys and Kramer, Waks said.
In November 2013, Kestecher, then 28, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on six charges of abusing boys in 2009 and 2010. The charges included sexual penetration of a child and indecent acts with a child. He had been due to face court again in June 2014. He was found dead in his home in March 2014.
Melbourne's Orthodox Jewish community has been deeply scarred by the yeshiva revelations, amid accusations that the organisation covered up Cyprys' and Kramer's offending for decades. In 2012, magistrate Luisa Bazzani said it was "unfathomable" that Yeshivah College teacher Rabbi Abraham Glick was unaware of Cyprys' offending at the time it took place. That year, Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre offered an unreserved apology to victims of child sexual abuse.
Last year, Fairfax Media revealed that Kramer had completed his sentence and had since been deported. He is believed to be living in the United States.
Yeshiva College Bondi will also face scrutiny for its handling of allegations surrounding Daniel Hayman, a former yeshiva director. Last year, Hayman pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent assault dating back to his time as a volunteer in the 1980s. He received a suspended sentence.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) president Dr Cathy Kezelman said the royal commission was imperative so "perpetrators and those complicit in covering up crimes [could] be brought to justice". She said victims who came forward needed ongoing support, including counselling and redress, even if the abuse was decades old.
The yeshiva hearings begin in Melbourne on Monday, February 2, and will last up to two weeks. They will be streamed live each day from 10am to 4pm at childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
For help, phone ASCA's professional support line on 1300 657 380.
Originally published at The Age.