Photo: Avi Roccah
'Rabbi pleaded with me not to pursue the matter' (illustration)
Photo: Avi Roccah

Hearings begin into child abuse in Chabad Australia

Government-sponsored inquiry is questioning victims and officials of Orthodox Jewish centers in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as senior Orthodox rabbis. Victim tells commission he faced backlash for 'breaking the Chabad code of silence.'

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia is holding a public hearing for Chabad institutions in the country after staff members were convicted of sexually abusing students.



According to JTA, the government-sponsored inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which began in 2013, has allocated two weeks to interrogate victims and officials of the Yeshivah Center in Melbourne and its counterpart in Sydney, as well as senior Orthodox rabbis.


In particular, the report said, the commissioners will probe the response by Chabad officials to allegations of sexual abuse by David Kramer and Davis Cyprys, who were both employed by the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne in the 1980s and 1990s. They were jailed in 2013 for multiple offenses against boys at the Chabad-run school.


Another youth leader is believed to have committed suicide before the court delivered the verdict.


According to Australian media, this is the first time that the country holds a public hearing on sexual abuse in a Jewish institution.


8 years in prison

David Kramer was convicted about a year ago for sexually abusing for of his students, aged 10-11, in the Chabad yeshiva in Melbourne and was sentenced to three years in prison.


Aron Kestecher, who served as a substitute teacher and youth leader in the same yeshiva, was found dead in his apartment about a year ago. According to JTA, he was accused of multiple allegations of child sex abuse against minors and was due to face court in June 2014.


Davis Cyprys, who served as a security guard and youth leader, was also convicted of sexual abuse. His youngest victim was seven years old. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013.


The former director of Yeshiva College Bondi, Daniel Hayman, 50, was charged with indecent assault of a 14-year-old child who was a student of Yeshiva Bondi and was given a 19-month suspended jail sentence.


'I have lost faith in the community leadership'

The hearings at Victoria’s county court are focusing on Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centers and colleges in Sydney and Melbourne, The Guardian reported, and evidence will include statements from four victims and their families.


Counsel assisting Maria Gerace told the commission in her opening address that all the victims were students at schools run by the institutions at the time of their abuse.


"The victims came into contact with the perpetrators as a result of the perpetrators’ involvement in or association with activities run by the institutions, such as after school martial arts classes, religious programs and overnight youth camps," she said.


One of the victims, known only as AVA, said he was groomed by David Cyprys in the 1980s at the Yeshivah College, Australia's ABC network reported. He told the inquiry that then-yeshiva head Rabbi Dovid Groner said, "I thought we'd fixed him," when he was told of the abuse.


According to JTA, a woman whose husband had been abused by Cyprys and Hayman said during the hearing, "As a spouse of a victim and whistleblower, I feel hated and isolated in my community. I have lost faith in the leadership of the Jewish community.


"Well beyond the horrible acts of the perpetrators against my husband that had ripped the rug of security, certainty and innocence out from his childhood, we are being screwed once more by the adolescent self-serving and callous response of the community," she said, fighting back tears.


Child abuse victim Manny Waks said he also told Rabbi Groner of the abuse he was subjected to in the 1990s and in 2000s, ABC reported, but Cyprys continued to work as a security guard at the center.


"He (Rabbi Groner) practically pleaded with me not to pursue the matter," Mr Waks said.


He added that he and his family had faced backlash for "breaking the Chabad code of silence", as many within the Chabad community believed it would increase anti-Semitism.


The hearing is being streamed live on the Internet and senior rabbis are expected to be called to testify.


Chabad: Fully cooperating with commission

A spokesman for Chabad in Sydney told JTA: “We’ve been in contact with the Royal Commission and we are cooperating fully with them."


Chabad spokesman in Israel, Menachem Brod, said he was unfamiliar with the details of the discussed cases.


"The entire human society is undergoing a welcome process of understanding the extent of the severity of sexual abuse," he said. "While in the past the common thought was that these problems could be handled within the community or family, today it is clear that the professional elements are the only ones who have the power to root out this disease, deter potential criminals and provide the victims with the help they need.


"The clear and unequivocal policy of Chabad's institutions in Israel and around the world is to handle these cases severely, first and foremost by fully reporting them to the authorities. This policy has proved to reduce the abuse, keep criminals away from the children and provide the affected children with support and professional help."


פרסום ראשון: 02.07.15, 22:58
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