Chabad in Melbourne, Australia has issued a letter about child sexual abuse and child safety in its Yeshiva Centre. It doesn't actually apologize for the sexual abuse and coverups that have plagued it for decades. It doesn't even admit that its handling of allegations was incorrect. Instead, it tells its members that it can't legally comment on the current cases in criminal court, and then goes on to assure members that whatever took place in the past, children are safe now. But is this true?
No, I don't think it is.
Chabad leaders have been hostile to the police investigation and hostile to the family of the only named victim. They did not apologize for that bad behavior or apologize to the victim's family for what it did to them.
The letter, which you can read below, reads much more like a lawyer-drafted piece of propaganda than it does like a heartfelt apology.
The idea that Chabad cannot say it is sorry for mishandling past abuse allegations because the trial of David Cyprys is ongoing and David Kramer's extradition is in progress is rubbish.
Using that flawed logic, Chabad would have years to go before it could say it is sorry for the pain it caused little children and their families, and for the lives it destroyed.
But the truth is that Chabad can apologize any time it wants to, and it can admit its own guilt any time it wants to.
But it won't do either because doing it might cost them money, and doing it might mean that at least two men who allegedly raped and sexually abused kids (each man has prior convictions for child sexual abuse related crimes and multiple complaining witnesses now) will likely be found guilty.
Chabad is trying to keep both these men – especially Cyprys – out of prison. And that means admitting its role in covering up their alleged crimes is something Chabad will not do.
And, therefore, Chabad will not truly apologize for what it did.
But it is under intense pressure from funders and from some members to apologize, clean up its act, and fire the most flagrant of the rabbis who covered up.
Chabad's answer to that pressure is this non-apology apology, written so that someone wanting to see an apology might read one in where one really does not exist, and while any court of law would immediately see the letter for what it is – and for what it is does not include – an admission of guilt or an apology.
Manny Waks, the lead alleged victim in the Cyprys case, writes:
Speaking to many people about Yeshivah’s letter (including to some of the past victims), it’s been interesting to hear the different perspectives. I wanted to emphasise that while this is an important milestone, it is only a first step.
The reality is that Yeshivah has:
· not apologised for their despicable behaviour over the past year
· stated that only ‘IF mistakes were made’
· misrepresented the police views regarding their cooperation (in court the police made it clear that they were not fully cooperating)
· Etc. etc.
As to what caused this dramatic change of heart, my guess is that it includes some or all of the following:
· They have had enough of the ongoing pressure by many within the Yeshivah community (including parents of students in their school)
· Pressure from donors
· Student enrolments
· My pressure
· Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching—they want to be inscribed for a good year
· Legal/insurance advice
However, they have finally apologised. This is an important first step. The belated statement that ‘We understand and appreciate that there are victims who feel aggrieved and we sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any historical wrongs that may have occurred’ is an important one.
It doesn’t end with this apology.
But it isn't an apology, Manny. Read it again. It says, "…we sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any historical wrongs that MAY have occurred." It does not say "DID occur," and by using the term "historical" it is referring to the distant past, not what was done last month to your father and not its lies to police.
Chabad is still covering up. It is still mistreating victims, and it will continue to do so until it fully admits the truth and truly apologizes for it, or until its rabbis are sitting in Australian prisons.
Are kids in Chabad's Yeshiva College and Yeshiva Centre safe?
No, they are not.
And they won't be until Chabad does real teshuva.
Update 1:52 am CDT 8-23-2012 – It turns out that Chabad did not apologize to or send this letter to Manny Waks' father, who has been mercilessly harassed by Chabad since Manny went public. Read Zephania Waks' response to Chabad's omission here.
BTW, the Victoria, Australia state parliament has just extended the deadline for submissions for its inquiry into the handling of child sexual abuse allegations by religious organizations (the Catholic Church, Chabad, etc.) and NGOs, so those victims thinking of testifying still have time to file your submission: