Abuse endemic in Jewish schools: inquiry
Paul Mulvey • AAP
The cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Jewish community is endemic and driven by intimidating leaders who downplay the issue, an inquiry has heard.
Manny Waks is the only victim of sexual abuse at a Jewish school to go public with his experience but says he represented many others who have spoken to him and gone anonymously to police when he gave evidence at Victoria's parliamentary inquiry on Monday.
Mr Waks says he knows of two pedophiles still "roaming in the community", another who has gone to Israel where he's receiving psychiatric treatment and a possible link between abuse and a suicide.
He also spoke of a victim's family who have been forced out of Melbourne because of the pressure placed on them by rabbis, while the offender has recently held a senior position in the Jewish community.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the level of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community and the appalling way in which it has been mishandled, including through credible allegations of ongoing cover-ups, may be described as being nothing short of endemic," Mr Waks told the inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations.
While there are two cases currently before the courts involving the Jewish community, he says recent discussions with other victims have revealed ongoing abuse.
While police are aware of most of the allegations, he says Jewish authorities "attempted to cover up these crimes against innocent children."
Mr Waks, who was sexually abused by two trusted mentors at Melbourne's [Chabad] Yeshivah College 20 years ago, says he's the only victim to have gone public so far because others feel intimidated by the leadership of the small Jewish community.
[More than a dozen other alleged victims have spoken to police and been vetted. Eleven are slated to testify along with Waks at the upcoming trial of David Cyprys, a convicted pedophile allowed to work in Chabad's Yeshivah Centre by Chabad leadership who vouched for him and tried to coverup his crimes. Cyprys went on to alleged rape and abuse more than a dozen boys. And other alleged victims of another convicted Chabad pedophile, David Kramer, are in the process of being vetted for testimony against Kramer now that he's been extradited from the US.]
He told the inquiry one former Yeshivah student rang him to tell of his own abuse and was stunned Mr Waks had gone public. "This just doesn't get spoken about," he told Mr Waks.
But many alleged victims have told him of recent cases, including that of a 36-year-old man alleged to have sexually abused children within the Yeshivah community who fled to Israel as soon as he heard he was under police investigation.
He spoke of a 13-year-old allegedly abused three years ago who has not made a formal statement because he's "concerned with the possible ramifications against him as a result of going to police."
And he also mentioned a member of the Jewish community who was last year convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault against minors and is apparently the youngest person ever on the Sex Offenders Register in Victoria.
"The peak body of the Australian Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), has done everything it can to try to downplay this scandal," he said.
He said the ECAJ does not regard sexual abuse as a pressing issue and made no mention of it at its Annual General Meeting last month.
He said students were vulnerable when exposed to influential religious leaders at events such as bar mitzvah classes and recalled his days as a teenager at the communal ritual bath.
"I'd go every morning before prayers. It used to be a free for all, there was no supervision, adults and kids together, everyone was naked," he said.
Mr Waks' father Zephaniah Waks also appeared at the inquiry on Monday but his evidence was suppressed.
I'm told that statements which were not submitted in writing well in advance of the public inquiry, including that of Zephaniah Waks, were temporarily suppressed for procedural reasons, but will be publicly available in the near future.
Here's another article on the parliamentary inquiry:
Jewry accused of hiding sex-abuse
Barney Zwartz • The Age
TWO paedophiles - one reportedly the youngest person ever put on the Victorian Sex Offenders Register - were "roaming the Jewish community" with most members utterly unaware, the state inquiry into how religious groups handled child sex abuse was told on Monday.
Community leader and abuse whistleblower Manny Waks said there was overwhelming evidence that child sexual abuse was endemic in the Jewish community and "the appalling way in which it has been mishandled", including credible claims of continuing cover-ups.
He said that in the few months since his written submission there had been more serious allegations of child sexual abuse. "Worse, in all of these new cases, those in positions of authority attempted to cover up these crimes."
Mr Waks, a former vice-president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, last year became the first Jewish victim to publicly tell the story of his abuse, at Yeshivah College in Melbourne more than 20 years ago. He gave evidence with his father, Zephaniah Waks, but Family and Community Development committee chairwoman Georgie Crozier suppressed Mr Waks senior's testimony.
Manny Waks said several new allegations had come to him, partly because victims and families often sought his advice. In one case, he said, a family was forced to leave Melbourne under pressure from rabbis after they made allegations against a senior figure who "is still roaming freely within the Melbourne Jewish community".
In another case, a young member of the Jewish community was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault against minors - becoming the youngest listed offender - and he too was freely roaming the community, Mr Waks said.
Another man, 36, was alleged to have sexually abused several children in the Yeshivah community - part of the Orthodox Chabad movement - and fled Australia as soon as he heard police were investigating him. Mr Waks said the man was himself allegedly sexually abused repeatedly as a child by a relative, an active member of the Sydney Jewish community.
In another Yeshivah case, a man, 30, is alleged to have abused a child, 13, about three years ago.
"Most devastatingly, over the past few days, I have been informed of a possible link between an alleged incident of child sexual abuse at Yeshivah and a subsequent suicide."
He said he had also received a number of allegations of abuse and cover-ups within the Sydney and Perth communities.
Mr Waks said the Executive Council of Australian Jewry had "done everything it could to downplay this scandal" and that in some cases "their scant response was highly damaging".
He said he and other victims were deeply hurt, angry and incredulous not only about the abuse and the cover-ups, the intimidation of victims and their families, but the "meek response" by Jewish community leadership.
Dr Tom Keating, abuse victim, academic and child protection expert, told the inquiry that mandatory reporting was irrelevant for child sex abuse by clergy, because the purpose of mandatory reporting was to ensure the guardian was protecting the child.
Dr Keating, a former head of Victoria's Department of Human Services, said a child protection worker to whom abuse was reported would have to advise telling police. "This is not reporting that a child is at risk, it is reporting a crime."
He said the Catholic Church abuse protocols, Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response, were perfectly designed to produce the results they did, protecting the church's reputation and wealth. "In my experience the church authorities are entirely unencumbered by ethical or pastoral concerns."
He said that despite church leaders' protestations that flourishing abuse was a thing of the past, their modern attitudes of clerical control, suppressing dissent, alienating women and persecuting gays meant sexual abuse was more likely.
Manny Waks' complete statement to the parliamentary commission of inquiry as a PDF file: