Chabad's Yeshiva College in Melbourne, Australia sends parents a letter on child sexual abuse after years of allegedly covering up for pedophiles on its staff and mounting pressure from police and its own community.
Dear Parents and Friends of Yeshivah
At Yeshivah we are dedicated to creating a safe
community for our children.
I write to share with you Yeshivah’s policy, approach and
practices regarding child protection issues, and our commitment to ensuring
that we are all well equipped to prevent and deal with issues should they
As is good practice, the school has strong connections and
relationships with relevant organisations and support people to assist us
should any problems arise. These include:
We have a point of contact with
the local Child Protection (DHS) investigative unit manager and a number of her
We are acquainted with the local
SOCA (Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) Police team, and how they work within
the Jewish Community.
We are very familiar with the
children and family services provided by SECASA. (SECASA = South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault, we encourage you to avail yourselves of the quality family education resources on
their website: www.secasa.com.au).
We also tapped into the resources,
training and support offered by the JTAFV (Jewish Taskforce Against Family
At Yeshivah today we are not aware of anyone on staff
who poses a risk to our children and Victoria Police have confirmed there are no
investigations relating to current staff, contractors or employees. All
teaching staff are subject to a Police Check prior to being offered employment,
and all auxiliary staff such as groundsmen, administrative staff and people who
have regular contact with the school have a Working with Children Check.
Should we become aware of a problem or possible risk to our students, we will
immediately work with the authorities and ensure the person is dealt with
appropriately and has no access whatsoever to our children.
We are proactive in creating a safe school community:
We empower our students
to stand up for what they know is right and to say ‘no’. We do so
via the ‘Bounce Back’ -a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program
-in our Primary School that develops these and other resiliency skills.
Our entire staff
have undergone DHS ‘mandatory reporting’ training.
A number of our
staff attended training with Debbie Gross (Director of the Crisis Centre for
Jewish Women in Jerusalem)
during her Melbourne
visit in March 2011.
returned to our school after the seminar and conducted ‘Protective
Behaviour’ workshops with our students,
workshops the children learnt to ‘say no, run away and tell an adult’.
The students also
learnt about ‘good touch bad touch’, ‘no secrets’,
‘my body is mine’ and ‘if something makes me uncomfortable I
don’t need to put up with it’.
train the students of our Primary School in these personal safety behaviours
and regularly revisit these skills to ensure they are fresh in the
We have robust
policies and procedures that govern staff and student interaction.
It takes a community to prevent abuse. The close
working partnership between the school and the parent body is vital. The school
adopts a leadership role by prioritising child safety, providing training
programs and ensuring effective policies to prevent, and procedures to deal
with, issues should they arise. Parents must establish open lines of
communication with their children and the school, and can facilitate prevention
through their own awareness and education.
An effective 30 minute video workshop, training
parents to ‘speak to your kids about personal safety’, was produced
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founding director of project ‘YES’. It is
an essential video that must be viewed by all parents and can be found at: http://vimeo.com/25322132
The effects of abuse are profound. Victims
and their families need love, understanding and professional support.
Revisiting abuse whether recent or from long ago can be painful and
embarrassing. It is not an easy task to come forward. However, if an individual
has suffered abuse, they know its agony, and are well aware of the imperative
to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
We all want to eradicate abuse from our community and
indeed communities around the world. To this end, the Rabbanim in our
community as well as the Yeshivah Centre and College have on numerous occasions
encouraged victims of abuse to come forward and work with the relevant authorities.
Should you become aware of, or suspect abuse of any kind please contact Child Protection Southern
Region on 1-300-655-795 or the Moorabbin Sexual
Offences Unit on 9556 6128 or 0414 181 311.
If you have any concerns about abuse in relation to the school staff or students please contact
me directly on 9522 8223 and I will immediately and unhesitatingly contact the
‘A safe community’ is a verb not a noun; it requires constant effort, but together it
can be achieved.
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler
Principal Yeshivah College