The Australian Jewish victims advocacy group Tzedek writes:
Tzedek responds to Yeshivah apology letter
Tzedek notes the letter issued by Yeshivah College Principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler on 24 July 2013, following the sentencing of former employee David Kramer for sexual crimes committed while a teacher at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College.
We welcome the letter as an important first step by Yeshivah in terms of acknowledging its past wrongdoing but the real test will be the actions taken by the institution and its leaders from this day forward.
Their actions – or inactions – to date have left some of the victims/survivors angrier with Yeshivah than with the perpetrators that sexually assaulted them.
Many aspects of Rabbi Smukler’s letter are somewhat disingenuous including:
• Referring to Kramer, who has always previously been described as Rabbi Kramer, as ‘Mr David Kramer’, and thus suggesting no rabbi could be a confessed and convicted paedophile. Importantly, Kramer’s victims always referred to him as rabbi. ‘David Kramer’ would have sufficed – the inclusion of ‘Mr’ seems to be an attempt to make a futile point.
• Waiting until the day of sentencing to make an apology to victims instead of speaking out sooner. They have had ample opportunity to genuinely and unequivocally apologise. The decision not to do so was a deliberate and calculated one.
• Claiming to be reiterating an apology when in the past the most that had been said was that on a single occasion Yeshivah apologised to anyone who may have been harmed (and thus suggesting that there was a good chance that no-one had been harmed). Despite the initial pseudo-apology Tzedek was willing to provide Yeshivah the opportunity to demonstrate their sincerity by their actions but to no avail.
• Only acknowledging the harm done when backed into a corner by the outcome of a criminal court case, rather than their own moral compass. Yeshivah belatedly realised that its position was untenable.
• Claiming Yeshivah will offer support and counselling to victims who feel they need it without advising how such victims could access the counselling or reaching out directly to any known victims or to Tzedek, the organisation formed to advocate for Jewish victims of child sexual abuse.
• Saying Yeshivah now had best practices and policies in place but not addressing the cultural change needed to ensure victims and their families were supported rather than harassed and ostracised. It is precisely this cultural shift that would facilitate other victims/survivors, their family and other witnesses coming forward with new/additional information.
Rabbi Smukler and Yeshivah are now saying the right words but the real test is how they act, not what they say.
We call upon Yeshivah to encourage and support all teachers – past or present – and members of the community who have any information regarding the sexual abuse of children (past or present) or the covering up of such abuse (past or present) to go to the police with their information, and assist in the pursuit of justice.
Tzedek stands ready to assist and support any Jewish victim/survivor of child sexual abuse. Please visit the Tzedek website, message us on Facebook or email
Enough! No more silence.
The Chabad 'apology,' which was sent to most current parents – but not to many of the former students who were victimized:
In relation to today’s sentencing of Mr David Kramer, a past teacher in Yeshivah College from 1989 to 1992, justice has now been served and we hope that it acts as a deterrent for other offenders. We recognise that the effects of abuse are profound and we empathise with the victims and their families, and hope this sentencing will facilitate a degree of comfort and closure.
We would like to reiterate once again our unreserved apology for any historical wrongs that have occurred. We continue to offer support and counselling to anyone who feels this will be of benefit to them.
Today, at Yeshivah College, we employ absolute best practice and we are vigilant in ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable members of our community – our children. We believe it is most effective to approach Child Protection from multiple perspectives:
· Staff: We have robust policies and practices accompanied by highly effective training that ensures all our staff support child protection and are vigilant in dealing with suspected abuse and in mandatory reporting. All staff undergo screening before employment.
· Students: We empower our students by training them in age appropriate protective behaviours and fostering resilience. Even so, it is always, and will always be the responsibility of the protective adults in their environment to ensure and uphold their safety.
· Parents: We educate and empower parents to be vigilant, develop healthy two way communication with their children regarding protective matters, and to partner with the school to reinforce safety practices.
· Community: We have established strong connections and close working relationships with all relevant Government and support services, in particular with the Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services (DHS).
Yeshivah sincerely regrets and unreservedly apologises for not informing the Police at the time the allegations arose. If any allegations were to arise today, they would be immediately reported to the Police and the relevant authorities.
Keeping a community ‘safe’ is a verb not a noun; it requires constant effort, and together it can be achieved.
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler
Principal Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah Colleges