As I pointed out earlier this week, Chabad's 'apology' for child sexual abuse that took place at its Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne was only sent to current school parents and a few outsiders – not to former students, known victims and their families. And the apology was clearly disingenuous. Now it turns out that there is one more shocking flaw in that apology…
As I pointed out earlier this week, Chabad's 'apology' for child sexual abuse that took place at its Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne was only sent to current school parents and a few outsiders – not to former students, known victims and their families. And the apology was clearly disingenuous. Now it turns out that there is one more shocking flaw in that apology.
The Australian Jewish victims rights group Tzedek writes:
When is an apology not an apology? When Yeshivah Centre seeks to separate itself from an apology issued by Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah Colleges Principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler.Just two days ago, following the sentencing of former employee and confessed and convicted paedophile David Kramer, Yeshivah College Principal Rabbi Smukler put out a statement apologising for “any historical wrongs”, saying “we empathise with the victims and their families” and “we continue to offer support… to anyone who feels this will be of benefit to them”.
Tzedek welcomed the letter as an important first step by Yeshivah in terms of acknowledging its past wrongdoing but noted the real test will be the actions taken by the institution and its leaders from this day forward.
Sadly, it seems that the Yeshivah Centre’s actions have once again failed to live up to its rhetoric.
Zephaniah Waks, father of Tzedek founder and CEO Manny Waks, himself a victim/survivor of child sexual abuse by a former Yeshivah employee/volunteer, contacted Rabbi Smukler asking for his assistance in ensuring that this Saturday night he could carry out the obligatory Jewish rituals associated with the anniversary of his father’s death (Yahrzeit).
Zephaniah Waks wrote to Rabbi Smukler:
“As is well known, I became the object of public abuse and vilification within large elements of the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne after my serious involvement with investigations into sexual abuse at the Centre, especially after a fiery Shabbes drosho (sermon) given by Rabbi Telsner nearly two years ago… I have unsuccessfully requested meetings, personally and through intermediaries, with the parent body of the Centre, the Board of Management, to resolve these matters; I have never even been graced with a reply.
“I have been trying intensively for over three weeks to arrange this with both the [Yeshivah] rabbi (Z Telsner) and head of the [Yeshivah] synagogue committee (H Herbst). According to Jewish Law and custom, I should be called to the Torah (Biblical reading) on the Sabbath, and should lead the prayers on Saturday night. My four emails on the matter have not elicited any response, continuing the process of ‘shunning’ which has been increasing since my son went to the media two years ago.”
Rabbi Smukler responded that he is “not involved” in Yeshivah synagogue matters, and can only discuss “school matters”.
Rabbi Smukler’s response seems to suggest that the statement he released on Wednesday must have been only on behalf of Yeshivah College, NOT the entire Yeshivah Centre. Obviously the Yeshivah Centre is yet to issue its own public statement and unequivocal apology. The community and the general public must understand this distinction.
The behaviour by the Yeshivah Centre and its leaders is completely inexplicable and inexcusable. It is hard to accept that they are genuinely remorseful for “historical wrongs” or are seriously interested in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse that have occurred within the community when they continue to harass, vilify and discriminate against those who are trying to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice and that children in the community are properly protected.
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