"…Since the Yeshivah leadership has clearly not acted to address the issue of accountability in any way, shape or form, it is our duty as a community to act. This is NOT about being against the Yeshivah (and/or the Chabad) community. It is about unaccountable and immoral leadership. And until there is some accountability and justice, they ought to be condemned.…"
27 November 2013
I would like to clarify several important points.
As many of you would be aware, I was sexually abused as a child while a student at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College and a member of the Yeshivah community.
After been found guilty by a jury of five counts of rape against one former Yeshivah student, David Cyprys finally (and reluctantly) admitted guilt to some of the heinous crimes he committed against many other children, including me. According to the plea deal, Cyprys committed his crimes against me during 1989-1990. I was 13yo-14yo at the time.
As the second last of his many known victims, this should never have happened. While Cyprys himself is the one to blame for perpetrating his unspeakable crimes against many innocent children, the Yeshivah leadership bears a great deal of responsibility. They were informed, repeatedly, throughout the 1980s, of the allegations that he had abused other children. Yet they did not take any adequate steps to protect the children under their care. All of this is indisputable.
The reason that I am noting all of this is to clearly explain my position regarding Yeshivah. Unfortunately I (and Tzedek) have been called “anti-Yeshivah” and even “anti-Orthodox”, and as someone who has “a vendetta against Yeshivah and/or Orthodox Jewry”. This includes by the current Yeshivah leadership. I have also been accused by some of wanting to bring Yeshivah down. It is clear that the Yeshivah leadership is in damage control/survival mode (as are those who were in various positions along the way, as well as some of their friends and relatives) and are resorting to desperate tactics. In some ways this is understandable.
Let me state unequivocally; these accusations against me (and Tzedek) are completely false. I appreciate many wonderful things about both Orthodox Judaism in general, as well as the Yeshivah Centre and its schools and programmes.
While I have been disappointed by, what I feel to be, the relative inaction by the broader Yeshivah community, I know that there are many good people within that community who are supportive of ridding the community of abuse and genuinely want to see change from the previously held perspectives. But those who want change need to understand that this will only happen if action is taken. Indeed, there are some members who are working towards that change. But more needs to be done, and by more people. I believe that this will happen, but it takes time for major change to occur. So, to clarify, I do not believe that the Yeshivah community is full of people who support paedophilia, the ongoing cover-ups or some of the unsavoury behaviour by the Yeshivah leadership.
My major grievances are directed solely at the Yeshivah leadership, past and present. They failed then, and are failing now.
How does it make sense that the Yeshivah leadership that was in place during much of the abuse and cover-ups, and among other things:
- was directly responsible for shipping off a perpetrator (former Yeshivah teacher David Kramer), who went on to re-offend overseas (please read the powerful Victim Impact Statement written by one of Kramer’s victims and read out by me in court on their behalf);
- despite the many allegations that were brought to their attention, allowed Cyprys to remain in charge of security until the mid-2000s;
- despite the many allegations that were brought to their attention, allowed Cyprys to attend Chabad Summer Camps;
- despite the many allegations against Cyprys, placed a student in his care whom he repeatedly abused;
- asked a victim to leave the school for daring to speak out and take action regarding his abuse by Cyprys;
- was publicly criticised by Victoria Police in court for not cooperating with them in these investigations; and
- includes a senior member whose testimony was described by the Magistrate as being “unfathomable”;
is basically the same leadership that is in place today?
And despite all of this, they remain completely unaccountable. Many of them are in the same positions of authority. Under their watch, students were brutally raped and molested. They were touched inappropriately. Many innocent children were violated under their watch. I and many others. Indeed, many members of the Yeshivah leadership were instrumental in the cover-ups, and in enabling paedophiles to continue to have access to children.
In my personal case, had the Yeshivah leadership ensured to take action once the first known allegations about David Cyprys were brought to their attention around 1984, and then again a few years later, by numerous victims and/or their families, then I probably would not have suffered the fate of so many of Cyprys’ other victims.
Where is the accountability? Where is the transparency? Where is the justice?
It is important to note that on numerous occasions, before they were in the firing line (after my story, which simply stated the facts, featured in The Age), I reached out to the Yeshivah Centre leadership – both personally and through intermediaries. They outrightly rejected those gestures of good will. To be clear, the offer was to talk in private and in strict confidence – not to turn it into a public affair. I even offered to sign a confidentiality agreement. They simply were not interested.
And while the Yeshivah leadership issued an apology on 24 July 2013, it is important to note that this disingenuous apology, among other things:
- was issued on the day of Kramer’s sentencing when Yeshivah was backed into a corner by the outcome of a criminal court case, rather than their own moral compass (they were aware of the abuse and had no reason to await sentencing);
- was claimed to be the second apology when in fact the first “apology” (dated 20 August 2012) was for ‘any historical wrongs that may have occurred’ (emphasis added) despite their knowledge of the abuses and cover-ups;
- was issued in the name of the newly-appointed Yeshivah College Principal (not by the Yeshivah Centre) who is new to Melbourne;
- claimed 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 that we are in contact with (or to Tzedek, the organisation in direct contact with many of these victims); and
- stated that Yeshivah now had best practices and policies in place but did not address the cultural change needed to ensure victims and their families were supported rather than harassed and ostracised.
Since the Yeshivah leadership has clearly not acted to address the issue of accountability in any way, shape or form, it is our duty as a community to act. This is NOT about being against the Yeshivah (and/or the Chabad) community. It is about unaccountable and immoral leadership. And until there is some accountability and justice, they ought to be condemned. That is: the leadership, not the entire community.
So no, I am not “anti-Yeshivah”, I am not “anti-Orthodox”, and I certainly do not have a “vendetta against Yeshivah and/or Orthodox Jewry”. It is also completely unwarranted to make such false accusations against Tzedek. I can honestly say in good conscience that I did everything that I could to work with Yeshivah to try to resolve this serious matter (including approaching a senior Yeshivah official on several occasions in the 1990s and 2000s). I am merely seeking accountability and justice. On behalf of myself and so many other victims. And I will not stop until this is achieved. And neither should our community.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite members of the Yeshivah community who would like to have an honest discussion about any of this – or child sexual abuse more broadly – to contact me.
On Chanukah eve – the Festival of Lights – we will continue to shine a light where darkness has prevailed for far too long.