Yeshivah Centre abuse victims fear bullying, intimidation

By Timna Jacks
February 9, 2016

A year after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed widespread intimidation of victims abused at Yeshivah Centre, abuse survivors still fear they will be bullied and ostracised if they disclose their abuse.
Photo by John Woudstra

[with video]

Yeshivah Centre abuse victims still fear they will be bullied and ostracised if they disclose their abuse, one year after widespread cover-ups and intimidation of victims was revealed at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Fairfax Media is aware of at least four Yeshivah victims who have refused to take compensation from the centre, in protest against its new redress scheme.

They don't trust the new scheme, fearing that their confidential disclosures will be handled poorly, or leaked to third parties, which they fear might lead to harassment and ostracisation.

Jewish Care Victoria - an organisation engaged by Yeshivah to receive initial inquiries from survivors of abuse - has already breached one victim's trust, after a private email sent to the board of Jewish Care was leaked to a board member at Yeshivah.

"This identifies me to Yeshivah – that was the last thing that I want," said the victim, who did not want to be named.

"Yeshivah, and in particular, its leadership, has a terrible history of bullying and harassing victims and the last thing victims want is to be identified to Yeshivah, because of that history."

The Jewish Care board member who leaked the email is also a board member at Yeshivah Centre's Committee of Management. They forwarded the email to a colleague on that board.

Jewish Care chief executive Bill Appelby said the organisation was taking the matter "seriously", and has commissioned independent advice from "an eminent Queen's Counsel".

"I am confident that there will be no recurrence," he said. "As with all of our services, client confidentiality is paramount and client information is handled in accordance with our legal obligations."

It comes as victim advocate Manny Waks calls for "external administrators" to take control of the centre, claiming victims were in desperate need of genuine support. 

He said it was an "insult" to victims that the eight members on the centre's overarching body – the board of trustees –  who presided over the centre while abuse, cover-ups and intimidations of victims occurred, have retained their positions of power.

The board of trustees is plagued by nepotism and conflict of interest, despite the royal commission finding that Yeshivah's poor governance was a result of "familial, personal or financial conflicts of interest". 

The board includes the son and son-in-law of the late Rabbi Dovid Groner, a former Yeshivah Centre director, who was told that convicted paedophile David Cyprys was abusing students in the 1980s, but continued to employ the abuser. 

The son-in-law and trustee, Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz, sought to strip Mr Waks' father, Zephania Waks, of a discount on his 17 children's school fees, according to evidence heard at the royal commission. 

The board also includes Nehama Bendit, who called Manny Waks a "moser" (a derogatory term meaning informer), the royal commission heard last year. She is the sister of Rabbi Abraham Glick, former Yeshivah College principal during the abuse and cover-ups.

A Yeshivah Centre spokesman said: "We abhor any ongoing bullying or harassment of victims or any individuals at the Yeshivah Centre and have made it clear to our community that it will not be tolerated".

"We encourage those who have experienced recent bullying or intimidation ... to contact us immediately."



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