The Jews down Under~news of the Jews of Australia

By Garry Fabian
San Diego Jewish World
May 13, 2012

MELBOURNE, 9 May – One of Australia's leading rabbis told a man whose son had been allegedly sexually abused by a youth group leader at a Melbourne Jewish school that the child would not need counselling because he was under eight years old, court documents say.

The former security guard at the Yeshivah Centre in St Kilda East, has been charged with 53 offences, including six counts of rape, allegedly committed against 12 boys between 1982 and 1991.

He is contesting the allegations at a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. In court documents, the parents of two separate boys said they went to Yeshivah Centre director Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner in the 1980s to complain about alleged molestation.

The parents of both boys said no action was taken, with one woman saying her son was abused for another three years after her complaint.

One father said he told Rabbi Groner in 1984 that the man had "interfered" with his son. " He told me that [the boy] wouldn't need counselling because [he] was under eight years old," the man said in a statement.

"Rabbi Groner told me he had spoken to psychologists before and they had told him because the children are so young counselling would not be necessary. Since that day I never heard another word."

The mother of another boy said she called Rabbi Groner in 1987 after being "shocked out of my brain" to learn of alleged abuse of her son.

"I recall when I mentioned his name to Rabbi Groner he replied, 'Oh, no, I thought we cured him'. By this I was sure that Rabbi Groner meant this sort of thing had happened before with him," the woman said in a witness statement.

Rabbi Groner, who was Melbourne's most senior Chabad rabbi, died in 2008.

The court documents say the accused, who owns a locksmith business, has been affiliated with the yeshivah for many years. He was employed as a security guard, was a co-leader of a Jewish youth group there and was a martial arts instructor who recruited students from the school.

The accused , 44, of Balaclava, also supervised young males at the mikvah baths attached to the Yeshivah Centre, which are used for the spiritual cleansing of Jewish males.

"The accused was seen as a role model by members of the Jewish community who trusted him in the company of their children," the summary of charges says.

The alleged victims, who were aged between seven and 17, say they were abused by the accused at locations including the mikvah bath house, Elwood houses, his van, Gan Israel youth camps and Yeshivah College.

"He was known as the 'key master'. People knew this, and still do, and we were afraid of his reputation as being able to access everybody's houses and also because of his martial arts prowess," one alleged victim said in his statement. "He was never shy about touching up kids. He was never violent, but you were scared, because he had the keys to everything, and he was a black belt at karate."

Another alleged victim said that the man was "a lot bigger and stronger than me at the time". "He had me pinned and cornered. I felt sick to my bones and wanted to die, I was so afraid."

The man said that in the US, paedophiles in the Jewish community were reported to the police and dealt with accordingly. "For some reason, the Jewish community in Melbourne covers things up," he said in his statement.

Rabbi Abraham Glick, who was the principal of Yeshivah College between 1986 and 2007, said he had no recollection of any child or parent making a complaint to him about any molestation of children.

"More recently it became known that the students did talk about him allegedly molesting children, but amongst the children there was a code of keeping this in 'their world'," Rabbi Glick said in his statement.

"The children did not discuss these issues with adults."

Rabbi Glick, who still teaches at Yeshivah College and is the head of student well-being, said "attitudes at the time were very different to current attitudes".

"In those times it was a general practice that parents would not discuss these type of issues with anyone other than Rabbi Groner in his capacity as rabbi of the community and director of the colleges."

The committal hearing is continuing before Magistrate Luisa Bazzani.


B'nai B'rith Retirement Villages joins community appeal

SYDNEY, 9th May – B'nai B'rith Retirement Villages (BBRV) has joined the JCA (formerly the Jewish Communal Appeal) to help work collaboratively with other organisations in the community.

The JCA's board of governors voted unanimously last Monday night to make BBRV the organisation's 22nd ­constituent.

"This means that we are a part of the group of services within the JCA that is delivering services to seniors and it is very important that we all work together," BBRV chairman Henry Wirth said.

"We are not seeking any funding from the JCA because the predominant driver for us over the last 18 months, while we have been applying for membership, has been working more effectively within the community."

Although BBRV will not seek funding, by becoming a JCA member they are entitled to apply for capital appeals in the future.

They can also get help sourcing volunteers and guidance for future planning decisions.

The BBRV has two villages, Kadimah Gardens in Wahroonga and Princess Gardens in Rose Bay, with a total of 103 units for independent living.

An additional apartment near the Princess Gardens site was also recently purchased to house a resident with a mental disability.

JCA chief executive Ian Sandler said that BBRV is an active part of the aged care landscape for the Jewish community. "They are a vital sector in the community with their retirement villages and as you can see from the Gateway NSW website, they have already been involved with, and worked with, the JCA," Sandler said.

"They are a solid organisation that is financially strong with good corporate ­governance.

"Now that they are under the JCA tent that can add to our planning around the aged care sector."


Newspaper apology

SYDNEY, 11 May – The editor of the Weekend Australian Nick Cater has apologised for an inflammatory headline that ran in the magazine last week, sparking outrage from Jewish readers.

The headline "Living under the cloud of Israel's cruel apartheid" appeared with an article by John Lyons on Palestinians living in Israel.

"In a nutshell, it's a headline that shouldn't have got through, but did," Cater said.

"It was deeply embarrassing because of the subject matter and because of the emotive and offensive nature of the words in the headline."

In a statement, Cater further distanced the publication from the offensive headline, and said he would review the procedures that failed to pick it up before the magazine went to print.

"It is extremely regrettable that a poor headline written against the pressure of deadline has let our readers down. At the very least, there should have been quote marks to indicate it was a view not fact."

Cater said the slip-up did not represent a change to The Australian's editorial support for Israel


Anti-Semite's appeal dismissed

PERTH, 14 May – A man sentenced in a Western Australian court last January for racially vilifying Jews has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Brendan Lee O'Connell was the first person to be jailed under Western Australia's racial vilification laws after being convicted on six counts of anti-Jewish harassment and vilification.

The charges stemmed from O'Connell posting footage on the internet in 2009 of a verbal altercation between himself and then Australasian Union of Jewish Student members Stanley Keyser and Timothy Peach, who were handing out pro-Israel literature at a Friends of Palestine rally.

Alongside the footage he also filmed a piece to camera in which he vilified and threatened Jews.

In dismissing O'Connell's appeal last Friday, Justice Robert Mazza said the original sentence, while high, was not unjust or unreasonable.

"The total effective sentence bore a proper relationship to his overall criminality," he wrote in his judgement.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said it came as no surprise the appeal was dismissed.

"Like everything else O'Connell has publicly advocated, the appeal was completely lacking in merit," he said.

"The 12-person jury who convicted O'Connell knew exactly what they were dealing with.

"His case illustrates how important it is to have criminal laws in place to deal with serious cases of racial vilification by those who are not ashamed to be identified as racists."

Court documents indicate that during his initial trial O'Connell was often disrespectful, labelling the trial a "kangaroo court", addressing the judge as "adjudicator", "De Fuhrer" and "Comrade Stalin", and disrupting the prosecution's closing address several times.

"The appellant is completely without remorse," the documents stated.

"His testimony at trial shows that he is proud of what he has done and regards it as his duty to speak and act out in the manner that he has.

"There is no indication that the appellant has any insight into his views and behaviour. His recalcitrant stance indicates that he poses a risk of further such offending in the future."


Community Recognition Award in its 34th Year

MELBOURNE, 14 May - B'nai B'rith in Victoria instituted the Menorah Awards over three decades ago, which recognised and honoured "unsUng " heros in the community, who gave many year of selfless volunteer service to the community, but were unseen by the community at large for their services.

Every year four recipients were recognised. This year, the 34th year, four more indivuduals were honoured, for work with the Council of Christians and Jews, work for Jewish Welfare; running a Jewish Opportunity Shop, and decades of work with an organisation for Autistic Children.

The Menorah Awards have become an important aspect of the Jewish Communal Calendar in Melbourne.



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