Victims Respond Angrily to Comments by Former Yeshivah Leader Nechama Bendet

Manny Waks
December 15, 2016

Victims of child sexual abuse at Yeshivah Centre Melbourne are outraged and appalled at comments by former Yeshivah General Manager and Trustee Mrs Nechama Bendet to the Australian Jewish News (16 December 2016 – see below from print version, may not be viewable from mobile devices).

Responding to calls for her to be stood down from Yeshivah's senior management in the wake of the recent findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Bendet was quoted in the newspaper as follows: "I vehemently deny that I breached any legal or moral obligation to victims of child sex abuse. The Royal Commission made no such findings about me”. Bendet went on to say that she had “personally apologised and reached out to victims of child sexual abuse”.

Following the Commission's public hearing into Yeshivah in February 2015, Bendet stated that she would resign as a Trustee of Yeshivah, which she eventually did, but has remained a member of its senior management.

The findings of the Commission, handed down in October 2016, included:

'that there was a marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of child sexual abuse and their families within Yeshivah Melbourne. Halachic principles were stridently – even if incorrectly applied. Criticism of those that spoke out was forceful';

'The leadership did not create an environment conducive to the communication of information about child sexual abuse. If anything, the mixed messages were likely to have produced inaction'; and

'If the Yeshivah Melbourne...had shown leadership, survivors of sexual abuse and their families and supporters might have received a very different response from the members of the Yeshivah Melbourne community'.

The Commission heard evidence that Bendet had personally labelled two victims of abuse as mosers, a derogatory term for a Jew who informs on other Jews to secular authorities. Bendet gave evidence that she could not recall using that term.

During the public hearing, Bendet apologised to Yeshivah victim and advocate Manny Waks and told the Commission the apology was for 'Yeshivah's mishandling of the abuse'.

According to Waks, the sincerity of that apology and Bendet's evidence to the Commission must now be brought into question. “Either she apologises and takes responsibility for the horrific failures of the Centre which she was managing or she doesn't”, Waks said. “She can't have it both ways, unless she considers that the failures uncovered by the Royal Commission in respect of child sexual abuse do not amount to breaches of moral obligations”.

Waks and other Yeshivah victims reiterated their call for Bendet to be immediately stood down from her role at Yeshivah in light of the Royal Commission's findings. “Bendet’s ongoing involvement causes unnecessary suffering to victims but also, in our view, denies the Yeshivah Centre and the community the opportunity to claim that it has learned from the past and moved forward from those failures.”








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