Australia’s Chabad reeling after Royal Commission into sexual abuse
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Australia’s Chabad reeling after Royal Commission into sexual abuse

B9EGLmTCIAEWvATThe Orthodox Jewish world this week seemed ready to admit that external agencies were needed to investigate child sex abuse allegations, after a Royal Commission in Australia heard victims were now being “isolated”.

Reaction follows the historic Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, which held a public hearing for Chabad institutions after staff members were convicted of sexually abusing students. 

Commissioners are looking into the lack of response after abuse allegations against several men were made in the 1980s and 1990s to officials of the Yeshivah Centres in Melbourne and Sydney.

Israel’s Chabad spokesman Menachem Brod said: “In the past the thought was these problems could be handled within the community or family, today it is clear that the professional elements are the only ones who can root out this disease.”

In the past few months former Chabad officials David Kramer and Davis Cyprys have each been jailed while a third man, Aron Kestecher, committed suicide. Kramer’s victims were aged 10-11 while Cyprys abused children as young as seven. Elsewhere Daniel Hayman, a former director of Yeshiva College Bondi, was given a 19-month suspended jail sentence for indecent assault of a 14-year-old student.

Commissioners heard how perpetrators often ran extra-curricular activities such as martial arts classes, religious programmes and overnight youth camps and that victims, many of whom gave tearful evidence, often came up against resistance.

Manny Waks said he told then-yeshiva head Rabbi Dovid Groner of the abuse at the time but “he practically pleaded with me not to pursue the matter”. He said his family had since faced a backlash for “breaking the Chabad code of silence”.

The wife of one of Cyprys’ whistleblower victims, who has remained anonymous, told the hearing that she now felt “hated and isolated”. 

She added: “Well beyond the horrible acts of the perpetrators against my husband that had ripped the rug of security, certainty and innocence out from his childhood, we are being screwed once more by the adolescent self-serving and callous response of the community.”

“The entire society is undergoing a welcome process of understanding the extent of the severity of sexual abuse,” said Brod, adding that Chabad’s policy was for allegations of abuse to be reported to the authorities.

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