Fresh revelations of paedophilia perpetrated by an Orthodox rabbi have arisen in Melbourne’s Jewish community.
The following message was distributed by Manny Waks via his Facebook page on November 4 2012. I encourage anyone who has any relevant information to come forward to the police. Manny has requested any direct contact with him to be via Facebook Messenger.
Over the year or so since I went public with my story of child sexual abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah, I’ve been entrusted with allegations relating to numerous other victims/perpetrators.
I want to share one of these with you. A prominent Jewish Australian who’s a household name, informed me that during his Bar-Mitzvah classes (several decades ago) at an Orthodox synagogue (not ultra-Orthodox), the prominent and highly respected rabbi (who for the time being will remain nameless) would expose himself and masturbate in front of him. At this stage, decades later, the victim still does not want to share his story with the police – as he told me, even his parents aren’t aware of his experience.
The reason I’ve elected to share this particular serious allegation is to point out a number of important points:
• anyone can be a victim;
• anyone can be a perpetrator;
• it is not just a Yeshivah/Adass/ultra-Orthodox issue; and
• many victims are still reluctant to share their experience with anyone, including family members and the police.
After holding discussions with the police on this matter, they have advised that they are unable to take any action, as the victim must provide a statement. Consistent with the way paedophiles work, it is reasonable to assume that this prominent rabbi would have done similar things to other children.
So I urge anyone who was also exposed to any such experience, especially similar to the story described above, to report the matter to the police – of course if you are aware of any other cases of sexual abuse, whether perpetrated against you or anyone else, please report this information to the police. It’s important that they are informed of everything so that they can have a broader picture of what has been happening. Because the picture that I currently have is very grim – in my opinion it’s not a question of whether instances of abuse were on a similar scale to the Catholic Church but rather whether this will all become public…..
Contact details (Melbourne, Australia):
Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team
(03) 9556 6129
Detective Senior Constable Jonathan RUSSELL (or others in the team)
If you’re reluctant to make a confidential statement to the police, please realise that you’re not alone – it’s common! But please consider that if you go to the police, you’ll be:
• pursuing justice;
• assisting other past victims; and
• protecting potential victims.
Please feel free to contact me in complete confidence if I can be of any assistance.
On July 27 2011 I had a conversation with Manny Waks, then president of the Canberra Jewish Community and a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, in which he agreed to sponsor a motion at the 2011 AGM of the ECAJ promoting greater respect of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Australia’s Jewish community.
Four months later, on November 27 2011, the following resolution was unanimously passed at the ECAJ AGM:
Policy on counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual andtransgender persons
RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;
CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the aforesaid principles;
OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;
ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and
CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.
This motion passed by the ECAJ joins similar motions passed by the Victorian, New South Wales and ACT Jewish communities. Whilst time will tell how effective these motions will be in helping provide a safer and more tolerant place for GLBT Australians, I am confident that this milestone in the history of Australian Jewry will help pave the way to a greater understanding, acceptance and inclusion of GLBT people.
On July 27, 2011 I asked the president of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Jewish Community, Manny Waks, if his organisation could adopt a motion supporting respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in his local community. Within a few hours the response was that he would indeed pursue this initiative.
Just a few hours ago I received the following message from Manny Waks:
I’m pleased to advise you that the GLBT Motion was passed at last night’s ACT Jewish Community’s Board meeting.
This is excellent news. The ACT Jewish Community now joins the NSW and Victorian Jewish communities in their attempts to promote a more respectful and accepting environment for GLBT people. See above for the policy wording.
I truly hope that these words can be turned into positive actions over the coming months and years. Whilst there are significant hurdles to be overcome before homosexuality and bisexuality are considered remotely acceptable by Orthodox Judaism, it’s policies like these that will send the message that it’s unacceptable to treat people disrespectfully or in a discriminatory manner because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It’s a brave person to admit publicly they’ve been the victim of sexual abuse. Making this admission in a small close-knit community is even more courageous; few do it.
Manny Waks has shown he’s a person who stands by his convictions, someone not afraid to say it how it is. Forthrightness is a quality I admire.
In Manny’s response to the statements from Yeshivah and the JCCV, he makes some comments that are especially insightful.
While Yeshivah’s reluctance to fully cooperate with the investigation is somewhat understandable as it attempts to maintain its reputation – although completely unacceptable – the JCCV’s silence on this issue has been bewildering and outrageous. It indicates that there is a major gap in leadership in the Victorian Jewish community. No one was willing to stand up when it counted – this from an organisation that claims to be the voice of Victorian Jewry.
No victim would be interested in seeking assistance or support from an organisation that lacks moral leadership. Furthermore, the JCCV’s recommendation to seek assistance and support also from the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence, a group that has proved itself to be primarily a Yeshivah apologist, is further alienating.
What is most revealing about Manny’s observation of the JCCV is that it parallels my experience with the same organisation. This confirms to me that there are some fundamental deficiencies with the JCCV. Address these and we can start to identify and then tackle the underlying harms that exist within the community, rather than just remedy them in a superficial manner.