By Melissa Davey (The Guardian)
March 11, 2015
Four weeks after giving evidence before a royal commission, victims of child sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish Yeshivah centres in Melbourne say they are frustrated by a lack of action by senior centre staff.
In an open letter directed to Yeshivah management in Melbourne and published on Wednesday, 11 abuse victims said they were dismayed by a lack of resignations following the hearings, during which it was revealed senior staff knew about the abuse, but did nothing.
Last month, the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse held public hearings at Melbourne’s county court to examine the way the Yeshivah centres, which run schools, religious activities and youth groups in Sydney and Melbourne, responded to child sex abuse in their community.
Rabbis' absolute power: how sex abuse tore apart Australia's Orthodox Jewish community
“It is astounding and a further indictment on the Yeshivah Centre that no genuine public action has been taken to date by your institution in response to the royal commission public hearing,” the letter said.
“As those who have suffered most at your institution’s hands, we would like to once again register our shock and pain at the Yeshivah Centre’s continued mishandling of this ongoing scandal.
“We strongly believe that the removal of yourselves, as well as key staff and volunteers from the Yeshivah Centre who have been implicated in any way in this ongoing scandal, is now required.”
Among the signatories was Manny Waks, who told the commission about the abusive emails and messages he received from senior members of the Orthodox Jewish community since going public about his abuse in 2011.
He was unsupported by senior Yeshivah staff, he said, and ostracised by the community, ultimately deciding to leave the country.
Waks told Guardian Australia on Wednesday that it was “frustrating, disappointing and hurtful” to see the way Yeshivah has continued to mishandle this issue.
“I genuinely believed they had learned something from the past few years as highlighted at the public hearing,” he said.
“It seems to me that very little if anything has changed.
“I hoped and expected that moving forward my role would be to only heap praise on Yeshivah for their shift in approach. Sadly I was wrong. The fact that so many past Yeshivah victims felt compelled to issue such a letter should highlight the incredible pain and suffering they continue to inflict upon so many of us.”
Since the hearings, Waks said he had been contacted by several more victims from within the Jewish community.
A Yeshivah Melbourne spokesman said the centre would not be responding to the letter. “We will have an announcement about substantive initiatives in the coming days,” he said.
A spokesman for Yeshivah Sydney, Rabbi Eli Feldman, said a voluntary workshop on recognising and responding to child sexual abuse had been offered to members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW.
About 30 rabbis and their wives had attended the workshop, he said, including Rabbi Yosef Feldman, who resigned from his position as director of the Melbourne Yeshivah Centre after being widely criticised for evidence he gave to the royal commission.