Leadership changes at Yeshivah Centre forbidden after abuse probe

By Shannon Deery (Herald Sun)
February 1, 2016

Melbourne's troubled Yeshivah Centre has been banned from making changes to the school's leadership in the wake of its sexual abuse crisis.

Following a damning probe by the child abuse royal commission last year the centre announced it would replace its board of trustees and committee of management.

Many of the centre's leaders were blamed for decades of cover-ups that led to an epidemic of sexual abuse that has shamed the Yeshivah community.

A string of former staff members have been jailed in recent years for heinous crimes committed against children.

A Governance Review Panel was setup to create a new constitution for the centre with all trustees and the interim committee of management expected be stood down by last December.

But in a letter from Chabad headquarters in New York, the orthodox Jewish movement which oversees the Yeshivah Centre, the trustees have been barred from taking action.

The letter, written last week and given to the Herald Sun today, is penned by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, a New York Rabbi considered one of Chabad's most senior figures.

In it he says the New York headquarters was alarmed after receiving a copy of the proposed future structure of the Yeshivah Centre.

"There cannot be any change in the overarching authority under which these institutions were established and have functioned all the years," Rabbi Krinsky said.

"The trustees of a Lubavitch institution are put in place and entrusted to ensure this hierarchical structure and they have neither the right nor power to do otherwise."

Rabbi Krinsky said a New York former committee would travel to Melbourne over "these most critical matters ... if they find it necessary".

The letter has sparked anger among the community with victims slamming it as a stopping attempts to clean up the troubled Yeshivah Centre.

"It's the first time headquarters has made any comment on the royal commission or sexual abuse crisis, and its aimed at stopping progress," one victim said.

Ahead of the royal commission hearings last year the New York headquarters hit the headlines after shunning the hearings saying he was too busy to talk about it.

In a snub to sex assault victims, New York-based rabbi Abraham Shemtov, refused to discuss evidence given during a two-week probe into the Yeshivah Centre.

When first contacted by the Sunday Herald Sun, Rabbi Shemtov, No. 2 in the Chabad hierarchy, said he was in a meeting and could not talk.

He ignored further correspondence and did not return calls.

The New York headquarters appoints and delists emissaries to Australia, and is responsible for the worldwide movement.

"Chabad leaders say nothing about abuse, do nothing about abuse and just let things continue the way they always have," one victim said.