Community Leader Sexual Assault Victim

July 8, 2001

Manny Waks, a Canberra-based vice-president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was one of the children sexually assaulted at Melbourne's Yeshiva College between 1989 and 1993. He tells J-Wire of his experience...

from Manny Waks...

Following the recent developments in relation to allegations of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College in Melbourne, and the exposure of the (Rabbi) David Kramer case, I have decided to publicly come forward as one of the many victims of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College. When I made a formal complaint with Victoria Police in 1996, it was in the hope that justice would be done. While this desire seems to finally be close to realisation, it has taken 15 long years since the formal complaint was lodged and over 20 years since the incidents occurred.

I was a victim of two separate perpetrators at Yeshivah College and I have been working closely with the Police in dealing with their investigation subsequent to the exposure of the Kramer case. While the only perpetrator named in the media so far is Kramer, I can confirm that Victoria Police is currently in the process of undertaking a major investigation into numerous sexual abuse cases at Yeshivah. There are both multiple perpetrators and victims involved in this investigation.

Based on reliable information I have, it is anticipated that arrest(s) will be conducted very soon. This is certainly a move I have been anticipating for many years and will welcome once it occurs.

There are two fundamental reasons why I have decided to share my information publicly.

Firstly, this is about justice and closure – both for myself and other victims. I intend to hold both the perpetrators and Yeshivah Centre to account, the latter for persuading victims to remain silent and not taking appropriate action subsequent to the crimes occurring. The most important people in this tragedy are the many victims that have been abused and betrayed by the perpetrators and Yeshivah Centre many times over. The victims need and deserve justice and closure.

Further, it is also my hope that as I take a public stand on this matter, it may embolden other victims to lodge a complaint with the police. As I hold central leadership positions within the Jewish community, it is my hope that I may also help change the stigma associated with victims of such crimes and thereby further embolden other victims to seek the justice that they rightly deserve. I have been informed that there are many, many additional victims out there, some of whom I personally know. Some of these victims apparently have not shared their experiences even with their wives/families.

While the perpetrators' responsibilities are obvious, the negligence of Yeshivah Centre must be seriously addressed, both in terms of seeking justice for what did occur, and in terms of preventing such cases from reoccurring. Whether or not there was no mandatory reporting at the time of the crimes in question is irrelevant – despite recent statements by the Yeshivah Centre in trying to defend the indefensible. Moreover, Yeshivah Centre should have done everything within their power to address the matter with victims. At the very least, and as an immediate course of action, the perpetrators should have been prevented from gaining ongoing access to children. This lack of basic action is what has ultimately led to perpetrators reoffending and the tally of victims rising.

I do not seek sympathy but rather understanding and support for deciding to bring this important and sensitive issue into the public domain and I would like to note that support for this decision has come from many individuals from all parts of the Jewish community, including the Yeshivah Community.

I would also like to note the good work that is carried out by Yeshiva and the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide movement, as well as my great respect for the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson and his legacy.

Nevertheless, the core value of justice, and the protection of our children, must be the focus as we confront these issues. By taking action we, as a community, take responsibility by helping prevent further incidents of sexual abuse from taking place in the future. The law of mesira, that has been ubiquitously discussed, does not apply to cases of abuse, and Rabbis worldwide do indeed encourage reporting these cases to the police.

For the ultimate good of our community and for the sake of justice, closure and security for our children, I believe that this process is necessary.

Finally, I would again urge other victims to seek justice by contacting the police and to encourage them to see the help they may require."

Editor's Note:

Manny Waks is a Vice-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry , President of the ACT Jewish Community, Governor of the NSW Jewish Communal Appeal Board of Governors and Founder and Executive Director of the Capital Jewish Forum.

Waks lives in Canberra with his wife and three sons. He told J-Wire: "My experience will in no way impact my decision where to send my kids for their formal education – it will ensure that I am always vigilant with these matters and take appropriate measures where necessary."

Victorian Police are appealing to anyone who may have information or indeed may have been victims of sexual abuse during the period between 1989 and 1993. They have also launched an investigation into sexual abuse at the Adass Yisroel girls' school n Elsternwick whose principal Malka Leifer fled to Israel in 2008.

David Kramer went back to the US where he was arrested and is currently serving a prison sentence for sexual assaults on children.

Acting Detective Sergeant Scott Dywer has asked anyone with information to contact him at the Moorabin Sexual Offences Unit on 03 9556 6128

J-Wire attempted to contact Rabbi Yoshua Smukler, principal of the Yeshiva College. A family member said he was away