Rabbi: More Police Checks Needed

By Dalia Sable and Naomi Levin (Australian Jewish News)
July 25, 2011

A senior community rabbi has suggested all Jewish community workers and volunteers apply for a police Working with Children Check, regardless of whether or not they directly supervise children.

Speaking in the wake of allegations about child abuse at Yeshivah College in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant (pictured), the immediate past president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, rabbi at Jewish Care and Victoria Police chaplain, said all community workers should get a Working with Children Check, including synagogue board members and synagogue staff.

Rabbi Kluwgant suggested parents even ask to see a Working with Children Check before employing a bar mitzvah teacher for their son.

"Recent events overseas and the media coverage locally serve as a timely reminder of our need to be vigilant when it comes to protecting our children from predators," he said.

Rabbi Kluwgant conceded, though, that the police checks might not be enough. "The sad reality is that the abuser could very well be the kind man next door, a close friend we take out for lunch, or indeed a trusted official who no-one would believe to be a predator," he said.

Maccabi Victoria president Miles Clemans, whose organisation boasts 3000 junior members, went a step further.

He confirmed Maccabi is strict on ensuring volunteers have Working with Children Checks, however, these checks do not go far enough, he said.

With the support of donors, Clemans announced the Jewish sporting body is striving for accreditation with the Australian Council for Children and Youth Organisation's Safeguarding Children Program.

"This goes much further than Working with Children Checks and talks about management of child issues," he told The AJN. "It's a whole framework of how to manage child-related issues, and it has significant compliance requirements."

Ellie Golvan, president of the Australian Zionist Youth Council said her organisation, like Maccabi, insisted on Working with Children Checks, and was also following the Safeguarding Children Program.

The AJN questioned other Jewish organisations, as to their stance on Working with Children Checks.

Betar emissary Tal Jabotinsky said the Zionist youth movement is firm on the policy. "A full Working with Children Check is mandatory and something we enforce religiously," she said. "No leader is allowed on camp without one."

Lamdeni Hebrew School's Rabbi Motty Liberow said the checks are a "basic requirement" for anybody working at its after-school program or its holiday camps, as did the United Jewish Education Board's managing director Deon Kamien.

When it comes to synagogues, a spokesperson for Temple Beth Israel said all staff at the large Jewish centre, even staff in administration, are required to have the checks.

Spiritgrow director Rabbi Menachem Wolf – who also runs a range of youth programs – said the synagogue insists all staff who have dealings with children get checked.

In Victoria, it is a criminal offence for an employer or volunteer to directly supervise children without a Working with Children Check.