“He has absolutely no morals,” Samuel Israel’s now-grown victim told the packed courtroom, as her abuser hung his head at the defense table, avoiding eye contact.
“He stole my innocence, and my childhood. I was 10-years-old at the time he started to sexually abuse me. He groomed me to the point where I didn’t know it was wrong or, at 10-years-old, how sick it was,” she stated.
The woman, who is now married with two children, said Israel molested her until she was 16, taking her on trips with his family and buying her silence with lavish gifts. She told Judge Matthew D’Emic she felt alienated from her peers, because while they were talking about school or their weekend plans, Israel “was having oral sex with me.”
“I felt like it was my fault,” she said “I felt dirty.”
Israel, who declined to speak before sentencing, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sex act and witness tampering in July in exchange for the lesser sentence.
He also confessed to hiring onetime reality TV gumshoe Vincent Parco to try to scare his victim out of taking the stand.
The Yeshivah community have chosen the Jewish month of Elul, traditionally a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days, to once again deliver a huge slap in the face to child sexual abuse victims and in particular, to those who have suffered as a result of (Rabbi) Zvi Hirsch Telsner by appointing the disgraced Rabbi to ‘perform non-congregational/non-pulpit duties’.
In 2015, Telsner resigned his role at Yeshivah and admitted that his own ‘conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate…values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a Rabbi’ in his position. And yet, at a time when other community institutions are avoiding being associated with those implicated in the child sexual abuse scandal in our community, it is Yeshivah alone, the institution responsible for the rape and abuse of dozens of children in its care, that considers it appropriate to reward Telsner with a new contract.
That this appointment should be made under the guise of being ‘motivated by a genuine desire to move forward’ is cynical and offensive. That the announcement should fail to acknowledge the pain and suffering inflicted by Telsner on child sexual abuse victims and the embarrassment that he has caused the entire Jewish community is a reflection on just how out of touch and insensitive the Yeshivah Board remains.
Telsner’s re-appointment sends a clear message to the community that no matter how badly or how violently you attack child sexual abuse victims, Yeshivah will take little, if any, action. And it also sends a message to victims – that Yeshivah still do not ‘get it’ and you will find no support from within that community.
Despite all of the injustice that Yeshivah’s victims have experienced, it is again apparent that the Yeshivah community is determined to prolong our suffering by denying us the justice that comes with holding to account those who have hurt us.
Sadly, this has been the attitude of successive leaders of Yeshivah. Very little seems to have changed culturally and many are asking if Yeshivah can really ever change.
We call on Yeshivah to belatedly do the right thing and immediately disassociate itself from Telsner.
Since Yeshivah’s personal apology to Victims’ Advocate Manny Waks and their Redress Scheme announcement, Waks has occasionally engaged with the Yeshivah leadership. Due to Telsner’s re-appointment, Waks has decided to sever ties with the Yeshivah leadership.
Yeshivah Centre public announcement:
As you know, settling the matter of Rabbi of the main Yeshivah Shule, has been top priority of the CIVL Board.
We have considered feedback received from many groups of stakeholders including CIVL [Chabad Institutions of Victoria] members, broader Yeshivah community members, the other Moisdois [religious institutions], Halachic [Jewish Law] authorities, legal authorities, political entities, donors and supporters in the wider Jewish community etc.
Motivated by a genuine desire to move forward, we have been in comprehensive discussions with Rabbi Telsner and Rabbi Telsner has shown great support in enabling Rabbinical renewal within the main Yeshivah Shule and broader institutions.
Rabbi Telsner and the Board have reached a mutually beneficial agreement. Rabbi Telsner does not and will not be holding any formal position within the Shule. The Board recognises Rabbi Telsner’s value to the community and as such, the CIVL Board has chosen to retain Rabbi Telsner to perform non-congregational/non-pulpit duties.
Members of our community may choose to engage Rabbi Telsner in an individual and private capacity going forward.
The CIVL Board will now embark on the process of engaging a new Rabbi.
Ksiva Vachasima Tova [traditional Jewish New Year blessing]
The Board of CIVL (Chabad Institutions of Victoria Ltd)
Rabbi CT Groner
Rabbi B Serebryanski
Rabbi CD Wilhelm
The RCV welcomes the recent apology and retraction issued by Mr Manny Waks for posting false and inaccurate statements about an individual in our community on the Tzedek website and in the social media. Mr Waks has admitted that he believes that this individual was completely innocent of these allegations at all times. The RCV notes with concern that the publication of the defamatory matters over which he has apologised, has true capacity to cause untold harm to individuals, their family members, and to the whole of the community. The RCV would urge Mr Waks and the Board of Tzedek to give serious consideration to his position, as well as the practises that led to the publication of those damaging and defamatory comments. The RCV reiterates its long-held position that victims and individuals with credible information about child sexual abuse should take these matters to the police and other relevant authorities. END Queries to be directed to the Executive Director of the RCV at firstname.lastname@example.orgPostal Address: C/o 619 St Kilda Rd Melbourne VIC 3004 T:0425 808 789E:email@example.comW:www.rcv.org.auRabbinical Council of Victoria Inc. Reg. No. A0042905Y
Last week, recently-appointed Adass Israel School Principal (Melbourne, Australia), (Rabbi) Meir Shlomo Kluwgant provided a statement to the Australian Jewish News in which he stated ‘any allegations beyond the highly regrettable text that was referred to in the Royal Commission, which led to me resigning my professional and communal positions in 2015 are utterly baseless’.
As we all know, Kluwgant was caught at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s public hearing sending a text message attacking my family and shifting blame to my father for the sexual abuse of three of his children at the Yeshivah Centre (which he initially said he couldn’t recall sending), and was accused of telling another victim not to engage with police. He rightly lost several senior professional and communal positions.
After the Royal Commission, it emerged that this was part of a wider pattern of behaviour by Kluwgant in which he repeatedly, knowingly and falsely attacked people’s families and abused his positions of authority when dealing with matters relating to child sexual abuse. This was his modus operandi.
Here is a story, most of which is included in my book.
In 2014, a year before the Royal Commission, I was approached by an individual who claimed that he had been raped by former Yeshivah Principal, Rabbi Abraham Glick, while attending Yeshivah. I assisted this individual in the same way I would assist anybody who approached me with such allegations. As the matter progressed, Rabbi Glick was questioned by police who did not have enough evidence at the time to charge him. Subsequently Rabbi Glick sued me for defamation, and the matter was settled out of court with a public apology on my part (as was noted in my book, and with the authorisation of Rabbi Glick, it was a technical apology in order to resolve the matter between us).
In response, Kluwgant, Glick’s nephew who occupied the role of President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV), immediately issued a public statement condemning me on behalf of the RCV which stated in part: ‘The RCV notes with concern that the publication of the defamatory matters over which he has apologised, has true capacity to cause untold harm to individuals, their family members, and to the whole of the community’. ‘The RCV reiterates its long-held position that victims and individuals with credible information about child sexual abuse should take these matters to the police and other relevant authorities.’
RCV Media Release:
2nd Nissan 5774
2 April 2014
The RCV welcomes the recent apology and retraction issued by Mr Manny Waks for posting false and inaccurate statements about an individual in our community on the Tzedek website and in the social media.
Mr Waks has admitted that he believes that this individual was completely innocent of these allegations at all times.
The RCV notes with concern that the publication of the defamatory matters over which he has apologised, has true capacity to cause untold harm to individuals, their family members, and to the whole of the community.
The RCV would urge Mr Waks and the Board of Tzedek to give serious consideration to his position, as well as the practises that led to the publication of those damaging and defamatory comments.
The RCV reiterates its long-held position that victims and individuals with credible information about child sexual abuse should take these matters to the police and other relevant authorities.
Kluwgant was then challenged by a supporter of mine who sent an email to him and a number of members of the RCV asking, among other things, why the RCV was involving itself in a private civil dispute between two members of the community who had nothing to do with the RCV, whether Kluwgant had been involved in the issuing of the RCV statement given his obvious conflict and whether the RCV was prepared to comment on the conduct of Rabbi Glick or Yeshivah in protecting paedophiles and covering up child sexual abuse. Not surprisingly, my friend did not receive an adequate response.
Fast forward to early 2015 and in the days immediately following the Royal Commission, after the entire community and Rabbinate had seen Kluwgant’s true character exposed, my friend received a phone call from a rabbi on the RCV.
“You remember that email you sent to us a year ago after we put out a statement on the Glick allegations?” he said. “I want to tell you what Kluwgant did. He forwarded that email to me and others and falsely stated that a close member of your family used to be a teacher and had sexually abused students and therefore we should ignore everything you have to say because you associate with paedophiles.”
“I know that is untrue,” the Rabbi continued, “and I will give you all of the evidence you need to sue Kluwgant because he is unfit to be a rabbi.”
At least when an allegation is made publicly, the person has the opportunity to defend themselves. When the allegation is made behind someone’s back, as Kluwgant prefers to do, the person is not afforded that chance. For Kluwgant to have acted so hypocritically and irreligiously only hours after issuing a public statement about the harm caused by false allegations speaks volumes of his character.
But the story gets worse. A few days later, and literally a week after the conclusion of the Royal Commission, my friend received a phone call by coincidence (or as we were taught in Chabad: HaShgochoh Protis/Divine Providence) from Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Kluwgant’s first cousin and current President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand. Rabbi Glasman said that Kluwgant was feeling extremely remorseful after the events of the Royal Commission and wanted to make things right with people. He asked if my friend could come over to Kluwgant’s house that evening as Kluwgant wanted to smooth things over. My friend immediately agreed. Rabbi Glasman did not know that my friend had been provided with a copy of the defamatory email which Kluwgant had sent, and Kluwgant did not know that my friend had a copy of it with him when he went to his house that evening.
Kluwgant invited my friend inside and they sat down. Kluwgant began, “I have heard on the grapevine that you have some issues with me and I just want to make it absolutely clear that I have never done anything to give you or your family any reason to be upset with me.”
Stunned, my friend replied, “please think very carefully about that statement as I don’t want you to tell me in a minute that I haven’t given you every opportunity to come clean if there is anything you want to get off your chest.”
“I swear to you, I have never done anything to you or your family,” Kluwgant continued.
My friend took the email out of his pocket and showed it to Kluwgant. “Oh my gosh,” Kluwgant said. “How did you get that? It was supposed to be confidential!”
Kluwgant started crying and begged forgiveness. He said his life had been ruined, his son was getting married soon and he was about to become a grandfather. He asked whether they could just tear up the email and pretend it never happened. My friend told him that he was a “fucking liar and a fraud” and that it was like he had just watched the Royal Commission again.
My friend sued Kluwgant for defamation and the matter settled out of court with Kluwgant admitting that he had not believed the allegations he made to be true and being forced to tell everyone to whom he had made the false allegations that he was a liar.
Only a few months ago, to their absolute credit, the Executive of the RCV which includes many Chabad rabbis, formally apologised to my friend and his family for Kluwgant’s conduct.
“The RCV did not authorise and would not authorise such conduct and disavows and distances itself from (Rabbi) Kluwgant’s conduct and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.’
Another example of Kluwgant’s hypocrisy (The Australian Jewish News)
I share the above story not for the purpose of embarrassing Kluwgant and his family – he has done a good enough job of that himself – but in the interests of child safety and ensuring that the Adass community are able to make an informed choice when they meet to determine Kluwgant’s future (apparently next week). If Kluwgant continues in the role of Principal of Adass, this is the type of conduct that staff should fear.
As any expert will tell you, administering a child safe organisation and navigating the challenges which can arise in dealing with issues around child safety and mandatory reporting, requires a certain level of integrity and honesty. Kluwgant has shown time and again that he is unfit and that children, and staff would not be safe in an environment in which he was Principal.
It is my sincere hope and understanding that even without the above information, the Adass community will remove Kluwgant when they meet shortly. The endorsement of Rabbi Beck, which Kluwgant claims to have, appears to have been procured by certain members of the Adass Board without fully informing the Rabbi of Kluwgant’s history. Of course, fully appraised of Kluwgant’s history, no institution could ever consider him for a leadership role, particularly one involving children.
When this lunacy is over, I will again offer Kluwgant the opportunity to do teshuvah (repentance) and to understand the nature of his conduct, just as I did after the Royal Commission. Hopefully next time he will take me up on it.
Once he has done that, I will be the first to wish him all the best in furthering his career.
Last night Israeli Channel 2 broadcasted another horrifying story from Bnei Brak, where a number of parents believe that one of the teachers has been sexually abusing their children for a several years. When approached, the principal confirmed that the suspect “strokes children – it’s true, no doubt about it.”
Nevertheless, the parents are frightened to take the matter further. Unfortunately, due to the culture of silence in their community, not one of these parents has so far been willing to approach the police to make a formal complaint.
One parent was recorded anonymously. He told how, “My wife said to me, ‘Don’t do it. You’ll pay a heavy price. Why are you getting involved in this story?’”
“Three years now L is raping children and everybody’s silent! Is this Torah education?!” the parent added.
Racheli Roshgold of Lo Tishtok, an NGO which combats sexual violence in the Haredi community, said, “I have personally witnessed the absolute fear that reigns within this Chassidic sect. More people were in touch with me, but they adamantly refuse to be revealed, they’re not willing to go to the police, despite my attempts to persuade them. And they also explain with great pain why they are unable to speak to the police.”
The voice of another parent with a child in the school was also broadcast anonymously: “There’s nothing we can do, we’re frightened, we have nowhere else to send the children, if not this school. And they threatened us that if we go to the police or co-operate with the investigations, then they’ll kick us out of the system.”
Houses of worship and a person’s experience of their faith should be free of sexual abuse.
Shockingly, when victims of child sex abuse by religious leaders and other perpetrators come forward to seek justice and stop abusers from causing more harm, they are blocked by current New York State law. New York ranks among the very worst in the nation — alongside Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi — for how the courts and criminal justice system treat survivors of child sex abuse.
Mental health experts know it can take decades for a victim of this abuse to overcome the fear, shame, and trauma to be able to come forward to confront their abuser, but our current law allows survivors of abuse to pursue criminal or civil justice only until the age of 23 — a statute of limitations of, in some cases, only five years.
A bill called the Child Victims Act can change that at the upcoming session. It will extend or eliminate the statute of limitations so victims come forward and perpetrators can be prosecuted, helping victims get justice and taking unknown abusers off the streets. April and May are critical months for clergy to demand that officials introduce and vote for the bill.
Right now, many Republican members of the New York legislature are opposing the bill. Some religious institutions are pressuring legislators to reject the bill because it could mean holding them accountable. Religious groups and others are threatening to thwart the re-election of members if they pass the bill.
Clergy for Child Victims is mobilizing faith leaders to sign this petition to the governor letting the governor, state assembly, and state senate know that we stand behind the governor’s support of the bill. On May 9, a group of clergy will make a lobbying trip to Albany to try and get new legislation passed before budget negotiations start.
The Australian Federal Police have received a complaint by victims of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Centre in East St. Kilda that alleges Rabbi Chaim Tsvi Groner, a Member of the Yeshivah Board, knowingly provided false or misleading evidence to the Royal Commission last month.
Rabbi Groner told the Royal Commission that disgraced Rabbi Zvi Telsner did not ‘still occupy a position of leadership within the Yeshivah Centre’
Rabbi Groner was called to appear before the Royal Commission’s Case Study 53 last month, which followed an investigation into the Chabad run Jewish school by the Royal Commission in early 2015 which heard that Rabbi Zvi Telsner, as Head Rabbi of Yeshivah, had delivered sermons attacking child sexual abuse victims and their families, encouraging other members of the community to ostracise them and discouraging victims from reporting their abuse to the police or media.
Rabbi Telsner, who is the brother in law of Rabbi Groner, supposedly resigned his position as Head Rabbi in September 2015 after another attack on a victim of child sexual abuse and released a statement acknowledging that his ‘conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate the values or behavior…necessary of a Rabbi in my position’.
Giving evidence last month, Rabbi Groner told the Royal Commission that presently, ‘the full extent of [Rabbi Telsner’s] involvement in the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne’ is as a ‘congregant’ who ‘gives a few classes in the Synagogue’ and that Rabbi Telsner did not ‘still occupy a position of leadership within the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne’.
According to victims, Rabbi Telsner continues in the position of Head Rabbi despite ‘resignation’
In a complaint made to the Australian Federal Police and the Royal Commission last week, victims of abuse said that Rabbi Telsner remained extensively involved in the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne and continued to occupy its most senior leadership position.
In particular, Rabbi Telsner:
officiates at life cycle events of congregants – for example on 4 April 2017 Rabbi Telsner officiated at a wedding ceremony in which he was introduced by Rabbi Moshe Kahn (Director of Chabad Youth) as the Moreh D’atra (Head Rabbi and most senior halachic decision maker of the Yeshivah Centre);
together with Rabbi Groner, is the co-head of the Chabad Kashrut Committee in which they are responsible for determining the kosher status of food eaten by the Yeshivah community;
is seated in front of the congregation in the Head Rabbi’s seat during Synagogue services;
continues to be paid his regular salary as Head Rabbi;
maintains an office within the synagogue building;
delivers sermons from the pulpit during weekly and festival prayer services;
is waited on by congregants and prayer leaders before prayers commence as a congregation does for its Head Rabbi.
Victims allege Rabbi Groner knowingly gave false or misleading evidence to the Royal Commission
Victims have asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether Rabbi Groner’s evidence breached Section 6H of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) which makes it an offence to knowingly provide false or misleading evidence at a hearing before a Royal Commission. The Act provides:
(1) A person shall not, at a hearing before a Commission, intentionally give evidence that the person knows to be false or misleading with respect to any matter being a matter that is material to the inquiry being made by the Commission (2) An offence against subsection (1) is an indictable offence and subject to this section is punishable on conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years or by a fine not exceeding $20,000.
Continuing involvement of Rabbis Telsner and Groner with Yeshivah a source of ongoing trauma for victims
Victims who were sexually abused as children within Yeshivah cite the continuing involvement of Rabbis Telsner and Groner with Yeshivah as a source of ongoing trauma which makes it difficult for them to move on with their lives. They are disappointed that the Jewish community, donors and the Government continue to support and provide funding to Yeshivah despite its failure to hold these individuals to account over their roles in the child sexual abuse scandal.
Rabbi Groner was a Trustee of Yeshivah during the period in which victims were bullied and ostracised for speaking out. He is one of only two members of the old guard who did not resign in the wake of the Royal Commission’s revelations and instead, implemented a new governance structure in which he was given a permanent seat on the Board. Rabbi Groner is the son of the late Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, the long-time leader of Yeshivah, who was found by the Royal Commission to have ‘failed in his obligation to the students of Yeshivah’ by not acting upon complaints of child sexual abuse.
UPDATE: The AFP has responded – in part it reads:
I would like to advise you that further discussion has occurred between the AFP and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) regarding your allegations about false evidence provided to the Royal Commission by Rabbi Chaim Tsvi Groner. As a result of these discussions your information has been sent to the relevant area for assessment.
A Brooklyn dad claims the borough’s former district attorney Charles Hynes targeted him while cutting a sweetheart deal with a prominent rabbi accused of sexually abusing boys.
Samuel Kellner says in a federal civil rights lawsuit that Hynes falsely charged him with extortion after he led an effort to lock up Baruch Lebovits.
“The ‘investigation’ by Hynes into [Kellner] deviated so egregiously from acceptable law enforcement activity as to demonstrate an intentional or reckless disregard for proper procedures,” reads the lawsuit targeting Hynes and the city.
The sordid saga began in 2008 when Lebovits allegedly molested Kellner’s son.
A prosecutor told Kellner that the district attorney’s office wasn’t going to open an investigation because the alleged offense was a misdemeanor and there were no other known victims, the suit says.
But Kellner, working with a detective, found other boys who were preyed upon by Lebovits.
Hynes’ office launched a probe but Kellner claims the former DA did nothing when Lebovits’ supporters succeeded in convincing one of his victims to drop the case.
“Hynes’ deliberate indifference towards [the boy’s] plight and failure to protect him was part of a policy, custom and practice of deliberate indifference towards witness tampering and intimidation of victims of pedophiles and their families within the ultra-Orthodox community,” says the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Lebovits was ultimately convicted in March 2010 of multiple counts of sexual assault and sentenced to serve up to 32 years.
Kellner’s joy was short-lived.
He claims in the suit that Hynes quietly dismissed his son’s case against Lebovits in October 2010.
“The suffering and courage of a victim in coming forward to report his abuse meant nothing to Hynes,” Kellner’s attorney Niall Macgiollabhui wrote in the suit.
Things got worse for Kellner in April 2011 when he was charged with trying to blackmail Lebovits’ wealthy family and paying a man to falsely accuse the rabbi.
Hynes held a news conference trumpeting Kellner’s arrest.
Lebovits was sprung from jail the next day. His conviction was overturned in 2012.
“What is truly shocking is that instead of locking up pedophiles and protecting children, Hynes was instrumental in securing the release of a notorious predator from prison and dismissing the cases of two victims he and his office knew to have been abused,” Macgiollabhui told the Daily News.
“At some point Hynes will have to explain why he conspired in the shadows with the family of a convicted child rapist to undermine the conviction his own office had just secured.”
The criminal charges against Kellner were dropped in March 2014 after a prosecutor re-examining the case found inconsistencies in the accounts of two key witnesses.
Lebovits pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May 2014 and was sentenced to serve another year.
He was released after just 86 days.
Hynes’ lawyer did not return a request for comment.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it will review the complaint.
Kellner filed a defamation suit against the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in November 2014. That case was settled in January under a confidentiality agreement.