Houses of worship and a person’s experience of their faith should be free of sexual abuse.
Rabbi Ari Hart
19 April 2017
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:
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.
|Date||Time||Case no.||Case name||Jurisdiction||Court||Listing type||Presiding officer||Location||Court room||List no.|
|02 Mar||2:00 pm||2016/00040453||Yosef Yitzchak Feldman v Jeremy Spinak||Civil||Supreme Court||Mediation||
Supreme Court Sydney
King St Building
Level 1 King St
|02 Mar||2:00 pm||2016/00040435||Yosef Yitzchak Feldman v Executive Council of Australian Jewry Inc||Civil||Supreme Court||Mediation||
Supreme Court Sydney
King St Building
Level 1 King St
|02 Mar||2:00 pm||2016/00040450||Yosef Yitzchak Feldman v Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia Ltd ABN 35 140 866 655||Civil||Supreme Court||Mediation||
Supreme Court Sydney
King St Building
Level 1 King St
|07 Mar||9:30 am||2016/00192626||Warwick Susskind v Josef Yitzchak Feldman||Civil||Local Court||Review||
John Maddison Tower
Crt 7B Lvl 7 JMT
|10 Mar||9:30 am||2016/00045119||Yosef Yitzchak Feldman v IAC/InterActiveCorp||Civil||Supreme Court||Directions||
Supreme Court Sydney
|15 Mar||9:30 am||2016/00192626||Warwick Susskind v Josef Yitzchak Feldman||Civil||Local Court||Hearing||
Sydney Downing Centre
|24 Mar||9:30 am||2016/00038344||Yosef Yitzhak Feldman v Nationwide News Pty Limited||Civil||Supreme Court||Directions||
Supreme Court Sydney
Rabbi charged with rape, sexual assault, sodomy against a minor
|By JEREMY SHARON
In an indictment sheet of horrifying allegations, Rabbi David Harrison, who taught at the Beit Shulamit religious girls high school in Jerusalem, was charged with dozens of counts of rape, sodomy, sexual assault, assault and intimidation through threats against a former pupil, who was a minor at the time.
The complainant, a woman now aged 21, filed a charge of rape and other allegations against the rabbi at the beginning of the month claiming that they took place over a period of several months when she was 14.
Harrison has spent his career as a teacher and educator, and has also worked extensively performing wedding ceremonies for couples without a personal connection to a rabbi. Harrison began work at Beit Shulamit, in the Ramot neighborhood, as a part-time teacher in September 2007 but was fired in June 2010.
According to the indictment, Harrison, now 58, initiated direct contact with the complainant in December 2009, after he was her substitute teacher at Beit Shulamit.
A few days later, he met the pupil close to her classroom and asked her to accompany him to a staff room where he gave her worksheets to hand out to another class.
On this and several other occasions, Harrison allegedly touched the student on her hand, arm, stomach and chest, but apologized immediately for having touched her.
At a later stage, Harrison allegedly called the pupil to the same staff room used specifically by the rabbis of the school and which could be locked from the inside.
When she entered, Harrison allegedly locked the door behind her and told her to sit down, whereupon he took off his pants and underwear, and forced her to perform oral sex, while telling her that it was all right because he was a rabbi, that it was a secret between them and threatening to harm her if she told anyone.
In the next incident after this assault, Harrison allegedly met the girl at the entrance to the school and told her to come with him to a bomb shelter in the building, divided into two rooms. According to the indictment he pushed her into the inner room of the shelter, and told her to undress, slapping her in the face when he told her she was undressing too slowly.
He then hit her again, forced her to lie on a table in the room and then raped her. Afterwards he told her that she’d had fun, and that so had he, and that she had been a good girl. He again threatened to harm her and that he would tell everyone she was a prostitute if she spoke with anyone about what he had done.
According to the charge sheet, Harrison raped the girl between two and four times a week, including sodomy. On one occasion the day after he raped her, he forced her to swallow an emergency contraception or “morning after” pill.
During May 2010, the complainant was ill and was away from school. When she returned, Harrison allegedly ordered her to meet him in the shelter and scolded her for having been away without informing him.
He then allegedly ordered her to strip and beat her for several minutes, and then raped her once again.
The beatings occurred on other occasions as well, in which Harrison would kick the pupil, beat her with his belt, and in one incident threw a chair at her, bruising and scratching her.
Harrison would allegedly repeatedly threaten to harm her if she did not do as he instructed, and threatened to tell her parents and others that she had initiated sex with him and that they would believe him and not her because he was a rabbi.
He also threatened that he would have her expelled from school, that no other schools would accept her, and threatened to send other people to harm her and even kill her.
The state has requested that Harrison be incarcerated until the end of the legal proceedings against him.
The director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Orit Sulitzeanu, described the allegations as “outrageous and terrifying” and said that such crimes required a severe punishment.
“This criminal exploitation by an educator and religious figure is unforgivable,” said Sulitzeanu.
“This incident demonstrates the urgent need to ensure that advisers are placed in all educational frameworks who will be able to identify and deal with sexual violence, and for pupils to attend workshops for the prevention of sexual violence.”
Harrison denies the allegations against him and says he does not even know the woman.
We are surprised by this. You may be too.
The following is a link to a video regarding the obligation to report abuse.
The royal commission has delivered its findings into child abuse at Jewish institutions in Melbourne and Sydney, saying that abuse victims were let down by rabbis and their “confused” adherence to the Jewish law Mesirah, leaving them vulnerable to paedophiles.
The commission found many of the lead rabbis at Yeshiva Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi, as well as synagogues and schools in Sydney and Melbourne followed “a pattern of total inaction” that was wholly inadequate.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s findings vindicate whistle blower Manny Waks, who first exposed abuse within the strictly orthodox and insular sect.
Three commissioners found a “marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of abuse” and the incorrect application of Jewish law left those who spoke out criticised and isolated.
Mesirah is the religious concept stopping a Jewish person informing upon another to a secular authority. To do so would make them a “Moser”.
Those who spoke out where strongly criticised and confusion reigned about whether reporting abuse to police was forbidden, the report found.
“If anything, the mixed messages were likely to have produced inaction,” the report said.
Four victims of sexual abuse, along with leading rabbis within the Chabad movement, gave evidence about child abuse in Yeshiva Colleges and centres in Melbourne and Bondi last year.
Convicted paedophiles David Cyprys, Rabbi David Kramer and Daniel Hayman were all the subjects of allegations of abuse by parents and students between 1984 and 2000.
“It is perhaps unsurprising that a community described in the evidence as being insular, would be concerned by communication with those external to the community about child sexual abuse reportedly perpetrated by Jews,” the report said.
“We are satisfied that, for the period from 1984 to 2007, the Yeshiva College Melbourne did not have adequate policies, processes and practices for responding to complaints.”
Senior Sydney rabbi Yosef Feldman provoked controversy when he told the royal commission he would be “asking for more leniency” for reformed or inactive paedophiles
In its findings, the commission was critical of his ignorance about what constituted child abuse.
“Rabbi Feldman freely admitted to a lack of technical knowledge about child sexual abuse but expressed the belief that his ignorance was unimportant,” the report said.
He told the commission he believed child abuse to be “uncommon”.
“He did not hear of child sexual abuse or complaints of child sexual abuse ‘much’ and believed that ‘only’ 5 to 10 per cent of the community ‘are involved’ in child sexual abuse,” the report said.
Rabbi Feldman misunderstood what grooming was, describing it as “just talking to the child and trying to get close to him”, the commission found.
He also regarded the age of a victim to be important when assessing any allegation.
“The older you get, the less innocent you become and there could be a possibility,” he told the hearings.
“I could imagine that there could be false accusations with regards to teenagers, who are not so innocent.”
The commission found Rabbi Feldman believed that the conviction of a child abuser who was repentant would be unfair.
To read the article in its entirety click, here.
YESHIVA CENTER RESPONSE FROM THE PAGES OF MANNY WAKS:
30 November 2016
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Report of Case Study No. 22. The response of Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse made against people associated with those institutions
The Executive of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ), The Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (RCNSW) and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) are grateful for yesterday’s report by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse at Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne, and deeply distressed by its contents.
Child sexual abuse has caused unimaginable suffering to the victims in our community, and RCANZ, RCNSW and RCV and their members are totally committed to removing this scourge from our community and from our institutions. We offer our deepest sympathies to the victims and commit ourselves to learning from the failures of the past.
As the Royal Commission has made clear, child sexual abuse was allowed to continue because of actions and inaction by some rabbis and community leaders. Victims were not always believed or supported, adding to the trauma.
We restate a ruling that has been made many times before, that Jewish law requires all allegations of child sexual abuse to be reported immediately to the police and other relevant government authorities. We encourage all professionals working in the Jewish community whose work brings them into any contact with young people to receive specific and detailed training in child protection. We urge all synagogues and schools in our community to ensure proper governance procedures to oversee the work of their staff, to ensure that failings are identified and corrected.
We call on those who have been identified in the report as not fulfilling their legal obligations to protect children to stand down from their public positions. We believe that those who denigrated or undermined the victims have lost their moral right to serve as leaders in our communities. The Rabbinate must demonstrate that Judaism and the Jewish community will not tolerate child sexual abuse and those who perpetrate it, and must support those who have suffered.
We hope and pray that this report will help our community and others to keep children safe, and ensure that no child in the Jewish community, or throughout Australia, will ever again suffer the horrors of sexual abuse.
No member of the signatory bodies with a conflict of interest took part in the drafting of this statement. For further information please contact Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Secretary of RCANZ via firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR FURTHER READING:
29 November 2016
28 Cheshvan 5777
29th November, 2016
Dear Community Members
Today, the ‘Report of Case Study No. 22’ was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Yeshivah Centre is currently reviewing the Report and expects to make a more detailed statement in the near future.
As you are aware, in February 2015, the Yeshivah Centre was the subject of a Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’. This followed the incarceration of two perpetrators of child sexual abuse, both of whom held roles in different capacities at the Centre. The Commission focussed on the institutional response to these crimes.
The Yeshivah Centre deeply regrets its failure to protect those who were victims of child sexual abuse perpetrated by people in a position of trust in the Yeshivah Centre and its schools. We condemn any form of abuse and acknowledge the serious harm it causes, both at the time of the abuse and later in life, for victims and their families.
The Yeshivah Centre Board and staff have been working hard to properly respond to these issues and ensure that we embed policies and processes of the highest standards to create a safe environment for our children, and to support and show compassion for victims and their families. The Yeshivah Centre’s number one priority is the safety of the children in its care, and we will continue to take all possible steps to maintain and continually raise this standard. We also need to ensure that we continue to support and show compassion for victims and their families.
In September this year, the Commission invited us to present our current policies and procedures in relation to child protection and child-safe standards and the steps taken across the Centre following the Royal Commission hearing. We submitted information in relation to:
- The newly established governance framework (with elections closing 7 December 2016);
- Our accreditation from the Australian Childhood Foundation (Chabad Youth in 2014 and YeshivahBeth Rivkah Colleges in March 2016); and
- The establishment of an independently operated Redress Scheme for past victims of Child Sexual Abuse.
In its executive summary and media release the Report notes that:
The evidence identified that Yeshivah Melbourne has taken significant steps in implementing structured child protection measures, including drafting formal policies and giving training to children, parents and staff.
We are aware that the process of growth and change that the Centre has embraced over the past few years will continue to present us with some challenges along the way. However, we firmly believe that this process of change and the new representative governance structures now being established will bring us forward towards a stronger, brighter and safer future.
The Boards of Directors of:
Yeshivah Centre Limited
Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Schools Limited
Chabad Institutions Victoria Limited.
The Report of Case Study No. 22 has been made publicly available on the Royal Commission’s website at: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/2016-11/report-released-intoyeshiva-bondi-and-yeshivah-me
The Yeshivah Centre encourages anyone who has experienced sexual abuse at Yeshivah Centre (Melbourne) to contact the independently operated redress scheme via the confidential email email@example.com or the police (contact the Moorabbin SOCIT unit on 9556-6124).