Media Release: Australian Federal Police asked to investigate Yeshivah’s Rabbi Chaim Tsvi Groner over evidence to Royal Commission
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:
- 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.