By Melissa Davey (The Guardian)
February 11, 2015
The management committee of an Orthodox Jewish religious centre never considered issuing a direct formal apology to child sex abuse victims under its care, or providing those victims with compensation, a royal commission has heard.
Don Wolf, who was the chairman of the Yeshivah centre in Melbourne until last year, also acknowledged that when victims asked for help because they were being victimised by the Orthodox community, management did nothing to help them.
Children were sexually abused predominantly throughout the 80s and early 90s by staff members of the Yeshivah centre, which runs schools, youth camps and synagogues, the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has heard.
When questioned about what drove the inaction of management towards victims, Wolf said the management team was inexperienced.
“I think the [management] committee was maybe just inexperienced in this whole area and never faced these issues before and never had the policies to deal with it,” Wolf said.
This was despite Yeshivah staff members being made aware of the abuse throughout the previous decade, the commission heard.
By 2011 at least, those complaints had reached the management committee, but any conversations or meetings by management about alleged perpetrators and how to address them were never recorded, Wolf said.
The allegations made to management were largely against the security guard David Cyprys and Rabbi David Kramer, who were later convicted and jailed for multiple offences against children, the commission heard.
Counsel assisting the commission, Maria Gerace, asked Wolf whether it was a problem that complaints received by management – who, she said, had a responsibility to children – were not recorded.
Wolf responded: “In hindsight, yes.”
Wolf said he did not recall any discussions about compensation for victims, how to apologise to them, or how to better investigate their sexual abuse.
He told the commission he had “no explanation” for such an oversight, and that it was something that should be remedied.
Wolf said he did not know Cyprys had been convicted of a prior indecent assault in 1992, for which he received a suspended sentence.
The admissions follow a week-and-a-half of evidence to the commission about child sex abuse that occurred within the Yeshivah centres in Sydney and Melbourne.
It is the first time the commission has turned its attention to child sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community.
Victims have spoken about being bullied, ostracised and targeted by senior religious leaders within Yeshivah, as well as broader members of the yeshivah community, after reporting their abuse to staff or police.
On Wednesday, the commission made a decision to start the hearings earlier and run later in order to get through all of the witnesses, with the hearings into Yeshivah due to end on Friday.
The hearings have prompted some angry responses from the Jewish community, with one rabbi, Yosef Feldman, resigning after giving evidence that many found offensive.
The hearings continue.