Yeshiva and JCCV – Waks Responds

by J-Wire
July 15, 2011

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria and the Yeshiva have issued statements following the announcement of a police investigation into alleged sexual assaults on students between 1989 and 1993. Community leader Manny Waks was a victim and responds to their statements...

The JCCV in their statement said: "The JCCV has already made offers of support to both the Yeshivah Centre and victims, and will continue to do so as long as is necessary. We are able to facilitate with access to appropriate counselling and support services, as well as mediate with police". J-Wire asked president John Searle to clarify support to victims. He said: "We have not as yet had any victims take us up on the offer of assistance but we want them all to know that we will assist in any way we can."

The Yeshivah's Rabbi Smuckler said in his statement: "While we await the outcome of the Police investigation/s, the College expresses its sympathy to those who may have been affected in any way and we continue to offer counselling and provide support to anyone who feels this would be of benefit to them, at this time.

Anyone with any reports, information or concerns in relation to any of the allegations should contact Moorabbin Sexual Offences Unit (by telephone on 9556 6128 or 0414 181 311) or Crime Stoppers (on 1800 333 0000). This is a position that is fully supported by Rabbi Z. Telsner.

We are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for our school community and creating a school environment where students, staff, and parents feel comfortable to come forward with any concerns. We have invested much energy and resources in this area and will continue to do so, going forward."

Manny Waks responds:

"I welcome the statements by the Yeshivah Centre and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) respectively. While these statements are long overdue, it's better late than never.

The Yeshivah Centre's statement positively addresses in some ways all the matters I have been calling for; genuine cooperation with the Police investigation; unequivocal endorsement for everyone's cooperation by Yeshivah's Rabbi; and, apologising to those impacted by the abuse. I expect that a genuine apology – not merely an expression of sympathy – will be forthcoming in due course.

It is also worth noting that the statement "we continue to offer counselling and provide support to anyone who feels this would be of benefit to them" is somewhat misleading. To my knowledge, nothing has been offered at any stage – at least not to me, currently the only victim who has gone public.

This is just the first steps that Yeshivah has taken – there is still much more they need to do in this devastating episode. Regardless of any action they now take, Yeshivah still needs to be held accountable for facilitating the years of abuse that has impacted on the lives of so many people. I intend to do just that.

Published just prior to the weekly Australian Jewish News going to print and after I had raised my outrage at their silence, the JCCV statement, while most welcome despite its belatedness, is also questionable. The statement states that the "JCCV has already made offers of support to...victims". Again, to my knowledge nothing has been offered at any stage – at least not to me, currently the only victim who has gone public.

While Yeshivah's reluctance to fully cooperate with the investigation is somewhat understandable as it attempts to maintain its reputation – although completely unacceptable – the JCCV's silence on this issue has been bewildering and outrageous. It indicates that there is a major gap in leadership in the Victorian Jewish community. No one was willing to stand up when it counted – this from an organisation that claims to be the voice of Victorian Jewry.

No victim would be interested in seeking assistance or support from an organisation that lacks moral leadership. Furthermore, the JCCV's recommendation to seek assistance and support also from the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence, a group that has proved itself to be primarily a Yeshivah apologist, is further alienating.

I hope that the relevant individuals will contemplate their actions – or inactions – and that this belated cooperative and supportive approach will endure."