Silent no more

December 10, 2015 by Toni Susskind
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Billed as a night for reflection, understanding, healing and regret, Silent No More is Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre’s response towards the widespread child sexual abuse which has existed in the school system since the 1980s.

Manny Waks lights the Chanukah Photo: Toni Susskind/J-Wire

Manny Waks lights the Chanukah Photo: Toni Susskind/J-Wire

The title is an obvious reference towards and an acknowledgement of the ABC documentary Code of Silence, in which victim Manny Waks publicly exposes the culture of covering up the problem in the community.

However, from the first speaker, it was obvious to the 300-strong audience that the night was not about apportioning blame. The issue had moved beyond disseminating and ignoring an endemic problem, as was the norm in the past. Rather, the night was about unifying the Jewish community. A point made clear, when Waks, the first individual to publicly speak out, was asked by the Yeshivah Centre to light the 4th night Chanukah candles.

The event was conciliatory, with Rabbi Avraham Glick the principal at the Yeshivah College between 1986 and 2007, explaining that he resigned from his post as teacher at the school, as the abuse took place whilst he was in charge. He continued with a heartfelt apology and explanation of how he is now working to unite a divided community and “bring peace of mind to the victims, ” by reaching out to the people involved either face to face, or over the phone.

At one point from the U.S. via video link, Rabbi Yosef  Y. Jacobson, Dean of Yeshiva.net made a passionate plea to the community to listen to the victims and learn from their strengths, stating, “A great leader is someone who learns from his error and can reset his moral compass.”

Not only did Yeshiva publicly recognise that it had been ill-equipped to deal with the problem of child sexual abuse, the College also offered an unreserved apology and a pledge to show “empathy, compassion and care” for all those victims who suffered without a voice during the decades.

Dr Cathy Kezelman and MP David Southwick Photo: Toni Susskind

Dr Cathy Kezelman and MP David Southwick Photo: Toni Susskind/J-Wire

Medical practitioner  Cathy Kezelman a survivor of child abuse herself explained that sexual abuse is more than just a primary betrayal of trust as it impacts on the development of self and can cause trauma such as depression, alcoholism and suicide. She concluded with how important it is to acknowledge the trauma in order to be able to heal.  Kezelman, who is President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, told the audience that she had suffered a breakdown at the age of 40 due to her past experiences.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem with figures showing that 1 in 5 children are victims., The ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  expects over 60,000 survivors to come forward and give testimony before its conclusion in the middle of 2017.

Manny Waks and other victims openly discussed the seriousness of child sexual abuse. The discussion covered how not only children are groomed but parents and community members also. When accusations are made, they are often met by disbelief and a culture of silence is created. This is what the victims who are now supported by the Yeshivah Centre are fighting against. Yeshivah students experienced abuse ranging from being  merely patted on the knee to violent raped. The meeting heard how one boy had a knife held to his throat during the act, whilst another had a hand placed over his mouth to stop his screams. These were innocent people who had heinous acts perpetrated against them by people who held power over them. Yet these victims were not given peace and succor. These innocents were subsequently and in many cases still are vilified by members of the religious community as they dared to speak up and question an unquestionable institution.

Silent No More was a positive response to a negative issue. Things have changed since 2011 when Manny Waks could not find a sympathetic ear. Today, in contrast, he has met with the Rabbinical Council of Victoria to try to resolve the issues internally. He acknowledges that there is still a long way to go, but he is hopeful about improving things with the aid of the community and at the same time, empowering and strengthening it whilst building appropriate supports for victims of the past.

The meeting questioned if we should give voice to these atrocities and create a culture that builds a safe haven for children, or do we continue to deny the fact like many others do?  Only once we come together in agreement of the past can we build upon the future and protect the innocent. Only then can the healing truly begin.

If you have been or know a victim of sexual abuse, please contact:

Adults Surviving Child Abuse on:

Asca.org.au or call the

help line 1300 657 380.

Lines are open from 9-5 7 days a week

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Silent no more”
  1. Bruce J Cooke says:

    Dear Manny,

    when we had dinner on Sunday night I spoke to you about how the Yeshivah should have fessed up to all that it did wrong.

    I gave you the Talmudic precedent for this(Sotah 7b) where it speaks about Reuven & Yehudah doing the right thing & admitting their wrongdoing.

    You made a few notes & I recall you writing this one down.

    I was heartened last night to hear Rabbi Jacobson refer to this exact text to draw attention to what SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE.

    You will note below my correspondence drawing this to Rabbi Telsners attention in June 2012.

    Of course I did not even receive the courtesy of a reply & most certainly no compliance with my now validated & prescient request.

    Whilst the gates of repentance are always open,there are times when, & Biblical references to, exceptions to this rule.

    There are recalcitrant & unrepentant apologists aplenty in the community to this very day & this needs to be addressed.

    These apologists are holocaust deniers because for the victims of CSA this was their personal holocaust & the gates of repentance appear sealed to apologists.

    The time has come to respectfully canvass for these people to be removed from the community.

    As long as they remain within the community they contaminate the community & compromise it.

    They plant the seed of doubt as did Amalek.

    Holocaust deniers have no shame so there is no shame in naming them & exposing what they have espoused be it in private or public.

    Your style of speaking calmly with respectful &measured words has won out against an onslaught of Biblical proportions.

    I would hope you now add to your campaign that these recalcitrant bullies & apologists should be excluded from the community in every respect,

    Kind Regards

    Bruce


    Bruce J. Cooke
    PO Box 1136
    Elsternwick 3185

    Phone: 9525 8287
    Mobile: 0427 brucey
    Email: brucejamescooke@gmail.com

    ——– Forwarded Message ——–
    Subject: Request from Bruce Cooke
    Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2012 13:15:38 +1000
    From: Bruce Cooke
    To: rabbi.telsner@yeshivahcentre.org

    Dear Rabbi Telsner,
    I have a request.
    At the moment we all know there are serious issuesconfronting the
    community & indeed the management.
    Would it not be appropriate at this time for you to give a drasha on
    Shabbat on what it speaks about in Sotah 7b.
    In my copy of Ein Yaakov this Gemara is headed:

    THEY ADMITTED THEIR WRONGDOING.

    It goes on to speak about “fessing up” & how that produces the best
    outcome,

    gut Shabbat

    Bruce


    Bruce J. Cooke
    PO Box 1136
    Elsternwick 3185

  2. ben gershon says:

    show me the money for compensation

    ben

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