Community Leader sexual assault victim

July 8, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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Manny Waks, a Canberra-based vice-president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was one of the children sexually assaulted at Melbourne’s Yeshiva College between 1989 and 1993. He tells J-Wire of his experience….

from Manny Waks….

Manny Waks

Following the recent developments in relation to allegations of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College in Melbourne, and the exposure of the (Rabbi) David Kramer case, I have decided to publicly come forward as one of the many victims of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College. When I made a formal complaint with Victoria Police in 1996, it was in the hope that justice would be done. While this desire seems to finally be close to realisation, it has taken 15 long years since the formal complaint was lodged and over 20 years since the incidents occurred.

I was a victim of two separate perpetrators at Yeshivah College and I have been working closely with the Police in dealing with their investigation subsequent to the exposure of the Kramer case. While the only perpetrator named in the media so far is Kramer, I can confirm that Victoria Police is currently in the process of undertaking a major investigation into numerous sexual abuse cases at Yeshivah. There are both multiple perpetrators and victims involved in this investigation.

Based on reliable information I have, it is anticipated that arrest(s) will be conducted very soon. This is certainly a move I have been anticipating for many years and will welcome once it occurs.

There are two fundamental reasons why I have decided to share my information publicly.

Firstly, this is about justice and closure – both for myself and other victims. I intend to hold both the perpetrators and Yeshivah Centre to account, the latter for persuading victims to remain silent and not taking appropriate action subsequent to the crimes occurring. The most important people in this tragedy are the many victims that have been abused and betrayed by the perpetrators and Yeshivah Centre many times over. The victims need and deserve justice and closure.

Manny Waks at Yeshiva College

Further, it is also my hope that as I take a public stand on this matter, it may embolden other victims to lodge a complaint with the police. As I hold central leadership positions within the Jewish community, it is my hope that I may also help change the stigma associated with victims of such crimes and thereby further embolden other victims to seek the justice that they rightly deserve. I have been informed that there are many, many additional victims out there, some of whom I personally know. Some of these victims apparently have not shared their experiences even with their wives/families.

While the perpetrators’ responsibilities are obvious, the negligence of Yeshivah Centre must be seriously addressed, both in terms of seeking justice for what did occur, and in terms of preventing such cases from reoccurring. Whether or not there was no mandatory reporting at the time of the crimes in question is irrelevant – despite recent statements by the Yeshivah Centre in trying to defend the indefensible. Moreover, Yeshivah Centre should have done everything within their power to address the matter with victims. At the very least, and as an immediate course of action, the perpetrators should have been prevented from gaining ongoing access to children. This lack of basic action is what has ultimately led to perpetrators reoffending and the tally of victims rising.

I do not seek sympathy but rather understanding and support for deciding to bring this important and sensitive issue into the public domain and I would like to note that support for this decision has come from many individuals from all parts of the Jewish community, including the Yeshivah Community.

I would also like to note the good work that is carried out by Yeshiva and the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide movement, as well as my great respect for the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson and his legacy.

Nevertheless, the core value of justice, and the protection of our children, must be the focus as we confront these issues. By taking action we, as a community, take responsibility by helping prevent further incidents of sexual abuse from taking place in the future. The law of mesira, that has been ubiquitously discussed, does not apply to cases of abuse, and Rabbis worldwide do indeed encourage reporting these cases to the police.

For the ultimate good of our community and for the sake of justice, closure and security for our children, I believe that this process is necessary.

Finally, I would again urge other victims to seek justice by contacting the police and to encourage them to see the help they may require.”

Editor’s Note:

Manny Waks is a Vice-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry , President of the ACT Jewish Community, Governor of the NSW Jewish Communal Appeal Board of Governors and Founder and Executive Director of the Capital Jewish Forum.

Waks lives in Canberra with his wife and three sons. He told J-Wire: “My experience will in no way impact my decision where to send my kids for their formal education – it will ensure that I am always vigilant with these matters and take appropriate measures where necessary.”

Victorian  Police are appealing to anyone who may have information or indeed may have been victims of sexual abuse during the period between 1989 and 1993. They have also launched an investigation into sexual abuse at the Adass Yisroel girls’ school n Elsternwick whose principal Malka Leifer fled to Israel in 2008.

David Kramer went back to the US where he was arrested and is currently serving a  prison sentence for sexual assaults on children.

Acting Detective Sergeant Scott Dywer has asked anyone with information to contact him at the Moorabin Sexual Offences Unit on 03 9556 6128

J-Wire attempted to contact Rabbi Yoshua Smukler, principal of the Yeshiva College. A family member said he was away.


6 Responses to “Community Leader sexual assault victim”
  1. Heidi Kopel says:

    Manny, your courage to stand up and speak about “the unspeakable” will hopefully serve to give others the strength to come forward and do the same, to ensure that the perpetrators and ALSO those responsible for colluding with the abusers are also held accountable for failing to protect children in their care.

  2. Vicki Polin says:

    I personally believe that Manny Waks is a totally amazing person and someone who deserves a great deal of respect and honor. I personally believe that each time Manny walks into a room everyone should stand up as they would any rabbi — and also give him a round of applause.

    Manny if you read this, I want you to know that your actions is helping to save lives. THANK YOU!

  3. janice says:

    Thank you , your’e a champ , it is now time for REAL reform within the jewish community who have been a self regulatory body that believes it is above the law.

    This incident does not surprise me in the least and as manny said on radio, it’s all elements of the community at stake here.

    Many in the wider community, have always taken the jewish community as a laughing stock of hypocricy as they have never been scrutinised fully like other religious groups for various reasons.

    Some sectors of the jewish press have elements of “The news of the world’ tactics when it comes to decent media and analysis.

    Time to change and gain some credibilty and hope there is closure for all involved in this sensitive case.

  4. AustIsr says:

    Manny is a courageous person who should be commended for his willingness to speak out about this terrible issue.

    If only there were former students at Adass Melbourne who would similarly expose the truth about what happened there with the headmistress. For her to be allowed to flee to Israel – and to steal the school’s money to boot – is a massive embarassment. Let’s hope that the Adass kehillah will not shun those who have the courage to speak about what happened.

  5. John Ziegler says:

    I applaud Manny’s courage and sense of communal responsibility in coming forward despite the pain this must cause him. It doesn’t get much worse than people entrusted with the care of children abusing that trust in such a heinous way. However I’m not sure it is important to draw attention perceived good works of the perpetrators. After all criminals spend most of their time obeying the law. It also leads to the possible interpretation (which I’m sure was not intended) that good works can redeem the criminality

  6. Tanya Arons says:

    Kol HaKavod to you Manny Waks for speaking out on such a painful sensitive issue as this. As a fellow survivor of child sexual abuse (and many other abuses), I am grateful and appreciative of the kind of strength it takes for such a high profile individual as yourself to not only speak out, but to stand up and be counted for justice, closure and for ongoing dignity of fellow victims.

    I understand from personal anecdotal evidence once disclosed to me, that sexual abuse was also a significant problem in our Brisbane Orthodox community and was never addressed or dealt with appropriately. The victim was also told to keep silent which does nothing but allow the perpetrator(s?) to continue with their evil behaviours and the culture of silence means that women and men who have suffered from child abuse live out their lives in a great deal of pain and suffering which could at least be somewhat alleviated by seeing Justice done and the perpetrators charged and hopefully arrested for their Offences against Humanity. For we children, must also grow up to adulthood and strive to live sane, comfortable, peaceful lives and to provide this for our own children. A hard task to achieve when we have come from a life of trauma, lack of any real support or acknowledgment of our pain from the ‘adults’ in our lives, and indeed the community around us has failed us by the approbation of silence and protection of evil doers.

    I hope and pray your bravery, good works will prevail and those despicable entities who got away with this for so very long and left a huge wake of other victims behind are brought to Justice.

    I would also like to see many fellow victims find the encouragement to also tell their story to Police and to support you in the quest to make the perpetrators be accountable for their actions.

    Tanya Arons

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