Kramer sentencing: the aftermath and a repeated apology

July 26, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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The Rabbinical Council of Victoria has its say, the Yeshivah College apologises again and Tzedek responds…

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant

Following the sentencing of David Kramer who had been convicted of sexually abusing four boys when employed as a teacher at Melbourne’s Yeshiva, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria issued this statement:

“With the conclusion of the trial of David Kramer the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) is now able for the first time to comment lawfully on the case. The RCV publicly expresses its utter condemnation of the actions of convicted paedophile David Kramer and the abuse he perpetrated on innocent school children.

The RCV condemns in the strongest possible manner the sexual abuse of children and expresses its deepest sympathy for those David Kramer abused.

As stated on numerous occasions, individuals with information about the sexual abuse of children are urged to bring this information to the police.

RCV President Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant said that he was encouraged by the outcome of the court case. “Perpetrators need to know that they will be exposed and held accountable for their despicable crimes. This outcome also sends an important message to those who have been abused that perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished” said Rabbi Kluwgant.

The Yeshivah College’s Rabbi Smukler  sent the following letter to parents of children at its schools:

In relation to the sentencing of Mr David Kramer, a past teacher in Yeshivah College from 1989 to 1992, justice has now been served and we hope that it acts as a deterrent for other offenders. We recognise that the effects of abuse are profound and we empathise with the victims and their families, and hope this sentencing will facilitate a degree of comfort and closure.

Rabbi Smukler

Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler

We would like to reiterate once again our unreserved apology for any historical wrongs that have occurred. We continue to offer support and counselling to anyone who feels this will be of benefit to them.

Today, at Yeshivah College, we employ absolute best practice and we are vigilant in ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable members of our community – our children. We believe it is most effective to approach Child Protection from multiple perspectives:

· Staff: We have robust policies and practices accompanied by highly effective training that ensures all our staff support child protection and are vigilant in dealing with suspected abuse and in mandatory reporting. All staff undergo screening before employment.

· Students: We empower our students by training them in age appropriate protective behaviours and fostering resilience. Even so, it is always, and will always be the responsibility of the protective adults in their environment to ensure and uphold their safety.

· Parents: We educate and empower parents to be vigilant, develop healthy two way communication with their children regarding protective matters, and to partner with the school to reinforce safety practices.

· Community: We have established strong connections and close working relationships with all relevant Government and support services, in particular with the Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Yeshivah sincerely regrets and unreservedly apologises for not informing the Police at the time the allegations arose. If any allegations were to arise today, they would be immediately reported to the Police and the relevant authorities.

Keeping a community ‘safe’ is a verb not a noun; it requires constant effort, and together it can be achieved.

Manny Waks heads Tzedek

Manny Waks heads Tzedek

Tzedek, an advocacy group seeking to aid those affected by child sex abuse, responded to Rabbi Smukler’s letter:

We welcome the letter as an important first step by Yeshivah in terms of acknowledging its past wrongdoing but the real test will be the actions taken by the institution and its leaders from this day forward.

Their actions – or inactions – to date have left some of the victims/survivors angrier with Yeshivah than with the perpetrators that sexually assaulted them.

Many aspects of Rabbi Smukler’s letter are somewhat disingenuous including:

▪    Referring to Kramer, who has always previously been described as Rabbi Kramer, as ‘Mr David Kramer’, and thus suggesting no rabbi could be a confessed and convicted paedophile. Importantly, Kramer’s victims always referred to him as rabbi. ‘David Kramer’ would have sufficed – the inclusion of ‘Mr’ seems to be an attempt to make a futile point.
▪    Waiting until the day of sentencing to make an apology to victims instead of speaking out sooner. They have had ample opportunity to genuinely and unequivocally apologise. The decision not to do so was a deliberate and calculated one.
▪    Claiming to be reiterating an apology when in the past the most that had been said was that on a single occasion Yeshivah apologised to anyone who may have been harmed (and thus suggesting that there was a good chance that no-one had been harmed). Despite the initial pseudo-apology Tzedek was willing to provide Yeshivah the opportunity to demonstrate their sincerity by their actions but to no avail.
▪    Only acknowledging the harm done when backed into a corner by the outcome of a criminal court case, rather than their own moral compass. Yeshivah belatedly realised that its position was untenable.
▪    Claiming Yeshivah will offer support and counselling to victims who feel they need it without advising how such victims could access the counselling or reaching out directly to any known victims or to Tzedek, the organisation formed to advocate for Jewish victims of child sexual abuse.
▪    Saying Yeshivah now had best practices and policies in place but not addressing the cultural change needed to ensure victims and their families were supported rather than harassed and ostracised. It is precisely this cultural shift that would facilitate other victims/survivors, their family and other witnesses coming forward with new/additional information.

Rabbi Smukler and Yeshivah are now saying the right words but the real test is how they act, not what they say.

We call upon Yeshivah to encourage and support all teachers – past or present – and members of the community who have any information regarding the sexual abuse of children (past or present) or the covering up of such abuse (past or present) to go to the police with their information, and assist in the pursuit of justice.


One Response to “Kramer sentencing: the aftermath and a repeated apology”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Let’s hope Rabbi Smukler, and Yeshivah, are actually going to enact real change in regard to the abuse of human beings. Otherwise, statements made are tarred with the same brush as Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church. Perhaps it’s not a case of the kind of religion involved, as much as people are people whatever religion they embrace. It augurs well to remember this, and not put ourselves as Jews on too high a pedestal. A wrong done to a single human being should always be of prime importance, and the reputation of institutions, religious or otherwise, a very secondary consideration – same goes for the notion of a unified community.

    I am late in responding to much of more recent J-Wire material due to big changes I’m currently making in my life, so perhaps nobody will get to read this comment. I’m astounded at the lack of interest shown by subscribers at articles and reports on this subject. The silence is deafening.

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