Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Day 8

February 12, 2015 by J-Wire Staff
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Day 8 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  hearing being held in Melbourne saw Nechama Bendet complete her evidence and former Chair Don Wolf give his.

General Manager of the the complex which makes up the Chabad Institutions of Australia, Yeshiva-Beth Rivka Colleges and Chabad Properties Inc Nechama Bendet told the Commission that advice was sought from a QC as to whether victims could be approached.

Nechama Bendet

Nechama Bendet

A key issue raised in the Commission was a meeting held by the Board of Management with the The Executive Council of Australian Jewry on the 4th of December, 2012 following the rejection of an offer to meet by  The Jewish Community Council of Victoria. It was made clear that the Yeshiva was not affiliated with the ECAJ. The Commission heard that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to “deal with” or “respond to” the press and the allegations of child sexual abuse that was surfacing and had surfaced in the past”.

Bendet said it was a general meeting to see what the Yeshiva College was doing in regard to child sexual abuse matters. She said that “they wanted to know what processes and procedures we had in place”. Bendet agreed that she was aware that the ECAJ had “done a lot of work in the are of child sexual abuse”.

During the course of the evidence, Bendet acknowledged that she had apologised to both whistle-blower Manny Waks, co-founder the the Child Sexual Abuse group Tzedek  and redacted witness AVB for calling them  “mosers”. A moser is a Jew who reports another Jew to civil authorities for committing a misdemeanour.

The exchange with Melinda Richards, the lawyer representing Manny Waks and his father Zepahania went as follows: “In any event, Mrs Bendet, I wanted to say the following. You became aware at least at some stage that [AVB] believed that he had been called a moser by you?

NB:  Yes.

MR: And made contact with him, eventually the two of you spoke and you extended an apology —

NB: My recollection of that discussion was that I said to him, “I really don’t recall ever calling you a moser, but if I ever said anything, I don’t know if I ever called you a moser, but if I have ever said anything to offend you, then I’m sorry.” It was just a conciliatory gesture.

MR: I think you have similarly extended an apology to Manny Waks yourself, personally?

NB: Absolutely. Not specifically about him being a moser  because I don’t believe I ever said that, but just for his  pain and suffering and for Yeshivah’s mishandling of the abuse.”

Manny Waks confirmed to J-Wire that Nechama Bendet had apologised to him and that he accepted and continues to do so.

Don Wolf

Don Wolf

Don Wolf, former Chair of the committee of Management (COM) Yeshiva Centre, Melbourne then gave his evidence.

Under questioning, Wolf agreed that, with hindsight, there were some matters which could have been handled in a better way.

Despite emails sent to congregants encouraging victims of child sexual abuse to seek help and offering counselling, nothing of this nature was set up for victims of David Kramer and David Cyprys, or at least not to his knowledge.

He agreed that the COM should have been more alive to issues of child sexual abuse and that there was a lack of governance by the COM and the heads of the Yeshiva in what was owed to the children of the Yeshiva College.

It was put to him that it would have been helpful to Zephaniah Waks if the committee had written to the community  along the lines of stating that Zephaniah Waks not to be blamed (for police charges) or to vilify him.  Wolf agreed that the action of doing nothing when police involvement became public could have contributed to the prolonged process of ostracization suffered by the Waks family.

Wolf agreed that there were deficiencies in the Yeshiva Centre’s dealings with victims and apologised for the harm done.






One Response to “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Day 8”
  1. ben gershon says:

    “Wolf agreed that there were deficiencies in the Yeshiva Centre’s dealings with victims”

    a gross under statement.and lack of “derch eretz”


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