Yeshivah Centre has not renewed Rabbi Zvi Telsner’s contract

August 22, 2019 by J-Wire News Service
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Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre has not renewed Rabbi Zvi Telsner’s contract and the rabbi who was a key figure at the 2013 Royal Commission hearing into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is no longer employed by CIVL.

Rabbi Zvi Telsner at the Royal Commission

The Board of CIVL (Chabad Institutions of Victoria Ltd) which controls the Yeshivah Centre released the following statement:

“This letter is to notify the community that the CIVL board has decided not to renew Rabbi Telsner’s contract. As such, as of the 22nd of August 2019, Rabbi Telsner will no longer be employed by CIVL or any of its affiliated entities.

Since moving with his family from London in 2007 to act as the community’s Dayan, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Telsner have dedicated themselves to the community.

We thank Rabbi and Rebbetzin Telsner for their many contributions to the community over the last 12 years and wish them both well in the future.”

Child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks said: “Together with other victims of child sexual abuse and the broader Jewish community, I welcome today the expiry of (Rabbi) Zvi Telsner’s employment contract with the Yeshivah Centre and the news that he is no longer employed by Yeshivah.

During his time as Head Rabbi of the Yeshivah Centre, it was revealed that countless children had previously been sexually abused by multiple perpetrators and that the Yeshivah Centre had covered up these crimes and protected the perpetrators while enabling the sexual abuse of more children in Australia and overseas.

Rather than offer support to victims and their families as would be expected of a religious leader in his position, Telsner turned on victims and on numerous occasions attacked victims and their families, both personally and from the Yeshivah pulpit, characterising our legitimate pursuit of justice and engagement with civil authorities as actions designed to harm the Yeshivah Centre and the reputation of his late father in law, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, who was principally responsible for our abuse.

Telsner’s conduct was ultimately exposed at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which highlighted several of his sermons in which he had attacked victims and created a toxic rather than supportive environment for members of the community who had been so tragically wronged by the Yeshivah Centre. Scathing findings were made in respect of his leadership failures.

In recent months, I accepted the invitation by the CIVL Board to participate in a professionally facilitated Restorative Justice process with Telsner. This afforded me the opportunity to articulate to Telsner the impact of his conduct on myself, my family, numerous other victims of child sexual abuse and others. It was hoped that Telsner would, in turn, gain a better understanding of his actions, accept some responsibility and demonstrate a commitment to reform. Disappointingly, following our initial, lengthy session, Telsner failed to engage in follow-up with the facilitator as they had committed to do. Numerous attempts by the facilitator to chase him for responses were ignored. Once again, this was another slap in the face to me and other victims of child sexual abuse whom I represent.

Telsner has not only brought shame on himself, but also on the Chabad movement, the Groner family, the Yeshivah Centre and its community, and the broader Jewish community. He owes each of those an apology.

It is clear that Telsner is unfit to lead any institution that is responsible for the safety of children and must not be allowed to do so going forward.

Whether he now chooses to leave quietly or to continue causing division and harm to the community is a matter for Telsner. However, we hope that the end of his employment with Yeshivah can be another step on the road to healing and look forward to continuing to work with the CIVL Board to address issues from the past while ensuring the safety of children in its care today.

“We wish to thank all those involved in this long overdue decision.”

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