Home » David Werdiger, Recent Posts, Religion and Jewish Thought

Beyond Rabbi Groner

June 21, 2012 – 8:20 pm94 Comments

Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner

By David Werdiger
Rabbi YD Groner OBM was often described as “larger than life”. He was an imposing character: large in size, strong in voice, autocratic in nature. From his arrival in Melbourne in the 1950s, he worked tirelessly for the organization, and can take deserved credit for the strong positive influence Chabad had during the majority of his tenure as its leader.

This Sunday, as the local Chabad community will mark his yahrzeit, many have mixed feelings. Despite it being four years since his passing, Rabbi Groner has come under fire recently regarding what he did or didn’t do in cases of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by people employed (or subcontracted) in or around the school, including teachers, during a period some 10-20 years ago. But here’s the thing: no-one will ever truly know what he did or didn’t do. While those who interacted with him directly know their side of the story, none of us can know all of his side, let alone the thought process that drove very private decisions. As he is not around to defend his decisions, he has become a convenient soft target for his detractors.

The mishnaic dictum (Pirkei Avot 2:4) “do not judge your fellow person until you stand in their place” applies equally to the community leaders of the time, and to the victims of abuse. Even with our 20/20 hindsight, we cannot understand the cultural challenges of dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse in a closed, tight-knit community in a time before mandatory reporting. The leaders of the time acted using the knowledge, information and context available to them at that time, all of which are now considered vastly deficient. Equally, we cannot understand the anguish of victims who were abused, and feel betrayed by a trusted organisation and its leaders.

The ambiguities of the day and the passage of time do not preclude our community from advocating for justice on behalf of victims. They have every right to be heard, and to confront their alleged attackers in a court of law, and for that court to make a determination. That is the only appropriate place for judging.

Those who use these terrible events to paint the Yeshivah Centre, Orthodox Judaism, or religion in general as hopelessly broken have it very wrong. But those who seek to whitewash, make excuses, and naively maintain a façade of utopic perfection are equally wrong. As eloquently written by Mimi Hecht, the more meaningful discourse is about the majority of us who live in the muddled middle – who face the very human challenges of living as Orthodox Jews in the world today.

In our community there seems to be an obsession among some with protecting the reputation and legacy of Rabbi Groner. Here too scripture gives us a clear answer (Kohelet 7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” We are human beings, not angels. We make mistakes. We do teshuva. Then we make mistakes again. And dare I say it; Rabbi Groner made mistakes during his lifetime.

Looking back, I have many memories of Rabbi Groner, such as the time I was sent to his office after repeatedly mocking a newly arrived Kollel Rabbi who was teaching us. My fear was palpable as he read me the riot act and warned against further infractions: “I don’t care who your father is, I don’t care who your grandfather is. We’re going to throw you out!” While at the time, I was an intimidated teenager, I can reminisce fondly about interactions like this.

But there are decisions – very public decisions – made by Rabbi Groner that genuinely haunt me until this day. [content removed by editor for legal reasons]

It is not reasonable to allow Rabbi Groner to rule from the grave. He had his time on this earth, during which he achieved great success, and during which he, like all humans, was imperfect. On balance, he achieved far more positive things for the Melbourne Jewish community than bad. To perpetuate or whitewash his mistakes is an insult to his memory, and after four years, it’s time for the current Rabbis and leaders of our community to recognize this. They must step up and do what is best for the community now. They must show the community that they have moved on from the autocratic and insular control structures of the past.

The Torah tells us the stories of many characters – all of them real people with real flaws. Moses was denied entry into Israel for his errors, yet is still regarded as the greatest Jewish leader of all time. We can recognize the flaws of past leaders and still remember them with the appropriate respect.

Print Friendly

94 Comments »

  • Gonsher says:

    Finally Galus Australis brings a hint of balance to its obsessive frumme and chabad bashing. For myself it is very much appreciated. For those come and gone i fear too little too late.
    Kudos to David W for fighting a near futile battle to try and be a light in the darkness.
    I hopes the Herzog issue gets resolved quickly. Chabad does such great work, its a pity the CBD suffers such a malaise.

  • Sara says:

    Very interesting article. Informative for those like me, unfamiliar with the man himself. I’m not sure you can say that “on balance, he achieved far more positive things for Melbourne….”. As you said, his actual role in the alleged cover up of sexual abuse in the community will be never be known and therefore the extent of the potential damage he caused is also unknown. He is not alone – the leadership in the Catholic church took a similar management approach. The cultural context is important but morality and a duty of care should override that. It shows how important a culture of transperacy is.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    I congratulate David Werdiger on painting a cogent picture of how one should approach instances when the actions (or lack thereof) of respected rabbis appear disappointing, to say the least.

    Do Rabbi Groner’s alleged actions serve to entirely discredit the immense good that he brought to Melbourne Jewry? Should we discount his years of service because of the suspected manner in which he dealt with pedophiles within the Yeshivah community?

    David’s article has crystallized the importance of endeavouring – despite the difficulty in doing so – to judge the Rabbi as favourably as one can. Even if his actions were flawed, there is much good to the man that should continue to be acknowledged.

  • Yaron says:

    Harry and David,

    A few more questions for you to answer:

    1. How do we judge Rabbi Groner with relation to what he built? After all it is the framework that he set up that is involved in the alleged coverups and intimidation.

    Even if we assume that things were different in the 1980s and 1990s why are so many Yeshiva insiders telling me it is worse than I could imagine? Remember R’Groner was the one who built the culture that exists in Yeshiva.

    2. Should we be reflecting on how we relate to rabbis? It is great that we have this attitude AFTER a scandal breaks, but who is there questioning them when it is happening?

    It is great that we say R’Groner had flaws in the current atmosphere but who would have dared to say it last year?

    I do not ask these questions to trash R’Groner’s memory, rather I am thoroughly confused as someone who has witnessed the downfall of two larger than life characters that I had personally known (R’Elon being the other).

    Perhaps by deifying our rabbis as a default position (and only in the face of damning evidence do we dare condemn them) we do more damage to their office and the religion as a whole.

  • Judah says:

    David has written a well balanced article and I applaud him for this.

    However, it is highly dishonest to state 20 years ago things were different in relation to sexual offences. In 1991, the Crimes Act 1958 of Victoria was amended to cogently state offences against children. The 1958 version s68 formerly specified these crimes as “Unnatural and Indecent Offences” and even in the Crimes Act 1890 they were specified in ss58 & 59 as “Unnatural Offences”. So even 122 years ago what allegedly happened at Yeshivah has always been a crime.
    In Leviticus, which I’m reasonably sure Rabbi Groner might have read occasionally, Buggery was punished by death.

    To state that there were “ambiguities” or “cultural challenges” is plainly dishonest. This mindset must be rooted out and exposed for the fraudulent thought, it is.

    Since 1994, The Crimes Act 1958 has contained s49A “Facilitating Sexual Offences Against Children”. If you read it, persons who recklessly omit to prevent sexual offences would find themselves within it’s ambit. Schools including the staff, board and management clearly have much to worry about.

    Mandatory Reporting laws are designed to trap and punish the dishonest and immoral.

  • Mendy says:

    Rabbi Groner was a victim of his own good intentions.
    He wanted to help the victim. He wanted to help the victims family. He wished to help the perp and also the perp’s family. Those who knew him, know full well his aim was not to protect the perp in order to allow the perp to continue “perping”. I was told just this week by impeccable sources, who are not Chabad adherents but have had many dealings with Rabbi Groner over many years, that counseling was offered but in ALL instances rejected by parents who were either proud or simply ignorant. Just as ignorant as Rabbi Groner but well meaning none the less. Everyone had good reasons but everyone was to one degree or another influenced by the thinking of the day.

    As flawed as Rabbi Groner may have been, he was without doubt one of the kindest, concerned individuals I have ever known. Even his detractors who needed help at one time or another, were assisted with the same care and passion as his most ardent follower in their time of need, to the best of Rabbi Groners capabilities. He was after all human like the rest of us and humans make mistakes.
    On another note, I stumbled across this article http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/21/opinion/cantor-pedophila-sandusky/index.html
    Is the general issue so cut and dried as many clever “after the event” posters think?

  • Marky says:

    This seems more of a postmortem of Rabbi Groner rather than beyond Rabbi Groner…

  • TheSadducee says:

    “counseling was offered but in ALL instances rejected by parents”

    – totally unnacceptable regardless of whatever the parents did.

    The fact is that he was aware of allegations of a significant criminal nature and didn’t report it to the police.

    Perhaps others know better, but surely allegations were made on more than 1 occasion with regards to any particular perpetrator – which would then indicate that he was aware that this person(s) were possibly repeat offenders.

    He had a duty of care to his brothers and sisters and made the wrong choice and thereby failed them, especially the most vulnerable and those who needed the most assistance – children.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David

    I think this piece is too light on the deserved criticism of the late Rabbi. He failed miserably in his duty of care to the children of his brothers and sisters.

    And I intensely resent the reference from Pirkei Avot that you use to (I assume?) deflect criticism.

    Perhaps the good rabbi should have considered this little gem?
    Pirkei Avot 4:10

    Judge not alone, for none may judge alone except One. And say not, “Accept my opinion,” for it is for them to decide and not you.

  • Mendy says:

    The Sadducee

    Of course Rabbi Groner made mistakes and now is posthumously paying for them, as no doubt one day you shall for yours and we for ours.

    Rabbi Groner was and is a major victim himself.

    And I love your little gem, but here’s on for you from the same source.

    Pirkei Avot Chapter 2: 4

    Do not separate yourself from the community; do not be sure of yourself until the day you die;do not condemn your fellow man until you have stood in his place; do not make an [ambiguous] statement which is not readily understood [in the belief] it will ultimately be understood.

    Selectively quoting sources when it suits is a double edged sword, and often plain stupid, particularly so when made by annonymous posters.

    May as well quote “selectively” from the New Testament and/or the Koran as far as I’m concerned.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Mendy

    I was responding to David’s selective quote…perhaps you are suggesting that he is also stupid?

    Also, I note the irony of yourself talking about anonymity when you yourself are relatively anonymous…

    And I would suggest that Chabad sectarians reflect on the same quotation that you use – “do not separate yourself from the community…”

    And to suggest that the rabbi was a victim himself in this circumstance is contemptible. Were his own children molested and he did very little?

    Clearly this piece has missed the mark with you if you consider it as a panegyric to the individual.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSadducee,

    For once I most certainly agree with you. And I’d like to add that it’s very revealing that David’s chief concern in this whole scandal, indeed this is all he appears to have wrote at length on in this matter, is Rabbi Groner’s reputation.

    There is also a bizarre bit of self-serving gratification to show how poor David has also been affected by Groner’s “poor judgment”. Like the qualifier that it “pales into insignificance” compared to the rape charges makes it valid. The fact that you just tried to compare your situation to the rape victims (even if you did astonishingly correctly conclude that your “suffering” LOL wasn’t actually worth mentioning) is an insult of the highest order.

    Holy. Eff.

    This says a lot about you, David. This says a lot about what you really care about, and it obviously isn’t the victims and their families.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Daniel

    How is it said – even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day? :)

    I do think you are being unfairly harsh on David here. I don’t think there is any reason in his post to seriously suggest that he doesn’t care about the victims. In fact he has articulated concern and care a number of times publicly.

    I do however think the article was too light on its criticism though.

    I also think the bit about his own situation was not self-serving but merely provides some context for people who didn’t know the rabbi personally to consider that the late rabbi’s judgement was definitely flawed with regards to people generally.

    And I wouldn’t care to suggest that personal harassment and intimidation/stalking are completely trivial – they are quite serious issues and psychologically damaging experiences for the recipients.

    I think you have bigger issues with people like Mendy (presumbly not the Mendy Groner?) who think the rabbi is the victim here.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I have issues with anybody looking to trivialise the suffering of the victims, as David has done.

    I didn’t say David doesn’t care about the victims, it simply appears through his writing that his greaer concern is the reputation of a dead man.

    It is not harsh to call that narcissistic and vain, it’s simply true.

    The bit about his situation was very obviously self-serving. He needlessly entered himself into the picture. Does anybody really need that ridiculous bit of “context” to understand Groner made flawed decisions? After the calamity that has befallen this community? Don’t be ridiculous.

    Re: the defamation claims. David is supposedly a wealthy businessman. If his claims had any weight to them, they’d be before the courts (secular or Jewish), not complained about in blog posts.

  • Mendy says:

    Sadduccee

    My shot at those who quote selectively is aimed specifically at people who either practice little and/or believe in even less when it comes to Torah, Halacha Tanach and the holy rabbis of the past.

    I believe David is not in that category and thus have no problem with his quoting sources.

    I have no idea who you are, nor do I care hence I assume whatever I wish regarding your fundamental beliefs. Therefore whatever you or any other anonymous opportunistic blogger quotes from our scriptures is “water of a ducks back”. In turn I don’t mind if you think the same about my quote, but you missed the salient point which is, anyone can play that silly game, but then only expect to be taken seriously if one practices what they preach and respect the source of what they preach, at all times. In your case (and mine) no one knows…get the picture?

    As to my reference regarding Rabbi Groner’s “victimhood” you and every other reader knows full well in which context that was meant.

    Here’s one for the road
    Pirkei Avot Chapter 3: 1 (particularly the first line)

  • Mendy says:

    Sadducce.

    The quote which I meant to post was from Pikei Avot Chapt 3: 17

    However, you’re welcome to the one above as well.

  • Yossi says:

    אחרי מות קדושים אמר

  • TheSadducee says:

    Thanks Mendy

    And one for your road before you assume another’s views –

    Pirkei Avot 4:27

  • WasThere says:

    Any good that Groner did became null and void the day he allowed children under his care to continue to be abused when he had the power to stop it.
    The sin of the children being molested is groners and Groners alone.
    It just as though Groner did the molesting himself.

  • TheSadducee says:

    That last comment is uncalled for.

  • WasThere says:

    But what is called for is David Werdiger to come clean and post the other half to this that he wrote.
    He should now tell how his own family is in this mess up to their ears…how his family could become financially responsible for any payouts to victims….

    He should also tell the family members who are trustees, executives, and former principals.

    Should also tell how today nothing has changed since the cover up days under Groner..Just see what is being done to Manny’s father for proof.

    Unless “TheSadducee” your position is to be a yeshivah apologist then it’s all called for.

  • Mendy says:

    Agreed Sadducee.

    One heck of a sick pup aren’t you Was There?

    Time for the moderators to step in, I think.

  • Manny Waks says:

    An interesting piece. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to respond to all of it but I will respond to one important issue that struck me.

    I’m greatly troubled by the statement ‘Those who use these terrible events to paint the Yeshivah Centre, Orthodox Judaism, or religion in general as hopelessly broken have it very wrong.’.

    I’m not sure that I would necessarily use the term ‘hopelessly broken’ but to me it is also a great deal about the Yeshivah Centre. The sexual abuse scandal does not just sit with Rabbi Groner. There were others in leadership positions at the time who were aware (and if you aren’t satisfied with the evidence available to date, there will be more forthcoming in due course).

    Moreover, it is unacceptable the way the current Yeshivah leadership is behaving (as well as some of their blind followers). We didn’t need the Magistrate to inform us that one of the current Yeshivah leaders is not saying the truth, or the police informing the Magistrate that Yeshivah has not been cooperating – there are other immoral actions Yeshivah has taken which have proved this.

    So there is a significant issue with the Yeshivah Centre and it’s not all about Rabbi Groner.

    Also, seeing what is happening elsewhere in the ultra-Orthodox world (e.g. from yesterday: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/nyregion/4-ultra-orthodox-men-charged-with-trying-to-silence-accuser-in-abuse-case.html?_r=3&hp&pagewanted=all), it would seem to indicate the problem is systemic.

    So it would seem to me that contrary to your statement David, there are significant issues to address in terms of Yeshivah and ultra-Orthodoxy (they may not be ‘hopelessly broken’ but they need some serious fixing!).

    Having said this, there are certainly a number of points I agree with – especially the fact that Rabbi Groner achieved a great deal for the Jewish community (notwithstanding the great damage he also caused).

  • WasThere says:

    What’s the problem Mendy?? Does the truth hurt?? Or is just the opinion of yeshivah apologists welcome here in your eyes??.

  • Reality says:

    David unfortunately your article is light on substance although given your intricate involvement with Yeshiva I hardly expected you to be totally honest.
    Groner may have done lots of good but the minute he tried to sweep sexual abuse under the carpet and in doing so let many other innocent young boys become victims all his good work was undone. Some sins are never truly forgivable and enabling a sexual predator to trawl through a community and ruin lives is a perfect example. At the very least Groner should have his OBM removed posthumously. He created and oversaw an organisation that at time behaved immorally and believed (and still does) that it was beyond scrutiny and reproach.

  • Yossi says:

    According to David, Rabbi Groner was damned if he did (appoint Rabbi Chaim Herzog) and damned if he didn’t (take corrective at the school).
    Rather poor to bundle these two together as he has done.

  • letters in the age says:

    What did Michael Danby and other jewish politicians do about this??

    Did they know and just wanted the jewish vote to keep them cosy with the community??

    Thats a question i would like to be answered

  • Reality Check says:

    What the hell does Dandy or Southwick have to do with all this, Letters to the Age. That is utter nonsense.

    But Reality, althogh you’re not me, my thoughts are exactly the same. Well said. A rabbi ought to know, as any reasonable being ought to know, that any form of abuse, sexual or otherwise, is totally abdorent. How dare anyone interfere with another one’s liberties? It is soul destroying and must never be excused or tolerated.

  • Reallity Check says:

    I obviously meant abhorrent.

  • letters in the age says:

    Not really

    There is a distant connection with a politico and a board member of the school

    I didnt mention Southwick

    Thats nonsense to suggest that and defamatory

  • nobody important says:

    I hope i am not being offensive as i have not watched this whole story from beginning to now, but at this stage has there been any convictions at all in the child abuse thing yet? Has the pedophile been convicted? Has yeshivah or their leadership been convicted.

    If not then i think it would make more sense and actually be more ethical to have these discussions when and if that occurs.

    The vast bulk of the discussion including Davids article, the previous article and even Mannys commentary is purely just speculative, accusations and as highly emotive as this subject is, we MUST view everyone, including Yeshivah, Rabbi Groner and even the alleged pedophile innocent until proven guilty that is the only way we can show true respect for justice in this country and victims who deserve justice.

    The same goes for the Peter Slippers and Craig Thomson of this world but of course that is a separate story!

  • Mendy says:

    Was there!

    Apologist? Stating the truth doesn’t make me or anyone else an apologist. That may be difficult for you to digest particularly so when you have a one-eyed agenda, namely to destroy everything which has shown you any kindness and generosity. Now try this for size. Manny is entitled to justice which will be delivered in due course. But classmates of his, myself included know full well that he and some of his siblings were abused victims well before Cyprus was on the horizon. Were you at Mizrachi (Shavuot) when Manny’s brother bared his soul and spilled his guts about family goings on? I was as were 250 others. The dominoes quickly fell into place. What we suspected, and it appears others who were closer to Manny knew, filled in the missing links.

    Now, your turn to be an apologist, or perhaps labeling you a “denier” may be more appropriate?

  • Yaron says:

    Mendy,

    So now Manny had it coming? Are you %#&%ing kidding?

    Whatever may or may not have happened outside of Yeshiva has no bearing on the fact that abuse happened inside Yeshiva.

    Viciously attacking the victims (and their families) and exonerating the leadership, on whose watch it happened, only clears the way for more abuse into the future.

  • Mendy says:

    Yaron

    You’re such a jerk, Yaron.

    God forbid Manny had it coming. No one has it coming, ever! No one is attacking Manny. And I can’t see how you arrived at such a stupid conclusion. He was a kid. He did nothing wrong. But I refuse to be called an apologist because I have a different perspective of events. It appears you have no issues with Rabbi Groner being labeled a molester. Well I and many others do. But seeing you’re such a smart-arse, why don’t you do some research on who molesters seems to zero in on, in other words who make the best and easiest targets. Perhaps, if your uncontrollable animosity toward religious clergy (due to your flunking the Bet Din entry tests)can be subdued momentarily you may be able to work out why 2+2=4.

  • Steven says:

    “Looking back, I have many memories of Rabbi Groner, such as the time I was sent to his office after repeatedly mocking a newly arrived Kollel Rabbi who was teaching us. My fear was palpable as he read me the riot act and warned against further infractions: “I don’t care who your father is, I don’t care who your grandfather is. We’re going to throw you out!” While at the time, I was an intimidated teenager, I can reminisce fondly about interactions like this.”

    “repeatedly mocking a newly arrived Kollel Rabbi” and being told off, you reminisce fondly instead of feeling shame and embarrasment. Nothing to be proud of. Bad teachers and bad students?

  • WasThere says:

    Mendy

    YES you are an apologist.

  • Yaron says:

    Mendy,

    There was an environment where molesters were allowed to continue at their posts and molest children.

    The hierarchy knew what was going on and did nothing.

    These are the facts.

    If you had read what I wrote earlier in this thread you would see that I am conflicted about R’Groner’s legacy and I am in no way calling him a molester.

    You call on me to research, but when you read something that conflicts with whatever fantasy world you have constructed in your bizarre little mind, you reject it out of hand and start flinging your poo around like a mad chimpanzee.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Reality, you write “At the very least Groner should have his OBM removed posthumously”

    Um, I think you have confused OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) with the OBM honorific after the Rabbi’s name, which stands for “Of Blessed Memory”.

    As the OBM is an honorific only used after a person’s passing, it is not correct to suggest that it be removed posthumously!

  • Mendy says:

    Yaron

    The mere fact that you are able to sit there quietly with no sense of outrage when an idiot poster calls Rabbi Groner a molester says volumes about you (and similar minded readers). I’m not suggesting you fall in love with Rabbi Groner but there just has to be a red line somewhere. Apparently not, as your silence indicates. I can understand why you are conflicted, but you are unable to understand why I am not. It’s simple. Rabbi Groner stuffed up. Period! Deliberately in order to assist the perp, any perp to continue perping? Absolutely not! Would he have paid the price had he been alive? Absolutely! Would he have remorse for his actions despite having (in his mind) the best intentions at the time? Absolutely-absolutely, without a shadow of doubt! The remorse itself would have killed him. But to sit silently by whilst his name is dragged through the mud, (particularly by individuals who themselves should be examined for the role they played leading up to this tragedy) beggars belief.
    Today is his yahtrzeit. No doubt if he were buried locally, you and other like-minded drek would fight for frontline positions as to who could piss on his grave first.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Mendy, you write:
    “But to sit silently by whilst [Groner’s] name is dragged through the mud, (particularly by individuals who themselves should be examined for the role they played leading up to this tragedy)beggars belief.”

    The irony/hypocrisy is breathtaking!

    I’d suggest there are 3 categories of people who might engage in harassing and defaming the Waks family.

    1) Those that worshipped Groner and the structures he established.

    2) Those that feel the reputation of Yeshiva trumps the welfare of its students.

    3) Those that are frightened of what will emerge if the victims are not intimidated sufficiently into silence.

    Mendy, your having “dragged through the mud” a victim’s family is a clear indication that you fall into one or more of the above categories.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Good on you Alex. On another note: As usual, DW’s pompous, self-serving and self-righteous lecturing to all us ignoramuses. Fancy bringing his horrible suffering in the Herzog matter in the same breath as pedophilia. If I am not mistaken, he has been critical of Manny’s use of the media in the past year because it damages Yeshivah unnecessarily, he has better ways of doing it etc. So here’s a blast from the past where he uses the media and besmirches Groner’s name, also reminding us just who Telsner is.

    http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2010/04/chabad-rabbis-prevent-vote-on-removing-messianist-sign-from-chabad-yeshiva-center-234.html

  • Mendy says:

    Alex

    1.I don’t worship Rabbi Groner and never did, but I am mindful and respectful of what he had achieved even as a flawed human being.
    2.Without doubt a good (make that extreme) shakeup is required at the Yeshiva. But I utterly reject the veracity of your comment.
    3. I do not sense any intimidation of students. I was there during the same period as Manny, except I graduated whereas he dropped out. Victims may feel intimidated by a sense of guilt or shame, however no one stops them from coming forward other than their own demons.

    [Eds: The rest of this comment has been deleted. If you want to make those type of personal accusations, the minimum you will have to do is the find the courage to use your full name (or contact the editors), instead of making very serious accusations from the unaccountable safety of anonymity].

  • Yaron says:

    Mendy,

    When you say that R’Groner ‘stuffed up’, we are not talking about some minor error. He let known pedophiles work in the school.

    But there is no room for doubt here. Merely being conflicted about R’Groner’s legacy is ‘pissing on his grave’.

    If that is what the fairies and leprechauns are telling you then it must be true.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Mendy:

    ”I do not sense any intimidation of students. I was there during the same period as Manny, except I graduated whereas he dropped out. Victims may feel intimidated by a sense of guilt or shame, however no one stops them from coming forward other than their own demons.” Yeah, no intimidation, it’s their problem. I don’t believe for one second that you are from Manny’s generation, you are more likely an over-60 Yeshivah apologist troll. If you really are his FB “friend”, he has at least 1 “friend” too many.

    ”Many was an abused child as were his some of siblings” And your parents knew about this and did nothing?

    ”Both Waks’s would be better of to let the courts deal with the matter… (otherwise) …bits and pieces will come out. Even this past Shabbat I verified some very disturbing events” Again, no intimidation. Hope the Wakses hold up, but it must be hard for them.

    Interesting how a piece on Groner turns into another Waks bashing. It’ll be interesting if someone starts dragging out the skeletons from the closets of Emanuel, Chaim and Sholom Mendel, 3 pillars of the Yeshivah Centre.

  • Mendy says:

    Yaron

    Of course the Waks affair was a major stuff up, and I mean major. However I think Rabbi Groner had noble intentions. Misplaced of course but, noble none the less.

    I’m unsure as to what exactly was Cyprus’s role. From memory he wasn’t a teacher bur ran a karate class which I didn’t attend. I am unsure of when serious allegations were made as I was young myself. More than likely I wouldn’t have understood the ramifications anyway.However it’s clear the whole saga was mishandled at every post.
    I am not conflicted by his legacy as I can accept he was an imperfect human being. But I can’t accept he was a deliberate facilitator of pedophilia. I think was unable to grasp the seriousness of it all, the actuality of it happening on his front doorstep, nor would he have had the training or the “hindsight” experience we all have as to how it should have been dealt with. He was from the old school and couldn’t comprehend what was unfolding before him. Let me tell you, I suffered quite a bit of angst from him. He wasn’t happy with my dress code, my length of hair, my girl-friends, my ducking off to various youth groups, my coming late to shul, sometimes skipping them altogether, however in hindsight I believe he meant well for me and therefore I carry no grudges. I could have, but I chose not to.
    I think there would be many people conflicted by his methodologies, by his legacies, but I would hazard a guess to say that few people could attribute to him what is being suggested here and worse on other sites which have absolutely no moderation processes in place. Scurrilous and objectionable sites but that’s life.
    But then those most conflicted in all reality, probably never knew the man. I mean “knew the man”. Judging by what I hear from those who knew him, I regret that I missed out on the opportunity to get to “know” him.
    What a sad way to end a great and giving life? What a heavy price to pay for a bad judgement call!

  • Mendy,

    I am only commenting here because someone told me that I had been brought into this public debate with your comment:

    “But classmates of his, myself included know full well that he and some of his siblings were abused victims well before Cyprus was on the horizon. Were you at Mizrachi (Shavuot) when Manny’s brother bared his soul and spilled his guts about family goings on? I was as were 250 others. The dominoes quickly fell into place. What we suspected, and it appears others who were closer to Manny knew, filled in the missing links.”

    I only mentioned the current sexual abuse cases as an example of how the community itself was highly hypocritical in my opinion, in the handling of these cases, both in the past and at present.

    I did not say I was sexually abused and my speech had nothing to do with the Yeshivah sexual abuse cases. Even though I personally have nothing to do with these cases I really do not appreciate you using me to make an argument that it is the family’s fault if a victim is abused.

    I am the first (literally) to talk about how dysfunctional my family is but I do not appreciate
    a) you twisting my story which has nothing to do with this case to attack ANYONE, even my estranged parents
    b) to strengthen a culture of blaming the victim
    c) you omitting the fact that I ALSO said I observed A LOT of the same hypocritical priorities in many other families within the community I grew up in or
    d) making false public insinuations that my speech backed up your opinion.

    My stance is that child sexual abuse is the perpetrators fault no matter what is going on in a family.

    My stance is that we all have a duty to prevent child sexual abuse especially, and all forms of abuse and I put my money where my mouth is everyday by running a business which serves to empower victims of crime to know how to defend themselves, teaches everyday people how to defend themselves and reminds children of their right to safety.

    My stance, as I have made public on Manny’s facebook page, is that mandatory reporting to the police MUST be carried out by people with a duty of care within the ultra-orthodox community – just like in the rest of society.

    Mendy, you need to get your facts straight and be more careful about who and what you use to make your assertions.

    Galus Australis, you need to be more discerning in the moderation of the comments on your posts.

  • Yaron says:

    Mendy,
    1. All humans are imperfect, but no one would have said this about them last year. Then it would have been discussion about the importance of Daas Torah.

    2. Noble intentions are not enough. When someone repeatedly ignores the fact that a pedophile is roaming the school this is a major stain on their legacy.

    3. Worrying about the length of someone’s hair is not the same as letting a known pedophile to continue working at the school. Or shipping them off to the USA. This is not an issue of ‘methodology’, it is letting a rapist loose in a school that is under your care. And you think that does not affect his legacy? The pixies in your head must be very persuasive.

    4. ‘I can’t accept he was a deliberate facilitator of pedophilia’. Ok so lets settle on the fact that it happened on his watch without any intervention from him.

    5. The reason I am conflicted is that I have been personally involved in situations where I have seen R’Groner stand up for the underdog (and once even getting furious against the oppressor). And then this happens and it throws into doubt what has happened previously.

  • Mendy says:

    Yaron

    We are not that far apart.

    If you were asked to give a five minute summary or synopsis of the life and work of Rabbi Groner, what would you say?

    I won’t be responding as I am done on this topic, but would still be interested to hear/read your “hesped”.

    End!

  • Reality Check says:

    Harry, not so fast; if you remove the OBM from Rabbi Groner’s name, he just may come back to life.

  • Yaron says:

    Mendy,

    Words I thought I would never say, but I think we agree on most points.

    R’Groner’s legacy was always:

    1. Integrity: I witnessed that he would never take anything for himself even when offered.

    2. Defending members of the community that others would openly vilify and denigrate.

    3. Respect for religion: Many of the graduates of Yeshiva were not religious, but would leave with a certain level of respect.

    BUT
    Here is where we disagree:

    He sent a known pedophile to the USA where he offended again.

    He allowed a known pedophile to work at the school even after he knew that he had re-offended a number of times.

    This at least destroys legacy number 2, and probably 1 and 3.

    With time will this become a situation of יצא שכרו בהפסדו that his reward will be outweighed by his loss. I think and fear that this will be the case.

    One thing is for certain. This will be the issue that will determine his legacy long term and not some personal gripe about one Chabad house in the city.

  • Levi says:

    “we MUST view everyone, including Yeshivah, Rabbi Groner and even the alleged pedophile innocent until proven guilty that is the only way we can show true respect for justice in this country and victims who deserve justice.”

    Talk to the wall.

    It’s really easy to indulge in character assignations and drag someone’s name through the mud on an online forum, isn’t it? Especially when you do it anonymously via the comfort of your own arm chair. Trial by media or in this case via an online forum is always the best.Even more tempting when the person whose name is dragged through the mud is dead at and has no right of reply. I wonder how these arm chair judges would have acted in R Groner’s place 20-30 years ago where there was no mandatory reporting or real mechanism to deal with this sort of stuff. the real question is, have any of these arm chair judges ever contributed to their respective communities? Have they ever done anything constructive? have people benefited from their conrtibuitons?

    Manny Wax has every right to feel let down and angry. However despite what he went through he appears to be more civilized on this forum then the online arm chair magistrates and prosecutors…

  • cb says:

    Being from Sydney, I never knew Rabbi Groner, nor was I at all witness to the shocking events at Melbourne Yeshiva School, but…

    “I think was unable to grasp the seriousness of it all, the actuality of it happening on his front doorstep, nor would he have had the training or the “hindsight” experience we all have as to how it should have been dealt with. He was from the old school and couldn’t comprehend what was unfolding before him”

    He could not grasp the seriousness of children being sexually abused in his own school?

    “I verified some very disturbing events (which were entirely unknown to myself) involving 2 of the other kids which definitely required police investigation but were hushed up. None of the incidents involved sexual abuse, nor Cyprus, nor the Yeshiva”.

    I am getting the idea that some people are suggesting the Waks children were abused by either their parent(s) or other adult relatives. I have no way of knowing if this is true, and I hope not, but if there was no sexual abuse involved, then in my opinion it can’t have been as bad as what happened to Manny Waks or other child victims at Yeshiva. Nor does what may or may not have happened in their house excuse what happened at the school. I don’t know why people keep bringing it up except apparently to denigrate the Waks family in a feeble attempt to defend whoever covered up the abuse at the school.

    From the article:
    “Even with our 20/20 hindsight, we cannot understand the cultural challenges of dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse in a closed, tight-knit community in a time before mandatory reporting.”

    I don’t understand what would possess a man of god, responsible for the safety of many children in his school to think that child sexual abuse should be covered up instead of reporting it to the authorities, whether such reporting was “mandatory” or not. How does that help anyone? The victims continue to suffer, new victims are hurt, and even the perpetrator gets no treatment for his destructive urges (assuming any such treatment could ever be effective). To be clear, I do not know what Rabbi Groner did or did not do, but if he DID cover up the abuse, the suggestion by David Werdiger and some posters that he thought he was doing the right thing does not excuse such actions. Nor does the fact that he may have done some good things for the community make up for covering up the child abuse – assuming he did. The only thing I can see that may exonerate him is if we found out that he knew nothing about what was going on.

  • WasThere says:

    Lol Mendy is fun to watch you twist what I and other say only to serve your own position as a yeshivah apologist.

    Whatever went on in the Wax family at their home is a moot point.

    The only fact that matters is that Groner failed in his duty of care once who knew what Cyprys was doing.
    Groner also sent Kramer off to molest more kids in another kehila.
    The sin of those kids being molested falls to Groner.

    Even today long after groner is gone the actions of the current management are much the same. Nothing has changed.
    Proof of this can be found with Glick as the Magestrate pointed out.

  • Manny Waks says:

    From a Facebook post of mine:

    It is somewhat unsurprising but utterly disgusting the new level of intimidation and harassment we are currently experiencing.

    Malicious rumours by some Yeshivah community members are alleging (privately, publicly and anonymously) that I and my siblings have been the subject of abuse by my parents – and that somehow this is connected to the sexual abuse cases in Yeshivah.

    I therefore now feel compelled to respond publicly to these spurious allegations.

    Firstly, the sexual abuse that I and so many others suffered was at the hands of people either formally or informally associated with the Yeshivah Centre. It is also a fact that Yeshivah was aware of (at least some of) the abuse and attempted to cover this up.

    Anything else, including in relation to my family, is completely irrelevant. Full stop.

    In response to the specific allegations of abuse at the hands of my parents, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, we were raised in a strict religious environment and I vociferously disagreed with some of my parents’ approaches to discipline. This, at a time (and subsequent to), when I was being sexually abused over a number of years by two perpetrators and, probably as a result, presented my parents (and teachers) with numerous challenges, including some which they never faced before (e.g. as I am the oldest boy in a family of 17 children, I would have been somewhat of an experiment in terms of what discipline works generally, and especially discipline relating to demonstrating behaviour that is counter to a religious lifestyle).

    In hindsight, both I and my parents can see some of the mistakes that were made. We have had mature discussions about this. They were even kind enough to apologise for any hurt they may have inflicted as a result of their mistakes.

    Similarly with other siblings. My parents have conceded that they got some things wrong. And again, they have apologised for any hurt caused. Of course this does not necessarily mean that some children do not harbour some grievances towards my parents. There are plenty of issues in every family, and ours is no exception. In fact, as our family is around seven times the size of the national (Australian) average, it is safe to assume that the politics and issues we have is proportionate.

    And for the record, the memories of my childhood within my family are very fond – the many trips we took as a family (overseas, weekends and day trips), playing with my many siblings all sorts of sports, the fun festive occasions etc.

    So to claim that parental mistakes (even repeated ones) is somehow defined as child abuse suggests ulterior motives by those disseminating these spurious allegations (e.g. the need to cover up sexual abuse or jealousy of a great family relationship).

    Interesting that these same people have never raised such issues in the past. Apparently it was fine for them to stand idly by and allow so many innocent children in the one family to be repeatedly abused by their parents. They did not feel the need to ensure intervention – either by the communal leaders or the police. In fact, as my parents are known for their generous hospitality, it is safe to assume that some of these ungrateful people were even hosted by them for a Shabbat meal. It is also a shocking reflection on these people to allow my mother to be President and an active member over many, many years of the N’shei Chabad (‘Women of Chabad’) organisation. Apparently my parents were fit for these and so many other communal contributions – a trait they have evidently imparted to their children.

    It is quite evident that some will never accept the facts and unfortunately I anticipate further attempts to harass and intimidate. I can assure these people that I will remain resolute in this public campaign to achieve justice and raise awareness for the benefit of past victims and to try to prevent future victims.

    As some of these people disseminating these spurious allegations have tried to somehow use my brother’s (Avi/Bobom) recent public address at the Mizrachi Synagogue as proof of their lies, he has today provided the following public response, which was written and posted on his own accord i.e. I was not involved in his response in any way (it was written in response to comments on an article on the Galus Australis website):

    “Normally I would not respond to comments to a blog post which had nothing to do with me but someone told me that I had been brought into this public debate with this comment:

    “But classmates of his, myself included know full well that he and some of his siblings were abused victims well before Cyprus was on the horizon. Were you at Mizrachi (Shavuot) when Manny’s brother bared his soul and spilled his guts about family goings on? I was as were 250 others. The dominoes quickly fell into place. What we suspected, and it appears others who were closer to Manny knew, filled in the missing links.”

    This comment was clearly designed to build up credibility for the writer by insinuating I said something which I didn’t. I actually mentioned the current sexual abuse case in my speech as an example of how the leadership/community itself was highly hypocritical in it’s response to the sexual abuse cases, in my opinion.

    I did not say I was sexually abused and my speech which had nothing to do with the Yeshivah sexual abuse cases, is being twisted around here to make an argument that it is the family’s fault if a victim is abused.

    Mendy needs to get his facts straight and be more careful about who and what he uses to make his assertions.

    Galus Australis needs to be more discerning in the moderation of the comments on their posts.”

    I do not intend to re-visit this issue – hopefully this will now be put to rest (at least until these people can think of further lies to disseminate).

    People have asked me, now that I am experiencing this level of abuse, would I still have gone public and chosen this course? My response (and my parents’ response) is still an unequivocal yes. I’m proud to have exposed this scandal and the Yeshivah Centre’s hypocrisies. We have achieved a great deal both within Australia and globally and unfortunately we still have a fair bit to go. But with ongoing determination and support, we as a community can achieve a whole lot more.

  • Reuvain says:

    The constant about humanity is that people make mistakes. We see this throughout the history of the Jewish people, from biblical times to modernity. Its seems this is the case in the present issue.

    Rabbi Yitzchak Groner was clearly a larger than life individual. His impact in the Australian Jewish community was immense.

    Sadly as many other great men, he was human, and not in every case was his judgement correct. In this case his decisions decades ago were clearly flawed. Was it because he was the product of mentality of the time that feared confronting the issue of sexual molesters publicly. Was it because he wanted to get rid of the problem and move on. Was it due to a lack of experience. No one can ever know. What is clear is the way that this issue was handled over two decades ago was far from best.

    As a person who knew Rabbi Groner I think its clear that he did not have nefarious intentions. Clearly he misjudged the situation and handled it improperly.

    Those who were so deeply wounded by this episode carry great bitterness and pain. They continue to lash out due to this angst that is embedded in their souls. Out hearts need to go out to them.

    At the same time no matter of pain justifies efforts to damage the Yeshiva, an institution that has imbued thousands with a love and loyalty to Jewish tradition. In particular now when the Yeshiva has strong policies to insure that their if there was a similar case discovered now it would be dealt with in a totally different fashion.

  • WasThere says:

    Reuvain is another apologist.

    The only policy Yeshiva has in place now is to attack any person who claims they were abused. And to attack their father.

  • letters in the age says:

    The Waks Family is a great documentary that was produced about Mannys own family

    I would encourage people to try and view this wonderful doco that is a testament to who they are and a proud achievement of our multicultural broadcaster that produced it!!

    ;)

  • letters in the age says:

    Error

    should read national broadcaster

  • Atoz says:

    Mendy

    I have read your posts and am coming to the conclusion you are the PR spinmeister for the Yeshiva.

    I am not interested in whether the Waks family is dysfunctional or not. All families fail the “functional test(s)” from time to time and some permanently.

    The issues with Yeshiva (and also to any religious grouping educational bodies etc) is that they have a duty to prevent abuse whether it be sexual, bullying physical and so on. Rabbi Groner may have been naive in the early 1990’s as to what his obligations were under the law at that time. But if he had asked, sexual abuse of a minor was illegal then as it is now. He should and would have been advised by the lawyers representing the School as to his legal requirements under mandatory reporting. He would have to be damn naive in the 2000’s not to have been aware how the allegations of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church and other institutions have played out in the media. The Catholic Church as an example buried its head in the sand, sought to abuse and vilify the victims. All it did was to make it self a target and it pay a heavy penalty for it.

    Unfortunately the Yeshiva will be facing a lot of bad publicity in the media for their failure to adequately address these issues and facilitating to an atmosphere where sexual abuse of minors was prevalent. Rabbi Glick’s recent evidence was telling in so many ways and sadly his evidence was ever so politely rebuffed by the Magistrate.

    So Mendy whilst you profess to be concerned about those who have been affected by what happened to them at Yeshiva, you seem to be more than happy to continue to kick ‘em while they are done.

  • Gedalia says:

    Wow.

    All I can say is that Manny Waks is a mensch and has a very strong character, and is a credit to justice and integrity as a ben Torah. He has my utmost respect for holding by his principles.

    I know many people who were educated by Rabbi Groner. He was obviously a kind and G-d fearing Jew who wanted to see the best in everyone and everything. He never set out to see people hurt, and his memory is as much a victim as the slander that has been slayed over the community as a whole. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight the decision making may have been wrong, and the consequences of this led to an intolerable situation for the community. All involved have to live with that. But don’t besmirch his memory. He never set out to see children abused and hurt. Others did. He should have acted differently. But that cannot be changed. The anger should be directed at the perpetrators of crime, not the leaders who should have, but did not sufficiently intervene.

  • nobody important says:

    Manny, i believe you have many supporters and sympathizers within the community for what you have been through. I certainly am. I also support your family and think its outrageous if anybody targets them because of this process you are going through.

    What doesn’t sit well with me, and as i understand many others, is this whole trial by social media thing we have going on here.

    Trial by internet, blogs and Facebook are indeed proving to be a very dangerous thing indeed. In fact many many posters on both sides of the argument both here and on other social media forums, have in all likelihood already broken the law.

    As mentioned earlier there has been no conviction in this case. One person is due to stand trial. Those are the facts. The rest is at best allegation and at worst smear.

    One random example someone wrote earlier:

    “He sent a known pedophile to the USA where he offended again.

    He allowed a known pedophile to work at the school even after he knew that he had re-offended a number of times.”

    Both those two statements are entirely unproven and will be up before judiciary to decide. By stating them as fact, and by repeating them over and over again until they appear as fact shows a gross breach of ethics and a disdain for natural justice.

    The law of sub judice in Australia dictates that nothing can be published that might prejudice the trial of an accused after they have been arrested or charged. That includes any assumption of guilt (or even innocence), evidentiary material, theories about the crime, witness statements, prior convictions or character material about the accused. It even bans visual identification of the accused if that might be an issue in court. In a murder trial it usually is.

    The penalty can be a criminal conviction on your record, a stiff fine and sometimes even a jail term for contempt of court.

    Manny lets get this done but lets get it done right!

  • Reallity Check says:

    Nobody important, don’t get too carried away here. It’s mainly people expressing their opinion without interfering with what goes on in court. Manny is perfectly entitled to say what he has to date.
    What you’re missing here is what has already come in front of the court.
    And, this is a wakeup call to all those involved in our children’s education and care, and that is they have a great responsibility to take proper care of our children. That must be their first priority above anything else.
    For nobody important, you sure consider yourself as very important.

  • Reallity Check says:

    Nobody important, and so you should, take yourself as being important, that is.

  • JoJo says:

    Manny Waks you have the support of every moral person. Those that attack you are clearly trying to cover something up or are in denial because they refuse to see the truth about the Groner character and the horrible mistakes he made.

    As for Mendy, i don’t know who you are but I have read your posts and you seem like a nasty horrible piece of work. You are certainly not a mensch and in fact you are a blight on the Yeshiva community and the entire Jewish community. Full stop!

  • TheSadducee says:

    Btw, where is David W to address some of the comments, especially with regards to the article?

  • Stop Bashing says:

    Rabbi Groner did not have ruach hakoidesh, and he did not claim to either. Therefore, he cannot be blamed in retrospect for misunderstanding how to deal with an issue that was rarely spoken about ANYWHERE in the open, including and even more so in the secular world.

    I grew up as frei as could be. When I was 16. I had to ask my mother what “molestation” exactly meant according to the legal system when a kid whose adopted father was disabled and who never had a chance at a normal life was arrested on those charges. That kind of thing was to be found only in the gutter (and this kid was gutter trash of the worst order), and never to be expected from anyone who was not gutter trash.

    27 years later, I found out that a rather eccentric music teacher at my old school was a pedophile. He was dead by then, and not once did I hear rumors when he was alive and teaching. The only molestor stories I heard were the ones I and my friends composed about escaped felons named Chester and Lester who lived in the woods near my school, so we could scare the elementary school kids away from the woods where they would see us hanging out. I just as soon could have said these characters were escaped circus lions for all we understood about abuse in those days.

    Rabbi Groner is to be remembered for what he built, and his mistakes are now a warning to his successors and to anyone else who has contact with children. Bashing Rabbi Groner for what no one knew how to handle in his time is the province only of those who achieved far less in their whole lifetimes than he did in a year of his. Whatever we can do to correct his mistakes must be done, but bashing him for what he did not do is like bashing a long-deceased doctor who could not help your ancestor in 1910 because he did not have penicillin.

  • Steven says:

    Mr Bashing, and what are your thoughts, if instead of a molester, the person was a murderer? Is it OK to send him overseas too?

    And what do you think of Mrs Leifer being sent overseas a couple of years ago?

  • TheSadducee says:

    @ Stop Bashing

    It’s just not good enough to suggest that the late Rabbi didn’t know what to do in the face of a taboo subject etc – the fact is that he is a leader of a community entrusted with responsibility to be able to deal with unusual issues which arise outside of the dealings of ordinary members.

    This includes criminal acts like those brought to his attention – stop trying to white-wash his failures in this respect.

    Unfortunately he is no longer around to directly answer questions, however it is probably likely that there are others who may have been aware of some of the issues and should account for themselves.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Well put Sadducee. This is what all the apologists keep ignoring. Groner insisted on being leader, violently pushing aside those that got in his way (eg the late Rabbis Serebryanski and Perlov). That power gives one responsibility, especially for matters that followers could not understand. Anyway, sending a self-confessed pedophile away overseas was a criminal offence then also, without mandatory reporting, so not much special understanding was required.

    “However it is probably likely that there are others who may have been aware of some of the issues and should account for themselves.” No probably, certainly, eg the magistrate at the end of the committal of DC did not believe that the then principal, Glick, did not know what was going on.

  • Stop Bashing says:

    I never said the man was perfect. There are other problems with his organization as well.

    However, he is not the issue anymore. His judgement is not in our hands.

    The ones who actually committed the crimes need to be locked up forever (or drowned in the mikveh by three shtarkers for all I care). They are the real issue.

    Whoever runs the show now needs to understand that this problem does exist everywhere and to know how to respond if it ever happens again.

    [Eds: For legal reasons, some content removed].

  • Stop Bashing says:

    (trying again without legally questionable content)

    What about the other individual implicated in the Manny Waks case? I mean the one who is related to another senior rabbi in Melbourne and who is also living outside Australia.

    Also, the right place for the shtarkers to drown the molestors is the ocean. We don’t need to metamay our mikvaois with their corpses.

  • Steven says:

    Mr Bashing, thanks for the inane comment. Moron……..sorry I should stop bashing you.

  • I have stayed away from responding directly to comments and engaging in the discussion with good reason. Many of the comments are full of vitriol and personal attacks, or digress from the core issue. And of course there is the mandatory Herzog sockpuppeting.

    This article is not specifically about sex abuse, Herzog, or even Rabbi Groner. It is about leadership, and specifically how a close-knit community deals with the failings of previous leadership and the associated leadership structures and culture (opaque, autocratic), and how it transitions to a more contemporary way of operating (transparent, representative) while maintaining due respect for the past.

    Rabbi Groner and the Yeshivah Centre are a great example of this, the issue of sex abuse is in the news and will continue to be as this story develops and more cases and facts come out, and the Herzog matter is an ongoing issue that has personally affected me. I’ve written about these issues here and elsewhere, and maintain that the way the sex abuse cases are discussed in social media is very damaging to a close-knit community. Many commenters here and elsewhere seem to have forgotten the difference between fact (established through credible sources) and rumour.

    With 20/20 hindsight everything seems so black and white. It’s not.

    Until the Yeshivah Centre effectively deals with these leadership issues, which are at the core of everything, it will continue to be put in the same basket as the Catholic Church, and some “ultra-Orthodox” communities including Adass. It has not managed the crisis well, and not done enough to convince the community that things have changed.

  • David,
    I find it difficult to understand your position. When I first read your article, I thought that you were critical of the way that sexual abuse had been handled and that you were proposing a way for the community to move on and correct past mistakes, while still remembering Rabbi Groner for the good work that he did. However, when I read your comments, I wonder whether actually you are more worried about the perceptions of Yeshiva that follow from the covering up of sexual abuse than you are about the terrible damage done to the victims of sexual abuse. When you say that Yeshiva will be put in the same category as the Catholic Church, do you think that the covering up of sexual abuse was different in the two institutions?

  • Rachel,

    Your initial understanding of my position is correct. The sexual abuse cases were not handled well 10-20 years ago. Despite that, the community is able to move forward.

    Asking what I’m “more worried” about is a bit like Daniel Levy’s inane comment. Just because this piece looks at community leadership and culture doesn’t mean for a second that I care any less about the awful crimes that were committed. I want due process to be followed, and for the perpetrators of any crimes to be punished.

    These crimes were not committed in a vacuum, and in a close-knit community, there is a lot of collateral damage in dealing with things like this. The pervasive culture is/was one of the reasons these crimes were not reported to the police at the time by anyone (victims, parents, leaders). That culture must change.

    I am worried about the reputational damage to the Yeshivah, and think they have handled the current crisis very poorly.

    I don’t think sex abuse was as “institutional” at Yeshivah than at the Catholic Church. That could be because of structural differences, because priests are celibate, or any number of other things. So they should not be tarred with the same brush. That said, the pervasive culture in both was a facilitator of crime. That culture must change.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    Rachel, correct. David, a wannabee YC spin doctor sometimes, has another few problems as well. He should work out what he wants to say before opening his mouth, and check if it makes sense.

    “With 20/20 hindsight everything seems so black and white. It’s not”. Some things were black and white then also. Some things that were done then by YC leadership were immoral by the standards of the day, some were downright illegal even then, without mandatory reporting.

    “It has not managed the crisis well, and not done enough to convince the community that things have changed.” Quite frankly, they haven’t changed nearly enough. It was recently, not 20 years ago, that a certain Dayan was associated with getting Leifer out of the country quickly. And the cover-ups and lies by YC, employees and ex-employees now, mentioned in court by the police and magistrate? Does “I want due process to be followed” mean that you condemn those actions? I haven’t heard any criticism from you about the people concerned and their ongoing actions.

    “the Herzog matter is an ongoing issue that has personally affected me.” Poor David. Aren’t you ashamed to put your private nonsense, even if it is scandalous, in the same article as child sex abuse?

  • The Leifer matter happened in part because no parent was prepared to go to the police – this is in part due to the cultural stigma at Adass. Whatever a “certain Dayan” did was certainly not on behalf of the Yeshivah Centre, and if that matter eventually gets investigated, he will have to deal with the consequences.

    If there was a molester nowadays at Yeshivah, could they be whisked away overseas? I would say definitely not. However, many people outside the Yeshivah community don’t believe that and see an institution acting too much like it acted 20 years ago.

    I condemn any present-day cover ups unequivocally.

    Making veiled accusations and personal barbs while hiding under a slimy rock of anonymity adds very little to this discussion.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    DW, you edge there, but don’t want to give up your Yeshivah Centre apologist stuff, or your own personal wars.

    “the cultural stigma at Adass” is alive and well at YC also, with similar repercussions to this day, so to your rhetorical “could they be whisked away overseas”, I don’t come to the same answer. A very recent “molester nowadays at Yeshivah” you will define away as not being on the staff of YC, and he probably wasn’t technically whisked away by YC leadership, but I am sure there were many sighs of relief when he disappeared. Why do “many people outside the Yeshivah community … see an institution acting too much like it acted 20 years ago”? Because it is, and these “people outside the Yeshivah” don’t have any cultural group impediments to seeing things the way they really are, they have nothing to protect and self-deceive about. I believe that if they would act differently today, it would only be because they thought they wouldn’t be able to get away with it as they did then, not because of a moral shift.

    “slimy rock of anonymity”?! This is an anonymous blog, that’s how most people come on, you are an idiot for raising this as a problem. Every accusation I have made is well-grounded. Any “veiling” is only for self-protection against a possible law-suit, not related to the veracity of the claim, as you actually confirm in your response! And what sort of answer is that anyway about a “certain Dayan”: a person in a high position of authority at YC puts on a different hat and acts immorally and illegally, and the outside community is supposed to believe that this doesn’t reflect on YC at all, he had a different hat on?! And all the while, his droshos from the Shabbes pulpit confirm that he wears the “other hat” in YC as well.

    “I condemn any present-day cover ups unequivocally”. Do you demand that those involved be reprimanded, removed from positions of authority, or what? What ramifications should there be to those you condemn? Or is it just a motherhood statement?

    And why bring the “Herzog matter” up here? Isn’t that a little insensitive to victims?

  • (this is why I stayed away from responding to comments)

    I have advocated for the anonymity of commenters if they so choose. However, personal shots and accusations made anonymously carry very little weight, and are not worthy of response.

    Why Herzog? Because I wrote the article, it affects me, and I want to bring pressure on the leaders to take action. As far as leadership blunders go, it’s right up there. Chaim and Henry are a scourge on our community and the damage done to myself and plenty of others ostensibly in the name of Chabad for over ten years is disgraceful. Saying “don’t start up with a meshuganeh” is not an excuse for inaction.

    Is putting the two things in the same article insensitive to victims? I made it very clear in the article that the two could not be compared – they were just two examples of failure in leadership. If a victim found that juxtaposition insensitive, I apologize.

  • Steven says:

    David,

    “The sexual abuse cases were NOT HANDLED WELL 10-20 years ago.”
    Is that how you would describe it? You should write for The Age doing the Middle East section. You do realise that ‘not handled well’ is as close to ‘well’ as ‘not well’.

    “Despite that, the community is able to move forward.”
    The community did not move forward at all, only time did.

    “The pervasive culture is/was one of the reasons these crimes were not reported to the police at the time by anyone (victims, parents, leaders).”
    I think it is more that Rabbi Groner forbid everyone from even discussing it. Which, I presume, included no counselling for kids after Rabbi Kramer?

    “I am worried about the reputational damage to the Yeshivah, and think they have handled the current crisis VERY POORLY.”
    I don’t think that’s how Magistrate Luisa Bazzani would sum it up. We will find out soon enough.

    “I don’t think sex abuse was as “institutional” at Yeshivah than at the Catholic Church.”
    That’s because when we hear about priests and the church it’s usually one solitary priest at one church or school. Yeshivah is one school and we have the zchus to have how many paedophiles? 5? More? Congratulations, Yeshivah gets the award for the most paedophiles in one school in the world. And you say it wasn’t ‘handled well’?

    And if it were a murderer 20 years ago, do you send them overseas anonymously too to continue their handywork?

    Even if no parents or victims complained, there was mandatory reporting then and Adass should have reported the incident to police instead of giving her a plane ticket overseas, and the subsequent Chillul Hashem in the press.

  • TheSadducee says:

    To be fair to David he has come forward openly and put up his opinion in an open forum. That is more than can be said for a lot of his detractors here.

    Disagree with him if you like but please don’t hector the guy and drive him and other contributors away. I’m interested to read his responses despite disagreeing with some of them and don’t think he means badly or is an apologist etc.

  • Yossi says:

    David – you state that you wrote this article to bring pressure in our “leaders” to take action (in the Herzog case).
    If our “leaders” are spending their time reading your blogs, then we have even greater concern for the well being of our community.

  • rockyna says:

    Having grown up in melbourne and attended yeshivah college in the 70’s i recall clearly being at an assembally when rabbi Groner picked up a grade 2 studant and spanked him publicly in front of 300 students. Or when the principle Mr. Stewart, would dispense ” 6 of the best” of which i myself was a beneficiary. it might not be politicaly correct to recall those moments, but truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.

  • Former Student says:

    Dear Manny,

    I hope all that have wronged will be punished now and in the hereafter and wish you and the others peace.

    However I am troubled. Another classmate today advised me that you have mentioned, not by name, another alleged perp in one of your speeches, which I am yet to see for myself (i.e. the one who plays/teaches table tennis). However, I have also been told that this particular person was cleared of all allegations (and police correspondence has been provided accordingly) and yet you have not openly said the same, which I am led to believe you are aware of. This false accusation has been extremely damaging to the individual and has caused irreversible damage to the person and their credibility. I am truly hoping in any further speeches or the like you give to the public that you please openly state that the individual you in a ’roundabout’ way named has been wrongly accused. This would go a long way to helping the individual deal with the severity that has happened.

    Regards,

    Concerned Collegue

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    “I have also been told”. I can’t say more, but don’t believe everything you hear. Have a nice day.

  • Former Student says:

    I am not to believe everything I hear. The brother of the ‘accused’ was in my class and has since provided the police documentation.

  • Emanuel newgant says:

    more garbage.we’ve already had the spectacle of relatives of an accused perjuring themselves in court.unless we are talking about someone else altogether. Which I doubt.

  • Former Student says:

    we must be talking about different people as this ‘accused’ person has not even been to court nor his family. So again Manny, I hope you will please do the right thing.

    thanks.

  • Emanuel Newgant says:

    The perjuring was not to do with your poor “innocent”. My reference to relatives perjuring themselves was because you mentioned the perp’s brother as giving witness that he is innocent. Get real.

  • Harry says:

    News on the Chaim Herzog saga referenced in your post: http://www.jwire.com.au/news/battle-for-melbournes-cbd/37770

Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.